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A Cursory sketch of General Bragg's campaigns. Paper no. 2.

By Major E. T. Sykes, of Columbus, Miss.

The Kentucky campaign.

By the 21st of August, having made all needful preparations and inured his troops to the necessary and required discipline, General Bragg, with Hardee and Polk's corps, crossed the Tennessee river at Harrison's Ferry, nine miles above Chattanooga (we had but one transport, and consequently were several days crossing, which allowed the boys in gray an opportunity of bathing, the last they enjoyed until we captured Mumfordsville, on the Green river), and moving over Waldem's Ridge (it should, in respect and deference to its size, have been more properly called High and Broad mountain) and Cumberland mountain, turned Buell's left; and on the 5th of September the Confederate column was greeted with a large sign board, nailed by our advance pioneer corps to a tree on the side of the road, with these words appearing on it in bold relief: ‘You now cross from Tennessee to Kentucky.’ That was the dividing line between two States, and well did the boys in ‘dirty gray’ make the welkin ring as they at one step bounded across the narrow but visible line drawn for their observation and exultation.

General E. Kirby Smith in the meantime moved from Knoxville, flanked the Federal General G. W. Morgan, who was in the occupancy of Cumberland Gap, got into the enemy's rear, whipped Bull Nelson at Richmond, Ky., capturing many prisoners and a superabundance of supplies, clothing, and camp equipage, and succeeded in reaching and occupying Lexington, establishing an outpost at Covington, on the Ohio river, just opposite Cincinnati.

General Bragg's design was to unite with him at the capital of the State and solidly advance on Louisville, his objective point. Moving for that purpose through Glasgow (where God bless the ladies with their miniature Confederate flags; we were welcomed with joyful tears and loving smiles, as never were soldiers welcomed before), Mumfordsville1 (where the writer, then commanding Company [467] ‘K’ in the Tenth Mississippi Infantry, had some bitter experience, but in two days after, when Bragg marched up his army on the 17th of September, made about 4,500, under Colonel C. L. [468] Dunham, lay down their arms and yield to the gray, he felt in a great measure repaid for the almost irreparable loss of the soldier and his friend, the brave and intrepid Colonel Robert A. Smith), Hodgensville, Bardstown, and Harrodsburg, we halted for rest around the latter places, when Buell, whose army had marched straight to Louisville, and receiving heavy reinforcements, returned to give battle to our forces.

General Bragg's sanguine anticipations on entering Kentucky were, in the nature of things, necessarily disappointed. He had thought, and not without reason for his hope, that the Kentuckians would flock to his standard by the thousands, when in truth and in fact very few joined him. Not that the great bulk of her citizens did not sympathize with our cause, but the apprehension of an early abandonment of their homes, and the want of time to make their worldly arrangements, prevented.


Battle of Perryville.

General Buell, learning the position of our forces near Perryville, determined on attacking us there. Bragg wisely prepared to receive and give him battle, and, in fact, ascertaining that Crittenden's corps was nearly a day's march in the rear of Buell, he sent Withers's division of Polk's corps to intercept him, whilst he, with the remainder of the army, attacked the two Federal corps under McCook and Gilbert, both under the immediate command of Buell, then rapidly, and, as they thought, securely, approaching Perryville, hoping to crush them in detail, and thereby remain for a time at least master of the situation in the dark and bloody ground. But by one of those mishaps that will sometimes crop out when least looked for or expected, our (Withers's) division, which, as said above, was sent to intercept Crittenden's corps, came up, at the intersection of two roads, with the advance guard of General E. Kirby Smith's army hastening to General Bragg's support, and they being all dressed in new Federal suits, the spoils at Richmond, where Bull Nelson had the discretion, under the cloak of big-hearted generosity, to supply the much needed requisitions of the haughty Confederate (this was about twelve miles north of Harrodsburg, near the Louisville turnpike), Major W. C. Richards's (who had just before at Mumfordsville been severely wounded) sharpshooters of Chalmers's brigade, under command of Captain West, and those of our new, and, as it resulted, friendly acquaintances, mutually mistaking each other for the enemy, commenced skirmishing and continued for some time, and until Smith's men, discovering the mistake, sent forward a flag of truce and removed the apprehension, but not until it was too late for the accomplishment of the errand upon which we had been sent. The game had flown; Crittenden, with only his rear guard slightly harrassed, passed on and in time united with Buell's forces, then being driven back from Perryville, and turned the tide of battle against us, which, till his arrival, had rolled so proudly at our bidding, and in connection with the signal defeat of Van Dorn at Corinth on the second (4th October) day of that engagement, necessitating Bragg's retreat out of Kentucky by Cumberland Gap.

Van Dorn's army, had it been successful at Corinth, was to have cooperated with us in Tennessee and Kentucky, insuring success to our arms in the latter State. But few know the fact, or knowing it have suppressed its utterance, that General Bragg's original plan [470] was not to engage the enemy at Perryville, but, on the other hand, if his orders had been obeyed, the battle field would have been elsewhere or Louisville surrendered to our forces. It was, as well as the writer can from memory recall, in substance this: General Bragg, on leaving the army in and around Bardstown, proceeded to Lexington, where was stationed the division of General Smith, and had left General Polk, as the senior or ranking Major-General, in command. On arriving at the capital he determined on making a coup de main on Louisville with Smith's troops, sufficiently supported, whilst Polk was ordered to make a flank movement, so successful in the strategy of Stonewall Jackson's campaigns, and turn the enemy's right. Had this been done, the result and issue of the contest might and most probably would have been different. But there are marplots to be found in every household, cabinet and council. General Polk saw fit (and it may have been best; it is not for me to say) to disregard the order until he could communicate with General Bragg by courier and suggest the propriety and, as he deemed, necessity of remaining with and protecting our very large and important supply train. The delay in communicating, at the distance they were apart, was valuable time never to be regained; the enemy had changed position, and hence General Bragg realized a sad disappointment by General Polk's conduct in the full fruition of his hopes—on the 4th of October inaugurated the Hon. Richard Hawes, at Frankfort, as Confederate Provisional Governor, and on the same day evacuated the city and returned with the troops there stationed, and hastened with all speed and at imminent risk of life or capture to join and resume immediate command of his troops near Harrodsburg and Perryville, and make an effort to repair the mistakes of his subordinate. Hence the battle of Perryville, of necessity fought, and fought under the circumstances, with its consequent disastrous results.

In this campaign General Bragg accomplished all that it was possible for him or any other General at that time similarly circumstanced to do, but not as much as he had hoped when he entered her borders.

Retreat out of Kentucky.

With saddened hearts we commenced the retreat on the 8th of October, 1862, crossing Duck river, passing Camp Dick Robinson (then newly dubbed Camp Breckinridge), Crab Orchard, Mt. Vernon, Wild-Cat Bend, Cumberland Gap, and on to Knoxville. The [471] Federals, finding it useless, pursued but little south of Crab Orchard.

The fruits of this campaign in supplies, provisions, and all the necessary appendages of an army, were almost fabulous. Think of nearly four thousand wagons, a majority of which were branded with the letters U. S., heavily loaded with the best and every variety of jeans, warm blankets, provisions, and other spoils of our oversupplied foes; several thousand head of cattle, the finest the eye ever beheld, and in truth, only by a hungered people, too fine to slaughter; besides, more than a thousand mules and as many sheep, and you have some approximate idea of what good that campaign was to an impoverished and starving Confederacy of people, to say nothing of the experience gained in the realization of the fact that, unless you are able and intend permanently to occupy a country and can make its people believe it, it is futile to hope with confidence for any material aid from them, particularly in men. It is ‘hoping against hope.’

The Tennessee campaign.

After the army had rested for a while from its arduous trials, Bragg commenced his movements into Tennessee preparatory to an advance on Nashville. Tulehoma and Shelbyville were his rallying points, with outposts at Murfreesboroa, Eagleville, &c.; and finally, in December, the army was concentrated in and around Murfreesboroa, with outposts advanced to the vicinity of Nashville. Instead of Rosecrans, who had superceded Buell, going into winter quarters at Nashville, as Bragg was led to believe from spies, he broke up camps on the morning of the 25th of December, and pouring down his hordes by way of the Wilson, Nolinsville, Murfreesboroa, and Jefferson turnpikes, drove our outposts back to the main line, established near and crossing Stone river, a short distance in front of the railroad bridge, with its right resting on Lebanon pike. It will be remembered that General Joseph E. Johnston had been placed in command of this Confederate department, but did not engage in active field operations, and that also, not anticipating any attack from the enemy, had sent Generals Morgan and Forrest with their cavalry in different directions—the first to destroy Rosecrans's communications in Kentucky, the latter to harrass, cut off, and destroy Grant's line of communications; and also a division of infantry under General Stevenson had been sent to our army in Mississippi.


Battle of Murfreesboroa.

On the night of the 30th, the writer having a short time before resigned his commission in the line and accepted that of Assistant Adjutant General on General Walthall's (just promoted) staff, who at this juncture was on sick leave in Virginia, and his brigade temporarily commanded by General Patton Anderson, recently deceased, we received instructions that by early dawn the next morning the left under Hardee (he and Polk being the two corps commanders) would begin the attack, conforming elbows to the right in their advance, the right of our brigade, resting on the Franklin turnpike, to be the pivot. The balance of the army to our right, being part of Polk's and the entire force of Breckinridge, to remain stationary and await results.

As the first signs of day appeared on the morning of the 31st, being the last of the year 1862, the occasional shots of the picket line were superceded by the more rapid discharge of advancing skirmishers on the left, which in time was replaced by the sharp and ever-increasing rattle of musketry, growing nearer and still louder as the loud boom of artillery united its volume of sound to the already soul-inspiring cauticle of death, till anon the surging of the line reached us and our time came to forward with our comrades. A few hours told the tale, and it was as sweet to us as its realization bitter to the haughty foe. We had completely turned his right under McCook, driving his line back over rocks and through cedar brakes several miles to a right angle, where before it that morn, in semi-circular shape, threatened to engulph us. Thirty pieces of artillery, innumerable dead and wounded and many prisoners were the fruits to the Confederate arms of this well-planned and equally well-executed movement.

General Breckinridges fight on the right.

Affairs virtually remained in statu quo until the evening of the 2d of January, 1863, when Breckinridge was ordered to attack the enemy's left, in anticipation of the intention of Rosecrans to turn and attack us in rear. Breckinridge burst in mass upon the enemy, crossed Stone river, fording that stream for the purpose, and soon one of the most bitter conflicts of the war ensued. Both sides massed their artillery and used it with terrible effect. But it was soon seen that the enemy's position was too strong, and that Breckinridge [473] was being driven back. 'Twas here that Kentucky's brave and eloquent Roger Hanson was mortally wounded and soon after died.

Walthall's brigade (commanded by Patton Anderson) was ordered to double-quick a distance of one and one-half miles, or thereabouts, to his support. Passing through an open field in rear of our line, and fording the river, we reached the indicated position just as night set in, and whilst Major Robeson, of Texas (afterwards General Robeson, of cavalry), a young but promising officer, who at the breaking out of the war left West Point to unite his fate with his people, Chief of Artillery on the staff of the General commanding, was holding in check with his well-massed artillery the exultant enemy, who till then was hotly pursuing the retreating forces of Breckinridge. During the night and incident to the confusion on such occasions, General Anderson reported through me to his division commander, General Withers, that he could find no line to support—that there were no Confederate forces save his own picket line in his front.

This was immediately dispatched to Army Headquarters, and soon thereafter a courier rode up to General Anderson's position with orders for his Assistant Adjutant General to report at army headquarters without delay.

Following the courier for several miles, we finally drew up our tired steeds in front of one of the finest mansions in Murfreesboro, and on making myself known I was invited by an aid-de-camp of General Bragg into a large double-roomed folding parlor, elegantly furnished, where sat the commander in chief, surrounded by his corps and division commanders.

Besmeared with mud, and tired from exposure and loss of sleep, I felt decidedly out of place in this galaxy of Generals, but on entering the room I was somewhat relieved when General Withers rising introduced me as the officer who had penciled the dispatch about which the council of war had assembled, and the Commanding General invited me to be seated. In few words, responsive to the pertinent and laconic questions propounded to me, I saw that General Bragg was satisfied with the accuracy of my report, and turning to General Breckinridge he so stated. My recollection is that General Breckinridge then also recognized his error, and accordingly conceded it. I do not conceive that General Breckinridge was censurable for this mistake, which so much endangered the safety of our army. His troops, under his gallant lead, had just made a glorious [474] fight, but were repulsed, and in falling back (darkness in the meantime coming on) did not rally and form on the exact line where ordered, but formed in our rear instead of front as required. The darkness of night and the density of the undergrowth having prevented him from accurately discerning and forming where directed, was sufficient paliation, as his boundless number of friends conceived, for the error committed.

1 The particulars and origin of the battle of Mumfordsville were about these, as witnessed and remembered by myself: General Bragg, on reaching Glasgow, Ky., with his main force, sent forward the same night (September 12th) Chalmers's brigade of Mississippians to the railroad at Cave City, and Duncan's Louisiana brigade to the depot next below (south), with orders to intercept and cut off Buell's (he was then marching up from Nashville) communications northward by the railroad to Louisville. General Chalmers surprised and captured the telegraph operator and depot supplies at Cave City, but owing to the information furnished the enemy by Union citizens of the neighborhood we did not succeed in capturing any trains. Hearing that the enemy, about 3,000 strong, composed of new levies, was at Mumfordsville on Green river, fortified and protecting the iron railroad bridge, Chalmers considered it a fine opportunity to win a Major-General's star; consequently on the night of the 13th, and without orders from General Bragg, he marched his command rapidly, and about sunrise on the following morning drove in the enemy's pickets, and forming line of battle, with Walthall's regiment (29th Mississippi) on his right, and Smith's (10th Mississippi regiment) on his left, advanced to the attack through an open field threequar-ters of a mile under fire of the enemy's artillery and small arms from behind formidable intrenchments and earthworks. For awhile the attack promised to prove a success. Walthall had reached the wide and deep ditch around Fort Craig, and was in the act of bridging it, when Colonel Scott's Louisiana cavalry, which had agreed to cooperate in the attack, came up and imprudently opened fire from an eminence about 500 yards distant, throwing shell among Walthall's men and caused them to retire. The 10th Mississippi regiment had reached a ravine wherein was an abattis of beech trees about fifty yards in front of the enemy's right, covering the bridge, and could advance no further. Protecting themselves as well as possible, they were enabled to silence the enemy's fire from the fortifications. In this position they remained about two hours, not being able on account of the timber to their right and the conformation of the ground to see or hear from our centre or right.

About that time the enemy exhibited over his ramparts a flag of truce, and being assured that it would be respected (it was with difficulty that the sentry could restrain and prevent Jim Franks, a private in Captain Robert A. Bell's company, who at first fired on it, from shooting down the bearer. He afterwards plead his ignorance of the sacredness of a flag of truce in extenuation and excuse for his grave misconduct) it was borne out by a young captain in an Indiana regiment (I regret having lost his card given me on that occasion), accompanied by a guard, in my immediate front, when (Colonel Smith and Lieutenant-Colonel Bullock were both shot down and dying, and Major Bar was that day acting on Chalmers's staff) it devolved on me, as the senior officer present, to meet it; which was done about midway our lines. The officer informed me that General Chalmers had sent a flag in on our right demanding a surrender; which was refused, but that an armistice for the purpose of removing the dead and wounded had been agreed to, and that ten minutes notice would be given before the flag would be withdrawn. These facts were communicated to our men, who at once began to remove the dead and wounded, besides their guns and accoutrements, and continued until everything of value had been carried to the woods, a full mile in our rear. On retiring with the withdrawal of the flag, and reaching our men in rear, I found that the dead were being hastily buried, and the living were preparing to return to Cave City. This surprised me; for pending the flag of truce Lieutenant Watt L. Strickland, an aid on General Chalmers's staff, came up, and, calling me aside, said that General J. K. Jackson, of Georgia, was near with a division of infantry, and that on his arrival the attack would be renewed and successfully pressed. It appears, however, that this information furnished the enemy at the time of the demand for a surrender — was a ruse on the part of General Chalmers, in order to extricate his men from their perilous situation. Finding that the enemy was too strong for him, and were veterans instead of raw recruits, he returned in quick haste to Cave City. On the 16th (two days later) General Bragg moved up and surrounded these forces, then reinforced and numbering 4,500 under Colonels Wilder and Dunham (Wilder afterwards commanded a cavalry brigade, known as Wilder's Lightning Brigade), who on the morning of the 17th of September surrendered, with a very large supply of quartermaster and commissary stores. The 10th Mississippi was marched in to receive the surrender and occupy the forts and fortifications in return for and in compliment of its gallant fight on the 14th. I, with my company (‘K’), was placed in command of Fort Craig, their extreme left fort, and where Walthall had so gallantly assaulted three days previously.

In the engagement of the 14th our loss, particularly in the 10th Mississippi regiment, was frightful. My company was a large one, and lost thirty-two in killed and wounded. And here let me add, that the account given of this battle in the American Cyclopedia, Vol. 16, page 797, is in no manner correct.

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