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Ramen Sandwich Tees: Beards of Chickamauga

posted Sep 28, 2016, 6:48 PM by Douglas Sun
t won't deny that promoting and advertising our Beards and Generals t-shirts has been an uphill struggle. Getting people's attention is always an uphill struggle, even if you have a strong pre-existing brand behind you. That's just how it is in the saturated information environment in which we live these days. But the shirts have gotten a sufficiently positive response so that we started thinking about what else we could do with the basic idea of recognizing Civil War generals by their beards.

But it occurred to me u never want to ride a joke until it's just not funny anymore. But it occurred to me that we could group facial hair recognition silhouettes by major battles , at least by major battle in which both army commanders had significant facial hair. Chickamauga suggested itself because the anniversary of the battle was coming up in September and we already had created four silhouettes for generals who were present. We didn't get the shirt up and listed until a week after the actual anniversary of the battle, but like I said on our Facebook page, we're marching to the sound of the guns anyway. This image is a clickable link to our Amazon listing:
As you can see we arranged the silhouettes in columns instead of rows, with the Confederates on the viewer's right. The Army of Tennessee attacked from the east, meaning that if you looked at a map oriented in the usual way, with north pointing to the top of the page, they would be moving from right to left. Btaxton Bragg, commanding the Army of Tennessee with his impressive unibrow, occupies the top right spot. James Longstreet, whose corps was on loan from the Army of Northern Virginia, and just arrived in theater, occupies the middle slot. And Nathan Bedford Forrest, recently appointed as Bragg's cavalry corps commander, occupies the bottom spot. So the column flows in rough order of seniority from top to bottom.

By the same token, we created a new silhouette for William Rosecrans, CinC Army of the Cumberland, and put him in the top left spot, opposite Bragg. George Thomas, who earned his most enduring nickname on day two of the battle at the head of XIV Corps, made perfect sense for the spot opposite Longstreet. That left us with the task of finding a Union commander below the corps level for the bottom left spot. Except for Philip Sheridan (who didn't have a beard, just that little mustache of his), none of the division commanders in the Army of the Cumberland were household names, and Chickamauga probably didn't help their reputations any.

But when you root around below the division level, you quickly come to the First Brigade, Fourth Division, XIV Corps — which became known as the Lightning Brigade under the resourceful and dynamic leadership of John T. Wilder and his mini-Amish beard. Circumventing Army regulations, Wilder persuaded his men to equip themselves with Spencer breech-loading rifles at his and their own expense, givimg them a relatively awesome rate of fire, and at a longer range than the Spencer carbines that Buford's cavalrymen had used to such effect on the first day of Gettysburg two months earlier. Wilder also equipped them with horses, allowing them to operate as cavalry (or mounted infantry, at any rate) as well as line infantry, and had them use long-handled hatchets instead of regulation cavalry sabers.

In a war full of units with distinctive identities, Wilder's Brigade was unique. Unlike, say, Zouave-style uniforms, what made it distinctive also made it formidable. And yet Wilder's Brigade doesn't seem to get much attention outside of specialists in the Western Theater.

For us, giving John T. Wilder the last spot on our Beards of Chickamauga shirt was the obvious choice. We commemorate that funky little beard of his, and at the same time we give a nod and a wink to Civil War buffs whose particular interest lies in the West: We get you.