- Bragg's Kentucky campaign -- its conception due to General E. Kirby Smith -- his letter to Bragg Suggesting it -- Bragg's previous plan -- his conference with Smith -- transfer of his army from Tupelo to Chattanooga -- plan of operations -- organization of the forces -- Bragg's column -- Smith's column -- General Smith's bold plan -- its successful execution -- Cumberland Gap turned, and Eastern Kentucky occupied -- Scott's cavalry -- battle of Richmond -- great Confederate victory -- occupation of Lexington and Frankfort and the country East of Louisville to the Ohio river -- enthusiastic Reception by the people -- ample supplies -- Confederate recruits.
The publication by the Federal government of the official records of both armies throws much new light upon the military operations of the war. Even the best informed during the progress of a campaign were limited in their knowledge of movements to the immediate horizon of their observation and experience, while to but few were known sufficient facts to enable them to understand and to give an accurate account of a great battle or campaign. But with the volumes of the official records before him, in which have been reproduced with remarkable accuracy and completeness almost every order or report, the impartial searcher after truth is able to comprehend every movement from its inception to its close and to rectify many errors which have crystallized into history. An instance in point is to be found in the matter of the Kentucky campaign. A close study of the record clearly shows that while the execution of it was in the  hands of General Bragg, the conception and original plan should be credited to Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. Long deferred justice to the latter distinguished soldier requires, therefore, a brief statement of the facts upon which this conclusion is based, wholly in the cause of historic truth, and with the most impartial fairness to both officers. As has been already stated, General Bragg had succeeded General Beauregard in command of the Western department on the 17th of June, 1862, while Gen. Kirby Smith was in command of the department of East Tennessee with headquarters at Knoxville. With the occupation of Cumberland Gap by Gen. Geo. W. Morgan a few days after this, and the demonstration made by General Buell on Chattanooga in his behalf, General Smith, becoming convinced of the peril which threatened his department, applied to General Bragg for reinforcements. But General Bragg, having conceived the idea of attacking General Buell in flank in Middle Tennessee, as he was slowly making his way eastward, replied that in view of this proposed movement he needed every man. (See Rebellion Records, part 2, Vol. XVI, page 701.) General Smith on the 24th urged upon the authorities at Richmond the necessity of aid, without which they must elect either to give up Chattanooga or East Tennessee, and General Bragg sent Gen. John P. McCown with a small division to Chattanooga, where he arrived on July 4th. For nearly a month, during which occurred the cavalry operations detailed in the preceding chapter, General Bragg adhered to his purpose of moving northward against General Buell and reaching Nashville by that route.1 Meantime Gen. Kirby Smith organized the cavalry commands of General Morgan and Forrest, and sent them on their raids of his own motion, as well as to retard the progress of Buell until Bragg could so strike him, as to relieve his own department.  On the 17th of July General Bragg ordered Gen. Frank C. Armstrong, his commander of cavalry, to move at once northward toward the Tennessee line, as near as practicable to Decatur, preliminary to his advance against General Buell. On the 19th, General Smith, being again threatened, urged General Bragg to send more reinforcements, to which reply was made that it was impossible as he was confronted by a superior force. Richmond being again appealed to on the 21st, General Bragg issued orders directing General Hardee to proceed with Cheatham's, Withers' and Jones' divisions to Chattanooga by rail via Mobile, the artillery, engineer, pioneer and wagon trains to move thence via Aberdeen and Columbus, Tuscaloosa, Gadsden and Rome, 400 miles. There is no intimation that he intended to send additional troops or to go himself until after the following letter from General Smith:2
On the 30th of July General Bragg arrived at Chattanooga and was met by General Smith, with whom he had a full conference. Next day he wrote as follows (idem, p. 741):
At the time this letter was written, while General Buell was really intending to enter East Tennessee by way of McMinnville and Altamont, he was masking his purpose by throwing a force toward Chattanooga, as if intending to go there. Upon this hypothesis Bragg proposed to march north from Chattanooga and move into Middle Tennessee in the direction of Nashville, via Altamont and McMinnville, and to get into what would be Buell's rear if he was in fact concentrating for a move on Chattanooga. General Buell adopted this theory as to Bragg's intentions, and when he moved, made his dispositions to  oppose his passage through the mountains by the proposed route. But as will be seen later, Bragg's plan was altered so as not to take the Altamont route, but to keep on to Sparta. The mountainous condition of the country through which General Bragg's trains had to come from Tupelo delayed their arrival and the advance of his army full a fortnight longer than he had expected and consumed invaluable time. Meantime he was perfecting his organization. His own force consisted of the following commands:
Abstract of field return of the army of Mississippi, commanded by Gen. Braxton Bragg, August 27, 1862:
|Officers.||Enlistments.||Effective Total.||Aggregate Present.|
|command.||present for duty.||Effective Total||Aggregate present|
|Officers.||Enlisted Men.||Officers.||Enlisted Men.||Officers.||Enlisted Men.|
On the 9th of August General Bragg added to General Smith's command from his own, the brigades of Generals Cleburne and Preston Smith, forming temporarily a fourth division under Cleburne, and also Gen. T. J. Churchill's division, including the brigades of McCray and McNair, constituting the third division of General Smith's army. On the 9th, General Smith, in a letter to General Bragg, says that from Buell's present position Sparta would seem to be one of his natural lines into middle  Tennessee. He also says that he learns that Gen. Geo. W. Morgan has ‘nearly a month's supply of provisions. If this be true, the reduction of the place would be a matter of more time than I presume you are willing I should take. As my move to Lexington would effectually invest Morgan and would be attended with other most brilliant results, in my judgment, I suggest my being allowed to take that course, if I find the speedy reduction of the Gap an impracticable thing’ (idem, p. 748). General Bragg in his reply next day doubts the advisability of General Smith's moving far into Kentucky while leaving Morgan in his rear until he could engage Buell fully, and says he does not credit the amount of Morgan's supplies and has confidence in his timidity. He adds that it will be a week before he can commence crossing the river, and information he hopes to receive would determine which route he would take, to Nashville or Lexington. Van Dorn and Price, he says, will advance simultaneously with him from Mississippi on West Tennessee, and he hopes they will all meet in Ohio. The feeling of hope and confidence in the success of the expedition was at high water mark with every one. On the 11th General Smith wrote to President Davis outlining his plan for entering Kentucky, which was substantially that executed by him—that he, with Cleburne's division, would cross the mountains by two routes, moving by Rogers' Gap, while Heth would push on through Big Creek Gap to Barboursville, getting in General Morgan's rear, while Stevenson would threaten him in front. Col. John S. Scott, with nine hundred cavalry, would push on to London, Ky., via Kingston. He says his advance is made in the hope of permanently occupying Kentucky. ‘It is a bold move, offering brilliant results, but will be accomplished only with hard fighting and must be sustained by constant reinforcements.’ He trusts that Gen. S. B. Buckner will be sent with his column, as there is not a single Kentuckian of influence or a  single Kentucky regiment with the command. On the 13th he addressed his last communication to General Bragg before leaving for the front, saying, “I leave here to-night and will be at Big Creek Gap Friday (16th). On Saturday night I will cross the mountains by Rogers' Gap with four brigades of infantry, 6,000 strong and march directly upon Cumberland Ford.” At the same time Heth, with the artillery and subsistence trains and two brigades, moves by Big Creek Gap upon Barboursville and Stevenson moves up and takes position close to the Gap in front. Scott, with 900 cavalry and a battery of mountain howitzers, left Kingston yesterday and should reach London, Ky., Sunday. It was the most brilliant conception of the war, as bold as Lee's move to Gettysburg, and requiring the dash and nerve of Stonewall Jackson. Besides, it was not a single column; it was four, the failure of either one involving disaster and possible destruction to all. His route was through a mountainous country depleted of supplies by both armies, and covering the territory in which Zollicoffer had lost his life and Crittenden's army had been annihilated; through which also Thomas and Schoepf and Morgan had for a year tried to cover the ground, which he, against a greater force than they had ever encountered, proposed to occupy in a few days. His programme, as sketched above, was carried out with the precision of a chess problem. Col. John S. Scott, with a force of 869 men, styled the Kirby Smith brigade, composed of the First Louisiana cavalry, Lieut.--Col. Jas. O. Nixon; the First Georgia cavalry, Col. J. J. Morrison, and the Buckner Guards, Captain Garnett, left Kingston on the 13th, moved via Jamestown, Tenn., Monticello and Somerset, Ky., and at 7 o'clock a. m. on the 17th captured London, Ky., taking 111 prisoners and a large number of wagons loaded with quartermaster and commissary stores destined for Cumberland Gap. On the 23d he attacked Col. Leonidas Metcalfe, of the Seventh Kentucky  cavalry, at Big Hill, seventeen miles from Richmond, and routed him with heavy loss, then pursuing the enemy in disorderly flight nearly to Richmond. Meantime General Smith, following the line of operations indicated in his letter to President Davis of the 11th, crossed the Cumberland mountains through Rogers' Gap, with the divisions of Cleburne and Churchill 6,000 strong, and on the 18th reached Barboursville, Ky., while General Heth, conveying the artillery and trains through Big Creek Gap, joined him on the 22d. Being reinforced by a brigade from Stevenson's division, General Smith advanced from Barboursville towards Richmond on the 27th with 12,000 men, and on the 30th attacked the Federal forces near Richmond,3 under Gen. M. D. Manson, of General Nelson's division, estimated by General Smith at 10,000. The principal fighting was done by the Confederates under Cleburne and Churchill, Scott's cavalry having been sent to the rear of Richmond. Upon the final rout of the Federals two miles west of that place, the day closed with the capture of over 4,000 prisoners, including General Manson. General Nelson, who came upon the field about 2 o'clock, after witnessing a panic of his own troops as great as that he saw at Shiloh, escaped capture by taking a by-road. The Confederate loss was about 450 killed and wounded, while that of the Federals was reported at 1,050 killed and wounded, and 4,828 captured, besides the loss of nine field pieces of artillery, 8,000 or 10,000 stand of arms and large quantities of supplies. Colonel Scott pursued the retreating forces, reaching Lexington on September 2d, Frankfort on the 3d and Shelbyville on the 4th. It was one of the most decisive victories of the war, and at one stroke practically caused the evacuation of all Kentucky east of Louisville and south of Cincin-  nati. On the 2d, General Smith occupied Lexington with a portion of his infantry, sending a small force to Frankfort and General Heth with his division toward Covington. Vast quantities of stores of all kinds, arms, ammunition, wagons, horses and mules came into his possession, and he was received with the greatest enthusiasm by the people, the leading Union men having fled with the legislature to Louisville. The Confederate flag was everywhere displayed, and recruiting camps were at once established in the vicinity of Lexington for the formation of cavalry regiments, by Abraham Buford, D. Howard Smith, R. S. Cluke, D. W. Chenault, J. Russell Butler and others.