previous next

The petition for Braggs removal.

Scattered along the face of Missionary Ridge, waiting for the enemy to make Chattanooga impregnable, and then uniting the forces of Grant and Sherman with the reorganized army of Thomas to overwhelm them, were the disheartened Confederates, daily growing weaker from the desertion of men whose homes were exposed to devastation by the Federals.

It was at this juncture that Buckner drew, and Polk, Longstreet, Hill, Buckner, Cleburne, Cheatham, Brown and other Generals signed and sent to the President a petition stating that the Commanding-General had lost the confidence of the army, and asking that he be transferred to another command and replaced by a more acceptable leader. Hill was the last of the Lieutenant-Generals consulted, but, unfortunately for his future, his headquarters were located at a central point on the line, and the paper was left there to be signed. Cheatham and Cleburne met at that point and put their names to the paper at the same time. After the battle of Murfreesboro, Bragg had addressed letters to the chiefs of divisions in his army, asking whether he retained the confidence of the troops, and intimating a willingness to resign if he had lost it. Breckinridge, Cleburne and one or two others promply answered that they thought he could no longer be useful in the position he occupied. The correspondence led to an open breach between Bragg and Breckinridge [144] and a newspaper controversy, in which each charged upon the other the responsibility of our failure at Murfreesboro. General Breckinridge, in a conversation with the speaker, stated that his reason for declining to sign the paper was that his opinion of the Commanding-General was known, and, as their relations were already unfriendly, his motives might be misconstrued.

No better illustration of the prevailing opinion among the higher officers, as well as the rank and file of the army, in reference to the efficiency of the Commanding General can be given than the substance of a conversation between Cheatham and Cleburne as they joined in a social glass after signing the petition. ‘Here are my congratulations upon your recovery from your bad cold,’ said Cleburne. ‘I have had no bad cold,’ said Cheatham. ‘Let me tell you an old fable,’ replied Cleburne. ‘The report had been circulated among the beasts of the forest that the lion had a bad breath, whereupon, as king, the lion summoned all to appear, and admitted them to his presence one by one. As each would answer upon smelling his breath that it was bad, the lion would devour him. When at length the fox was brought in, he replied to the question that he had a bad cold, and escaped. You had a bad cold when you wrote Bragg, after the battle of Murfreesboro, that you didn't know whether he still retained the confidence of the army. You have at last recovered.’

Hill cherished no unkind feeling toward Bragg, and at the time reluctantly reached the conclusion that it was his duty to join his comrades in urging his removal, hoping that it might still be within the range of possibility to find a leader like Jackson, who could overcome superior numbers by vigilance, celerity and strategy.

Mr. Davis was induced to believe that Hill was the originator and most active promoter of the plan to get rid of Bragg as a chief, and both the President and General Bragg determined to visit the whole sin of the insubordination of inferior officers of that army on him. His name was not sent to the Senate for confirmation as Lieutenant-General, and the repeated efforts of Johnston, backed by many of his subordinates, to have Hill returned to the command of a corps, were refused up to the last campaign of Johnston in North Carolina. In response to repeated demands made upon Bragg and the Adjutant for a court of inquiry to report upon any charge or criticism that [145] the latter might make, Hill at last received the answer that there were no charges to be investigated.

But it is due to the memory of General Hill that the world should know how thoroughly he retained the confidence, respect and admiration of the officers and men of the army, which Bragg left after the next fight, never to rejoin till he found Hill on the soil of his own State, leading its reduced regiments in their last forlorn charge against their old foe.

The following letters, for which he did not ask, but which he treasured as testimonials of his relations to his troops to the day of his death, are submitted for the first time for the vindication of his memory against the suspicion of negligence, inefficiency, incompetency or infidelity to his trust as commander of a corps:

headquarters Cleburne's division, mission Ridge, October 9, 1863.
General,—In your departure from the army of Tennessee, allow me to offer you my grateful acknowledgments for the uniform kindness that has characterized all your official intercourse with my division. Allow me also to express to you the sincere regard and high confidence with which, in so short a time, you succeeded in inspiring both myself and, I believe, every officer and man in my command.

It gives me pleasure to add that now, though your connection with this army has ended, you still retain undiminished the love, respect and confidence of Cleburne's division.

Respectfully your friend,

P. R. Cleburne, Major-General.

Dear General,—I have just learned officially that you have been relieved from command in this army, and ordered to report to Richmond.

I cannot see you go away without sending you, in an unofficial and friendly note, the expression of my sincere regret at out separation. It has the merit of at least being disinterested. I saw you for the first time on my way to this army from Mississippi, when my division became a part of your corps, and I have had more than one [146] occasion to express my admiration for your fidelity to duty, your soldierly qualities and your extraordinary courage on the field.

It may gratify you to know the opinion of one of your subordinates, and to be assured that, in his opinion, they are shared by his division.

I am, General,

Very truly your friend,

John C. Breckinridge, Major-General.

headquarters corps army of Tennessee, October 15, 1863.
My Dear General,—Your note of to-day is received. I am surprised and grieved to learn that you have been relieved from duty with this army. We have stood side by side in so many severely contested battle-fields that I have learned to lean upon you with great confidence.

I hope and trust that you may find some other position where your services may be as useful as they can be here. * * *

Very truly and sincerely yours,

headquarters Clayton's Brigade, near Chattanooga, November 3, 1863.
Lieutenant-General D. B. Hill,—Returning to my command a few days ago, I regretted to learn that you had left the command of our corps, and that I had not the opportunity of telling you farewell.

I have been in the military service since the 6th of February, 1861, and I have never been under a commander to whom I and my command formed so strong an attachment in so short a space of time. In the camp we were not afraid to approach you, and on the field you were not afraid to approach us and even go beyond us. This feeling was universal among privates as well as officers, and to a greater degree than I have ever known towards anyone, except, perhaps, General Stuart. Those who have been in the military service and been frozen to death by a different class of officers alone, know how fully to appreciate this.

Your friend and obedient servant,



headquarters Polk's Brigade, October 16, 1863.
General,—In behalf of myself and brigade, allow me to express to you our high appreciation of your uniform kindness in all of your official intercourse with us, and to say to you that although you have not been long with us, you have gained our love, confidence and respect. And that it was with great regret that we heard of your being taken away from us. And in being so taken away, our confidence in you as a soldier, gentleman and patriot has not been in the least diminished. We part with you, General, with the greatest regret, and hope some new field may be given you for the display of that generalship that led us to victory at Chickamauga.

Respectfully your friend,


L. E. Polk, Brigadier-General.

headquarters Lowry's Brigade, mission Ridge, October 16, 1863.
Dear General,—Paragraph 2, Special Order No. 33, from Army Headquarters, relieving you from duty in this department, has just been received by me. I take this opportunity to express to you my deep regret at this change. So far as I have heard an expression from the officers and men of this corps, your service with us has been most satisfactory. In the camp and on the march your orders were received and obeyed with the most cordial approval and with the greatest pleasure. The warm devotion that has been created in so short a time will not die while memory lives. In behalf of my brigade, permit me to express our regret on account of your separation from us, and the kindest wishes for your prosperity and happiness. For myself, the memories of our short acquaintance will be warmly cherished in a devoted heart of friendship, and the guidance and protection of the unseen hand invoked on you wherever your lot may be cast.

May the glory of victorious fields form a wreath around your name in all time to come, and the memory of your deeds of gallantry and patriotism be cherished in the hearts of a grateful and free people.

Respectfully, General, your obedient servant,


M. P. Lowry, Brigadier General. (Since Governor of Mississippi.)


Long after the war General J. E. Johnston addressed the following letter to General Hill, from which it will appear that the influence of Bragg, who was at the elbow of the President as his military adviser, was still omnipotent after he was transferred from the West to Richmond:

Washington, D. C., September 22, 1887.
General D. H. Hill:
Dear General,—Your conduct at Yorktown and at Seven Pines gave me an opinion (of you) which made me wish for your assistance in every subsequent command that I had during the war. When commanding the Army of Tennessee I applied for your assignment to a vacancy. * *

Yours very truly,

It is but just to President Davis, as well as to General Hill, to state that there was good reason to believe that the former, in his last days, became convinced that General Hill was not the author of the petition, or the principal promoter of the plan for Bragg's removal, and that it dawned upon the great chieftain that the retention of Bragg was the one mistake of his own marvellous administration of the government of the Confederacy. When Johnston and others criticised the President, General Hill, then editing a magazine that was read by every Confederate, indignantly refused to utter one reproachful word, even in his own vindication, because, as he said, the timeservers who had turned their backs on the Lost Cause were making him the scapegoat to bear the supposed sin of a nation.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: