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 Posted: Sun Jun 12th, 2011 11:34 pm
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Hellcat
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Ok, so I was reading Webb Garrison's Friendly Fire in the Civil War today, more precisely I was reading the sixteenth story entitled Cover-Up, and I got to wondering about what cover-ups there were during the war. Cover-Up itself discusses General Reno's being killed at South Mountain by soldiers of the 35th Mass as he was riding behind the lines around night fall. Garrison discusses how John M Priest wrote about the Antietam campaign and paid close attention to the Battle of South Mountain (well perhaps closer than most before him. So according to Priest one of the rookiee soldiers of the 35th mistook Reno and his group for Confederates and began aiming at them. This caused the soliders around him to open up, one dealing Reno the fatal blow. Garrison mentions that because Reno was who he was orders were given not to reveal it was friendly fire that took him down.

This got me to wondering, as I already mentioned, what other cover-ups were there, particulary on the battlefields?



 Posted: Mon Jun 13th, 2011 12:03 am
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Texas Defender
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Hellcat-

  There have been friendly fire incidents as long there has been organized warfare. In World War II, literally thousands of American casualties were caused by friendly fire, mostly due to a breakdown of, or total lack of communications between friendly forces. This problem, along with the natural desire of the military to conceal it, continues to this day, in spite of greatly improved communications.

  In the Civil War, the most famous friendly fire incident involved General Thomas J. Jackson, but you can be sure that , due to very poor communications at that time,  there were certainly hundreds or thousands of other incidents that were hidden, or never documented at all. We'll never ever hear about the vast majority of them.



 Posted: Mon Jun 13th, 2011 03:00 am
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TimK
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My memory isn't great, this isn't CW related, and I don't have facts in front of me, so read on at your own risk.

Not too long ago, Pat Tillman, a safety for the Arizona Cardinals gave up his lucrative NFL contract to serve his country. He was initially reported as killed in combat, but later it was revealed he was killed by friendly fire. I think there was too much proof as to what really happened to keep the cover up alive.



 Posted: Mon Jun 13th, 2011 03:17 am
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Hellcat
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TD, I'm aware friendly fire goes hand in hand in warfare. Even without the Garrison book I'd already learned of incidents of it during the war. But it's the idea of a cover-up that's interesting here. You'd think that with enough folks present a cover-up would  be rather difficult to keep quite. According to the book, it was 21 years before the cover-up was revealed to the public. With mentioning Jackson you'd almost think someone would have shouted for the solders of the 35th to stop firing, that they were shooting their own people. Wasn't it with Jackson that the NC boys were told to stop firing because they were shooting their own men and someone yelled that it was a yankee trick? With that thought in mind, how could Reno's death at friendly fire have been covered up for 21 years.

And what other cover-ups might there have been that we actually know about. Not just friendly fire incidents. I mean friendly-fire wise could Jackson being shot by his own men have been tried to be covered up but there were simply too many soldiers and word spread so the cover-up died before it was even really put into action. Or what about blunders where some political officer's actions maybe got themselves and their men killed and the politicians then tried a cover-up that placed the blame on some other officer.



 Posted: Mon Jun 13th, 2011 03:22 am
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Texas Defender
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Tim K-

  Pat Tillman was killed in 2004, and his death was initially reported to have been from enemy fire. But the lid soon came off that explanation, and investigations concluded that his death was due to friendly fire. In fact, the final verdict was that no enemy forces were firing at friendly troops, and two groups of allied soldiers fired on each other after an explosive device detonated nearby.

Last edited on Mon Jun 13th, 2011 03:25 am by Texas Defender



 Posted: Mon Jun 13th, 2011 04:15 am
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Hellcat-

  As I remember the Jackson incident at Chancellorsville, General Jackson was riding with his staff after dark, and the party was challenged by the NC troops. A NC officer (Thought to be Major John D. Barry) gave the order to fire, and some men and horses riding behind the general were hit.

  The story goes that one of Jackson's aides rode forward shouting for the NC troops to stop firing, that they were firing on friendly troops. Supposedly, one of the NC troops (Perhaps the same Major Barry) said something like: "It is a lie. Pour it to them." The NC troops opened fire again, and General Jackson was then hit.

  Speaking of friendly fire incidents in general, there could be a number of reasons why they might not become known immediately, or even at all. In some cases, the friendly casualties might be thought to have been caused by enemy fire. There might never be an investigation, or the truth might come out later due to a subsequent investigation when more facts are known. In other cases, an: "Official version" of an incident might be put out by higher authorities, and those involved might decide that it is more prudent to say nothing about it.

  In some cases, the principal parties to the action might be casualties themselves, and either the entire truth isn't known to others, or the more convenient story to put out is that the casualties were caused by the enemy. As the saying goes: "Dead men tell no tales." An: "Official version" might then be established and maintained.

  In some cases, higher authority might know what really happened and might decide that it should be covered up due to the adverse consequences for those involved if the truth became known. The truth might be thought to be damaging to morale, and that keeping it secret might be advisable: "For the good of the service." Or that might just be the rationalization for putting the coverup into operation.

 

Last edited on Mon Jun 13th, 2011 04:31 am by Texas Defender



 Posted: Mon Jun 13th, 2011 04:53 am
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Hellcat
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It's certainly easy to see how friendly fire could have an adverse affect on the troops of those units not involved in the firing. You find out soldiers of a particular unit have fired on their comrades in an engagment are you really gonna want to be placed on the line next to that unit? Their friend killers, how do you really know they didn't do it by accident. 

Certainly it's possible highly disliked officers could delibertly get killed by their own men in any war in the heat of combat. Thanks to Band of Brothers I got into reading about E Company 506th PIR and I believe Malarkey said in his book there was talk about Sobel's own men thinking of killing him in battle. And I know I've read about soldiers in the Civil War refusing to follow commands by officers they didn't care for. Quite likely they even thought about killing them, and some possibly did.

And thinking about that causes me to think that some units, should they have learned a particular unit had been involved in a friendly fire inccident, would be questioning whether that inccident was an accident or whether that unit did it on purpose. The thought could have been not only could they be sympathetic with the otherside but that they were the worse kind of traitor. One who wears the same uniform as those around them so as to be able to attack undetected.

And yeah, I know some friendly fire incidents took place because of uniforms.



 Posted: Mon Jun 13th, 2011 05:39 pm
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Many of Ambrose Bierce's short stories revolve around friendly fire incidents. My favorite is one called "One Kind of Officer" in which an artillery LT is told to fire on any troops moving to his front by his battery commander. Upon asking for clarification he is told to just follow his orders. The fog rolls in and soon the gunners report hearing movement to their front. The LT has his guns open fire and they manage to decimate a lost friendly brigade.  There is another dark twist at the end, but I'll let you folks read it for yourselves.

V/R

Mark

Last edited on Mon Jun 13th, 2011 05:42 pm by Mark



 Posted: Wed Jun 15th, 2011 01:14 am
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Doc Ce
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Many of Santa Anna's troops were killed by frateracide (friendly fire) during their assault on the Alamo.

Doc C



 Posted: Sun Feb 10th, 2013 03:12 pm
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Texas Defender
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  Sadly, the problem of friendly fire continues to the current day, in spite of increasingly sophisticated communications methods. In the First Gulf War, there were a number of incidents that might have resulted in as many as 35 U.S. combat deaths out of the 148 that took place. It is also thought by many that fire from U.S. forces killed more British soldiers in that war than the Iraqis did. It is known that American A-10 aircraft destroyed two British armored personnel carriers, killing nine soldiers.

  In the Civil War, there were many incidents, most of which will never be known. There were five generals that were known to have been (or thought to have been) killed by friendly fire. On the Union side, there were Jesse Reno at South Mountain, and Thomas Williams at Baton Rouge. On the Confederate side, there were Albert S. Johnston at Shiloh, Micah Jenkins at the Wilderness, and of course, Thomas J. Jackson at Chancellorsville.

  Here is a source that is devoted to examining friendly fire incidents during the Civil War. I have not read it, so I can't characterize it as being good, bad, or ugly.

eHistory at OSU | eReview: Friendly Fire In The Civil War



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2013 05:38 am
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Hellcat
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But TD, this isn't about friendly fire, it's about efforts to cover up friendly fire incidents or any other incident that folks might not have wanted to get out.

I'm still checking out the link though.

Edit: Correction, I'm no longer checking out the link. That was the book I mentioned when I started this thread that lead to the creation of the thread. I own it, or at least I own at least one copy. Garrison's books have been reprinted under different titles and some times I end up spying a title and say that's one I don't have without looking through it only to discover after I purchase it that I already had it under a different title. Think I now own three of his books twice over.

Last edited on Mon Feb 11th, 2013 05:42 am by Hellcat



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2013 09:25 am
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Texas Defender
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Hellcat-

  One of the points that I was trying to make was that, by comparison to the number in recent wars, friendly fire incidents were extremely common in the Civil War. Many of those that took place in the Civil War are now known, but many more are not. Without doubt, some are not known because they were covered up.

  I was lamenting the fact that the problem of friendly fire incidents is still with us (As seen recently in the Tillman case), though to a lesser degree than in the distant past. As an institution, however, the military will still put a higher priority on trying to protect its image than any individual. Thus, there will still be a systemic tendency to want to cover up future incidents.

  As for Civil War books, I'm afraid that no matter how large your collection grows, you'll never be able to assemble a complete set.  :?


  Since you have read the book in question and most of the rest of us have not, perhaps you could review it here. The mixup caused by my linking to it is my fault for not looking back to your original posting before including it.
  

Last edited on Mon Feb 11th, 2013 10:06 am by Texas Defender



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2013 12:15 pm
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Hellcat
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Texas Defender wrote:
As for Civil War books, I'm afraid that no matter how large your collection grows, you'll never be able to assemble a complete set.  :?



Tell me about it. I'm constantly looking for books I don't have that either look like they may be interesting or which deal with a particulary area I am currently interested in at that time. Or are by a particular author (typically that means Catton and Garrison). I've gone from like three books by '95 to probably about fifty or so. And I'm still collecting.



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