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HomeEventsClarksville Civil War Roundtable's next meeting is September 18th, 2013

Clarksville Civil War Roundtable’s next meeting is September 18th, 2013

The 114th meeting.

Clarksville Civil War RoundtableClarksville, TN – The next meeting of the Clarksville (TN) Civil War Roundtable will be on Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 at the Bone & Joint Center, 980 Professional Park Drive, right across the street from Gateway Medical Center.

This is just off Dunlop Lane and Holiday Drive and only a few minutes east of Governor’s Square mall.  The meeting begins at 7:00 pm and is always open to the public.  Members please bring a friend or two – new recruits are always welcomed.

Topic: “William S. Rosecrans’ Signal Corps: The Secret Weapon Nobody Has Ever Heard Of”

Union General William S. Rosecrans
Union General William S. Rosecrans

Rhea (pronounced Ray) Cole is a member of a family tradition that goes back to the Battle of Kings Mountain and the founding of Tennessee, and brings a fascination with history to this month’s topic.

Besides a historian, Cole is a National Park-qualified gunner for Civil War artillery; a blacksmith; a stonecarver; a furniture maker and a carpenter.

A history volunteer at Stones River National Battlefield for almost 20 years, Cole in 1996 served as a crewman on a Trans-Atlantic voyage of the Tall Ship Rose, a reproduction of a British 28-gun frigate Rose, built in 1757. He is also Program Chairman for the Middle Tennessee CWRT in Murfreesboro.

The genesis of this month’s topic came about 10 years ago, when signalizing became a regular part of the CWRT program. The actual program took almost five years to complete, however.

In Cole’s words, “If you read anything about the aftermath of the Stones River Campaign and the build-up to the Tullahoma Campaign, without fail, the writer will editorialize about how Rosecrans was just piddling around, refusing to advance, not doing nothing for six whole months… (but) William Stark

Rosecrans had the personal energy of a squirrel. He could no more sit around… not doing nothing… than he could fly.”

Cole said that between the time he arrived in Nashville during October of 1862 and the Army of the Cumberland started for Chattanooga in June of 1863, Rosecrans revolutionized the way the Civil War would be fought and created the template for all that followed.

Under his command, George Thomas was allowed to create what we now call a modern army staff organization. Thomas’ topographical setup was without peer in the world at that time. And as Rosecrans’ chief of staff, James Garfield orchestrated the best intelligence organization of any army during the war.

It didn’t end there. Against all official pressure, John Wilder was allowed to arm his men with Spencer repeaters, replace their bayonets with axes and mount them. No infantry unit in the world could move so fast or survive a standup fight with the Lightning Brigade, Cole said.  Rosecrans also created a combat engineer brigade and dedicated railroad regiments that revolutionized his logistics.

But, said Cole, as remarkable as this was, perhaps the most profound thing Rosecrans did was to embrace the Signal Corps. Everything his army did – command, control, intelligence, logistics, everything – was interconnected by his Signal Corps. The Stones River Campaign, Tullahoma Campaign, Chickamauga-Chattanooga, Atlanta and the March to the Sea would not have happened without his Signal Corps.

It was Rosecrans’ secret war winning weapon! And, adds Cole, if you don’t know anything about the Signal Corps in Rosecrans army, don’t feel bad. In fact, you’re in good company.  According to Cole, when Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee approached Chattanooga, George Thomas sent a message that read, ‘Where can I make contact with your Signal Corps?  Sherman’s reply was, ‘What is a Signal Corps?’”


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