Rashness of that Hour: Politics, Gettysburg, and the Downfall of Confederate Brigadier General Alfred Iverson
Robert J. Wynstra
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
WINNER, 2010, DR. JAMES I. ROBERTSON LITERARY PRIZE FOR CONFEDERATE HISTORY AWARD
WINNER, 2011, THE BACHELDER-CODDINGTON LITERARY AWARD, GIVEN BY THE ROBERT E. LEE CIVIL WAR ROUND TABLE OF CENTRAL NEW JERSEY
WINNER, 2011, GETTYSBURG CIVIL WAR ROUND TABLE BOOK AWARD
No commander in the Army of Northern Virginia suffered more damage to his reputation at Gettysburg than did Brig. Gen. Alfred Holt Iverson. In little more than an hour during the early afternoon of July 1, 1863, much of his brigade (the 5th, 12th, 20th, and 23rd North Carolina regiments) was slaughtered in front of a stone wall on Oak Ridge. Amid rumors that he was a drunk, a coward, and had slandered his own troops, Iverson was stripped of his command less than a week after the battle and before the campaign had even ended.
After months of internal feuding and behind-the-scenes political maneuvering, the survivors of Iverson’s ill-fated brigade had no doubt about who to blame for their devastating losses. What remained unanswered was the lingering uncertainty of how such a disaster could have happened. This and many other questions are explored for the first time in Robert J. Wynstra’s The Rashness of That Hour: Politics, Gettysburg, and the Downfall of Confederate Brigadier General Alfred Iverson.
Wynstra’s decade-long investigation draws upon a wealth of newly discovered and previously unpublished sources to provide readers with fresh perspectives and satisfying insights. The result is an engrossing chronicle of how the brigade’s politics, misadventures, and colorful personalities combined to bring about one of the Civil War’s most notorious blunders. As Wynstra’s research makes clear, Iverson’s was a brigade in fatal turmoil long before its rendezvous with destiny in Forney field on July 1.
This richly detailed and thoughtfully written account is biographical, tactical, and brigade history at its finest. For the first time we have a complete picture of the flawed general and his brigade’s bitter internecine feuds that made Iverson’s downfall nearly inevitable and help us better understand “the rashness of that hour.”
About the Author: Robert J. Wynstra recently retired as a senior writer for the News and Public Affairs Office in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. He holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in history and a Master’s degree in journalism, all from the University of Illinois. Rob has been researching Alfred Iverson’s role in the Civil War for more than ten years. He is finishing work on a study of Robert Rodes’ Division in the Gettysburg Campaign.
Ewell in the main town square. Both subordinates urged the Second Corps commander to press ahead with the attack against the retreating enemy, who were now gathering on the high ground just below Gettysburg. Ewell had already received instructions from Lee “to carry the hill occupied by the enemy, if he found it practicable, but to avoid a general engagement until the arrival of the other divisions of the army, which were ordered to hasten forward.” Rather than acting immediately, he dispatched
deserted band to its doom,” lamented Captain Turner of the 23rd North Carolina nearly four decades after the July 1 disaster at Gettysburg. “Deep and long must the desolate homes and orphan children of North Carolina rue the rashness of that hour.”46 Alfred Iverson, circa 1900. Miller, Photographic History APPENDIX 1 Iverson’s Brigade Order of Battle on July 1, 1863 Sharpshooters1 (West of McLean farm) Engaged: 4 officers and 120 enlisted men Casualties: 4 officers and 20 enlisted men
before the battle of Brandy Station he had returned from a furlough to Petersburg, where he had gone to marry a lovely woman, a friend of mine,” wrote one of the dead officer’s female friends. Following his return to duty, Williams paid her a visit. She recalled that “the day before he was killed he sat at table with me, chatting pleasantly of mutual friends at home from whom he had brought messages, brimful of happiness, and of the charming wife he had won.”51 For Dorsey Pender, who so
early in the morning on June 14. Along the way, crowds of women lined the route in open celebration of their arrival in the Shenandoah Valley. The mood among the local populace began to change once the division reached Berkeley County. The county seat was located at the town of Martinsburg, which served as the site of an important repair facility for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Although the older families in the town were overwhelmingly pro-Southern, most of those associated with the
first, and finally, as the enemy’s cavalry had discovered us and the ground was of such character as to admit of cover for a large opposing force, with three brigades deployed; Doles on the left, Rodes’ (old) brigade, Colonel O’Neal commanding, in the center, and Iverson on the right, the artillery and the other two brigades moved up closely to the line of battle.”22 Although the temperature on July 1 did not exceed about 75 degrees, the men soon found the combination of heat, exhaustion, and