Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Another firing of Averell


In the blog note http://northagainstsouth.com/the-aft...-fishers-hill/ is a reference indicating that Sheridan told Averell "not to be reckless." That sounds contrary to Sheridan's (and Grant's) impression of Averell.

Both Morris and Stackpole describe Averell's poor performance but they don't mention that Averell was relieved of command once before -- at least according to a reference in the New York State Library:WILLIAM WOODS AVERELL PAPERS, 1836-1910: New York State Library :

". . . one of the true Cavalry fights of the war occurred on the Rappahannock River at Kelley's Ford. Averell's Force had been embarrassed on 25 February 1863, when a small force of Confederate Cavalry under the command of Fitzhugh Lee captured 150 men. Averell then regrouped his forces and mounted an attack on 16 March that was successful in breaking the Confederate line. Shortly, after Kelly's Ford, Averell was relieved of his command by General Hocker for alleged lack of resolve to fight during Stonement's raid, which may have in part attributed to the Union Army's defeat of Chancellorsville."

Comment: My present belief is that Sheridan acted properly in letting Averell go, but let's assume for a moment that the opposite was the case, that Hocker, Grant, Crook & apparently others were wrong about Averell, and Sheridan in watching his performance watched it too closely because of the bad recommendations he got especially from Grant and Crook. Should Sheridan have delayed, thinking to himself, "Even though it seems that Averell is a poor-performer, I will give him more time, and risk my command just so I don't unjustly ruin Averell's career"?

I agonized through depressing biographies of Jefferson Davis and Braxton Bragg. In Davis's case his commitment to seniority and loyalty to friends regardless of whether they were the best people to command his armies severely hampered the South's chance of success. In Bragg's case, he begged Davis to let him get rid of the recalcitrant lieutenants who had been left in place far far too long; so long in fact that Bragg was not able to recover his health after they were removed. He may have been irascible and difficult, but he didn't have the energy or health to fight with his lieutenants as long as he did. I found it refreshing to read that Grant and Sheridan didn't have to put up with that. Grant told Sheridan to ignore seniority and that may have been the initial act that caused Averell's "slows" to get even slower.

As to the evidence in Robert Billies blog note, it sounds like the sort of thing that might be found in one of Averell's reports referred to by Stackpole, reports that in great detail explain why Averell wasn't able to carry out the task he had been assigned.

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