Joseph Wheeler, Lieutenant-General, C. S. A.
In the van. |
succeeded General Beauregard
in command of the Confederate
troops at Tupelo, Miss.
, about fifty miles south of Corinth
, on June 27th, 1862.
The field returns of June 9th, a week after our army reached Tupelo
, reported it at 45,080.1
This return included the Army of Mississippi, reinforced by the troops brought from Arkansas
by Generals Price
and Van Dorn
, together with detachments gathered from various localities.
About two thousand cavalry not included in this return also belonged to the army.
This was the maximum force General Bragg
could expect to concentrate at that point.
, immediately confronting Bragg
with the armies of Grant
, and Buell
, had in and about Corinth
a force of 128,315 men, of which the field return of June 1st showed 108,538 present for duty.
A division reporting 8682 for duty, under the Federal General George W. Morgan
, was at Cumberland Gap
; a division with 6411 for duty, under General Ormsby M. Mitchel
, was in north Alabama
, and three brigades were located at Nashville
‘, and other points in middle Tennessee
soon started en route
to north Alabama
, General Halleck
remaining at or near Corinth
with seventy thousand men for duty, a force strong enough to hold Corinth
and west Tennessee
, while Buell
could menace or even invade Alabama
or north Georgia
The changed condition of the opposing armies during four months should now be considered.
In January, 1862, the Confederates
had held all of
and most of Kentucky
, and the Mississippi River
to the delta.
Now, after a series of Confederate reverses, both States were virtually under the control of the armies under General Halleck
, and the Federal
flotilla sailed unmolested from St. Louis
The Federal right was thrown forward into Mississippi
Its center occupied north Alabama
, and its left was pressing the Confederates
to the southern border of east Tennessee
The Confederate problem was to devise some plan to turn the tide of disaster and recover at least a portion of our lost territory.
Our soldiers had expected a battle at Corinth
, in which they felt confident of as decisive a victory as was won by them on the first day of Shiloh
; and the withdrawal to Tupelo
had at last forced upon them a conviction that the numerical preponderance of the enemy was such that they could not expect to cope success-fully with the combined armies then commanded by General Halleck
Already the army had suffered much from sickness, and we could hardly expect any improvement while it remained idle in the locality where it had halted after its retreat from Corinth
An advance into west Tennessee
would not afford protection to Alabama
An advance into middle Tennessee
by crossing the river at Florence
, or any neighboring point, would have the disadvantage of placing the Confederates
between the armies of Grant
under circumstances enabling these two commanders to throw their forces simultaneously upon General Bragg
, who could not, in this event, depend upon any material cooperation from the army in east Tennessee
under General Kirby Smith
There was another line for an aggressive movement.
A rapid march through Alabama
would save that city, protect Georgia
from invasion, and open the way into Tennessee
, without the disadvantage of an intervening force between the column commanded by Bragg
and that under the orders of General Kirby Smith
This movement was determined upon and resulted in what is called the Kentucky Campaign
Major-General E. Kirby Smith
had reached Knoxville
March 8th, 1862, and assumed command of the Confederate
troops in east Tennessee
The returns for June reported his entire force at 11,768 infantry, 1055 cavalry,;2
and 635 artillery.
The occupation of Cumberland Gap
, June 18th, by a Federal division, and the approach of Buell
's forces toward Chattanooga
seriously threatened his department.
recognized the inadequacy of General Smith
's force, and on June 27th he transferred the division commanded by Major-General John P. McCown
and John H. Morgan
had already been sent into middle Tennessee
, and the operations of these enterprising officers materially lessened the pressure upon General Smith
Correspondence between Generals Bragg
resulted in an order, dated July 21st, transferring the entire Army of Mississippi to Chattanooga
To mislead the enemy and to prevent an advance upon Tupelo
had, on the 19th, sent Colonel Joseph Wheeler
with a brigade of cavalry into west Tennessee
, and Brigadier-General Frank C. Armstrong
with a like force into north Alabama
's operations in west Tennessee
may be briefly summarized as a rapid march from Holly Springs, Mississippi
to Bolivar, Tennessee
; an attack upon the outposts at that place; the destruction of bridges on the line of communications of the troops at Bolivar
; a number of slight affairs with the enemy's cavalry, and the burning of a quantity of cotton in transit to the North
One week was thus occupied behind the enemy's lines, the main object of the movement being to create the impression of a general advance.
On July 31st Bragg
and Kirby Smith
met at Chattanooga
, and a joint movement into middle Tennessee
was determined upon, Price
and Van Dorn
being left to confront Grant
in northern Mississippi
On August 5th Bragg
sent two of his brigades (Cleburne
's and Preston Smith
's) to General Smith
General C. L. Stevenson
, with nearly nine thousand men, was ordered to watch the Federal General G. W. Morgan
, who occupied Cumberland Gap
. General Smith
started on the 14th en route
to Rogers's Gap, with 4 brigades, 6000 strong.
The brigades of Preston Smith
and B. J. Hill
were commanded by General P. R. Cleburne
, and the brigades of McCray
were under command of General T. J. Churchill
. General Henry Heth
, with a force nearly 4000 strong, was ordered to march direct to Barboursville
by way of Big Creek Gap
, and the army was preceded by 900 cavalry under Colonel John S. Scott
. General Smith
had at first contemplated cutting off the supplies of the garrison at Cumberland Gap
, but learning that they were well provisioned, and seeing the difficulty of supplying his own troops in the poor and barren region of south-eastern Kentucky
, he determined to push rapidly on to the rich blue-grass country in the central part of the State
This determination had been communicated to General Bragg
, and a march toward Lexington
On the evening of the 29th, having reached Madison County, Kentucky
, Colonel Scott
found the enemy about half way between the small village of Kingston
and the town of Richmond
The force displayed and resistance offered indicated that they were resolved to contest any farther advance of the Confederates
Although his troops were quite weary and General Heth
was far to the rear, General Smith
determined upon an immediate attack.
He was in the heart of Kentucky
, and the Confederate
commander rightly judged that boldness was the surest road to victory.
Early on the 30th, General Cleburne
, being in advance with his two brigades, found that the Federal
force had moved forward and was in line of battle about a mile north of Kingston
and probably five miles south of Richmond
The extreme advance-guard of the enemy, about six hundred yards in front of their main line, became engaged with Cleburne
's leading brigade, commanded by Colonel Hill
, but after a light brush retired upon the main body of the Federal
's brigade was soon formed in line behind the crest of a low ridge which was nearly parallel with and about five hundred yards south of the position occupied by the enemy.
also brought up Douglas's battery, which he placed in a favorable position near the center of his line.
A fire of artillery and infantry commenced, and Captain Martin
, with a second battery, having arrived, it was also brought into action, and for two hours both infantry and artillery were engaged from their respective positions.
General Mahlon D. Manson
, who was in command of the Federal
army before General Nelson
arrived, and who commenced the battle, now pushed his left forward to turn our right.
met this with one regiment of Preston Smith
's brigade, which had been formed behind a crest in his rear, but the persistence of the enemy in that quarter made it necessary to reenforce the right with all of the reserve brigade under Preston Smith
In the meantime General Kirby Smith
had reached the field with the two brigades (McCray
's and McNair
's) forming General Churchill
He promptly dispatched that officer with one brigade to turn the enemy's right.
The Federal commander, apparently disregarding this movement, still boldly advanced his own left to carry out his plan of turning the Confederate
This well-conceived manceuvre at first seemed to endanger the Confederate army, but Colonel Preston Smith
with his brigade stood firm, and after a severe struggle checked and finally drove back the advancing enemy.
, who up to this time had displayed both skill and gallantry, was severely wounded and left the field.
had now gained the enemy's right, and by a bold and determined charge threw the enemy into disorder.
Two miles farther north the Federal
force made a stand, and McCray
's gallant brigade, by a rapid march, struck their right, while Cleburne
's division, now commanded by Colonel Preston Smith
, moved to the attack in front.
The celerity of McCray
's movements brought him into action before the other troops reached the field, and he suffered from the concentration of a galling and destructive fire; but the approach of Preston Smith
, with troops cheering as they advanced again, caused a rout of the Federal
army, closely followed by our victorious soldiers.
When in sight of the town of Richmond
the enemy were seen forming for a final struggle upon a commanding ridge, which had been judiciously selected by the Federal
commander, Major-General William Nelson
, both of the enemy's flanks being protected by skirts of woods.
promptly sent McNair
's brigade again to turn the Federal
flank, and with the remaining force attacked directly in front.
A warm fusillade lasted a few moments, when the Federal
army again retreated.
Early in the morning Colonel Scott
had been sent to gain the rear of the town.
His arrival at this moment increased the dismay of the enemy, and assisted materially in securing prisoners.
The reports of the division and brigade commanders show that General Smith
's entire force was about five thousand.
The enemy supposed it much greater, their estimate including General Heth
, but his division did not join General Smith
until the day after the battle.4 Kirby Smith
's loss was 78 killed, 372 wounded, and 1 missing.
in his report speaks of his own command on the Kentucky River
as 16,000 strong,5
and the official report of casualties is given as 206 killed, 844 wounded, and 4303 captured. The Federal official reports admit that nine pieces of artillery and all their wagon trains were captured by the Confederates
contends that the Federals
engaged did not exceed 6500.6 General Horatio G. Wright
, who commanded the department, in his report of Sept. 2d, says:
The force engaged in the battle in front of Richmond was utterly broken up, and after all the exertions that could be made to collect the stragglers, only some 800 or 900 could be found.
The remainder of the force were killed, captured, or scattered over the country.
Elated with success, and reinforced by about four thousand troops just arrived under Heth
, the victorious army moved forward to Lexington
, and was designated by its commander as “The army of Kentucky.”
During the month of September the greater portion of the army remained in that vicinity.
On September 4th Colonel Scott
, with a brigade of cavalry, was ordered to push on as near as practicable to Louisville
, and to destroy the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.
, with a division of infantry and a brigade of cavalry, marched north; some of his troops, on September 6th, reached the suburbs of Covington
, but his instructions were not to make an attack upon the city.
used vigorous efforts to gather and concentrate supplies, arouse the people, and raise and organize troops for the Confederacy
General George W. Morgan
(Federal), who was left at Cumberland Gap
with 8682 men, seeing these active movements in his rear, evacuated that position on September 17th and made his way through eastern Kentucky
to the Ohio River
at Greenupsburg, arriving there October 3d.
While these events were happening, Bragg
had organized his army at Chattanooga
into two wings.
The right, commanded by General Polk
, consisted of Cheatham
's and Withers
's divisions of infantry and Colonel Lay
's brigade of cavalry.
The left wing, commanded by General Hardee
, consisted of Buckner
's and Anderson
's divisions of infantry and Wheeler
's brigade of cavalry.
This entire force, on August 27th, reported 27,816 officers and men for duty.7
On the 28th the army was fairly in motion, but up to this time General Bragg
,had not positively determined upon his plan of campaign, and much depended upon the course pursued by the Federal
As early as the 22d General Buell
had established his headquarters at Decherd
, on the Nashville Railroad, thirty miles north-west of Stevenson
, and had all the supplies at Stevenson
transferred to that place.8
Two parallel mountain ranges, running north-east and south-west, separated him from Chattanooga
A railroad, connecting McMinnville
, ran nearly parallel to the north-west slope of these mountain ranges.
Already he had located General Thomas
's and Ammen
's divisions, while the divisions of Schoepf
, and Thomas L. Crittenden
were near the Nashville and Stevenson Railroad within easy call of headquarters at Decherd
seemed impressed with the belief that Bragg
's objective point was Nashville
, and that he would take the short route over the mountain by way of Altamont
, which movement, if made, would have placed Bragg
between the force under Thomas
and the rest of Buell
To prevent this Buell, on the 23d, ordered these five divisions to concentrate at Altamont
reached his destination on the 25th, but, finding no enemy to confront him and learning that there was no enemy on the mountains, the nearest Confederates being at Dunlap
's in the Sequatchie Valley
, he reported
these facts to Buell
and returned to McMinnville
's division halted near Pelham
, and Schoepf
pressed on and reached Altamont
on the 29th, where, on the 30th, Wheeler
attacked his out-posts, and McCook
retired down the mountain.
The same day General Buell
ordered his entire army to concentrate at Murfreesboro
By September 5th, the five divisions just mentioned had reached that place, together with all detachments from along the lines of railroad except Rousseau
's division, which, being on the Nashville and Decatur Railroad, marched directly to Nashville
The strength of Buell
's forces during the months of July, August, and September was estimated by witnesses before the Buell Commission
, in 1863, at from 45,000 to 59,309.
His own returns for June, deducting the force at Cumberland Gap
, showed 56,706 present for duty, and his October returns, with
the same deduction, 66,595.9 General Buell
presented a paper to the Commission which does not question any of these statements regarding strength, but states that he could not have concentrated more than 31,000 men at McMinnville
to strike the Confederate forces as they debouched from the mountains; and the same paper estimated Bragg
's army at 60,000, while his returns on August 27th showed but 27,816 officers and men for duty.10
These facts prove the large preponderance of the Federals
heard of Nelson
's defeat at Richmond
, and without halting he marched to Nashville
On September 7th he intrusted General Thomas
with the defense of that city with the divisions of Palmer
, and Schoepf
, while with the infantry divisions of McCook
, and R. B. Mitchell
, and a cavalry division under Kennett
, General Buell
determined to race with Bragg
It was a fair race, as on that day most of Bragg
's army was south of the Cumberland River
, at Carthage
was nearest to Louisville
by some twenty-five miles, but Buell
had the advantage of a bridge at Nashville
and the assistance of the railroad to aid in his march.
With seven hundred cavalry, I hastened to strike and break the railroad at points between Bowling Green
, and otherwise sought to retard the northern march of the Federal
By the 12th it was evident to Buell
that no attack would be made on Nashville
, and he ordered General Thomas
to join him with his own division, which had been commanded by General
Union Fort at Munfordville, captured by Bragg, September 17, 1862--the Green River bridge on the left.
From a photograph taken in 1886. |
reached Bowling Green
with his cavalry and two divisions of infantry on the 14th, and turned his column in the direction of Munfordville
I interposed my cavalry on the Munfordville
road, and also on the roads leading to Glasgow
, and reported Buell
's movements to Bragg
, with Bragg
's advance, reached Munfordville
at daylight on the 14th and learned that Colonel Scott
, with a cavalry brigade, had demanded the surrender on the night previous.11 Chalmers
was misinformed regarding the strength of the garrison and the character of the defensive works.
He attacked with vigor, but was repulsed.
He reported his force at 1913 men, and his loss at 35 killed and 253 wounded. On the 14th all of Buell
's six divisions had reached Bowling Green
, and on the 16th he advanced vigorously to succor the garrison at Munfordville
, the head of his column being opposed by cavalry.
, hearing of Chalmers
's attack and of Buell
's movements, ordered his entire army, which had rested two days at Glasgow
, to start early on the 15th en route
On the next day he reached that place, boldly displayed his army, and on the 17th at 2 P. M. the
fort and garrison surrendered.
The Federals reported their loss at 15 killed, 57 wounded, and 4076 prisoners. We also captured their armament, 10 pieces of artillery, and 5000 stand of small-arms.
As might be expected, the Confederate army was much elated, and were eager to grapple with the dispirited army under General Buell
placed his troops in a strong position south of the river, using the fort as a part of his line of defense.
My command was thrown forward to meet and skirmish with the enemy, who, on the 19th, commenced preparations for an attack.
On the 20th General Thomas
joined the Federal
army with his division.
, in referring to the situation of September 20th, wrote:
With my effective force present reduced by sickness, exhaustion, and the recent affair before the intrenchments at Munfordville to half that of the enemy, I could not prudently afford to attack him there in his selected position.
If Kirby Smith
's command had been ordered from Lexington
even as late as the 12th, a battle with Buell
could not have been other than a decided Confederate victory.
Bragg at first had determined to fight with his four divisions, and no doubt would have done so had Buell
advanced on the 17th, or 18th, or 19th.
Early on the morning of the 18th, General Bragg
sent for me and explained his plans.
I never saw him more determined or more confident.
The entire army was in the best of spirits.
I met and talked with Generals Hardee
, and Buckner
; all were enthusiastic over our success, and our good luck in getting Buell
where he would be compelled to fight us to such a disadvantage.
It is true our back was to a river, but it was fordable at several places, and we felt that the objection to having it in our rear was fully compensated by the topographical features, which, with the aid of the fort, made our position a strong one for defense.
So anxious was Bragg
for a fight that he sent Buckner
's division to the front in the hope that an engagement could thus be provoked; but after the arrival of General Thomas
did not deem it advisable to risk a battle with the force then under his command, believing that another opportunity would offer after being joined by Kirby Smith
He therefore withdrew to Bardstown
, sending to me, who still confronted Buell
, the following order, dated September 20th, through General Hardee
General Bragg directs that, if possible, the enemy be prevented from crossing Green River to-morrow, and General Hardee instructs me to say that he expects you will contest the passage of that river at Munfordville to that end.
heard of Bragg
's movements and pressed forward with determination.
My small brigade of cavalry contested his advance on the 20th and 21st, in efforts to comply with the instructions from General Bragg
On the afternoon of the 21st, Buell
's right approached the river above the town, and at the same time he pressed forward his line of battle so rapidly as almost to command the only ford by which I could cross Green River
with both artillery and cavalry.
's 1st Alabama Regiment, being directly in front, was thrown into column and, charging gallantly, defeated the opposing cavalry and broke through their infantry.
Among our killed was the noble
Lieutenant-Colonel T. B. Brown
, but the charge sufficiently checked the advance to enable the command to cross the ford in good order.
The following note, referring to this engagement, explains itself:
headquarters, Sixth division, army of the Ohio, September 22d, 1862. General Wheeler, Commanding Cavalry Brigade.
General: I am directed by General Buell to say, in answer to your request to admit the brother of Lieutenant-Colonel Brown, killed in the affair of yesterday within our lines, he regrets he cannot, on account of the present state of the service, accede to your wishes.
General Buell has referred your note to me to give you the desired information in regard to the fate of Colonel Brown.
He was killed outright in the handsome cavalry charge executed by your troops yesterday afternoon.
His body was taken to a neighboring house and cared for. He will be interred to-day, and doubtless in the vicinity.
His watch was taken charge of by an officer of rank in our service, and I will make it a point to have it forwarded to you. I am not now informed whether there were any other valuables on the person of Colonel Brown.
I am, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant, th. J. Wood, Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding.
The watch was subsequently sent to Colonel Brown
On the 22d, with a clear road to Louisville
moved with celerity in that direction.
My cavalry contested his advance, but the country was too open to allow of effective opposition with so small a force.
On the 25th the leading Federal column reached the city, and the seven divisions were all up on the 27th.
; and Hardee
had been kept thoroughly informed of Buell
's march and of the exposure of his flank, which presented an inviting opportunity for attack, but so worn and wearied was the condition of our army that these officers did not feel justified in attempting an aggressive movement.
On the 28th Bragg
with his staff to confer with Kirby Smith
, and then proceeded to Frankfort
, where, on the 4th of October, a day was occupied in the installation of the Hon. Richard Hawes
as Confederate Provisional Governor
of the Commonwealth
While these events were happening Buell
was making active preparations for an aggressive campaign.
On the 26th Major-General Wright
, commanding the Department of the Ohio, went from Cincinnati
to confer with him, and on the 27th General Halleck
issued an order placing Buell
in command of the troops of both departments, then in Louisville
There has been much controversy as to the “strength of the opposing armies.”
After the most careful study of Federal and Confederate official statements, I have reached the following conclusions:
To these we might with propriety add the 26,351 men which General Wright
could have drawn from his command in West Virginia
These stupendous armies did not include the 12,397 troops left at Nashville
, which would make the entire force subject to Buell
's and Wright
's orders 176,030.
Maximum Confederate forces.
|General E. Kirby Smith's column taken to Kentucky||10,000|
|Humphrey Marshall, from West Virginia||2,160|
|Stevenson, joining after Perryville||7,500|
|John H. Morgan||1,300|
|Bragg's largest force before crossing Tennessee River — officers and men, for duty||27,816|
|Bragg, Smith, and Marshall||48,77614|
The above was the reported strength of the Confederate
troops when the campaign began, but to make sure and to compensate for any omitted cavalry let us add 100, making the entire force 49,776.
The losses at Richmond
were very slight, compared to the daily depletion caused by dropping out along the route.
Some were allowed to organize in squads and make their way back to east Tennessee
; some sought shelter among the kind and hospitable people; some struggled along with the ambulance trains, and some were left at temporarily established hospitals, one of which, containing two hundred inmates, was captured by the enemy at Glasgow
This character of loss always attends a rapidly moving army, and its extent can be realized when we see that Hardee
's wing left Chattanooga
12,825 strong, was reinforced by Cleburne
's brigade early in October; yet, even with Cleburne
, in stating officially the force with which he fought at Perryville
, says: “Thinned by battle and long and arduous service, my effective force did not exceed 10,000 men.”
It will be seen, there-fore, that these causes reduced the Confederate
ranks in much greater proportion than they were increased by enlistments and other accretions, and General Bragg
in his official report of the campaign asserts that we were able “at no time to put more than forty thousand men of all arms and at all places in battle.”
This included Bragg
's, and Marshall
's columns, and although it is probably true that their aggregate strength in August was 48,776, it would have been as difficult for Bragg
to have concentrated that number as it would have been for Buell
to have concentrated the 163,633 which they commanded.
Even with such a force available to drive 40,000 men out of Kentucky
, General Wright
on the 16th appealed to the governors of Indiana
, and Michigan
for additional troops.
What troops came in answer to these calls I would not venture to say; but leaving these and the troops in West Virginia
under General Wright
out of the calculation, our strength, even after Stevenson
joined us, was less than half, and but little more than one-third that of the enemy, and that powerful enemy was directly on its base of supplies, with unlimited commissary and
ordnance stores, while the Confederate army had no base, was living off the country, and had no possibility of replenishing ammunition.
felt very keenly the misfortune caused by his inability to concentrate and gain a victory over Buell
before he should reach the reinforcements which awaited him at Louisville
In writing to the Government
, September 25th, Bragg
I regret to say we are sadly disappointed in the want of action by our friends in Kentucky.
We have so far received no accession to this army.
General Smith has secured about a brigade — not half our losses by casualties of different kinds.
Unless a change occurs soon we must abandon the garden spot of Kentucky. . . .
On September 18th, Kirby Smith
writes to General Bragg
The Kentuckians are slow and backward in rallying to our standard.
Their hearts are evidently with us, but their blue-grass and fat-grass are against us. Several regiments are in process of organization, and if we remain long enough recruits will be found for all the disposable arms in our possession.
These letters illustrated why a victory over Buell
maintained her neutrality as long as it was possible, the chivalric spirit of her gallant sons was fully manifested at the earliest opportunity — each obeying
only the dictates of his own convictions of duty.
While thousands united their fortunes with the South
, other and more thousands flocked to the standard of the North
The proud old families — descendants of the pioneers of the Commonwealth
— each sent sons to do battle in the opposing armies.
Friends, neighbors, kinsmen, and even brothers bade each other adieu--one to the Northern
army, the other to the Confederate
Wherever daring courage, rare intelligence, extraordinary fertility of resource, or fortitude under privation and suffering were displayed, Kentuckians were conspicuous; and when the fight was over and the battle-rent banner of the vanquished Confede racy
furled about its shattered staff was buried in that grave from which a resurrection is no less unwished for than impossible, the survivors of the contest from that State returned to their homes with no feelings of animosity, no brooding hopes of vengeance to be wreaked upon their late opponents.
On October 1st Buell
commenced his march from Louisville
On September 29th General Thomas
had been assigned by President Lincoln
to the command of the army, but at Thomas
's request the order was revoked, and he was announced in orders as second in command.
organized his infantry into three army corps, of three divisions each.
The First Corps on the left, under Major-General McCook
, marched through Taylorsville
The Second Corps, under Major-General Crittenden
, marched through Mount Washington
, and the Third Corps, under Major-General Gilbert
, which formed the Federal
right, took the route by way of Shepherdsville
, of McCook
's corps, reinforced by Dumont
's independent division, marched direct to Frankfort
to threaten Kirby Smith
, in his official report, says:
Skirmishing with the enemy's cavalry and artillery marked the movement of each column from within a few miles of Louisville.
It was more stubborn and formidable near Bardstown, but the rear of the enemy's infantry retired from that place eight hours before our arrival, when his rear-guard of cavalry and artillery retreated after a sharp engagement with my cavalry.
The pursuit and skirmishing with the enemy's rear-guard continued toward Springfield.
prepared to meet Sill
, and on October 2d Bragg
ordered General Polk
to move the entire army from Bardstown
, and to strike Sill
's column in flank while Smith
met it in front.
For reasons which were afterward explained that order was not complied with, but, on the approach of Buell
marched via Perryville
, where he expected the entire army would be concentrated.16 General Smith
, confronted by Sill
, had several times on the 6th and 7th called upon Bragg
for reinforcements, and Withers
's division of Polk
's corps was ordered to him. Reports reached Bragg
exaggerating the strength of the movement upon Frankfort
He was thus led to believe that the force behind Polk
was not so heavy as represented, and on the evening of October 7th he directed him to form the cavalry and the divisions of Cheatham
, and Patton Anderson
, and vigorously attack the pursuing column.
Since October 1st our cavalry had persistently engaged the two most advanced of Buell
The reader should now observe, by the map [p. 6], that McCook
's corps approached Perryville
by the road through Bloomfield
, and Mackville
, its general direction being nearly south-east.
's corps approached by the road from Springfield
, its general direction being east, but bearing north-east as it approached the town.
's corps, accompanied by General Thomas
and preceded by cavalry, having crossed Gilbert
's line of march, was on a road which runs due east from Lebanon
At a point about five miles south-west of Perryville
this road has a branch which turns north-east to that place.
Now remember that our stores and supplies were at Bryantsville
and Camp Dick Robinson
about eighteen miles east of Perryville
, and that Kirby Smith
was at McCown's Ferry, on the Kentucky River
, en route
, menaced by two divisions under General Sill
Also observe the important feature that McCook
was at Mackville
during the night of the 7th, at which place a road forks, running east to Harrodsburg
and thence to our depot at Bryantsville
; and also consider that Mackville
was as near Bryantsville
as were our troops in front of Perryville
On the 7th our cavalry fought with considerable tenacity, particularly in the evening, when the enemy sought to get possession of the only accessible supply of water.
, in his report, says:
The advanced guard, consisting of cavalry and artillery, supported toward evening by two regiments of infantry, pressed successfully upon the enemy's rear-guard to within two miles of the town, against a somewhat stubborn opposition.
After dark, at General Hardee
's request, I went to his bivouac and. discussed the plans for the following day. I explained to him the topography of the country and the location of Buell
I understood from him that the attack would be made very early the next morning, and I endeavored to impress upon him the great advantage which must follow an early commencement of the action.
An early attack on the 8th would have met only the advance of Gilbert
's corps on the Springfield
road, which was four or five miles nearer to Perryville
than any other Federal troops, and their overthrow could have been accomplished with little loss, while every hour of delay was bringing the rear divisions of the enemy nearer to the front, besides bringing the corps of McCook
upon the field.
I explained, also, that Thomas
on the Lebanon
road could easily gain our rear, while all our forces were engaged with McCook
For instance, if Crittenden
turned toward Perryville
at the fork five miles from that place, he would march directly in the rear of our troops engaged with Gilbert
If he kept on toward Danville
and Camp Dick Robinson
, our position would be turned, and a rapid retreat to our depot of supplies, closely followed by McCook
, would be the inevitable result.
With equal ease, McCook
, by marching from Mackville
, could reach our depot, thus turning our right flank.
The reader will plainly see that Perryville
was not a proper place for six-teen thousand men to form and await the choice of time and manner of attack by Buell
, with his tremendous army, and that every moment's delay after daylight was lessening the probabilities of advantage to the Confederates
The cavalry under my command was pressed forward at dawn on the 8th, and skirmished with the outposts of the enemy, until, on the approach of a Federal brigade of cavalry supported by a line of infantry, we charged, dispersing the cavalry, and, breaking through both infantry and artillery, drove the enemy from their guns and took 140 prisoners.
The Federal army was now being placed in line: McCook
's corps on the left, Gilbert
's in the center, and Crittenden
's corps, which reached the field
at 11 o'clock,17
on the right, its flank being covered by Edward M. McCook
's brigade of cavalry.
The management of the Federal
right wing was under the supervision of General Thomas
about 10 o'clock. General Liddell
's brigade, of Buckner
's division, had been advanced with his left near the Springfield
road, and his skirmish line became engaged.
The cavalry on the Confederate
left apparently being able to hold their own against the enemy upon that part of the field, Cheatham
's division, composed of Donelson
's, and Maney
's brigades, was ordered to the right, where, between 1 and 2 o'clock, with its right supported by cavalry, it moved forward to the attack.
, seeing Cheatham
fairly in action, ordered General Bushrod Johnson
's and Cleburne
There being considerable space between Cheatham
's left and Buckner
's right, General John C. Brown
's and Colonel Jones
's brigades, of Anderson
's division, and General S. A. M. Wood
's, of Buckner
's division, had been placed in position to fill the vacancy.
's and Powell
's brigades, of Anderson
's division, were to the left of Buckner
, and the line thus arranged with cavalry on both flanks gallantly advanced upon the enemy.
was first in action and was almost immediately exposed to a murderous fire of infantry and artillery, which soon spread to the left of our line.
Our artillery, handled with great skill, told fearfully on the enemy, who sought, when practicable, to take shelter behind stone walls and fences.
Fortunately we were enabled to enfilade many of their temporary shelters with a well-directed fire from our batteries, and this, added to our musketry, was so effective that first one regiment, then another, and finally the entire Federal line, gave way before the determined onset of our troops.
At one time Cleburne
seemed checked for a moment, as they assailed a very strong position, the fire from which cut down our men and severely wounded General Cleburne
But encouraged by the steady advance on both right and left, these troops recovered from the shock, and with increased speed the entire line overran the enemy, capturing three batteries and a number of prisoners.
Among the dead and wounded Federals lay one who, the prisoners told us, was General James S. Jackson
, the commander of one of McCook
, who had been placed in reserve, followed the movement, and when the contest became warmest was sent to reinforce Cheatham
, where he did valiant service.
During this sanguinary struggle, our line had advanced nearly a mile.
Prisoners, guns, colors, and the field of battle were ours; not a step which had been gained was yielded.
The enemy, though strongly reinforced, was still broken and disordered.
He held his ground mainly because our troops were too exhausted for further effort.
At one point just at dusk we captured a disorganized body, including a number of brigade and division staff-officers.
Soon darkness came on and we rested on the field thus bravely won.
Our entire force engaged, infantry, cavalry and artillery, was but 16,000 men. Our loss was 510 killed, 2635 wounded, and 251 missing. Generals S. A. M. Wood
were disabled, and a large proportion of higher officers were killed or wounded.
Three of General Wood
's staff were among the killed.
lost 916 killed, 2943 wounded, and 489 captured by the Confederates
, commanding a division, and General Terrill
and Colonel Webster
, commanding brigades, were among the Federal
killed, and Colonel Lytle
was among the wounded.
At every point of battle the Confederates
had been victorious.
We had engaged three corps of the Federal
one of these, McCook
's, to use Buell
's language, was “very much crippled,” one division, again to use his language, “having in fact almost entirely disappeared as a body.”
After darkness had closed a battle, it was a custom to send messengers or notes to the nearest generals, detailing results, telling of this or that one who had fallen, and asking information from other portions of the field.
Resting quietly on the ground, the army expected, and would gladly have welcomed, a renewal of the fight on the next day, but the accumulation of Buell
's forces was such as not to justify further conflict in that locality.
was near Lawrenceburg
with his own troops and Withers
's division, and after full consultation it was determined to march to Harrodsburg
, where it was hoped the entire Confederate force in Kentucky
might be concentrated.
I was directed with the cavalry to prevent an advance on the road leading to Danville
At midnight the troops withdrew to Perryville
, and at sunrise continued the march.
It was long after this when the Federal
pickets began to reconnoiter, and it was fully 10 o'clock when, standing on the edge of the town, I saw the advance of the skirmish line of Buell
for battle on the Harrodsburg
road, only eight miles from Perryville
, and awaited Buell
Two days elapsed, and the Federal
army evinced no disposition to attack.
A division of infantry and a brigade of cavalry fought me back to near Danville
, and at the same time Buell
formed with his right within four miles of that place, making a feint in Bragg
's immediate front on the road leading from Perryville
, no doubt, hoped to cut him off from the crossing of the Dick River
near Camp Dick Robinson
I sent General Bragg
information of Buell
's dispositions, whereupon he issued orders to his army and wrote me as follows:
Harrodsburg, Ky., October 10th, 1862. Colonel Wheeler.
Dear Colonel: I opened your dispatch to General Polk regarding the enemy's movements.
The information you furnish is very important.
It is just what I needed and I thank you for it. This information leaves no doubt as to the proper course for me to pursue.
Hold the enemy firmly till to-morrow.
Yours, etc., Braxton Bragg.
had now determined to retreat to Knoxville
by the way of Cumberland Gap
It was evident that Buell
's large army would enable him to select his own time and position for battle unless Bragg
chose to attack.
already had 1500 sick and over 3000 wounded. A severe battle would certainly have increased the wounded to 4000 or 5000 more.
The care of such a number of wounded would have embarrassed, possibly controlled, our movements.
states that he had but 10,000 men before the battle of Perryville
, and Bragg
said that the three divisions which fought that battle had but 14,500.
If that was correct they had now but 11,000.
It was too hazardous to guard our depot of supplies and contend with the Federal
forces within easy march.
Our wagon trains were immense, and our artillery large in proportion to other arms.
The enemy pushed up close to Danville
on the night of the 10th, but we easily held him in check until all our army had crossed Dick River
On the 11th we contended against a force of infantry, which finally pressed us so warmly that we were compelled to retire east of Danville
Here the enemy was again driven back, and we held our position near the town.
Before day on the 13th I received the following appointment and instructions in a special order from General Bragg
, dated Bryantsville
Colonel Wheeler is hereby appointed chief of cavalry, and is authorized to give orders in the name of the commanding general.
He is charged under Major-General Smith with covering the rear of the army and holding the enemy in check.
All cavalry will report to him and receive his orders.
Compliance with the above of course involved considerable fighting, but by using the cavalry to the best advantage, and adopting available expedients, the movement of our infantry and trains in retreat was unmolested.
These engagements were constant, and were often warmly and bitterly contested.
The large trains of captured stores made the progress of our infantry very slow, and the corps commanders sent frequent admonitions to me urging the
importance of persistent resistance to Buell
In crossing Big Hill, and at other points, the trains hardly averaged five miles a day, and General Kirby Smith
at one time regarded it as impossible for the cavalry to save them.
In his letter to Bragg
, on the 14th, he says: “I have no hope of saving the whole of my train” ; and in his letter on the 15th he says: “I have little hope of saving any of the trains, and fear much of the artillery will be lost.”
But fortunately nothing was lost.
Our cavalry at times dismounted and fought behind stone fences and hastily erected rail breastworks, and when opportunity offered charged the advancing enemy.
Each expedient was adopted several times each day, and when practicable the road was obstructed by felling timber.
These devices were continually resorted to until the 22d, when the enemy ceased the pursuit, and early in November the cavalry force, which covered the retreat from Kentucky
, reached middle Tennessee
and was close to the enemy, less than ten miles south of Nashville
The campaign was over.
was deprived of his command for not having defeated Bragg
, who, in turn, was censured by the Southern
people for his failure to destroy the Federal
army commanded by Buell
This campaign was made at a time when the opposing Governments hoped
for more from their generals and armies than could reasonably be accomplished.
The people of the South
were misinformed regarding the resources at the disposal of Generals Bragg
and Kirby Smith
, and our first successes aroused expectations and hopes that the Kentucky
movement would result in the defeat, or at least the discomfiture, of Buell
's army, the possible invasion of the North
, and certainly the recovery of Confederate power in the central and eastern portions of Kentucky
They were sorely disappointed when they heard of General Bragg
's withdrawal through Cumberland Gap
, and could not easily be convinced of the necessity of such a movement immediately following the battle of Perryville
, which they regarded as a decisive victory.
The censure which fell upon Bragg
was therefore severe and almost universal.
It somewhat abated after the prompt advance of the army to Murfreesboro
‘; but to this day there are many who contend that Bragg
should have defeated Buell
and maintained himself in the rich and productive plains of Kentucky
On the other hand the Federal Government
was, if possible, more severe in denunciation of General Buell
, and held that, far from allowing General Bragg
to cross the Tennessee River
and the mountains into middle Tennessee
should have anticipated these movements, occupied Chattanooga
, and, as some even contended, marched
his army toward Atlanta
The Government was convinced that he could easily have met and halted Bragg
as he debouched from the mountains before entering middle Tennessee
It was emphatic in its assertion that ordinary celerity on the part of General Buell
would have saved Munfordville
and its garrison of 4200 men; that proper concentration would have destroyed the Confederate forces at Perryville
, and that the plainest principles of strategy presented the opportunity of throwing forward a column to cut off Bragg
's retreat via Camp Dick Robinson
, or that at least after the commencement of the conflict at Perryville
he should have pressed close to his antagonist and forced Bragg
to continuous battle, contending, as they did, that superior numbers and proximity to his base gave the Federal
commander advantages that, if properly improved, would have resulted in the destruction of the Confederate army.
's strategy and tactics were the subject of Congressional investigation and inquiry by a military commission.
With regard to the adverse criticisms on Bragg
's campaign it must be admitted that there were opportunities, had they been improved, to cripple, if not to defeat, the Federal
The failure to “concentrate and attack” tells the story of the campaign.
The first opportunity was on September 18th, when we caught Buell
south of Munfordville
could not have attacked at Altamont
, because it will be remembered that on August 30th, at the first appearance of our cavalry, the Federal
force retreated from that place down the mountain.
Neither could he have overtaken Buell
's troops at McMinnville
, because, fully three days before Bragg
could have reached that place, Buell
had ordered all his army to Murfreesboro
Those who contend that Bragg
should have followed Buell
do not consider that he would have found him in a good position, strengthened by fortifications, and defended by 9 divisions of infantry and 1 of cavalry; his available force for duty then being 66,595.
After the surrender of the Federal
fort at Munfordville
, it became painfully apparent that a single mind should control the Confederate
troops in Kentucky
, and concentrate our entire force and attack the divided enemy; but a condition existed which has been repeated in military operations for four thousand years, and always with disastrous results.
The troops in Kentucky
had two commanders.
The troops of two different departments were expected to cooperate.
Both Kirby Smith
were brave and skillful generals.
The devotion of each to the cause in which they were enlisted was absolute, and their only ambition was to contribute to its success.
In their characters the pettiness of personal rivalry could find no place, and either would willingly have relinquished to the other the honor of being the victor, if the victory could only have been won.
It will be remembered how promptly, in the preceding June, General Bragg
had weakened his own army and strengthened Smith
's by sending McCown
's division from Tupelo
, and again in August by sending the brigades of Cleburne
and Preston Smith
Spring near Perryville, which helped to relieve Bragg's parched army.
From a photograph taken in 1885. |
and again, when Smith
was pressed at Frankfort
, that Bragg
reenforced him promptly with one of his best divisions.
That Kirby Smith
would, at any time, have been as ready and prompt to give Bragg
any part or all of his army there can be no doubt, but when the decisive moment came, the two independent armies were more than one
Pear-tree, one hundred years old, at the left of Rousseau's position, Perryville.
From a photograph taken in 1885. |
hundred miles apart, and neither commander could be informed of the other's necessities.
conferred together, but neither commanded the other.
If all the troops had belonged to one army, Bragg
would have ordered, and not conferred or requested.
To aggravate the difficulties inherent in the system of independent commands and divided responsibility, Brigadier-General Marshall
, who had commanded in West Virginia
, appeared upon the field of active operations with 2150 men. He was an able and distinguished man and determined in his devotion to the Confederacy
He wished to do his full duty, but he appeared to feel that he could render more efficient service with a separate command than if trammeled by subordination to a superior commander; and his aversion to having any intervening power between himself and the President
While General Smith
was anxious to cooperate, he nevertheless, in reply to Bragg
's request for cooperation, wrote indicating very forcibly that he thought other plans were more important; and, in fact, the only cooperative action during the campaign was Bragg
's compliance with Smith
's request to
transfer to him two brigades on August 5th, and to transfer Withers
's division to him on October 7th.
In reply to the question as to what one supreme commander could have done, I confidently assert he could have concentrated and attacked and beaten Buell
on September 18th south of Munfordville
He could then have turned and marched to Louisville
and taken that city.
If it should be argued that this plan involved unnecessary marching on the part of Kirby Smith
, who was then at Lexington
, a supreme commander could have adopted the one which was contemplated by Bragg
early in the campaign.19
After the surrender of Munfordville
he could by September 21st have reached Louisville
with all the force in Kentucky
, taken the city, and then risked its being held by a small garrison, while making another concentration and attack upon Buell
As an evidence of how easily we could have taken Louisville
, it must be observed that on September 22d Buell
sent Major-General Nelson
orders containing these words:
If you have only the force you speak of it would not, I should say, be advisable for you to attempt a defense of Louisville unless you are strongly intrenched; under no circumstances should you make a fight with his whole or main force.
The alternative would be to cross the river or march on this side to the mouth of Salt River and bridge it so as to form a junction with me. . . .
seemed to concur with Buell
, and it was not until that officer was but a day's march from Louisville
telegraphed the fact to General Wright
, saying, “Louisville
is now safe; ‘God and Liberty.’
In further corroboration of this, “Harper
's history,” p. 311, says:
Just before the Federal army entered Louisville, on the 25th of September, the panic there had reached its height.
In twenty-four hours more Nelson would have abandoned the city.
But suppose neither plan had been adopted, the next chance for a supreme commander of the Kentucky
forces was to “concentrate and attack” Buell
's flank while his army was strung out en route
would have been a good place, and had it been done with vigor about September 23d it certainly would have resulted in victory.
But at this time General Smith
's forces were all moving to Mount Sterling
, 130 miles to the east of that place (Elizabethtown
), and General Smith
was asking, not ordering, General Marshall
to cooperate with him. The next field upon which a supreme commander had an opportunity to concentrate and attack was at Perryville
Three hundred cavalry could have played with Generals Sill
, and every other soldier, except a few
scouts, could then have struck Gilbert
's corps as day dawned on the 8th of October.
Since, in the final result, we neither defeated Buell
nor took Louisville
, it is now evident that it was unfortunate Bragg
did not foresee the end immediately after his victory at Munfordville
He could certainly have crippled Buell
to some extent as he attempted his hazardous flank movement en route
, and then, by a rapid march, he could have reached and captured Nashville
and returned and established himself at Bowling Green
I have pointed out these lost opportunities as an additional proof of the adage, as old as war itself, “that one bad general is better than two good ones.”
The very fact that both the generals are good intensifies the evil; each, full of confidence in himself and determined to attain what he has in view, is unwilling to yield to any one; but if both are weak the natural indisposition of such men to exertion, their anxiety to avoid responsibility, and their desire in a great crisis to lean on some one, will frequently bring about the junction of two independent armies without any
Corner of the Confederate Cemetery at Perryville.
From a photograph taken in 1886.
The cemetery is situated on a knoll a few rods south-east of the hill on which General J. S. Jackson was killed.
After the battle Squire Henry P. Bottom offered the friends of the Confederates any plot of ground they might choose on his farm for a burial spot.
They chose this knoll because their dead lay thickest near its eastern slope.
In the autumn of 1886 a fragment of a lime-stone wall was visible above the weeds.
At that time Squire Bottom said that 435 Confederates were buried here, of whom about 100 were identified.
Only one headstone was to be found, and that bore the name of Samuel H. Ransom, of the 1st Tenn., and was placed there by his wife.
Several officers were buried with the unidentified dead.--editors. |
deliberately planned concert of action between the commanders.
and Kirby Smith
were men who had, to an eminent degree, those qualities that make good generals, and, once together with their armies upon the same field, victory would have been certain.
Both fully appreciated the fact that, when an adversary is not intrenched, a determined attack is the beginning of victory.
By this means Smith
had been victorious at Manassas
and at Richmond, Ky.
, and by vigorous attack Albert Sidney Johnston
had won at every point of battle at Shiloh
, on the 6th of April.
Later, the Confederate
points of attack were Bragg
's scene of victory the first day at Murfreesboro
‘, and the boldness of his onset gave Bragg
his great triumph at Chickamauga
Nothing was therefore wanting in Kentucky
but absolute authority in one responsible commander.
Cooperation of the most cordial character is a poor substitute.
The word cooperation should be stricken from military phraseology.
In writing to the Government
on August 1st, after he had met General Smith
, General Bragg
says: “We have arranged measures for mutual support
Defense of Cage's Ford, on the Cumberland River, near Gallatin, November 21, 1862.
from a Lithograph.
Colonel Basil W. Duke, with a, detachment of General John H. Morgan's Confederate cavalry, and of infantry, approached Cage's Ford at daybreak of November 21, 1862, hoping to surprise the 31st Ohio regiment, which had been encamped on the south side of the Cumberland.
Finding that the Union troops had changed their camp to the north side, the Confederates threw shells from two 12-pounder howitzers until their cannoneers were driven from the pieces by the musketry fire of the Ohioans, under Lieutenant-Colonel Lister, three of whom were wounded.
The Confederates made no serious attempt to cross, and soon withdrew.--editors. |
port and effective cooperation.”
On August 8th Bragg
writes to Smith
: “I find myself in your department; without explanation this might seem an unjustifiable intrusion.”
While it is no doubt true that General Smith
was at all times willing to yield to the authority of General Bragg
, yet the fact that Smith
was the commander of an independent department, receiving orders from and reporting directly to the President
, made him primarily responsible to the Executive
, and this limited the authority of General Bragg
Nevertheless the Kentucky
campaign was attended with great results to the Confederacy
Two months of marches and battle by the armies of Bragg
had cost the Federals
a loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners of 26,530.
We had captured 35 cannon, 16,000 stand of arms, millions of rounds of ammunition, 1700 mules, 300 wagons loaded with military stores, and 2000 horses.
We had recovered Cumberland Gap
and redeemed middle Tennessee
and north Alabama
Yet expectations had been excited that were not realized, and hopes had been cherished that were disappointed; and therefore this campaign of repeated triumphs, without a single reverse, has never received — save from the thoughtful, intelligent, and impartial minority — any proper recognition.