Bragg's advance and retreat.1
campaign has drawn on him more criticism than any other part of his career as a military commander.
During that memorable march I rode at his side from day to day, and it was his habit to confide to me his hopes and fears.
About the end of June, 1862, General Bragg
was visited by many prominent citizens of Kentucky
, who had abandoned their homes, and who assured him that Kentuckians were thoroughly loyal to the South
, and that as soon as they were given an opportunity it would be proven.
Fired with this idea, he planned his offensive campaign.
On the 21st of July, 1862, the movement of the Army of Mississippi from Tupelo
The infantry moved by rail, the artillery and cavalry across the country.
Headquarters were established at Chattanooga
on the 29th.
On the 30th Major-General Kirby Smith
visited General Bragg
at that point, and it was arranged that Smith
should move at once against the Federal
forces under General George W. Morgan
in Cumberland Gap
In this interview General Bragg
was very certain that he would begin his forward move in ten or fifteen days at latest, and if Kirby Smith
was successful in his operation against Morgan
he would be on his offensive against Buell
took the field on the 13th of August, 1862.
On the 28th, after some inevitable delays, Bragg
crossed the Tennessee
, his right wing, under Polk
, 13,537 strong; the left wing, under Hardee
, 13,763 strong,--total effective, 27,320 rank and file.
by this time was deeply impressed with the magnitude of his undertaking.
He had lost faith somewhat in the stories that had been told him of Kentucky
's desire to join the South
, but he proposed to give the people a chance of so doing by the presence of Southern troops.
At the same time he was resolved to do nothing to imperil the safety of his army, whose loss, he felt, would be a crushing blow to the Confederacy
He reached Carthage
on the 9th of September.
On the 12th he was at Glasgow, Kentucky
, where he issued a proclamation to Kentuckians.
About that time also the corps of Polk
were ordered to unite.
was now moving on Bowling Green
from the south.
On the 16th our army surrounded and invested Munfordville
, and General Wilder
, with its garrison of four thousand men, was forced to capitulate.
General Kirby Smith
, having found Morgan
's position impregnable, detached a part of his forces to invest it, and, advancing on Lexington
, defeated the Federal
forces encountered at Richmond, Ky.
He was relying on an early junction with General Bragg
On the 17th of September Generals Polk
were called to a council at Munfordville
With the map and the cavalry dispatches out-spread before him, General Bragg
placed General Buell
and his army in our rear, with Munfordville
on the direct line of his march to Louisville
assumed objective point of his movement, General Bragg
then explaining his plan, which was discussed and approved by his lieutenants.
Our advance was then resumed, leaving General Buell
to pursue his march unmolested.
This action was subsequently severely criticised by military men, and at the time it was greatly deplored by many officers of his command.
At 1 o'clock on the morning of the 18th of September, indeed, Bragg
was on the point of rescinding the order to continue the march, and of directing instead an immediate offensive movement against Buell
The importance of recovering Nashville
induced the proposed change of operation.
But, upon further consideration, he reverted to his previous plans, saying to me with emphasis, “This campaign must be won by marching, not by fighting.”
He used similar language at subsequent stages of the campaign before the battle of Perryville
At the moment he evinced no regret at having allowed Buell
to pass on our left flank.
The success of the column under Kirby Smith
in its combat at Richmond, Ky.
, elated him. He was worried by the delays that retarded his
junction with that officer, and was greatly relieved when all the Confederate forces in Kentucky
were united at Lexington
Here a brilliant entertainment was given to the two generals by our old comrade, General William Preston
, in his delightful Kentucky
But it was here, also, that General Bragg
fully realized that the reported desire of Kentucky
to cast her lot with the South
had passed away, if indeed such a disposition had ever existed; for not only was Kentucky
unprepared to enter the Confederacy
, but her people looked with dread at the prospect of their State being made a battle-field.
Under these circumstances he remarked to me again and again, “The people here have too many fat cattle and are too well off to fight.”
He was now aware that he had embarked in a campaign that was to produce no favorable result, and that he had erred in departing from his original plan of taking the offensive in the outset against Buell
by an operation on that general's communications.
He was determined, however, not to expose his army to disaster, nor to take any chances.
The information we were receiving indicated that Buell
was being heavily reenforced.
It was now the eve of the battle of Perryville
, and Kirby Smith
, at Salvisa
, twenty miles to the north-east, was calling for reinforcements, as he was confident that the feint was against Perryville
, and that the main attack would surely fall on him. Thus urged, General Bragg
, against his own judgment, yielded, and detached two of his best divisions (Withers
's and Cheatham
's) to Smith
's aid. The former division could not be recalled in time, and the latter arrived the morning of the battle.
Having placed General Polk
in command of the troops, Bragg
had gone to Frankfort
, the capital of the State of Kentucky
, to witness the inauguration of the secessionist governor, Hawes
The inaugural was being read when the booming of cannon, shortly followed by dispatches from our cavalry outposts, announced the near presence of the enemy.
As the hall was chiefly filled by the military, who hurried away to their respective commands, the governor was obliged to cut short his inaugural address.
The field of Perryville
was an open and beautiful rolling country, and the battle presented a grand panorama.
There was desperate fighting on both sides.
I saw a Federal battery, with the Union flag planted near its guns, repulse six successive Confederate charges before retiring, saving all but one gun, and eliciting praise for their bravery from their desperate foes.
About dark, Polk
, convinced that some Confederate troops were firing into each other, cantered up to the colonel of the regiment that was firing, and asked him angrily what he meant by shooting his own friends.
The colonel, in a tone of surprise, said: “I don't think there can be any mistake about it. I am sure they are the enemy.”
“Enemy! Why, I have just left them myself.
Cease firing, sir. What is your name?”
rejoined the Confederate
“I am Colonel
And pray, sir, who are you?”
Thus made aware that he was with a Federal regiment and that his only escape was to brazen it out, his dark blouse and the increasing obscurity happily befriending him, the Confederate
general shook his fist in the Federal
colonel's face and promptly said: “I will show you who I am, sir. Cease firing at once!”
Then, cantering down the line again, he shouted authoritatively to
the men, “Cease firing!”
Then, reaching the cover of a small copse, he spurred his horse and was soon back with his own corps, which he immediately ordered to open fire.
The battle of Perryville
, a hard-fought fight against many odds, was merely a favorable incident which decided nothing.
Our army, however, was elated and did not dream of a retreat, as we had held the field and bivouacked on it. But the commanding general
, full of care, summoned his lieutenant-generals to a council in which both advised retreat.
The next day General Smith
's army was called to Harrodsburg
, where a junction of the two forces was effected, and where a position was selected to receive Buell
's attack ;--this, however, not being made, Bragg
was enabled to take measures for an immediate retrograde.
was at once dispatched by forced marches to take position at Murfreesboro
‘, and prepare it for occupancy by the retreating Confederates.
The conduct of the retreat was intrusted to Polk
Our army fell back first to Camp Dick Robinson
, whence the retreat began in earnest, a brigade of cavalry leading.
All the supplies which it was impossible to carry from this depot were burned; the rest were hauled away in wagons, including provisions, merchandise of all kinds, and captured muskets, while captured cannon were drawn by oxen.
Refugees, with their families, slaves, and a great deal of household stuff; omnibuses, stages, and almost every other description of vehicle were to be seen in this heterogeneous caravan.
Thousands of beef cattle, sheep, and hogs were driven along under the charge of Texans as reckless as the affrighted cattle they were driving.
's army and Polk
's and Hardee
's corps followed the trains.
The Federal army promptly took up the pursuit and made an effort by a flank movement to intercept our long unwieldly trains.
with his cavalry brought up the rear — fighting by day and obstructing the roads at night.
Before the pursuit was abandoned at Rock Castle
, that officer was engaged over twenty-six times.
His vigilance was so well known by the infantry that they never feared a surprise.
Hard marching, stony roads, and deep fords lay before us until we had crossed Cumberland Gap
But at last almost all that had been taken out of Kentucky
was safely conveyed to Morristown, Tenn.
About the 31st of October, 1862, General Bragg
, having made a short visit to Richmond
, there obtained the sanction of the Confederate Government for a movement into middle Tennessee
Returning to Knoxville
, General Bragg
made preparations with the utmost rapidity for the advance to Murfreesboro
‘, where General Breckinridge
was already posted, and General Forrest
was operating with a strong, active cavalry force.
Our headquarters were advanced to Tullahoma
on the 14th of November, and on the 26th to Murfreesboro
‘. Notwithstanding long marches and fighting, the condition of the troops was very good; and had they been well clad, the Confederate army would have presented a fine appearance.
On November 24th, 1862, the commands of Lieutenant-General Pemberton
, and that of General Bragg
, were placed under
General Joseph E. Johnston
, and his official headquarters were established at Chattanooga
Immediately thereafter General Johnston
‘, where he passed some days devoted to a thorough inspection of the army.
Our forces numbered somewhat over 40,000 men. General Johnston
's visit, was followed during the second week in December by that of President Davis
and his aide, General Custis Lee
The President asked Bragg
if he did not think he could spare a division of his army to reeforce Pemberton
assented and dispatched a division of 8000 men under Stevenson
This step was contrary to the decided opinion previously expressed to Mr. Davis
by General Johnston
[See p. 473.]
So well satisfied was General Bragg
at having extricated his army from its perilous position in Kentucky
, that he was not affected by the attacks upon him by the press for the failure of the campaign.
He was cheerful, and would frequently join the staff about the camp-fire, and relate with zest incidents of his services under General Taylor
On the 26th General
, commanding the cavalry outposts,3
sent dispatches in quick succession to headquarters reporting a general advance of Rosecrans
Soon all was bustle and activity.
's corps at Triune
was ordered to Murfreesboro
‘. Camps were at once broken up and everything was made ready for active service.
On the 27th of December our army was moving.
On Sunday, December 28th, Polk
met at General Bragg
's headquarters to learn the situation and his plans.
was advancing from Nashville
with his whole army.
with his cavalry was so disposed at the moment as to protect the flanks, and, when pressed, to fall back toward the main army.
's corps, consisting of the divisions of Breckinridge
, with Jackson
's brigade as a reserve, constituted our right wing, with its right resting on the Lebanon Pike
and its left on the Nashville
's corps, composed of Withers
's and Cheatham
's divisions, was to take post with its right touching Hardee
on the Nashville
road, and its left resting on the Salem Pike
's division was to form the reserve and to occupy our center.
Such was the position of the Confederate army on the 29th of December.
On Tuesday, December 30th, Rosecrans
was in our front, a mile and a half away.
At 12 o'clock artillery on both sides was engaged.
At 3 o'clock the Federal infantry advanced and attacked our lines, but were repulsed by the Louisiana
brigade, under Colonel Gibson
in the absence of General Daniel Adams
But night soon interposed, quiet prevailed, and the two armies bivouacked opposite to each other.
was on the field the entire day, but returned to his headquarters that evening at Murfreesboro
‘. He called his corps commanders together and informed them that his advices convinced him that Rosecrans
, under cover of the day's attack, had been massing his troops for a move on our left flank.
It was then agreed that Hardee
should at once move to the extreme left Cleburne
's division of his corps and the reserve (McCown
), and that, next morning, Hardee
should take command in that quarter and begin the fight.
At daylight on the 31st (Wednesday), Hardee
, with Cleburne
's and McCown
's divisions, attacked McCook
's corps of the Federal
the Nashville pike out of Murfreesboro‘, looking North-West toward the rise of ground which was the site of fortress Rosecrans, constructed after the withdrawal of Bragg.
From A photograph taken in 1884. |
while the enemy were disorganized, many of the men being still engaged in cooking their breakfasts, but they very soon got under arms and in
View of Murfreesboro'from the vicinity of fortress Rosecrans.
From a photograph taken in 1884. |
position, and resisted the attack with desperation.
At this juncture Polk
advanced with Withers
's and Cheatham
's divisions, and after hard fighting McCook
's corps was driven back between three and four miles. Our attack had pivoted the Federals
on their center, bending back their line, as one half-shuts a knife-blade.
At 12 o'clock we had a large part of the field, with many prisoners, cannon, guns, ammunition, wagons, and the dead and wounded of both armies.
Between 2 and 3 o'clock, however, Rosecrans
massed artillery on the favorable rising ground to which his line had been forced back.
On this ground cedar-trees were so thick that his movements had not been perceived.
Our line again advanced.
's, and Maney
's brigades, supported by Slocomb
's, and Byrne
's batteries, were hurled against the Federal
line, but could not carry it. Reenforced by Gibson
's and Jackson
's brigades, another charge was ordered, but the position was not carried and many were-killed and wounded on our side.
A bitter cold night was now on us. We were masters of the field.
The sheen of a bright moon revealed the sad carnage of the day, and the horrors of war became vividly distinct.
That night General Bragg
again made his headquarters at Murfreesboro
‘, whence he gave orders for the care of the wounded.
All the churches and public buildings were turned into hospitals.
He announced to Richmond
by telegraph: “God has granted us a happy New year.”
We had indeed routed the Federal
right wing, but the bloody work was not over.
During January 1st Rosecrans
's army was intrenching itself, but General Bragg
was of the opinion that their quiet meant a retreat.
During the morning of the 2d (Friday) quiet prevailed, except some shelling on our right.
At about noon General Bragg
determined to dislodge the force on his right.
Orders were given to that end, and our best troops were carefully selected.
's, and Hunt
's brigades, with Cobb
's and Wright
's batteries, were placed under Major-General Breckinridge
A gun fired by one of our batteries at 4 o'clock was the signal for the attack.
After a fierce fight we carried the hill.
The orders were to take its crest, and there remain intrenched.
endeavored to execute this order, but the commanders of the brigades engaged could not restrain the ardor of their men, who pushed on beyond support.
The Federal batteries that had been massed on the other side of the stream now opened on them and drove the Confederates
back with terrible slaughter, fully 2000 of our men being killed and wounded in this attack.
At 10 o'clock P. M. the news of this disastrous charge, led by the élite
of the Confederate army, cast a gloom over all.
Saturday, January 3d, the two armies faced each other, with little fighting on either side.
The miscarriage of the 2d determined General Bragg
to begin to fall back on Tullahoma
; but all day of the 3d our forces maintained their line of battle taken up early that morning.
That night the evacuation of Murfreesboro
' was effected.
' on Sunday, the 4th of January, 1863.
Meantime his adversary was in full retreat on Tullahoma
By this time General Bragg
's corps commanders, as well as their subordinates down to the regimental rank and file, scarcely concealed their want of confidence in him as the commander of the army.
On the 11th of January he invited from his corps, division, and brigade commanders an expression of their opinion on that point, and their replies, while affirming their admiration for his personal courage, devotion to duty, and ability as an organizer, frankly confessed that his army had lost confidence to such an extent in his capacity for chief command as wholly to impair his further usefulness.
On the 4th of February General Polk
went so far indeed as to write direct to President Davis
with regard to the dissatisfaction felt, and the necessity for the immediate substitution of another commander.4
To vindicate himself, General Bragg
at once made an official report of the battle of the 31st of December, especially in relation to the miscarriage of the effort to break the enemy's center.5
The feeling outside as well as inside of his army, however, waxed so strong against Bragg
that President Davis
ordered General Johnston
, then near
, to go to Tennessee
, with authority, if he thought it wise, to relieve Bragg
's arrival was hailed with joy, for our army specially wanted him as their commander.
But after spending more than a week looking into its condition, he decided that he would not relieve Bragg
, and thereupon returned toward Vicksburg
with his staff.
This result quieted the bad feeling somewhat, but did not restore harmony between the corps
commanders and their commanding general.
Seldom did either of them visit headquarters except officially.
On the other hand, Bragg
was on good terms with the division and brigade commanders, namely, Wheeler
, and Withers
, Patton Anderson
, J. C. Brown
, J. K. Jackson
, and Walthall
The certainty he felt that General Rosecrans
would retire from his front had led him to suffer the 1st to pass without advancing his right to cover the rising ground, thus giving ample leisure to Rosecrans
to intrench and to restore order to his army after the fight of the 31st, when all the advantages of battle had remained with us. But on Friday, the 2d of January, he was convinced that Rosecrans
was not going to retreat and that fighting must soon be resumed.
After riding over the ground early on the morning of the 2d, at 11 o'clock he had adopted the following plan: To seize and carry by a vigorous assault that rising ground now occupied by the Federal
forces, allowing only one hour to intervene between the time of the attack and dark, so that night should stop the fighting and give us opportunity to fortify at once.
It was for that reason the hour of 4 P. M. was selected for the operation.
The failure of Friday to secure the heights on our right necessitated an entire change of our lines, and Saturday his determination was to fall back to Tullahoma
and await General Rosecrans
No such move, however, having been made, our army went into winter quarters, undisturbed.
While the army was at Murfreesboro
‘, no firing of guns being allowed, the country remained full of rabbits, some of which during the battle, alarmed by the din, rushed swiftly past one of our regiments, which at the time was advancing under a heavy fire of musketry.
One of our soldiers was heard by a staff-officer to yell out, “Go it, cotton-tail; I'd run too if I hadn't a reputation.”
an order had been issued forbidding the men firing their muskets when in camp.
One of the volunteers shooting at a chicken killed a man; he was tried and shot, not, as unjustly stated, for disobedience of orders, but for killing the man. During one of General Bragg
's rides near Tullahoma
, he happened to meet a countryman dressed in his “butternut” garb, one of those rough, independent citizens of the mountain district of Tennessee, who, after intelligently giving all the information asked of him about the roads we were looking for, was also asked by the general if he did not “belong to Bragg
was the reply.
“He's got none; he shot half of them in Kentucky
, and the other got killed up at Murfreesboro
The general laughed and rode on.