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Was Pillow more of a hinderance to the Confederate cause? - Other People of the Civil War - The Participants of the War - Mikitary & Civilian - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Thu Nov 24th, 2011 06:13 am
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Hellcat
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I was looking at some things concerning Gideon Pillow and there was a quote by Grant which makes me wonder if Pillow might have been more of a hinderance to the Confederate cause. Supposedly following Fort Donelson Simon Bolivar Buckner met with Grant and told Grant that Pillow had believed that he was the most wanted man in the Confederacy and that Grant would be more concerned with his capture than the forts. To which Grant replied that had he captured him he'd have immediately returned him to the Confederacy because he could do more for the Federal cause by leading Confederate soldiers.

So the question is was Grant right? Was Pillow more of a hinderance that the Confederacy should have removed from field command even sooner than he was? Yes following Fort Donelson he was suspended until August of 1862, but it doesn't look like he was pulled from field command until after Stones River (Murfreesboro) when he was appointed to the Volunteer and Conscription Bureau for the Amry of Tennessee. Even in that battle he wasn't more than a brigade commander, but it was still a field command.



 Posted: Thu Nov 24th, 2011 09:08 am
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Texas Defender
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Hellcat-

  It is true that General Grant had known Gideon J. Pillow in Mexico during that war, and had a low opinion of him. General Scott also thought Pillow a scoundrel. Pillow certainly was not stellar as a general, so the answer to your question might well be: "Yes."


Gideon J. Pillow  This source mentions the hiding behind the tree incident discovered by General Breckinridge at Stone's River.

  The: "Most hated man in the Confederacy" angle in 1862 I believe relates not to Pillow, but to General John B. Floyd. General Floyd passed on the command of Ft. Donelson to General Pillow, who passed it on to General Buckner.

John B. Floyd - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  General Floyd had been Secretary of War for President Buchanan. He was accused by some in the north of treasonous actions in sending weapons to southern arsenals before the war broke out. It was General Floyd who feared that he would be hanged if captured. (Even though the official indictment had been thrown out).

  The situation of then Secretary of War Floyd is discussed in some detail here:

Three Indictments Against John B. Floyd   A vigorous defense of Floyd is presented.

 

 

 

Last edited on Thu Nov 24th, 2011 09:59 am by Texas Defender



 Posted: Thu Nov 24th, 2011 05:10 pm
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Hellcat
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There's no doubt that both Floyd and Pillow passed the buck so they could escape, but what might have happened had Pillow not pulled his troops back at Fort Donelson. I know it's a what if, but the action probably did allow for the number of POWs Grant took.



 Posted: Thu Nov 24th, 2011 05:50 pm
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Texas Defender
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Hellcat-

  I can't say for sure exactly what might have happened if the attack launched by General Pillow had been continued. The Confederates were still surrounded on three sides, and General Grant was summoned to the battlefield. By the time of his arrival, both sides had suffered greatly and were exhausted, and General Pillow had called off the attack.  Still, if the attack had been pressed, in all probability, many Confederates could have cut their way out before the breach could be closed thus mitigating the disaster somewhat. (Another what if would have been what if Floyd and Pillow deferred to Buckner earlier.)

  General Johnston had decided on a general withdrawal, but General Beauregard persuaded him to reinforce Fort Donelson which turned out to be a fiasco. General Beauregard declined to command there due to illness. Another what if would be what if General Johnston had sent General Hardee there instead of General Floyd.

  Either Beauregard or Hardee would have done better than Floyd and Pillow, but in the end I don't think it would have made a difference. Control of the river was a great plus for the Union side. General Grant recognized that the situation greatly favored him, and he was eager to exploit it. The best course of action for the Confederates was not to attempt to defend there.

Last edited on Thu Nov 24th, 2011 06:26 pm by Texas Defender



 Posted: Fri Nov 25th, 2011 05:31 am
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I think ultimately the only real difference would have been getting troops out of a bad situation. Which is why it makes little sense to me that they stayed and lost so many men as POWs rather than try to at least break out and maybe cut things in half or better. Why fall back to the trenches? As you say, they shouldn't have been trying to defend that situation, but they did. Colonel John Brown reported that his orders on the 15th were to give his brigade three days cooked rations as they were to attempt to turn Grant's right wing and then fall back to Nashville. He reports that infantry support for a battery on the Wynn's Ferry road fell back allowing him to capture the battery before chasing the fleeing infantry and forcing them to give up the field. In fact looking at this, http://www.civilwarhome.com/ftdonelson.htm, it looks like up until 1 pm the battle may have been going the Confederates way. So why if the goal on the 15th was to make a retreat possible did they then fall back to the trenches?

I could understand this if they planned to hold the fort, but it doesn't seem at that point they did. And then Flyod and Pillow decided to escape and left Buckner in command (Buckner apparently thought it was his duty to face the same fate as the men which may have been another reason command fell to him). If there were plans to try to make a possible retreat then why change them if there were apparently no plans to hold the fort. I mean the thing with Beauregard sounds like it was prior to the battle, maybe just after the fall of Fort Henry at the latest.



 Posted: Fri Nov 25th, 2011 05:57 am
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Hellcat-

  From what I've read, General Pillow was upset because he was taking significant casualties, so he broke off the attack and had his men return to the relative safety of their trenches, much to the disgust of General Buckner. Unlike Buckner, Pillow was not a professional soldier, and in essence, he lost his nerve.

  It was clear that in the larger situation, the Confederates could not hold the fort for long. General Johnston had decided on a general retreat, so Pillow could not expect to have the siege on his position broken. It should have been clear to him that by not pressing his attack to break out, he was dooming all of his men to be lost in the end.



 Posted: Fri Nov 25th, 2011 06:54 am
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Ok TD, thanks for that. Probably dsaid it before and I was too hard headed to get it. I know you said Johnston ordered a general withdrawl, but I thought you meant from the fort.



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