Category Archives: Kentucky

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

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Bragg Enters Kentucky

September 10, 1862 – General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Mississippi entered Kentucky as thousands of men volunteered to stop the Confederates from crossing the Ohio River and invading the North.

General Braxton Bragg | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Bragg headed north from Chattanooga in hopes of drawing Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Federal Army of the Ohio out of northern Alabama in pursuit. This worked, as Buell headed to Nashville, believing Bragg was targeting that city. When Buell learned otherwise, he left three divisions to guard Nashville under Major General George H. Thomas and took the rest of his army toward Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Major General Edmund Kirby Smith’s Confederate Army of Kentucky continued operating in the Lexington area, awaiting Bragg’s arrival in the state. Smith and Bragg succeeded in diverting Federal attention from the Deep South to Kentucky. However, they also sparked a mass outpouring of men in Ohio and Indiana rushing to volunteer to stop the Confederate advance.

Bragg received word of the Federal advance on Bowling Green and veered east to enter Kentucky via Glasgow. This eastward shift caused the Lincoln administration to fear that Bragg might continue east and join forces with General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in Maryland. President Abraham Lincoln telegraphed General Jeremiah Boyle, commanding Federals at Louisville, “Where is General Bragg?”

Lincoln then wired Major General Horatio G. Wright, commanding the Federal Department of the Ohio at Cincinnati, “Do you know to any certainty where General Bragg is? May he not be in Virginia?” Lincoln also asked Buell, “What degree of certainty have you that Bragg with his command is not now in the valley of the Shenandoah, Virginia?” Buell responded on the 10th:

“Bragg is certainly this side of the Cumberland Mountains with his whole force, except what is in Kentucky under Smith. His movements will probably depend on mine. I expect that for the want of supplies I can neither follow him nor remain here. Think I must withdraw from Tennessee. I shall not abandon Tennessee while it is possible to hold on. Cut off effectually from supplies, it is impossible for me to operate in force where I am; but I shall endeavor to hold Nashville, and at the same time drive Smith out of Kentucky and hold my communications.”

Meanwhile, the volunteers being organized in Ohio and Indiana began gathering across the Ohio River from Kentucky. About 20,000 men arrived at Cincinnati, and Ohio Governor David Tod notified Wright that more “will pour in upon you by the thousands.” The Federals received information that E.K. Smith had about 30,000 Confederates in Kentucky, and although Smith only had about 9,000, Tod assured Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, “I shall send him (Wright) to-day and to-morrow at least 50,000.”

From Richmond, President Jefferson Davis sent messages to Generals Lee, Bragg, and Smith asking them to clearly explain to the people of Maryland and Kentucky that “the Confederate Government is waging this war solely for self-defence, that it has no design of conquest or any other purpose than to secure peace and the abandonment by the United States of its pretensions to govern a people who have never been their subjects and who prefer self-government to a Union with them.”

As Smith’s Confederates advanced to within about 60 miles of Cincinnati, Bragg’s army reached Glasgow, between Smith and Buell’s Federals. Bragg issued a proclamation in compliance with Davis’s request:

“Kentuckians, I have entered your State with the Confederate Army of the West, and offer you an opportunity to free yourselves from the tyranny of a despotic ruler. We come not as conquerors or as despoilers, but to restore to you the liberties of which you have been deprived by a cruel and relentless foe… Kentuckians, we have come with joyous hopes… 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.”

By mid-September, the Confederates were closer to either Louisville or Cincinnati than Buell’s Federals. Fearing that Bragg would target Louisville next, Lincoln asked city officials, “Where is the enemy which you dread in Louisville? How near to you?” But before Bragg moved toward Louisville, he sent a detachment of infantry under Brigadier General James R. Chalmers and cavalry under Colonel John S. Scott (detached from Smith’s army) to cut the Louisville & Nashville Railroad at Cave City, 10 miles north.

The Confederates cut the railroad as ordered, then exceeded orders by continuing north to the town of Munfordville, where the Louisville & Nashville Railroad crossed a bridge over the Green River. Munfordville was garrisoned by three Indiana regiments and four cannon under Colonel John T. Wilder. Scott reached Munfordville first and issued a surrender demand at 8 p.m. on the 13th. Wilder refused. The Confederate infantry came up shortly after.

At 5 a.m. the next day, Chalmers attacked with five regiments and Scott’s artillery, but the Federals repelled them, inflicting 288 casualties (35 killed and 253 wounded) while sustaining 72 (15 killed and 57 wounded). Chalmers contacted Wilder at 9:30 a.m., asserting that the Federals could not escape and must surrender. Again Wilder refused.

Meanwhile, seven Indiana companies from Louisville slipped into Munfordville to give Wilder about 4,000 total effectives. Bragg, still at Glasgow with the bulk of his army, brought wagon loads of rifles for the thousands of Kentuckians he expected to flock to his ranks. Not only were no volunteers forthcoming, but Buell was threatening Bragg’s western flank from Bowling Green, 35 miles away.

Buell had 56,000 men and estimated the size of Bragg’s force to be 60,000. Bragg probably had less than 30,000. Being so outnumbered, Bragg therefore resolved to lead his Confederates north to avoid clashing with Buell and help capture Munfordville as soon as possible.

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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. 210-12; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 656-57; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 204, 206-08; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 263-66; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 503; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 517-18; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 51

Kentucky: Smith Takes Lexington and Frankfort

September 3, 1862 – The Confederate incursion into Kentucky continued, with Major General Edmund Kirby Smith’s forces taking Lexington and the state capital of Frankfort.

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

Smith’s Confederate Army of Kentucky approached Lexington two days after their crushing victory at Richmond. The Unionist legislature approved a measure to relocate their body to Louisville as the Confederates spread out within the Lexington, Harrodsburg, and Frankfort area. Smith made no real effort to coordinate his movements with General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Mississippi, heading north from Chattanooga.

Pro-Confederate residents of Lexington celebrated Smith’s arrival to their town on the 2nd, and a group of ladies presented Smith with an embroidered flag. Colonel John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate cavalry joined Smith’s men in Lexington a couple of days later, riding through the streets to the sounds of ringing church bells and cheering spectators.

Smith set up headquarters at Lexington and began arranging to install a pro-Confederate governor in the hope that he would help recruit Kentuckians into Smith’s army. A portion of his command entered Frankfort on the 3rd, where more pro-Confederate citizens turned out to cheer their arrival. The troops raised the flag of the 1st Louisiana Cavalry, the only flag on hand, over the vacated state capitol building.

Further north, panic swept through the Ohio River towns in Indiana and Ohio because there was no substantial Federal force between them and the Confederates. Businesses shut down as civic officials declared martial law and called for volunteers to defend their homes. The governors of Ohio and Indiana called on the Federal government to provide military aid.

Back in Tennessee, Bragg’s Confederates were at Sparta, preparing to head north into Kentucky. Smith informed Bragg of the Confederate victory at Richmond and urged him “to move into Kentucky and, effecting a junction with my command and holding (Federal Major General Don Carlos) Buell’s communications, to give battle to him with superior forces and with certainty of success.”

After Buell’s Federal Army of the Ohio abandoned Alabama to pursue Bragg’s army, Bragg issued a proclamation declaring that Alabama was “redeemed. Tennesseans! your capital and State are almost restored without firing a gun. You return conquerors. Kentuckians! the first great blow has been struck for your freedom!” Various Tennessee politicians, including Governor Isham Harris, tried persuading Bragg to regain Nashville instead, but Bragg was determined to join Smith in Kentucky.

Meanwhile, Buell worked to fortify Nashville against a possible Confederate attack. When Buell arrived at the city on the 2nd, Federal forces were using cotton bales to barricade the approaches. Military Governor Andrew Johnson declared that he would defend the city to the death, refusing to be taken alive. Major General Ulysses S. Grant sent 10,000 troops from his department as reinforcements, prompting Buell to report to General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck:

“I believe Nashville can be held and Kentucky rescued. What I have will be sufficient here with the defenses that are being prepared, and I propose to move with the remainder of the army against the enemy in Kentucky.”

Buell withdrew his army from northern Alabama to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. When Buell learned that Smith’s Confederates had captured Lexington, he feared that Bragg may change his plan of invading Kentucky and instead turn on Nashville. As such, Buell pulled his Federals back closer to that city. But Bragg did not change plans. After mapping out a practical route to Kentucky, he directed Major General Leonidas Polk’s corps to move toward the Cumberland River via Gainesboro.

Panic continued spreading from Kentucky into the northern states. Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton called upon citizens to form militia units and prepare to defend their homes. An article in the Cincinnati Gazette declared, “To arms! The time for playing war has passed. The enemy is approaching our doors.” General Lew Wallace raised about 15,000 volunteers to help defend Cincinnati, including about 1,000 “squirrel hunters” from the Ohio Valley, and General Jeremiah Boyle raised another 25,000 Federals at Louisville. Boyle frantically reported, “The whole state will be in possession of Rebels if some efficient aid is not rendered immediately.”

E.K. Smith, whose force was too small to invade the North (unbeknownst to those preparing for defense), reported to the Confederate adjutant general:

“It would be impossible for me to exaggerate the enthusiasm of the people here on the entry of our troops. They evidently regarded us as deliverers from oppression and have continued in every way to prove to us that the heart of Kentucky is with the South in this struggle… If Bragg occupies Buell we can have nothing to oppose us but raw levies, and by the blessing of God will always dispose of them as we did on the memorable August 30.”

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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 18148; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 209-10; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 653-57; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 202-04, 206; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 110; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 260-62, 264; 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; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 502; 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. 32, 50; 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 Richmond

August 30, 1862 – Major General Edmund Kirby Smith’s Confederate army confronted a small Federal force in the first full-scale battle during Smith’s incursion into Kentucky.

Gen E.K. Smith | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Smith’s 9,000-man Army of Kentucky crossed the last mountain range on the way to Lexington, only to find the path blocked by 6,500 Federals under Brigadier General Mahlon D. Manson about a half-mile in front of Rogersville. The Federals belonged to the nearby Richmond garrison, and they had never seen combat before. Smith ordered his Confederates to attack.

General Patrick R. Cleburne’s division led the Confederate charge. The Federals initially held firm; Cleburne was shot through the face and replaced by Colonel Preston Smith. As the fighting continued, Colonel John S. Scott’s Confederate cavalry worked its way into the Federal rear. Brigadier General Thomas J. Churchill’s Confederate division then arrived on the field and joined Preston Smith’s attack.

The Federals finally wavered and ran to Rogersville, only to be stopped by Scott’s horse artillery. The Federals rallied briefly but then broke again and fled toward Richmond. Major General William “Bull” Nelson, concerned about Manson’s leadership, traveled from Louisville to Richmond and rallied about 2,500 Federals atop a hill south of town. Nelson later reported that the Federals withstood three volleys before breaking and fleeing into Richmond. Nelson was shot through the leg, but he escaped to Lexington.

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

The Confederates trapped and captured “a ten-acre lot full” of enemy troops in the town streets, including Manson. They also took about 10,000 small arms and the entire Federal supply train. This was the most decisive Confederate victory of the war. The Federals sustained 5,194 casualties (206 killed, 844 wounded, and 4,144 captured or missing); those who escaped fled toward Louisville. Nelson eventually recovered from his wound and regrouped his command.

The Confederates lost about 451 (78 killed and 372 wounded, and one missing). E.K. Smith congratulated his troops and ordered: “Tomorrow being Sunday, the general desires that the troops shall assemble and, under their several chaplains, shall return thanks to Almighty God, to whose mercy and goodness these victories are due.”

The twin victories at Richmond in Kentucky and Manassas Junction in Virginia indicated a resurging Confederacy, with Smith having a clear path to the Ohio River just as General Robert E. Lee had a clear path to the Potomac.

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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. 208; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 653; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 201; Hattaway, Herman, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 414; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 258; 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; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 498; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 523, 629-30; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 48; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 414-15

Confederates Poised to Attack in Kentucky

August 29, 1862 – One Confederate army began moving north toward Kentucky, while another was already in Kentucky and preparing for battle.

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

By August 20, Major General Edmund Kirby Smith’s Confederate Army of Kentucky had entered its namesake state and occupied Barbourville. General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Mississippi prepared to move out of Chattanooga and divert the attention of Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Federal Army of the Ohio while also heading north into Kentucky.

Smith informed Bragg that he would advance on Lexington to supply his exhausted and hungry army. Bragg hoped Smith would stay at Barbourville until Bragg could get his army moving, but he did not object. Bragg outranked Smith, but since this operation took place within Smith’s military department, the two commanders acted as equals. This compromised coordination between the armies.

Bragg’s Confederates began crossing the Tennessee River the next day. When Buell learned that Bragg was on the move, he thought Bragg would head for Nashville. To counter, he sent Federals to McMinnville and Sparta to block the Confederates’ path. But they were not heading that way.

General Braxton Bragg | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

As Bragg moved, he expected his two forces in Mississippi under Major Generals Earl Van Dorn and Sterling Price to hold Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s two Federal armies under Major Generals William T. Sherman and William S. Rosecrans at bay. He wrote Price:

“We move from here immediately, later by some days than expected, but in time we hope for a successful campaign. Buell has certainly fallen back from the Memphis & Charleston Railroad and will probably not make a stand this side of Nashville, if there. He is now fortifying that place. General Smith, reinforced by two brigades from this army, has turned Cumberland Gap, and is now marching on Lexington, Ky… We shall thus have Buell pretty well disposed of. Sherman and Rosecrans will leave to you and Van Dorn, satisfied that you can dispose of them, and we shall confidently expect to meet you on the Ohio and there open the way to Missouri.”

Bragg headed north, led by General Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry. The 30,000 Confederates marched through the Sequatchie Valley and crossed Walden’s Ridge into central Tennessee on the 28th. Bragg’s route ran parallel to Smith’s but about 100 miles farther west. Bragg issued a proclamation:

“The enemy is before us, devastating our fair country… insulting our women, and desecrating our altars… It is for you to decide whether our brothers and sisters of Tennessee and Kentucky shall remain bondmen and bondwomen of the Abolition tyrant or be restored to the freedom inherited from their fathers.”

In Kentucky, Smith had to push his tattered army on to Lexington for much needed supplies. Cavalry under Colonel John S. Scott led the way and dispersed two Federal brigades atop Big Hill, south of Richmond. Scott learned that Federal reinforcements were on their way to Richmond. Smith, operating in Unionist territory, wrote Bragg, “Thus far the people are universally hostile to our cause. This sentiment extends through the mountain region of Eastern Kentucky. In the bluegrass region I have better expectations and shall soon test their loyalty.”

Smith’s lead division under Brigadier General Patrick R. Cleburne, along with Scott’s cavalry, crossed Big Hill on the 29th and entered Bluegrass country, moving northwest on the road to Richmond. Smith’s Confederates had marched a remarkable 150 miles through mountains and rugged terrain in just two weeks. Residents of Cincinnati, just 75 miles away, began panicking at the prospect of being attacked.

Brigadier General Mahlon D. Manson, commanding Federals outside Richmond, confronted Scott’s horsemen and drove them through Kingston, about eight miles south. Scott joined with Cleburne’s force, while the Federals fell back to Rogersville. Manson informed Major General William “Bull” Nelson, the ranking area commander at Louisville, of the action and blocked the Lancaster turnpike east of Richmond. With Brigadier General Thomas J. Churchill’s Confederates hurrying north to join Cleburne, Smith planned to attack Richmond the next day.

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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. 206-07; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 583; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 195-98; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 253, 256; 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. 516-17; Rutherford, Phillip R., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 171; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 517-18; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 44-45, 50; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 414-15

Confederates Target Kentucky

August 6, 1862 – General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Mississippi arrived at Chattanooga, and the Federal high command expressed disappointment with Major General Don Carlos Buell’s perceived lack of action.

By moving into Chattanooga, Bragg entered Major General Edmund Kirby Smith’s Confederate Department of East Tennessee. Smith had about 10,000 men at Knoxville, and after meeting with Bragg, he reported that:

  • Smith would “move at once against General (George) Morgan in front of Cumberland Gap.”
  • Bragg would advance from Chattanooga into Middle Tennessee after collecting supplies.
  • If Smith defeated Morgan, he would join forces with Bragg.

The generals were confident of success based on the recent cavalry raids by General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Colonel John Hunt Morgan:

“The feeling in Middle Tennessee and Kentucky is represented by Forrest and Morgan to have become intensely hostile to the enemy, and nothing is wanted but arms and support to bring the people into our ranks, for they have found that neutrality has afforded them no protection.”

For the Federals:

  • Brigadier General George W. Morgan, Smith’s West Point classmate and close friend, had about 8,000 men at Cumberland Gap.
  • In northern Alabama, Buell’s Army of the Ohio continued crawling toward Chattanooga from near Huntsville.

Gen Don Carlos Buell | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Buell’s methodical pace drew a reprimand from General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck: “There is great dissatisfaction here (in Washington) at the slow movement of your army toward Chattanooga. It is feared that the enemy will have time to concentrate his entire army against you.”

Buell responded, “It is difficult to satisfy impatience, and when it proceeds from anxiety, as I know it does in this case, I am not disposed to complain of it. My advance has not been rapid, but it could not be more rapid under the circumstances. I know I have not been idle nor indifferent.”

Buell reported that there were about 60,000 Confederates in eastern Tennessee, “yet I am prepared to find the reports much more exaggerated than I have supposed, and shall march upon Chattanooga at the earliest possible day, unless I ascertain certainly that the enemy’s strength renders it imprudent. If, on the other hand, he should cross the (Tennessee) river I shall attack him, and I do not doubt that we shall defeat him.”

Meanwhile, as Bragg and Smith continued planning, Smith proposed an alternative to attacking George Morgan’s Federals:

“I understand General Morgan has at Cumberland Gap nearly a month’s supply of provisions. If this be true then the reduction of the place would be a matter of more time than I presume you are willing I should take. As my move direct to Lexington, Kentucky, would effectually invest Morgan and would be attended with other most brilliant results in my judgment, I suggest I be allowed to take that course.”

General Braxton Bragg | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Bragg, who had originally envisioned Smith defeating Morgan and then joining him to defeat Buell, seemed intrigued by Smith’s idea of marching on Lexington and began considering whether he should advance into Kentucky as well. But to do so, Bragg would need help from his two forces in Mississippi under Major Generals Earl Van Dorn and Sterling Price. Bragg agreed with Smith’s revised plan but urged caution:

“It would be unadvisable, I think, for you to move far into Kentucky, leaving Morgan in your rear, until I am able to fully engage Buell and his forces on your left. But I do not credit the amount of Morgan’s supplies and have confidence in his timidity. When once well on the way to his rear you might safely leave but 5,000 to his front, and by a flank movement draw the rest to your assistance. He will never advance to escape. Van Dorn and Price will advance simultaneously with us from Mississippi on West Tennessee, and I trust we may all unite in Ohio.”

With Colonel John S. Scott’s cavalry riding ahead, Smith headed out of Knoxville with four divisions on August 13. The three divisions under Generals Thomas J. Churchill, Patrick Cleburne, and Henry Heth moved north with Smith. The fourth division under General Carter L. Stevenson would hold Morgan’s Federals at Cumberland Gap.

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

Smith notified Richmond, “My advance is made in the hope of permanently occupying Kentucky. It is a bold move, offering brilliant results, but will be accomplished only with hard fighting, and must be sustained by constant reinforcements.” He renamed his force the Confederate Army of Kentucky.

The three divisions bypassed Cumberland Gap and marched through the Cumberland Mountains before entering Kentucky on the 16th. Buell learned of Smith’s advance and guessed it was being coordinated with John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate cavalry raid in Kentucky. He dispatched Major General William “Bull” Nelson to lead a group of experienced officers “to organize such troops as could be got together there to reestablish our communications and operate against Morgan’s incursions.”

The Confederates occupied Barbourville, Kentucky, on the 18th. This was in George Morgan’s rear, threatening his supply line to Lexington. Smith wrote his wife, “Our men have marched night and day, and have carried their own subsistence in their haversacks for five days. Ragged, barefoot, they have climbed mountains, suffered starvation and thirst without a murmur.” Supply shortages and local Unionist sentiment prompted Smith to start moving toward Lexington.

Within Kentucky, civil unrest between Unionists and secessionists continued, as Governor Beriah Magoffin resigned under threats of assassination due to his refusal to pledge loyalty to either the Union or the Confederacy. The Unionist legislature had refused to endorse Magoffin’s proposal to allow the people to vote on whether Kentucky should stay in the Union.

Unrest within the Federal high command continued as well, as Halleck wired Buell, “So great is the dissatisfaction here at the apparent want of energy and activity in your district, that I was this morning notified to have you removed. I got the matter delayed till we could hear further of your movements.” Buell quickly responded:

“I beg that you will not interpose on my behalf. On the contrary, if the dissatisfaction cannot cease on grounds which I think might be supposed if not apparent, I respectfully request that I may be relieved. My position is far too important to be occupied by any officer on sufferance. I have no desire to stand in the way of what may be deemed necessary for the public good.”

As Buell remained relatively stationary, Smith continued his advance and Bragg prepared to mobilize as well.

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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. 203; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 467-68; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 564-65, 576-77, 583; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 193; Hattaway, Herman, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 234; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 251; 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. 516-17; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 517-18; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 44, 49; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 414-15

John Hunt Morgan’s Kentucky Raid Ends

July 17, 1862 – Colonel John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate horsemen attacked a Federal garrison at the key railroad town of Cynthiana before successfully ending their Kentucky incursion.

John Hunt Morgan | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Brigadier General Jeremiah Boyle, commanding Federals at Louisville, had initially panicked at the prospect of Morgan overrunning Kentucky. But by July 17, he had collected information from various sources and reported to Major General Don Carlos Buell, “I am persuaded Morgan has not over 1,000 men and two brass howitzers.”

Boyle believed that Kentucky secessionists had “lied for Morgan and magnified his forces,” and Morgan’s raid would only result in a “loss of individuals and destruction of property.” Boyle sent a spy posing as a Kentucky secessionist trying to join Morgan’s ranks. The spy assessed Morgan’s recruiting efforts and concluded that “only the low and evil will join him.”

As Morgan continued leading his Confederates through Kentucky, he initially targeted Lexington but learned that it was too strongly defended. So the troopers rode 30 miles northeast to Cynthiana on the Licking River. Morgan hoped to capture the Federal garrison there, but he also hoped to deceive the Federals into thinking he would continue moving north to threaten Cincinnati, Ohio.

Morgan’s troopers approached Cynthiana on the 17th. Federal Colonel John J. Landrum guarded the Kentucky Central Railroad at Cynthiana with 340 troops and a cannon. He did not know that Morgan was coming.

The Confederates attacked from three directions, crossing all three fords over the Licking River. Surprised, the Federals took refuge in town buildings and homes, firing from windows and getting off two artillery rounds that prompted Morgan to withdraw his horse artillery. However, Landrum soon realized that the three-pronged Confederate attack had virtually surrounded the town.

The Federals began running out of ammunition as Landrum tried regrouping them near the railroad depot. They fought off the advancing Confederates block by block. Landrum led about 30 men in trying to take one of the bridges, but the numerically superior Confederates forced them to retreat. Landrum fought his way through a small detachment and fled southeast, with the rest of Morgan’s troopers in pursuit. Landrum ordered his men to scatter; he and a few escaped while Morgan captured the rest.

The Federals lost about 70 killed or wounded, with another 230 or so captured. The Confederates also seized 300 badly needed horses while losing about 40 men. They left Cynthiana and headed southeast, reaching Paris by dark.

Cynthiana marked the northernmost point of Morgan’s incursion into Kentucky. The next morning, Morgan learned that about 1,800 Federal troopers under General Green Clay Smith were headed their way from Lexington, so he led his men farther south to Winchester.

The Confederates continued riding until they reached Richmond before dawn on the 19th. Many of the horses captured at Cynthiana died from being ridden so hard. Morgan hoped that Kentuckians would join his force at Richmond, but the pressure of advancing Federals forced him to stay on the move.

Morgan’s victory at Cynthiana panicked Boyle once more, as he called on Buell again for more men. Buell refused: “The condition of things here (in northern Alabama) requires the services of every soldier than can be mustered and perhaps more. No detachments should be sent from here except in case of the greatest necessity.”

Both Boyle and Smith estimated Morgan’s force to number at least 3,500 men when it really totaled less than 1,000. Boyle finally realized the true size of Morgan’s force on the 20th, reporting to Buell, “The rebel lies alarmed some of my commanding officers and produced consternation among the people,” including himself (though he would not admit it).

That same day, the Confederates arrived at Somerset, southwest of Richmond. They seized the telegraph office, where one of Morgan’s men intercepted Federal dispatches since July 10 and countermanded all of Boyle’s orders to pursue the raiders. The Confederates took all the supplies they could from Somerset and burned the rest before resuming their southward withdrawal. Their arrival at Livingston, Tennessee, ended both their raid and the Federal pursuit.

Morgan deemed the operation a success, reporting that in 24 days, his men had “traveled over a thousand miles, captured 17 towns, destroyed all the Government supplies and arms in them, dispersed about 1,500 Home Guards and paroled nearly 1,200 regular troops. I lost in killed, wounded and missing of the number that I carried into Kentucky about 90.”

Morgan also ended with more troops than he started with, having gained about 400 recruits. His men had advanced 250 miles into enemy-occupied territory, captured 3,000 stands of arms at Lebanon, and destroyed many bridges, railroad tracks, and other property whose estimated value was as high as $10 million. All this had put the residents of Cincinnati and other towns on the Ohio River into a state “bordering on frenzy.”

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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. 195-97; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 184, 186; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 430-31; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 237, 242-43; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 430; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 24