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East Tennessee and the campaign of Perryville.

by don Carlos Buell, Major-General, U. S. V.
The invasion of Kentucky in the summer of 1862 by the Confederate forces under General Bragg was one of the most prominent incidents of the war; and both the officer who conducted it and the one who repelled it were the objects of much popular displeasure on their respective sides. On the one side there was severe condemnation of the withdrawal, and on the other unmeasured dissatisfaction that the invaders had not been captured in a body. Of course, there were in both cases numerous specifications to the general matter of complaint. With reference to the result, it must follow that the critics were wrong on one side or the other. It may even be that in the main, whatever may have been the incidental blunders, they were wrong on both sides: that is, that an invasion for a permanent occupation which lacked the support of the population, and was opposed by an army able and ready to contest the object, was wisely abandoned without further resistance; and that the contestant, in the presence of a skillful and not inferior adversary, wisely took his measures to make the result reasonably certain. The rashness of revolutionary ends might reject the former, but no rule of loyalty to the public welfare would condemn the latter.

In giving here a brief review of the subject — which properly includes the project for my advance into east Tennessee in the early summer — I shall undertake no more than a simple outline of the essential facts, and an exposition of the circumstances which controlled events.

The period immediately following the evacuation of Corinth, and lasting through the summer, found the Western armies in a less satisfactory state than at the first glance would be supposed. The early delusion of a ninety-days' campaign had not so completely passed away as not to give rise to disappointment in the ranks and among the people, at finding no signs in the [32] South of reconciliation or submission, after the signal successes which the Union cause had achieved; and it could hardly fail to happen that the disappointment would for a while act injuriously upon the temper and efficiency of unseasoned troops. It resulted, in fact, that the desire to get back to friends, or to find relief for a time from the hardships and restraints of service, caused large numbers to get away from the front on every possible pretext — on leave granted with or without proper authority, upon authority exercised too loosely, and even without any authority; and when once away their return was very difficult. Appeals were of little avail, and the recourse of sending officers to recall the absentees was attended with poor results.

But absence from the colors was not the worst form of the evil. Duty of every sort was performed with a sluggishness which greatly retarded every sort of work, of which there was much that had to be done, and the service of escorts and road guards was executed in very many cases with a fatal laxity. An idea grew up that a soldier on parole was virtually released from all restraint; and there was good reason to believe that large numbers of stragglers were quite willing to find themselves for a moment in the hands of the enemy, and that even the vigilance and resoluteness of escorts and guards were materially affected by the idea that captivity meant liberty and relaxation.1

Even in the routine of camp life, the weariness and impatience manifested themselves in some manner, actively or passively, in a protest against the interior demands and the exterior restraints of discipline. The thousands of letters which poured from the camps into the soldiers' homes and the public press were mediums for these manifestations, which put upon the general in [33] command the burthen of every complaint, and the responsibility of every miscarriage. If a command started upon a march, every soldier would be anxious to know how his haversack was to be replenished, but it never occurred to him that there was a question as to how the depots were to be supplied.

The Government, also, seemed to drop suddenly into a similar state of disappointment, discontent, and inaction. It had not apparently been imagined that the depletion which would unavoidably go on rapidly in the ranks must be replaced, and when at length the work of repair was taken up it was done by creating new regiments instead of replenishing the old ones. A vast waste of time, and material, and efficiency was caused by this plan of throwing large numbers of raw troops suddenly into service in distinct bodies. Moreover, party politics, which at first, under a spontaneous burst of patriotism, had put aside all party distinctions, began now to resume its old organization. That, of course, meant old ambitions and opposing policies with reference to means, however united men might be in motive upon the one great object of preserving the Union. No doubt all of these causes worked to the same end. At all events it resulted that during the summer of 1862, after the withdrawal of the Confederates from Corinth, the armies were weaker numerically than they

Brevet Major-General James B. Fry, chief-of-staff to General Buell; afterward Provost-Marshal-General. From a photograph.

had been or ever were afterward, and that the tone of the troops, though always loyal, was in some respects seriously defective.

It was exactly the reverse on the other side. To the South the result of the battle of Shiloh was the disappointment of a great hope almost consummated, rather than a discouragement. The first depressing effect of the retreat from Corinth was more than compensated for by the splendid successes which were considered to have been gained in Virginia. Their Government acted vigorously. Their armies were speedily recruited, and never again entered the field in as great relative strength and as high spirit as in that summer. The army at Tupelo, no longer threatened, and under a new commander of established reputation for nerve and ability, paused for a moment to discover an opening for attack or a call for defense, and the disposition of the now unoccupied force under General Halleck soon pointed the way. [34]

As soon as the expulsion of the Confederates from the line of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad was consummated by the definitive retreat of the Corinth army, the large Federal force that had been called together for the operations on that line was redistributed for ulterior objects. About 65,000 men were retained under General Halleck's immediate command to occupy the line from the Tennessee River to Memphis; the Army of the Ohio was restored to its original departmental territory, to advance into east Tennessee, perhaps even to penetrate Georgia; and the remainder of the force was sent to strengthen General Curtis in Arkansas. Thus the Army of the Ohio was the only army in the West that was assigned to an aggressive campaign.

The occupation of east Tennessee had from the first been a favorite measure with the President, apparently more from political than from military considerations. It had at one time been enjoined upon my predecessors in specific orders, and was urged upon my attention by General McClellan in the instructions with which I came to Kentucky. Some abortive steps had been taken in that direction by General Sherman before my arrival, but various causes, which need not here be enumerated, compelled its postponement then and afterward,--especially the inexpediency of the attempt upon military grounds under the circumstances, and finally the drift of events, which carried the bulk of the army to Shiloh and Corinth. A general view of the theater of war, and a consideration of the geography of east Tennessee, will show the importance of the lodgment that was now to be undertaken, and indicate the opposition it was sure to encounter, unless seconded by operations of a decisive character in other quarters.

East Tennessee is an elevated valley of great salubrity and considerable agricultural capacity, practically inclosed, though with some natural openings, by a mountainous and rugged belt of country in which rise the sources of the Tennessee River. The surplus of food products during the war was not large, but was not without value to the South at first, when so much of the country was absorbed in the growth of cotton. The railroad passing east and west through the valley afforded the most direct and convenient communication between Richmond and the Mississippi, while abreast of it, from Chattanooga, a branching railroad penetrated the Atlantic and Gulf States to the coast, affording a valuable system of internal communication for supply or defense, and an equally effective line for external invasion. On the northern side, the valley had a strong defensive line in the difficult, though not impracticable mountains, which, farther to the north, assume an expanse and ruggedness that present what might be considered practically a secure barrier between Kentucky and Virginia. East Tennessee might therefore be regarded as a doorway to the rear of Richmond, and a commanding rendezvous which looked down with a menacing adaptability upon the Gulf and Atlantic States. In the latter light, more than as a means of defense, its preservation was of vital moment to the Confederacy. The occupation of it by the Federal force would be like the last stage in a regular siege, when the glacis is crowned and batteries are established for breaching the walls and [35] delivering the final assault. But the fact that it was the home of all that was loyal to the Union in the States in rebellion, seemed to blind the Government to the considerations which insured that it would be defended with all the energy of self-preservation. The powerful force and desperate battles that were finally found necessary to secure the object, afforded a vindication, to which nothing need be added, against the fatuity which demanded that the Army of the Ohio, without supplies and with severed communications, should accomplish it in the summer of 1862 with a movable force of 31,000 men against more than 60,000 that barred the way. [See maps, pp. 3 and 6.]

I was following the movements of the enemy retreating from Corinth, when, on the 9th of June, I received notice from General Halleck that my army was to resume its separate action, and advance into east Tennessee. My divisions started in the new direction the next day, and on the 11th I received my instructions verbally from General Halleck. I was to move as diligently as possible to the object specified, but I was to repair the Memphis and Charleston Railroad as I proceeded, guard it, and draw my supplies from it. The inexpediency of these conditions, as I had pointed out, was realized before the repairs were completed. The road, running along the enemy's front, was peculiarly exposed to attack — was in fact attacked while we were working on it and afterward; it was not supplied with rolling stock, and we derived no benefit from it, though the repairs detained us until the last of June. Foreseeing these embarrassments, I had given orders for the repair of the roads south from Nashville, and for the accumulation of supplies at that point. I desired also the option of making the advance through McMinnville and Kingston, which I imagined might be found to present decided advantages. It would avoid the heavy work on the railroads to the Tennessee River, the bridging of the river, and the extremely difficult ground that must at first be overcome by wagon transportation after crossing. It would establish a junction promptly with the force under G. W. Morgan operating against Cumberland Gap, and give actual possession of east Tennessee, which the mere occupation of Chattanooga would not. Halleck at first assented to my proposition, but a day or two afterward withdrew his consent, and enjoined that the movement should be made directly upon Chattanooga.

We crossed the Tennessee by extemporized ferries--three divisions at Florence, arriving at Athens on the Nashville and Decatur Railroad on the 28th of June, and one division between the 1st and 6th of July, by a very inefficient ferry prepared by General Mitchel at Decatur.

General Thomas with his division was still detained on the Corinth road under General Halleck's orders, and did not join at Huntsville until the last of July; so that the available effective force for an advance when I reached Huntsville on the 29th of June was between 24,000 and 25,000 men. The 16,000 already in middle Tennessee and north Alabama would still be required to guard Nashville and keep open the communications. But there was much to be done before an advance could be possible. We found ourselves already at the very limit of our means of transportation. Nothing had been accomplished in the way of repairing the railroads, and it required every wagon to [36] haul supplies enough for the daily consumption. Much of the time thereafter the troops were on half rations. We could gather some forage from the country, but not enough for the animals.

Before my arrival General Mitchel had urgently reported demonstrations of the enemy from the direction of Chattanooga. To the Secretary of War he said, June 21st: “I am with difficulty maintaining my position in front of Chattanooga. I will endeavor to hold my position until reenforcements arrive.” His nearest position was in fact at Battle Creek, twenty miles below Chattanooga, with the Tennessee River and a mountain range intervening. To me he telegraphed, June 21st: “I think everything depends on celerity of movement. If we should be driven from Stevenson (the junction of the Nashville and Chattanooga and the Memphis and Charleston railroads), or even from the position we now occupy (at Battle Creek, nine miles above Bridgeport), I should deem it a great misfortune.” Partly therefore to oppose this supposed danger, and especially to place a strong working force on the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, McCook's and Crittenden's divisions were sent to Stevenson and Battle Creek. Nelson's and Wood's divisions were for the present kept on the Nashville and Decatur road; and the repairs by means of the troops and by experienced hired hands were urged energetically. At the same time mills were put to work to get out lumber, and the building of boats for a bridge was commenced. We had no pontoon train, and the Tennessee was a formidable river, requiring a bridge 1400 yards long.

The depredations of the small bands that had harassed Mitchel before my arrival were continued afterward, and soon demonstrated the necessity of defensive works for bridges and other vulnerable points. An inclosed earthwork of considerable strength, large enough for a regiment, was constructed at Stevenson for the protection of the depot to be established there for the advance; and a specific plan and instructions for small block-houses, or, more properly speaking, picket-houses, at the less important points were prescribed. An officer was specially assigned to the direction of these works, and the supervision of the guards. Iron-clad dummy cars were provided for such purposes and for express service. Much of the road-repairing and other engineering work was done and supervised by a splendid regiment of mechanics and engineers from Michigan, under Colonel William P. Innes.

These, from among the thousand other details, are mentioned, because they were infinitely important to our existence, and absolutely necessary for the first step in advance. Clearly the means of transportation, which were barely sufficient to provide us with a precarious subsistence where we were, would be insufficient to carry us at least thirty miles farther away, across a broad river and a mountainous country, into the presence of the enemy. The records show that laborious and unceasing efforts were used to bring about the necessary conditions for a forward movement, and that every officer employed in command or in staff positions was stimulated to the utmost by advice and instructions for the object before us. We had been engaged in this earnest manner just nine days from the time of my arrival at Huntsville [June 29th], when I received. a dispatch from Halleck, saying that my progress was not [37] satisfactory to the President. I was so astonished at the message that I made no reply until three days afterward, when I was called on for explanations.2

The road from Nashville to Stevenson was completed on the 12th of July, and a train was started the next morning with supplies for the depot at Stevenson. My attention had been attracted to the importance of McMinnville as an outpost. It was at the foot of the mountain on the direct wagon road between Nashville and Chattanooga, and was the terminus of a branch railroad, twenty miles east of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad. I had just organized a new brigade at Murfreesboro' to occupy McMinnville. On the morning of the 13th Forrest, with a large body of cavalry, surprised the brigade, killed and wounded some and captured the rest, damaged the railroad seriously, and produced alarm in Nashville, where the force was not large.3 [38]

This was the first appearance of any large body of the enemy in our rear south of the Cumberland, though Morgan was at the same time engaged in a formidable raid in Kentucky. Nelson was immediately ordered to occupy Murfreesboro' and McMinnville with his division, himself and one brigade going by railroad. He had just reached Murfreesboro' with a portion of his troops when Forrest, on the 18th, appeared again on the railroad between him and Nashville, captured guards, and destroyed two more bridges. Work was immediately commenced to repair the damage. It was completed on the 28th of July, and the shipment of supplies for the depot at Stevenson was resumed.

As soon as my designs upon east Tennessee were known, the Confederate authorities took prompt measures to counteract them. The sudden appearance of large bodies of cavalry under Morgan and Forrest on my communications in Tennessee and Kentucky early in July, and the increased activity of small parties, were a part of these measures. It was at first in contemplation to move the Tupelo army upon my rear in middle Tennessee, but the wiser plan was adopted of concentrating in my front. One division of that army, and reeforcements from other quarters, reached Chattanooga in June. General Bragg arrived on the 30th of July, and by that time the transfer of his force from Tupelo was about completed. The nucleus of a force under Van Dorn and Price was left in Mississippi to neutralize the large Federal force on the Memphis and Charleston road, an object which was accomplished at first by inaction alone, and at last by bold though unsuccessful attacks with inferior numbers.

The foreshadowing of an aggressive campaign from east Tennessee soon began to be seen. By report, and actually, as the record now shows, the objective was at first middle Tennessee and Nashville. Rumor, as usual, placed the force that was ready for the work at very large numbers--80,000 or 100,000 men. I realized that the enemy in front of us was assuming formidable proportions, but I did not doubt that his strength was over-estimated, nor that, if necessary, my own force would be increased, and therefore my efforts for the accumulation of supplies for an advance were not relaxed.

On the 7th of August I informed General Halleck of the condition which the campaign was assuming, and told him that my force should be increased. I estimated the force opposed to me at sixty thousand men. The records now show that it was greater. He answered on the 8th that General Grant would turn over two divisions to my command “if I absolutely required them,” but cautioned me not to ask for them if I could avoid it with safety. By the 12th the accumulating evidence showed that the call could not be dispensed with, and I requested General Grant to forward the divisions without delay. One of them joined on the 1st of September; the other did not arrive until the 12th, after the movement northward to follow Bragg had commenced. The strength of the two divisions was about 5000 men each.

Our communications south of the Cumberland had been made secure by the distribution of the troops, but to the north the depredations were prosecuted with increased vigor. Our cavalry was totally insufficient to cope with [39] these incursions, which it must be said, also, were seldom resisted by the infantry guards with vigilance and resolution. On the 10th of August, Morgan again appeared on the railroad north of Nashville, captured the guard of about 150 men at Gallatin, effectually disabled the tunnel north of that place, and destroyed several bridges toward Nashville. Our communication with Louisville, on which we were dependent for supplies, was thus, for the present, effectually severed. Work was immediately commenced to repair the damage, but the constantly recurring presence of the enemy's cavalry interfered so effectually as to require a large increase of force from the front or the rear for the defense. I had already strengthened the guards at Bowling Green and Munfordville. To continue to draw from the front was not yet to be thought of. On the 16th, therefore, I gave General Nelson a couple of field-batteries and some experienced cavalry and infantry officers, and sent him to Kentucky to organize such troops as could be got together there to reestablish our communications and operate against Morgan's incursions.

On the 18th a guard of a regiment belonging to Grant's command was captured without a show of resistance at Clarksville,4 where a considerable quantity of supplies had been deposited for transshipment in consequence of the suspension of navigation by low water in the Cumberland. Upon hearing of Morgan's appearance again on the Cumberland north of Nashville, General R. W. Johnson, a spirited cavalry officer, under whose command I had assembled all the cavalry that was available, moved promptly in pursuit, and with his inferior force attacked Morgan vigorously near Hartsville. Johnson was defeated with a loss of 80 killed and wounded and 75 prisoners, himself among the latter. The rest escaped and made their way as stragglers or in small bodies to Nashville.

These details, harassing and disappointing to the actors at the time, are now no less wearisome and uninteresting to the careless reader; but the consideration of them is essential to a correct appreciation of the campaign. It is a story familiar to history of the crippling of an invading army by a successful war upon its too long and inadequately protected communications, with an enemy in its front. The line in this case was a single railroad, 350 miles long, through a population either hostile to the invader, or at least in a considerable degree friendly to his opponent. Under the circumstances that were to ensue, it is not perhaps to be accounted a misfortune that the contemplated advance was checked at the start. A Union army of 31,000 men at Chattanooga in July, 1862, without supplies, with its communications broken for 400 miles, and the Government on the Potomac appealing for 25,000 men which could not be spared from Corinth, might well have been in a worse condition than the stronger army in November, 1863, which was reduced to horse and mule meat for its ration, with its communications complete to within 30 miles, and with an unoccupied army from Vicksburg and consider able reenforcements from the Potomac hastening to its succor. [40]

The reports of the superior force assembled in east Tennessee were confirmed as the time passed, and there could be no doubt that our position in middle Tennessee was about to be assailed. Already there were rumors of crossing at Chattanooga, Harrison's Landing, and Kingston. These starting-points indicated no certain plan of attack. The enemy might descend the Sequatchie and Cumberland valleys and enter at north Alabama, in which case he would have a railroad for his supplies; or he might cross the mountains by direct roads toward middle Tennessee. In either case, Stevenson, on the south side of a declining spur of the Cumberland Mountains reaching to Huntsville, was unsuitable for our depot, and Decherd, on the north side, was adopted instead.

On the 19th of August I received information from General McCook, who was at Battle Creek with his own and Crittenden's divisions, that the enemy was crossing in force at Chattanooga. My plans were already matured and McCook had his orders for such a case, only waiting the signal to act, which was given on the 20th. He was to march with his division to the point at which the Anderson or Thurman road between Chattanooga and McMinnville crossed the Sequatchie valley, watching and opposing the enemy on that road, and gradually fall back toward McMinnville until he joined the remainder of the army. Crittenden was to follow him, and act similarly and in conjunction with him on the Higginbottom road, which crossed the valley a little lower down, and united with the Thurman road further north. They had previously been provided with rockets and a signal code for communicating with each other and with the rest of the army. The same day I went to Battle Creek and then to Decherd to superintend the further concentration, for which general instructions had already been given. Altamont, in advance of McMinnville, was designated as the point of junction, though that could have been modified, if desirable, after an examination of the locality. General McCook proceeded up the valley some distance until he received information on which he relied, that the enemy had already entered the valley in force, or would enter it before he could be intercepted. He therefore returned to Crittenden at the Higginbottom road, which he deemed to be impracticable for his artillery and train, and both divisions returned to Battle Creek, where, after hearing from them, I sent them further orders. The information was positive that the enemy was advancing on the Thurman road, where in fact his cavalry was encountered; and under the orders for the concentration Thomas went to Altamont from McMinnville with one division, but returned to McMinnville. McCook arrived there a little later and remained unti l the final concentration at Murfreesboro' under the orders of the 30th. A brigade under Colonel W. H. Lytle, of Rousseau's division, was still retained at Huntsville, and two regiments under Colonel L. A. Harris were at Battle Creek. The failure of McCook's movement up the Sequatchie was unfortunate. It gave a false impression of the enemy's progress, and of the route he was to pursue. But for the erroneous information under which it was abandoned, it ought to have led to important results. There would have been no advantage, however, in retiring on the Higginbottom road without meeting the enemy. [41]

We were now reduced to ten days provisions. Our railroad communication north of Nashville had been broken for twenty days, and no effort was being made at Louisville to reopen it. My orders to General Nelson had been of no avail. In fact, on his arrival there he found Kentucky organized into a separate department not under my command; and his report of my instructions and his representations of the necessity of opening the road to Nashville were answered with orders from Washington to first open communication with Cumberland Gap, where General G. W. Morgan was not in danger, and had abundant supplies for the present. The result of those orders, unnecessary for the relief of Morgan, and insufficient for stopping Kirby Smith, was the defeat of Nelson at Richmond on the 30th. Ten days had elapsed since the enemy's advance was positively reported, and there was no more evidence of his approach than at first. He was, of course, to be expected any day, but he might not come in two weeks.

Under the circumstances it was plainly necessary to concentrate nearer Nashville, where we could get to work on the railroad, and at the same time be ready for the enemy when he should come. Orders were accordingly given on the 30th of August for concentrating at Murfreesboro' on the 5th of September. Thomas, at McMinnville, was to march on the 2d, and other commands according to their position. To the last Thomas had no definite information of the approach of the enemy. It turned out that Bragg crossed at Chattanooga on the 28th of August, entered Sparta on the 3d of September, and made his way to Glasgow, where he arrived on the 14th, having crossed the Cumberland at Carthage and Gainsboro‘. Something of these movements, though not of the entire force, was learned on the 6th, and that Bowling Green was threatened. Two divisions were, therefore, moved across the river at Nashville on the 7th,--one to go to the protection of Bowling Green, where there was a small garrison with some stores, and the other to Gallatin, to gain information of the movements of the enemy in the valley.

At the same time preparation was made to act with the remaining force as circumstances might require. Two and a half divisions, including Paine's division from Grant, which had not yet arrived, and a large number of convalescents, were designated to hold Nashville, under the command of General Thomas. It was ascertained on the 10th that the bulk of Bragg's army had marched north from the Cumberland, and my movable divisions were accordingly put in motion to follow. They were concentrated at Bowling Green on the evening of the 15th. I there learned that the garrison at Munfordville had been attacked, but the result was not certainly known. Bragg was reported at Glasgow, and on the 16th I marched to give battle to him at that place; but during the day it was ascertained that he had marched the day before for Munfordville, the garrison of which, it was also ascertained, had repelled the first attack, and my divisions were directed upon that point. The next day, at Prewett's Knob, thirteen miles from Munfordville, I learned that the garrison had that morning surrendered to Bragg's entire army, and that night Colonel Wilder reported to me with his command as prisoners of war. [42]

The enemy was now concentrated in front of us, and had taken up a position of unusual strength upon and behind a rather low crest on the south side of Green River. My information of the aggregate force assembled in east Tennessee was sufficiently accurate, but at first there was no means of knowing what portion of it was with Bragg, and what portion had followed Kirby Smith. The proximity of the last three days had given a better knowledge of Bragg's strength. Colonel Wilder, who was competent, and had had some opportunity for observation, estimated it at from 35,000 to 40,000 men, and nobody estimated it at any less. I supposed it to be from 30,000 to 40,000. I had with me 35,000 effective men, but on being satisfied at Bowling Green that no considerable force remained to threaten Nashville, I called up Thomas's division, and now determined, on its arrival, to attack Bragg's position if he should remain. Thomas arrived on the 20th. There was some skirmishing between the lines that evening, but the enemy withdrew during the night. His rear-guard was driven out of Munfordville the next day, and was pressed by our advanced guard until he turned off the main road toward Bardstown.l There was no reason to hesitate at this point as to the course which I should pursue. I did not know where Kirby Smith was, but the junction between himself and Bragg was to be considered as practically established.

Brigadier-General James S. Jackson, killed at Perryville. From a photograph.

United for battle they would outnumber me very greatly. Louisville also, in the presence of this combined force, might be in danger. Besides, our provisions were nearly exhausted; some of the troops were without rations after arriving at West Point, twenty-five miles from Louisville. I therefore pushed forward to Louisville, the leading division arriving there on the 25th, and the last on the 29th. The cavalry was kept as an outpost at Elizabethtown to guard the flank of the passing columns and watch any possible movements of the enemy toward Bowling Green. The large empty wagon train which the exhaustion of our supplies at Nashville had rendered useless and insupportable, had been pushed through from Bowling Green by the way of Brownsville, Litchfield, and West Point, under a cavalry escort.5

The army was now to encounter grave danger from the influence of Oliver P. Morton, Governor of Indiana. He had from the beginning tried to retain a quasi authority over Indiana troops after they had been mustered into the [43] service of the United States and had joined my army. His interference was injurious to discipline; but he persisted in order to preserve his influence with the troops, the people, and the Government. The seeds of mischief, always present in his extra-official conduct toward the Indiana troops, were now being sown with a vigorous but crafty hand, in the counsels at Washington and among the executives of other States, to impair my authority and effect my removal from command. General Nelson, an officer of remarkable merit, was in command of the center corps of my army. He was assaulted and killed by General Davis, accompanied by Governor Morton, the very day before the army was to march against the invaders. Nelson, though often rough in command, was always solicitous about the well-being of his troops, and was held in high esteem for his conspicuous services, gallantry in battle, and great energy; and his death caused much indignation among the troops that knew him best. Davis, an Indianian, was unknown in my army except in his own division, which had just joined while he was absent; but Morton's relation to the affair brought to bear in Davis's behalf a State feeling inspired by Morton and strengthened by his habitual intervention in favor of Indiana troops against the rigidity of my control. The restraining influence of discipline was all that prevented an outbreak between the friends of Nelson and Davis, which might have added the most serious consequences to the criminal occurrence.

Nothing but the law of violence could, under any circumstances, justify the manner of the killing for the alleged provocation, and no mere merit of ordinary soldiership could ever atone for the sacrilege against discipline under the circumstances which existed. The dignity of a State was abused by the attitude of its governor in the affair, and the authority of the general government was even more degraded by its condonement of the act — a condonement made virtually, if not actually, at his dictation.6

Davis was immediately placed in arrest, and the case reported to General Halleck, with the request that a court might be ordered from Washington for its trial, as the operations then in progress made it impracticable for me to spare the officers for the purpose at the moment. Instead of that, Davis [44] was released, ostensibly that the case might be turned over to the civil authority; and thus the military authority of the Government was abased over the grave of a high officer, whose slaughter by another officer under such circumstances, and as a purely military offense, it had not the character to bring to trial.7

In the midst of the excitement caused by the killing of Nelson, and the active preparation that was going on for an advance against the enemy the next day, an order was received from Washington relieving me from the command, and appointing General Thomas to succeed me. In a little while General Thomas came to my room and stated his intention to decline the command. I answered that I could not consent to his doing so on any ground that was personal to me, and that if his determination was fixed I must be allowed to see the message he proposed to send. He then prepared the following dispatch to General Halleck:

Colonel McKibbin handed me your dispatch placing me in command of the Department of the Tennessee. General Buel's preparations have been completed to march against the enemy, and I therefore respectfully ask that he may be retained in command. My position is very embarrassing, not being as well informed as I should be as the commander of this army, and on the assumption of such a responsibility.

I could make no personal objection to his reasons, but I encouraged him to accept the duty assigned to him, saying that nothing remained to be done but to put the army in motion, and that I would cheerfully explain my plans to him and give him all the information I possessed. He persisted, however, and the message went off. I did not then know of the steps that were being taken for my retention by both of the senators and two representatives from Kentucky.8

Halleck replied to Thomas that the order had not been made by him or by his advice, and he had no power to revoke it, but that he would suspend it until the question could be submitted to the Government, and that Colonel McKibbin had been twice telegraphed to withhold the order. The order was accordingly suspended. I at once resumed the reins of command, which, indeed, had scarcely been laid aside, and proceeded with the preparations to advance.

On my arrival at Louisville I had found a considerable number of newly made regiments or fragments of regiments, which the crisis had hurried into [45] the State from Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. After designating a portion as a guard for Louisville, mostly organized into a division under General Dumont, the remainder of the new regiments were assigned to places in the old divisions; the baggage, hospital, and supply trains were reorganized; the equipment of the soldier was repaired; each man was provided with individual cooking-utensils, so as almost to dispense with baggage-wagons; and on the arrival of the last division, on the 29th, the army was ready to march on the next day. One day was lost by the instructions from Washington, but orders were given for marching on the 1st of October. The army was divided into three corps: the First under General McCook, the Second under General T. L. Crittenden, and the Third under General Gilbert. This corps was to have been commanded by General Nelson. General Thomas was announced as second in command in the army. It is now proper to take a survey of the military situation which was before me.

My instructions of the 18th

Brigadier-General William R. Terrill, killed at Perryville. From a photograph.

of March placed General G. W. Morgan in command of the Seventh division of the army, to operate in the Cumberland Gap road from Kentucky to east Tennessee, and required him to take the Gap if practicable, and if not, to hold the enemy in check on that route. The division was at first only partially formed, and some time elapsed before it was in a condition to advance. The Gap was naturally strong, and was occupied by a considerable force. Morgan turned the position on the 17th of June by marching through Big Creek and Rogers's Gaps. The Confederates thereupon evacuated the place without waiting for an attack, and Morgan took possession on the 18th. It was at once strongly intrenched under the supervision of an officer of engineers, but its importance in a general campaign was not in proportion to the force to which its maintenance gave occupation. It was chiefly as an encouragement to the loyal element in east Tennessee that the possession of it was desirable. The campaign inaugurated by the Confederates in east Tennessee employed the troops of two military departments, and labored under the inconvenience of cooperation between the two independent commanders, instead of subordination to a single authority. It was executed with a harmony and zeal unusual under such circumstances, but perhaps lacked the consistency which either of the two leaders would have been amply capable of imparting to it. [46]

The original plan was for a combined movement into middle Tennessee for the recovery of Nashville. The invasion of Kentucky was at first probably not thought of at all, or at least only as a later possibility. But as Bragg could not be ready to cross the river from Chattanooga for about two weeks after his arrival, it was arranged that in the meantime Kirby Smith with his troops should attack and capture Morgan at Cumberland Gap. The strength of Morgan's fortified position, however, with 8000 good troops to defend it, was upon consideration deemed to preclude the attempt. The alternative was to invest him on the south side with 9000 men under Stevenson, while Smith with 12,000 should seize and hold his communications on the north; by which means, not being strong enough to break his way out on either side, Morgan, upon the exhaustion of his supplies, would be compelled to surrender. This plan being adopted, Smith commenced his movement through Rogers's and Big Creek Gaps on the 14th of August, and reached Morgan's rear at Barbourville on the 18th.

He now perceived that it would be impossible for him to gather supplies for his command from that poor and exhausted region, and later his embarrassment was increased by Morgan's occupation of Rogers's and Big Creek Gaps. Nothing therefore remained for him but to withdraw or advance boldly into the rich portion of Kentucky. Bragg was not at first in favor of the latter course, until he should be prepared to follow up the precipitate movement which it was not doubted I would make from middle Tennessee for the protection of Kentucky. However, his concurrence was readily yielded, for the proposition was alluring. The idea of invasion, which had now taken firm root, was coupled with the chimera of an uprising of the people and a transfer of the State to the Confederacy. I never had the slightest apprehension of such a result. Boys might join John Morgan's roving cavaliers, and some mature men might commit themselves with less romance to the cause of the Confederacy, and these phenomena would of course be multiplied by the backing of an army. But when Kentucky so far overcame her sympathy as to assume an attitude of neutrality, she listened to a call of reason and interest, not unmingled with genuine love of the Union, that was not to stop at half-measures; and as soon as it became apparent that neutrality was impracticable, it was the deliberate choice of the mass of the people — not any pressure of coercion — that arrayed her irrevocably on the side of the Union. To that choice she was thoroughly loyal, and no finer example of political and popular generosity can anywhere be found than that wherein, at the close of the conflict,, she restored to all the rights of citizenship and the ties of fraternity her expatriated sons who for four years had made war upon her.

Smith advanced from Barbourville with 12,000 men on the 26th of August, encountered at Rogersville and Richmond the 5000 or 6000 raw troops assembled there, scattered them like chaff, making prisoners and capturing arms, proceeded to Lexington, where he established his headquarters on the 2d of September, occupied Frankfort and Cynthiana, and finally threw his pickets almost to the gates of Cincinnati and Louisville.

These events produced widespread effects. They were the signal for the movement of Humphrey Marshall with 3000 men into Kentucky through Pound Gap, and it would seem stimulated Bragg's advance from Chattanooga. They changed the concentration of my army from Murfreesboro' to Nashville, and would perhaps have caused the transfer of half of it into Kentucky, which seemed to be powerless, but for the sudden appearance of Bragg in the Valley of the Cumberland endangering Nashville. In Kentucky and other bordering States, they produced an excitement which was intense in some places, amounting almost to consternation. Business at Cincinnati was for a few days entirely suspended for the purpose of defense; intrenchments were vigorously prosecuted at Covington and Louisville by the labor of the citizens and the troops, and raw regiments in the process of formation were hurried into Cincinnati and Louisville from Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. The Government of Kentucky sought refuge at Louisville, where on my arrival Nelson reported a force of 30,000 raw troops.

General Morgan at Cumberland Gap was promptly aware of Kirby Smith's movement, and informed me of it on the 16th of August. He had thirty days provisions, and was instructed the same day to hold his position. The exhaustion of his supplies and the improbability of their being replenished in time made it necessary for him at last to withdraw, which he did on the night of the 17th of September. He was pursued by Stevenson and harassed by John Morgan's cavalry, but made his way successfully through Manchester, Boonesville, West Liberty, and Grayson to the Ohio River at Greenup, where he arrived about the 2d of October. Stevenson with his division joined Kirby Smith near Frankfort about the time of my arrival at Louisville, and was present in the operations around Perryville.

On his arrival in central Kentucky, Smith issued his proclamation inviting the people to join the cause of their deliverance, and Bragg did the same in pathetic terms at Glasgow. These appeals, like many of the orders promulgated to arouse the animosity and stimulate the valor of the Southern troops, would give a sad impression of the condition of the inhabitants, especially the innocent and helpless, and of the brutality of the oppressor; but they were not confirmed by the feebleness of the response. There was a sweet sympathy, so the Confederates thought, but that was all. The arms in abundance, which Kentuckians were advised to grasp, remained in the store-houses. Kentuckians suffered just as Ohioans would have suffered with armies in their midst, and they had as a body no more thought of changing their colors. During the whole occupation enough perhaps for a brigade joined the invaders.

The arrival of Bragg at Bardstown gave the Confederates virtual possession of the whole of Kentucky east of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, excepting within the limits of Covington [47] and Louisville, and Smith called his troops together near Frankfort to assist in the proposed attack upon Louisville. That project was postponed after my arrival; but Polk, Bragg having gone to Frankfort and Lexington, was ordered to occupy Shepherdsville, Taylorsville, and other near points around Louisville. Steps were being taken to that end when, on the 2d of October, the enemy's pickets announced to the leaders at Frankfort and Bardstown the advance of my army in force on four roads, threatening the whole of their front, which covered a distance of sixty miles.

The plan of my movement was to force the enemy's left back and compel him to concentrate as far as possible from any convenient line of retreat, while at the same time making a strong demonstration against his right, so as to mislead him as to the real point of attack, and prevent him from moving upon my left flank and rear. With that object General Sill, commanding a division in McCook's corps, was ordered to move boldly toward Frankfort through Shelbyville, followed temporarily by the division of raw troops under Dumont which had been organized as a guard for Louisville. McCook with his two remaining divisions moved upon Taylorsville, where he halted the second night in a position which pointed to either flank. The other two corps moved respectively through Shepherdsville and Mt. Washington, to converge upon Bardstown, and halted the second night at Salt River. The enemy's pickets were encountered on all of the roads within a few miles of the city, increasing in strength as the movement progressed, and opposing a sharp opposition at Bardstown and Shelbyville. Polk withdrew his army from Bardstown on the night of the 3d, going through Springfield, and Sill, against a considerable resistance, pushed back the force in front of him toward Frankfort. These measures brought to a hurried completion the inauguration of Provisional Governor Hawes at Frankfort on the 4th, under the supervision of General Bragg. Polk, on his part, was pressed so closely that Hardee, who was bringing up his rear, was compelled to make a stand at Perryville and call for assistance. Assuming that Smith was the object of my attack, and that my right and rear would thereby be exposed to Polk at Bardstown, Bragg ordered Polk on the 2d to attack in that manner, while Smith should attack my left, and that view of my design was persisted in; so that only one of the two divisions which were being pressed forward to reinforce Smith was returned to assist Hardee at Perryville on the night of the 7th.

The strength of the opposition to Sill and the continued presence of Kirby Smith about Frankfort pointed to a concentration in that direction, at least north of Perryville; but on the 6th the information was that Smith was moving upon Danville. McCook, who had been halted momentarily at Bloomfield until the question should be developed, was therefore directed on Harrodsburg, and Sill was ordered to join him by forced marches. During the night the information in regard to Smith was contradicted, and the expectation of a concentration at or north of Perryville was confirmed. McCook was therefore promptly turned upon Perryville, and Sill was ordered to follow him. Under a stubborn resistance from Polk, during the 7th, the center corps halted in the evening about three and a half miles from Perryville without water, of which it had had but little since morning, and the corps was put in order of battle. It appeared now that the enemy was virtually concentrated in our front. Orders were therefore dispatched to McCook, who was supposed to be about seven miles back, on the left, and to Thomas, who had been ordered to halt the right corps (Crittenden's) for the night at Haysville, about four miles in rear, on the road from Lebanon to Perryville. They were to march precisely at 3 o'clock in the morning, prepared in every respect for battle, and on arriving at certain designated points were to be formed in order of battle on the left and right, respectively, of the center corps. They were then to be made as comfortable as possible, but not to leave ranks. A reconnoissance was to be made to ascertain the position of the enemy, and as soon as that was done Thomas and McCook were to report at headquarters for further orders.9 I expected that these objects would be accomplished by 7 o'clock in the morning.

During the night it was ascertained that there were some pools of water in the bed of Doctor's Fork, which crossed the road in front of us, and of which the enemy's rear-guard held possession. Colonel Daniel McCook, commanding a brigade in Sheridan's division, was selected to attack the enemy and get possession of the water, which he did in a handsome manner at day dawn. Very soon the enemy attempted to recover the lost position, but Sheridan's and Mitchell's divisions were moved to the front and defeated the design. From that time a desultory cannonading was kept up between the two lines until it merged into the battle, which suddenly burst forth fiercely at 2 o'clock. The arrival of McCook's corps is dated from halfpast 10 o'clock, but for the bulk of the corps it was later. He reported to me at about half-past 12, and I hastened his return to his command; for though the time had passed when I had somewhat apprehended an attack, while the center corps was alone, yet the occasion was critical, and he had not reconnoitered his front. Thomas had not reported, and no final instructions for attack could be given. When McCook reached his corps, it had materially changed its ground and was not in position. Artillery guns were exchanging distant shots, but evidently no one on our side was expecting an attack. It came at about 2 o'clock, while a line was moving forward to take possession of the water which could be discerned in the bed of Chaplin river, behind which the enemy were formed for the assault.

It turned out that Polk with three divisions, with cavalry on both flanks, had determined to fight a “defensive-offensive” battle; but as the morning wore away without the attack, which was awaited, Bragg came upon the ground and ordered an assault. It was delivered mainly upon McCook, but [48] also fell heavily upon Sheridan, who repelled it handsomely on his side. McCook fought bravely, and by Gilbert's order was reinforced with Gooding's brigade from Mitchell's division; but he was steadily driven back for a mile, until the enemy's pursuing line came within the enfilading fire of Sheridan's artillery, which was delivered with great effect across the intervening valley of Doctor's Fork. At 4 o'clock Captain Fisher of McCook's staff arrived and reported to me that the left corps had been sustaining a severe conflict for a considerable time, and was being driven back. I was astonished. Not a sound of musketry had been heard, and my staff-officers had been at the front until dinner-time. I had noticed a sudden increase of cannonading at 2 o'clock, and General Gilbert, who had come in from his lines and was getting his dinner with me, immediately proceeded to his command; but as the firing as suddenly subsided, and no report came to me, I had ceased to think of the occurrence.

Reenforcements were immediately ordered to McCook from Schoepf's division, which was in reserve, and a staff-officer was dispatched to Thomas with orders to move the right corps forward vigorously and attack the enemy's left. Thomas could not be found until about 6 o'clock, and owing to the lateness of the hour the advance was not made; but McCook was relieved by the succor sent to him and the battle ceased about night-fall. Further orders were sent to Thomas at 6.30 P. M.:

October 8TH, 1862, 6.30 P. M. General Thomas, Second in Command: The First Corps (McCook's) on our left has been very heavily engaged. The left and center of this corps gained ground, but the right of it yielded a little. Press your lines forward as far as possible to-night, and get into position to make a vigorous attack in the morning at daylight. If you have got your troops into a position which you deem advantageous it will not be advisable to make a change for the purpose of complying with the general's instructions for you sent by Captain Mack. It may be as well to halt the division ordered to the center and let it wait where it is for further orders. The general desires to see you in person as soon to-night as your duties will permit you to come over. Respectfully, James B. Fry, Colonel and Chief-of-Staff.

McCook had 12,500 men in the battle, and lost in killed and wounded about 3000--nearly one-quarter; Gilbert lost in killed and wounded nearly 900, all of which belonged to Sheridan's division and one of Mitchell's brigades; and about 450 in all were taken prisoners; total loss, 4348. The force actually engaged on the Union side numbered about 22,000, though more came into position for battle near the close. All of the force had a good number of new regiments. One of McCook's divisions was composed entirely of new regiments, with one exception. Its division commander, Jackson, and its two brigade commanders, Terrill and Webster, were killed. The enemy claim to have fought the battle, according to Bragg's report, with 16,000 men. His loss is reported at 3396, of which 251 were prisoners. He captured some artillery that he did not carry off, though he exchanged some of his pieces for better ones.

Not long before the commencement of this partial but fierce contest, a staff-officer arrived from General Thomas and reported two divisions of the right corps up — the last had not yet arrived. The enemy was in front, and Thomas thought it not advisable to leave to report in person. The want of definite information from both flanks, the failure of a meeting of the two commanders at my headquarters for explanations and final orders, and the lateness of the hour for effecting these preliminaries for the great battle which was to be fought, precluded the idea of bringing it on that evening. That conclusion had, indeed, been rendered probably unavoidable at the time of McCook's arrival at my headquarters, by two dispatches which had been received from Thomas during the morning: One dated the 7th, 6 o'clock P. M., at Haysville,10 saying that finding no water at that point he would march the right corps to the Rolling Fork for a camp; and the other, dated on the Rolling Fork, October 8th, 3 o'clock , A. M.,11 reporting that my order to march at 3 o'clock had just been received, that the corps reached that place at 11 o'clock at night, and was then camping, the trains being not all yet up, and that he would be in front of Perryville as soon as possible. The staff-officer was, therefore, started back a few minutes before 2 o'clock with some minor instructions to General Thomas, and a desire that he should report in person after night-fall.

Thomas, McCook, and Gilbert met at my headquarters after dark, and after conversation upon the events of the day, orders were given for battle the following morning. Crittenden's corps on the right was to move forward at 6 o'clock and engage the enemy, and the center was to do likewise as soon as they were abreast. McCook was to close [49] in and remain in reserve. In fact, only one of his divisions (Rousseau's) was in a condition to fight as a distinct body. At that hour not a man in the army who had any knowledge beyond the limit of his own vision doubted that the whole Confederate army was in our front, and that the battle was to be renewed in the morning.

The right corps did not commence the movement until 9 o'clock, owing, as was afterward explained, to Thomas's message to Crittenden by signal, from my camp, only specifying that he should be ready to advance at 6 o'clock; so that the orders to advance had to be repeated when it was discovered that the movement had not commenced. It was then ascertained that the enemy had withdrawn, and that only three of his divisions had been present. The battle had enabled him to perfect his junction with Kirby Smith at Harrodsburg, as originally intended, and I did not hesitate to await the arrival of Sill's division before precipitating the anticipated battle. In the meantime, the army was put in position for any emergency, and reconnoissances were actively employed to gain information of the movements of the enemy.

We had repelled the enemy's fierce attack when it was supposed his whole force was in front of us. My official report stated succinctly the causes which prevented us from winning a more fruitful success, namely, the difficulties which prevented the troops from getting on the ground simultaneously, and the fact that I was not apprised early enough of the condition of affairs on my left ( “Official Records,” Vol. XVI., Part I., p. 1031). When the orders in anticipation of battle were given on the evening of the 7th, McCook's exact position was not known. He was supposed to be about seven miles in rear. The orders did not reach him until 2:30 o'clock, and he marched at 5. It was 10:30 when the head of his column arrived. The road was hilly and rough, and the march was understood to be made in the vicinity of the enemy. It was therefore properly conducted with prudence, and was of course slow. The right corps had been ordered to halt for the night at Haysville, not more than four miles to the rear. But on arriving at that point, finding no water, General Thomas, who was conducting the corps, determined to go to the Rolling Fork to encamp. He was told the distance was two and one-half miles off to the right, but he did not arrive until 11 o'clock, after five hours of night marching. The courier did not find him until 3 o'clock in the morning, at which hour he was camping, his trains being not all yet up. It is evident from his dispatches that he did not realize the gravity of the occasion. It was impossible, under the circumstances, that marches should be regulated with reference to water. The center corps marched with no assurance of finding it, halted on the evening of the 7th without it, and only obtained it the next morning by wresting it from the hands of the enemy. Had the right corps been found at Haysville, it should have been in position for battle by 7 o'clock, and, whatever else may have happened, would have been in such connection with headquarters by signa ls, as the other corps were, that the orders of 4 o'clock for it to attack would have been delivered immediately, and would have given fully two hours of daylight for action.

On the other hand, had the battle on the left been reported at 2 o'clock, when it commenced, the succor which was ordered from the reserve at 4 would have come in the form of reenforcements two hours earlier; and the orders which were sent at the same time to the right corps would have had at least that much more time for execution. I make no prediction of all of the consequences that might have flowed from these conditions. It would have depended much upon the action of the right corps. They ought to have been of a very decisive character. For the rest, the reports show that the left corps was not fully prepared for the heavy blow that fell upon it, but the reverse which it sustained was largely due to the rawness of the troops. Fully one-half of the two divisions was made up of new regiments.

While the battle was in progress at Perryville, Kirby Smith, still thinking that my movement was upon his front, had prepared for a battle at or near Lawrenceburg. His cavalry attacked Sill at that point on that day, and the next day on the march, but Sill extricated himself skillfully, and continued his march, joining his corps at Perryville on the 11th. Smith now discovered his mistake, and dispatched Bragg on the 9th that he would join him immediately at Harrodsburg, which he accomplished partly on the 9th and fully on the 10th. On the latter day a strong reconnoissance found him in line of battle about four miles south of Harrodsburg. He withdrew entirely on the 11th, followed by my cavalry toward Camp Dick Robinson, where Bragg's whole force now took position, sheltered in front and on his right flank by the perpendicular cliffs of Dick's River and the Kentucky. I was moving on the 12th and 13th to turn his position and attack him on the left, when I learned that he was withdrawing. General Bragg states in his report that he was ready and desirous for battle at this point and previously after Perryville, and I have no doubt that was true, if he could have had his own terms. His order for withdrawal was announced on the 13th.

The pursuit was taken up that night, under the supervision of Thomas, with Crittenden's corps, followed by the other corps. The details afford no interesting or important fact, except that the retreating army was pressed into difficulties which involved it in great hardship and temporary disorganization. The pursuit was continued in that manner as far as London, and then, about the 20th, my several columns were turned by the most direct routes toward the ground in Tennessee and Alabama from which they had started six weeks before, and where it was foreseen the enemy would soon again be encountered. The repair of the railroad had been pushed forward with energy, and the army was arriving at Glasgow and Bowling Green on its route, when on the 30th of October I turned over the command to General Rosecrans, in obedience to orders from Washington. It would be useless to review the officio-personal part [50] of the correspondence which immediately preceded that event between the Washington authorities and myself, or even the official part of it, relating chiefly to the plan of a movement into east Tennessee, to which my successor in a measure fell heir. Toward him, I may add, the transfer brought no heart-burning on my part, and the prayer expressed in my parting order was sincere, that the army might, under his command, be the means of speedily restoring the Union to its integrity.

In spite of my connection — I can scarcely speak of it as a personal interest — with the subject, I venture to make some observations that appear to me proper with reference to the campaign which I have outlined. It extended over a greater territory and involved greater hazard on the side of the Union than any other campaign of the war. In the early part, and up to the time of my arrival in Louisville, it was more neglected by the Government than any other. It was distinguished also from all others, except a part of Pope's operations in Virginia, in the relative strength of the contending forces.

The important results, favorable and adverse, were that the object for which I had started out, the occupation of east Tennessee, was not even in a condition to be attempted; and that on the other hand, a formidable political and strategical scheme which aimed at the conquest and absorption of Kentucky, was defeated with substantial disaster to the invader, and at the close the Federal arms returned with increased strength to the possessions from which they had been withdrawn to counteract the invasion. It has been said that territory was given up which was not recovered for a year; but that is not substantially true, except with reference to Cumberland Gap, and as to that, it is to be remarked that it had been held at a greater cost than it was worth, and that afterward it was no obstacle when the advance into east Tennessee was made with an adequate force. When the army on the way back changed commanders at Bowling Green, there was no new obstacle to its resumption of every position it had held in middle Tennessee and Alabama. The enemy, with broken fortune and relatively impaired strength, was only on the south side of the Tennessee from which he had started two months before. I do not comment upon what was afterward done, or raise the question whether it was desirable to resume the position which had been occupied as a point of departure; but if it was not desirable to resume it, certainly for stronger reasons it was not a position which it was advisable for me to hold.

If the campaign, with no more advantageous results, had been marked by one general and destructive, but not disastrous battle, it would no doubt have been received with more popular favor, and perhaps even have been more easy of professional praise. I shall not insist on that point, but I shall particularly make no apology for not having fought battles where the issue was reasonably doubtful, and where they in fact proved not to have been necessary for the success of my cause. Besides, in an open field, with capable commanders, it takes two parties to inaugurate a battle--one to begin the attack, and another to stand to receive it.

It was much talked of after the event, that Kentucky was known to be the immediate object for which Bragg moved from Chattanooga; that it was proposed to me to concentrate at Sparta to oppose him; and that that mountainous and comparatively barren region could have been relied upon to support my army, with exhausted magazines and in the presence of the enemy; but the facts were as erroneous as the theories were fallacious. There was never at the time an intelligent judgment or an accepted rumor that Bragg's first object, if he had any, was any other than the recovery of middle Tennessee and Nashville; and if, under the circumstances, a proposition had been made to me to concentrate the army at Sparta, I should have rejected it.

Various speculations and confident declarations have been indulged in by critics on both sides, as to the results that would have flowed from certain different action on the part of the two commanders. Such opinions with reference to extended operations are seldom of any value. They generally have no knowledge of the circumstances which would have prevented the prescribed action, and take no account of the modifying influence which it would have had on the conduct of the opposing commander. It is, therefore, idle to assert, as many have done, that Kirby Smith could and should have marched into Louisville after the battle of Richmond, or what would have been the substantial fruit of that proceeding if it had been accomplished; or that Bragg and Smith united would have overwhelmed me at Munfordville. The disappointment of calculations pending the events, affords no stronger marks of fallibility than do assumptions afterward. Of the former this campaign, like all campaigns, presents many examples. Thus, the military problem, as it appeared to my mind, was to be solved by a combined descent of the Confederates upon the inferior Union force in middle Tennessee. But instead of that, an army, embarrassed in its situation, to be sure, but intact and powerful, was left in the rear, and a distant invasion which had no well-founded prospect of success was undertaken. The boldness and formidable character of this alternative appeared to give assurance that it would not be abandoned without at least one vigorous blow in attack or defense; but when prudential measures were taken on the opposing side with reference to such a contingency, the invader, with a prudence, not to be expected from the audacity of his advance, withdrew from the contest. On the other side, to General Bragg's mind, as early as the 24th of August, the army opposed to him was demoralized and in full flight, with doubtful prospect of stopping short of the Ohio; later it was racing to get the lead of him at Munfordville; and at that point, astonished to find himself not attacked at sight, he imagined that his opponent must be in retreat by some secret route to the Ohio River. But all of these impressions were delusive. When to his mind the opposing army was in retreat, it was awaiting his approach from behind the [51] Tennessee River and the mountains. When he imagined it trying to get ahead of him, it was moving especially to keep him in front and away from Nashville, deeming the retention of that point of more consequence than his transient intrusion upon Kentucky; always pursuing him, always aiming to get nearer to him, always willing to avail itself of advantages, and confident in the end of triumphing over him.

A philosophical study of our civil conflict must recognize that influences of some sort operated fundamentally for the side of the Confederacy in every prominent event of the war, and nowhere with less effect than in the Tennessee and Kentucky campaign. They are involved in the fact that it required enormous sacrifices from 24,000,000 of people to defeat the political scheme of 8,000,000; 2,000,000 of soldiers to subdue 800,000 soldiers: and, descending to details, a naval fleet and 15,000 troops to advance against a weak fort, manned by less than 100 men, at Fort Henry; 35,000 with naval cooperation to overcome 12,000 at Donelson; 60,000 to secure a victory over 40,000 at Pittsburg Landing; 120,000 to enforce the retreat of 65,000 intrenched, after a month of fighting and manoeuvring, at Corinth; 100,000 repelled by 80,000 in the first Peninsular campaign against Richmond; 70,000, with a powerful naval force to inspire the campaign, which lasted nine months, against 40,000 at Vicksburg; 90,000 to barely withstand the assault of 70,000 at Gettysburg; 115,000 sustaining a frightful repulse from 60,000 at Fredericksburg. 100,000 attacked and defeated by 50,000 at Chancellorsville; 85,000 held in check two days by 40,000 at Antietam; 43,000 retaining the field uncertainly against 38,000 at Stone River; 70,000 defeated at Chickamauga, and beleaguered by 70,000 at Chattanooga; 80,000 merely to break the investing line of 45,000 at Chattanooga; 100,000 to press back 50,000, increased at last to 70,000, from Chattanooga to Atlanta, a distance of 120 miles, and then let go — an operation which is commemorated at festive reunions by the standing toast of “one hundred days under fire” ; 50,000 to defeat the investing line of 30,000 at Nashville; and finally 120,000 to overcome 60,000 with exhaustion after a struggle of a year in Virginia. The rule which this summary establishes will not determine absolutely the relative merit of the different achievements, but is not to b e ignored in a judgment upon particular events.

Individually, the Northern soldier was in no sense the inferior of the Southern. What, then, is the explanation of this rule which is so nearly invariable as to show that superior numbers were generally essential to Union victories, and the success of Union operations? Much — was due to the character of the contest. Revolution is calculated to inspire bold and desperate action, and wars of sentiment, of the nature of which this partook more in the South than in the North, are always marked by unusual energy. In the North there was much animosity, but it was more collective, and operated more in shaping public policy than upon the temper of the armies. The style of the orders and proclamations issued by many of the Southern generals shows how much they relied on the passionate enthusiasm of their soldiers, and how they tried to stimulate it. They recognized that the odds must generally be against them, and that they must find some means of overcoming the effect of the fact upon the spirits of their troops, and themselves set an example of audacity.

Of course the necessity of invasion against a hostile population placed the Federal cause at a disadvantage which had to be overcome by greater numbers. The simpler mode of life to which the bulk of the Southern troops were accustomed made them more contented with meager supplies; the lack of resources of every sort precluded the luxurious outfit to which the Northern troops were accustomed; and thus the impedimenta of military operations were more restricted without impairing their efficiency than in the Northern armies. It took some time to eradicate this inequality. Another sectional distinction produced a marked effect in the beginning of the war. The habits of the Southern people facilitated the formation of cavalry corps which were comparatively efficient even without instruction; and accordingly we see Stuart, and John Morgan, and Forrest riding with impunity around the Union armies, and destroying or harassing their communications. Late in the war that agency was reversed. The South was exhausted of horses, while the Northern cavalry increased in numbers and efficiency, and acquired the audacity which had characterized the Southern.

But still another influence must be found in the personal differences between the two sections,--differences due chiefly to the more rural condition of the South and the institution of slavery. In all popular movements the Southern leader was then, and is now in a less degree, followed with an implicit confidence which did not mean humility by any means, but produced subordination. This difference is illustrated by two historical incidents. At Cold Harbor, the Northern troops, who had proven their indomitable qualities by losses nearly equal to the whole force of their opponent, when ordered to another sacrifice, even under such a soldier as Hancock, answered the demand as one man, with a silent and stolid inertia:12 at Gettysburg, Pickett, when waiting for the signal which Longstreet dreaded to repeat, for the hopeless but immortal charge against Cemetery Hill, saluted and said, as he turned to his ready column: “I shall move forward, sir!”

Nor must we give slight importance to the influence of the Southern women, who in agony of heart girded the sword upon their loved ones and bade them go. It was to be expected that these various influences would give a confidence to leadership that would tend to bold adventure, and leave its mark upon the contest. [52]

Perryville, Kentucky, looking South-east from the MacKVILLEVILLEvilleville pike. From a photograph taken in 1885.

1 To this rule there were of course honorable exceptions. The following orders concerning absentees and paroles were published in view of these evils, which were seriously impairing the strength and efficiency of the army:

General orders, no. 26

headquarters, army of the Ohio, in camp, near Florence, Ala., June 24th, 1862.
There are 14,000 officers and soldiers absent from their duty with the various divisions of this army, i. e.. the five divisions south of the Tennessee River. Some of them have gone off without any authority; others with the permission of officers not authorized to grant it. In general, sickness is given as the cause of absence, but in very many cases that cause has notoriously ceased to exist, and men remain away, drawing the same pay as their comrades who are faithfully performing their duty. To correct this abuse it is ordered----

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(4th.) All absent officers and soldiers who do not join their companies and regiments or are not satisfactorily accounted for as above by the 10th of July next, will be reported on their muster-roll as deserters, dating from the time that they may have been absent without authority. By act of Congress every deserter forfeits all claim on the Government for pay and allowances, besides being liable to arrest and trial by court-martial. Any person who apprehends and returns a deserter to the commanding officer of a military post is entitled to a reward of $5.

By command of Major-General Buell. James B. Fry, Assistant Adjutant-General, Chief-of-Staff.

General orders, no. 41

headquarters, army of the Ohio, in camp, Huntsville, Ala., August 8th, 1862.
The system of paroles practiced in this army has run into an intolerable abuse. Hereafter no officer or soldier belonging to the forces in this district will give his parole not to take up arms, for the purpose of leaving the enemy's lines without the sanction of the general commanding this army, except when, by reason of wounds or disease, he could not be removed without endangering his life.

Any parole given in violation of this order will not be recognized, and the person giving it will be required to perform military duty and take the risks prescribed by the laws of war.

Any officer or soldier of this command, being in the hands of the enemy and desiring to be released on parole for the purpose of leaving the enemy's lines, will make application to the general commanding this army, inclosing in duplicate the parole which he proposes to give, and await its approval.

The sanction of the officer commanding the forces by which he is held, being necessary to effect the arrangement, should be forwarded with the application. No such application will be approved when the capture has resulted from neglect or misbehavior on the part of the prisoner or of the command to which he belonged.

The evidence of a lawful parole will be the parole itself, bearing the approval of the commanding general.

The same rule will be observed by this army in paroling prisoners taken from the enemy. If they cannot be held until the sanction of such officer as the general commanding the enemy's forces may designate for that purpose is obtained, they will be released.

By command of Major-General Buell. James B. Fry, Colonel and Chief-of-Staff.

2Official Records,” Vol. XVI., Part II., pp. 104, 122.

3 The following orders were published with reference to this and similar affairs. It is proper to add that a Court of Inquiry, instituted by General Rosecrans, at the request of General T. T. Crittenden, the commander of the brigade, after his exchange, acquitted the commander of blame, on the ground that he had only arrived the day before the attack, and had shown commendable energy in his new position. Colonel Duffield had also just arrived. He appeared to have behaved well in the attack, and was severely wounded:

General orders, no. 32

headquarters, army of the Ohio, in camp, Huntsville, Ala., July 21st, 1862.
On the 13th instant the force at Murfreesborough, under command of Brigadier-General T. T. Crittenden, late colonel of the 6th Indiana Regiment, and consisting of 6 companies of the 9th Michigan, 9 companies of the 3d Minnesota, 2 sections of Hewett's (Kentucky) battery, 4 companies of the 4th Kentucky Cavalry, and three companies of the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry, was captured at that place by a force of the enemy's cavalry variously estimated at from 1800 to 3500. It appears from the best information that can be obtained, that Brigadier-General Crittenden and Colonel Duffield of the 9th Michigan, with the 6 companies of that regiment and all of the cavalry, were surprised and captured early in the morning in the houses and streets of the town, or in their camp near by, with but slight resistance and without any timely warning of the presence of the enemy. The rest of the force, consisting of the 3d Minnesota and the artillery under Col. Lester, left its camp and took another position, which it maintained with but few casualties against the feeble attacks of the enemy until about 3 o'clock, when it was surrendered and marched into captivity.

Take it in all its features, few more disgraceful examples of neglect of duty and lack of good conduct can be found in the history of wars. It fully merits the extreme penalty which the law provides for such misconduct. The force was more than sufficient to repel the attack effectually. The mortification which the army will feel at the result is poorly compensated by the exertion made by some — perhaps many — of the officers to retrieve the disgrace of the surprise. The action fit. to be adopted with reference to those who are blamable, especially the officers highest in command, cannot be determined without further investigation.

In contrast to this shameful affair, the general commanding takes pleasure in making honorable mention of the conduct of a detachment of twenty-two men of Companies I and H, 10th Wisconsin Regiment, under the command of Sergeants W. Nelson and A. H. Makinson. The detachment was on duty guarding a bridge east of Huntsville, when it was attacked on April 28th by a force of some 200 or 300 cavalry, which it fought for two hours and repulsed in the most signal manner. Such is the conduct that duty and honor demand of every soldier; and this example is worthy of imitation by higher officers and larger commands.

By command of Major-General Buell. James B. Fry, Col. and Chief-of-Staff.

General orders, no. 37

headquarters, army of the Ohio, in camp, Huntsville, Ala., August 1st, 1862.
The major-general commanding has to announce other instances of disgracefulneglect and contrast them with another of gallantry:

The guard at Courtland Bridge, consisting of companies A and H, 10th Kentucky, under the command of Captain Davidson, and a part of Captain Eggleston's company, 1st Ohio Cavalry, was completely surprised and captured with but trifling loss on the morning of the 25th ultimo, by a force of irregular cavalry. On the same day the companies of Captains Boyl and Goben, 10th Indiana, which were ordered to protect two bridges on the same road, respectively six and twelve miles east of Courtland, deemed it wiser to bring in an empty train which came up than to defend their posts, threatened with an attack from the same irregular cavalry; and so put themselves on the train and arrived safely at Decatur, a few miles distant, without the loss or injury of a man. On the same day, and on the same road, eight miles from Decatur, a guard, consisting of twenty-four men, of Company E, 31st Ohio, under the command of Lieutenant Harmon, were suddenly attacked by a greatly superior force of the same cavalry. They defended themselves gallantly, however, and repulsed the enemy, killing several of the number. Lieut. Harmon and eleven of his men were wounded, himself in two places, and two of his men were killed.

The general submits these examples to the reflection of the troops. He reminds them that neglect and bad conduct on the part of guards brings dishonor upon them and may even jeopardize the safety of an army. If these appeals to their personal and professional pride should fail of their object, he warns them that the extreme penalty of the law must intervene to punish the guilty and save the army from the jeopardy in which they place it. The duty of guarding the communications of the army is among the most important with which an officer and his troops can be intrusted. Vigilance, determination, and the preparation of suitable defenses in the way of intrenchments or stockades will prevent such attacks, or enable a small force to repel a greatly superior one. Had the order for bridge-guards to fortify their posts been promptly executed and proper vigilance been observed, the attacks referred to, if made at all, would have had very different results. This order and General Orders, No. 32, will be read at the head of every company and detachment.

By command of Major-General Buell. James B. Fry, Colonel and Chief-of-Staff.

4 For an explanation of the surrender see Vol. XVI., Part I., pp. 862-869, “Official Records.” Colonel Rodney Mason, 71st Ohio regiment, the commander, had less than 200 effective men. Soon after the surrender the colonel and all the line-officers present were cashiered by order of the President, but this action was subsequently revoked, and they were honorably discharged.--D. C. B.

5 In his official report General Bragg states that he “offered battle” at Munfordville. No doubt he was willing to fight on his own terms at more than one point. But the general who offers battle is he who stays to give or receive it.--D. C. B.

6 Briefly stated, the particulars of the occurrence are as follows: Nelson was in command at Louisville, and was laboring to put the city in a state of defense against the expected attack. A few days before my arrival he rebuked Davis, no doubt harshly, for what he considered a neglectful or inefficient discharge of duty, and ordered him to report to General Wright at Cincinnati. Upon my arrival Davis was ordered by Wright to report to me for duty with his division. Instead of proceeding directly to Louisville, he went by Indianapolis and was joined by Morton. With him and with another friend Davis approached Nelson in the vestibule of the Galt House at Louisville at breakfast-time, in the presence of a considerable number of persons. The reception which Davis's demand for satisfaction received was no doubt such as he had expected. What the bystanders witnessed and what was reported at the time was a slap from the back of Nelson's hand in Davis's face. Nelson then turned to Morton, denounced him for appearing as an abettor of the insult forced upon him, and retired toward his room in the adjoining hall. Davis received a pistol from the hand of his other attendant, not Morton, and followed Nelson to the hall. Nelson, apparently changing his purpose, returned before reaching his room, and as he nearly reached the end of the hall where Davis was, the latter fired, inflicting a wound in the breast, of which Nelson died in about half an hour, after receiving the mini strations of the church and forgiving his slayer. It has recently been made known for the first time in a published statement of the affair by General James B. Fry, who at the moment placed Davis in arrest, and as a personal friend listened to his statement, that upon accosting Nelson Davis filliped into his face a paper-wad that he had been crumpling between his fingers. It was then that Nelson struck him. I was not aware of this circumstance until the appearance of the statement referred to.--D. C. B.

7 The following order announced General Nelson's death to the army:

General orders, no. 47a.

headquarters, army of the Ohio, Louisville, September 29th, 1862.
The general commanding announces with inexpressible regret the death of Major-General William Nelson, which occurred in this city at 8: 30 o'clock this morning.

The deceased was bred a sailor, and was an officer of the navy while holding a commission in the military service. History will honor him as one of the first to organize, by his individual exertion, a military force in Kentucky, his native State, to rescue her from the vortex of rebellion, toward which she was drifting.

He was a man of extensive information, comprehensive views, and great energy and force of character. By his nature he was intolerant of disobedience, or neglect of public duty; but no man was more prompt to recognize and foster merit in his inferiors, and in his own conduct he set an example of that vigilance, industry, and prompt attention to duty which he exacted from others. In battle his example was equally marked. On more than one field — at Shiloh, Richmond, and Ivy Mountain — he was conspicuous for his gallant bearing.

The funeral of the deceased will take place at 3 P. M. to-morrow, at Calvary Church, Third street.

By command of Major-General Buell. James B. Fry, Colonel and Chief-of-Staff.

8 Dispatch from Senators Crittenden and Davis, and Representatives Mallory and Dunlap, to the President ( “Official Records,” Vol. XVI., Part II., p. 557).

9Official Records,” Vol. XVI., Part II., p. 580


Haysville, October 7th, 1862, 6 P. M.
Major-General Buell:
About two and a half miles west of this place I can get a camp on the Rolling Fork, where there is said to be an abundance of water. As there is no water here, I propose to camp there. It will only throw us about one and a half miles farther from Perryville. It was reported to me on my arrival that the rebels had 200,000 pounds of pork at Lebanon. At first I ordered a regiment to go there and seize it. I afterward learned that it belonged to a company of pork-packers, who profess to be Union men. I therefore concluded not to send or seize it, as we can get it at any time by sending for it. Maxey's brigade is also reported as leaving Lebanon to-day for Danville, via Bradfordsville and Hustonville, with a train loaded with flour and pork from Lebanon. Shall I send and intercept him now, or capture him hereafter?

Very respectfully, Geo. H. Thomas.


headquarters, United States forces, Rolling Fork, Ky., October 8th, 1862, 3 A. M.
General Buell:
Your letter of instruction came to hand at the time indicated for the Second Corps to march. Have given the necessary orders to General Crittenden, and will take position before Perryville as soon as possible. The roads over which we marched yesterday were exceedingly rough and tortuous, and, with one exception, without water. Reached this place at 11 o'clock last night, but all the trains are not up yet. I found, as night approached, that the troops must have water, which could not be obtained short of Rolling Fork, some two miles out of our way, to which place the command was ordered, and we are now camping. As soon as I decided to make Rolling Fork, I dispatched messengers to your headquarters, who must have reached you before this.

Respectfully, etc., Geo. H. Thomas, Major-General, U. S. Volunteers.

12 General Francis A. Walker, in his “History of the Second army Corps,” says, p. 516, that Hancock declined the responsibility of renewing the attack as ordered by Meade; and that the statement that the troops refused to advance is erroneous.--editors.

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