Confederates Return to Tennessee

October 20, 1862 – The two Confederate armies left Kentucky, with one returning to eastern Tennessee and the other looking to threaten Middle Tennessee.

Confederate General E.K. Smith | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Edmund Kirby Smith, recently promoted to Confederate lieutenant general, led his troops through Barbourville on their way out of Kentucky. Smith, who had renamed his force the Army of Kentucky when he led it into that state, now returned it to its original name and resumed command of the Department of East Tennessee. Smith’s department operated independent of General Braxton Bragg’s, which included the area from eastern Tennessee to the Mississippi River.

As Bragg’s Army of Mississippi withdrew from Kentucky, Bragg began formulating a plan to move into Middle Tennessee and regain Nashville. He asked Smith to leave 3,000 of his troops to guard Cumberland Gap and bring the rest to join with him and put this plan into motion.

Smith refused, as he explained to Bragg, “The men are worn down from exposure and want of food. They are much in want of shoes, clothing, and blankets… as soon as my command can be perfectly fitted out I will take the field with it.” Straggling had left Smith with just 6,000 effectives. He stated, “Having resumed the command of my department, I am directly responsible to the Government for the condition and safety of my army.”

General Braxton Bragg | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Bragg’s army was in no better shape. After retreating over 200 miles on rough roads in foul weather, nearly 15,000 Confederates contracted an illness of some kind, the most prevalent being pneumonia, typhoid, scurvy, and dysentery. Most of the officers and men disliked Bragg from the moment he took command, but now his harsh treatment of the army made them openly despise him.

The men’s hatred of Bragg was not eased by his idea to immediately launch a new offensive after they had endured such a grueling campaign in Kentucky. Bragg issued orders for his army to “proceed as soon as practicable to Murfreesborough, Tenn., and take such position in that vicinity as may seem advisable to its commander.”

“Its commander” would be Major General John C. Breckinridge, former vice president of the U.S. He arrived at Murfreesboro with a division that became known as the Army of Middle Tennessee. In addition, Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate cavalry was already based there; his new “critter companies” had been harassing nearby Federals.

Bragg vaguely ordered Breckinridge to prepare “for the defense of Middle Tennessee or an attack on Nashville.” Meanwhile, President Jefferson Davis received numerous reports condemning Bragg’s leadership. Davis initially thought this was the work of political enemies trying to get to Davis by tearing down his friend Bragg. But then Davis asked the opinions of the commanders who had served under Bragg in Kentucky.

E.K. Smith stated that Bragg handled the campaign badly, especially the later part, and asked to be transferred to a command far away from him. General Leonidas Polk respected Bragg’s organizational skills but felt he lacked “the higher elements of generalship” needed to lead an army. Even Bragg’s own wife criticized him: “Nashville strongly garrisoned by Yankees in your rear…” Major General William S. Rosecrans’s Federal army “will soon effect a junction with them, and thus place you between two enemies… I hoped you would have cleared Tennessee as you advanced.”

Davis decided to personally discuss these criticisms with Bragg. As Bragg’s demoralized troops passed through Cumberland Gap, Bragg received an order: “The President desires that you will lose no time in coming here.” Bragg, who was ahead of his men at Knoxville when he received the message, left just before E.K. Smith arrived, thus avoiding an awkward confrontation.

Bragg met with Davis on the 25th. Davis congratulated him because even though he did not bring Kentucky into the Confederacy as hoped, his offensive was more successful than those of Robert E. Lee in Maryland and Earl Van Dorn in northern Mississippi. Bragg had inflicted 14,000 Federal casualties and returned to Tennessee with tons of supplies for future operations. His offensive relieved Federal pressure on Chattanooga, cleared the Federals out of northern Alabama, and secured Cumberland Gap, all without substantial aid from the Confederate government.

Although Bragg’s army was about half the size it was when the campaign started, it remained the only force strong enough to stop Federal efforts to move further into the Deep South. As such, Bragg outlined his plan to divert the Federals by attacking Nashville from a new base at Murfreesboro in Middle Tennessee. At the time, the Confederates were already boarding train cars at Knoxville en route to Murfreesboro and Tullahoma.

It seemed to Davis that Bragg was willing to accept responsibility for any failures of the Kentucky campaign. He was also willing to make amends by moving immediately against Nashville, and he had a sound plan to do it. Thus, Davis retained Bragg as army commander and allowed him to proceed.

Davis then responded to E.K. Smith’s critical report on Bragg’s leadership. Davis would not transfer Smith as requested because he was too valuable where he was. Apparently taking Bragg’s side, Davis acknowledged that the campaign had been “a bitter disappointment” in some ways, but he urged Smith to not report on actions based on “knowledge acquired after they transpired.”

By month’s end, Bragg was heading west from Richmond to rejoin his troops as they moved toward Murfreesboro, the base for their upcoming offensive.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 227; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 741-43, 773-75; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 224-25; Hattaway, Herman, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 492; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 281-82; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 82-84; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 414-15

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Federals and Confederates Maneuver in Mississippi

October 16, 1862 – Confederates reorganized their command structure in Mississippi, Major General Ulysses S. Grant was given new Federal responsibilities, and a secret mission to capture Vicksburg was concocted.

Following the Battle of Corinth, Major General Earl Van Dorn, commanding the Confederate Army of the West, was brought before a court of inquiry to answer charges that he had been responsible for the defeat. The charges were later dropped, but the Confederate high command no longer entrusted Van Dorn to lead an army.

Under Adjutant General Samuel Cooper’s Special Orders No. 73, “The State of Mississippi and that part of Louisiana east of the Mississippi River is constituted a separate military department.” This disbanded Van Dorn’s District of Mississippi under General Braxton Bragg and created a new department independent from Bragg’s.

Lt Gen John C. Pemberton | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

The new commander was Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton, a Pennsylvanian who married a Virginian. Pemberton was to “consider the successful defense of those States as the first and chief object of your command.” This especially included Vicksburg and Port Hudson, the Confederacy’s last two major strongholds on the Mississippi River. Other points included New Orleans and Corinth (under Federal occupation), Baton Rouge, and all contested areas in Mississippi.

Pemberton set up headquarters at Jackson, Mississippi, where he divided the department into three districts:

  • Brigadier General Daniel Ruggles commanded District 1 from Jackson
  • Brigadier General Martin L. Smith commanded District 2 from Vicksburg
  • Brigadier General William N.R. Beall commanded District 3 from Port Hudson

General Ulysses S. Grant | Image Credit: Flickr.com

On the Federal side, Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas announced that Major General Ulysses S. Grant would command the new Department of the Tennessee. General Order No. 168 designated all Federal troops within this new department as Federal XIII Corps. This included not only the Armies of the Tennessee and the Mississippi already under his command, but the area from Cairo, Illinois, to northern Mississippi west of the Tennessee River.

Grant soon concentrated all Federal troops in his jurisdiction into a revised Army of the Tennessee. He then urged General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck to allow him to go beyond just guarding railroads and supply depots by launching an offensive against Vicksburg.

The problem with moving on Vicksburg was that it required support from Federals on the west bank of the Mississippi, which was outside Grant’s jurisdiction. Grant would have to cooperate with Major General Samuel R. Curtis, who commanded the west side, but Grant cited instances in which Curtis had refused. Therefore, Grant wrote, “I would respectfully suggest that both banks of the river be under one command.”

Unbeknownst to Grant, a campaign to capture Vicksburg had already been clandestinely approved. Major General John A. McClernand, Grant’s former subordinate, had lobbied his friend President Abraham Lincoln for an independent command. McClernand had been an influential Democratic politician in Illinois before the war, and he assured Lincoln that he could persuade fellow Democrats to support a campaign against Vicksburg because it would open the Mississippi for Illinois shipping to reach the Gulf of Mexico.

Lincoln approved, with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton issuing secret orders for McClernand “to proceed to the States of Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, and to organize the troops remaining in those States and to be raised by volunteering or draft… to the end that, when a sufficient force not required by the operations of General Grant’s command shall be raised, an expedition may be organized under General McClernand’s command against Vicksburg and to clear the Mississippi River and open navigation to New Orleans.”

The order also directed McClernand to show this document “to Governors, and even others, when in his discretion he believes so doing to be indispensable to the progress of the expedition.” Based on these orders, McClernand considered himself leading a command fully autonomous from Grant.

Thus, McClernand began recruiting a new “Army of the Mississippi” while Grant began assembling a force of 30,000 Federals at Grand Junction, Tennessee. Both forces had the same objective, which would seriously complicate upcoming Federal operations.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 220, 225-26; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 763, 778; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 217, 222-24, 226; Korn, Jerry, War on the Mississippi: Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 44; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 273, 278-81; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 577, 593; Pritchard, Russ A., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 178, 746-47; Rowell, John W., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 178; Simon, John Y., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 456-57; Smith, Dean E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 707, 781; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 501, 705-06, 747, 781, 816

Morgan’s Second Kentucky Raid

October 15, 1862 – As the two Confederate armies pulled out of Kentucky, Colonel John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate cavalry conducted another raid in the state.

John Hunt Morgan | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Morgan’s cavalry had been assigned to Major General Edmund Kirby Smith’s rear guard as Smith’s Army of Kentucky headed back to eastern Tennessee. When Morgan discovered that the Federals were not pursuing, he requested permission to go back into the heart of Kentucky to disrupt communication and supply lines. Smith, whose army remained 25 miles southeast of Richmond, approved without consulting General Braxton Bragg, who was leading the second Confederate army out of Kentucky.

Morgan and 1,800 troopers headed northwest on the 17th. The force consisted of Lieutenant Colonel Basil W. Duke’s 2nd Kentucky Cavalry, Colonel Richard M. Gano’s 3rd Kentucky Cavalry, and Major William C. Breckinridge’s Kentucky cavalry battalion. Morgan’s first objective was to seize his vulnerable home town of Lexington.

Posing as a Federal colonel, Morgan had a Unionist guide him to the nearby camp of the 4th Ohio Cavalry, assigned to guard Lexington. The Ohioans were divided between a camp outside town and a camp near the courthouse. The Confederates attacked at dawn, hitting both camps from opposite directions and sustaining casualties from friendly fire in the process. After the confusion was sorted out, Morgan’s troopers captured about 125 Federals.

The Confederates left Lexington that afternoon to continue Morgan’s mission of encircling the Federal Army of the Ohio like Jeb Stuart’s ride around the Federal Army of the Potomac the previous week. As the Confederates camped near Versailles that night, Federals at Frankfort learned of their presence and moved to attack them in front and rear. Morgan found out about the surprise attack and avoided the trap by moving his force to Lawrenceburg.

Morgan entered Bloomfield on the 19th, where the pro-Confederate residents cheered his arrival and supplied his troopers with everything they needed. The horsemen then continued southwest toward Bardstown. Learning that a large Federal force was there, Morgan made camp about six miles away.

That night, Confederate foragers moving toward Louisville captured a Federal supply train consisting of nearly 150 wagons, along with the cavalry escort and some Federal stragglers. The Confederates burned every wagon except two, which, according to Colonel Duke, “contained everything to gladden a rebel’s heart, from cavalry boots to ginger-bread.”

After six days of hard riding, Morgan’s men ultimately reached Springfield in northern Tennessee, ending their second successful raid into Kentucky. The Confederates rode through six towns (Lexington, Lawrenceburg, Bloomfield, Bardstown, Elizabethville, and Litchfield), crossed two rivers (the Green and the Muddy), and encountered minimal Federal resistance. Although this raid was minor in terms of prisoners taken and casualties inflicted, it kept Federals on close guard in Kentucky.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 225; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 222-23, 227; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 279-80; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 511

The Army of the Potomac Remains Stationary

October 13, 1862 – The Federal high command continued prodding Major General George B. McClellan to move his Army of the Potomac into Virginia, but McClellan continued resisting.

A week after receiving orders to confront the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, McClellan still had not moved. During that time, General Robert E. Lee had time to reorganize and resupply his force, and his cavalry under Major General Jeb Stuart had made another daring ride around McClellan’s army almost unopposed. With his patience nearly exhausted, President Abraham Lincoln wrote McClellan a long letter of advice.

Abraham Lincoln and George B. McClellan | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Explaining strategy and tactics that a general should already know, Lincoln noted that the Confederate army, currently at Winchester, would have to move southeast through the Blue Ridge to defend the Confederate capital at Richmond, while McClellan’s men could move east along the Blue Ridge and get to the city quicker. Lee’s route “is the arc of a circle,” Lincoln explained, “while yours is the chord.”

Lincoln had previously suggested attacking Lee at Winchester, but McClellan rejected that idea because he would need to open a railroad line between Winchester and Harpers Ferry to supply his army. Lincoln challenged this claim by reminding McClellan that the Confederates consistently marched and fought with little or no supplies.

The president wrote that opening a rail line “wastes all the remainder of autumn to give it to you; and, in fact ignores the question of time, which can not and must not be ignored… We should not so operate as to merely drive him away. If we can not beat the enemy where he is now, we never can… If we never try, we shall never succeed.” Lincoln added:

“You remember my speaking to you of what I called your over-cautiousness. Are you not over-cautious when you assume that you cannot do what the enemy is constantly doing? Should you not claim to be at least his equal in prowess, and act upon the claim?… I would press closely to him, fight him if a favorable opportunity should present, and at least try to beat him to Richmond on the inside track, unless you admit that he is more than your equal on a march. It is all easy if our troops march as well as the enemy, and it is unmanly to say they cannot do it. This letter is in no sense an order.”

Before sending this letter, Lincoln sought advice from Vice President Hannibal Hamlin. Hamlin praised McClellan for organizing the Army of the Potomac into such a finely tuned force, but he condemned McClellan’s lack of aggression. Hamlin compared McClellan to Major General Ulysses S. Grant in Tennessee, who operated with much more limited resources yet always seemed ready and willing to fight. Hamlin claimed that McClellan was “the first man to build a bridge, but the last man to cross it.”

When McClellan received Lincoln’s letter on the 16th, he replied that he did not have the time to give “the full and respectful consideration which it merits at my hands.” He acknowledged to one of his subordinates that this was probably Lincoln’s last warning for him to move. McClellan said, “Lincoln is down on me. I expect to be relieved from the Army of the Potomac, and to have a command in the West.”

Despite Lincoln’s prodding, McClellan remained motionless except for some reconnoitering around Harpers Ferry. Meanwhile, criticism of McClellan’s inactivity intensified, especially among the Radical Republicans. An editorial in the pro-Radical Chicago Tribune stated, “What devil is it that prevents the Potomac Army from advancing? What malign influence palsies our army and wastes these glorious days for fighting? If it is McClellan, does not the President see that he is a traitor?”

General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck gave up trying to prod McClellan into action and wrote, “I am sick, tired, and disgusted… There is an immobility here that exceeds all that any man can conceive of. It requires the lever of Archimedes to move this inert mass.”

Lincoln drafted a memorandum estimating the strength of the Army of the Potomac at 231,997 officers and men, of which 144,662 were present for duty. McClellan reported that the army contained 133,433 men “present for duty” and an “aggregate present” of 159,860. Even so, he again asked for reinforcements and new equipment for his men and horses.

Halleck telegraphed McClellan on the 21st, “Telegraph when you move, and on what lines you propose to march.” McClellan declared that he was ready to move the next day, but he needed more cavalry horses. He cited a report from the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry stating that most of the regiment’s horses suffered from “sore-tongue, grease, and consequent lameness, and sore backs… The horses, which are still sound, are absolutely broken down from fatigue.”

Lincoln sent an especially impatient response on the 25th: “I have just read your despatch about sore tongued and fatiegued (sic) horses. Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigue anything?”

McClellan responded that the fatigue had been caused by reconnoitering and raiding, as well as chasing Stuart’s Confederates. Lincoln countered, “Stuart’s cavalry outmarched ours, having certainly done more marked service on the Peninsula and everywhere else.”

McClellan angrily asked if making such a statement did “injustice to the excellent officers and men” of his army. He then wrote his wife: “I was mad as a ‘march hare.’ It was one of those dirty little flings that I can’t get used to when they are not merited.” McClellan continued:

“The good of the country requires me to submit to all this from men whom I know to be my inferior!… There never was a truer epithet applied to a certain individual than that of the ‘Gorilla.’ I have insisted that (Secretary of War Edwin) Stanton shall be removed, & that Halleck shall give way to me as Comdr. in Chief. The only safety for the country & for me is to get rid of the lot of them.”

Before finally mobilizing his massive army, McClellan countered Halleck’s message asking which route he would take by asking Halleck which route he should take. McClellan then expressed concern “that a great portion of (General Braxton) Bragg’s Army (withdrawing from Kentucky) is probably now at liberty to unite itself with Lee’s command.”

Halleck responded to the first query, “The Government has entrusted you with defeating and driving back the rebel army in your front.” Regarding the second, Halleck stated that McClellan should not “have any immediate fear of Bragg’s army. You are within 20 miles of Lee’s, while Bragg is distant about 400 miles.” The Federal high command then continued waiting for McClellan to move.

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References

Bailey, Ronald H., The Bloodiest Day: The Battle of Antietam (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 164; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 751-52; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 222-23; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 278, 280-81; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 568-69; Sommers, Richard J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 178

The Kentucky Campaign Ends

October 11, 1862 – Confederate forces ended their unsuccessful Kentucky campaign, and Federal Major General Don Carlos Buell came under harsh scrutiny for not pursuing the withdrawing enemy aggressively enough.

General Braxton Bragg | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Following the Battle of Perryville, the two Confederate armies in Kentucky under General Braxton Bragg and Major General Edmund Kirby Smith finally linked near Harrodsburg. Smith urged Bragg, the ranking commander, to make a stand there because it offered good ground on which to meet a Federal attack. But Bragg had already directed his army to continue withdrawing toward Bryantsville.

The next day, Bragg dispatched scouts to find camping grounds around Bryantsville, indicating to the Confederates that they were leaving Kentucky. Bragg had learned of the Confederate defeats at Antietam, Iuka, and Corinth. He had sustained heavy casualties at Perryville, and he was running low on supplies after gaining hardly any Kentucky recruits. Thus, Bragg decided to retreat back to eastern Tennessee.

Bragg and Smith withdrew from Harrodsburg, leaving the town for the Federals to reclaim. Bragg’s army arrived at Bryantsville on the 13th, where he and Smith split up once again. Bragg moved toward Mount Vernon, and Smith moved toward Paint Lick. Smith reported the next day:

“My command from loss of sleep for five nights, is completely exhausted. The straggling has been unusually great. The rear of the column will not reach here before daybreak. I have no hope of saving the whole of my train, as I shall be obliged to double teams in going up Big Hill, and will necessarily be delayed there two or three days.”

Meanwhile, Buell expected Bragg to turn and attack Nashville. He moved his Federal Army of the Ohio to cut Bragg off at Crab Orchard, exclaiming, “Bragg’s army is mine!” But when Buell reached the town on the 15th, he found the Confederates had already passed through on their way to Cumberland Gap.

Buell sent Major General Thomas L. Crittenden’s corps in pursuit, but the Confederates had felled trees across the Wilderness road to block them. The Federals paved a new road and advanced to within a few miles of Mount Vernon by that night.

The next day, Bragg’s Confederates continued slowly withdrawing through the Cumberland Gap bottleneck without substantial Federal opposition. Crittenden’s Federals resumed their pursuit, but they lacked the speed or numbers to catch up to Bragg’s force.

Buell’s superiors pushed for a Federal invasion of eastern Tennessee, both to destroy the Confederates and to secure the predominantly Unionist region. Buell resisted, explaining to General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, “You are aware that between Crab Orchard and Cumberland Gap the country is almost a desert. The limited supply of forage which the country affords is consumed by the enemy as he passes.” Buell continued:

“The enemy has been driven into the heart of this desert and must go on, for he cannot exist in it. For the same reason we cannot pursue in it with any hope of overtaking him, for while he is moving back on his supplies and as he goes consuming what the country affords we must bring ours forward. There is but one road and that a bad one. The route abounds in difficult defiles, in which a small force can retard the progress of a large one for a considerable time, and in that time the enemy could gain material advantage in a move upon other points.

“For these reasons, which I do not think it necessary to elaborate, I deem it useless and inexpedient to continue the pursuit, but propose to direct the main force under my command rapidly upon Nashville, which General Negley reported to me as already being invested by a considerable force and toward which I have no doubt Bragg will move the main part of his army.

“I shall throw myself on my wagon transportation, which, fortunately, is ample. While I shall proceed with these dispositions, deeming them to be proper for the public interest, it is but meet that I should say that the present time is perhaps as convenient as any for making any changes that may be thought proper in the command, of this army. It has not accomplished all that I had hoped or all that faction might demand.”

After offering to give up his command if his superiors were unhappy, Buell explained that his army “defeated a powerful and thoroughly disciplined army in one battle and has driven it away baffled and dispirited at least, and as much demoralized as an army can be under such discipline as Bragg maintains over all troops that he commands.” Buell did not mention that he failed to destroy an enemy he outnumbered three-to-one at Perryville, and only won because Bragg pulled out afterward.

Halleck sent a stern reply in opposition to Buell’s plan to return to Nashville: “The great object to be attained is to drive the enemy from Kentucky and East Tennessee. If we cannot do it now we need never to hope for it.” In another message on the 19th, Halleck reiterated what he expected of Buell:

“The capture of East Tennessee should be the main object of your campaign. You say it is the heart of the enemy’s resources; make it the heart of yours. Your army can live there if the enemy’s can… I am directed by the President to say to you that your army must enter East Tennessee this fall, and that it ought to move there while the roads are passable… He does not understand why we cannot march as the enemy marches, live as he lives, and fight as he fights, unless we admit the inferiority of our troops and of our generals.”

Meanwhile, Bragg continued moving his Confederate Army of Mississippi through Cumberland Gap virtually unmolested, despite having to slow his movement due to the long lines of wagon trains, cattle, and other supplies taken from Kentucky. Bragg’s army was still intact, but his optimistic hopes of claiming Kentucky for the Confederacy were gone.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 18173; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 225; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 739-41, 743; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 221-23; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 278-79; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 521; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 508-09; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 80; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 414-15

Stuart’s Second Ride Around McClellan

October 10, 1862 – Major General J.E.B. “Jeb” Stuart’s Confederate cavalry reached Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in a daring raid on Major General George B. McClellan’s Federal Army of the Potomac.

Confederate General Jeb Stuart | Image Credit: Flickr.com

General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, instructed Stuart to take 1,800 horsemen and ride around McClellan’s relatively stagnant army. Stuart was “to gain all information of the position, force, and probable intention of the enemy which you can,” much like Stuart’s ride around the Federals four months ago. He was to observe strict secrecy and “arrest all citizens that may give information to the enemy.”

Stuart also had orders to seize any prominent Pennsylvanians so “that they may be used as hostages, or the means of exchanges for our own citizens that have been carried off by the enemy.” Lee ordered Stuart to treat these people “with all the respect and consideration that circumstances will admit.”

Finally, Lee directed Stuart to wreck the Cumberland Valley Railroad bridge over the Conococheague River near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. This connected to the Pennsylvania Railroad and the coal fields and iron factories of Pittsburgh, thus serving as a vital artery to the Federal supply line.

Stuart assembled his troopers at Darkesville, south of Martinsburg, on the 9th. They rode toward Williamsport that afternoon and early evening, stopping to camp for the night at Hedgesville. The next morning, the Confederates crossed the Potomac at McCoy’s Ford above Martinsburg. They captured several Federal pickets, but some escaped to warn of the Confederates’ approach. When General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck learned the news, he notified McClellan that “not a man should be permitted to return to Virginia.”

The Confederates moved through Maryland’s narrow panhandle along the National road. They captured a signal station, preventing the Federals from signaling their location. As the Federals began mobilizing to find them, Stuart’s men turned north and entered Pennsylvania. The horsemen had observed strict prohibitions on looting in Maryland, a state they hoped might still join the Confederacy. Pennsylvania received no such protection. Some of the Confederates plundered farms and houses.

After a 40-mile ride, the Confederates descended on Chambersburg by nightfall. Stuart demanded the town’s surrender, but all Federal officials had already fled except for newspaper editor Alexander McClure and Judge Francis M. Kimmell. McClure surrendered to General Wade Hampton, whom Stuart appointed as the town’s “military governor.”

The Confederates bivouacked that night in the streets of Chambersburg, and Stuart reported that all civic officials had abandoned the town. McClure showed the Confederates such kind hospitality that they did not follow orders to take him hostage in exchange for captured Confederate citizens.

Stuart led his men out of Chambersburg at dawn on the 11th, worried that last night’s hard rain might have flooded the Potomac crossings. Before leaving, the troopers burned the supply depot, railroad machine shops, trains, and any military equipment they could not take. They also cut the telegraph wires and stole local horses. However, they could not burn the iron Conocoheague Bridge, and a bank employee had escaped from Chambersburg with all the money from the town’s bank vault.

The Confederates moved east, expecting McClellan to send Federals to cut off their upper Potomac escape route. They rode beyond the Blue Ridge into Cashtown, Pennsylvania, where they stopped to feed their horses and raid the Cashtown Inn. Stuart then moved south, avoiding Gettysburg and passing through Emmitsburg, Maryland, in late afternoon. The rains actually helped the Confederates because the horses created no dust clouds that could alert nearby Federals of their presence.

At Emmitsburg, Stuart prohibited any residents from leaving town, fearing that someone might run off to give the Federals his location. Most civilians expressed support for the Confederacy. As the troopers rode out of Emmitsburg, a captured Federal informed Stuart that the Federals awaited him at Frederick, 20 miles away. The troopers bypassed that town and forded the Monocacy River that night.

Federal cavalry began an effort to stop Stuart based on information that McClure provided McClellan. However, McClellan claimed he could spare just 800 horsemen to contend with the Confederates. He dispatched a few cavalry units to pursue the enemy and guard the river fords; he also directed two infantry brigades to protect the bridge spanning the Monocacy River. Another division was sent to guard Poolesville.

On the 12th, Stuart and his men passed through Hayattstown and slipped between two Federal cavalry units near Poolesville. After executing several deceptive maneuvers to throw the Federals off their track, the Confederates crossed the Potomac at White’s Ferry, which was guarded by a single Federal regiment that fell back upon seeing the large force approaching.

The Federals hurried up to the riverbank just after the Confederates crossed. According to William W. Blackford, who rode with Stuart:

“We were not half across when the bank we had left was swarming with the enemy who opened a galling fire upon us, the bullets splashing the water around us like a shower of rain. But the guns from the Virginia side immediately opened on them and mitigated their fire considerably, and we soon crossed and stood once more on Virginia soil.”

The Confederate troopers returned to their base south of Martinsburg the next day. Stuart had failed in his mission to destroy the Conococheague River bridge, but every other aspect of this operation was a resounding Confederate success.

Stuart’s cavalry circumvented McClellan’s army for the second time in four months, covering 126 miles in three days. They had caused an estimated $250,000 in property damage while seizing 1,200 horses, 30 civilian officials who could be exchanged for Confederate prisoners, and valuable intelligence on McClellan’s troop positions. Stuart lost just a few men wounded and two men missing.

The raid embarrassed and infuriated President Abraham Lincoln, especially considering it occurred just before the Federal midterm elections. Lincoln’s secretary, John Nicolay, stated the president “well-nigh lost his temper over it.” General Lee reported to Richmond on the 14th:

“The cavalry expedition to Pennsylvania has returned safe… It had crossed the Potomac at Williamsport and re-crossed at White’s Ford, making the entire circuit, cutting communications, destroying arms, and obtaining many recruits.”

The southern press celebrated Stuart’s feat as another sensational and daring ride around the mighty Federals, and even the influential New York Tribune conceded, “The cavalry raid around our entire army… is the one theme of conversation. It was audacious and brilliant.”

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References

Bailey, Ronald H., The Bloodiest Day: The Battle of Antietam (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 164, 166-67; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, William C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 125; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 224; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 8214-25; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 749-50; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 221-22; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 277-78; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 528; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q462

The Battle of Perryville

October 8, 1862 – The largest battle of the war in Kentucky ended in stalemate despite Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Federals vastly outnumbering General Braxton Bragg’s Confederates.

On October 7, part of Bragg’s divided force gathered on the ridge of Chaplin Hills east of Doctor’s Creek, near the small crossroads town of Perryville. Major General William J. Hardee, commanding Confederates in the area, requested reinforcements to drive off what he thought were Federal skirmishers. Neither he nor Bragg knew that 55,000 of Buell’s Federals were closing in on him.

Major General Leonidas Polk arrived with reinforcements that evening, but the Confederates still had just 16,000 men. The rest of Bragg’s army awaited a Federal attack near Frankfort that would never come. Polk took command from Hardee and held a council of war with his top officers before dawn on the 8th. They realized they faced a much larger Federal force than initially believed, so they agreed to stay on the defensive and let the Federals make the first move.

As the Federals advanced on the 8th, a lead brigade under Brigadier General Philip Sheridan encountered Confederates guarding Doctor’s Creek. Sheridan had hoped to get water for his thirsty men during the hot autumn drought. Buell issued orders for the Federals to attack at 10 a.m., but messengers experienced delays in delivering the orders to the commanders on the field.

On the Confederate side, Bragg arrived on the field at 10 a.m. and ordered an attack on the Federal left, despite being outnumbered. Around that time, Federal Brigadier General Charles Gilbert’s III Corps moved up to support Sheridan in the center of the Federal line. An hour later, Major General Thomas C. Crittenden’s II Corps arrived on Gilbert’s right, and then Major General Alexander McCook’s I Corps deployed to Gilbert’s left around noon. Fighting began soon after.

After an artillery duel, Confederates led by Major Generals Benjamin F. Cheatham and Simon B. Buckner crossed the shallow Chaplin River north of Perryville and attacked the Federal left under McCook around 2 p.m. The Confederates expected to strike the enemy’s open flank, but by this time the Federals had extended their line so the Confederates were actually assaulting the enemy center.

The Battle of Perryville | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Ferocious combat ensued as the momentum shifted back and forth. The Federals’ top artillerist, Brigadier General William R. Terrill, was mortally wounded by a Confederate shell that exploded overhead. Many of the inexperienced Federal troops in this sector fled from their attackers, with some running over a mile. The Federals finally established strong positions atop a ridge and behind a stone wall, where they repelled three desperate Confederate charges.

Hardee then attacked the Federal center, led by Brigadier General James P. Anderson’s division. The assault stalled in the face of heavy Federal infantry and artillery fire, and the Confederates sustained heavy casualties. Private Sam Watkins of the 1st Tennessee later recalled:

“The guns were discharged so rapidly that it seemed the earth itself was in a volcanic uproar. The iron storm passed through our ranks, mangling and tearing men to pieces. The very air seemed full of stifling smoke and fire, which seemed the very pit of hell, peopled by contending demons.”

An atmospheric phenomenon called an “acoustic shadow” prevented Buell from hearing the battle, so he remained at his headquarters several miles in the Federal rear. When messengers finally brought him news of the fight, he rode to the front around 4 p.m. Buell committed less than 30,000 men to the battle, thus negating the Confederates’ numerical disadvantage.

Sheridan’s men under Gilbert helped stabilize the Federal center and drive the Confederates into Perryville. But Federal reinforcements did not arrive to help McCook until late in the day. Fighting ended around nightfall. Some of Buell’s subordinates urged a nighttime counterattack under the bright moonlight, but Buell decided to wait and renew the fight in the morning.

The Federals sustained 4,211 casualties (845 killed, 2,851 wounded, and 515 missing) out of about 27,000 combatants. The Confederates lost 3,405 (519 killed, 2,635 wounded, and 251 missing) from roughly 16,000. The Federals suffered more casualties, including two brigadier generals killed, but the Confederates suffered greater in proportion to the size of their force.

Bragg won a tactical victory, but only because Buell did not use his full strength. In addition to growing supply shortages, Bragg’s Confederates now had the burden of caring for thousands of wounded comrades. Bragg consulted with Polk and Hardee and, realizing he faced superior numbers, decided to withdraw.

Before dawn on the 9th, Bragg issued orders to fall back to Harrodsburg, with General Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry protecting the retreat. Moving to Harrodsburg would prevent Buell from trapping the Confederates in Kentucky. The Federals advanced to renew the fight that morning but soon discovered the Confederates were gone.

Perryville featured missed opportunities on both sides. Buell missed a key opportunity to destroy Bragg’s smaller army, and Bragg missed a chance to win a decisive victory in Kentucky that could have attracted more recruits to the Confederate cause.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 89; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 213, 245; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 18165-73; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 224; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 738-40; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 220-22; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 200; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 276; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 519-21; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 505-08; Schultz, Fred L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 748; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 576-77; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 59-63, 67; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 414-15