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In Defense Of My Great Grandfather

April 2024
1min read

In his article on Chancellorsville in the March issue “Lee’s Greatest Victory,” Robert K. Krick characterizes Gen. Alfred H. Colquitt as “inept,” of “starkly limited military attainments,” “this weak reed,” and, possibly worst of all, “a Georgia politician.”

Since General Colquitt was my greatgrandfather and since both my father and brother were named Alfred Colquitt Howard, I have, after smoothing down a hackle or two, done some reading. The author and I are in agreement that General Colquitt halted his Georgians in the course of the attack in order to assess a report from one of his staff officers that there were enemy troops on his right flank.

Colquitt’s unit had been savagely mauled in a flanking maneuver at Antietam the autumn before, and I wonder whether it is all that surprising that, in an area where visibility was often reduced to a few yards, the Georgians exercised a degree of prudence.

But where the author and I part company is in his sweeping denunciation of General Colquitt based on this one incident. No one is claiming Colquitt was another Stonewall Jackson, but I find no grounds for such a casually dispensed rhetorical mugging.

Krick, in writing on Chancellorsville, could have noted that, according to Maj. Gen. James E. B. Stuart, CSA, and Brig. James H. Lane, CSA, both of whom were there, Colquitt’s brigade later foueht stubbornly and well.

Or Krick could have considered the Confederate general Samuel Jones’s report of what happened in Florida in 1864. “About two miles east of Olustee, General Colquitt found the enemy advancing rapidly. … He threw forward skirmishes and quickly formed line of battle under brisk fire … by direction of General Colquitt, the 6th and 32d Georgia regiments had formed on the extreme left, thus securing an effective cross-fire. … A general advance along the whole Confederate line followed and the Union line yielded ground, first reluctantly, then with some precipitation … the main body of the shattered army continued its flight until it reached the shelter of Dahlgren’s gunboats at Jacksonville. … This expedition to Olustee terminated the Federal campaign in the Department of the South.”

Colquitt’s long trail through Malvern Hill, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Charleston, Olustee, and the closing days back in the Carolinas and Virginia merits a calmer, more informed conclusion as to the overall man. There are living generations bearing the name, and I guess that’s “Heritage.” Let’s not treat it so lightly.

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