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The concentration before Shiloh-reply to General Ruggles.

by Captain W. M. Polk.

To the Editor of the Southern Historical Society Papers:
Sir,--In the February number of your journal is an article by General Ruggles, purporting to be a reply to one by myself, upon the march [179] to Shiloh. Instead of being a mere reply, however, it contains a good deal of irrelevant matter, an excuse for which it is difficult to find. One is offered though, which I will notice before going further.

It seems that the General has “reason to assume” that Colonel Wm. Preston Johnston and myself conferred very fully in relation to certain statements touching him (General Ruggles) which appear in the Colonel's Life of Albert Sidney Johnston. Permit me to say that the General is mistaken. My connection with the matter is this: Colonel Johnston wrote asking for any information I might have bearing upon the question of the delay in the concentration. In reply I sent him substantially the article over which the General exhibits such unseemly excitement, viz: that in your December number. I suppose General Ruggles had an opportunity to express himself upon the same subject. If it had but little weight I would not be surprised if the reason should be found in the General's contempt for that essential of the historian, “fact.”

My article in your December number was written and published solely to correct certain impressions conveyed by one from General Jordan, in your August number. It never occured to me that I was saying anything to wound the feelings of General Ruggles. My desire was to show that Polk was not responsible for the delay, as his movement was dependent on that of troops in his front. I had to show when and how those troops moved, but not a single word was written that could be twisted into a reflection upon them. For fear that some one might feel hurt, I even took pains to repudiate every intention of casting blame, claiming that the delay was due to the elements, and quoting General Beauregard in proof. Finally, the quotation from General Polk's official report was made in order to show that if there was an issue, it was, as General Polk distinctly made it, between General Bragg and General Polk. The General must, therefore, pardon me if I insist that he keep his place. His issue is with Colonel Johnston and Colonel Munford, who remove the responsibility from General Bragg's shoulders, where General Polk placed it, and put upon his General Ruggles's. I have no desire to follow their example, much preferring to leave the matter as left by the principals. Nor will I, but in order to convince the General that I have every desire to treat him justly, I will go outside my path and endeavor to answer his article.

First, as to the personalities in which the General permits himself to indulge. They are so much out of place, so beneath the occasion, and so utterly unworthy of the gentleman I knew nineteen years ago as General Ruggles, I must be allowed to pass them over. As to the General's statement that no one ever heard of his division being late [180] till twelve years had passed, permit me to call attention to page 110, Jordan's Life of Forrest, published in 1868. There it is stated that one division of Bragg's corps was late, and as the official reports and correspondence show that Withers was not late, and that Ruggles was, the inference is clear.

We now come to the essential point in the General's “reply.” Who was responsible for the delay on the 5th of April, 1862, in the formation of the line of battle?

In my first article, as said, I was disposed to put the blame on the elements, but General Ruggles has shown me in this I erred; from his article I gather that he had a great deal to do with it. For a thorough understanding of the question at issue, some reference to the roads and order of march is first necessary. See map, page 559, Life of A. S. Johnston. This involves a repetition of some things said in your December number, but it is unavoidable.

The Bark road was virtually an extension of the Ridge road. This latter, leaving Corinth by the north, gradually by an extended sweep turned east, terminating, as we have said, in the Bark road. Up to a point some two or three miles west of Mickie's Cross-roads and house, it was the Ridge road; from that point to about where the line of battle was formed, some three miles to the east of Mickie's, it was the Bark road. This Ridge or Bark road was crossed nearly at right angles by two roads leading from Monterey north, one the Monterey and Purdy road, crossing some two or three miles west of Mickie's, the other the Monterey and Savannah road, crossing at Mickie's. By the order of march, Hardee and Polk were to follow the Ridge and Bark roads, Bragg was to assemble his corps at Monterey and march one division (Withers's) direct to Mickie's by the Savannah road, while the other (Ruggles's) was to be taken to the same point by following the Purdy road to the crossing of the Bark road, thence taking the latter in rear of Hardee. It was understood that should Polk's column (Clark's division) marching in rear of Hardee, reach this crossing before Ruggles, it was to wait till Ruggles had passed to its front. Hardee was to push on to the point chosen for the line of battle and there form. Bragg was to follow closely and form promptly the second line of battle, while Polk's one division (Clark's), on the Bark road in Ruggles's rear, was to halt at Mickie's.

Such in brief was the order [see page 188, Vol. I, Official Reports Battles C. S. A.; also, page 555 Life of Albert Sidney Johnston] (special order No. 8, April 3d, 1862) under which General Ruggles, in common with the troops of which we write, marched out of Corinth. [181]

But was it carried out? Early on the 4th day, after leaving Corinth, Hardee was at Mickie's, Bragg's first division, Withers, not far off, and Polk had reached the Purdy crossing, where he was to find Ruggles filing in behind Hardee. But where was Ruggles? The answer came in a note from General Bragg, dated 10 A. M., at Monterey, saying Ruggles would not move that way, but wouldfollow Withers on the Savannah road, direct to Mickie's. Polk was, therefore, not to wait, but move at once to Mickie's, where he was to meet the whole of Bragg's corps.

At the same time Bragg wrote the commanding general, “I reached here, Monterey, at half-past 8, ahead of my rear division, Ruggles's. Bad roads, insufficient transportation, badly managed, and the usual delays of a first move of new troops have caused the delay.”

Polk then continued his march, reaching Mickie's that afternoon.

From this it is clear that almost at the outset the order of march was disarranged by General Ruggles, and this notwithstanding the fact that he had but two brigades to bring to Monterey, Gibson being already there.

Let us see how the General gets around this point, for it is, and the arrangement of his argument shows that he feels it to be, one of great moment to him.

He does it by stating that special order No. 8, April 3d, the one above referred to, “directed the concentration of the main bodies of the three corps, excepting only Ruggles's division, at Mickie's or vicinity.” And finally, that his division marched there in conformity with orders from General Bragg.

The General must pardon me — but Special Order No. 8 makes no such exception in his favor; for his sake I wish it did, as he evidently had the order before him when he wrote. It is on page 555, Life of Albert Sidney Johnston, a work from which the General freely quotes. Reference to paragraph II will show what it says about Ruggles's division. It is substantially as I state it. We have now brought our statement to the night of the 4th. The movements of the 5th are next in order.

There can be no question as to the position of Hardee's, Polk's and Withers's divisions of Bragg's corps on the morning of the 5th. The first was on the Bark road, east of Mickie's; the second on the same road, west of Mickie's, but at it; the last on the Monterey and Savannah road, with its head at Mickie's, or possibly a short distance east of Mickie's, on the Bark road, between Hardee and Polk. Again, where was Ruggles? General Bragg, in his notes to Generals Johnston and Polk, said he would be behind Withers; but General Ruggles says he [182] followed Hardee and Polk on the Ridge road to Mickie's, and at nightfall bivouced at Mickie's, “not diverging materially from their order of march,” that is, behind Polk, on the Bark road. (Page 58.) But the General somewhat invalidates this statement further on, for on page 61 he says, in offering a probable explanation of his delay on the 5th: “We may assume that when my division filed into the Bark road, its advance was obstructed by a division of General Polk's reserve corps--he being my senior — which had pressed forward contrary to the order of march.” This assumption of the General's would seem to imply that he was not on the Bark road behind Polk, but rather, as we have always believed him to be, behind Withers, on the Monterey and Savannah road. But as this is not essential to the establishing of our position, we will allow the General to be upon either road, or upon both, if he so prefers it.

By 10 A. M., Hardee reached the enemy's out-posts and began to form line. Withers followed closely, to get his last brigade into position by 12. Ruggles was to come next, and form on Withers's left. Polk was to wait at Mickie's till Ruggles had passed, then was to follow and form in his rear. Eleven o'clock came; Hardee and Withers had disappeared in the direction of the line. The way was now clear for General Ruggles.

Where was — but we will not ask that question again. He says he was behind Polk, thus in a position that did not belong to him. The road to the west of Mickie's belonged to Polk, given him by General Ruggles's corps commander, when from Monterey at 10 A. M. the previous day he had written, that Ruggles would move behind Withers, that Polk need not wait, but was to move on to Mickie's.

This idea seems to have occurred to the General, for we find him trying to push Polk beyond Mickie's, on to ground belonging to himself (Ruggles), that is on the Bark road, east of Mickie's, directly in Withers's rear.

First he “suggests” that Clark's division followed Withers closely, then further on he “assumes” that Polk's corps pressed forward contrary to the order of march, taking his place. One would think that the General would realize that suggestions and assumptions are entirely out of place in a question of such a nature. Evidence is the thing that would be of service. I can offer some. I happened to be attached to Clark's division at the time, as junior second lieutenant in Bankhead's battery. At 5 o'clock in the morning I was at Mickie's, quite near the head of the division. There I remained till about 2 P. M., seeing every body of troops that passed between those hours. Our division (Clark's) [183] did not move east by Mickie's till about 2 P. M. We saw the last of Withers's about 11. Now here was an interval of three hours, and here we have the delay in the formation of the troops of which we write. Now who was responsible? Polk who was in place and under orders, waiting for Ruggles to march to his front, from the Monterey road, where General Bragg said he would be, or Ruggles who was out of place?

We see from Anderson's report [page 271, Official Reports Battles C. S, A., Vol. I] that on the night of the 4th, General Bragg in his tent developed to the division and brigade commanders the plan of battle for the coming day. “By this plan Ruggles was to form on the left of the second line of battle.” General Ruggles, therefore, knew positively on the night of the 4th that he had to be in front of Polk, for Polk was a a part of the reserve.

He gives us to understand that he struck Clark's rear at 7 A. M. Now much light will be thrown upon this subject if the General will tell us plainly what he was doing from that hour till 3 P. M., when Anderson gives us to understand the division took up its march for the line of battle; or, if he chooses, 12 1/2 P. M., when Munford says he found him in Polk's rear.

Does the General mean to say that he found it impossible to pass Clark's two brigades in all that time--five-and-a-half hours by one statement, eight by the other. If he does, I refer him to Anderson's report, and to the very paragraph in it, which he quotes on page 59. This, with an extract from Mumford, he uses to prove that the troops in his front were Clark's. Anderson says, when he took his place in column, at 3 P. M., marching in the direction of Shiloh, he found the road blocked with brigades, wagons and artillery, almost up to the point where his line was to be formed; yet he passed them in an hour, getting to his point about 4.

He did it by leaving the road, and marching parallel through the woods. Will the General tell us, if this was accomplished in the afternoon, why it could not have been done in the morning. The country around Mickie's was quite as favorable to such a movement as that in the immediate rear of the line. Accepting General Ruggles's statement that he was in rear of Polk on the morning of the 5th, I have to say that, had he moved with the same celerity before 11 A. M., as he seems to have done after 3 P. M., he could have completed his line by 1, Polk his by 2, and the army might have begun the battle that afternoon. [184]

Recapitulating, Mr. Editor, allow me to submit that the evidence establishes--

1st. That General Ruggles disarranged the order of march by not being up in time to take the Purdy road from Monterey.

2nd. He put himself behind Clark's division of Polk's corps, thus out of position.

3d. He remained behind Clark for hours, when his place was in front: thus holding Clark motionless.

4th. When he did move he got his position in an hour, showing that the obstruction in his front was not insurmountable.

5th. He completed his line after four P. M., when he could have completed it by 1 P. M.

Clark's line, as a consequence, was not formed till after 4 P. M., when it might have been formed by 2 P. M.

And now, though somewhat out of place, let me call attention to the march made by the detached division of General Polk's corps, the only division that was excepted by Special Order No. 8 from the general order of march — Cheatham's. It marched from its position at Purdy, to the line of battle in one day--Saturday, the 5th--the distance being but little less than that from Corinth to the line — getting into position almost as soon as General Ruggles.

One other point, Mr. Editor, and I have done.

The General would have us think that when one says he (General Ruggles) was responsible for the delay, a reproach is cast upon his troops. This cannot be admitted. The rule, I believe, is, that the commander is responsible for his troops, not the troops for the commander. A good many General officers have tried to reverse it, but I cannot recall that their efforts met with marked success.

No one for a moment supposes that General Ruggles's troops did other than obey his orders. It was my good fortune to see those troops, not only at Shiloh, with General Ruggles, but also at Mumfordsville, Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Resaca, New Hope Church, Kenesaw, around Atlanta, at Franklin, Nashville and Spanish Fort, without General Ruggles. I never heard that they disobeyed an order or failed in a duty.

But, Mr. Editor, to end the disagreable subject, permit me to hand you the following dispatch, penned by Gen eral Ruggles's department commander, but two days before he was killed on his line of battle:

near Marietta, Ga., June 12th, 1864.
Hon. Jas. A. Seddon, Secretary of War:
Brigadier-General Ruggles, of the department of Alabama, Mississippi [185] and East Louisiana is, I believe, regarded as one of the best organizers we have in the west. He is now without employment.

I am not aware that the War Department has made any appointment of an officer to take charge of and organize the reserves of Mississippi and East Louisiana. If no appointment has been made, I desire respectfully to present the name of Brigadier-General Ruggles for that office.


L. Polk, Lieutenant-General.

Had General Polk lived, he intended to make this command well worthy any officer, and General Ruggles (General Ruggles had been under General Polk but a short time) at its head, with the increased rank of Major-General, as General Polk hoped to have it — tardy justice would have been rendered one whom he considered a deserving, gallant officer.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. M. Polk. New York, 288 5th Ave., March 24th, 1881.

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