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Chapter 29: the retreat from Bowling Green.

Forts Henry and Donelson had fallen, and the great water highways were opened to Nashville and to North Alabama. This gave access to the rear of the Confederate armies, and turned the positions both at Bowling Green and Columbus. Of course, such misfortunes could not happen in his department without subjecting General Johnston to the severest criticism, and we shall presently see to what heights of excitement and depths of bitterness the tide of feeling ran. That mighty surge of wrath belonged to the hour, but it has left its mark on the military history of the times, and in the criticism which sprang out of it. The writer believes that the plain narrative of facts he has given is a better answer to the censures of General Johnston's conduct than the most elaborate argument would be.

Without undertaking to answer, in form and controversially, the objections to General Johnston's dispositions, a brief reference to the considerations which controlled him will not be inappropriate in this connection. The reasons why he adopted a defensive instead of an offensive policy have been set forth so fully in these pages that it is not necessary to recapitulate them here. The chief were inadequate forces and armament. In Colonel Munford's pointed language, “he had no army.”

General Johnston's largest force present for duty at any one time on the line from Bowling Green to Columbus, and in reserve, was never more than 43,000 men. But the facts demonstrated that this was only the number capable of fighting in position, not the force available for a winter campaign. The army lost twenty-five per cent. by the mere act of moving in the well-ordered retreat from Bowling Green to Nashville. Suppose that these forces could have been collected into one compact body without pursuit, molestation, or other interference by the enemy — a result manifestly not in the table of probabilities-and led against either Buell or Grant, what would have been the chance of success? Buell had an army 75,000 strong. Grant could not be assailed in his fortifications on the north side of the Ohio; and, even if his intrenched position at Paducah had been attacked, he had his fleets and 25,000 men, with Buell and Halleck to draw upon for any required reinforcements up to 100,000 men within three or four days call.

Nevertheless, it has been urged that these armies should have been “concentrated.” To concentrate them for any merely defensive purpose [485] strikes the writer as mere fatuity. But this aside, at what one point could a defense of this line have been made? At Columbus? Then must the defense of Middle Tennessee have been abandoned without an effort to save it. At Henry and Donelson? The same result would have ensued, for there was nothing to prevent Buell's advance, except the interposition of the force at Bowling Green. But, last of all, if the barrier at Columbus had been abandoned to maintain Bowling Green, or for any other consideration whatever, it opened the Mississippi River to the invader; and, if either Henry or Donelson were given up, the rear of the armies at Bowling Green and Columbus would have been uncovered. Henry had no value, except as the gateway of the Tennessee River; nor Donelson, save as an outpost of Nashville.

While it was unnecessary for the Federal armies to feel much concern about concentrating to meet any hypothetical concentration of the Confederates, inasmuch as they were sufficiently strong to repel any attack in position without it, yet, had it been desirable, their means of rapid transit were so much greater than the Confederate that they could always have opposed a superior force to any assault. The “interior lines” are not determined by a scale of miles, but by the time required to convey troops over the intervals between commands. Facilities of transportation more than distances, therefore, decide what these interior lines are. An unlimited power of water-communication enabled Halleck and Buell to cooperate fully, and practically to place what force they pleased where they pleased. Such was the concentration that actually took place. Forts Donelson and Henry were nearly twice as far from Bowling Green by land as from the Federal strongholds by water. Colonel Robert W. Woolley, in a letter written at the time, says:

The railroad was almost bare of transportation. The locomotives had not been repaired for six months, and many of them lay disabled in the depots. They could not be repaired at Bowling Green, for there is, I am informed, but one place in the South where a driving-wheel can be made, and not one where a whole locomotive can be constructed.

General Johnston did all that was possible when he placed Floyd's command at Russellville, within striking distance of both Bowling Green and Donelson, which were alike threatened. Floyd was at Donelson in time, and could have been at Henry with any reasonable warning. If there were not enough men at Donelson, it was not from defect of judgment, but from want of adequate means. The elements, too, fought for the Federals. An unprecedented flood favored their attacks by water, while it impeded the movements of the Confederates. No time was given to General Johnston, either through the sluggishness of the enemy, or by the prolonged resistance of his own troops, to repair [486] disaster. Grant moved February 2d; in four days Henry was in his hands. Ten days only intervened between General Johnston's first information of the attack on Henry and the surrender of Donelson. He meant “to defend Nashville at Donelson,” if he could, and, if not, then to reunite his corps and to fight on a more retired line.

A very astonishing statement is made by Mr. Swinton, in his “Decisive battles of the War,” page 65. He says:

In this condition, outnumbered on both lines, Johnston does not appear to have comprehended that a defensive attitude could only result fatally — that his sole ground of hope rested in taking advantage of his interior position to concentrate the gross of his force at a single point, and assume the offensive against one or the other of the two Union armies. Connected with this is a piece of secret history, revealed to me by General Beauregard since the close of the war, which will not be out of place here.

Toward the close of the first month of the year 1862, General Beauregard was transferred from Virginia to the West, to take charge, under Sidney Johnston, of the defense of the Mississippi Valley. En route he visited Johnston at his headquarters at Bowling Green, and between the two officers a prolonged conference ensued, touching the best method of action. It was with the liveliest concern that Beauregard, who had understood at Richmond that Johnston's force numbered 60,000 men, learned that in reality it was little over one-half that aggregate. But that officer was always essentially aggressive in his military inspiration, and he now proposed that the works at Columbus should be so reduced that their defense might be sustained by two or three thousand men; that the remaining 12,000 should be brought to Bowling Green and joined to the 22,000 there, and that with the united force a vigorous, and, if possible, a crushing blow should be dealt to Buell's army, which was regarded at the time as the most menacing, for Grant and Foote had not yet moved. Johnston fell in with this plan, and Beauregard proceeded to Columbus to put it in train of execution. Scarcely, however, had he started for Columbus when the thunder of the Union guns on the Tennessee apprised him that it was too late, and, by the time he reached the Mississippi, Fort Henry had fallen.

Without undertaking at all to solve how Mr. Swinton has fallen into such errors, a few facts will demonstrate an entirely different state of case. General Beauregard was ordered, January 26th, by letter from Richmond, to report to General Johnston, and to take command at Columbus. He did not leave Manassas for several days, and probably arrived at Bowling Green about February 5th or 6th. On the 7th he held a conference with Generals Johnston and Hardee, the minutes of which are here given.

It will be observed that, on February 4th and 5th, General Johnston was moving troops to Clarksville to support Tilghman, and on the 6th ordered Floyd's entire command thither. General Beauregard remained in Bowling Green until the 12th. His conference with General Johnston did not take place until February 7th, when they both knew of the fall of Fort Henry, and made their plans with reference to that fact. [487]

Memorandum of conference held by Generals Johnston, Beauregard, and Hardee.

Bowling Green, Kentucky, February 7, 1862.
At a meeting held to-day at my quarters (Covington House), by Generals Johnston, Hardee, and myself (Colonel Mackall being present part of the time), it was determined that Fort Henry, on the Tennessee River, having fallen yesterday into the hands of the enemy, and Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland River, not being tenable, preparations should at once be made for the removal of this army to Nashville in rear of the Cumberland River, a strong point some miles below that city being fortified forthwith to defend the river from the passage of gunboats and transports. The troops at present at Clarksville should cross over to the south side of that river, leaving only a sufficient force in that town to protect the manufactories and other property, in the saving of which the Confederate Government is interested. From Nashville, should any further retrograde movement become necessary, it will be made to Stevenson, and thence according to circumstances.

It was also determined that the possession of the Tennessee River by the enemy, resulting from the fall of Fort Henry, separates the army at Bowling Green from the one at Columbus, Kentucky, which must henceforth act independently of each other, until they can again be brought together; the first one having for object the defense of the State of Tennessee along its line of operation as already stated; and the other one, of that part of the State lying between the Tennessee River and the Mississippi. But, as the possession of the former river by the enemy renders the lines of communication of the army at Columbus liable to be cut off at any time from the Tennessee River as a base, by an overpowering force of the enemy, rapidly concentrated from various points on the Ohio, it becomes necessary, to prevent such a calamity, that the main body of that army should fall back to Humboldt, and thence, if necessary, to Grand Junction, so as to protect Memphis from either point, and still have a line of retreat to the latter place or to Grenada, Mississippi, and, if necessary, to Jackson, Mississippi.

At Columbus, Kentucky, will be left only a sufficient garrison for the defense of the works there, assisted by Hollins's gunboats, for the purpose of making a desperate defense of the river at that point. A sufficient number of transports will be kept near that place for the removal of the garrison therefrom, when no longer tenable in the opinion of the commanding officer. Island No.10 and Fort Pillow will likewise be defended to the last extremity, aided also by Hollins's gunboats, which will then retire to the vicinity of Memphis, where another bold stand will be made.

(Signed) G. T. Beauregard, General C. S. A. (Signed) W. J. Hardee, Major-General. A true copy: S. W. Ferguson, Lieutenant and Aide-de-Camp.

This plan of campaign embraced the defense of the line of the Cumberland, if possible; or, if not, then a retreat to Stevenson. Beauregard was to fall back southward with Polk's army, leaving a small [488] garrison at Columbus. The immediate evacuation of Bowling Green was now inevitable. His correspondence has already made manifest that General Johnston regarded his stay at Bowling Green as a mere question of time, unless he should be promptly reinforced by a strong and well-organized corps. The defenses at Bowling Green, originally slight, had been greatly enlarged by the addition of a cordon of detached forts, mounted with heavy field-guns. Though its strength had been magnified by common report, until it had become “the Gibraltar of the West,” it was really only sufficiently strong to withstand an assault, which General Johnston desired, but did not expect, and which Buell was too wary to make.

General Johnston's line of retreat was safe, so long as his flanks were unbroken. If these were maintained, he hoped by a skillful defense to hold at bay the heavy odds in his front until reinforced. If anything is evinced in this biography, it is that General Johnston possessed that admirable equilibrium of judgment-boldness combined with caution — which fitted him to hold a desperate position to the last extremity, and yet to apprehend distinctly when it could be defended no longer, and retire from it in time.

Early in the autumn, the difficulties of recruiting becoming apparent, made it plain that the line of the Barren River might have to be given up, and General Johnston endeavored to provide a second line of defense on the Cumberland — with how little effect has already been seen. On this second line, if forced to retreat, he purposed to make his stand as long as possible. But when he compared the unequal preparations for aggression and resistance, and perceived that no warning could stir the Southern people to a just sense of their danger, he beheld calamity coming as the clouds gather for the burst of the hurricane, and, with almost prophetic vision, saw his army forced back to the Cumberland, and beyond to the southern frontier of Tennessee.

Colonel Frank Schaller, of the Twenty-second Mississippi, an educated soldier, who published during the war, at Columbia, South Carolina, an edition of Marmont's “Spirit of military institutions,” with valuable annotations pertinent to the times, illustrates Chapter III. of Part IV. of that work, which describes the “picture of a general who answers to all the requirements of the command,” by a review of the life and character of General Johnston.1 He begins his brief but appreciative memoir as follows :

Two foreign officers in the service of the Confederate States were ordered to report for duty to General Albert Sidney Johnston in the month of October, 1861. When leaving his headquarters at Bowling Green, in the State of Kentucky, [489] having then seen and spoken with him for the first time, they simultaneously exclaimed, when outside of the inclosure of the unpretending quarters: “He is the very beau-ideal of a general.” To one of these officers, who now feebly attempts to pay this humble tribute to the memory of the departed hero, this, his first impulsive exclamation, has become the basis of the greatest veneration of which he is capable.

After describing General Johnston's employment of his time at Bowling Green, Colonel Schaller adds:

The result of all this was unshaken confidence on the part of the troops in their commander. But what endeared him most to his soldiers was the great justice which was the basis of all his decisions, the promptness with which wrongs were rectified, and the facility of access to the chief commander, as well as the genuine cordiality and dignity with which every one was met by him. Heavy labors on forts in mid-winter were endured without a murmur, since every soldier knew that General Johnston would never hesitate to expose himself whenever necessary. His headquarters were a model of order, simplicity, and prompt dispatch of business. His decisions to personal applications were immediate and final. His bearing was that of a knight of the olden times. The writer will never forget the shouts which greeted the general whenever the troops passed in review ...

The enemy had only been awaiting the completion of the fleet of gunboats to make demonstrations by water. Long before Fort Henry fell, in view of the disappointments to which General Johnston had been subjected, he was fully aware that his line, unless it was strongly reinforced, could not be held; and in the month of January, 1862, when one day looking with Colonel Bowen upon a map, showing the course of the Tennessee River, these memorable and propletic words fell from his lips when pointing out a spot marked “Shiloh Church: Here the great battle of the Southwest will be fought...”

The present writer, struck by this remarkable incident, applied to Colonel Schaller for more explicit information in regard to it, and received the following statement:

Richmond, Virginia, May 22, 1863.
Colonel: I give to you, according to your request, with great pleasure the following statement of facts, which occurred during the month of January, 1862, when at the headquarters of General Albert Sidney Johnston, in the town of Bowling Green, Kentucky, and in the presence of then Colonel (now General) John S. Bowen, commanding the forts and the town of Bowling Green, of which former my regiment garrisoned “Fort Buckner,” a strong position on the extreme left of the fortifications.

The engineers, who had been ordered by General A. S. Johnston to survey the course of the Tennessee River as far as Florence, Alabama, where its navigation is impeded, had completed their labors and submitted a fine military map to the general commanding. In front of this map, the general and Colonel Bowen were standing, the former giving evidently an explanation of its military positions. In the course of their conversation, General Johnston directed Colonel Bowen's attention to a position upon this map, which had been marked [490] by the engineers, “Shiloh Church,” and, concluding his remarks, he laid his finger upon this spot, and quietly but impressively pronounced the following words, or words to this effect: “Here the great battle of the Southwest will be fought.” This opinion, pronounced by so distinguished a general, could not but arrest attention at the time, but you may well imagine that it recurred to our memory in the strongest manner when Brigadier-General Bowen and myself were actually engaged in the terrible conflict, which the prophetic words of General Johnston had fully three months previously predicted. Meeting General Bowen upon the battle-field of “Shiloh Church,” shortly after he (General Bowen) had been wounded, and while my regiment was replenishing its ammunition, about two or three o'clock P. M., during the first day's battle, and before the army had any knowledge of the fall of our illustrious leader, General Bowen recalled the circumstances above cited, and they were pronounced remarkable.

I give you these facts simply as they occurred, without any addition whatsoever; but you must permit me here to state my firm conviction that this incident in the life of General Johnston was not a singular chance, as sometimes will happen in the life of man, but gloriously illustrating the strategic genius of the lamented general. With the information at his command, and the thorough knowledge of the strength of his line of defense, as well as of the topography of the country which he occupied, he was eminently conscious that, without a speedy accession of strength his line would become untenable, and that a new contracted line could only be obtained south of Tennessee River. When and by whom this would be executed was, of course, beyond the bounds of human calculation; but Corinth afterward did become the strategic point of the campaign, and Hamburg Landing was the most convenient port whereby to reach it, and from whence it could be threatened. ...

With sentiments of the highest esteem I am, colonel, very respectfully, Your obedient servant,

F. Schaller, Colonel Twenty-second Mississipi Infantry, P. A. C. S. To Colonel William Preston Johnston, Richmond, Virginia.

The writer is indebted to Colonel Munford's address, so frequently quoted, for the following important incident:

Not very long before the evacuation of Bowling Green, the general and myself being alone, lie locked the door, and with more than his usual gravity said: “I fear I will have to evacuate this position. I wish to talk with you on that subject.” I asked, “With or without a battle, general?” “Oh! without a battle. They will never come here to fight me.” Pointing westward, he continued, “They will operate on my left, by the rivers, of which their gunboats give them command.” After reflecting, I said, “It is an important step, and involves the gravest consequences to both the South and yourself.” I then sketched the connection of Kentucky with the Confederacy; that its Governor and Council were then under the wing of his army, having already sent Representatives and Senators to our Congress; that they must flee with him, and leave Kentucky with no organized representation of the Southern cause on its soil. I then reminded him that the very military reasons which compelled him to leave Bowling Green would make it necessary to take his new position south of the Tennessee River; that the Governor and Legislature would have to flee from Nashville, the enemy would occupy that capital, and thus all the resources [491] of men and munitions in these two populous States would at one and the same time be lost. “Two States, general! It is a fearful stride toward subjugation” I told him frankly too that I believed the effect upon his own reputation would be serious; that the public believed he had 80,000 troops then with him; that they had unbounded confidence in his success; reminded him that when he had ordered his chief-engineer, Gilmer, to fortify Nashville, the popular sense of security was such that Gilmer was laughed at for suggesting the necessity for fortifications, was called in derision “Johnston's dirt-digger,” and had to abandon the attempt in despair. “Now, sir,” said I, “your retreat will startle these people like a thunderbolt; the loss of positions and of States, so unlooked for, will, with as mercurial a people as ours, produce a clamor the like of which you, perhaps, have never heard, and I sincerely trust it may not strike from your grasp the sceptre of your future usefulness.” He remained silent and thoughtful for several minutes, and then used words which are indelible in my memory. “This,” said he, “is a step I have pondered well, and such a step as no man would take who did not know he was right.” After another pause he said, “I wish I had 80,000 men-I'd be to-day upon the Lakes;” and, after yet another pause, he added, with more cheerfulness: “The popular clamor of which you speak is not unanticipated by me. But the clamor of to-day is converted into the praises of to-morrow by a simple success. All I require to rectify that is to get in position where I can fight a battle, and I think all will be well.” The conversation was closed by his assuring me he would hold Bowling Green as long as it was safe to do so-even to the last moment. In a few weeks the enemy's plans were developed just as he had foretold, and that moment came.

General John C. Brown informs the writer that he was sent by General Buckner, between the 1st and 4th of February, from Russellville to Bowling Green, in order to have a full conversation with General Johnston touching the reorganization of the troops and some other matters. During this confidential interview, which was frank and extended, General Johnston explained to him the positions and relative strength of Buell's army and his own, and read to him a good deal of his correspondence elucidating these points. Among other things, General Johnston told him that if he should lose Henry and Donelson, he should fall back to the line of the Cumberland; but that he feared that Nashville would prove untenable, so that he might have to fall back to the line of the Tennessee; and, in that event, he looked to Corinth, as a convenient point for concentrating his troops. This is an explicit statement, showing that General Johnston had considered every point, and sketched, at least, in his own mind, the plan of campaign which he afterward carried out, before General Beauregard's arrival.

The memorandum quoted and the statements of General Brown and Colonels Schaller and Munford fully prove that the plan of campaign, presented in definite shape to Beauregard and Hardee, had been long maturing in General Johnston's mind. To defend the line of the Cumberland was his first intention; should that fail, to fall back to [492] Stevenson by the railroad from Nashville, and thence by the Charleston & Memphis Railroad to effect a junction with Polk's command at Corinth. All this was clearly foreshadowed in his conversations with Brown, Munford, Bowen, and Schaller.

The preparations for retreat were begun. But these could not be carried out, and the soil of Kentucky abandoned to the enemy, without exciting the liveliest emotions of anguish and dismay in the breasts of the Southern party at Bowling Green. The soldiers, though depressed, received the fact of retreat with that sullen resolution which the military life engenders; but all others seemed filled with despair. The Provisional Governor, George W. Johnson, a warm friend and admirer of General Johnston, but self-confident and enthusiastic, regarded the abandonment of the soil of the Commonwealth as an act of political suicide, and all the civilians shared this opinion. He appealed to General Johnston in the most urgent and moving terms to change his purpose, and he was supported by the protests and appeals of the united voice of the Kentucky refugees. General Johnston found it hard to steel himself against these eager petitioners, who had given up their homes to follow the fortunes of his army, but he was bound to do what was right and necessary. A letter was written to him by Governor Johnson, in the very spirit of Leonidas, whom he emulated. Sometimes it is harder to do right than to hold a Thermopylae. General Johnston was inexorable. It is sufficient here to say that this gallant and excellent man lived long enough to assure General Johnston of his approval of the strategy he then condemned.

Colonel Robert W. Woolley (now of Louisville, Kentucky), who had enjoyed exceptional advantages of observation, in a communication to the New Orleans Picayune, in March, 1862, in describing General Johnston's work at Bowling Green, says:

An army must be obtained, or else he must evacuate the citadel that guards Nashville. A small army was obtained; but where, or how, it will puzzle the historian of this war to relate. By extraordinary exertions he secured a regiment here and another there; but few with any drill, and only five of them for three months with uniforms. The army had to be built up; and the general had not only to organize the troops, but had himself to search for them. Of transportation, without which an army cannot subsist, he had none. Eight hundred wagons were needed. He had no workshops, yet lie got the wagons. Hospitals and a medical department were necessary, for the sick were never less than twenty-five per cent. The great object was to secure Bowling Green against attack, until it could be fortified and succor obtained. This was most skillfully done. The place, in front, soon became, in strength, the second fortress in America, and impregnable everywhere had infantry been sent to protect its wings. While the work was progressing, and while every effort was being made to get more troops, Johnston, by skillful maneuvers, threw his men near the river which divided the two armies, and made the forces of the North believe [493] that he was trying to decoy them across, and then attack them, with a river in their rear; when, in fact, the last thing he wished was a battle, when the odds were four or five to one. His strategy succeeded.

General Johnston held on to Bowling Green till the last moment. But his right flank, under, Crittenden, was broken. Fort Henry was lost. Donelson was about to be attacked, with a doubtful prospect of successful resistance. It was evident that the time for the evacuation of Bowling Green had come. On the 8th of February General Johnston wrote to the Secretary of War, informing him of the loss of Fort Henry, and the condition of things at Donelson. He says, further:

The occurrence of the misfortune of losing the fort will cut off the communication of the force here under General Hardee from the south bank of the Cumberland. To avoid the disastrous consequences of such an event, I ordered General Hardee yesterday to make, as promptly as it could be done, preparations to fall back to Nashville and cross the river.

The movements of the enemy on my right flank would have made a retrograde in that direction to confront the enemy indispensable in a short time. But the probability of having the passage of this army corps across the Cumberland intercepted by the gunboats of the enemy admits of no delay in making the movement.

Generals Beauregard and Hardee are equally with myself impressed with the necessity of withdrawing our force from this line at once.

Every preparation for the retreat was silently made. The ordnance and army supplies were quietly moved southward; and measures were also taken to unburden Nashville of the immense stores accumulated in depot there. The weather was wet and cold, and very trying to men unused to the hardships of a winter campaign. Only 500 were in hospital at Bowling Green; but, before the army reached Nashville, 5,400, out of the 14,000, fell under the care of the medical authorities. Medical Director D. W. Yandell, in making this report at Nashville, February 18, 1862, says this large number is to be accounted for “by the immense number of convalescents and men merely unfit for duty or unable to undertake a march.”

On February 11th, everything being in readiness, the troops began their retreat, Hindman's brigade covering the rear. Breckinridge's command passed through Bowling Green on the 12th, and bivouacked on the night of the 13th two miles north of Franklin. It was on that Thursday night that the weather became so intensely cold, as was related in the siege of Fort Donelson. The next day's march brought them to Camp Trousdale, where they occupied the huts; but with little profit, as some atmospheric condition made the smoke in them intolerable. After a bad night from smoke and the bitter cold, they marched twenty-seven miles next day, and on the day after, the 16th, through Nashville, and five miles beyond. The Kentuckians retreated sullenly.2 [494]

General George B. Hodge, then Breckinridge's assistant adjutant-general, in an interesting account of that brigade, mentions that-

The spirits of the army were cheered by the accounts which General Johnston, with thoughtful care, forwarded by means of couriers daily, of the successful resistance of the army. The entire army bivouacked in line of battle on the night of the 15th, at the junction of the Gallatin and Nashville and Bowling Green and Nashville [turnpike] roads, about ten miles from Nashville.

... At 4 P. M., on the 16th, the head of the brigade came in sight of the, bridges at Nashville, across which, in dense masses, were streaming infantry, artillery, and transportation and provision trains, but still with a regularity and order which gave promise of renewed activity and efficiency in the future. At nightfall, General Johnston, who had established his headquarters at Edgefield on the northern bank of the Cumberland, saw the last of his wearied and tired columns defile across and safely establish themselves beyond. ... He had with promptness, unrivaled military sagacity, and yet with mingled caution and celerity, dismantled his fortifications at Bowling Green, transmitted his heavy artillery and ammunition to Nashville, and extricated his entire army from the jaws of almost certain annihilation and capture.

General Johnston left Bowling Green before daylight on the 13th, and made his headquarters at Edgefield, opposite Nashville. Colonel Woolley, in the article before mentioned, says:

The evacuation was accomplished, protected by a force so small as to make doubtful the fact. Fifteen hundred sick had to be removed. Large quantities of stores and ammunition had accumulated. The provisions were nearly all secured except a large lot of spoiled pickled beef. Not a pound of ammunition, nor a gun, was lost. The engineer who destroyed the bridge in front of the town, told me that there was not powder enough left to explode the mines, and that he succeeded only with one small gun and seven shells, the last of which did the work. The ammunition, stores, and sick, being saved, the order for retreat was given, and the first intimation the enemy had of the intended evacuation, so far as has been ascertained, was when Generals Hindman and Breckinridge, who were in advance toward his camp, were seen suddenly to retreat toward Bowling Green. The enemy pursued, and succeeded in shelling the town, while Hindman was still covering the rear. Not a man was lost, and the little army reached Nashville only in time to hear of the disaster of their comrades in arms.

While mindful of whatever might aid the commanders at Donelson, General Johnston neglected nothing to secure the retreat of his own column. He brought Crittenden's command back within ten miles of Nashville, and thence to Murfreesboro. Besides the general orders for the march, he instructed Hardee to Let it be known that the object is to secure the crossing of the Cumberland, and no apprehension of the enemy in the rear. You will thus preserve their morale. This order must be communicated to the rear of the column, and cavalry must be left in rear to assist the sick and bring up stragglers. [495]

At noon, on the 14th of February, the Federal vanguard appeared opposite Bowling Green, and opened fire from several pieces of artillery on the town, and especially on the railroad-depot, which was subsequently burned. At half-past 3 o'clock, General Hardee retired from the town with the last of his troops, in perfect order.

When General Johnston learned, February 15th, that a battle was raging at Donelson, he assumed that Buell might attack his rear, and placed Bowen's brigade, which had the head of column, in line of battle on each side of the road, the other brigades forming on it as they came up. Orders were issued that all stragglers should be stopped at the bridges at Nashville, and sent under guard to their proper rendezvous. This was successful for a time, but the multitudes of fugitives from Donelson who came pouring in soon overtaxed the efforts of the guards to control and organize them. Companies applying were mustered in, without hesitation, whether their organization was complete or not. These judicious arrangements prevented the demoralization of organized commands, and, though the troops were wearied, suffering, and disconcerted, they were kept well in hand for a fight, had an attack been made.

In this brief dispatch to General Beauregard, sent on the morning of the 16th, General Johnston sums up the fate of Donelson: “At 2 A. M. to-day Fort Donelson surrendered. We lost all.”

Colonel Munford, who was General Johnston's aide-de-camp, in his address at Memphis, thus describes the announcement of the surrender of Donelson:

General Johnston's headquarters were in Edgefield, opposite Nashville. About midnight a dispatch was received from General Pillow, announcing a “victory complete and glorious.” We were jubilant over the result. All went to bed happy, the general and myself occupying the same room. Just before daybreak, we were awakened by another messenger with “dispatches from Donelson.” I lighted a candle, and at the general's request read to him the astounding official statement that the place “would capitulate at daylight, and the army be surrendered by Buckner, Floyd and Pillow having left on steamboats for Nashville I” The general was lying on a little camp-bed in one corner; he was silent a moment, and then asked me to read the dispatch again, which I did. He then ordered the staff to be awakened, saying, “I must save this army;” had runners sent to the different commands, and troops marched as fast as practicable across the river. This movement was effected without loss of anything, and headquarters established in Nashville .... The people of the capital were joyous over the news of the night before. The morning papers were full of the “glorious victory.” In the midst of this joy came the news of the disaster. Its effects can be imagined; “confusion worse confounded,” nay, a perfect panic prevailed, and people rushed here and there in a delirium of fear. In the midst of these unhappy scenes General Johnston remained calm, distributing his troops into proper positions, giving orders for the erection of batteries below the city to delay the gunboats, for the removal of public stores and [496] property of all sorts, and receiving delegations of public functionaries and private citizens who were crowding round him for advice under the changed state of affairs. He received Generals Floyd and Pillow with the greatest courtesy, and made the former commandant of the post at Nashville. The excitement and confusion continued, and on Monday night an immense mob blocked up the street in front of his headquarters; one of them, seeming to be half drunk, mounting the steps, and exclaiming, “We have come to demand of our generals whether they intend to fight for us or not;” and, turning to the crowd, he continued: “Yes, fellow-citizens, we have a right to know whether our generals are going to fight for us or intend abandoning us and our wives and children to the enemy. We will force them to tell us.” A wild shout of approval was the response from the mob. Generals Floyd, Hardee, and myself, had to make speeches to them before they could be induced to disperse, and abandon their futile effort to extort a disclosure of plans. It was considerably after midnight before we got clear of them. Dissatisfaction was general. Its mutterings, already heard, began to break out in denunciations. The demagogues took up the cry, and hounded each other and the people on in hunting down a victim. The public press was loaded with abuse. The very Government was denounced for intrusting the public safety to hands so feeble. The Lower House of Congress appointed a select committee to inquire into the conduct of the war in the Western Department. The Senators and Representatives from Tennessee, with the exception of Judge Swann, waited upon the President, saying, “We come in the name of the people to demand the removal of Sidney Johnston from command, because he is no general.” The President replied: “Gentlemen, I know Sidney Johnston well. If he is not a general, we had better give up the war, for we have no general.”

Nashville had acquired, during the progress of the war, a high degree of importance. It was the capital of the rich, populous, and martial State of Tennessee. As the base of Bowling Green, as a depot of supplies for the armies of the East as well as of the West, as a manufactory of ordnance and army stores, as a place of refuge for thousands of Kentuckians and Tennesseeans, and as the rendezvous for volunteers for the front, it had come to be looked upon in the West as Richmond was an the East. Its original population of some 30,000 had probably been doubled, and, from a rather provincial and Union-loving town, it had become a centre of furious political agitation. The people were warlike and energetic in character, and circumstances had produced in them a blind and overweening confidence. It has been seen how impossible it was to obtain labor in order to provide defenses for the city. Even when General Johnston's army was found retiring upon Nashville, the good news from Donelson kept the public mind in a state of unnatural elation. Even as late as February 15th he found that the measures he had taken to obstruct by a raft the Cumberland River, which was falling, were thwarted by the dead weight of popular opposition, directed by the “river-men,” who as a class resisted it. Reverse seemed impossible. When, therefore, the blow fell, the revulsion of feeling produced [497] scenes the like of which were not witnessed again in the war. It was like the first crushing calamity in a family, whose traditions of honor and prosperity are unbroken. Shame, grief, rage, and terror, were mingled in the bitter draught. Every evil that marks the track of conquest was pictured to the imagination of the affrighted people. The public mind gave way first to panic, then to frenzy. Many were possessed with but one idea — that of escape; and a frantic exodus began of all who could procure the means of flight: carriages, wagons, open carts, filled with delicate women and tender children, unprovided with ordinary comforts, set out in the gloom of a winter evening and the pelting of a pouring rain, and thronged the roads that led southward. The tramp of the tired and angry soldiers and the roll of their baggage-wagons were continuous through that dreary day and those which succeeded it.

Duke, in his Life of Morgan (page 113), tells what he saw, in his usual animated style. He says:

The Tennessee troops were naturally most influenced by the considerations which affected the citizens, but all shared the feeling. Some wept at the thought of abandoning the city to a fate which they esteemed as dreadful as utter destruction; and many, infuriated, loudly advocated burning it to the ground, that the enemy might have nothing of it but its ashes.

During the first night after the army reached Nashville, when the excitement and fury were at the highest pitch, and officers and privates were alike influenced by it, it seemed as if the bonds of discipline would be cast off altogether. Crowds of soldiers were mingled with the citizens, who thronged the streets all night, and yells, curses, shots, rang on all sides. In some houses the women were pale and sobbing, and in others there was even merriment, as if in defiance of the worst. Very soon all those who had escaped from Donelson began to arrive. . . . The arrival of these disbanded soldiers, among whom it was difficult to establish and enforce order, because no immediate disposition could be made of then, increased the confusion already prevailing. Rumors, too, of the near approach of the enemy were circulated, and were believed even by officers of high rank.

Upon the second day, matters had arrived at such a state, and the excitement and disorder were so extreme, that it became necessary to take other precautions to repress the license that was prevailing, besides the establishment of guards and sentinels about the camps where the troops lay; and General Johnston ordered the establishment of a strong military police in Nashville. The First Missouri Infantry,3 one of the finest and best-disciplined regiments in the service, was detailed for this duty, and Morgan's squadron was sent to assist it. Our duty was to patrol the city and suburbs, and we were constantly engaged at it until the city was evacuated.

Floyd had no common task in holding in check an infuriated mob, and in giving coherence to the routed fugitives of Donelson. His duty was, besides, to save from the wreck the most important supplies and [498] stores. He impressed all means of transportation available, and employed them in saving ordnance-stores and other valuable property. Among other articles, he saved all the cannon, caissons, and battery wagons. He found all restraints of civil order not only relaxed but sundered. A mixed mob had possession of the city, and cupidity was triumphant. Floyd says, in his report to General Johnston, that when he came in view of the landing at Nashville-

The rabble on the wharf were in possession of boats loaded with government bacon, and were pitching it from these boats to the shore, and carrying what did not fall into the water, by hand or in carts, away to various places in the city.

Floyd, when put in charge, placed guards over the public stores, and made extraordinary efforts to save them, and did in fact save great quantities-all that the railroad-trains could transport from Monday morning until the evening of Thursday, the 20th of February. Of course, the removal of the sick and wounded was first attended to. Torrents of rain impeded the work, and finally the washing away of a railroad-bridge stopped it. A large amount of transportation and a great number of cattle were brought from the north side of the river before the bridges were destroyed on the night of the 19th.

Fear was replaced by greed. Duke says, in his graphic way:

Excitement and avarice seemed to stimulate the people to preternatural strength. I saw an old woman, whose appearance indicated the extremest decrepitude, staggering under a load of meat which I would have hardly thought a quartermaster's mule could carry.

This plunder of the public stores was allowed to a certain extent, where it was evident that they could not be carried off, as it was better for the poorer classes to have them than that they should fall into the hands of the enemy. But so demoralizing is the license of pillage, that the predatory instinct becomes an overpowering, unreasoning impulse ; a blind, brute appetite, only to be restrained by force or fear. Hence this permitted spoliation, when limits were overstepped, had to be kept within bounds by the sternest measures of repression. Forrest came into personal collision with mob-leaders, and his cavalry twice charged the mob with drawn sabres.

Duke speaks of Floyd's conduct in terms of the highest commendation. Hie says:

Nothing could have been more admirable than the fortitude, patience, and good sense, which General Floyd displayed in his arduous and unenviable task. . I saw a great deal of General Floyd while he was commanding at Nashville, and I was remarkably impressed by him. . . . He was evidently endowed with no common nerve, will, and judgment. [499]

Duke illustrates his conclusions about Floyd by details of his conduct, highly creditable to that general. He continues:

At last, the evacuation was completed; the army was gotten clear of Nashville; the last straggler driven out; all the stores which could not be carried off nor distributed to the citizens, burned; and the capital of Tennessee (although we did not know it then) was abandoned finally to the enemy. Morgan's squadron was the last to leave, as it was required to remain in the extreme rear of the army, and pick up all the stragglers that evaded the rear-guards of the infantry. Our scouts, left behind when we, in our turn, departed, witnessed the arrival of the Federals, and their occupation of the city.

Forrest's cavalry was very useful in the enforcement of order and in facilitating the removal of stores. Their reputation and morale had both been enhanced by their successful escape from Donelson; and their commander had qualities which peculiarly fitted him for rising above the tumult of civil commotion. His regiment remained in Nashville until Friday, and Forrest himself, with a small detachment, staid until Sunday, the 23d of February, when the enemy's advance-guard appeared in Edgefield. He then retired. A deputation of citizens, headed by the mayor, went out to negotiate, and the formal surrender of the city to Buell took place on Tuesday, the 25th. Nashville passed under the yoke that was never to be lifted.

It is only just to say that Governor Harris gave General Johnston all the assistance in his power, and that the measures he took were, under the circumstances, bold and judicious. The following is Colonel Munford's account of his share in the transaction, based on his own personal knowledge:

The Governor received the news of the disaster almost or quite as soon as did General Johnston. Very early in the morning he rode over to the general's headquarters in Edgefield to advise with him as to the best course under the changed circumstances. I heard the general say to him: “Your first duty, Governor, is to the public trusts in your charge. I regard it as all-important that the public archives should be removed to some place of safety, and for this purpose have ordered transportation to be furnished you. The Legislature can also adjourn to some other place. You can do no further good here now, and I think you should take the public archives under your especial charge.” The Governor said he would do so, went back, wrote a message to the Legislature, took charge of the archives as he had promised, put them in a place of safety, and in forty-eight hours was back at the capital, though in that time, at General Beauregard's earnest solicitation, he had gone through Jackson, Tennessee, to confer with him.

In putting Floyd in command at Nashville, General Johnston used the following language, as appears by a memorandum taken at the time by Colonel Mackall: [500]

I give you command of the city; you will remove the stores. My only restriction is, do not fight a battle in the city.

General Johnston also telegraphed Colonel D. P. Buckner, at Clarksville, February 16th:

Do not destroy the army stores, if their destruction will endanger the city. If you can burn the army stores without destroying the city, do it.

Thus, in the hour of his own deepest distress, he was vigilant and solicitous for the welfare of citizens and non-combatants.

The following extract is from General Johnston's letter to the Secretary of War:

headquarters, Western Department, Nashville, February 18, 1862.
sir: In conformity with the intention announced to the department, the corps under the command of Major-General Hardee completed the evacuation of Bowling Green on the 14th inst., and the rear-guard passed the Cumberland at this point yesterday morning in good order.

I have ordered the army to encamp to-night midway between this place and Murfreesboro. My purpose is, to place the force in such a position that the enemy cannot concentrate his superior strength against the command, and to enable me to assemble as rapidly as possible such other troops in addition as it may be in my power to collect. The complete command which their gunboats and transports give them upon the Tennessee and Cumberland renders it necessary for me to retire my line between the rivers. I entertain the hope that this disposition will enable me to hold the enemy in check; and, when my forces are sufficiently increased, to drive him back ....

Hon. J. P. Benjamin, Secretary of War, Richmond, Virginia.
A. S. Johnston.

1 Colonel Schaller has for several years been Professor of Modern Languages at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee.

2 Thompson's “History of the first Kentucky brigade,” pp. 16-81.

3 Under Colonel Rich, a valuable officer, who lost his life at Shiloh.

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