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Kirby Smith's Kentucky campaign.

by Major Paul F. Hammond.--paper no. 3.
The next day--Sunday--the army remained in the vicinity of Richmond, and the day was occupied in paroling prisoners, burying the dead and taking care of the wounded. In this the Federals were given every facility, and treated with consideration and humanity. The able and humane medical director of our army, Dr. S. A. Smith, of Louisiana, offered their surgeons an equal share in the hospitals and hospital stores. In every respect, by officers and by privates, the prisoners were treated with greatest courtesy. In the main they appreciated it, and conducted themselves very well. But one instance, a piece of “sharp practice” occurred, worthy of notice, as illustrating the absurd and lying boastfulness of a large portion of the Northern press in this war, and, at the same time, the low cunning which has made the name Yankee, in a certain sense odious, and only another synonym for trickery and treachery the world over. Early in the engagement at Mount Zion, Captain Freret, a young gentleman from New Orleans, attached to General Smith's staff, succeeded in capturing, unaided, three privates, with loaded muskets in their hands, and Lieutenant-Colonel Armstrong, of Ohio. [290] Armstrong rode a fine stallion, which, in acknowledgment of his gallantry, General Smith permitted Freret, who happened to be without a good horse, to keep for his own service. On Sunday, after Armstrong was paroled, he appealed to Freret to lend him the horse, stating that many of the wounded of his regiment had been left upon the battle field, and he was anxious to see that they were properly cared for. This appeal, of course, could not be resisted. Again on Monday Armstrong appealed for the horse on the same grounds, and Freret again readily complied. But Armstrong, instead of returning to the battle field with his parole and written permission from Freret to use the horse, deliberately and in perfect safety rode away to Ohio. In short, he stole the horse, which had been lent to him in kindness, and for purposes of charity. A few days subsequently an article appeared in a Cincinnati paper, headed “A full flight to death,” and giving a glowing account of Armstrong's audacity and desperate escape.

On the morning of the first of September, the army advanced towards Lexington. A regiment of the enemy was drawn up on the high bluffs across the Kentucky river, apparently to dispute its passage. The position was very strong, and had it been defended with any obstinacy, would have been found difficult to force. But the Federals ran away at the first fire. Beyond the river a strong calvary force appeared in our front, watching us closely, but keeping carefully out of range.

The troops seemed now to feel fully the effects of their arduous labors for the past fortnight, and straggled badly. Four miles beyond the river, though but little past noon, it was found necessary to halt the army on account of its exhausted condition. The enemy retreated before us only fast enough to keep out of the way. It was thought that they had been reinforced, but to what extent it was found impossible to ascertain, on account of the cavalry which covered their rear.

Near where we halted General Smith was heartily welcomed by an old gentleman, Mr. Todhunter, a wealthy farmer and an ardent sympathiser with the Confederate cause. His joy at seeing us was extreme, and he insisted that General Smith should accept the hospitalities of his house, an old brick mansion near by, and establish his headquarters there. Seeing that a refusal would mortify our old friend, General Smith, contrary to his usual custom, accepted the invitation. While seated at dinner, one of Mr. Todhunter's sons, deaf and dumb, but a bitter hater of Yankee rule, entered the room in an excited manner, and pointed at our dark-blue pants — treasurers obtained from the suttlers' stores captured at Loudon — and then out into the fields, seemed to intimate, by his violent gestures and vehement guttural utterances, that [291] some great danger menaced us. His meaning, translated by one of the family, was that a large force of the enemy's cavalry had entered the fields on the left, approaching the house, from which they were now but a short distance. This was startling news, and rising hastily from the table, we buckled on our swords and pistols, while Pegram went out to reconnoitre. It was just such a dash as a spirited and enterprising cavalry officer might have made. Much to our relief it proved to be Scott's cavalry, who, also, had obtained blue suits from the captured stores. An order was issued that day prohibiting the soldiers from wearing blue uniforms.

Mr. Todhunter had five sons, three with him, all warm Southern men, another a prisoner at Camp Chase, on account of his Southern proclivities, while the fifth was as strongly attached to the Union cause. Thus did we often find families divided in Kentucky.

We were now barely eight miles from Lexington. Visitors at Mr. Todhunter's had been in the town that morning, and they all concurred in saying that the enemy were rapidly receiving reinforcements. This, together with the great value of Lexington and the rich country of which it is the metropolis, left little reason to believe that the enemy would retire without another struggle. Our situation was a little precarious. The soldiers had straggled so badly that, at this time, not more than 2,500 men could have been placed in line of battle. General Smith immediately sent to General Heth, who had reached Richmond, directing him to unload his wagons, put as many men on them as possible, and send them to him. That officer responded with such alacrity that by 8 o'clock the next morning 2,000 men had come to our assistance. In the meanwhile, more for the purpose of gaining time than anything else, Colonel Pegram was sent to demand the surrender of Lexington. To his surprise, he found no pickets, and with much difficulty, late as it was in the night and the citizens all abed, found anyone of whom to demand the surrender. Finally he reached the Mayor, who formaly surrendered the town, which had been evacuated the preceding afternoon. As soon as the tidings of this event reached General Smith, he dispatched a regiment to Lexington as a police guard and to take charge of whatever military stores had been left.

As we rode forward in the morning the scene was lovely beyond description — a brilliant river and fresh sweet atmosphere; a long rolling landscape, mellowing under the early Autumn rays, but still covered with luxuriant blue grass, intersected with numerous low stone fences crossing each other at right angles, and studded with brick mansions and little whitened outhouses also of brick, with gray plastered [292] chimneys, flocks of sheep, the fine bred horses and immense cattle browsing on the pastures or lying under the stately trees, the air of quiet and of order, the evidences of neat and substantial comfort and of wealth reminded us of pictures of English rural scenery.

“Where is your boasted blue-grass country” we had been asking the Kentuckians with us with some impatience, and at last not without doubt of its reality. “Wait,” our friends replied, “you will be satisfied after a little.” Divided almost by a line from the fertile but old and rather dilapidated region which succeeds the rugged mountains of south-east Kentucky, and stretches from the foot of Big Hill around Richmond and across the Kentucky river to about the neighborhood of Mr. Todhunter, where the lovely blue grass country burst upon our sight, we were astonished and enchanted — every expectation met and every fancy filled. We were again among not only a civilized but a highly cultured people, and the most of those we met along the roads were friends. And when we entered the town — not, indeed, in our tattered uniforms, with all the pomp and circumstances of war, but with a just pride in the achievements of our gallant chieftain and his brave army — the people collected in crowds in the streets and cheered us with enthusiasm. But we could not fail to notice, even then, that the crowds gathered to greet us were composed for the most part of women and children. The men, the bone and sinew of the land, the substantial property holders, even those who sincerely sympathized with the Confederate cause, with a few honorable exceptions, held cautiously aloof, while the Union men, the most violent of whom ran away at our approach, kept closely in their houses.

Our movement into the State had clearly proved, as anticipated, a surprise to both parties, and allowed time to neither to determine exactly how to receive us. Mr. John Clay, an Union man, calling at the house of his brother, the Hon. James B. Clay, a Secessionist, on the afternoon of the day of the battle of Richmond, the conversation turned upon Scott's raid, and the fight then supposed to be going on in the neighborhood of Richmond. James B. Clay, influenced more by his hopes and wishes, than by any facts on which to found such an opinion, expressed the conviction that it was no raid, but a grand movement of the Confederate forces to occupy and redeem the State of Kentucky. Mr. John Clay replied, that he had just come from Lexington, where he had been in consultation with the Hon. J. J. Crittenden and Govvernor Robinson, and that he would lay a wager that it was nothing but a raid, and that Scott was already defeated and driven beyond Big Hill. This proves the completeness of the surprise. [293]

The objective point of the campaign had now been reached. With nine thousand men General Smith crossed the Cumberland mountains in the face of a superior force, and over roads considered impracticable for artillery and wagons. Finding that the Federal General, Morgan, would not come out from his impregnable position at Cumberland Gap, with less than six thousand of his command, he boldly advanced into the heart of Kentucky by difficult roads, through a hostile population, and a country destitute of supplies and almost destitute of water. Near Richmond he engaged the enemy, nearly double his own numbers, and defeated and destroyed his army, capturing five thousand three hundred prisoners, nine cannon, nearly ten thousand stand of small arms, and numbers of wagons and mules, and munitions of all kinds. Then pressing rapidly forward, he drove him to the Ohio river, and seized and occupied his chief depot, Lexington, the second city in Kentucky, and the metropolis of the most populous and productive portion of the State. More than this, it was General Smith's success which forced Buell to evacuate his strong positions in Tennessee and fall back upon Nashville, thus enabling General Bragg, by rapid marches, to get between him and Louisville, and compel him to give battle in the open field with a retreating army. Thus in the enormous fruits by which success was followed, as well as in conception and execution, is this campaign entitled to rank among the really brilliant campaigns of modern war. Let but General Bragg accomplish, as there is good prospect of his doing, the overthrow of Buell's army, and Kentucky is secured — Grant must evacuate North Mississippi and come to the defence of the line of the Ohio, while Van Dorn, crossing with his army into Arkansas, might soon be able, with the assistance of the troops already there, to drive the Federals from Missouri, and reoccupy every inch of Southern territory.

If the accomplishment of all this was not looked forward to with entire confidence, it was, at least, regarded as possible, and even probable.

How these brilliant prospects faded away and came to nought, how these promises of the future finally sunk in gloom and disaster, it is now my province to show; and this I trust to do by a circumstantial narration of events — censuring no one, but allowing the blame, if there be any, to rest wherever the inexorable logic of facts may justly place it.

When we entered Lexington, General Smith's campaign, as originally conceived, was accomplished. All that was at first intended had been achieved, more easily, more fully, and with more complete success than [294] could have been anticipated. It was now necessary to plan anew. Since leaving Barboursville no communication had been received from General Bragg, and the positions of his army and of Buell's were unknown. Marshall was believed to have entered Kentucky by the Pound Gap route, but no accurate information could be obtained of his movements. Brigadier-General John Morgan entered Lexington soon after our arrival, having destroyed the tunnel on the Louisville and Nashville railroad, thus rendering that road of little value to the enemy. General Heth came up with reinforcements, raising the effective strength of the army to 11,000 men, exclusive of Morgan's and Scott's cavalry.

This was the state of affairs at the time that it was necessary for General Smith to decide upon the course he intended to pursue. Louisville, defended by only a few regiments of raw troops, would, it is probable, have succumbed easily to an attack. Cincinnati might have been shelled from the opposite side of the river, and, as proposed by some, laid under contribution. But Morgan, with a force nearly equal to our own, was still in our rear, and large quantities of arms and stores, invaluable to the Confederacy, were accumulating at Lexington. Louisville, it is true, filled, as it was believed to be, with the enemy's supplies, offered a tempting object. Undoubtedly, its capture would have exerted an excellent moral effect upon the people of Kentucky. But the positions of Bragg and Buell being unknown, it was by no means certain that the latter, abandoning his heavy artillery, baggage trains, &c., might not be able to throw an overwhelming force against Louisville before the former could overtake him. Morgan, also, eluding Stevenson, who was watching him from the other side of Cumberland Gap, and gaining two days the start, might pass through Lexington, destroying the stores there, and make his escape to Cincinnati. Altogether, the enterprise was very hazardous, and, although promising much, did not offer any of those decisive results for which alone great risks should be incurred. The movement against Cincinnati, unable as we were to cross the river, was rather sensational than really useful. General Smith finally determined to keep a part of his forces in the neighborhood of Lexington, and to send General Heth with the remainder to threaten Cincinnati, for the purpose of preventing the concentration of the enemy at Louisville. In the light of subsequent. events the movement against Louisville may appear clearly to have been the one which should have been adopted; but. in the doubt which then involved everything, in the entire absence of information with regard to our forces, as well as those of the enemy in the rear, the course [295] adopted by General Smith was undoubtedly the most prudent, and will, it is believed, stand the test of criticism.

Establishing his headquarters at Lexington, General Smith addressed himself vigorously to the discharge of the many duties incumbent upon him. Orders were issued for the collection of large amounts of supplies of every description. Corn could be bought at $1.50 per barrel, and wheat at $1.00 per bushel; bacon was abundant at seven cents per pound in Federal currency, but rose rapidly. All purchasable quartermaster's stores in Lexington were bought up, and large contracts made with the woollen factories for cloth. Confederate treasury notes were our only currency, and it was necessary to force the people to take them to an extent adequate to the purchase of indispensable supplies. In general, articles were immediately enhanced in price more than enough to make up the difference between the Federal and Confederate currencies. In the North gold was at 22 pr. c. premium, in the South at 75 pr. c. An order was issued compelling the merchants to open their stores and accept Confederate money for such things as the soldiers might desire to purchase. This was forcing the currency beyond what was absolutely necessary, and doubtless, operated to depreciate it. At all events, it did not seem to gain much upon the confidence of the people. If the government had furnished General Smith with a few hundred thousand dollars in gold it could have been used advantageously, and with great benefit to the cause. Parties were sent in all directions to collect United States Government property, principally horses and mules, which had been left in all quarters. There was not at this time sufficient fixed ammunition in reserve to supply one battery. Major Brown, Chief of Ordinance, set to work energetically to supply this deficiency. Authority was issued to various persons to raise companies, battalions and regiments. It was unfortunate that depots of supplies were not established, at once, at Richmond, and at Danville, and as soon as Morgan evacuated Cumberland Gap, at Loudon. Orders were sent to this effect by General Bragg some time after he entered the State, but too late to accomplish anything at all adequate to what proved to be our necessities. Military commissions were established, and discipline vigorously maintained.

It was to be decided in what manner the Union men in Kentucky, who had persecuted those who sympathised with the Confederate cause, were to be treated. At their instigation Federal commanders had taken the property of secessionists, and seized and imprisoned their persons, or driven them into exile. The helpless families of those who had joined the Southern armies were constantly insulted, and often seriously injured. [296] All this had not failed of its legitimate fruit — bitter hatreds and an intense desire for revenge — and now the tables were turned and the opportunity apparently offered. It was fortunate that so few Kentuckians were in our army, and that it was not commanded by a Kentuckian. It would have been next to impossible for him to have refused to adopt a retaliatory policy, which the returned Kentuckians urged with almost one voice, or to limit the extent to which it would have been carried. General Smith wisely and humanely adopted a moderate policy. The persons and property of Union men were scrupulously respected and protected. If, as sometimes, though rarely, happened, a soldier took anything from a Union man, immediately, upon application to the proper authorities, the property was restored and the offender brought to trial and punishment. As an instance of the just and liberal policy pursued — a physician, an Union man, claimed a case of surgical instruments which had been captured with the Federal stores, alleging that they had been forcibly taken from him by a Federal surgeon, and, upon proof of the allegation, received it. No army ever conducted itself with greater propriety; no commander ever acquired a higher reputation for justice and humanity. The excellent effects of this gentle policy were soon manifest. The Union men came from their houses, mingling freely with us, and extending many acts of courtesy. They readily admitted the supriority of our soldiers over the Federals, and declared that even the privates in the ranks seemed to be gentlemen in bearing and intelligence, as, in fact, for the most part they were. They had been led to believe, even the more intelligent among them, that we were little better than savages, and manifested great surprise in finding us so very different.

On the other hand, the Southern men did not rally very rapidly to our standards. They had not expected us, and could not, for a long time, comprehend our victory and occupation. They had borne the Federal yoke so long, and with so little hope of relief, that at last they came to wear it patiently. Reading only Federal papers and hearing only Federal orators, they were forced to belive in the great preponderance of Federal power. They were, in reality, subjugated. The adventurous spirits were already in the Southern ranks; there were no leaders; they had not studied the great questions at issue so thoroughly as we had; their sympathies were certainly with us, but they could not see very clearly that their interests were also. Thus situated, it could not be expected that they would be prepared to rise in arms at a moment's notice. Those who anticipated otherwise based their calculations upon an erroneous estimate of human nature. In time, as their doubts [297] cleared away, the people would have come to us, which is proved by the fact that the volunteering was improving when we left the State.

At first the universal desire was to enlist in the calvary, but General Smith, being well supplied with that arm of the service, gave permission for the enlistment of but one regiment, which was afterwards increased to a brigade. General Morgan was authorized to add a regiment to his command; which he did quickly. General Buford succeeded in raising parts of five regiments, which were organized into a brigade, and some volunteers were received by General Marshall, making in all from 3,000 to 4,000 Kentuckians who joined the Southern standards.

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