Scapegoat for the failures of the
Confederate high command
by Bob Redman
Cmdr. AoT from 20
Cemetery, Mobile, AL
Cmdr. AoT 3 Dec. 63-18 Jul7 64
Cmdr. AoT 19 July - 23 Jan. 65
Cmdr. AoT 24 Jan. - 25 Feb. 65
Cmdr. AoT 16 Mar. - 26 April 65
General Joseph Wheeler in a letter to Bragg: "I have been serenaded twice in the past few days by Pensacola troops who said they had come to hunt up Genl. Bragg's friends ….They said the only enemies you had were a few bad Generals and some newspaper editors. They might have included a few soldiers who had been misinformed and influenced by designing men."
General Joseph Wheeler (referring to Bragg and Kirby Smith): "I have pointed out these lost opportunities as an additional proof of the adage, as old as war itself, 'that one bad general is better than two good ones.' "
Everybody "knows" that Bragg was a fool, right? Think again.
Nothing is as it first seems.
Braxton Bragg, a favorite whipping boy of historians, was a much better general than he is made out to be. Of the eight men who reached the rank of full general in the Confederate army Braxton Bragg was certainly the most controversial.
He was born on 22 March 1817 in Warrenton, N.C. Confederate officer whose successes in the West were dissipated when he failed to follow up on them, partially due to dissension among ambitious subordinate generals. After graduating fifth in his class in 1837 from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Bragg served with distinction in the Seminole Wars. In the Mexican War (1846-48 under Zachary Taylor he was brevetted captain for conduct in defense of Fort Brown, major for valor at Monterey, and lieutenant-colonel for his special services at Buena Vista where his move from the far right to the far left with his battery of "flying artillery" probably saved the US army. By the way, Taylor's actual order to Bragg was: "Double shot those guns and give'em hell!". For the next 8 years Bragg did garrison duty as a quartermaster in the regular army and earned a reputation for strict discipline as well as a literal adherence to regulations. In 1856 Bragg left the army to run his plantation, and he also did civil engineering work for the state of Louisiana. After secession, he was commissioned Brigadier General CSA on 7 March 1861. He began his Confederate service in command of the coast between Pensicola and Mobile and demonstrated an aptitude for training, discipline, organization, and effective provisioning of his soldiers. Promoted to major general on 12 Sept. 1861, he asked to be sent to serve under A.S. Johnston in Kentucky and led the Confederate right wing at the battle of Shiloh (6-7 April 1862). On 12 April Bragg was promoted to the rank of full general and, on 27 June 1862, given command of the Army of Tennessee, relieving General P. G. T. who resigned because of ill health and differences of opinion with Jefferson Davis. Bragg then carried out a successful transfer of troops by means of railroad from Tupelo, Miss. through Mobile, and thus beat Buell to Chattanooga. Buell had the shorter route, but he had to march, and he was also charged with repairing and guarding 500 miles of railroad as he went. Bragg's transfer was one of the first such operations of the Civil War.
In the autumn of that year, Bragg led a bold advance from eastern Tennessee across Kentucky almost to Louisville. Many consider this the high-water mark of the Confederacy. However, he was hampered by the poorly defined division of departmental responsibility between his and that of Kirby Smith, and Buell was able to get to Louisville first. Tactically, the ensuing Battle of Perryville of 9 Oct. 1862 was a draw. Unable to fight to a decision and being short of supplies, Bragg withdrew into East Tennessee. He had been further hampered by the reluctance of Polk, his effective second in command placed there by Davis, to cooperate and follow orders. This behavior on the part of Polk degenerated into outright rebellion and undermining of Bragg's authority within the Army of Tennessee. Polk even tried to have Bragg relieved (by himself), but Jefferson Davis kept Bragg at the head of the Army of Tennessee, without increasing Bragg's authority, however. On 31 December 1862 and 2 January 63 he fought the indecisive Battle of Murfreesboro (Stones River) against Gen. William S. Rosecrans, inflicting heavy casualties, but again he was forced to withdraw in the face of a better supplied and numerically superior opponent. During the Tullahoma campaign of 22-29 June 1863 Rosecrans, mainly through flanking movements and the use of the new Spencer repeaters, forced Bragg back to Chattanooga which he entered on 4 July 1863. Bragg was then forced to retire from Chattanooga into North Georgia when Rosecrans and Thomas again outflanked him by crossing the Tennessee river downstream and occupied key positions on Lookout Mountain. However, Rosecrans outreached himself and, on 19-20 Sept. 1863 Bragg defeated Rosecrans at Chickamauga, although he was unable to overcome the resistance of George H. Thomas and his 14th Corps on Snodgrass Hill. Critics write that Bragg should have pursued more vigorously, but having sustained 18,000 casualties on the two days, his army was not in much better shape than the Federal army was.
After the battle Bragg laid siege to the poorly supplied Federals inside the strong fortifications of Chattanooga while the rebellion among many of his officers, mainly Polk, Hardee, Longstreet and D.H. Hill, flamed up again. This time Davis came to the Army of Tennessee in person in order to try to find a solution. Again he supported Bragg, sending Polk and Hill to other commands, leaving however, Longstreet who did even more damage than Polk by practically throwing away Bragg's entire left flank in Lookout Valley on the west side of Lookout Mountain. In the meanwhile large Federal reinforcements were concentrated under Ulysses S. Grant and George H. Thomas, and the decisive battle of Chattanooga (23-25 November 1863) ended in the defeat of Bragg's army. On 24 Feb. 1864 Bragg requested to be relieved from of his command, whereupon Davis made him his military adviser. He held this position until 31 Jan. 1865. During The Atlanta Campaign, Bragg was ordered to Atlanta as an observer. He met with J.E. Johnston several times between July 13 and 15, 1864, after which he advised Davis that Johnston, who had replaced him as commander of the Army of Tennessee, had no serious intention to take the offensive. Two days after he communicated this to President Davis Johnston was replaced by Hood who then lost four straight battles in the defense of Atlanta and would later lead the Army of Tennesse to destruction at the battle of Nashville. On 19 March 1865 Bragg commanded a division under Johnston at the abortive battle of Bentonville, and he was captured on 9 May 1865 while accompanying Davis on his flight into Georgia. During this final period Bragg was observed by a Georgia girl who wrote in her diary: "Generals Bragg and Breckinridge are in the village with a host of minor celebrities. General Breckinridge is called the handsomest man in the Confederate army, and Bragg might be called the ugliest. He looks like an old porcupine."
After the war he was a civil engineer in Alabama and Texas. He died on 27 Sept. 1876 in Galveston, Texas while walking down the street with a friend. He is buried in Mobile, Alabama. Fort Bragg in North Carolina is named in his honor.
Historians generally cite the critics most hostile to Bragg and ignore the many witnesses in his favor, a few of whom I quote here. In a letter to Bragg, Joseph Wheeler (future galvanized US general who served in Cuba in the war against Spain) wrote:
"I have been serenaded twice in the past few days by Pensacola troops who said they had come to hunt up Genl. Bragg's friends….They said the only enemies you had were a few bad Generals and some newspaper editors. They might have included a few soldiers who had been misinformed and influenced by designing men."
On December 10, 1863, just a few days after Bragg had relinquished command of the army, the inspector general of the Army of Tennessee wrote him:
"I have just inspected the army, and I find a general regret at your leaving. It is evident, now, to all that the rank and file of this army and the more efficient and honest officers prefer you to any other leader that could be sent here, and they would hail your return with earnest satisfaction."
General Philip D. Roddey wrote Bragg:
"The news has just reached us that you have been relieved of the command of the Army of Tennessee. You will please pardon this intrusion, but I am so mortified that I cannot, in justice to my own feelings, resist the temptation to say that we can never be as well satisfied with a commander as we have been with you nor do we believe that any officer on the continent could have done more or better with the Army of Tennessee than you have done. I have heard a general expression from the officers and men of my brigade, and without exception, they prefer you as a commander to any officer in the Confederate army."
In Nov. 1863 Captain E. John Ellis wrote to his father:
"It was an unbending justice Bragg meted out to his generals, his colonels, his captains, and privates alike that brings the ire of officers high in the rank down upon General Bragg. His men love Bragg. His army has been held together, and has been so disciplined and organized by him as to nearly compensate in efficiency what it sadly lacked in numbers. All this is attributable to General Bragg. The papers say he is incompetent. His career and history gives this the lie. They say the army has no confidence in him, but, as I know the men in this army and my acquaintance extends to many brigades including men from every state, I am prepared to pronounce this, like the former, a lie. No army ever had more confidence in its leaders, and Napoleon's guard never followed his eagles more enthusiastically than this ragged army has and will follow the lead of its gaunt, grim chieftain."
Bragg is usually desribed as being an incompetent battle commander, but in fact nobody could have gotten better results from the command structure imposed upon him by the government in Richmond. He is recorded as being a tyrannical disciplinarian, but as even Sam Watkins admitted, "Johnston had ten times as many soldiers shot as old Bragg ever did." In fact, Bragg attempted to provide for his troops and made enemies in a losing struggle against an archaic and inefficient supply system. As part of this attempt he had an officer executed for corruption, the only commander on either side to do so in the entire war. Throughout the war, Bragg took a sincere interest in the welfare of his soldiers. He was constantly inspecting their camps, questioning them about their needs, and visiting the hospitals. I believe that Bragg "failed" as a commander because he tried to impose a modern command structure on a society which wasn't ready for the discipline this entailed, and many of his contemporaries, for personal reasons, turned on him. The same thing would have happened to George H. Thomas had he elected to fight for the South.
Finally, if Thomas was the most modern and effective of all of the Union commanders, and he was, it makes no sense to not give the credit due to his most tenacious and dangerous opponent, Braxton Bragg.
Other articles and materials:
1. The Execution of Captain Jazeb B. Rhodes, CSA by Terry Foenander
2. excerpt from Bragg's Advance and Retreat [Perryville and Murfreesboro] by David Urquhart, Col. CSA, member of Bragg's staff
3. excerpt from Manoeuvring Bragg out ot Tennessee [Tullahoma] by Gilbert C. Kniffen, Lieutenant-Colonel, USV
4. excerpt from Bragg's Invasion of Kentucky by Joseph Wheeler, Lieutenant-General, CSA.
5. The Papers of Braxton Bragg are available on
microfilm at the Lindsay
Young Library of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
This, the principle Confederate army of the West, was formed on 20 Nov. 1862 under Bragg by merging his Army of Mississippi with Kirby-Smith's Army of Kentucky. Kirby Smith had been under Bragg's orders in the previous operations which culminated in the battle of Perryville on 8 Oct. 1862, and his command had been referred to as "Kirby Smith's Corps (Horn, p. 188). In the reorganization of 20 Nov. 1862 his force was technically "Kirby Smith's Corps, Army of Tennessee (Miller, X, p. 258), but it did not actually exist as such. (See Boatner: Kirby Smith's Corps.) In mid-December 1862 Bragg's army was critically weakened by the detachment of Stevenson's division (10,000 men) to reinforce Pemberton at Vicksburg.
In its first engagement, at Murfreesboro (Stones River), Bragg's army numbered 38,000 effectives. It contained the infantry corps of Polk and Hardee and Wheeler's cavalry division. When it dropped back to block the approaches to Chattanooga from Murfreesboro it was reinforced to 44,000 effectives. Turned out of these defensive positions by Rosecrans's skillfully conducted Tullahoma campaign (23-29 June 1863), Bragg's army withdrew behind the Tennessee River. On 25 July 1863 the Department of Tennessee was created.
In Sept. 1863 Bragg was reinforced by Longstreet's corps (less Pickett's division) from Virginia, and by the brigades of W.H.T. Walker, Gregg, and McNair from Mississippi. Forrest's cavalry also joined him. The army now numbered 47,500 infantry and 14,500 cavalry. The infantry corps were commanded by Polk, D.H. Hill (vice Hardee), Buckner, Longstreet, and W.H.T. Walker. A reserve division, 3500 men under Bushrod Johnson, was also designated. In some accounts Walker's command is called the reserve corps, and Bushrod Johnson's force is shown as part of Buckner's corps. Wheeler and Forrest each led a cavalry corps.
After the battle of Chickamauga there was another reorganizatino. Polk was relieved of command (for disobedience of orders). On 23 Oct. 1863 he was ordered to the Army of Mississippi, and Hardee was ordered to rejoin Bragg from the latter army. D.H. Hill and Buckner also left. The Army of Tennessee was then reorganized into three corps; Longstreet's, Hardee's, and Breckinridge's. In early November 1863 Longstreet's corps was detached by Davis to operate against Burnside at Knoxville.
Bragg was relieved on 2 Dec. 1863. Before J.E. Johnston assumed command on 27 Dec. 1863, the army was headed temporarily by Hardee (2-22 Dec. 1863) and Polk (23-26 Dec. 1863).
Johnston's Army of Tennessee was reorganized into the corps of Hardee, Hood, Polk, and Wheeler's cavalry for the Atlanta campaign. Hardee had taken over Polk's original (I) corps. Polk was absent from late Dec. 1863 until he rejoined the Army of Tennessee on 12 May 1864 with his Army of Mississippi to form the third corps.
Hood relieved Johnston on 19 July 1864. After the unsuccessful Franklin and Nashville campaign Hood was relieved at his own request and succeeded by Dick Taylor on 23 Jan. 1865. Johnston resumed command of the greatly weakened army on 25 Feb. 1865, together with all troops in the Confederate Deparment of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. On 16 March 1865 Beauregard was named second-in-command, and A.P. Stewart took command of the infantry and artillery of the Army of Tennessee. At this time Johnston's enlarged command included the troops of Hardee in the far South and those of Bragg in North Carolina. The Army of Tennessee numbered about 20,000. On 9 April 1865 there was another reorganization, after which the army comprised the infantry corps of Hardee, A.P. Stewart, S.D. Lee, and Hampton's cavalry (including Wheeler's corps and M.C. Butler's division).
Hostilities were suspended on 18 April 1865, and Johnston
surrendered on 26 April 1865 at Bennett's House, near Durham Station,
Originally published in 1887 by Robert Underwood Johnson and
Clough Buell, editors of the "The Century" Magazine".
[corrected and reformatted; maps and illustrations omitted]
excerpt from BRAGG'S INVASION OF KENTUCKY.
BY JOSEPH WHEELER, LIEUTENANT-GENERAL, C. S. A.
GENERAL BRAGG succeeded General Beauregard in command of the Confederate troops at Tupelo, Miss., about fifty miles south of Corinth, on June 27th, 1862. The field returns of June 9th, a week after our army reached Tupelo, reported it at 45,080.** This return included the Army of Mississippi, reenforced by the troops brought from Arkansas by Generals Price and Van Dorn, together with detachments gathered from various localities. About two thousand cavalry not included in this return also belonged to the army. This was the maximum force General Bragg could expect to concentrate at that point. General Halleck, immediately confronting Bragg with the armies of Grant, Pope, and Buell, had in and about Corinth a force of 128,315 men, of which the field return of June 1st showed 108,538 present for duty. A division reporting 8682 for duty, under the Federal General George W. Morgan, was at Cumberland Gap; a division with 6411 for duty, under General Ormsby M. Mitchel, was in north Alabama, and three brigades were located at Nashville, Murfreesboro', and other points in middle Tennessee. Buell soon started en route to north Alabama General Halleck remaining at or near Corinth with seventy thousand men for duty, a force strong enough to hold Corinth and west Tennessee, while Buell could menace or even invade Alabama or north Georgia.
The changed condition of the opposing armies during four months should now be considered. In January, 1862, the Confederates had held all of
** To prevent misconception, and to avoid frequent repetitions, I will here state that throughout this paper when I mention the figures of field returns of Confederate troops I shall always include all officers, all non-commissioned officers, and all privates who are reported present for duty. - J. W.
Tennessee and most of Kentucky, and the Mississippi River from Columbus to the delta. Now, after a series of Confederate reverses, both States were virtually under the control of the armies under General Halleck, and the Federal flotilla sailed unmolested from St. Louis to Vicksburg. The Federal right was thrown forward into Mississippi. Its center occupied north Alabama, and its left was pressing the Confederates to the southern border of east Tennessee.
The Confederate problem was to devise some plan to turn the tide of disaster and recover at least a portion of our lost territory. Our soldiers had expected a battle at Corinth, in which they felt confident of as decisive a victory as was won by them on the first day of Shiloh; and the withdrawal to Tupelo had at last forced upon them a conviction that the numerical preponderance of the enemy was such that they could not expect to cope successfully with the combined armies then commanded by General Halleck.
Already the army had suffered much from sickness, and we could hardly expect any improvement while it remained idle in the locality where it had halted after its retreat from Corinth. An advance into west Tennessee would not afford protection to Alabama or Georgia. An advance into middle Tennessee by crossing the river at Florence, Decatur, or any neighboring point, would have the disadvantage of placing the Confederates between the armies of Grant and Buell under circumstances enabling these two commanders to throw their forces simultaneously upon General Bragg, who could not, in this event, depend upon any material cooperation from the army in east Tennessee under General Kirby Smith. There was another line for an aggressive movement. A rapid march through Alabama to Chattanooga would save that city, protect Georgia from invasion, and open the way into Tennessee and Kentucky, without the disadvantage of an intervening force between the column commanded by Bragg and that under the orders of General Kirby Smith. This movement was determined upon and resulted in what is called the Kentucky Campaign of 1862.
Major-General E. Kirby Smith had reached Knoxville March 8th, 1862, and assumed command of the Confederate troops in east Tennessee. The returns for June reported his entire force at 11,768 infantry, 1055 cavalry,* and 635 artillery. The occupation of Cumberland Gap, June 18th, by a Federal division, and the approach of Buell's forces toward Chattanooga seriously threatened his department.
* Not including Allston's brigade. -- EDITORS.
General Bragg recognized the inadequacy of General Smith's force, and on June 27th he transferred the division commanded by Major-General John P. McCown from Tupelo to Chattanooga.** Forrest and John H. Morgan had already been sent into middle Tennessee and Kentucky, and the operations of these enterprising officers materially lessened the pressure upon General Smith. Correspondence between Generals Bragg and Smith resulted in an order, dated July 21st, transferring the entire Army of Mississippi to Chattanooga. To mislead the enemy and to prevent an advance upon Tupelo, Bragg had, on the 19th, sent Colonel Joseph Wheeler with a brigade of cavalry into west Tennessee, and Brigadier-General Frank C. Armstrong with a like force into north Alabama. Wheeler's operations in west Tennessee may be briefly summarized as a rapid march from Holly Springs, Mississippi,
** General Kirby Smith, in a letter dated July 14th, 1862, estimated Stevenson's division at 10,000, Heth's and McCown's at 10,000, Morgan's cavalry 1300. "Official Records," Vol. XVI., Pt. II., p. 727. - EDITORS.
to Bolivar, Tennessee; an attack upon the outposts at that place; the destruction of bridges on the line of communications of the troops at Bolivar and Jackson; a number of slight affairs with the enemy's cavalry, and the burning of a quantity of cotton in transit to the North.
One week was thus occupied behind the enemy's lines, the main object of the movement being to create the impression of a general advance. On July 31st Bragg and Kirby Smith met at Chattanooga, and a joint movement into middle Tennessee was determined upon, Price and Van Dorn being left to confront Grant in northern Mississippi. On August 5th Bragg sent two of his brigades (Cleburne's and Preston Smith's) to General Smith at Knoxville. General C. L. Stevenson, with nearly nine thousand men, was ordered to watch the Federal General G. W. Morgan, who occupied Cumberland Gap. General Smith started on the 14th en route to Rogers's Gap, with 4 brigades, 6000 strong. The brigades of Preston Smith and B. J. Hill were commanded by General P. R. Cleburne, and the brigades of McCray and McNair were under command of General T.J. Churchill. General Henry Heth, with a force nearly 4000 strong, was ordered to march direct to Barboursville by way of Big Creek Gap, and the army was preceded by 900 cavalry under Colonel John S. Scott. General Smith had at first contemplated cutting off the supplies of the garrison at Cumberland Gap, but learning that they were well provisioned, and seeing the difficulty of supplying his own troops in the poor and barren region of south-eastern Kentucky, he determined to push rapidly on to the rich blue-grass country in the central part of the State. This determination had been communicated to General Bragg, and a march toward Lexington was commenced.
On the evening of the 19th, having reached Madison County, Kentucky, Colonel Scott found the enemy about half way between the small village of Kingston and the town of Richmond. The force displayed and resistance offered indicated that they were resolved to contest any farther advance of the Confederates. Although his troops were quite weary and General Heth was far to the rear, General Smith determined upon an immediate attack. He was in the heart of Kentucky, and the Confederate commander rightly judged that boldness was the surest road to victory.
Early on the 30th, General Cleburne, being in advance with his two brigades, found that the Federal froce had moved forward and was in line of battle about a mile north of Kingston and probably five miles south of Richmond. The extreme advance-guard of the enemy, about six hundred yards in front of their main line, became engaged with Cleburne's leading brigade, commanded by Colonel Hill, but after a light brush retired upon the main body of the Federal army. Hill's brigade was soon formed in line behind the crest of a low ridge which was nearly parallel with and about five hundred yards south of the position occupied by the enemy. Cleburne also brought up Douglas's battery, which he placed in a favorable position near the center of his line. A fire of artillery and infantry commenced, and Captain Martin, with a second battery, having arrived, it was also brought into action, and for two hours both infantry and artillery were engaged from their respective positions.
General Mahlon D. Manson, who was in command of the Federal army before General Nelson arrived, and who commenced the battle, now pushed his left forward to turn our right. Cleburne met this withone regiment of Preston Smith's brigade, which had been formed behind a crest in his rear, but the persistence of the enemy in that quarter made it necessary to reenforce the right with all of the reserve brigade under Preston Smith.
In the meantime General Kirby Smith had reached the field with the two brigades (McCray's and McNair's) forming General Churchill's division. He promptly dispatched that officer with one brigade to turn the enemy's right. The Federal commander, apparently disregarding this movement, still boldly advanced his own left to carry out his plan of turning the Confederate flank. This well-conceived maneuver at first seemed to endanger the Confederate army, but Colonel Preston Smith with his brigade stood firm, and after a severe struggle checked and finally drove back the advancing enemy. General Cleburne, who up to this time had displayed both skill and gallantry, was severely wounded and left the field. General Churchill had now gained the enemy's right, and by a bold and determined charge threw the enemy into disorder.
Two miles farther north the Federal force made a stand, and McCray's gallant brigade, by a rapid march, struck their right, while Cleburne's division, now commanded by Colonel Preston Smith, moved to the attack in front. The celerity of McCray's movements brought him into action before the other troops reached the field, and he suffered from the concentration of a galling and destructive fire; but the approach of Preston Smith, with troops cheering as they advanced again, caused a rout of the Federal army, closely followed by our victorious soldiers. When in sight of the town of Richmond the enemy were seen forming for a final struggle upon a commanding ridge, which had been judiciously selected by the Federal commander, Major-General William Nelson, both of the enemy's flanks being protected by skirts of woods. General Smith promptly sent McNair's brigade again to turn the Federal flank, and with the remaining force attacked directly in front. A warm fusillade lasted a few moments, when the Federal army again retreated. Early in the morning Colonel Scott had been sent to gain the rear of the town. His arrival at this moment increased the dismay of the enemy, and assisted materially in securing prisoners. The reports of the division and brigade commanders show that General Smith's entire force was about five thousand. The enemy supposed it much greater, their estimate including General Heth, but his division did not join General Smith until the day after the battle.* Kirby Smith's loss was 78 killed, 372 wounded, and 1 missing.
Nelson in his report speaks of his own command on the Kentucky River as 16,000 strong,** and the official report of casaulties is given as 206 killed, 844 wounded, and 4303 captured. The Federal official reports admit that nine pieces of artillery and all their wagon trains were captured by the Confederates.
* In a letter to General Bragg dated August 24th, 1862, General Kirby Smith says he will have with him, in his advance to Lexington, "about 12,000 effective men." - EDITORS.
** This is the total force spoken of by Nelson as
being on the Confederate flank. -- EDITORS.
General Manson contends that the Federal engaged did not exceed 6500.* General Horation G. Wright, who commanded the department, in his report of Sept. 2d, says:
"The force engaged in the battle in front of Richmond was utterly broken up, and after all the exertions that could be made to collect the stragglers, only some 800 or 900 could be found. The remainder of the force were killed, captured, or scattered over the country."
* According to the official reports the Union force engaged consisted of Manson's and Cruft's brigades, eight regiments and two detachments of infantry, one regiment and a battalion of cavalry and two batteries of artillery, all new troops who had only been mustered into service a few days. General Nelson says in his report that he had ordered General Manson not to fight, but to fall back, so as to concentrate on the Confederate flank. See the previous note. -- EDITORS.
Elated with success, and reenforced by about four thousand troops just arrived under Heth, the victorious army moved forward to Lexington, and was designated by its commander as "The Army of Kentucky." During the month of September the greater portion of the army remained in that vicinity.
On September 4th Colonel Scott, with a brigade of cavalry, was ordered to push on as near as practicable to Louisville, and to destroy the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. Heth, with a division of infantry and a brigade of cavalry, marched north; some of his troops, on September 6th, reached the suburbs of Covington, but his instructions were not to make an attack upon the city. Smith used vigorous efforts to gather and concetrate supplies, arouse the people, and raise and organize troops for the Confederacy.
General George W. Morgan (Federal), who was left at Cumberland Gap with 8682 men, seeing these active movements in his rear, evacuated that position on September 17th and made his way through eastern Kentucky to the Ohio River at Greenupsburg, arriving there October 3d.
While these events were happening, Bragg had organized his army at Chattanooga into two wings. The right, commanded by General Polk, consisted of Cheatham's and Whiters's divisions of infantry and Colonel Lay's brigade of cavalry. The left wing, commanded by General Hardee, consisted of Buckner's and Anderson's divisions of infantry and Wheeler's brigade of cavalry. This entire force, on August 27th, reported 27,816 officers and men for duty.* On the 28th the army was fairly in motion, but up to this time General Bragg had not positively determined upon his plan of campaign, and much depended upon the course pursued by the Federal army.
As early as the 22d General Buell had established his headqaurters at Decherd, on the Nashville Railroad, thirty miles north-west of Stevenson, and had all the supplies at Stevenson transferred to that place.** Two parallel mountain ranges, running north-east and south-west, separated him from Chattanooga. A railroad, connecting McMinnville and Tullahoma, ran nearly parallel to the north-west slope of these mountain ranges. Already he had located General Thomas at McMinnville with Woods' and Amen's divisions, while the divisions of Schoepf, McCook, and Thomas L. Crittenden were near the Nashville and Stevenson Railroad within easy call of headquarters at Decherd. Buell seemed impressed with the belief that Bragg's objective point was Nashville, and that he would take the short route over the mountain by way of Altamont, which movement, if made, would have placed Bragg between the force under Thomas and the rest of Buell's army. To prevent this Buell, on the 23d, ordered these five divisions to concentrate at Altamont. General Thomas reached his destination on the 25th, but, finding no enemy to confront him and learning that there was no enemy on the mountains, the nearest Confederates being at Dunlap's in the Sequatchie Valley, he reported
* This return reports a total of 431 officers and men in the cavalry. September 10th (O. R., XVI., 893) Colonel Joseph Wheeler reported his command on the march (apparently a part of it) as 700 strong, and (p. 890) part of Colonel Lay's brigade is mentioned as 550 strong, August 27th. -- EDITORS.
** On August 6th, during this advance from
Stevenson to Decherd, Brig.-Gen. Robert L. McCook (of Thomas's
division; brother to Alex. McD. McCook), who, being ill, was riding in
an ambulance, was mortally wounded by the enemy's scouts near New
Market. -- EDITORS.
these facts to Buell and returned to McMinnville. Crittenden's division halted near Pelham, and Schoepf at Hillsboro'. McCook pressed on and reached Altamont on the 29th, where, on the 30th, Wheeler attacked his outposts, and McCook retired down the mountain. The same day General Buell ordered his entire army to concentrate at Murfreesboro'.
By September 5th, the five divisions just mentioned had reached that place, together with all detachments from along the lines of railroad except Rousseau's division, which, being on the Nashville and Decatur Railroad, marched directly to Nashville. The strength of Buell's forces during the months of July, August, and September was estimated by witnesses before the Buell Commission, in 1863, at from 45,000 to 59,309. His own returns for June, deducting the force at Cumberland Gap, showed 56,706 present for duty, and his October returns, with the same deduction, 66,595.* General Buell presented a paper to the Commission which does not question any of these statements regarding strength, but states that he could not have concentrated more than 31,000 men at McMinnville to strike the Confederate forces as they debouched from the mountains; and the same paper estimated Bragg's army at 60,000, while his returns on August 27th showed but 27,816 officers and men for duty.** These facts prove the large preponderance of the Federals.
At Murfroosboro' Buell heard of Nelson's defeat at Richmond, and without halting he marched to Nashville. On September 7th he instructed General Thomas with the defense of that city with the divisions of Palmer, Negley, and Schoepf, while with the infantry divisions of McCook, Crittenden, Ammen, Wood, Rousseau, and R. B. Mitchell, and a cavalry division under Kennett, General Buell determined to race with Bragg for Louisville.
* The October returns include the heavy reenforcements, placed by General Buell at 22,000, that were added to Buell's armyy on its arrival at Louisville, at the end of September. -- EDITORS.
** In his official report, dated November 4th,
1862, General Buell estimated his whole effective force on the 7th and
8th of October,
at 58,000, including 22,500 raw troops, with little or no instruction.
also estimated the total Confederate force engaged in the invasion at
55,000 to 65,000. In "The Army under Buell" (N. Y.: D. Van Nostrand),
James B. Fry, Assistant Adjutant-General, Chief of Staff of the Army of
Ohio, after a careful study all the data, estimates the force with
Buell moved against Bardstown (exclusive of Sill's division that moved
against Frankfort) at 58,000; and Bragg's, including Kirby Smith's, at
68,000. By this estimate, when Sill joined the main body of Buell's
army after the battle of Perryville, the armies were about equal in
number. -- EDITORS.
It was a fair race, as on that day most of Bragg's army was south of the Cumberland River, at Carthage and Greensboro'. Bragg was nearest to Louisville by some twenty-five miles, but Buell had the advantage of a bridge at Nashville and the assistance of the railroad to aid in his march. With seven hundred cavalry, I hastened to strike and break the railroad at points between Bowling Green and Nashville, and otherwise sought to retard the northern march of the Federal army. By the 12th it was evident to Buell that no attack would be made on Nashville, and he ordered General Thomas to join him with his own division, which had been commanded by General Schoepf. Buell reached Bowling Green with his cavalry and two divisions of infantry on the 14th, and turned his column in the direction of Munfordville. I interposed my cavarly on the Munfordville road, and also on the roads leading to Glasgow, and reported Buell's movements to Bragg. General Chalmers, with Bragg's advance, reached Munfordville at daylight on the 14th and learned that Colonel Scott, with a cavalry brigade, had demanded the surrender on the night previous.** Chalmers was misinformed regarding the strength of the garrison and the character of the defensive works. He attacked with vigor, but was repulsed. He reported his force at 1913 men, and his loss at 35 killed and 253 wounded. On the 14th all of Buell's six divisions had reached Bowling Green, and on the 16th he advanced vigorously to succor the garrison at Munfordville, the head of his column being opposed by cavalry. Bragg, hearing of Chalmers's attack and of Buell's movements, ordered his entire army, which had rested two days at Glasgow, to start early on the 15th route for Munfordville. On the next day he reached that place, boldly displayed his army, and on the 17th at 2 P. M. the
* The post was commanded by Colonel J. T. Wilder (17th Indiana), whose force consisted of four regiments of infantry, a battery, and several detachments, aggregating about 4000 men. -- EDITORS.
fort and garrison surrendered. The Federals reported their loss at 15 killed, 57 wounded, and 4076 prisoners. We also captured their armament, 10 pieces of artillery, and 5000 stand of small-arms. As might be expected, the Confederate army was much elated, and were eager to grapple with the dispirited army under General Buell.
Bragg placed his troops in a strong position south of the river, using the fort as a part of his line of defense. My command was thrown forward to meet and skirmish with the enemy, who, on the 19th, commenced preparations for an attack. On the 20th General Thomas joined the Federal army with his division. General Bragg, in referring to the situation of September 20th, wrote:
"With my effective force present reduced by sickness, exhaustion, and the recent affair before the intrenchments at Munfordville to half that of the enemy, I could not prudently afford to attack him there in his selected position."
If Kirby Smith's command had been ordered from Lexington to Munfordville even as late as the 12th, a battle with Buell could not have been other than a decided Confederate victory. Bragg at first had determined to fight with his four divisions, and no doubt would have done so had Buell advanced on the 17th, or 18th, 19th. Early on the morning of the 18th, General Bragg sent for me and explained his plans. I never saw him more determined or more confident. The entire army was in the best of spirits. I met and talked with Generals Hardee, Polk, Cheatham, and Buckner; all were enthusiastic over our success, and our good luck in getting Buell where he would be compelled to fight us to such a disadvantage. It is true our back was to a river, but it was fordable at several places, and we felt that the objection to having it in our rear was fully compensated by the topographical features, which, with the aid of the fort, made our position a strong one for defense. So anxious was Bragg for a fight that he sent Buckner's division to the front in the hope that an engagement could thus be provoked; but after the arrival of General Thomas, Bragg did not deem in advisable to risk a battle with the force then under his command, believing that another opportunity would offer after being joined by Kirby Smith. He therefore withdrew to Bardstown, sending to me, who still confronted Buell, the following order, dated September 20th, through General Hardee:
"General Bragg directs that, if possible, the enemy be prevented from crossing Green River to-morrow, and General Hardee instructs me to say that he expects you will contest the passage of that river at Munfordville to that end."
Buell heard of Bragg's movements and pressed forward with determination. My small brigade of cavalry contested his advance on the 20th and 21st, in efforts to comply with the intructions from General Bragg. On the afternoon of the 21st, Buell's right approached the river above the town, and at the same time he pressed forward his line of battle so rapidly as almost to command the only ford by which I could cross Green River with both artillery and cavalry. Allen's 1st Alabama Regiment, being directly in front, was thrown into column and, charging gallantly, defeated the opposing cavalry and broke through their infantry. Among our killed was the noble
Lieutenant-Colonel T. B. Brown, but the charge sufficiently checked the advance to enable the command to cross the ford in good order. The following note, referring to this engagement, explains itself:
"HEADQUARTERS, SIXTH DIVISION, ARMY OF THE OHIO, September 22d, 1862. GENERAL WHEELER, Commanding Cavalry Brigade. GENERAL: I am directed by General Buell to say, in answer to your request to admit the brother of Lieutenant-Colonel Brown, killed in the affair of yesterday within our lines, he regrets he cannot, on account of the present state of the service, accede to your wishes. General Buell has referred you note to me to give you the desired information in regard to the fate of Colonel Brown. He was killed outright in the handsome cavalry charge executed by your troops yesterday afternoon. His body was taken to a neighboring house and cared for. He will be interred to-day, and doubtless in the vicinity. His watch was taken charge of by an officer of rank in our service, and I will make it a point to have it forwarded to you. I am not now informed whether there were any other valuables on the person of Colonel Brown. I am, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant, TH. J. WOOD, Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding."
The watch was subsequently sent to Colonel Brown's daughter.
On the 22d, with a clear road to Louisville, Buell moved with celerity in that direction. My cavalry contested his advance, but the country was too open to allow of effective opposition with so small a force. On the 25th the leading Federal column reached the city, and the seven divisions were all up on the 27th. Bragg, Polk, and Hardee had been kept thoroughly informed of Buell's march and of the exposure of his flank, which presented an inviting opportunity for attack, but so worn and wearied was the condition of our army that these officers did not feel justified in attempting an aggressive movement. On the 28th Bragg left Bardstown with his staff to confer with Kirby Smith at Lexington, and then proceeded to Frankfort, where, on the 4th of October, a day was occupied in the installation of the Hon. Richard Hawes as Confederate Provisional Governor of the Commonwealth.
White these events were happening Buell was making active preparations for an aggressive campaign. On the 26th Major-General Wright, commanding the Department of Ohio, went from Cincinnati to Louisville to confer with him, and on the 27th General Halleck issued an order placing Buell in command of the troops of both departments, then in Louisville. There has been much controversy as to the "strength of the opposing armies." After the most careful study of Federal and Confederate official statements, I have reached the following conclusions:
FEDERAL FORCES AVAILABLE TO MEET BRAGG. *
Collected at Cincinnati - 45,000
Colected at Louisville - 30,000
Carried to Louisville by Buell, September 25th to 29th - 54,198
Morgan's Seventh Division - 8,084
Total under Buell's and Wright's Command - 132,282**
* It will be contended, with some force, that a portion of these troops was necessary to guard Cincinnati and Louisville. But on the other hand it may be insisted, just as strenuously, that the most meager guard would have sufficed to protect those cities had the main body moved vigorously against the Confederates. -- J. W.
** But see other estimates, p. 31. -- EDITORS.
To these we might with propriety add the 26,351 men which General Wright could have drawn from his command in West Virginia.
These stupendous armies did not include the 12,397 troops left at Nashville, which would make the entire force subject to Buell's and Wright's orders 176,030.
MAXIMUM CONFEDERATE FORCES.
General E. Kirby Smith's column taken to Kentucky - 10,000
Humphrey Marshall, from West Virginia - 2,160
Stevenson, joining after Perryville - 7,500
John H. Morgan - 1,300
Bragg's largest force before crossing Tennessee River officers and men, for duty - 27,816
Bragg, Smith, and Marshall - 48,776*
The above was the reported strength of the Confederate troops when the campaign began, but to make sure and to compensate for any omitted cavalry let us add 1000, making the entire force 49,776. The losses at Richmond and Munfordville were very slight, compared to the daily depletion caused by dropping out along the route. Some were allowed to organize in squads and make their way back to east Tennessee; some sought shelter among the kind and hospitable people; some struggled along with the ambulance trains, and some were left at temporarily established hospitals, one of which, containing two hundred inmates, was captured by the enemy at Glasgow.
This character of loss always attends a rapidly moving army, and its extent can be realized when we see that Hardee's wing left Chattanooga 12,825 strong, was reenforced by Cleburne's brigade early in October; yet, even with Cleburne included, Hardee, in stating officially the force with which he fought at Perryville, says: "Thinned by battle and long and arduous service, my effective force did not exceed 10,000 men." It will be seen, therefore, that these causes reduced the Confederate ranks in much greater proportion than they were increased by enlistments and other accretions, and General Bragg in his official report of the campaign asserts that we were able "at no time to put more than forty thousand men of all arms and at all places in battle." This included Bragg's, Smith's, and Marshall's columns, and although it is probably true that their aggregate strength in August was 48,776, it would have been as difficult for Bragg and Smith to have concentrated that number as it would have been for Buell and Wright to have concentrated the 163,633 which they commanded. Even with such a force available to drive 40,000 men out of Kentucky, General Wright on the 16th appealed to the governors of Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan for additional troops. What troops came in answer to these calls I would not venture to say; but leaving these and the troops in West Virginia under General Wright out of the calculation, our strength, even after Stevenson joined us, was less than half, and but little more than one-third that of the enemy, and that powerful enemy was directly on its base of supplies, with unlimited commissary and
* But see other estimates, p. 31. - EDITORS.
ordnance stores, while the Confederate army had no base, was living off the country, and had no possibility of replenishing ammunition. Bragg felt very keenly the misfortune caused by his inability to concentrate and gain a victory over Buell before he should reach the reenforcements which awaited him at Louisville.
In writing to the Government, September 25th, Bragg says:
"I regret to saw we are sadly disappointed in 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. Unless a change occurs soon we must abandon the garden spot of Kentucky...."
On September 18th, Kirby Smith writes to General Bragg:
"The Kentuckians are slow and backward in rallying to our standard. Their hearts are evidently with us, but their blue-grass and fat-grass are against us. Several regiments are in process of organization, and if we remain long enough recruits will be found for all the disposable arms in our possession."
These letters illustrated why a victory over Buell was necessary.
Although Kentucky maintained her neutrality as long as it was possible, the chilvaric spirit of her gallant sons was fully manifested at the earliest opportunity -- each obeying only the dictates of his own convictions of duty. While thousands united their fortunes with the South, other and more thousands flocked to the standard of the North.
The proud old families -- descendants of the pioneers of the Commonwealth -- each sent sons to do battle in the opposing armies. Friends, neighbors, kinsmen, and even brothers bade each other adieu -- one to the Northern army, the other to the Confederate.* Wherever daring, courage, rare intelligence, extraordinary fertility of resource, or fortitude under privation and suffering were displayed, Kentuckians were conspicuous; and when the fight was over and the battle-rent banner of the vanquished
* The remarkable division of sentiment, upon the issue presented by the secession of the South, that existed in Kentucky is clearly illustrated by the course of some her leading families. The three most prominent families in the State were the Breckinridges, the Clays, and the Crittendens, and each of them had representatives in both armies. Major-General Thomas L. Crittenden and Colonel Eugene W. Crittenden served in the army of the North, while their brother, Major- General George B. Crittenden, served in the army of the South. Of Henry Clay's grandchildren, I recall three who espoused the Federal cause, and four who joined the Southern army. Vice-president Breckinridge and three sons adhered to the South, while his two distinguished cousins, the eminent Presbyterian divines were uncompromising in their devotion to the Union. The elder, and perhaps more famous of these cousins, Dr. Robert J. Breckinridge, had two sons in the Confederate and two in the Federal army; one of whom (Colonel J. C. Breckinridge, now  of the regular army), in the fierce battle at Atlanta, July 22d, 1864, became a prisoner to his brother, W. C. P. Breckinridge, the present member of Congress, who made as brilliant a record as a soldier as he has since made as a statesman. They passed the night following that sanguinary battle with as much warmth of fraternal affection as though visiting each other from neighboring armies engaged in the same cause. -- J. W.
Confederacy furled about its shattered staff was buried in that gave from which a resurrection is no less unwished for than impossible, the survivors of the contest from that State returned to their homes with no feelings of animosity, no brooding hopes of vengeance to be wreadked upon their late opponents.
On October 1st Buell commenced his march from Louisville upon Bragg at Bardstown. On September 29th General Thomas had been assigned by President Lincoln to the command of the army, but at Thomas's request the order was revoked, and he was announced in orders as second in command.
Buell organized his infantry into three army corps, of three divisions each. The First Corps on the left, under Major-General McCook, marched through Taylorsville. The Second Corps, under Major-General Crittenden, marched through Mount Washington, and the Third Corps, under Major-General Gilbert, which formed the Federal right, took the route by way of Shepherdsville. General Sill, of McCook's corps, reenforced by Dumont's independent division, marched direct of Frankfort to threaten Kirby Smith.
Buell, in his official report, says:
"Skirmishing with the enemy's cavalry and artillery marked the movement of each column from within a few miles of Louisville. It was more stubborn and formidable near Bardstown, but the rear of the enemy's infantry retired from that place eight hours before our arrival, when his rear-guard of cavalry and artillery retreated after a sharp engagement with my cavalry. The pursuit and skirmishing with the enemy's rear-guard continued toward Springfield."
General Smith prepared to meet Sill and Dumont, and on October 2d Bragg ordered General Polk to move the entire army from Bardstown via Bloomfield toward Frankfort, and to strike Sill's column in flank while Smith met it in front. For reasons which were afterward explained that order was not complied with, but, on the approach of Buell, Polk marched via Perryville toward Harrodsburg, where he expected the entire army would be concentrated.* General Smith, confronted by Sill and Dumont near Frankfort, had several times on the 6th and 7th called upon Bragg for reenforcements, and Withers's division of Polk's corps was ordered to him. Reports reached Bragg exaggerating the strength of the movement upon Frankfort. He was thus led to believe that the force behind Polk was not so heavy as represented, and on the evening of October 7th he directed him to form the cavalry and the divisions of Cheatham, Buckner, and Patton Anderson at Perryville, and vigorously attack the pursuing column. Since October 1st our cavalry had persistently engaged the two most advanced of Buell's columns.
The reader should now observe, by the map [p. 6], that McCook's corps approached Perryville by the road through Bloomfield, Chaplin and Mackville, its general direction being nearly south-east. General Gilbert's corps approached by the road from Springfield, its general direction being east, but bearing north-east as it approached the town. Crittenden's corps, accompanied by General Thomas and preceded by cavalry, having crossed Gilbert's line of march, was on a road which runs due east from Lebanon to Danville.
* General Polk, finding his own front threatened, availed himself of previous instructions as to how he should handle his force in certain contingencies, and retired slowly. -- EDITORS.
At a point about five miles south-west of Perryville this road has a branch which turns north-east to that place. Now remember that our stores and supplies were at Bryantsville and Camp Dick Robinson about eighteen miles east of Perryville, and that Kirby Smith was at McCown's Ferry, on the Kentucky River, en route for Versailles, menaced by two divisions under General Sill. Also observe the important feature that McCook was at Mackville during the night of the 7th, at which place a road forks, running east to Harrodsburg and thence to our depot at Bryantsville; and also consider that Mackville was as near Bryantsville was were our troops in front of Perryville. On the 7th our cavalry fought with considerable tenacity, particularly in the evening, when the enemy sought to get possession of the only accessible supply of water. General Buell, in his report, says:
"The advanced guard, consisting of cavalry and artillery, supported toward evening by two regiments of infantry, pressed successfully upon the enemy's rear-guard to within two miles of the town, against a somewhat stubborn opposition."
After dark, at General Hardee's request, I went to his bivouac and discussed the plans for the following day. I explained to him the topography of the country and the location of Buell's columns. I understood from him that the attack would be made very early the next morning, and I endeavored to impress upon him the great advantage which must follow an early commencement of the action. An early attack on the 8th would have met only the advance of Gilbert's corps on the Springfield road, which was four or five miles nearer to Perryville than any other Federal troops, and their overthrow could have been accomplished with little loss, while every hour of delay was bringing the rear divisions of the enemy nearer to the front, besides bringing the corps of McCook and Crittenden upon the field. I explained, also, that Thomas and Crittenden on the Lebanon and Danville road could easily gain our rear, while all our forces were engaged with McCook and Gilbert. For instance, if Crittenden turned toward Perryville at the fork five miles from that place, he would be turned, and a rapid retreat to our depot of supplies, closely followed by McCook and Gilbert, would be the inevitable result. With equal ease, McCook, by marching from Mackville to Harrodsburg, could reach our depot, thus turning our right flank.
The reader will plainly see that Perryville was not a proper place for sixteen thousand men to form and await the choice of time and manner of attack by Buell, with his tremendous army, and that every moment's delay after daylight was lessening the probabilities of advantage to the Confederates. The cavalry under my command was pressed forward at dawn on the 8th, and skirmished with the outposts of the enemy, until, on the approach of a Federal brigade of cavalry supported by a line of infantry, we charged, dispersing the cavalry, and, breaking through both infantry and artillery, drove the enemy from their guns and took 140 prisoners.
The Federal army was now being placed in line: McCook's corps on the left, Gilbert's in the center, and Crittenden's corps, which reached the field
at 11 o'clock, * on the right, its flank being covered by Edward M. McCook's brigade of cavalry. The management of the Federal right wing was under the supervision of General Thomas.
General Bragg reached Perryville about 10 o'clock. General Liddell's brigade, of Buckner's division, had been advanced with his left near the Springfield road, and his skirmish line became engaged. The cavalry on the Confederate left apparently being able to hold their own against the enemy upon that part of the field, Cheatham's division, composed of Donelson's, Stewart's, and Maney's brigades, was ordered to the right, where, between 1 and 2 o'clock, with its right supported by cavalry, it moved forward to the attack. Generals Hardee and Buckner, seeing Cheatham fairly in action, ordered General Bushrod Johnson's and Cleburne's brigades forward. There being considerable space between Cheatham's left and Buckner's right, General John C. Brown's and Colonel Jones's brigades, of Anderson's division, and General S. A. M. Wood's, of Buckner's division, had been placed in position to fill the vacancy. Adams's and Powell's brigades, of Anderson's division, were to the left of Buckner, and the line thus arranged with cavalry on both flanks gallantly advanced upon the enemy. Cheatham was first in action and was almost immediately exposed to a murderous fire of infantry and artillery, which soon spread to the left of our line.
Our artillery, handled with great skill, told fearfully on the enemy, who sought, when practicable, to take shelter behind stone walls and fences. Fortunately we were enabled to enfilade many of their temporary shelters with a well-directed fire from our batteries, and this, added to our musketry, was so effective that first one regiment, then another, and finally the entire Federal line, gave way before the determined onset of our troops.
* Crittenden testified before the Buell Commission that his leading division "was in line of battle between 10 and 11." This line was formed on the Lebanon pike about three miles from the battle-field. -- EDITORS.
At one time Cleburne and Johnson seemed checked for a moment, as they assailed a very strong position, the fire from which cut down our men and severely wounded General Cleburne. But encouraged by the steady advance on both right and left, these troops recovered from the shock, and with increased speed the entire line overran the enemy, capturing three batteries and a number of prisoners. Among the dead and wounded Federals lay one who, the prisoners told us, was General James S. Jackson, the commander of one of McCook's divisions. General Liddell, who had been placed in reserve, followed the movement, and when the contest became warmest was sent to reenforce Cheatham, where he did valiant service.
During this sanguinary struggle, our line had advanced nearly a mile. Prisoners, guns, colors, and the field of battle were ours; not a step which had been gained was yielded. The enemy, though strongly reenforced, was still broken and disordered. He held his ground mainly because our troops were to exhausted for further effort. At one point just at dusk we captured a disorganized body, including a number of brigade and division staff-officers. Soon darkness cameon a and we rested on the field thus bravely won.
Our entire force engaged, infantry, cavalry and artillery, was but 16,000 men. Our loss was 510 killed, 2635 wounded, and 251 missing. Generals S. A. M. Wood and Cleburne were disabled, and a large proportion of higher officers were killed or wounded. Three of General Wood's staff were among the killed.
General Buell lost 916 killed, 2943 wounded, and 489 captured by the Confederates. General Jackson, commanding a division, and General Terrill and Colonel Webster, commanding brigades, were among the Federal killed, and Colonel Lytle was among the wounded.
At every point the battle the Confederates had been victorious. We had engaged three corps of the Federal army;* one of these, McCook's, to use Buell's language, was "very much crippled," one division, again to use his language, "having in fact almost entirely disappeared as a body." After darkness had closed a battle, it was a custom to send messengers or notes to the nearest generals, detailing results, telling of this or that one who had fallen, and asking information from other portions of the field. Resting quietly on the ground, the army expected, and would gladly have welcomed, a renewal of the fight on the next day, but the accumulation of Buell's forces was such as not to justify further conflict in that locality. Kirby Smith was near Lawrenceburg with his own troops and Withers's division, and after full consultation it was determined to march to Harrodsburg, where it was hoped the entire Confederate force in Kentucky might be concentrated. I was directed with the cavalry to prevent and advance on the road leading to Danville. At midnight the troops withdrew to Perryville, and at sunrise continued the march. It was long after this when the Federal pickets began to reconnoiter, and it was fully 10 o'clock when, standing on the edge of the town, I saw the advance of the skirmish line of Buell's army. Bragg prepared
* Only a small part of Crittenden's corps was in action; see p. 31. -- EDITORS.
for battle on the Harrodsburg road, only eight miles from Perryville, and awaited Buell's advance.
Two days elapsed, and the Federal army evinced no disposition to attack. A division of infantry and a brigade of cavalry fought me back to near Danville, and at the same time Buell formed with his right within four miles of that place, making a feint in Bragg's immediate front on the road leading from Perryville to Harrodsburg. Buell, no doubt, hoped to cut him off from the crossing of the Dick River near Camp Dick Robinson.
I sent General Bragg information of Buell's dispositions, whereupon he issued orders to his army and wrote me as follows:
"HARRODSBURG, KY., October 10th, 1862. COLONEL WHEELER. DEAR COLONEL: I opened your dispatch to General Polk regarding the enemy's movements. The information you furnish is very important. It is just what I needed and I thank you for it. This information leaves no doubt as to the proper course for me to pursue. Hold the enemy firmly till to-morrow. Yours, etc., BRAXTON BRAGG."
Bragg had now determined to retreat to Knoxville by the way of Cumberland Gap. It was evident that Buell's large army would enable him to select his own time and position for battle unless Bragg chose to attack. Bragg already had 1500 sick and over 3000 wounded. A severe battle would certainly have increased the wounded to 4000 or 5000 more. The care of such a number of wounded would have embarrassed, possibly controlled, our movements.
Hardee states that he had but 10,000 men before the battle of Perryville and Bragg said that the three divisions which fought that battle had but 14,500. If that was correct they had now but 11,000.
It was too hazardous to guard our depot of supplies and contend with the Federal forces within easy march. Our wagons trains were immense, and our artillery large in proportion to other arms.
The enemy pushed up close to Danville on the night of the 10th, but we easily held him in check until all our army had crossed Dick River. On the 11th we contended against a force of infantry, which finally pressed us so warmly that we were compelled to retire east of Danville. Here the enemy was again driven back, and we held our position near the town.
Before day on the 13th I received the following appointments and instructions in a special order from General Bragg, dated Bryantsville:
"Colonel Wheeler is hereby appointed chief of cavalry, and is authorized to give orders in the name of the commanding general. He is charged under Major-General Smith with covering the rear of the army and holding the enemy in check. All cavalry will report to him and receive his orders."
Compliance with the above of course involved considerable fighting, but by using the cavalry to the best advantage, and adopting available expedients, the movement of our infantry and trains in retreat was unmolested. These engagements were constant, and were often warmly and bitterly contested.
The large trains of captured stores made the progress of our infantry very slow, and the corps commanders sent frequent admonitions to me urging the
importance of persistent resistance to Buell's advance. In crossing Big Hill, and at other points, the trains hardly averaged five miles a day, and General Kirby Smith at one time regarded it as impossible for the cavalry to save them. In his letter to Bragg, on the 14th, he says: "I have no hope of saving the whole of my train"; and in his letter on the 15th he says: "I have little hope of saving any of the trains, and fear much of the artillery will be lost." But fortunately nothing was lost. Our cavalry at times dismounted and fought behind stone fences and hastily erected rail breastworks, and when opportunity offered charged the advancing enemy. Each expedient was adopted several times each day, and when practicable the road was obstructed by felling timber. These devices were continually resorted to until the 22d, when the enemy ceased the pursuit, and early in November the cavalry force, which covered the retreat from Kentucky, reached middle Tennessee and was close to the enemy, less than ten miles south of Nashville.
The campaign was over. Buell was deprived of his command for not having defeated Bragg, who, in turn, was censured by the Southern people for his failure to destroy the Federal army commanded by Buell.
This campaign was made at a time when the opposing Governments hoped for more from their generals and armies than could reasonably be accomplished. The people of the South were misinformed regarding the resources at the disposal of Generals Bragg and Kirby Smith, and our first successes aroused expectations and hopes that the Kentucky movement would result in the defeat, or at least the discomfiture, of Buell's army, the possible invasion of the North, and certainly the recovery of Confederate power in the central and eastern portions of Kentucky and Tennessee. They were sorely disappointed when they heard of General Bragg's withdrawal through Cumberland Gap, and could not easily be convinced of the necessity of such a movement immediately following the battle of Perryville, which they regarded as a decisive victory. The censure which fell upon Bragg was therefore severe and almost universal. It somewhat abated after the prompt advance of the army to Murfreesboro'; but to this day there are many who contend that Bragg should have defeated Buell and maintained himself in the rich and productive plains of Kentucky. On the other hand the Federal Government was, if possible, more severe in denunciation of General Buell, and held that, far from allowing General Bragg to cross the Tennessee River and the mountains into middle Tennessee, Buell should have anticipated these movements, occupied Chattanooga, and, as some even contended, marched
his army toward Atlanta. The Government was convinced that he could easily have met and halted Bragg as he debouched from the mountains before entering middle Tennessee. It was emphatic in its assertion that ordinary celerity on the part of General Buell would have saved Munfordville and its garrison of 4200 men; that proper concentration would have destroyed the Confederate forces at Perryville, and that the plainest principles of strategy presented the opportunity of throwing forward a column to cut off Bragg's retreat via Camp Dick Robinson, or that at least after the commencement of the conflict at Perryville he should have pressed close to his antagonist and forced Bratt to continuous battle, contending, as they did, that superior numbers and proximity to his base gave the Federal commander advantages that, if properly improved, would have resulted in the destruction of the Confederate army.
Buell's strategy and tactics were the subject of Congressional investigation and inquiry by a military commission. With regard to the adverse criticism on Bragg's campaign it must be admitted that there were opportunities, had they been improved, to cripple, if not to defeat, the Federal army.
The failure to "concentrate and attack" tells the story of the campaign. The first opportunity was on September 18th, when we caught Buell south of Munfordville. Bragg could not have attacked at Altamont, because it will be remembered that on August 30th, at the first appearance of our cavalry, the Federal force retreated from that place down the mountain. Neither could he have overtaken Buell's troops at McMinnville, because, fully three days before Bragg could have reached that place, Buell had ordered all his army to Murfreesboro.' Those who contend that Bragg should have followed Buell to Nashville do not consider that he would have found him in a good position, strengthened by fortifications, and defended by 9 divisions of infantry and 1 of cavalry; his available force for duty then being 66,595.
After the surrender of the Federal fort at Munfordville, it became painfully apparent that a single mind should control the Confederate troops in Kentucky, and concentrate our entire force and attack the divided enemy; but a condition existed which has been repeated in military operations for four thousand years, and always with disastrous results. The troops in Kentucky had two commanders. The troops of two different department were expected to cooperate.
Both Kirby Smith and Bragg were brave and skillful generals. The devotion of each to the cause in which they were enlisted was absolute, and their only ambition was to contribute to its success. In their characters the pettiness of personal rivalry could find no place, and either would willingly have relinquished to the other the honor of being victor, if the victory could only have been won.
It will be remembered how promptly, in the preceding June, General Bragg had weakened his own army and strengthened Smith's by sending McCown's division from Tupelo to Chattanooga, and again in August by sending the brigades of Cleburne and Preston Smith from Chattanooga to Knoxville;
and again, when Smith was pressed at Frankfort, that Bragg reenforced him promptly with one of his best divisions. That Kirby Smith would, at any time, have been as ready and prompt to give Bragg any part or all of his army there can be no doubt, but when the decisive moment came, the two independent armies were more than one hundred miles apart, and neither commander could be informed of the other's necessities. Bragg and Smith conferred together, but neither commanded the other. If all the troops had belonged to one army, Bragg would have ordered, and not conferred or requested.
To aggravate the difficulties inherent in the system of independent commands and divided responsibility, Brigadier-General Marshall, who had commanded in West Virginia, appeared upon the field of active operations with 2150 men. He was an able and distinguished man and determined in his devotion to the Confederacy. He wished to do his full duty, but he appeared to feel that he could render more efficient service with a separate command than if trammeled by subordination to a superior commander; and his aversion to having any intervening power between himself and the President was apparent.
While General Smith was anxious to cooperate, he nevertheless, in reply to Bragg's request for cooperation, wrote indicating very forcibly that he thought other plans were more important; and, in fact, the only cooperative action during the campaign was Bragg's compliance with Smith's request to
transfer to him two brigades on August 5th, and to transfer Withers's division to him on October 7th.
In reply to the question as to what one supreme commander could have done, I confidently assert he could have concentrated and attacked and beaten Buell on September 18th south of Munfordville. He could then have turned and marched to Louisville and taken that city. If it should be argued that this plan involved unnecessary marching on the part of Kirby Smith, who was then at Lexington, a supreme commander could have adopted the one which was contemplated by Bragg early in the campaign.*
After the surrender of Munfordville he could by September 21st have reached Louisville with all the force in Kentucky, taken the city, and then risked its being held by a small garrison, while making another concentration and attack upon Buell.
As an evidence of how easily we could have taken Louisville, it must be observed that on September 22d Buell sent Major-General Nelson orders containing these words:
"If you have only the force you speak of it would not, I should say, be advisable for you to attempt a defense of Louisville unless you are strongly intrenched; under no circumstances should you make a fight with his whole or main force. The alternative would be to cross the river or march on this side to the mouth of Salt River and bridge it so as to form a junction with me.... "
Nelson seemed to concur with Buell, and it was not until that officer was but a day's march from Louisville that Nelson telegraphed the fact to General Wright, saying, "Louisville is now safe; 'God and Liberty.'" In further corroboration of this, "Harper's History," p. 311, says:
"Just before the Federal army entered Louisville, on the 25th of September, the panic there had reached its height. In twenty-four hours more Nelson would have abandoned the city."
But suppose neither plan had been adopted, the next chance for a supreme commander of the Kentucky forces was to "concentrate and attack" Buell's flank while his army was strung out en route to Louisville. Elizabethtown would have been a good place, and had it been done with vigor about September 23d it certainly would have resulted in victory. But at this time General Smith's forces were all moving to Mount Sterling, 130 miles to the east of that place (Elizabethtown), and General Smith was asking, not ordering, General Marshall to cooperate with him. The next field upon which a supreme commander had an opportunity to concentrate and attack was at Perryville. Three hundred cavalry could have played with Generals Sill and Dumont around Frankfort, and every other soldier, except a few
* On the 1st of August General Bragg wrote from Chattanooga to Richmond: "As some ten days or two weeks must elapse before my means of transportation will reach here to such extent as to enable me to take the field with my main force, it has been determined that General Smith shall move at once against General [G. W.] Morgan in front of Cumberland Gap. Should he be successful, and our well-grounded hopes fulfilled, our entire force will be thrown into middle Tennessee with the fairest prospect of cutting off General Buell." On the 12th Bragg wrote to Smith, at Knoxville, as follows: "On Friday I shall probably commence crossing the river [Tennessee], by which I shall draw their attention from you.... I shall not desire to hold you longer in check than will enable me to get in motion to support you, for it would be too great a risk to allow Buell, by rapid railroad movements, to get in your front. In the meantime I hope you will bring Morgan to terms." -- EDITORS.
scouts, could then have struck Gilbert's corps as day dawned on the 8th of October.
Since, in the final result, we neither defeated Buell nor took Louisville, it is now evident that it was unfortunate Bragg did not foresee the end immediately after his victory at Munfordville. He could certainly have crippled Buell to some extent as he attempted his hazardous flank movement en route to Louisville, and then, by a rapid march, he could have reached and captured Nashville and returned and established himself at Bowling Green.
I have pointed out these lost opportunities as an additional proof of the adage, as old as war itself, "that one bad general is better than two good ones." The very fact that both the generals are good intensifies the evil; each, full of confidence in himself and determined to attain what he has in view, is unwilling to yield to any one; but if both are weak the natural indisposition of such men to exertion, their anxiety to avoid responsibility, and their desire in a great crisis to lean on some one, will frequently bring about the junction of two independent armies without any deliberately planned concert of action between the commanders. Both Bragg and Kirby Smith were men who had, to an eminent degree, those qualities that make good generals, and, once together with their armies upon the same field, victory would have been certain. Both fully appreciated the fact that, when and adversary is not intrenched, a determined attack is the beginning of victory. By this means Smith had been victorious at Manassas and at Richmond, Ky., and by vigorous attack Albert Sidney Johnston and Bragg had won at every point of battle at Shiloh, on the 6th of April. Later, the Confederate points of attack were Bragg's scene of victory the first day at Murfreesboro', and the boldness of his onset gave Bragg his great triumph at Chickamauga. Nothing was therefore wanting in Kentucky but absolute authority in one responsible commander. Cooperation of the most cordial character is a poor substitute. The word cooperation should be stricken from military phraseology.
In writing to the Government on August 1st, after the had met General Smith, General Bragg says: "We have arranged measures for mutual support
According to a note on the lithograph, a detachment of Morgan's cavalry, and of infantry, approached Cage's Ford at daybreak of November 21, 1862, hoping to surprise the 31st Ohio regiment, which had been encamped on the south side of the Cumberland. Finding that the Union troops had changed their camp to the north side, the Confederates threw shells from two 12-pounder howitzers until their cannoneers were driven from the pieces by the musketry fire of the Ohio and, under Lieutenant-Colonel Lister, three of whom were wounded. The Confederates made no serious attempt to cross, and soon withdrew. -- EDITORS.
and effective cooperation." On August 8th Bragg writes to Smith: "I
find myself in your detachment; without explanation this might seem an
unjustifiable intrusion." While it is no doubt true that General Smith
was at all times willing to yield to the authority of General Bragg,
yet the fact that Smith was the commander of an independent department,
receiving orders from and reporting directly to the President, made him
primarily responsible to the Executive, and this limited the authority
of General Bragg. Nevertheless the
Kentucky campaign was attended with great results to the Confederacy.
months of marches and battle by the armies of Bragg and Smith had cost
Federals a loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners of 26,530. We had
captured 35 cannon, 16,000 stand of arms, millions of rounds of
ammunition, 1700 mules, 300 wagons loaded with military stores, and
2000 horses. We had recovered Cumberland Gap and redeemed middle
Tennessee and north Alabama. yet expectations had been excited that
were not realized, and hopes had been cherished that were disappointed;
and therefore this campaign of repeated triumphs, without a single
reverse, has never received -- save from the thoughtful, intelligent,
and impartial minority -- any proper recognition.