Tag Archives: Don Carlos Buell

Rosecrans Replaces Buell

October 24, 1862 – Federal Major General Don Carlos Buell received orders to turn his command over to Major General William S. Rosecrans for his failure to stop the Confederates’ escape from Kentucky.

Federal Major Generals Don Carlos Buell and William S. Rosecrans | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

As the Confederates escaped from Kentucky into eastern Tennessee, Federal officials at Washington implored Buell, commanding the Army of the Ohio in Kentucky, to pursue and destroy them. However, Buell had repeatedly resisted going into that harsh region, instead proposing to go to Nashville to defend against a possible Confederate thrust there.

General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck clearly informed Buell that the “capture of East Tennessee should be the main object of your campaign,” and if the Confederates could operate in that unforgiving region, so could the Federals. In response, Buell essentially admitted his inferiority in a long dissertation explaining why his army could not survive there.

Buell wrote, “The spirit of the rebellion enforces a subordination and patient submission to privation and want which public sentiment renders absolutely impossible among our troops.” Buell also asserted that because Confederate General Braxton Bragg was authorized to enforce the death penalty, “the discipline of the rebel army is superior to ours.”

Meanwhile, administration officials received reports from Governors Richard Yates of Illinois, David Tod of Ohio, and Oliver P. Morton of Indiana criticizing Buell’s handling of the Kentucky campaign. The governors were especially bitter toward Buell because his army had been recruited mostly from their states, and an election was approaching. This added more pressure to the situation, and Halleck telegraphed Buell on the 22nd:

“It is the wish of the Government that your army proceed to and occupy East Tennessee with all possible dispatch. It leaves to you the selection of the roads upon which to move to that object… Neither the Government nor the country can endure these repeated delays. Both require a prompt and immediate movement toward the accomplishment of the great object in view–the holding of East Tennessee.”

During that time, Bragg and his demoralized Confederates reached Knoxville unmolested. After two days of minimal Federal activity, Buell received orders from Halleck:

“General: The President directs that on the presentation of this order you will turn over your command to Maj. Gen. W.S. Rosecrans, and repair to Indianapolis, Ind., reporting from that place to the Adjutant General of the Army for further orders.”

Under General Order No. 168, the Department of the Ohio became the new Department of the Cumberland to emphasize its goal. Jurisdiction included Kentucky, Tennessee (east of the Tennessee River), and Federal-occupied parts of northern Alabama and Georgia. Halleck wrote to Rosecrans:

“You will receive herewith the order of the President placing you in command of the Department of the Cumberland and of the army of operations now under Major-General Buell. You will immediately repair to General Buell’s headquarters and relieve him from the command.”

Rosecrans had been chosen to command due to his recent victories at Iuka and Corinth in northern Mississippi under Major General Ulysses S. Grant. Rosecrans had complained to Halleck about Grant, alleging “a spirit of mischief among the mousing politicians on Grant’s staff,” and calling Grant “sour and reticent.” When Rosecrans asked to be “relieved from duty here,” Halleck and President Abraham Lincoln saw an opportunity to put him in Buell’s place.

Halleck sent Rosecrans instructions on the 24th:

“The great objects to be kept in view in your operations in the field are: First, to drive the enemy from Kentucky and Middle Tennessee; second, to take and hold East Tennessee, cutting the line of railroad at Chattanooga, Cleveland, or Athens, so as to destroy the connection of the valley of Virginia with Georgia and the other Southern States. It is hoped that by prompt and rapid movements a considerable part of this may be accomplished before the roads become impassable from the winter rains… I need not urge upon you the necessity of giving active employment to your forces. Neither the country nor the Government will much longer put up with the inactivity of some of our armies and generals.”

Halleck explained that Rosecrans would receive support from three main sources:

  • Major General Jacob D. Cox’s 20,000 Federals in western Virginia’s Kanawha Valley would divert Confederate attention
  • Grant’s 49,000 Federals would prevent the Confederates in Mississippi from reinforcing Bragg in Tennessee
  • Major General Horatio G. Wright’s Department of the Ohio would send 20,000 men as needed from headquarters at Cincinnati

Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton was not impressed with Lincoln’s decision to give Rosecrans army command. He told the president, “Well, you have made your choice of idiots. Now you can await the news of a terrible disaster.”

By this time, Buell had not yet received Halleck’s order to relinquish his command. As Rosecrans spent the next few days arranging the transfer, rumors of the change spread throughout Buell’s army. Buell finally received notice from a newspaper article on the 29th, while he and his troops headed toward Nashville. He wrote Halleck, “If, as the papers report, my successor has been appointed, it is important that I should know it, and that he should enter on the command immediately, as the troops are already in motion.”

Buell, who had been under mounting scrutiny from the administration, was not very upset or surprised about losing his job. He confided to Major General George H. Thomas, his second-in-command, “Under the circumstances, I am sure I do not grieve about it.”

Halleck did not respond to Buell. Instead, Rosecrans arrived at Nashville the next day, where he met with Buell and effected the command transfer. Two years later, Grant offered Buell a command in Major General William T. Sherman’s army, but Buell said “it would be degradation to accept the assignment offered” because he had once outranked Sherman. Grant later called this “the worst excuse a soldier can make for declining service.” This ended Buell’s military career.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 8236; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 741-44, 762, 768, 773-74; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 102; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 223-24; 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. 279, 281-82; 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; Rowell, John W., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 196; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 196; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 80-82; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 414-15

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

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

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