The Nation Could Scarcely Have Lived: Private Giles Louis Greenman (1821-1862)

The summer of 1862 was coming to an end and autumn was close at hand in northern Illinois.  Late August in Will County usually meant making sure everything was in order to bring in the harvest.  But not this year.  A gangly lawyer from Springfield was in the White House, and the Union was coming apart at the seams , if it had not come apart already.

Enlisting volunteers to help bring the rebellious Confederacy back into line was not an issue.  There were plenty of young men eager for adventure, and looking for any excuse to get off the farm.  But Giles Louis Greenman was not a young man.  He was on the downhill side of forty years old.  He was the father of three sons, two of whom were almost old enough to fight, and three daughters.  He had survived two wives, and married a third.  No one doubted that he had experience.  Just not fighting experience.

The 100th Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry rendezvoused at Camp Irwin in Joliet, and was almost immediately called to the front.  Private Greenman was among the ranks of nearly a thousand men sent by railcar to Springfield and then to Louisville, Kentucky.  Almost none of the passengers aboard those trains had ever seen a battlefield.

Murfreesboro was a small town in the Stones River Valley in central Tennessee.  Confederate General Braxton Bragg decided that it was there that his troops would make a stand against the advancing Federal forces, and stop the Yankee horde from taking Chatanooga.  The locale, however, offered nothing in terms of natural defenses and his Army of Tennessee would be outnumbered.

The Rebels did have the advantage of knowing that the Union troops were on their way.  General William Rosencrans, and his Army of the Cumberland were harassed by Bragg’s troops as they made their way towards Murfreesboro.  Rosencrans’s supply wagons were destroyed and over 1,000 Union prisoners were taken before the inevitable battle had even begun.

As dawn broke on December 31, 1862, the Confederates launched the first attack of what the North would call the Battle of Stones Creek and the South would name the Battle of Murfreesboro.  Private Greeman, and several thousand other men, would not live to see the first day of 1863.

The battle would continue without relief until the waning hours of January 3rd, when Bragg retreated through Tullahoma, Tennessee and Rosencrans took Murfreesboro.  In the four days over which the battle took place, over twenty-three thousand men lost their lives;  over ten thousand Confederate soldiers and over thirteen thousand Union soldiers.  The battle was tactically inconclusive.

The Battle of Stones River was, however, strategically important in that it removed the Confederate threat to Middle Tennessee and significantly improved Union morale.  President Lincoln would later write to General Rosencrans:  “You gave us a hard earned victory., which had there been a defeat instead,  the nation could scarcely have lived over.”  At war's end, the Stones River National Cemetery was established, with more than six thousand Union graves.  

Adam Lowe Martin (son of) – Patricia Ann McGinn  (daughter of)– Beverly Helen Kelley- Agnes Greenman Burnap -  Herbert Thayer Burnap (son of)– Agnes C Greenman  (daughter of)-  John Wesly Greenman  (father of) – Giles Louis Greenman

American Civil War in the UK - Taking Sides from Jay Seawell on Vimeo.

Jay Seawell takes an intriguing look at British American Civil War reenacters, and why they do what they do.

Next Week's Post:  The Wrath of Saints