Author Topic: Gettysburg to France - 4th Alabama at Croix Rouge Farm – 100 years ago  (Read 1277 times)

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Offline ArizonaTank

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The 4th Alabama Regiment was one of the stalwart units in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.  It participated in most of the major campaigns in the East, starting at 1st Bull Run and finishing at Appomattox. It was even sent west for a bit where it fought at Chickamauga. 

In early summer 1863, the 4th Alabama made the march to Gettysburg, as part of Hood's Division.  On July 2nd, 1863 it fought in Hood's failed attack on Little Round Top.  The 4th Alabama found itself fighting a fierce hand-to-hand battle with the 83rd Pennsylvania, and the 20th Maine (Joshua Chamberlain's regiment).

After the Civil War, Confederate units were disbanded.  But in 1911, the Alabama legislature reauthorized the 4th Alabama as a state guard unit. 

With US entry into WWI, the 4th Alabama was given a name change and became the 167th Infantry. The unit was added to a jumble of other Guard units from across the nation as part of the 42nd “Rainbow” Division. 

Interestingly, one of the other units in the Rainbow Division was the 165th Infantry.  This unit also drew its lineage from the Civil War, the old 69th New York Regiment (the “Fighting Irish”).  During the War Between the States, the 69th and 4th were on many of the same battlefields on opposite sides, including Gettysburg.

The 42nd, arrived in France in November and December of 1917, but needed training.  By mid-July 1918, the division was ready.  The 42nd's troops (along with several other US divisions) were used in a desperate attempt to steady Allied lines and protect the routes to Paris, during the last of German offensive; Operation Friedensturm. Partly due to the tenacity of these American units, this massive last gasp of the German war machine was stopped within days. The Germans were now exhausted and spent.

At this point, the Allies, under Supreme Allied Commander Foche launched a series of counter-offensives....By July 24th, the 42nd was a part of this massive offensive to take back ground lost earlier in the year.  For much of Western Front, the war was now no longer bound by trench lines, and the 42nd found itself advancing over open territory.   

For the most part, the Germans obliged through a series of disciplined retreats.  The US 26th “Yankee” Division (Guard units from New England), had been part of the initial push. They moved the Germans back steadily until the Yanks were stopped by the Germans at Croix Rouge Farm. This was a fortified farmhouse about 7 miles NW of Chateau-Thierry. The thick walls of the farm, overlooked a series of open fields, making it a deadly machine gun position. There, the Germans had dug in over 25 machine guns, camouflaged, with prepared fire lanes and ranging stakes.

The Yankee Division, exhausted after almost 10 days of fighting, could not push the Germans out of the farm. The 42nd was relatively fresh, and was given orders to replace  the Yankee Division, and push past the farm.   

The responsibility to take the farm fell to the 167th Infantry – the old 4th Alabama.  On July 25th, the Alabama men took over the 26th's positions.  At 4PM on July 26th, in broad daylight, and with no artillery support, the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 167th launched an assault.  The battalions, advancing in the open, met murderous fire from the farm. Very quickly, the attack bogged down, and the battalion was pinned under heavy fire in the open fields. 

At 6PM, the 1st Battalion, renewed its assault, with two companies that had not been part of the first attack.  This time, the Alabama men were able to break through, and push the Germans out of the farm in fierce hand-to-hand combat.  The Germans counter-attacked with artillery fire and infantry assaults, but the American's held.

Here is a Google Street view of the ruin of the farm, and the 42nd Division memorial.  The view is looking southeast towards the 167th's positions in the treeline.,3.5218748,3a,45.2y,218.03h,93.85t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s-3vddEK7Jxa3FlAXY_FXwQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

The 167th infantry was hit hard at Croix Rouge Farm.  Two of its battalions became only 50% effective.  Company D, of the 1st Battalion, lost over 80% of their men in the final charge. 

Colonel Douglas MacArthur (yes, that one) who was Chief of Staff of the 42nd wrote:
"The 167th Alabama Infantry Regiment assisted by the left flank of the 168th Infantry Regiment had stormed and captured the Croix Rouge Farm in a manner which for its gallantry. I do not believe has been surpassed in military history. It was one of the few occasions on which the bayonet was decisively used,"

There is a wonderful web site dedicated to battle and the history of the 167th Alabama.

For wargamers, I don't know of any games that directly depict this fight.  However, Foch's counter-offensive is pretty well covered by Hexasim's “Marne 1918, Friedensturm”.  Unfortunately it is out of print, and a little difficult to find.

Perhaps some bright wargamer will do a "Great War Commander" scenario in the future.

« Last Edit: September 16, 2018, 07:45:29 AM by ArizonaTank »
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Offline airboy

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That was very interesting.  Thanks. 

That position is as frightening as some of the ones I've seen on the Italian boot in WW2.