Chapter 25: the fall campaign.
- Federal Generals. -- Buell. -- Kentucky refugees. -- John C. Breckinridge. -- the Kentucky Provisional Government. -- minor operations. -- the cavalry. -- Morgan and Duke. -- fight at Woodsonville. -- N. B. Forrest. -- Texas Rangers. -- fight at Sacramento. -- letters to the Secretary of War. -- anecdotes.
It has been seen that the early part of November was a season of hostile activity with the enemy. It was also marked by important changes in the assignment of their generals. On November 1st Major-General George B. McClellan was assigned to the chief command of the army, in place of Lieutenant-General Scott, retired. On November 9th the Department of the Cumberland was discontinued by the United States War Department, and the Department of the Ohio constituted, embracing the States of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky (east of the Cumberland River), and Tennessee; and Brigadier-General D. C. Buell was assigned to its command, which he assumed November 15th.1 At the same time General H. W. Halleck superseded Fremont in command of the Department of the West. Sherman was removed from Kentucky, and sent to report to Halleck. His memoirs evince that he left Kentucky in disappointment and bitterness of spirit, and deeply distrusted by his Government — a distrust which it required all the great political influence of his family to remove. Buell, Sherman's successor, had sterling qualities-integrity, ability, and a high sense of the soldierly calling. He had a fine faculty for organization, improved by long training as an assistant adjutant-general.  He was calm and resolute, and a formidable antagonist for any general. Much of the subsequent efficiency of that army was due to the share Buell had in its formation. It was to General Johnston's advantage that Buell knew him only as an officer cautious and provident in military conduct, and that he could not presume him to have taken such risks as he did. It happens to be within the writer's knowledge that General Johnston regarded what he conceived to be Buell's opinion of him as one of the considerations to be weighed in determining his own course of action. The camp at Bowling Green was a city of refuge for Kentuckians whose sense of duty forced them to side with the South in the pending contest. When Buckner entered Kentucky, in the middle of September, the Union leaders and the United States military authorities feared greatly an immediate revolt of the State-rights party. Breckinridge was counseling the people, but with his usual prudence, to organize against encroachments on their State-rights. William Preston and Humphrey Marshall, with more vehemence, were urging them to measures of resistance. Southern sympathizers everywhere denounced the fraud which had been practised in the name of neutrality. A dangerous excitement existed, which, if left longer, might have produced serious results. But the propitious moment had long passed when successful revolt was possible in Kentucky. The time had come when the Federal Government could give the final blow to the cherished doctrine of neutrality, and it did not hesitate at stern measures of repression, altogether alien to American ideas. It took its warrant in its fears. On September 19th Hon. Charles A. Morehead, a man eminent for character and ability, was seized at his home, near Louisville, and, without warrant of law, was hurried off to prison in Boston Harbor. Morehead had been Governor of the Commonwealth, and the intimate friend of Clay. Though a strong sympathizer with the South, he had been conservative and opposed to disunion. His arrest gave a great shock in Kentucky, in proportion to its rude lawlessness. It evinced that in war the laws are silent, and that no bulwark was left against the terrorism of brute force. On the same night, Reuben T. Durrett, formerly editor of the Louisville Courier, and Martin W. Barr, of the telegraph-office, were arrested; and these arrests were rapidly followed by others, of aged, wealthy, and eminent citizens, who were carried off to captivity in the free States. On the same day, September 19th, Colonel Bramlette, with his command, reached Lexington, to arrest Breckinridge, Preston, and other Southern-rights men. But these received timely intimation of their danger, and escaped. Humphrey Marshall, George B. Hodge, John S. Williams, Haldeman and McKee, of the Courier, and many other Southern sympathizers, warned by these events, or by secret friendly messages, also found their way to the Confederate lines.  These fugitives resorted either to Richmond or to Bowling Green, according to the direction of their escape, or for other reasons. Breckinridge, after a short stay in Richmond, went to Bowling Green, where, on October 8th, he issued a noble and stirring address to the people of Kentucky. It recites the causes that drove so many loyal and patriotic citizens into that attitude of armed resistance to the United States Government which Northern people are pleased to call rebellion. The writer would be glad to embody this address here, but space does not permit. It may be found in the “Rebellion record,” vol. III., page 254. In concluding his address, Breckinridge used this language:
For those who, denied by the Legislature the protection due to the humblest citizen, have been delivered over to the tender mercies of foreign mercenaries, and hunted like partridges on the mountains, what remains, but imprisonment, exile, or resistance? As one of them, I intend to resist. I will avoid conflict with Kentuckians, except in necessary self-defense, but I will unite with my fellow-citizens to resist the invaders who have driven us from our homes. To this course we are impelled by the highest sense of duty and the irresistible instincts of manhood. To defend your birthright and mine, which is more precious than domestic ease, or property, or life, I exchange, with proud satisfaction, a term of six years in the Senate of the United States for the musket of a soldier.Breckinridge returned to Richmond soon after issuing this address. He was appointed a brigadier-general, and sent to General Johnston, who assigned him to the command of the Kentucky Brigade, November 14th. We here behold a man, who had lately been Vice-President and a candidate for President, exchanging the senatorial rank for the command of a little band of exiles, in obedience to principle; and this they call treason! In Breckinridge's eloquent peroration, quoted above, there was an antithesis that struck agreeably on the popular ear. A friend has sent the writer a shrewd remark of General Johnston in regard to it. To one inquiring of him what had become of Breckinridge, he replied, “He has gone to Richmond to get his musket.” General Johnston set a high value, however, on the talents as well as the prestige of Breckinridge. His calmness and reticence, his manly courtesy and high courage, his good judgment and tenacity, not less than more striking qualities, commended him to his commander. Hence General Johnston gave him exceptional opportunities for distinction, and on his own last great day at Shiloh gave him a corps to command, with which Breckinridge made a record that fixed his reputation as a soldier. Besides Breckinridge and others who entered the army, many civilians had gathered at Bowling Green. Some of these were men of mark in the State; very many had a local importance that pointed them out  to the vengeance of the Federal Government, and almost all were embittered by exile, disappointment, and wounded patriotism. They saw the recreant Legislature registering orders from military headquarters as legislative acts against them, which, if impotent, were yet insulting --a burlesque on law-making-statutes for divorce from their wives, statutes threatening the penitentiary as a penalty, statutes condemning them to death. It was suggested that a provisional government, representing the Southern outlawed element of the people, would serve as a rallying-point for Confederate sentiment, and give color of legality to many things necessary to be done. The plan of a provisional government was privately proposed to General Johnston, and the leaders of the movement were much astonished and disappointed to find that he disapproved of it. In fact, though he could not make known to them his reasons, he already contemplated the contingency of being driven from the State, and foresaw the aggravated force with which this disappointment would react on Kentuckians, and he did not desire the additional embarrassment of the perambulating pageant of a State government on wheels. Hence he offered such discouragement as he could to the project, without taking any open or active stand against it; recognizing indeed, too, the good side of the scheme. It was not possible to arrest the movement without an ungracious thwarting of men ardent in the cause of the South and devoted to its interests. Hence it was gradually determined, from the various motives that control men under such circumstances, to establish the provisional government. A conference was held at Russellville, October 29th, in accordance with previous notice, which was numerously attended, and over which presided Henry C. Burnett, who had retired from the United States Congress. Resolutions were passed, denouncing the United States Government and the State government, and recommending that a convention should meet November 18th. Accordingly, a convention, irregularly chosen, it is true, and professedly revolutionary, met on November 18th at Russellville. Henry C. Burnett again presided, and Robert McKee was secretary. An ordinance of secession was passed, and a provisional government was set up, with a Governor and ten councilmen of ample powers, including authority to negotiate a treaty with the Confederate States, and to elect Senators and Representatives to its Congress. The Governor elected by the convention was George W. Johnson, of Scott County. He was a nephew of Richard M. Johnson, who had been Vice-President under Van Buren, and belonged to a numerous, wealthy, and powerful connection, in Kentucky and the South. George W. Johnson was of a very lofty and noble nature. He was impetuous and sensitive, and his impassioned temperament sometimes warped the  correctness of his judgment; but his talents were fine, his impulses generous, and his ideas of public duty very high. He had received an excellent education, and had acted as a professor of mathematics in his youth. He was fond of reading, and had both wealth and culture. Dispensing liberal hospitality, he yet practised for himself a total abstinence from all liquors. He was a friend of General Johnston, and personally every way acceptable to him. Much beloved by the Kentuckians in life, his self-sacrifice and heroic death endeared to them his memory. An act had been passed by the Confederate Government, August 28th, appropriating a million dollars to aid Kentucky in repelling invasion. It was five or six months too late. Employed early enough, it might have been a fair offset to the millions used in the State by the United States Government. By an act of Congress, approved December 10th, Kentucky was “admitted a member of the Confederate States of America on an equal footing with the other States of this Confederacy.” On November 11th a large Dahlgren gun burst at Columbus, killing Captain Reiter, Lieutenant Snowden, and five gunners. General Polk was injured, the shock producing deafness, sickness, and great nervous prostration, which lasted several weeks. In the mean time his duties devolved on General Pillow. Polk offered his resignation, which was declined. He wrote to General Johnston, November 28th, “I have waived my resignation, as Davis seems very much opposed to it, and shall endeavor to do my duty.” A reference to Chapter XXII. will show that General Johnston was earnestly striving to raise troops during November and December, and it was about this time, November 19th, that he called on Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, to furnish him militia, using the most urgent appeals. On the 27th of November he wrote the Secretary of War, reporting a continued increase of the enemy's force, which had augmented in his front to thirty-seven regiments. The rest of the letter is as follows:
I suppose a change of the plan of operations has been made, and that the force intended for East Tennessee will now be combined with the force on this line, making an aggregate strength of probably more than 50,000 men to be arrayed against my forces here. If the forces of the enemy are maneuvered as I think they may be, I may be compelled to retire from this place to cover Nashville with the aid of the volunteer force now being organized, which could in that way be brought in cooperation. It is understood that General Halleck, who will command at Columbus, and General Buell, who is in command on this line, will make a simultaneous attack. I doubt if Buell will make a serious attack on my position here. I hope he may. I have requested General Crittenden to send a portion of his force to  Nashville, if in his judgment it can be done without weakening his force too much. .... We still have a great many sick, but the measles which so afflicted our troops spreads much more slowly. The workmen of the enemy are rebuilding the railroad-bridge over Green River.At daybreak, on the 4th of December, a body of forty or fifty Federal Home Guards, under Captain Netter, attacked Whippoorwill Bridge, five or six miles from Russellville, on the railroad from Bowling Green to Memphis. It was guarded by a detail of thirteen men from the Ninth Kentucky Infantry (Confederate). All were asleep, except four on guard. These fired on the assailants, with effect, as was supposed. A volley was returned, which killed two and wounded another of the guard. The rest, being surrounded, surrendered. The enemy then set fire to the bridge, but left too hurriedly to do it much damage. Some of the prisoners escaped. On the 6th of December Captain John H. Morgan, with 105 men, crossed Green River, near Munfordsville, and made a dash on Bacon Creek railroad-bridge, which was within the enemy's lines, and had just been rebuilt. This he burned and utterly destroyed, and then returned to his camp without loss. John H. Morgan was the captain of a volunteer company in the Kentucky State Guard, at Lexington. His brother-in-law, Basil W. Duke, had been prominent in St. Louis as a secessionist before the discomfiture of his party there. He then came to Kentucky, and entered Morgan's company as a lieutenant. Both became brigadier-generals during the war. It was a question among Confederates which of the two was the more excellent as a partisan leader. In truth, both had the qualities that make success in this form of warfare — audacity, wariness, enterprise, and unfailing resources. Morgan lost his life in the war, and his friend and comrade became his biographer. Duke's “Life of Morgan,” without any attempt at art, has the rare merit of combining truth and picturesqueness in narration. It is the work of an intelligent soldier and an honest gentleman. When Bramlette invaded Lexington, Morgan secured his arms and got away with his company on the 20th of September. He was joined at Bardstown by Captain Wickliffe's company, and they reached Buckner in safety on the 30th of September. Morgan was soon put in command of a squadron, composed of his own company, Captain Bowles's, and Captain Allen's, and did excellent service on outpost duty, getting here the training that afterward made him famous. It has already been mentioned that seven regiments of Kentucky infantry were recruited at Bowling Green during the autumn of 1861, though some of them were feeble in numbers. To carry out General Johnston's designs already indicated, and for  the special purpose of breaking up the railroad south of Woodsonville, General Hindman moved on that place, December 17th, with 1,100 infantry, 250 cavalry, and four pieces of artillery. Woodsonville is the railroad-station on the south bank of Green River, and was occupied by Willich's Thirty-second Indiana Regiment. Willich seems to have been an officer of merit; and his regiment of Germans, commanded in this affair by Lieutenant-Colonel Von Trebra, showed soldierly qualities. Having lost some pickets a few days before, they were on the alert; and, on the approach of Hindman, threw out some companies as skirmishers. The Federal advance was in force on the north bank. The south bank was fringed with timber, in front of which were open fields, bordered by another forest. Through this Hindman advanced almost to the edge of the opening; but halted, while still concealed in the woods, three-quarters of a mile from the river. Von Trebra's skirmishers were driven in by a volley. Hindman's purpose was to decoy the Federals up the hill, out of range of the enemy's batteries, where he could employ his infantry and artillery against them; and he gave Colonel Terry orders to that effect. The Confederate cavalry were chiefly used as flankers, watching the fords. But Terry took seventy-five of his Rangers, and fell upon a body of the enemy, said in their account to be a company, deployed as skirmishers. When he found himself in front of a foe, Terry's fierce and impetuous courage, trained in the border warfare of the West, broke through the rules of prudence. The spirit of combat was upon him; and, charging with half a dozen comrades in advance, he rushed upon the squads, or “nests,” as he called them, who were rallying by fours, using his revolver with deadly effect. Bursting upon one of these “nests,” he killed two Germans, when he was himself slain by a ball through the brain. A companion instantly avenged his death. The Federals fled to the shelter of their guns, and the Texans bore the dead body of their chief from the field. Thus fell a fearless leader. McCook now began to send over troops to the support of Von Trebra; and, after some further skirmishing and artillery-practice, the firing ceased on both sides. The opponents remained awhile in observation; when Hindman, having accomplished the chief purposes of his demonstration, and finding that nothing more was to be done without drawing upon himself the whole weight of the Federal force, which he did not desire, slowly withdrew without being followed. His loss was four killed and ten wounded, all from Terry's regiment except two slightly wounded in Marmaduke's battalion. The Federal loss was ten killed, twenty-two wounded, and eight prisoners. The Texan Rangers had been allowed, at their own request, to report to General Johnston. Terry was his personal friend. They had since been very actively and usefully employed on this front; but in  this, their first engagement, they had the misfortune to lose their colonel. They left Houston 1,160 strong, and were augmented during their term of service by 500 recruits; they shared in more than one hundred engagements from first to last ; and finally surrendered, at the close of the war, 244 men in all, with but one deserter during that time! This is a noble record; but their fame was dearly bought with the blood of most of these peerless horsemen, who, following the example of their chivalric leader, rode gayly and dauntlessly down to death. In the second week in October a cavalry battalion of eight companies was organized at Memphis, of which Nathan Bedford Forrest was elected lieutenant-colonel. It was soon after increased to a regiment. Both this command and its leader were greatly distinguished during the war. Forrest's biography 2 has been written, and his exploits are well known. He was a man whose indomitable energy and eager spirit would have won distinction in any active vocation. Without the aid of influence or education, he had achieved wealth and local power in time of peace. Without military training, or special advantages, he became famous in a four years war as a bold and enterprising trooper, and a formidable soldier wherever he crossed swords. Forrest was forty years of age when the war broke out. Determined to raise a cavalry command, he ventured to Louisville, Kentucky, after the battle of Manassas, and with his own money bought and brought away the arms and equipments requisite to put them in the field. His eight companies numbered 650 men, Alabamians, Tennesseeans, Kentuckians, and Texans — a mixed command. They rendezvoused at Fort Donelson late in October, and, moving thence to Hopkinsville, were thrown forward, about the middle of November, by General Tilghman, commanding there, to observe the section between the Green and Cumberland Rivers. Major Kelly, with one squadron, traversed the country to the Ohio River, where he captured a supply-transport, well loaded. having rejoined Forrest, they attacked the Federal gunboat Conestoga at Canton Landing. The novel sight was there witnessed of a fight between cavalry and a gunboat; the latter belching thunders from nine heavy guns, the former rattling her iron sides with a four-pounder and showers of Minie-balls. Little damage was done on either side; and, after six hours firing, the gunboat retired. Forrest was almost constantly on picket until the 28th of December, when he had a heavy skirmish at Sacramento, which further encouraged the Confederates. General T. L. Crittenden was reported at Calhoun, on the north bank of Green River, with a large force, and with designs looking to an advance. General Johnston ordered a cavalry reconnaissance, and Forrest moved, December 26th, with 300 men,  over muddy, icy roads, toward Greenville, which he reached on the 28th. Learning, about eight miles beyond Greenville, that some 400 or 500 Federal cavalry were not far off, Forrest went forward rapidly along the heavy roads to overtake them. Near the village of Sacramento, a young girl, full of patriotic ardor, galloped down to point out to the Southerners the enemy's position. When Forrest overtook the rear-guard of the Federal cavalry, his dash of thirty miles had left him but 150 men. He drove the rear-guard into the village where the Federals had posted themselves. Charging up, he found the enemy too strong for his jaded and scattered command, and retired to reform it. The elated Federals took heart, and, leaving their vantage-ground, followed him. But Forrest, by this time reinforced by the arrival of many stragglers, turned upon his pursuers, routed them, and chased them pell-mell from the field for three miles. In this hot pursuit Forrest was among the foremost; and is said, single-handed, to have engaged three adversaries at once, killing a trooper, mortally wounding Captain Bacon, and overthrowing and capturing Captain Davis. The story is not improbable, as his personal prowess was extraordinary. Forrest's report puts the Federal loss at sixty-five killed and thirty-five wounded and captured; including a captain and lieutenant killed, and a captain and lieutenant wounded. Captain Albert Bacon was from Frankfort, Kentucky, and his courage and soldierly conduct are noticed by Forrest. On the Confederate side the chivalric Captain Meriweather and private Terry were killed, and three privates wounded. Forrest returned to Hopkinsville, and was employed in routine duty until January 10, 1862. He then made another reconnaissance toward Green River, where he found a heavy Federal force, and, in returning, burned the bridges over Pond River, a tributary of Green River. When General Clark retired from Hopkinsville to Clarksville, February 7th, Forrest covered his retreat. Thence he went to Fort Donelson, in time to take part in the defence there. The following letters to the Secretary of War explain the situation in Kentucky in December. It will be remembered that it was at the date of the second of these letters, Christmas-day, that General Johnston addressed his energetic appeal for aid to the Southern Governors:
On the 23d of December the office and storehouse of the Ordnance Department at Nashville were set on fire by an incendiary, and entirely consumed. “The loss was heavy: between 400 and 600 sets of artillery-harness, 10,000 to 12,000 sets of accoutrements and equipments for infantry, 300 cavalry-saddles, 2,000,000 percussion-caps, 6,000 friction-primers, besides numerous other articles of supply.” 3  The following little anecdote is furnished by a friend, as an illustration of General Johnston's natural fitness for command, and quiet mode of self-assertion. It was related to him by a gallant Louisiana colonel:
In the days around Bowling Green, “said--,” I was in command of the--Louisiana Cavalry, and was required to picket over an extensive district. The work was onerous, and I became restive under it, and made several requests and suggestions with the view to being relieved; none of which, however, were approved. Feeling myself aggrieved, and not having yet acquired even the small modicum of discipline which later on we learned, I determined to call at headquarters and state my grievances in person. As I entered the general's tent, I saw a tall, soldierly man writing, with his back to me. Full of my own consequence and fancied wrongs, I broke forth, “I would like to know, General Johnston, why all my suggestions and recommendations are overslaughed or treated with silent contempt? ” Looking around, with due deliberation, he quietly asked, “Was your remark addressed to me, sir? ” Fortunately, “added-- ,” there was a camp-stool convenient, into which I dropped, membra dejecta, as if a Minie had struck me. The truth flashed across me, as if by intuition, that I was in the presence of the greatest man in the world, and first impressions were confirmed by subsequent intercourse. The first was the last time that ever I essayed “to beard the lion in his den, the Douglas in his hall.”Another friend has related to me the following incident as occurring at Bowling Green:
A distinguished Tennessee politician called on General Johnston, and requested him to make a contract with parties in Nashville for the manufacture of spears, with a billhook or sickle attached to the head, with which foot-soldiers could attack cavalry, the sickle to be used in cutting the bridle-reins and pulling the troopers from their horses. He also demanded General Johnston's opinion on the plan. General Johnston endeavored to avoid a discussion of the merits of the plan for which the gentleman was warmly enlisted, by assuring him that it was a matter for the Ordnance Department to decide, and by referring him to that bureau. But the petitioner would take no denial, repeating and reiterating the merits of his “plan.” General Johnston could only adhere to his original suggestion. At last the gentleman made a sarcastic allusion to “redtape,” when General Johnston asked him, “What do you think the Federal horsemen would be doing with their revolvers, while our spearmen were trying to cut their bridle-reins?” But, though there was no sufficient answer to this question, gentlemen of this class are not to be satisfied with such considerations, and he left, convinced of the red-tape of headquarters.