Category Archives: Kentucky

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

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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

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

Battle Looms in Kentucky

October 7, 1862 – Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Federal Army of the Ohio moved toward Perryville after Buell had deceived Confederate General Braxton Bragg into thinking they were headed for Frankfort.

Gen Don Carlos Buell | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Buell led nearly 70,000 Federals out of Louisville on the 1st to confront Bragg. They marched in four columns:

  • Major General Alexander M. McCook led I Corps on the left
  • Major General Thomas L. Crittenden led II Corps in the center, accompanied by Major General George H. Thomas, Buell’s second-in-command
  • Brigadier General Charles Gilbert led III Corps on the right
  • Brigadier General Ebenezer Dumont’s division was detached

The first three columns were to advance on Bardstown and Harrodsburg, southwest of Frankfort. Dumont was to move east and feint against the Confederates at Frankfort. The march proved especially grueling because of unseasonably hot weather and a drought that had depleted the army’s water supply.

Meanwhile, Bragg left his main army at Bardstown under Major General Leonidas Polk while he helped arrange the formal inauguration of pro-Confederate Governor Richard Hawes at Frankfort. Hawes had become provisional governor after the death of the sitting governor at Shiloh, but he had never been formally inaugurated. Furthermore, the Kentucky legislature was decidedly pro-Union, thus putting the state in a political stalemate.

But Bragg needed tens of thousands of Kentucky recruits to offset the Federal volunteers gathering on both sides of the Ohio River, and he hoped that installing a Confederate governor would inspire Kentuckians to join the cause. Or, at the very least, Hawes could impose a military draft forcing men into the ranks.

A main reason why Kentuckians resisted joining Bragg’s army was the fear that Federal occupation forces would exact revenge on them after Bragg left the state. Bragg informed Polk, “Enthusiasm is unbounded, but recruiting at a discount. Even the women are giving reasons why individuals cannot go.”

General Braxton Bragg | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The next day, Bragg received intelligence that Buell’s forward units had occupied Shelbyville and pushed the Confederates in that area, under General Patrick Cleburne, back toward Frankfort. Bragg had expected Buell to advance on Frankfort, but not this quickly. Bragg was also unaware that this was just Buell’s feint, led by Dumont.

Bragg reacted just as Buell hoped by asking Major General Edmund Kirby Smith to bring his 9,000 Confederates from Lexington to Frankfort to help guard Hawes’s inauguration. Bragg also contacted Polk: “The enemy is certainly advancing on Frankfort. Put your whole available force in motion… and strike him in flank and rear. If we can combine our movements he is certainly lost.”

But when Polk saw that the main Federal army was heading his way, he explained to Bragg, “The last twenty-four hours have developed a condition of things on my front and left flank which I shadowed forth in my last note to you, which makes compliance with this order not only eminently inexpedient but impracticable.” Polk told Bragg that he would fall back to the Confederate supply depot at Bryantsville instead.

Bragg responded, “Concentrate your force in front of Harrodsburg… Smith’s whole force is concentrating here and we will strike the enemy just as soon as we can concentrate.” Then, leaving the military movements to Polk, Bragg joined E.K. Smith in attending Hawes’s extravagant inauguration on the 4th.

Just after Hawes delivered his inaugural address, guns could be heard in the distance and news arrived that Buell’s Federals were approaching. The post-inauguration festivities were canceled, and the new governor fled town; his administration ended before it even began. Bragg hurried to rejoin Polk, who was evacuating Bardstown.

Bragg joined the army the next day as it reached Harrodsburg. A division under Major General William J. Hardee was at Perryville, southwest of Harrodsburg. Hardee told Polk that he could not link with the rest of the army due to the “hilly, rocky and slippery” terrain in the area. He asked to move the army to Danville, where the ground was better, but Bragg once again ordered his army to concentrate at Harrodsburg, with Hardee forming the rear guard.

Meanwhile, Smith’s Confederates moved south out of Frankfort toward Versailles, where Bragg expected the main Federal attack to take place. He sent a division to reinforce Smith there, unaware that the main Federal thrust was toward Hardee. For the Federals, straggling increased as the troops continued suffering from a lack of water and intense heat.

On the 6th, Hardee reported skirmishing in his front, west of Perryville, and worried that the Federals might flank him if he moved north toward Harrodsburg. Polk directed Hardee to “force the enemy to reveal his strength.” Bragg grudgingly agreed to send a division under Brigadier General James P. Anderson south to reinforce Hardee, who placed his men on the hills north and west of Perryville.

Sending Polk along with Anderson, Bragg ordered them to “give the enemy battle immediately; rout him, and then move to our support of Versailles.” Confusion among orders put Bragg’s cavalry at Danville, 15 miles east of Perryville, too far to conduct enemy reconnaissance.

The Federals continued their slow advance in the unusual autumn heat. Buell ordered his three columns to converge on Doctor’s Fork, a tributary of the Chaplin River, less than two miles northwest of Perryville. It was reported that the thirsty troops could find water there.

By the 7th, about 55,000 Federals were closing in on 16,000 Confederates at Perryville via three separate roads. Gilbert’s corps arrived at Perryville around dusk, having engaged in heavy skirmishing with the Confederates over control of the local watering holes. The Federals were unaware that Hardee had been reinforced by Polk and Anderson.

Meanwhile, the other 23,000 Confederates remained at Versailles to take on what they believed to be the main Federal attack. But only 12,000 Federals were approaching them.

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References

Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 213; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 223; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 352; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 713, 716, 726-27, 729; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 216-19; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 274-76; 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. 518-19; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 505; 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. 54-55, 57-61; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 414-15

The Murder of “Bull” Nelson

September 29, 1862 – Major General William “Bull” Nelson was shot to death by Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis over a trivial argument.

Gen William “Bull” Nelson | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

The Federal Army of the Ohio enjoyed the amenities of Louisville, and officers settled old grudges. Following the horrific defeat at Richmond, Davis (no relation to the Confederate president) had been assigned to serve under Nelson and help with recruiting Louisville residents into the army. Nelson, a native Kentuckian, had a strong dislike for Indianans, calling them “uncouth descendants of ‘poor trash’ from the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina.” Davis was from Indiana.

Davis made it clear that he did not like his new assignment, declaring, “I am a regular army officer, and will not disgrace myself by mixing with a rabble of citizens.” After two days, Nelson told Davis that he was dissatisfied with Davis’s performance. Davis, who had served with distinction at Wilson’s Creek and Pea Ridge, demanded an apology for such disrespect. Nelson refused and relieved him of duty.

Accompanied by Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton, Davis confronted Nelson in the lobby of the Galt House, a hotel serving as Major General Don Carlos Buell’s headquarters, on the morning of the 29th. Davis again demanded an apology, to which Nelson replied, “Go away, you damned puppy.”

Gen Jefferson C. Davis | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Davis crumpled a hotel registration card and threw it in Nelson’s face. Nelson slapped Davis across his face and turned to go upstairs, telling a reporter witnessing the incident, “Did you hear that insolent scoundrel insult me, sir? I suppose he didn’t know me. I’ll teach him a lesson, sir.”

Davis fumed to Morton, “Did you come here to see me insulted?” He then called for a pistol, which Indiana attorney and friend Thomas Gibson provided. He followed Nelson to the staircase and hollered, “Nelson! Not another step, sir!” When Nelson turned, Davis shot him in the chest from three feet.

Nelson staggered up the stairs and collapsed in a hallway. General Thomas Crittenden rushed to Nelson’s side, asking, “Are you seriously hurt?” Nelson mumbled, “Send for a clergyman. I want to be baptized. I have been basely murdered.” Nelson, one of Buell’s most dependable commanders, died within 30 minutes.

Some witnesses called for Davis to be hanged. Others, such as Major General Horatio G. Wright, said that Davis did what was needed to settle this “matter of honor.” Buell had Davis arrested and jailed, but his services were needed to help confront the Confederates in Kentucky. With Governor Morton’s backing, Davis was released and resumed division command. He never faced justice for the murder.

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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. 219; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 715; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 216; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 272; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 206-07; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 523; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 54; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 414-15

Kentucky: Buell Reaches Louisville

September 25, 1862 – Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Federal Army of the Ohio secured Louisville, but the Lincoln administration received several reports critical of Buell’s leadership.

Gen Don Carlos Buell | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

When Buell learned that General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Mississippi had captured Munfordville, he believed Louisville would be the next Confederate target and resolved to get there first. Bragg’s army was currently between Buell and the second Confederate army in Kentucky under Major General Edmund Kirby Smith. But Buell had more men, and once he reached Louisville, he could prevent Bragg and Smith from joining forces.

After capturing Munfordville, Bragg was unsure what to do next. He considered returning to Tennessee to try regaining Nashville, but that would leave Smith isolated in Kentucky. He considered going to Louisville, but he needed more men to take the city. He therefore resolved to join forces with Smith and try recruiting Kentuckians to join their cause. After writing his wife that “We have made the most extraordinary campaign in military history,” Bragg issued a proclamation asking for recruits:

“Kentuckians, I have entered your State… to restore to you the liberties of which you have been deprived by a cruel and relentless foe… If you prefer Federal rule, show it by your frowns and we shall return whence we came. If you choose rather to come within the folds of our brotherhood, then cheer us with the smiles of your women and lend your willing hands to secure you in your heritage of liberty.”

However, few Kentuckians joined the Confederates. Many knew (though Bragg would not acknowledge it) that the Confederates lacked the strength and resources to ever fully convert Kentucky into a Confederate state. As such, they feared that if they joined Bragg’s army, they would face Federal reprisals when Bragg ultimately returned to Tennessee.

General Braxton Bragg | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Bragg contacted Smith at Lexington and asked him to bring his 9,000 Confederates and all their supplies to Bardstown and join with Bragg’s 30,000-man army. Bragg explained that they needed to join forces because “this campaign must be won by marching, not fighting.” Bragg’s men began moving out of Munfordville on the 20th; the Federals reoccupied the town the next day.

Smith resisted Bragg’s call to join him at Bardstown. He saw Buell’s Federals as an impediment to recruitment efforts, and he responded that he considered “the defeat of Buell before he effects a junction with the force (of volunteers) at Louisville as a military necessity, for Buell’s army has always been the great bugbear to these people, and until (it is) defeated we cannot hope for much addition to our ranks.”

Buell, expecting Confederate opposition on the way to Louisville, was surprised to learn that Bragg was going to Bardstown, which was northeast of Munfordville and away from the Federals’ line of march. Even so, Louisville officials expected a showdown at their city, and they frantically evacuated women and children across the Ohio River. The Federal volunteers at Louisville under Major General William “Bull” Nelson dug trenches and awaited the enemy’s approach.

Many Federal officials were unhappy with Buell’s seemingly casual approach to the Confederate threat in Kentucky, and President Abraham Lincoln reviewed many reports questioning Buell’s abilities. Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s appointed military governor of Tennessee, accused Buell of using the army as his personal bodyguard, and Republican Senator Zachariah Chandler of Michigan stated that the troops hated Buell. An editorial in the Indianapolis Daily Journal boldly asserted that Buell “richly deserves to be shot” for allowing the Confederates to slip past him and wreak havoc in Kentucky.

Buell may have reminded Lincoln too much of Major General George B. McClellan, who was also slow to confront the enemy. Finally losing patience, the president directed General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck to replace him with Major General George H. Thomas. But just after Halleck issued the order, Nelson notified him that Buell’s forward units were now joining with the volunteers outside Louisville: “Louisville is now safe. We can destroy Bragg with whatever force he may bring against us. God and liberty.”

Thomas asked Halleck to revoke the order, explaining, “General Buell’s preparations have been completed to move against the enemy, and I therefore respectfully ask that he may be retained in command. My position is very embarrassing.” Buell prepared to turn over command but received a message stating that Lincoln had “suspended” the order. Buell, now aware of the administration’s extreme dissatisfaction with him, responded, “Out of sense of public duty I shall continue to discharge the duties of my command to the best of my ability until otherwise ordered.”

Buell entered the city on the 25th, where Halleck confirmed that he would be the ranking commander over Major General Horatio G. Wright, the commander of the Department of the Ohio. The troops were met by jubilant residents who celebrated their arrival with brass bands and banners. They also provided the troops with cakes, pies, and other assorted dishes. Several thousand Federals left their posts and camps to take advantage of the city’s nightlife and other morally questionable amenities.

Neither Bragg nor Smith made any move to stop Buell from passing them and getting to the Ohio River. Bragg complained that his men were exhausted from “the long, arduous, and exhausting march” over Muldraugh’s Hill to Bardstown. He wrote his superiors at Richmond:

“It is a source of deep regret that this move was necessary, as it has enabled Buell to reach Louisville, where a very large force is now concentrated. I regret to say we are sadly disappointed at the want of action by our friends in Kentucky. We have so far received no accession to this army. General Smith has secured about a brigade–not half our losses by casualties of different kinds. We have 15,000 stand of arms and no one to use them. Unless a change occurs soon we must abandon the garden spot of Kentucky to its cupidity. The love of ease and fear of pecuniary loss are the fruitful sources of this evil.”

Suddenly, Bragg now considered “the most extraordinary campaign in military history” to be a disaster. He wrote, “Enthusiasm runs high but exhausts itself in words… The people here have too many fat cattle and are too well off to fight…”

Bragg hoped to inspire Kentuckians to join the cause by arranging a formal inauguration of a pro-Confederate governor. He met with Provisional Lieutenant Governor Richard Hawes, who had replaced Governor George W. Johnson after Johnson was killed at the Battle of Shiloh. Bragg wrote Major General Leonidas Polk, “The country and the people grow better as we get into the one and arouse the other.”

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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 18157; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 217-18; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 660-61, 711-13, 715; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 213-15; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 268, 270-71; 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. 517-18; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 504-05; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 517-18, 576-77; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 37, 54; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 414-15

The Fall of Munfordville

September 17, 1862 – General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Mississippi captured a Federal garrison in Kentucky after a unique gesture of chivalry.

General Braxton Bragg | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Bragg had sent a portion of his army under Brigadier General James R. Chalmers to cut the railroad line north of Glasgow. Chalmers, along with a cavalry detachment, had exceeded orders and continued to Munfordville. When the Federal garrison there refused to surrender, Bragg condemned Chalmers’s “unauthorized and injudicious” move north and sent the rest of his army to join in forcing the garrison’s surrender.

By the 15th, about 30,000 Confederates had assembled outside Munfordville to face just 4,000 Federals in the town. The Federals held defensive positions on the south bank of the Green River, protecting the railroad crossing over that waterway. They were led by Colonel Cyrus L. Dunham, who arrived the previous day with reinforcements and outranked the former commander, Colonel John T. Wilder.

Bragg readied his men for an all-out attack to overrun the garrison. But one of his division commanders, Major General Simon B. Buckner, was a native of this part of Kentucky, and he feared that such an assault might alienate or endanger friends and neighbors. Bragg held back, instead surrounding the garrison by moving Major General Leonidas Polk’s corps to the Federal rear and placing Major General William J. Hardee’s corps to the front.

Meanwhile, the second Confederate army operating in Kentucky, led by Major General Edmund Kirby Smith, reached Covington, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. After panicking the locals in that area, Smith pulled back the next day and began returning toward Lexington.

By the afternoon of the 16th, Bragg had the garrison surrounded. He sent his demand for surrender at 6 p.m., but the Federals were in the middle of a command change. Since the Confederates had failed to cut the telegraph wire, a cable arrived in Munfordville from Federal headquarters at Louisville removing Dunham from command and reinstating Wilder to lead the garrison.

Gen Simon B. Buckner | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Being a volunteer, Wilder was unfamiliar with military protocols and questioned Bragg’s claim of numerical superiority. He asked town residents for advice. The residents, knowing that Buckner was among the Confederates, told Wilder to consult with him because he was an honorable man. Wilder came across the lines under a flag of truce and asked to meet with Buckner to seek his advice as a gentleman.

Under this unusually chivalric arrangement, Buckner agreed to give Wilder a tour of the Confederate forces surrounding Munfordville so he could see the force arrayed against him. Wilder saw the large number of men and guns stationed outside town and agreed to surrender the next morning.

A formal surrender ceremony took place on the 17th. The Confederates took 4,267 prisoners, 10 guns, 5,000 small arms, and, according to Bragg, “a proportionate quantity of ammunition, horses, mules, and military stores. My admiration of and love for my army cannot be expressed. To its patient toil and admirable discipline am I indebted for all the success which has attended this perilous undertaking.”

Bragg paroled the Federal prisoners and reported to the Confederate adjutant general that his “junction with Kirby Smith is complete. (Federal Major General Don Carlos) Buell still at Bowling Green.”

Buell’s Army of the Ohio could not prevent the garrison at Munfordville from falling, and Bragg’s army now stood between his Federals and Louisville. Meanwhile, the Federals under General George W. Morgan were forced to abandon Cumberland Gap now that two Confederate armies were operating in Kentucky, to their rear. This left the largely Unionist residents of that region vulnerable to Confederate reprisals.

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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. 242; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 212-14; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 658-59; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 209, 212; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 266-68; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 504; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 517-18, 576-77; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 51; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 414-15