Teddy Roosevelt’s Rebel roots

I enjoyed Ron Soodalter’s piece “Oh Shenandoah, you roiling raider!” in the March 2010 issue. The article briefly mentions James D. Bulloch’s role in procuring the CSS Shenandoah for the Confederate cause. Many are unaware of the Bulloch connection to the American presidency.

Theodore Roosevelt’s maternal uncles James and Irvine Bulloch, who lived in Liverpool, England, after the war, regaled the boy with stories of their high seas adventures. In his autobiography, TR wrote that his Uncle Jimmy “was a dear old retired sea-captain,” who built the CSS Alabama, and his Uncle Irvine was a midshipman on the Alabama who “fired the last gun discharged from her batteries in the fight with the Kearsarge.”

It’s also interesting to note that TR’s mother, Martha Bulloch Roosevelt, may have been Margaret Mitchell’s inspiration for Scarlett O’Hara in her acclaimed novel Gone With the Wind. Mitchell visited Bulloch Hall in Roswell, Ga., in the 1920s, and later recalled its “atmosphere of dignity, ease, and courtesy that was the soul of the Old South.” That visit inspired many of the scenes and characters found in her novel.

James W. Draper

Grand Rapids, Mich.

Defending Old Joe

The January 2010 article on General Joseph E. Johnston—“How the West Was Lost,” by Frank Van Der Linden— inaccurately cites 40,000 as the number of troops Johnston had at the beginning of the Atlanta Campaign. Johnston’s own report in the Official Records for late April 1864 states that he had 54,500 men “present for duty.”

Van Der Linden mentions the 20,000 reinforcements Johnston received from General Leonidas Polk’s Army of Mississippi, but he ignores General Hugh Mercer’s brigade of 2,800, brought up from Savannah, and several regiments of Georgia militia and Georgia State Line troops who also entered the field. A former historian at Kennesaw Mountain National Battle field told me that along the Kennesaw Line, Johnston served 75,000 rations to his troops in a single day.

In all, some 84,000 men moved through the Army of Tennessee during this campaign. This was the second largest Confederate army put into the field during the war, yet so many people still list its strength incorrectly.

Van Der Linden also takes Johnston to task for not carrying out Jefferson Davis’ plan to move into Tennessee, link up with General Longstreet and then head toward Nashville. But Johnston lacked critical transportation assets, and he had to rebuild an army that had just lost one-third of its artillery at Missionary Ridge. There was no way he could have under taken any offensive maneuver.

Second, the Federals controlled the rails from Chattanooga south to Ringgold, Ga., and northeast to Cleveland, Tenn., and the Knoxville area. Had Johnston tried to go up the East Tennessee & Georgia Railroad from Dalton to Cleveland, he would have been open to attack. Additionally, a Federal offensive aimed at Dalton would have cut off his base of supplies. Johnston would have had to detach one force to hold Dalton and another to protect his railroad logistics back to Atlanta.

Davis’ plan was sheer folly and another example that he did not have a strategic clue about what was happening in the Western Theater. Johnston told his president in 1863 that there were not enough troops to hold both Tennessee and Mississippi. Davis chose Mississippi and, as a result, Tennessee was overrun, causing large losses in the Confederate supply systems and positioning powerful Union forces to rain down on the vital agricultural and industrial belt of the Deep South.

Greg Biggs

Clarksville, Tenn.

War-zone reading

I’ve just discovered your excellent publication here in Afghanistan, where reading material is usually “recycled.” A co-worker left me a few issues on his departure. (I retired from the Army in 2006 and am here as a contractor.) “John Brown’s Moonlight March,” “Freedom Fighters” and “The Missouri Guerrilla Hunt” in the September 2009 issue were engrossing beyond expectations. I now see how some can lose themselves in this period of time. Our Civil War had everything: heroes and villains, social and political unrest, the end of slavery, an economy overturned, the problems of Reconstruction and, of course, one of our greatest presidents.

I admire the many illustrations that enhance the excellent writing, and the way you try to maintain neutrality between North and South. Your publication should be required reading in any classroom studying that period in our history. You do great work, and I hope, in these hard times for publishing, you continue to thrive.

Steve Kohn



Originally published in the May 2010 issue of America’s Civil War. To subscribe, click here.