Engineers look to past for future knowledge Print E-mail
Thursday, 18 July 2013
Story and photo by Dawn Arden
Assistant editor
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Current day Engineer leadership visited various sites around the historic town of Centralia, Mo., during a staff ride July 8, hoping to learn valuable lessons from the battlefields of the past.

This little town that was a hotbed of Civil War activity during the 1860s became their classroom for the day.
Leadership from the U.S. Army Engineer School listen to Capt. Kyle Hibbitts, USAES deputy chief of staff, brief a segment of the Civil War action near the Centralia, Mo., battlefield. The school visited sites in the area to learn more about the Civil War history and discuss how the actions and lessons learned on the battlefield more than 150 years ago can apply today.

With the number of residents in Centralia only numbering 100 at the time, it became the site of one of the bloodiest massacres in Civil War history. On Sep. 27, 1864, Confederate guerrilla leader Capt. T. William Anderson or “Bloody Bill” and his men started the day out by looting the town and robbing a stagecoach.

When a train arrived carrying 23 Federal Soldiers going home on leave, they killed all but one of them. After Maj. A.V. E. Johnston and his company of Federal troops arrived and saw the destruction, they set out to find “Bloody Bill” Anderson against the advice of the towns people. Anderson and his men were waiting and ambushed the company.

The ensuing battle is said to have only lasted three minutes, leaving Johnston and all who followed him dead.

“Visits to the battlefields by military students of one kind or another have been going on since 1905, when the National Parks system of military battlefields of the Civil War was created,” said Dave Chuber, USACBRN School command historian. “One reason for the creation of these monuments to the Blue and Gray was to help train military officers.”

The first stop of the day was to the Boone County Historical Society, where its executive director and curator, Jennifer Flink, gave a brief history of Missouri’s involvement in the Civil War. Following the briefing, members of the group took turns telling what they learned about the Civil War characters they were assigned. The group was assigned names the week before and had to research their individuals, allowing for group involvement and a better understanding of the war.

During the follow-on tour of different sites around the town, some of the Soldiers took on the roles of the key players during the battles, giving insight into what took place and how they felt they handled the situation.

“Once everybody gives their part, we all learn and now that puzzle is all put together. That’s the goal of the staff ride, to teach you about, or teach yourselves all together at the same time,” Chuber said.

The Centralia Battlefield was the last stop of the day before covering the Integration Phase, where lessons learned were discussed.

“We’ve been trying to do integration with our modern experiences all day long. This was America and yet we (messed) up…we made it a lot harder than it needed to be inside America, in Missouri,” said Brig. Gen. Duke Deluca, U.S. Army Engineer School commandant.

    Throughout the day, Deluca listed different points of reference on how our modern day Army can learn from the battles of the past and just how much in common every battle has.

    “All this stuff is very familiar to you, and we’re going to face it again. We have to get really good at it to give our armed forces a chance to be better than we were this last time,” Deluca stressed.

    Both Chuber and Deluca were very pleased with the outcome of the staff ride, and Deluca pointed out that staff rides can be done on a very limited budget.

    “I think everybody clearly approached their roles and responsibilities of the staff ride very well — well informed and well briefed. We talked about a good part of the battle, and I appreciate your participation and your service,” Deluca said in his closing remarks.






Last Updated ( Wednesday, 31 July 2013 )