- Movement in retreat by two lines -- successful Evasion of Buell's pursuing army -- critical situation of General Smith's column at Big Hill -- Buell Draws off from pursuit and Prepares to return to Nashville -- Confederate forces Reunite at London and pass safely through Cumberland Gap -- Breckinridge with his Kentuckians turned back and sent to Murfreesboro -- General Buell Congratulated by General Halleck, and directed to take East Tennessee -- is superseded by General Rosecrans -- death of General William Nelson -- condition of Kentucky after evacuation of the State -- increased Persecution of Southern people.
The dispositions for the retreat were soon made, and on the morning of October 13th the movement began, General Polk's and General Hardee's corps moving by way of Lancaster, Crab Orchard and Mount Vernon, and General Smith's column by way of Lancaster and Big Hill to London, where he reunited with General Bragg. The pursuit of General Bragg's column was pressed with vigor by General Buell as far as Mount Vernon; but the retreat was so well covered by Wheeler's cavalry that it was without results. Fortunately General Smith was not vigorously pressed, or he could scarcely have saved his artillery and trains, which were carried over Big Hill only with the greatest difficulty, requiring the assistance of the infantry for several days. Col. John H. Morgan lingered in the vicinity of Lexington, covering approaches from that direction, and finally retired with a large increase of his force from recruits, in the direction of Lebanon and Nashville.  The retreat of General Bragg was conducted without further incident, the roads and weather fortunately being favorable, and on the 20th the advance of the army passed through Cumberland Gap. Yet it was an arduous retreat. The change from a country of plenty, with high hopes of wintering in Kentucky, to hard marches with scant food and disappointed expectations, had a telling effect upon the troops, who left the State footsore and poorly clad and shod to encounter a severe snow storm upon entering East Tennessee. Gen. John C. Breckinridge, having been turned back on the 17th when nearing Cumberland Gap, as already related, had moved into Middle Tennessee, and on the 28th of October arrived at Murfreesboro with 2,000 men as the advance guard of the army of occupation, soon to be reinforced by the greater part of General Bragg's army. General Buell, unable to cut off Bragg's retreat, issued orders looking to the return of his army to Nashville. General Halleck, upon receipt of the announcement of the battle of Perryville and Bragg's retreat, on the 18th of October replied: ‘The rapid march of your army from Louisville and your victory at Perryville have given great satisfaction to the government,’ these being the first words of commendation Buell had received since he left Corinth. A number of official communications had been addressed to him in this interval, warning him that he would be removed if he did not show better results, and on his arrival at Louisville he had been met with orders to turn over his command to General Thomas, but the latter protested that this was unjust and the order was rescinded, Thomas accompanying Buell on the Perryville campaign as second in command. In the same dispatch of congratulation quoted above, Halleck informed General Buell that he was expected to drive the enemy from East Tennessee as well as Kentucky. To this Buell replied that it was impossible to invade East Tennessee at that time on account of the  barren country, the approach of winter and bad roads; besides that, a prompt return to Nashville was necessary in order to hold any part of Tennessee. On the 9th Halleck telegraphed: ‘I am directed by the President to say that your army must enter East Tennessee this fall and that it ought to move there while the roads are passable.’ Buell, however, continued the movement of his army toward Nashville, and on the 23d General Rosecrans, at Corinth, Miss., was directed to repair to Cincinnati to receive orders. Upon his arrival there on the 28th, he received notification of his appointment to the department of the Cumberland, being the State of Tennessee east of the Tennessee river and the parts of north Alabama and Georgia in possession of the United States troops. He was directed to exhibit this instruction to General Buell and assume command of his forces. On the 30th General Rosecrans presented his credentials to General Buell at Louisville, together with instructions to the latter from General Halleck to repair to Indianapolis and await further orders. These further orders when received notified General Buell that a commission would sit on the 27th of November to investigate the operations of his command. And thus upon the pretext of his not having moved to carry out an order which was not repeated to his successor, General Buell was retired as the culmination of a long antagonism on political grounds, or jealousy on the part of his subordinates and disfavor of his superiors. Among other Federal losses in this campaign was the death of General Nelson, who was killed in a personal encounter in the Galt House, Louisville, September 29th, by Gen. Jeff. C. Davis, of the Federal army. Kentucky, again secure in the occupation of the Federal troops, passed into a new and more complete state of subjugation. Not only were those who had shown their sympathy for the Confederates during their occupation made to feel the hand of power, but soon Union men who ventured to dissent from the extreme policy of the  administration were treated as rebels and subjected to equal indignity. The most radical and revolutionary element obtained control, and a reign of terror was soon inaugurated which, subsequently continued through the war under Burnside, Burbridge, Payne and Palmer, not only intensified the Southern sympathy, but finally alienated a large majority of those who had originally been the most pronounced Unionists. But it was too late to be of practical benefit to the cause of the South, and save with an occasional cavalry raid, the soil of Kentucky did not again feel the tread of the contending armies.