by don Carlos Buell, Major-General, U. S. V.
The invasion of Kentucky
in the summer of 1862 by the Confederate forces under General Bragg
was one of the most prominent incidents of the war; and both the officer who conducted it and the one who repelled it were the objects of much popular displeasure on their respective sides.
On the one side there was severe condemnation of the withdrawal, and on the other unmeasured dissatisfaction that the invaders had not been captured in a body.
Of course, there were in both cases numerous specifications to the general matter of complaint.
With reference to the result, it must follow that the critics were wrong on one side or the other.
It may even be that in the main, whatever may have been the incidental blunders, they were wrong on both sides: that is, that an invasion for a permanent occupation which lacked the support of the population, and was opposed by an army able and ready to contest the object, was wisely abandoned without further resistance; and that the contestant, in the presence of a skillful and not inferior adversary, wisely took his measures to make the result reasonably certain.
The rashness of revolutionary ends might reject the former, but no rule of loyalty to the public welfare would condemn the latter.
In giving here a brief review of the subject — which properly includes the project for my advance into east Tennessee
in the early summer — I shall undertake no more than a simple outline of the essential facts, and an exposition of the circumstances which controlled events.
The period immediately following the evacuation of Corinth
, and lasting through the summer, found the Western
armies in a less satisfactory state than at the first glance would be supposed.
The early delusion of a ninety-days' campaign had not so completely passed away as not to give rise to disappointment in the ranks and among the people, at finding no signs in the
South of reconciliation or submission, after the signal successes which the Union
cause had achieved; and it could hardly fail to happen that the disappointment would for a while act injuriously upon the temper and efficiency of unseasoned troops.
It resulted, in fact, that the desire to get back to friends, or to find relief for a time from the hardships and restraints of service, caused large numbers to get away from the front on every possible pretext — on leave granted with or without proper authority, upon authority exercised too loosely, and even without any authority; and when once away their return was very difficult.
Appeals were of little avail, and the recourse of sending officers to recall the absentees was attended with poor results.
But absence from the colors was not the worst form of the evil.
Duty of every sort was performed with a sluggishness which greatly retarded every sort of work, of which there was much that had to be done, and the service of escorts and road guards was executed in very many cases with a fatal laxity.
An idea grew up that a soldier on parole was virtually released from all restraint; and there was good reason to believe that large numbers of stragglers were quite willing to find themselves for a moment in the hands of the enemy, and that even the vigilance and resoluteness of escorts and guards were materially affected by the idea that captivity meant liberty and relaxation.1
Even in the routine of camp life, the weariness and impatience manifested themselves in some manner, actively or passively, in a protest against the interior demands and the exterior restraints of discipline.
The thousands of letters which poured from the camps into the soldiers' homes and the public press were mediums for these manifestations, which put upon the general in
command the burthen of every complaint, and the responsibility of every miscarriage.
If a command started upon a march, every soldier would be anxious to know how his haversack was to be replenished, but it never occurred to him that there was a question as to how the depots were to be supplied.
The Government, also, seemed to drop suddenly into a similar state of disappointment, discontent, and inaction.
It had not apparently been imagined that the depletion which would unavoidably go on rapidly in the ranks must be replaced, and when at length the work of repair was taken up it was done by creating new regiments instead of replenishing the old ones.
A vast waste of time, and material, and efficiency was caused by this plan of throwing large numbers of raw troops suddenly into service in distinct bodies.
Moreover, party politics, which at first, under a spontaneous burst of patriotism, had put aside all party distinctions, began now to resume its old organization.
That, of course, meant old ambitions and opposing policies with reference to means, however united men might be in motive upon the one great object of preserving the Union
No doubt all of these causes worked to the same end. At all events it resulted that during the summer of 1862, after the withdrawal of the Confederates
, the armies were weaker numerically than they
had been or ever were afterward, and that the tone of the troops, though always loyal, was in some respects seriously defective.
It was exactly the reverse on the other side.
To the South
the result of the battle of Shiloh
was the disappointment of a great hope almost consummated, rather than a discouragement.
The first depressing effect of the retreat from Corinth
was more than compensated for by the splendid successes which were considered to have been gained in Virginia
Their Government acted vigorously.
Their armies were speedily recruited, and never again entered the field in as great relative strength and as high spirit as in that summer.
The army at Tupelo
, no longer threatened, and under a new commander of established reputation for nerve and ability, paused for a moment to discover an opening for attack or a call for defense, and the disposition of the now unoccupied force under General Halleck
soon pointed the way.
As soon as the expulsion of the Confederates
from the line of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad was consummated by the definitive retreat of the Corinth army, the large Federal force that had been called together for the operations on that line was redistributed for ulterior objects.
About 65,000 men were retained under General Halleck
's immediate command to occupy the line from the Tennessee River
; the Army of the Ohio was restored to its original departmental territory, to advance into east Tennessee
, perhaps even to penetrate Georgia
; and the remainder of the force was sent to strengthen General Curtis
Thus the Army of the Ohio was the only army in the West
that was assigned to an aggressive campaign.
The occupation of east Tennessee
had from the first been a favorite measure with the President
, apparently more from political than from military considerations.
It had at one time been enjoined upon my predecessors in specific orders, and was urged upon my attention by General McClellan
in the instructions with which I came to Kentucky
Some abortive steps had been taken in that direction by General Sherman
before my arrival, but various causes, which need not here be enumerated, compelled its postponement then and afterward,--especially the inexpediency of the attempt upon military grounds under the circumstances, and finally the drift of events, which carried the bulk of the army to Shiloh
A general view of the theater of war, and a consideration of the geography of east Tennessee
, will show the importance of the lodgment that was now to be undertaken, and indicate the opposition it was sure to encounter, unless seconded by operations of a decisive character in other quarters.
is an elevated valley of great salubrity and considerable agricultural capacity, practically inclosed, though with some natural openings, by a mountainous and rugged belt of country in which rise the sources of the Tennessee River
The surplus of food products during the war was not large, but was not without value to the South
at first, when so much of the country was absorbed in the growth of cotton.
The railroad passing east and west through the valley afforded the most direct and convenient communication between Richmond
and the Mississippi
, while abreast of it, from Chattanooga
, a branching railroad penetrated the Atlantic
and Gulf States to the coast, affording a valuable system of internal communication for supply or defense, and an equally effective line for external invasion.
On the northern side, the valley had a strong defensive line in the difficult, though not impracticable mountains, which, farther to the north, assume an expanse and ruggedness that present what might be considered practically a secure barrier between Kentucky
. East Tennessee
might therefore be regarded as a doorway to the rear of Richmond
, and a commanding rendezvous which looked down with a menacing adaptability upon the Gulf
and Atlantic States.
In the latter light, more than as a means of defense, its preservation was of vital moment to the Confederacy
The occupation of it by the Federal
force would be like the last stage in a regular siege, when the glacis is crowned and batteries are established for breaching the walls and
delivering the final assault.
But the fact that it was the home of all that was loyal to the Union
in the States in rebellion, seemed to blind the Government
to the considerations which insured that it would be defended with all the energy of self-preservation.
The powerful force and desperate battles that were finally found necessary to secure the object, afforded a vindication, to which nothing need be added, against the fatuity which demanded that the Army of the Ohio, without supplies and with severed communications, should accomplish it in the summer of 1862 with a movable force of 31,000 men against more than 60,000 that barred the way. [See maps, pp. 3 and 6.]
I was following the movements of the enemy retreating from Corinth
, when, on the 9th of June, I received notice from General Halleck
that my army was to resume its separate action, and advance into east Tennessee
My divisions started in the new direction the next day, and on the 11th I received my instructions verbally from General Halleck
I was to move as diligently as possible to the object specified, but I was to repair the Memphis and Charleston Railroad as I proceeded, guard it, and draw my supplies from it. The inexpediency of these conditions, as I had pointed out, was realized before the repairs were completed.
The road, running along the enemy's front, was peculiarly exposed to attack — was in fact attacked while we were working on it and afterward; it was not supplied with rolling stock, and we derived no benefit from it, though the repairs detained us until the last of June.
Foreseeing these embarrassments, I had given orders for the repair of the roads south from Nashville
, and for the accumulation of supplies at that point.
I desired also the option of making the advance through McMinnville
, which I imagined might be found to present decided advantages.
It would avoid the heavy work on the railroads to the Tennessee River
, the bridging of the river, and the extremely difficult ground that must at first be overcome by wagon transportation after crossing.
It would establish a junction promptly with the force under G. W. Morgan
operating against Cumberland Gap
, and give actual possession of east Tennessee
, which the mere occupation of Chattanooga
would not. Halleck at first assented to my proposition, but a day or two afterward withdrew his consent, and enjoined that the movement should be made directly upon Chattanooga
We crossed the Tennessee
by extemporized ferries--three divisions at Florence
, arriving at Athens
on the Nashville and Decatur Railroad on the 28th of June, and one division between the 1st and 6th of July, by a very inefficient ferry prepared by General Mitchel
with his division was still detained on the Corinth
road under General Halleck
's orders, and did not join at Huntsville
until the last of July; so that the available effective force for an advance when I reached Huntsville
on the 29th of June was between 24,000 and 25,000 men. The 16,000 already in middle Tennessee
and north Alabama
would still be required to guard Nashville
and keep open the communications.
But there was much to be done before an advance could be possible.
We found ourselves already at the very limit of our means of transportation.
Nothing had been accomplished in the way of repairing the railroads, and it required every wagon to
haul supplies enough for the daily consumption.
Much of the time thereafter the troops were on half rations.
We could gather some forage from the country, but not enough for the animals.
Before my arrival General Mitchel
had urgently reported demonstrations of the enemy from the direction of Chattanooga
To the Secretary of War
he said, June 21st: “I am with difficulty maintaining my position in front of Chattanooga
I will endeavor to hold my position until reenforcements arrive.”
His nearest position was in fact at Battle Creek
, twenty miles below Chattanooga
, with the Tennessee River
and a mountain range intervening.
To me he telegraphed, June 21st: “I think everything depends on celerity of movement.
If we should be driven from Stevenson
(the junction of the Nashville
and the Memphis
railroads), or even from the position we now occupy (at Battle Creek
, nine miles above Bridgeport
), I should deem it a great misfortune.”
Partly therefore to oppose this supposed danger, and especially to place a strong working force on the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, McCook
's and Crittenden
's divisions were sent to Stevenson
and Battle Creek
's and Wood
's divisions were for the present kept on the Nashville
road; and the repairs by means of the troops and by experienced hired hands were urged energetically.
At the same time mills were put to work to get out lumber, and the building of boats for a bridge was commenced.
We had no pontoon train, and the Tennessee
was a formidable river, requiring a bridge 1400 yards long.
The depredations of the small bands that had harassed Mitchel
before my arrival were continued afterward, and soon demonstrated the necessity of defensive works for bridges and other vulnerable points.
An inclosed earthwork of considerable strength, large enough for a regiment, was constructed at Stevenson
for the protection of the depot to be established there for the advance; and a specific plan and instructions for small block-houses, or, more properly speaking, picket-houses, at the less important points were prescribed.
An officer was specially assigned to the direction of these works, and the supervision of the guards.
Iron-clad dummy cars were provided for such purposes and for express service.
Much of the road-repairing and other engineering work was done and supervised by a splendid regiment of mechanics and engineers from Michigan
, under Colonel William P. Innes
These, from among the thousand other details, are mentioned, because they were infinitely important to our existence, and absolutely necessary for the first step in advance.
Clearly the means of transportation, which were barely sufficient to provide us with a precarious subsistence where we were, would be insufficient to carry us at least thirty miles farther away, across a broad river and a mountainous country, into the presence of the enemy.
The records show that laborious and unceasing efforts were used to bring about the necessary conditions for a forward movement, and that every officer employed in command or in staff positions was stimulated to the utmost by advice and instructions for the object before us. We had been engaged in this earnest manner just nine days from the time of my arrival at Huntsville
[June 29th], when I received.
a dispatch from Halleck
, saying that my progress was not
satisfactory to the President
I was so astonished at the message that I made no reply until three days afterward, when I was called on for explanations.2
The road from Nashville
was completed on the 12th of July, and a train was started the next morning with supplies for the depot at Stevenson
My attention had been attracted to the importance of McMinnville
as an outpost.
It was at the foot of the mountain on the direct wagon road between Nashville
, and was the terminus of a branch railroad, twenty miles east of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad.
I had just organized a new brigade at Murfreesboro
' to occupy McMinnville
On the morning of the 13th Forrest
, with a large body of cavalry, surprised the brigade, killed and wounded some and captured the rest, damaged the railroad seriously, and produced alarm in Nashville
, where the force was not large.3
This was the first appearance of any large body of the enemy in our rear south of the Cumberland
, though Morgan
was at the same time engaged in a formidable raid in Kentucky
was immediately ordered to occupy Murfreesboro
' and McMinnville
with his division, himself and one brigade going by railroad.
He had just reached Murfreesboro
' with a portion of his troops when Forrest
, on the 18th, appeared again on the railroad between him and Nashville
, captured guards, and destroyed two more bridges.
Work was immediately commenced to repair the damage.
It was completed on the 28th of July, and the shipment of supplies for the depot at Stevenson
As soon as my designs upon east Tennessee
were known, the Confederate
authorities took prompt measures to counteract them.
The sudden appearance of large bodies of cavalry under Morgan
on my communications in Tennessee
early in July, and the increased activity of small parties, were a part of these measures.
It was at first in contemplation to move the Tupelo army upon my rear in middle Tennessee
, but the wiser plan was adopted of concentrating in my front.
One division of that army, and reeforcements from other quarters, reached Chattanooga
in June. General Bragg
arrived on the 30th of July, and by that time the transfer of his force from Tupelo
was about completed.
The nucleus of a force under Van Dorn
was left in Mississippi
to neutralize the large Federal force on the Memphis
road, an object which was accomplished at first by inaction alone, and at last by bold though unsuccessful attacks with inferior numbers.
The foreshadowing of an aggressive campaign from east Tennessee
soon began to be seen.
By report, and actually, as the record now shows, the objective was at first middle Tennessee
Rumor, as usual, placed the force that was ready for the work at very large numbers--80,000 or 100,000 men. I realized that the enemy in front of us was assuming formidable proportions, but I did not doubt that his strength was over-estimated, nor that, if necessary, my own force would be increased, and therefore my efforts for the accumulation of supplies for an advance were not relaxed.
On the 7th of August I informed General Halleck
of the condition which the campaign was assuming, and told him that my force should be increased.
I estimated the force opposed to me at sixty thousand men. The records now show that it was greater.
He answered on the 8th that General Grant
would turn over two divisions to my command “if I absolutely required them,” but cautioned me not to ask for them if I could avoid it with safety.
By the 12th the accumulating evidence showed that the call could not be dispensed with, and I requested General Grant
to forward the divisions without delay.
One of them joined on the 1st of September; the other did not arrive until the 12th, after the movement northward to follow Bragg
The strength of the two divisions was about 5000 men each.
Our communications south of the Cumberland
had been made secure by the distribution of the troops, but to the north the depredations were prosecuted with increased vigor.
Our cavalry was totally insufficient to cope with
these incursions, which it must be said, also, were seldom resisted by the infantry guards with vigilance and resolution.
On the 10th of August, Morgan
again appeared on the railroad north of Nashville
, captured the guard of about 150 men at Gallatin
, effectually disabled the tunnel north of that place, and destroyed several bridges toward Nashville
Our communication with Louisville
, on which we were dependent for supplies, was thus, for the present, effectually severed.
Work was immediately commenced to repair the damage, but the constantly recurring presence of the enemy's cavalry interfered so effectually as to require a large increase of force from the front or the rear for the defense.
I had already strengthened the guards at Bowling Green
To continue to draw from the front was not yet to be thought of. On the 16th, therefore, I gave General Nelson
a couple of field-batteries and some experienced cavalry and infantry officers, and sent him to Kentucky
to organize such troops as could be got together there to reestablish our communications and operate against Morgan
On the 18th a guard of a regiment belonging to Grant
's command was captured without a show of resistance at Clarksville
where a considerable quantity of supplies had been deposited for transshipment in consequence of the suspension of navigation by low water in the Cumberland
Upon hearing of Morgan
's appearance again on the Cumberland
north of Nashville
, General R. W. Johnson
, a spirited cavalry officer, under whose command I had assembled all the cavalry that was available, moved promptly in pursuit, and with his inferior force attacked Morgan
vigorously near Hartsville
was defeated with a loss of 80 killed and wounded and 75 prisoners, himself among the latter.
The rest escaped and made their way as stragglers or in small bodies to Nashville
These details, harassing and disappointing to the actors at the time, are now no less wearisome and uninteresting to the careless reader; but the consideration of them is essential to a correct appreciation of the campaign.
It is a story familiar to history of the crippling of an invading army by a successful war upon its too long and inadequately protected communications, with an enemy in its front.
The line in this case was a single railroad, 350 miles long, through a population either hostile to the invader, or at least in a considerable degree friendly to his opponent.
Under the circumstances that were to ensue, it is not perhaps to be accounted a misfortune that the contemplated advance was checked at the start.
A Union army of 31,000 men at Chattanooga
in July, 1862, without supplies, with its communications broken for 400 miles, and the Government
on the Potomac
appealing for 25,000 men which could not be spared from Corinth
, might well have been in a worse condition than the stronger army in November, 1863, which was reduced to horse and mule meat for its ration, with its communications complete to within 30 miles, and with an unoccupied army from Vicksburg
and consider able reenforcements from the Potomac
hastening to its succor.
The reports of the superior force assembled in east Tennessee
were confirmed as the time passed, and there could be no doubt that our position in middle Tennessee
was about to be assailed.
Already there were rumors of crossing at Chattanooga
, Harrison's Landing
, and Kingston
These starting-points indicated no certain plan of attack.
The enemy might descend the Sequatchie
and Cumberland valleys
and enter at north Alabama
, in which case he would have a railroad for his supplies; or he might cross the mountains by direct roads toward middle Tennessee
In either case, Stevenson
, on the south side of a declining spur of the Cumberland Mountains
reaching to Huntsville
, was unsuitable for our depot, and Decherd
, on the north side, was adopted instead.
On the 19th of August I received information from General McCook
, who was at Battle Creek
with his own and Crittenden
's divisions, that the enemy was crossing in force at Chattanooga
My plans were already matured and McCook
had his orders for such a case, only waiting the signal to act, which was given on the 20th.
He was to march with his division to the point at which the Anderson
or Thurman road between Chattanooga
crossed the Sequatchie valley
, watching and opposing the enemy on that road, and gradually fall back toward McMinnville
until he joined the remainder of the army.
was to follow him, and act similarly and in conjunction with him on the Higginbottom road, which crossed the valley a little lower down, and united with the Thurman
road further north.
They had previously been provided with rockets and a signal code for communicating with each other and with the rest of the army.
The same day I went to Battle Creek
and then to Decherd
to superintend the further concentration, for which general instructions had already been given.
, in advance of McMinnville
, was designated as the point of junction, though that could have been modified, if desirable, after an examination of the locality.
proceeded up the valley some distance until he received information on which he relied, that the enemy had already entered the valley in force, or would enter it before he could be intercepted.
He therefore returned to Crittenden
at the Higginbottom road, which he deemed to be impracticable for his artillery and train, and both divisions returned to Battle Creek
, where, after hearing from them, I sent them further orders.
The information was positive that the enemy was advancing on the Thurman
road, where in fact his cavalry was encountered; and under the orders for the concentration Thomas
went to Altamont
with one division, but returned to McMinnville
arrived there a little later and remained unti l the final concentration at Murfreesboro
' under the orders of the 30th.
A brigade under Colonel W. H. Lytle
, of Rousseau
's division, was still retained at Huntsville
, and two regiments under Colonel L. A. Harris
were at Battle Creek
The failure of McCook
's movement up the Sequatchie
It gave a false impression of the enemy's progress, and of the route he was to pursue.
But for the erroneous information under which it was abandoned, it ought to have led to important results.
There would have been no advantage, however, in retiring on the Higginbottom road without meeting the enemy.
We were now reduced to ten days provisions.
Our railroad communication north of Nashville
had been broken for twenty days, and no effort was being made at Louisville
to reopen it. My orders to General Nelson
had been of no avail.
In fact, on his arrival there he found Kentucky
organized into a separate department not under my command; and his report of my instructions and his representations of the necessity of opening the road to Nashville
were answered with orders from Washington
to first open communication with Cumberland Gap
, where General G. W. Morgan
was not in danger, and had abundant supplies for the present.
The result of those orders, unnecessary for the relief of Morgan
, and insufficient for stopping Kirby Smith
, was the defeat of Nelson
on the 30th. Ten days had elapsed since the enemy's advance was positively reported, and there was no more evidence of his approach than at first.
He was, of course, to be expected any day, but he might not come in two weeks.
Under the circumstances it was plainly necessary to concentrate nearer Nashville
, where we could get to work on the railroad, and at the same time be ready for the enemy when he should come.
Orders were accordingly given on the 30th of August for concentrating at Murfreesboro
' on the 5th of September.
, at McMinnville
, was to march on the 2d, and other commands according to their position.
To the last Thomas
had no definite information of the approach of the enemy.
It turned out that Bragg
crossed at Chattanooga
on the 28th of August, entered Sparta
on the 3d of September, and made his way to Glasgow
, where he arrived on the 14th, having crossed the Cumberland
‘. Something of these movements, though not of the entire force, was learned on the 6th, and that Bowling Green
Two divisions were, therefore, moved across the river at Nashville
on the 7th,--one to go to the protection of Bowling Green
, where there was a small garrison with some stores, and the other to Gallatin
, to gain information of the movements of the enemy in the valley.
At the same time preparation was made to act with the remaining force as circumstances might require.
Two and a half divisions, including Paine
's division from Grant
, which had not yet arrived, and a large number of convalescents, were designated to hold Nashville
, under the command of General Thomas
It was ascertained on the 10th that the bulk of Bragg
's army had marched north from the Cumberland
, and my movable divisions were accordingly put in motion to follow.
They were concentrated at Bowling Green
on the evening of the 15th.
I there learned that the garrison at Munfordville
had been attacked, but the result was not certainly known.
was reported at Glasgow
, and on the 16th I marched to give battle to him at that place; but during the day it was ascertained that he had marched the day before for Munfordville
, the garrison of which, it was also ascertained, had repelled the first attack, and my divisions were directed upon that point.
The next day, at Prewett
's Knob, thirteen miles from Munfordville
, I learned that the garrison had that morning surrendered to Bragg
's entire army, and that night Colonel Wilder
reported to me with his command as prisoners of war.
The enemy was now concentrated in front of us, and had taken up a position of unusual strength upon and behind a rather low crest on the south side of Green River
My information of the aggregate force assembled in east Tennessee
was sufficiently accurate, but at first there was no means of knowing what portion of it was with Bragg
, and what portion had followed Kirby Smith
The proximity of the last three days had given a better knowledge of Bragg
, who was competent, and had had some opportunity for observation, estimated it at from 35,000 to 40,000 men, and nobody estimated it at any less.
I supposed it to be from 30,000 to 40,000.
I had with me 35,000 effective men, but on being satisfied at Bowling Green
that no considerable force remained to threaten Nashville
, I called up Thomas
's division, and now determined, on its arrival, to attack Bragg
's position if he should remain.
arrived on the 20th.
There was some skirmishing between the lines that evening, but the enemy withdrew during the night.
His rear-guard was driven out of Munfordville
the next day, and was pressed by our advanced guard until he turned off the main road toward Bardstown
.l There was no reason to hesitate at this point as to the course which I should pursue.
I did not know where Kirby Smith
was, but the junction between himself and Bragg
was to be considered as practically established.
United for battle they would outnumber me very greatly.
also, in the presence of this combined force, might be in danger.
Besides, our provisions were nearly exhausted; some of the troops were without rations after arriving at West Point
, twenty-five miles from Louisville
I therefore pushed forward to Louisville
, the leading division arriving there on the 25th, and the last on the 29th.
The cavalry was kept as an outpost at Elizabethtown
to guard the flank of the passing columns and watch any possible movements of the enemy toward Bowling Green
The large empty wagon train which the exhaustion of our supplies at Nashville
had rendered useless and insupportable, had been pushed through from Bowling Green
by the way of Brownsville
, and West Point
, under a cavalry escort.5
The army was now to encounter grave danger from the influence of Oliver P. Morton
He had from the beginning tried to retain a quasi
authority over Indiana
troops after they had been mustered into the
service of the United States
and had joined my army.
His interference was injurious to discipline; but he persisted in order to preserve his influence with the troops, the people, and the Government
The seeds of mischief, always present in his extra-official conduct toward the Indiana
troops, were now being sown with a vigorous but crafty hand, in the counsels at Washington
and among the executives of other States, to impair my authority and effect my removal from command.
, an officer of remarkable merit, was in command of the center corps of my army.
He was assaulted and killed by General Davis
, accompanied by Governor Morton
, the very day before the army was to march against the invaders.
, though often rough in command, was always solicitous about the well-being of his troops, and was held in high esteem for his conspicuous services, gallantry in battle, and great energy; and his death caused much indignation among the troops that knew him best.
, an Indianian, was unknown in my army except in his own division, which had just joined while he was absent; but Morton
's relation to the affair brought to bear in Davis
's behalf a State feeling inspired by Morton
and strengthened by his habitual intervention in favor of Indiana
troops against the rigidity of my control.
The restraining influence of discipline was all that prevented an outbreak between the friends of Nelson
, which might have added the most serious consequences to the criminal occurrence.
Nothing but the law of violence could, under any circumstances, justify the manner of the killing for the alleged provocation, and no mere merit of ordinary soldiership could ever atone for the sacrilege against discipline under the circumstances which existed.
The dignity of a State was abused by the attitude of its governor in the affair, and the authority of the general government was even more degraded by its condonement of the act — a condonement made virtually, if not actually, at his dictation.6
was immediately placed in arrest, and the case reported to General Halleck
, with the request that a court might be ordered from Washington
for its trial, as the operations then in progress made it impracticable for me to spare the officers for the purpose at the moment.
Instead of that, Davis
was released, ostensibly that the case might be turned over to the civil authority; and thus the military authority of the Government
was abased over the grave of a high officer, whose slaughter by another officer under such circumstances, and as a purely military offense, it had not the character to bring to trial.7
In the midst of the excitement caused by the killing of Nelson
, and the active preparation that was going on for an advance against the enemy the next day, an order was received from Washington
relieving me from the command, and appointing General Thomas
to succeed me. In a little while General Thomas
came to my room and stated his intention to decline the command.
I answered that I could not consent to his doing so on any ground that was personal to me, and that if his determination was fixed I must be allowed to see the message he proposed to send.
He then prepared the following dispatch to General Halleck
Colonel McKibbin handed me your dispatch placing me in command of the Department of the Tennessee. General Buel's preparations have been completed to march against the enemy, and I therefore respectfully ask that he may be retained in command.
My position is very embarrassing, not being as well informed as I should be as the commander of this army, and on the assumption of such a responsibility.
I could make no personal objection to his reasons, but I encouraged him to accept the duty assigned to him, saying that nothing remained to be done but to put the army in motion, and that I would cheerfully explain my plans to him and give him all the information I possessed.
He persisted, however, and the message went off. I did not then know of the steps that were being taken for my retention by both of the senators and two representatives from Kentucky
replied to Thomas
that the order had not been made by him or by his advice, and he had no power to revoke it, but that he would suspend it until the question could be submitted to the Government
, and that Colonel McKibbin
had been twice telegraphed to withhold the order.
The order was accordingly suspended.
I at once resumed the reins of command, which, indeed, had scarcely been laid aside, and proceeded with the preparations to advance.
On my arrival at Louisville
I had found a considerable number of newly made regiments or fragments of regiments, which the crisis had hurried into
, and Illinois
After designating a portion as a guard for Louisville
, mostly organized into a division under General Dumont
, the remainder of the new regiments were assigned to places in the old divisions; the baggage, hospital, and supply trains were reorganized; the equipment of the soldier was repaired; each man was provided with individual cooking-utensils, so as almost to dispense with baggage-wagons; and on the arrival of the last division, on the 29th, the army was ready to march on the next day. One day was lost by the instructions from Washington
, but orders were given for marching on the 1st of October.
The army was divided into three corps: the First under General McCook
, the Second under General T. L. Crittenden
, and the Third under General Gilbert
This corps was to have been commanded by General Nelson
. General Thomas
was announced as second in command in the army.
It is now proper to take a survey of the military situation which was before me.
My instructions of the 18th
of March placed General G. W. Morgan
in command of the Seventh division of the army, to operate in the Cumberland Gap
road from Kentucky
to east Tennessee
, and required him to take the Gap
if practicable, and if not, to hold the enemy in check on that route.
The division was at first only partially formed, and some time elapsed before it was in a condition to advance.
was naturally strong, and was occupied by a considerable force.
turned the position on the 17th of June by marching through Big Creek
The Confederates thereupon evacuated the place without waiting for an attack, and Morgan
took possession on the 18th.
It was at once strongly intrenched under the supervision of an officer of engineers, but its importance in a general campaign was not in proportion to the force to which its maintenance gave occupation.
It was chiefly as an encouragement to the loyal element in east Tennessee
that the possession of it was desirable.
The campaign inaugurated by the Confederates
in east Tennessee
employed the troops of two military departments, and labored under the inconvenience of cooperation between the two independent commanders, instead of subordination to a single authority.
It was executed with a harmony and zeal unusual under such circumstances, but perhaps lacked the consistency which either of the two leaders would have been amply capable of imparting to it.
The original plan was for a combined movement into middle Tennessee
for the recovery of Nashville
The invasion of Kentucky
was at first probably not thought of at all, or at least only as a later possibility.
But as Bragg
could not be ready to cross the river from Chattanooga
for about two weeks after his arrival, it was arranged that in the meantime Kirby Smith
with his troops should attack and capture Morgan
at Cumberland Gap
The strength of Morgan
's fortified position, however, with 8000 good troops to defend it, was upon consideration deemed to preclude the attempt.
The alternative was to invest him on the south side with 9000 men under Stevenson
, while Smith
with 12,000 should seize and hold his communications on the north; by which means, not being strong enough to break his way out on either side, Morgan
, upon the exhaustion of his supplies, would be compelled to surrender.
This plan being adopted, Smith
commenced his movement through Rogers's and Big Creek Gaps
on the 14th of August, and reached Morgan
's rear at Barbourville
on the 18th.
He now perceived that it would be impossible for him to gather supplies for his command from that poor and exhausted region, and later his embarrassment was increased by Morgan
's occupation of Rogers's and Big Creek Gaps
Nothing therefore remained for him but to withdraw or advance boldly into the rich portion of Kentucky
was not at first in favor of the latter course, until he should be prepared to follow up the precipitate movement which it was not doubted I would make from middle Tennessee
for the protection of Kentucky
However, his concurrence was readily yielded, for the proposition was alluring.
The idea of invasion, which had now taken firm root, was coupled with the chimera of an uprising of the people and a transfer of the State
to the Confederacy
I never had the slightest apprehension of such a result.
Boys might join John Morgan
's roving cavaliers, and some mature men might commit themselves with less romance to the cause of the Confederacy
, and these phenomena would of course be multiplied by the backing of an army.
But when Kentucky
so far overcame her sympathy as to assume an attitude of neutrality, she listened to a call of reason and interest, not unmingled with genuine love of the Union
, that was not to stop at half-measures; and as soon as it became apparent that neutrality was impracticable, it was the deliberate choice of the mass of the people — not any pressure of coercion — that arrayed her irrevocably on the side of the Union
To that choice she was thoroughly loyal, and no finer example of political and popular generosity can anywhere be found than that wherein, at the close of the conflict,, she restored to all the rights of citizenship and the ties of fraternity her expatriated sons who for four years had made war upon her.
advanced from Barbourville
with 12,000 men on the 26th of August, encountered at Rogersville
the 5000 or 6000 raw troops assembled there, scattered them like chaff, making prisoners and capturing arms, proceeded to Lexington
, where he established his headquarters on the 2d of September, occupied Frankfort
, and finally threw his pickets almost to the gates of Cincinnati
These events produced widespread effects.
They were the signal for the movement of Humphrey Marshall
with 3000 men into Kentucky
through Pound Gap
, and it would seem stimulated Bragg
's advance from Chattanooga
They changed the concentration of my army from Murfreesboro
' to Nashville
, and would perhaps have caused the transfer of half of it into Kentucky
, which seemed to be powerless, but for the sudden appearance of Bragg
in the Valley of the Cumberland
and other bordering States, they produced an excitement which was intense in some places, amounting almost to consternation.
Business at Cincinnati
was for a few days entirely suspended for the purpose of defense; intrenchments were vigorously prosecuted at Covington
by the labor of the citizens and the troops, and raw regiments in the process of formation were hurried into Cincinnati
, and Illinois
The Government of Kentucky
sought refuge at Louisville
, where on my arrival Nelson
reported a force of 30,000 raw troops.
at Cumberland Gap
was promptly aware of Kirby Smith
's movement, and informed me of it on the 16th of August.
He had thirty days provisions, and was instructed the same day to hold his position.
The exhaustion of his supplies and the improbability of their being replenished in time made it necessary for him at last to withdraw, which he did on the night of the 17th of September.
He was pursued by Stevenson
and harassed by John Morgan
's cavalry, but made his way successfully through Manchester
, West Liberty
, and Grayson
to the Ohio River
, where he arrived about the 2d of October.
with his division joined Kirby Smith
about the time of my arrival at Louisville
, and was present in the operations around Perryville
On his arrival in central Kentucky
issued his proclamation inviting the people to join the cause of their deliverance, and Bragg
did the same in pathetic terms at Glasgow
These appeals, like many of the orders promulgated to arouse the animosity and stimulate the valor of the Southern
troops, would give a sad impression of the condition of the inhabitants, especially the innocent and helpless, and of the brutality of the oppressor; but they were not confirmed by the feebleness of the response.
There was a sweet sympathy, so the Confederates
thought, but that was all. The arms in abundance, which Kentuckians were advised to grasp, remained in the store-houses.
Kentuckians suffered just as Ohioans would have suffered with armies in their midst, and they had as a body no more thought of changing their colors.
During the whole occupation enough perhaps for a brigade joined the invaders.
The arrival of Bragg
gave the Confederates
virtual possession of the whole of Kentucky
east of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, excepting within the limits of Covington
, and Smith
called his troops together near Frankfort
to assist in the proposed attack upon Louisville
That project was postponed after my arrival; but Polk
having gone to Frankfort
, was ordered to occupy Shepherdsville
, and other near points around Louisville
Steps were being taken to that end when, on the 2d of October, the enemy's pickets announced to the leaders at Frankfort
the advance of my army in force on four roads, threatening the whole of their front, which covered a distance of sixty miles.
The plan of my movement was to force the enemy's left back and compel him to concentrate as far as possible from any convenient line of retreat, while at the same time making a strong demonstration against his right, so as to mislead him as to the real point of attack, and prevent him from moving upon my left flank and rear.
With that object General Sill
, commanding a division in McCook
's corps, was ordered to move boldly toward Frankfort
, followed temporarily by the division of raw troops under Dumont
which had been organized as a guard for Louisville
with his two remaining divisions moved upon Taylorsville
, where he halted the second night in a position which pointed to either flank.
The other two corps moved respectively through Shepherdsville
and Mt. Washington
, to converge upon Bardstown
, and halted the second night at Salt River
The enemy's pickets were encountered on all of the roads within a few miles of the city, increasing in strength as the movement progressed, and opposing a sharp opposition at Bardstown
withdrew his army from Bardstown
on the night of the 3d, going through Springfield
, and Sill
, against a considerable resistance, pushed back the force in front of him toward Frankfort
These measures brought to a hurried completion the inauguration of Provisional Governor Hawes
on the 4th, under the supervision of General Bragg
, on his part, was pressed so closely that Hardee
, who was bringing up his rear, was compelled to make a stand at Perryville
and call for assistance.
Assuming that Smith
was the object of my attack, and that my right and rear would thereby be exposed to Polk
on the 2d to attack in that manner, while Smith
should attack my left, and that view of my design was persisted in; so that only one of the two divisions which were being pressed forward to reinforce Smith
was returned to assist Hardee
on the night of the 7th.
The strength of the opposition to Sill
and the continued presence of Kirby Smith
pointed to a concentration in that direction, at least north of Perryville
; but on the 6th the information was that Smith
was moving upon Danville
, who had been halted momentarily at Bloomfield
until the question should be developed, was therefore directed on Harrodsburg
, and Sill
was ordered to join him by forced marches.
During the night the information in regard to Smith
was contradicted, and the expectation of a concentration at or north of Perryville
was therefore promptly turned upon Perryville
, and Sill
was ordered to follow him. Under a stubborn resistance from Polk
, during the 7th, the center corps halted in the evening about three and a half miles from Perryville
without water, of which it had had but little since morning, and the corps was put in order of battle.
It appeared now that the enemy was virtually concentrated in our front.
Orders were therefore dispatched to McCook
, who was supposed to be about seven miles back, on the left, and to Thomas
, who had been ordered to halt the right corps (Crittenden
's) for the night at Haysville
, about four miles in rear, on the road from Lebanon
They were to march precisely at 3 o'clock in the morning, prepared in every respect for battle, and on arriving at certain designated points were to be formed in order of battle on the left and right, respectively, of the center corps.
They were then to be made as comfortable as possible, but not to leave ranks.
A reconnoissance was to be made to ascertain the position of the enemy, and as soon as that was done Thomas
were to report at headquarters for further orders.9
I expected that these objects would be accomplished by 7 o'clock in the morning.
During the night it was ascertained that there were some pools of water in the bed of Doctor's Fork
, which crossed the road in front of us, and of which the enemy's rear-guard held possession.
Colonel Daniel McCook
, commanding a brigade in Sheridan
's division, was selected to attack the enemy and get possession of the water, which he did in a handsome manner at day dawn.
Very soon the enemy attempted to recover the lost position, but Sheridan
's and Mitchell
's divisions were moved to the front and defeated the design.
From that time a desultory cannonading was kept up between the two lines until it merged into the battle, which suddenly burst forth fiercely at 2 o'clock. The arrival of McCook
's corps is dated from halfpast 10 o'clock, but for the bulk of the corps it was later.
He reported to me at about half-past 12, and I hastened his return to his command; for though the time had passed when I had somewhat apprehended an attack, while the center corps was alone, yet the occasion was critical, and he had not reconnoitered his front.
had not reported, and no final instructions for attack could be given.
reached his corps, it had materially changed its ground and was not in position.
Artillery guns were exchanging distant shots, but evidently no one on our side was expecting an attack.
It came at about 2 o'clock, while a line was moving forward to take possession of the water which could be discerned in the bed of Chaplin river
, behind which the enemy were formed for the assault.
It turned out that Polk
with three divisions, with cavalry on both flanks, had determined to fight a “defensive-offensive” battle; but as the morning wore away without the attack, which was awaited, Bragg
came upon the ground and ordered an assault.
It was delivered mainly upon McCook
also fell heavily upon Sheridan
, who repelled it handsomely on his side.
fought bravely, and by Gilbert
's order was reinforced with Gooding
's brigade from Mitchell
's division; but he was steadily driven back for a mile, until the enemy's pursuing line came within the enfilading fire of Sheridan
's artillery, which was delivered with great effect across the intervening valley of Doctor's Fork
At 4 o'clock Captain Fisher
's staff arrived and reported to me that the left corps had been sustaining a severe conflict for a considerable time, and was being driven back.
I was astonished.
Not a sound of musketry had been heard, and my staff-officers had been at the front until dinner-time.
I had noticed a sudden increase of cannonading at 2 o'clock, and General Gilbert
, who had come in from his lines and was getting his dinner with me, immediately proceeded to his command; but as the firing as suddenly subsided, and no report came to me, I had ceased to think of the occurrence.
Reenforcements were immediately ordered to McCook
's division, which was in reserve, and a staff-officer was dispatched to Thomas
with orders to move the right corps forward vigorously and attack the enemy's left.
could not be found until about 6 o'clock, and owing to the lateness of the hour the advance was not made; but McCook
was relieved by the succor sent to him and the battle ceased about night-fall.
Further orders were sent to Thomas
at 6.30 P. M.:
October 8TH, 1862, 6.30 P. M. General Thomas, Second in Command: The First Corps (McCook's) on our left has been very heavily engaged.
The left and center of this corps gained ground, but the right of it yielded a little.
Press your lines forward as far as possible to-night, and get into position to make a vigorous attack in the morning at daylight.
If you have got your troops into a position which you deem advantageous it will not be advisable to make a change for the purpose of complying with the general's instructions for you sent by Captain Mack.
It may be as well to halt the division ordered to the center and let it wait where it is for further orders.
The general desires to see you in person as soon to-night as your duties will permit you to come over.
Respectfully, James B. Fry, Colonel and Chief-of-Staff.
had 12,500 men in the battle, and lost in killed and wounded about 3000--nearly one-quarter; Gilbert
lost in killed and wounded nearly 900, all of which belonged to Sheridan
's division and one of Mitchell
's brigades; and about 450 in all were taken prisoners; total loss, 4348.
The force actually engaged on the Union
side numbered about 22,000, though more came into position for battle near the close.
All of the force had a good number of new regiments.
One of McCook
's divisions was composed entirely of new regiments, with one exception.
Its division commander, Jackson
, and its two brigade commanders, Terrill
, were killed.
The enemy claim to have fought the battle, according to Bragg
's report, with 16,000 men. His loss is reported at 3396, of which 251 were prisoners.
He captured some artillery that he did not carry off, though he exchanged some of his pieces for better ones.
Not long before the commencement of this partial but fierce contest, a staff-officer arrived from General Thomas
and reported two divisions of the right corps up — the last had not yet arrived.
The enemy was in front, and Thomas
thought it not advisable to leave to report in person.
The want of definite information from both flanks, the failure of a meeting of the two commanders at my headquarters for explanations and final orders, and the lateness of the hour for effecting these preliminaries for the great battle which was to be fought, precluded the idea of bringing it on that evening.
That conclusion had, indeed, been rendered probably unavoidable at the time of McCook
's arrival at my headquarters, by two dispatches which had been received from Thomas
during the morning: One dated the 7th, 6 o'clock P. M., at Haysville
saying that finding no water at that point he would march the right corps to the Rolling Fork
for a camp; and the other, dated on the Rolling Fork
, October 8th, 3 o'clock , A. M.,11
reporting that my order to march at 3 o'clock had just been received, that the corps reached that place at 11 o'clock at night, and was then camping, the trains being not all yet up, and that he would be in front of Perryville
as soon as possible.
The staff-officer was, therefore, started back a few minutes before 2 o'clock with some minor instructions to General Thomas
, and a desire that he should report in person after night-fall.
, and Gilbert
met at my headquarters after dark, and after conversation upon the events of the day, orders were given for battle the following morning.
's corps on the right was to move forward at 6 o'clock and engage the enemy, and the center was to do likewise as soon as they were abreast.
was to close
in and remain in reserve.
In fact, only one of his divisions (Rousseau
's) was in a condition to fight as a distinct body.
At that hour not a man in the army who had any knowledge beyond the limit of his own vision doubted that the whole Confederate army was in our front, and that the battle was to be renewed in the morning.
The right corps did not commence the movement until 9 o'clock, owing, as was afterward explained, to Thomas
's message to Crittenden
by signal, from my camp, only specifying that he should be ready to advance at 6 o'clock; so that the orders to advance had to be repeated when it was discovered that the movement had not commenced.
It was then ascertained that the enemy had withdrawn, and that only three of his divisions had been present.
The battle had enabled him to perfect his junction with Kirby Smith
, as originally intended, and I did not hesitate to await the arrival of Sill
's division before precipitating the anticipated battle.
In the meantime, the army was put in position for any emergency, and reconnoissances were actively employed to gain information of the movements of the enemy.
We had repelled the enemy's fierce attack when it was supposed his whole force was in front of us. My official report stated succinctly the causes which prevented us from winning a more fruitful success, namely, the difficulties which prevented the troops from getting on the ground simultaneously, and the fact that I was not apprised early enough of the condition of affairs on my left ( “Official Records
XVI., Part I., p. 1031). When the orders in anticipation of battle were given on the evening of the 7th, McCook
's exact position was not known.
He was supposed to be about seven miles in rear.
The orders did not reach him until 2:30 o'clock, and he marched at 5.
It was 10:30 when the head of his column arrived.
The road was hilly and rough, and the march was understood to be made in the vicinity of the enemy.
It was therefore properly conducted with prudence, and was of course slow.
The right corps had been ordered to halt for the night at Haysville
, not more than four miles to the rear.
But on arriving at that point, finding no water, General Thomas
, who was conducting the corps, determined to go to the Rolling Fork
He was told the distance was two and one-half miles off to the right, but he did not arrive until 11 o'clock, after five hours of night marching.
The courier did not find him until 3 o'clock in the morning, at which hour he was camping, his trains being not all yet up. It is evident from his dispatches that he did not realize the gravity of the occasion.
It was impossible, under the circumstances, that marches should be regulated with reference to water.
The center corps marched with no assurance of finding it, halted on the evening of the 7th without it, and only obtained it the next morning by wresting it from the hands of the enemy.
Had the right corps been found at Haysville
, it should have been in position for battle by 7 o'clock, and, whatever else may have happened, would have been in such connection with headquarters by signa ls, as the other corps were, that the orders of 4 o'clock for it to attack would have been delivered immediately, and would have given fully two hours of daylight for action.
On the other hand, had the battle on the left been reported at 2 o'clock, when it commenced, the succor which was ordered from the reserve at 4 would have come in the form of reenforcements two hours earlier; and the orders which were sent at the same time to the right corps would have had at least that much more time for execution.
I make no prediction of all of the consequences that might have flowed from these conditions.
It would have depended much upon the action of the right corps.
They ought to have been of a very decisive character.
For the rest, the reports show that the left corps was not fully prepared for the heavy blow that fell upon it, but the reverse which it sustained was largely due to the rawness of the troops.
Fully one-half of the two divisions was made up of new regiments.
While the battle was in progress at Perryville
, Kirby Smith
, still thinking that my movement was upon his front, had prepared for a battle at or near Lawrenceburg
His cavalry attacked Sill
at that point on that day, and the next day on the march, but Sill
extricated himself skillfully, and continued his march, joining his corps at Perryville
on the 11th.
now discovered his mistake, and dispatched Bragg
on the 9th that he would join him immediately at Harrodsburg
, which he accomplished partly on the 9th and fully on the 10th.
On the latter day a strong reconnoissance found him in line of battle about four miles south of Harrodsburg
He withdrew entirely on the 11th, followed by my cavalry toward Camp Dick Robinson
, where Bragg
's whole force now took position, sheltered in front and on his right flank by the perpendicular cliffs of Dick's River
and the Kentucky
I was moving on the 12th and 13th to turn his position and attack him on the left, when I learned that he was withdrawing.
states in his report that he was ready and desirous for battle at this point and previously after Perryville
, and I have no doubt that was true, if he could have had his own terms.
His order for withdrawal was announced on the 13th.
The pursuit was taken up that night, under the supervision of Thomas
, with Crittenden
's corps, followed by the other corps.
The details afford no interesting or important fact, except that the retreating army was pressed into difficulties which involved it in great hardship and temporary disorganization.
The pursuit was continued in that manner as far as London
, and then, about the 20th, my several columns were turned by the most direct routes toward the ground in Tennessee
from which they had started six weeks before, and where it was foreseen the enemy would soon again be encountered.
The repair of the railroad had been pushed forward with energy, and the army was arriving at Glasgow
and Bowling Green
on its route, when on the 30th of October I turned over the command to General Rosecrans
, in obedience to orders from Washington
It would be useless to review the officio-personal part
of the correspondence which immediately preceded that event between the Washington
authorities and myself, or even the official part of it, relating chiefly to the plan of a movement into east Tennessee
, to which my successor in a measure fell heir.
Toward him, I may add, the transfer brought no heart-burning on my part, and the prayer expressed in my parting order was sincere, that the army might, under his command, be the means of speedily restoring the Union
to its integrity.
In spite of my connection — I can scarcely speak of it as a personal interest — with the subject, I venture to make some observations that appear to me proper with reference to the campaign which I have outlined.
It extended over a greater territory and involved greater hazard on the side of the Union
than any other campaign of the war. In the early part, and up to the time of my arrival in Louisville
, it was more neglected by the Government
than any other.
It was distinguished also from all others, except a part of Pope
's operations in Virginia
, in the relative strength of the contending forces.
The important results, favorable and adverse, were that the object for which I had started out, the occupation of east Tennessee
, was not even in a condition to be attempted; and that on the other hand, a formidable political and strategical scheme which aimed at the conquest and absorption of Kentucky
, was defeated with substantial disaster to the invader, and at the close the Federal
arms returned with increased strength to the possessions from which they had been withdrawn to counteract the invasion.
It has been said that territory was given up which was not recovered for a year; but that is not substantially true, except with reference to Cumberland Gap
, and as to that, it is to be remarked that it had been held at a greater cost than it was worth, and that afterward it was no obstacle when the advance into east Tennessee
was made with an adequate force.
When the army on the way back changed commanders at Bowling Green
, there was no new obstacle to its resumption of every position it had held in middle Tennessee
The enemy, with broken fortune and relatively impaired strength, was only on the south side of the Tennessee
from which he had started two months before.
I do not comment upon what was afterward done, or raise the question whether it was desirable to resume the position which had been occupied as a point of departure; but if it was not desirable to resume it, certainly for stronger reasons it was not a position which it was advisable for me to hold.
If the campaign, with no more advantageous results, had been marked by one general and destructive, but not disastrous battle, it would no doubt have been received with more popular favor, and perhaps even have been more easy of professional praise.
I shall not insist on that point, but I shall particularly make no apology for not having fought battles where the issue was reasonably doubtful, and where they in fact proved not to have been necessary for the success of my cause.
Besides, in an open field, with capable commanders, it takes two parties to inaugurate a battle--one to begin the attack, and another to stand to receive it.
It was much talked of after the event, that Kentucky
was known to be the immediate object for which Bragg
moved from Chattanooga
; that it was proposed to me to concentrate at Sparta
to oppose him; and that that mountainous and comparatively barren region could have been relied upon to support my army, with exhausted magazines and in the presence of the enemy; but the facts were as erroneous as the theories were fallacious.
There was never at the time an intelligent judgment or an accepted rumor that Bragg
's first object, if he had any, was any other than the recovery of middle Tennessee
; and if, under the circumstances, a proposition had been made to me to concentrate the army at Sparta
, I should have rejected it.
Various speculations and confident declarations have been indulged in by critics on both sides, as to the results that would have flowed from certain different action on the part of the two commanders.
Such opinions with reference to extended operations are seldom of any value.
They generally have no knowledge of the circumstances which would have prevented the prescribed action, and take no account of the modifying influence which it would have had on the conduct of the opposing commander.
It is, therefore, idle to assert, as many have done, that Kirby Smith
could and should have marched into Louisville
after the battle of Richmond
, or what would have been the substantial fruit of that proceeding if it had been accomplished; or that Bragg
united would have overwhelmed me at Munfordville
The disappointment of calculations pending the events, affords no stronger marks of fallibility than do assumptions afterward.
Of the former this campaign, like all campaigns, presents many examples.
Thus, the military problem, as it appeared to my mind, was to be solved by a combined descent of the Confederates
upon the inferior Union force in middle Tennessee
But instead of that, an army, embarrassed in its situation, to be sure, but intact and powerful, was left in the rear, and a distant invasion which had no well-founded prospect of success was undertaken.
The boldness and formidable character of this alternative appeared to give assurance that it would not be abandoned without at least one vigorous blow in attack or defense; but when prudential measures were taken on the opposing side with reference to such a contingency, the invader, with a prudence, not to be expected from the audacity of his advance, withdrew from the contest.
On the other side, to General Bragg
's mind, as early as the 24th of August, the army opposed to him was demoralized and in full flight, with doubtful prospect of stopping short of the Ohio
; later it was racing to get the lead of him at Munfordville
; and at that point, astonished to find himself not attacked at sight, he imagined that his opponent must be in retreat by some secret route to the Ohio River
But all of these impressions were delusive.
When to his mind the opposing army was in retreat, it was awaiting his approach from behind the
and the mountains.
When he imagined it trying to get ahead of him, it was moving especially to keep him in front and away from Nashville
, deeming the retention of that point of more consequence than his transient intrusion upon Kentucky
; always pursuing him, always aiming to get nearer to him, always willing to avail itself of advantages, and confident in the end of triumphing over him.
A philosophical study of our civil conflict must recognize that influences of some sort operated fundamentally for the side of the Confederacy
in every prominent event of the war, and nowhere with less effect than in the Tennessee
They are involved in the fact that it required enormous sacrifices from 24,000,000 of people to defeat the political scheme of 8,000,000; 2,000,000 of soldiers to subdue 800,000 soldiers: and, descending to details, a naval fleet and 15,000 troops to advance against a weak fort, manned by less than 100 men, at Fort Henry
; 35,000 with naval cooperation to overcome 12,000 at Donelson
; 60,000 to secure a victory over 40,000 at Pittsburg Landing
; 120,000 to enforce the retreat of 65,000 intrenched, after a month of fighting and manoeuvring, at Corinth
; 100,000 repelled by 80,000 in the first Peninsular campaign
; 70,000, with a powerful naval force to inspire the campaign, which lasted nine months, against 40,000 at Vicksburg
; 90,000 to barely withstand the assault of 70,000 at Gettysburg
; 115,000 sustaining a frightful repulse from 60,000 at Fredericksburg
100,000 attacked and defeated by 50,000 at Chancellorsville
; 85,000 held in check two days by 40,000 at Antietam
; 43,000 retaining the field uncertainly against 38,000 at Stone River
; 70,000 defeated at Chickamauga
, and beleaguered by 70,000 at Chattanooga
; 80,000 merely to break the investing line of 45,000 at Chattanooga
; 100,000 to press back 50,000, increased at last to 70,000, from Chattanooga
, a distance of 120 miles, and then let go — an operation which is commemorated at festive reunions by the standing toast of “one hundred days under fire” ; 50,000 to defeat the investing line of 30,000 at Nashville
; and finally 120,000 to overcome 60,000 with exhaustion after a struggle of a year in Virginia
The rule which this summary establishes will not determine absolutely the relative merit of the different achievements, but is not to b e ignored in a judgment upon particular events.
Individually, the Northern
soldier was in no sense the inferior of the Southern
What, then, is the explanation of this rule which is so nearly invariable as to show that superior numbers were generally essential to Union victories, and the success of Union operations?
Much — was due to the character of the contest.
Revolution is calculated to inspire bold and desperate action, and wars of sentiment, of the nature of which this partook more in the South
than in the North
, are always marked by unusual energy.
In the North
there was much animosity, but it was more collective, and operated more in shaping public policy than upon the temper of the armies.
The style of the orders and proclamations issued by many of the Southern
generals shows how much they relied on the passionate enthusiasm of their soldiers, and how they tried to stimulate it. They recognized that the odds must generally be against them, and that they must find some means of overcoming the effect of the fact upon the spirits of their troops, and themselves set an example of audacity.
Of course the necessity of invasion against a hostile population placed the Federal
cause at a disadvantage which had to be overcome by greater numbers.
The simpler mode of life to which the bulk of the Southern
troops were accustomed made them more contented with meager supplies; the lack of resources of every sort precluded the luxurious outfit to which the Northern
troops were accustomed; and thus the impedimenta of military operations were more restricted without impairing their efficiency than in the Northern
It took some time to eradicate this inequality.
Another sectional distinction produced a marked effect in the beginning of the war. The habits of the Southern
people facilitated the formation of cavalry corps which were comparatively efficient even without instruction; and accordingly we see Stuart
, and John Morgan
, and Forrest
riding with impunity around the Union
armies, and destroying or harassing their communications.
Late in the war that agency was reversed.
The South was exhausted of horses, while the Northern
cavalry increased in numbers and efficiency, and acquired the audacity which had characterized the Southern
But still another influence must be found in the personal differences between the two sections,--differences due chiefly to the more rural condition of the South
and the institution of slavery.
In all popular movements the Southern
leader was then, and is now in a less degree, followed with an implicit confidence which did not mean humility by any means, but produced subordination.
This difference is illustrated by two historical incidents.
At Cold Harbor, the Northern
troops, who had proven their indomitable qualities by losses nearly equal to the whole force of their opponent, when ordered to another sacrifice, even under such a soldier as Hancock
, answered the demand as one man, with a silent and stolid inertia:12
, when waiting for the signal which Longstreet
dreaded to repeat, for the hopeless but immortal charge against Cemetery Hill
, saluted and said, as he turned to his ready column: “I shall move forward, sir!”
Nor must we give slight importance to the influence of the Southern
women, who in agony of heart girded the sword upon their loved ones and bade them go. It was to be expected that these various influences would give a confidence to leadership that would tend to bold adventure, and leave its mark upon the contest.
Perryville, Kentucky, looking South-east from the MacKVILLEVILLEvilleville pike.
From a photograph taken in 1885. |