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Ozzy

Axe about Abatis

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In a Letter written from his HQ at Cairo on 7 October 1861, Brigadier General U. S. Grant provided his latest intelligence from Kentucky to Major General Fremont at St. Louis. Of interest: "The Confederates at Fort Columbus are said to have been reinforced to about 45,000 men... They talk boldly about making an attack upon Paducah by the 15th of this month."

Turns out, Grant had received the above information from Brigadier General C. F. Smith, in command at Paducah. On 6 OCT 1861 Smith wrote to Grant: "The latest news from Columbus comes through the Roman Catholic priest here, tho' he does not wish it whispered. Columbus is in his division of duties. He was told that the attack on this place might be looked for on or by next Thursday, the 10th, getting this from both officers and soldiers. I give the information for what it is worth. The prevalent idea is to make a feint on the front, and attack on the flanks -- three columns of 7000 each. The trees all round are fast falling to our axes, rendering an advance by the roads a necessity."

The above "defensive preparations" (felling of trees for abatis to slow, and redirect the advance of an enemy) took place before the Battle of Belmont; and these measures were taken in spite of the prevailing belief that "no attack on Paducah was seriously threatened."

U. S. Grant states in his Memoirs, vol.1 (page 356) that, "At the time of the Battle of Shiloh, the pick and spade had been but little resorted to at the West." And yet, trenches were not the only defensive works available as options to Grant and his Army in the lead-up to Shiloh: the abatis and blinds were also of potential value, yet both were ignored, or actively discouraged...

Still a mystery

Ozzy

 

References: Papers of US Grant, vol.3 pages 24 - 25.

Grant's Memoirs vol.1 page 356.

 

 

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It sounds like they were making the "red neck" version of abatis.  Simply felling trees WITHOUT sharpening the ends or otherwise making a noticeable carved defensive object out of the trees.  Either way, just cutting down numerous trees and letting them fall helter skelter would effectively break up advancing lines of battle.  In fact, it could be argued that falling trees and letting them lay as they fell would be more effective than actually carving an abatis.  

As far as digging in.  I still give credit to the Federals on the right flank at Shiloh who wanted to dig in.  Too bad their pleas were ignored.  But, numerous accounts exist of using bales of hay and bags of corn (at Shiloh), for constructing "earthworks" from which to fight behind.

If the Federal army had put out any kind of obstruction in front of their camps at Shiloh, it would have been a different battle.  But, "what if's" become cumbersome :)

Stan

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Stan, "cutting down numerous trees and letting them fall helter skelter would effectively break up advancing lines of battle". Kinda sounds like Fallen Timbers, doncha think? Except, I believe nature did the felling at fallen timbers.

 

Jim

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