Tag Archives: George W. Morgan

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

Confederates Reinforce Chattanooga

July 29, 1862 – General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Mississippi arrived at Chattanooga, while the Federal high command in the West scrambled to learn Bragg’s intentions.

Gen Don Carlos Buell | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Major General Don Carlos Buell, commanding the Federal Army of the Ohio from Huntsville, Alabama, received word on the 31st that Bragg had arrived at Chattanooga two days before, and “On the same evening two trains came in with soldiers. Railroad agent says he has orders to furnish cars for 30,000 as fast as he can.” Buell had been moving sluggishly through northern Alabama due to Confederate raiders disrupting his supply lines. He just recently restored his line from Nashville to Stevenson and finally returned his men to full allowances with the arrival of 210,000 rations.

Major General Ulysses S. Grant, commanding the Federal armies farther west, was unaware of Bragg’s intentions. He received varying reports from Major General William S. Rosecrans, commanding the Federal Army of the Mississippi at Corinth, that Bragg was headed to Vicksburg, or Mobile, or Chattanooga. This left Grant to report that “nothing absolutely certain of the movements of the enemy has been learned,” except “a movement has taken place from Tupelo, in what direction or for what purpose is not so certain.”

General Braxton Bragg | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Brigadier General Philip Sheridan, commanding Rosecrans’s cavalry, learned from a captured Confederate officer that Bragg was heading to Chattanooga. Sheridan reported, “The enemy have been and still are moving in large numbers to Chattanooga, via Mobile and Montgomery, concentrating at Rome, Ga. A large number of troops are at Saltillo (10 miles north of Tupelo), not less than 10,000.” The Confederate troops near Saltillo belonged to Major General Sterling Price, who was moving north from Tupelo.

Bragg arrived at Chattanooga on July 30. The next day, Major General Edmund Kirby Smith, commanding the Confederate Army of East Tennessee, came down from Knoxville to meet with him. Bragg sought to liberate Nashville from Federal occupation, but Smith wanted Bragg to hold off Buell while he led his army into Kentucky.

The men agreed to coordinate their movements with each other, with Smith telling Bragg that he would “not only co-operate with you, but will cheerfully place my command under you subject to your orders.” Although Bragg was the ranking officer, his army was operating in Smith’s department, so the men would act as equals. This virtually doomed the offensive before it even began.

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

Smith would initiate the action by moving against Brigadier General George W. Morgan’s Federals at Cumberland Gap. If Bragg’s cavalry was available, Bragg and Smith would combine their forces and cut Buell’s supply lines in Middle Tennessee. Without developing any specifics, Bragg would confront Buell while Smith invaded Kentucky. The two Confederate forces in Mississippi under Price at Saltillo and Major General Earl Van Dorn at Vicksburg would prevent Grant from reinforcing Buell.

Bragg informed Richmond that he and Smith had “arranged measures for material support and effective cooperation.” Bragg explained that Smith would advance on Cumberland Gap:

“Should he be successful, and our well-grounded hopes be fulfilled, our entire force will then be thrown into Middle Tennessee with the fairest prospect of cutting off General Buell, should that commander continue in his present position.”

Bragg made no mention of a Kentucky incursion, instead emphasizing Middle Tennessee as the main objective. He stated that if Grant reinforced Buell, “Van Dorn and Price can strike and clear West Tennessee of any force that can be left to hold it.”

Timing and coordination were essential for this plan to succeed. This would prove very difficult for Bragg, who not only had to coordinate his army’s movements with Smith’s, but he had to keep command over Van Dorn and Price as well. The first move was Smith’s, as he tried taking Cumberland Gap while calling for reinforcements from western Virginia.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 562, 575; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 186-87; 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. 43

Confederates on the Move in the West

July 23, 1862 – General Braxton Bragg mobilized his Confederate Army of Mississippi to move from Tupelo to Chattanooga and ultimately join forces with Major General Edmund Kirby Smith.

Bragg wrote his predecessor, General P.G.T. Beauregard, explaining there were four options for his Confederates:

  • They could remain at Tupelo
  • They could attack Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals at either Corinth or Memphis
  • They could attack Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Federals advancing on Chattanooga
  • They could advance into Middle Tennessee, disrupting both Grant’s and Buell’s supply lines

General Braxton Bragg | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Only advancing on Chattanooga would enable Bragg to join forces with E.K. Smith, whose 18,000-man army was poised to threaten Cumberland Gap and Kentucky. Bragg wrote to President Jefferson Davis:

“Obstacles in front connected with danger to Chattanooga induce a change of base. Fully impressed with great importance of that line, am moving to East Tennessee. Produce rapid offensive from there following the consternation now being produced by our cavalry. Leave this State amply protected by (Major General Earl) Van Dorn at Vicksburg and (Major General Sterling) Price here (at Tupelo).”

Bragg’s cavalry moved out on the 22nd, with Bragg writing Beauregard, “Our cavalry is paving the way for me in Middle Tennessee and Kentucky.” Bragg’s 30,000 Confederate infantry began boarding trains the next day. The trip stretched 776-miles and involved transferring onto six different railroads and a steamboat along a route south to Mobile, north to Montgomery, east to Atlanta, then northwest to Chattanooga.

Once at Chattanooga, Bragg planned to join forces with E.K. Smith’s army and invade Kentucky, much like Colonel John Hunt Morgan was doing. Bragg guessed that Buell’s Federals would abandon efforts to capture Chattanooga and instead pursue the Confederates northward. And if Grant reinforced Buell, Van Dorn and Price could join forces in Mississippi to attack Grant’s diminished force.

Certain that Kentuckians would eagerly join his army, Bragg brought 15,000 extra rifles with him. This certainty seemed to be confirmed the next day when E.K. Smith forwarded a message from J.H. Morgan in Kentucky, stating that the bridges between Cincinnati and Lexington had been destroyed and at least 30,000 secessionists would gladly join the Confederate cause.

Smith contacted Brigadier General Carter L. Stevenson, who was opposing the Federal force at Cumberland Gap under Brigadier General George W. Morgan. Smith told Stevenson that if G.W. Morgan detached troops to deal with J.H. Morgan, it could “present the most favorable opportunity of pushing forward your operations, and probably enable you to enter Kentucky.”

Bragg reported to the Confederate adjutant general on the 24th:

“Major General Van Dorn, with about 16,000 effectives, will hold the line of the Mississippi. Major General Price, with a similar force, will face the enemy on this frontier (central Mississippi), and a sufficient garrison will be left for Mobile and the Gulf. With the balance of the forces, some 35,000 effectives, I hope, in conjunction with Major General Smith, to strike an effective blow through Middle Tennessee, gaining the enemy’s rear, cutting off his supplies and dividing his forces, so as to encounter him in detail. In any event much will be accomplished in simply preserving our line and preventing a descent into Georgia, than which no greater disaster could befall us.”

Advance Confederate units from Bragg’s army arrived at Chattanooga on July 27, just two days before the last train left Tupelo. This was the largest Confederate railroad movement of the war, and it was completed in record time, despite the poor condition and different track gauges of southern railroads.

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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. 198; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 571, 573; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 184-85; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 243; 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. 515-16; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 42-43