Biographies of Army of Tennessee (AoT ) commanders
1. Braxton Bragg; 2. J. E. Johnston; 3. John Bell Hood; 4. Richard Taylor; 5. Alexander P. Stewart
Other generals associated with the AoT : 6. Wheeler;
7. Forrest; 8. Cleburne;
9. Polk; 10. Cheatham;
11. Hardee; 12. Longstreet; 13. Breckinridge; 14. Kirby-Smith
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 Was (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 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 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 forced to withdraw in the face of an unbeaten 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 1864. 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, Rosecarans 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 thought 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 A.P. 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, 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 recorded 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.
2. Joseph E. Johnston
He was born on 3 Feb. 1807, near Farmville, Va., U.S. Confederate general whose military effectiveness was hindered by a long-standing feud with Jefferson Davis. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y. (1829), Johnston resigned his commission at the outbreak of the war to offer his services to his native state of Virginia. Given the rank of brigadier general in the Confederate Army of the Shenandoah (May 1861), he was credited in July with the first important Southern victory at the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run). He was promoted to general, but his dissatisfaction with his seniority was the start of his lengthy differences with Davis, president of the Confederacy. When the Peninsular Campaign began in April 1862, Johnston withdrew to defend the capital at Richmond. Although objecting to the strategy prescribed by Davis, he fought well against the Union forces. Severely wounded at the Battle of Fair Oaks (Seven Pines) in May, he was replaced by General Robert E. Lee. A year later Johnston assumed control of Confederate forces in Mississippi threatened by the Federal advance on Vicksburg. He warned General John C. Pemberton to evacuate the city, but President Davis counterordered Pemberton to hold it at all costs. Lacking sufficient troops, Johnston could not relieve Pemberton, and Vicksburg fell on July 4, 1863. Bitterly criticized, he nonetheless took command of the Army of the Tennessee in December as the combined armies of the North advanced toward Atlanta, Ga. Subsequent events demonstrated the soundness of Johnston's strategy of planned withdrawal to avoid a defeat by superior forces and the disintegration of the Confederate Army; nevertheless, Davis, dissatisfied with his failure to defeat the invaders, replaced him in July. Restored to duty in February 1865, Johnston took command of his old army, now in North Carolina, and succeeded in delaying the advance of General William T. Sherman at Bentonville, in March. But lack of men and supplies forced Johnston to order continued withdrawal, and he surrendered to Sherman at Durham Station, N.C., on April 26. After the war, Johnston engaged in business ventures, wrote his memoirs in which he roundly criticized Hood and Davis, served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1879-81), and was named U.S. commissioner of railroads in 1885. He died on 21 March 1891 in Washington, D.C. of pneumonia contracted while he attended Sherman's funeral.
3. John Bell Hood
He was born on 1 June 1831 in Owingsville, Ky. Confederate officer known as a fighting general during the American Civil War, whose vigorous defense of Atlanta failed to stem the advance of Gen. William T. Sherman's superior Federal forces through Georgia in late 1864. A graduate of West Point who served in the U.S. Cavalry until the outbreak of hostilities, Hood rapidly rose to the rank of colonel in the Confederate Army. He was seriously wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1863), where he commanded an assault on the Federal left at Round Top, and lost a leg at the Battle of Chickamauga (19-20 September 1863). In the spring of 1864, Hood was appointed a lieutenant general under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to help defend Atlanta against Sherman's forces. Johnston's continual withdrawals impelled Confederate president Jefferson Davis to transfer the command in July to Hood, whom he considered more aggressive. In a vain effort to save Atlanta, Hood promptly attacked but was forced back into the city, which he held for five weeks. He then led his men on a long march north and west, intending to strike Sherman's rear. This plan was thwarted, however, when he was confronted by the Army of the Cumberland, under Gen. George H. Thomas, which had moved back to check him. Two battles ensued in Tennessee--Franklin (November) and Nashville (December)--both decisive defeats for Hood, whose retreating army was pursued by Thomas and virtually destroyed. His command ended at his own request the following month. He surrendered in June 1865 in Natchez, Miss. He spent his retirement years in New Orleans in business and in writing his memoirs. He settled in New Orleans and became a cotton merchant and insurance broker. He met Thomas once after the war, probably in New Orleans, and said afterward: "Thomas is a grand man. He should have remained with us, where he would have been appreciated and loved. Hood published his memoirs "Advance and Retreat" in 1879. He died on 30 Aug. 1879 of yellow fever..
4. Richard Taylor (1826-1879)
A Confederate General with no formal military training, Taylor served with distinction and in 1865 surrendered the last organized Confederate forces east of the Mississippi. Born in Kentucky, the son of President Zachary Taylor, Richard studied at Harvard, Edinburgh, and Yale, before becoming a Louisiana sugar planter. Elected colonel of the Ninth Louisiana Infantry at the war’s outset, he and his regiment reached Virginia too late for the First Battle of Manassas. Taylor was a brother-in-law of President Jefferson Davis, and rumor had it that in the fall of 1861 he was offered the post of quartermaster general of the Confederate army. If so, he declined it, but from time to time throughout the war he continued to be the beneficiary of Davis’s favoritism. In October he was promoted to brigadier general and given command of a Louisiana brigade that became part of Richard S. Ewell’s division. Taylor served with distinction in the Shenandoah Valley campaign during the spring of 1862 but was kept out of the Seven Days Battle by rheumatoid arthritis Recovering within a few weeks, he was promoted to major general and was assigned to command of the District of Western' Louisiana in August 1862. Although dreaming of retaking New Orleans, he generally found himself falling back before Federal forays such as Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks’s April 1863 Bayou Teche expedition. At the urging of Trans Mississippi commander E. Kirby Smith, who was himself under pressure from Richmond, Taylor moved against Ulysses S. Grant’s supply lines on the west bank of the Mississippi opposite Vicksburg. The attempt was a failure and Grant’s campaign culminated in the capture of that key Confederate stronghold. Taylor was forced to fall back before Banks’s Red River expedition in the spring of 1864 but defeated Banks at the Battle of Mansfield, Louisiana, south of Shreveport, or April 8, 1864. Outnumbered twelve thousand to nine thousand in troops engaged, Taylor inflicted double his own casualties and captured twenty cannons and two hundred supply wagons. Although defeated the next day at Pleasant Hill and ordered by Smith to fall back temporarily or Shreveport, he had succeeded in forcing the withdrawal of Banks’s ill-fated expedition. Rewarded with a promotion to lieutenant general, Taylor was nevertheless bitter toward Smith, blaming him for Banks’s escape. He thus welcomed orders to take his troops across the Mississippi for service in the East. Finding the river too heavily patrolled by the U.S. Navy, he had to remain in the Trans-Mississippi until August 22, 1864 when he was ordered to go east personally to take command of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and Eastern Louisiana. On January 23, 1865, Taylor was named as successor to John Bell Hood as commander of the remnants of the Army of Tennessee, which Hood had wrecked at Franklin and Nashville. As such, Taylor’s prime role was shipping his units off to the Carolinas to oppose William Tecumseh Sherman. On May 4, 1865, he surrendered to Gen Canby at Citronelle, Al. After the war, Taylor was active in Democratic party politics in Louisiana, opposing reconstruction. In 1879, the year of his death, he published his reminiscences of the war, "Destruction and Reconstruction", considered one of the best memoirs of the war. He is buried in Metaire Cemetery in Louisiana.
Courtesy of: SCV Camp # 1308 - Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor
Taylor, Richard, 1826-1879 http://docsouth.unc.edu/taylor/menu.html
"Destruction and Reconstruction: Personal Experiences of the Late War"
New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1879
5. Alexander Peter Stewart: A good man who
didn't blow his own horn
He was born on 2 Oct. 1821 in Rogersville, Tennessee. USMA 1842 (12th in a class of 56); Artillery. After serving in garrison and teaching mathematics at West Point, he resigned in 1845 to teach the same subject at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tenn. and at the University of Nashville until the beginning of the war, turning down the chancellorship of Washington University in St. Louis as well as the presidency of Cumberland University itself in order to remain, as he put it, "close to the students". He organized the country's first college chapter of the YMCA. He was strongly opposed to slavery, and he voted against the secession of Tennesee, but decided to offer his services to the Confederacy in order to repell what he saw as invasion. His career is scantily documented, but he is reported to have been a hard fighter, a sound tactician, and a good administrator. He apparently took good care of his men and avoided the political backbiting that disfigured the careers of so many other western Confederates. At the same time he received from Richmond little attention for his solid performance. Commissioned Maj. CSA, he commanded the heavy artillery at Columbus, Ky. and Belmont before being appointed B.G. CSA on 8 Nov. 1861. He led the 2nd Brigade at Shiloh, in the Ky. campaign, at Perryville and Murfreesboro (Stones River), and the retreat toward Chattanooga. Promoted to Maj. General on 5 June 1863 to rank from the 2nd, he fought in Hardee's corps at Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and in the Atlanta campaign from Dalton to Atlanta. He was named Lt. Gen. on 23 June 1864 when Polk was killed at Pine Mountain, and was wounded himself at Mount Ezra Church. In N.C. he commanded the Army of Tennessee at the surrender. After the war he returned to teach at Cumberland, was in the insurance business, and then served as chancellor of the University of Mississippi, walking away from a $6,000-a-year job with the St. Louis Mutual Life Insurance Company to take a position which paid about $2,500 a year. The only Civil War general to serve as Chancellor of The University of Mississippi, Stewart's tenure was marked by firsts. Baseball was introduced to the University in 1876. The University's first Ph.D. was granted in 1877. The University became coeducational in 1882, and the first woman faculty member was appointed in 1885. He also established the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Battlefield Parks. His soldiers called him "Old Straight". He died of heart disease on 30 August 1908 at his home on Beach Blvd. in Biloxi, Mississippi, and is buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.
Adapted from Boatner
6. Joseph Wheeler
He was born on 10 Sept. 1836, near Augusta, Ga., Confederate cavalry general during the American Civil War. Wheeler entered the U.S. cavalry from West Point in 1859 but soon resigned to enter the Confederate service. He commanded a brigade at the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862), but soon afterward he returned to the cavalry arm, in which he won a reputation second only to Gen. Jeb Stuart's. After the action of Perryville he was promoted to brigadier general and, in 1863, to major general. Throughout the campaigns of Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and Atlanta, he commanded the cavalry of the Confederate Army in the west and was given the task of harassing Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's army during its march to the sea. In the closing operations of the war, with the rank of lieutenant general, he commanded the cavalry of Gen. Joseph Johnston's weak army in North Carolina and was included in its surrender. In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, Wheeler commanded the calvary in the actions of Guasimas and San Juan. He wrote The Santiago Campaign (1898). He died pm 25 Jan. 1906 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Civil War Times Illustrated
By Wheeler, Joseph
Magazine: CIVIL WAR TIMES ILLUSTRATED; MARCH 01, 2000
Section: My War
LOYAL TO THE LAST, PART II
ON May 2, 1865, CONFEDERATE LIEUtenant General Joseph Wheeler
Washington, Georgia, with a small group of officers and soldiers. There, he expected to
meet President Jefferson F. Davis and aid him in his flight south. Practically speaking,
the Civil War was over, and Davis was a wanted man. That very day, U.S. President
Andrew Johnson offered a $100,000 reward for Davis's capture.
Wheeler found the town ringed by Federal soldiers, and Davis
president had been forced to hurry south with his family some 12 hours earlier,
escorted by a small group of loyal soldiers. Wheeler had sworn to protect Davis, but
there seemed little he could do now. Blue-coated Federal soldiers were everywhere,
and Wheeler had to worry about his own escape.
In our last issue we presented the first half of Wheeler's
of this final
chapter of the Confederacy, originally published in The Century Magazine in 1898. The
second half appears below, lightly edited for clarity.
AS WE WENT ALONG we were joined by other soldiers and
We met so many
of these stragglers that, in their interest and my own, I was obliged to say frequently:
"Gentlemen, we must break up again; we are too large a body."
One evening, toward dark, we were suddenly overtaken by a
of about 40 Federal
soldiers, who galloped down the road, firing upon us as they approached. I stopped at
the first favorable point and, with a gallant private soldier, M.A. Whaley, fired upon and
checked the advancing Federals. It was soon dark, and we turned off the road and
sought the cover of thick pine undergrowth. The Federals knew we were in the woods
and halted in the main road directly opposite us. I sent two men back to find out, if
possible, what these Union soldiers were doing. My men saw no better way of
obtaining this information than by sauntering up to them coolly, as if they were
Confederate stragglers going home. One of the first remarks they heard was this:
"They had fine equipment and bouncing horses; it must be Davis and his men." I
myself had meantime crept up close enough to hear them talking and overheard similar
words. There was no doubt that we would be hotly pursued.
I immediately went back to the men in the woods and waited
for the return
of my two scouts. Presently they came, their appearance showing that they had been
in trouble. They brought with them two Federal guns, which they had captured in a
curious way. It seems that the officers, becoming suspicious, had placed them under
arrest and sent them, guarded by two soldiers, to a neighboring house for supper.
Arrived there, the guards had stood their guns in a corner and fallen to at a tempting
meal, in the midst of which my men had sprung up suddenly, seized the guns of their
captors, and made them prisoners. Then, cautioning them not to leave the house on
pain of being shot, they had made their escape and rejoined me.
I saw at once the danger that menaced us and, calling my men
the saddles, told
them we could not remain a moment where we were. I again divided my forces,
retaining with me but three officers, our two Negro servants, and three or four
privates. We rode all that night, taking by-paths when possible, and frequently riding
through the woods in the hope that the enemy would lose our trail and cease their
About sunrise we drew rein in an open space and, seeing a
gave him money to
bring us food. He went away and presently returned with dishes and cups containing a
steaming breakfast. Having eaten, we wrapped ourselves in blankets and lay down on
the ground for a few hours of the sleep we so much needed.
The Negro, meantime, in taking back the plates, knives, and
intercepted by the Federal soldiers, who had been pursuing us more closely than we
knew. They had followed our tracks along the road and found the point where we had
entered the woods. After that they had a plain trail before them. The Negro's
appearance had aroused their suspicions, and they were not long in frightening him
into betraying our presence. Advancing stealthily to the place where we were sleeping,
they came upon us quickly and, before we could resist, were standing around us, guns
in hand. The chase was up; we were captured; the spot being, as I learned afterward,
a few miles east of Atlanta.
The Federal soldiers did not fire upon us; there was no need
that, for we were at
their mercy; but some of them took aside our Negro servants, and I could see them
pointing to me and asking questions. Presently an officer approached me and, talking
about various things, kept looking sharply at the collar of my coat. Some time before,
as a precaution, I had removed the three stars of a general; but the cloth underneath
showed a different color from the rest, so that the marks of the stars could be seen
quite plainly. I saw that our captors had discovered our identity and, after taking
counsel with my officers, I asked the Federal leader if he was aware of the agreement
that had been arrived at between [Union Major General William T.] Sherman and
[Confederate General Joseph E.] Johnston regarding the parole of Confederate
soldiers. [The generals had agreed that all Confederate soldiers who reported or
surrendered to a Federal officer east of the Chattahoochee River could return home on
parole.] He said he was. "Then, sir," said I, "as we are in the territory covered by that
agreement, being east of the Chattahoochee River, I wish to take advantage of its
provisions and will declare to you the true names of these gentlemen and myself."
This I did, but the officer, in some doubt, replied that he
not feel justified in setting
us free, but must insist on our going with them until he could consult with his
superiors. Accordingly, we took to the saddle again, and were taken as prisoners to
Conyers, Georgia, and from there we were taken, also on horseback, to Athens, where
I was given the freedom of the town on parole. Although comfortable quarters were
offered me for the night, I preferred to sleep out with my men during the two days we
remained in Athens.
Having been brought by rail to Augusta, we were placed on a
We here found
ourselves fellow prisoners with a most distinguished company; for there were on
board Jefferson Davis and his family, who, as we learned, had been captured by
Lieutenant Colonel [Benjamin] Pritchard and a squad of about 60 men; [Confederate
Vice President] Alexander H. Stephens; C.C. Clay [Clement Claiborne Clay, Jr.], who
had been a United States senator from Alabama, and Mrs. Clay, one of the most
brilliant women in the South; Colonel [Francis] Lubbock of Texas; Colonel Burton
Harrison, the president's secretary, whose distinguished record suggests that of his
talented wife; Postmaster General [John H.] Reagan; and Colonel William Preston
Johnston, now president of Tulane University, then an aide to President Davis.
We soon started down the river, and upon reaching Savannah
transferred to a
large river steamboat, which conveyed us to Hilton Head [South Carolina]. At this point
Mrs. Davis sent her Negro servants ashore with a letter to [Brigadier] General Rufus
Saxton, United States Army, asking him to see that they were treated kindly and given
any advantages which their new condition warranted. This left Mrs. Davis without
servants, and I remember spending many an hour of the voyage walking the deck with
little baby Winnie in my arms.
We were guarded on the steamboat by men of Colonel Pritchard's
who, as I said,
numbered about 60, and were in high spirits over the knowledge that the reward of
$100,000 for the president's capture would be theirs, as indeed it was, after some
trouble in the division. I think their elation of mind contributed to render them less
strict in performing their ordinary duties than they should have been, and they were
more disposed for enjoyment now than for serious work. At any rate, there happened,
on the first morning out, an incident that nearly rendered possible our escape in a way
that would have been in the highest degree dramatic.
I was at this time a young man of intensely active, energetic
disposition, and the free,
fierce life of the battlefield which I had been leading for four years had developed in
me a certain enjoyment of adventure. I also felt that [because] Mr. Davis had
especially selected me at Charlotte to devote myself to preparations for his escape, it
was my privilege, as well as my duty, to seize upon any possible opportunity which
might be presented. The intense feeling we had heard expressed against Mr. Davis,
and the great anxiety felt and expressed by his friends, furnished additional incentive,
and I earnestly sought to devise some means of escape.
Soon after leaving Savannah I discovered an opportunity that
to me the best
we could hope for. The steamboat was a large three-decker, not unlike the big
excursion boats that ply about New York. On the upper deck were stationed our guard
of soldiers, with their guns; but when breakfast time came I saw that they would have
to go below. I supposed that they would go down in sections, relieving one another;
but it turned out differently, a simple incident contributing to what seemed an act of
negligence. For some reason., we prisoners were sent down to breakfast first, before
the soldiers, who were grumbling and hungry.
Finally we came up, in great good humor, for the meal had been
an excellent one, and
the soldiers went tumbling down below to take their turn, leaving their guns stacked
on the upper deck and only two sentinels to guard them. Then I saw our chance and,
calling Preston Johnston, pointed to the stairway, narrow and steep, that led up to
where the guns were. In quick words I showed him how easy it would be for us to
rush upon the two sentinels, overpower them, take possession of the guns, and then
of the boat. There were ten of us, able-bodied men, and with the other soldiers all
below, and the guns in our hands, we would soon be masters of the situation.
We discussed a plan in a hurried consultation. "What will we
with the boat when
we have got her?" was suggested.
"Sail to the Florida coast, the Bahamas, and finally to Cuba, if necessary," I replied.
"We have not got fuel enough."
"We can burn the decks," I replied.
"Would it not be an act of piracy?" was asked.
I contended that it would not. A state of war still existed;
armies west of Georgia
were intact and were opposed by large Federal armies. We were prisoners of war,
guarded by Federal soldiers, and the life of our president was vehemently demanded;
and no more sacred duty devolved upon us than to exercise every effort to assist in
his escape and ensure his safety.
I contended that people who would regard this as piracy were
who had for all
these years regarded us as very much in that light, and I insisted that right-thinking,
chivalrous people, even including Federal officers, could not but commend the spirit by
which we were actuated.
Word was brought to Mr. Davis, who was in his cabin, but he
not seem to give
approval; and while we were arguing and discussing, the time of our opportunity
passed, and the soldiers came back upon the deck. It was too late, and nothing came
of all my fine imagining. But I have often wondered what would have happened....
Arrived at Hilton Head, we were all transferred to the steamer
Clyde, and on her
steamed away for Fortress Monroe [off Hampton Roads, Virginia], guarded by the
gunboat Tuscarora. The voyage from Augusta occupied seven or eight days, and we
were given entire freedom of movement on the vessel.
I saw a good deal of Alexander H. Stephens while on the
for we occupied a
stateroom together, and I was surprised to find the vice-president so apprehensive of
the future. He seemed to expect that the gravest consequences would follow his
arrest. I remember reasoning with him to prove that he was in no such danger as he
thought. I spoke of his many friends all over the United States, referring to his
Savannah speech and his well-known conservative views, and ventured the opinion
that people in the North would be rather disposed to make a hero of him rather than
to treat him harshly.
"No, my young friend," he replied, with an emphasis I cannot
"I look forward to
a long, if not a perpetual, confinement."
"But if you feel that way about yourself," I said, "What do
think will happen to
Mr. Stephens answered in great agitation: "My young friend,
speak of that--don't
speak of that." I think he feared, as many others did, that Mr. Davis would be
As for President Davis himself, he showed not the slightest
the situation as calmly as if he had no personal interest in it. He discussed the war, the
men and its incidents, in the same dispassionate way that a traveler might speak of
scenes and incidents in some foreign land.
He was affable and dignified, as usual, and if he felt any
he certainly showed
none. Nor would his fine sense of humor and propriety allow him to take advantage of
another plan that we had made for his escape from the tug while en route from
Augusta to Savannah. This plan, which could doubtless have been carried out
successfully had Mr. Davis approved of it, was as follows:
Two sentinels were on guard day and night at the rear end of
vessel, which was
approached by two companionways, and it was our purpose to have Mr. Davis walk to
the rear at night, at a certain moment when Preston Johnston and I would have
concealed ourselves near the sentinels. Then, choosing his moment, Mr. Davis was to
leap overboard, throwing his hat from his head at the same moment, so as to have
two black objects in the river, the purpose of this being to deceive the sentinels should
they succeed in firing. But it was our purpose to prevent them from using their guns,
by throwing ourselves upon them suddenly, and either wresting the weapons from
them or managing to discharge them in the air.
I dare say President Davis was influenced in his refusal to
this plan by the
realization that his escape would serve no useful purpose, since the Confederacy had
virtually ceased to exist and his personal efforts could be of no further benefit to the
cause. And perhaps he took a certain inward satisfaction in the knowledge that by
refusing to escape he would cause the Federal government more embarrassment than
if he did not. He had perhaps heard of [President Abraham] Lincoln's remark to a
member of his cabinet: "If Mr. Davis could only escape unbeknownst to us, it would be
a very good thing."
On reaching Fortress Monroe, we were taken off the vessel, Mr.
Davis and Senator
Carr being held as prisoners in the fort, under [Major General Nelson A.] Miles; Mr.
Reagan and Mr. Stephens being transferred to the gunboat Tuscarora and carried to
Fort Warren; Mr. Harrison being sent in a man-of-war to Washington City [D.C.]; while
the rest of us were put aboard the steamer Maumee and brought to Fort Delaware,
where we were placed in strict confinement. Here I remained for about a month, our
party having as a guard an officer, a sergeant, three corporals, and 36 men. Two
sentinels stood in front of my open door day and night; nor was I permitted to speak,
read, or write. For breakfast I received a piece of bread and a piece of meat on a tin
plate. For dinner they gave me a piece of bread and a tin cup of soup with a small
chunk of meat in it. For supper I had a piece of bread and a cup of water. I considered
this very good prison fare, and I did not complain.
On the first or second night of my imprisonment I heard
speaking to me from
the door and found it was a sentinel, one of my old soldiers, who had served in the
First Dragoons. He wished to serve me now.
"I'll get you out of here, General," he said. "The talk is
they are going to treat you
roughly. All you have to do is to go to the sinks, drop down into the river and swim
I saw that the plan could be easily carried out, but I refused
to take advantage of it. I
did not see what good to the cause could come through my escaping; I was not
alarmed about myself, and I knew the soldier would be subjected to most serious
punishment. So I thanked the sentinel and told him I would stay where I was. He was
"Isn't there something I can do for you, General?" he said.
"Nothing, unless it is to get me a newspaper." The next day
of the latest
Philadelphia papers was thrown into my room.
On about the thirtieth day of my confinement a messenger came
up to say that
[Brigadier General Albin F.] Schoepf, who was in command of the fort, wanted to see
me. The corporal's guard formed at once, and I fell in, as prisoners do, between two
soldiers. Then we marched away, but had gone only a few rods when the messenger,
who had forgotten part of his instructions, came running after us and said: "General
Schoepf says he must come without a guard."
Rather surprised at this, I walked in the direction indicated
and soon found myself in
the presence of the commanding officer, who said very politely: "I suppose, General,
you think I've been rather harsh with you." I told him that, on the contrary, I had
appreciated several acts of kindness extended to me, doubtless by his orders. After
some talk about his original instructions regarding myself, and explaining to me that he
had been ordered to treat me with no less severity than would have been shown
Jefferson Davis himself, he held up a paper, saying: "Read that." It was an order from
Washington for my release, on signing the same parole as had been given to
[Confederate General Robert E.] Lee's and Johnston's armies. As nearly as I
remember, the words of the parole were: "I promise, on my honor, that I will not take
up arms again until I have been exchanged." As there were at this time no prisoners
to be exchanged, this was equivalent to a pledge to remain at peace.
Having put my name to the paper, I was a free man, and General
Schoepf at once,
with great cordiality, invited me to dine with him. I declined with thanks, saying that I
preferred to spend the few hours before I should leave in the prison with my friends,
who would have messages for me to take.
Some time before the boat started that was to take me across
river, word was
brought me that two ladies desired to see me. It turned out that they were devoted
women who for months had done untold good to the Southern cause by their
sympathy and personal ministrations to prisoners. Every day it had been their habit to
make the journey to Fort Delaware from Philadelphia, two hours each way, bringing
flowers and baskets of food and delicacies for prisoners, some of them in the hospitals,
and doing everything in their power to brighten the lot of the poor fellows who were
languishing there. They kindly insisted that I should accompany them to their home in
Philadelphia, where they gave me the first good meal I had had in many a day and a
comfortable bed to sleep in, and then saw me safely on my journey to New York the
next morning. They were noble women, and the South had thousands like them.
My own troubles were now over, for I had plenty of friends in
New York to assist me. It
is unnecessary for me to go into the further details of Jefferson Davis' imprisonment,
which is a matter of history. He was held at Fortress Monroe for about two years, and
then released. Mrs. Davis and her children had been sent back to Georgia shortly after
our arrival at Fortress Monroe.
Peter Cozzens is a frequent contributor to CWTI. His article
at Honey Hill
appeared in our February 2000 issue.
By Joseph Wheeler
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7. Nathan Bedford Forrest
He was born on 13 July 1821, near Chapel Hill, Tenn., U.S. Confederate general in the American Civil War (1861-65) who was often described as a "born military genius"; his rule of action, "Get there first with the most men," became one of the most often quoted statements of the war. A major blemish on his record, however, was the Massacre of Ft. Pillow (April 12, 1864)--the slaughter by his soldiers of more than 300 blacks after the surrender of Ft. Pillow, Tenn. A self-taught man, Forrest bought and sold horses, cattle, and slaves before acquiring considerable wealth as a cotton planter in Mississippi. At the outbreak of the war, he raised a cavalry unit and, as a lieutenant colonel, took part in the defense of Ft. Donelson, Tenn. (February 1862). Refusing to capitulate with the rest of the Confederate forces, he made his way out before the fort was surrendered. After fighting with distinction at the Battle of Shiloh, Tenn. (April), he was promoted to brigadier general and took a brilliant part in the autumn campaign. The following winter he was continually active in raiding hostile lines of communication. In keeping with Confederate policy at that time, Forrest--by then a major general--ordered his troops to "take no more Negro prisoners" when they assaulted and captured Ft. Pillow. A Congressional investigation committee verified the slaughter of more than 300 black men, women, and children within the fort. In June 1864 Forrest decisively defeated a superior Union force at Brice's Cross Roads, Miss., and throughout the year he conducted successful raids in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama. He was once more with the main Confederate Army of the West in the last disastrous campaign of Nashville (December) and fought a stubborn rearguard action to cover the retreat of the broken army. He was forced back at Selma, Ala., in April 1865 and surrendered his entire command in May. After the war he was went back into farming and logging but declared bankruptcy in 1866. He was a leading organizer and the first Grand Wizard of the original Ku Klux Klan, a secret society advocating white supremacy, although he tried to disband it in 1869. He died in bed in 1877.
8. Patrick R.
born in the wrong country, was the CSA's most consistantly effective
Patrick Ronaynes Cleburne was born on 17 March 1828 (St. Patrick's Day) into a wealthy Protestant family at Glenmore in County Cork, Ireland. His father was a doctor and his mother was one of the Berry-Hill Ronaynes who built the home. Enlisting in the 41st Regiment of Foot of the British Army as a private after failing the language requirements for a druggist's degree, he received his first lessons in drill, discipline, and marksmanship. He was soon promoted to corporal for good conduct. Cleburne's unit was charged with maintaining order in a country racked by potato famine. The lessons he learned would serve him well.
Cleburne purchased his release from the British army and moved to Arkansas in 1849. He worked first as a druggist and then practiced law. At the outbreak of the Civil War he raised a company and with it joined the First, afterward known as the Fifteenth Arkansas regiment, of which he was elected colonel. His first campaign was with General Hardee in Missouri. At its close he went with Hardee to Bowling Green, Ky. He had during this short service so impressed his superiors that he was assigned to command of a brigade, and on 4 March 1862 was commissioned brigadier general. At the battle of Shiloh he performed capably, and during the reorganization of the army at Tupelo he brought his brigade to a very high state of discipline and efficiency. He was almost alone among commanders on either side in training his soldiers in marksmanship which contributed greatly to the effectiveness of his units. In addition he always made sure that his soldiers were fed and clothed, and this enabled him to enforce discipline and at the same time secure the esteem and confidence of his troops. At Richmond, Ky., he commanded a division whose charge helped win the victory over "Bull" Nelson. Though painfully wounded in this battle, a few weeks later he led his men in the battle of Perryville with his usual success. On 13 December 1862 he was commissioned major-general and became thus one of only two foreign born officers to attain the rank of major general in the Confederate army. He was in the forefront of the attack upon the right of the Federal army at Murfreesboro which drove the Union lines until they solidified and resisted further penetration. Again at Chickamauga Cleburne made a charge in which his men won and held a position that had been assailed time and again without success. For this he was called the "Stonewall of the West". At Missionary Ridge, in command at the tunnel, he defeated Sherman in spite of being outnumbered more than 4 to 1, capturing flags and hundreds of prisoners. Although outnumbered by Hooker by 3 to 1 at Ringgold Gap, he conducted the rear-guard action which saved Bragg's artillery and wagon train. In recognition of this, the Confederate Congress passed the following resolution: "Resolved, that the thanks of Congress are due, and are hereby tendered to Maj.-Gen. Patrick R. Cleburne, and the officers and men under his command, for the victory obtained by them over superior forces of the enemy at Ringgold gap in the State of Georgia on the 27th day of November, 1863, by which the advance of the enemy was impeded, our wagon trains and most of our artillery saved, and a large number of the enemy killed and wounded." He repeatedly faced Sherman's advancing troops during the Atlanta Campaign. After Cleburne's troops stopped the Union assault under Howard at Pickett's Mill on 27 May 64 and then counter-attacked, he was moved to the Confederate left and was involved in the skirmishing along the Dallas line. Cleburne performed well in Hood's 2nd sortie (against McPherson) and covered Hood's retreat at Jonesboro where he had temporary command of Hardee's Corps. On his way north during this campaign, Cleburne stopped at a church in Maury County, Tennessee, and by local tradition was heard to comment at the cemetery of Saint John's Church that, "it is almost worth dying for to be buried in such a beautiful place." Cleburne was killed in battle a few days later at Franklin, Tennessee, on 30 November 1864 and buried here until later disinterred.
Fighting on the western front, Cleburne got less recognition than generals in the east. Fighting under Braxton Bragg, Joseph E. Johnston, and John Bell Hood, a succession of unsuccessful commanding officers, Cleburne repeatedly demonstrated his abilities, but was never promoted beyond division command. One reason may have been his unfortunate involvement, along with Polk, Hardee, and Longstreet in an attempt to have Bragg removed as commander of the Army of Tennessee.
Another factor was the 17 page proposal which he authored after the defeat at Chattanooga. Along with a group of other officers he proposed drafting Negroes into the Confederate Army in return for their emancipation. The proposal met heated opposition and was surpressed by Jefferson Davis. A similar policy was implemented during the last months of the war, but too late to have any effect on the outcome. Whether because of these factors or the fact that, being foreign-born Cleburne had no state political machine committed to his promotion, Davis selected John Bell Hood over Pat Cleburne to replace J. Johnston at the beginning of the siege of battles for Atlanta on 17 July 1864, and Cleburne never got the opportunity to demonstrate what he could have done as an army commander.
Today no statue exists for this pillar of the Confederacy, and many of the battlefields on which he fought are unprotected. His grave is now located in Helena, Arkansas.
9. Leonidas Polk
He was born on 10 April 1806 in Raleigh, N.C. After two years at the University of North Carolina (1821-23), Polk entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, from which he was graduated in 1827. But during his final year there, Polk underwent a profound religious experience and resigned his commission at the end of 1827 to enter the Virginia Theological Seminary. In 1830 Polk was ordained a deacon in the Protestant Episcopal Church, and in May 1831 he was advanced to the priesthood. He was appointed missionary bishop of the Southwest in 1838 and was made bishop of Louisiana in 1841. Polk attempted to combine his religious duties with life as a benevolent and paternalistic planter, since by marriage he acquired a large number of slaves. Polk also turned his energies toward creating an Episcopal university in the South, dedicated to training Southern aristocrats in their responsibilities toward blacks, who Polk anticipated would be gradually emancipated. In 1856 he began to raise funds and acquire land for the school, and on Oct. 9, 1860, he laid the cornerstone for the University of the South at Sewanee, Tenn. With the coming of the Civil War, Polk, after some hesitation, accepted a commission as major general in the Confederate Army. Put in charge of defending the Mississippi River, Polk performed well despite his lack of practical military experience. On Nov. 7, 1861, he defeated Ulysses S. Grant's smaller force at Belmont, Mo., and he personally led four charges at Shiloh while in command of the Confederate right flank. In October 1862 he was promoted to lieutenant general. Polk died in battle at Pine Mountain, Ga., on 14 June 1864 after a direct hit of a cannon ball--four years before classes opened at the University of the South.
Civil War Times Illustrated
By Sanders, Stuart W. ; O'LEARY, DANIEL
Magazine: CIVIL WAR TIMES ILLUSTRATED; OCTOBER 01, 1999
'EVERY MOTHER'S SON OF THEM ARE YANKEES!'
REBEL GENERAL LEONIDAS POLK RODE INTO THE MYSTERIOUS LINE OF
BARKED AT AN OFFICER, 'WHAT IS YOUR NAME, SIR?' THE ANSWER SENT A CHILL DOWN
Broiling union and confederate troops had been scrapping for
hours in the
searing heat outside Perryville, Kentucky, when dusk finally fell. As the sun sank lower,
smoke and encroaching darkness obscured the once clearly visible distinctions
between friend and foe, and the battle began to wind down. But the fading light failed
to halt soldiers on the Rebel right, who were just joining the fight with orders "to move
upon the enemy where the firing is hottest." These eager, hard-driving Confederates
pressed forward and had just engaged a line of troops in their front when suddenly
they halted, and all fell silent. Riding nearby, Major General Leonidas Polk wondered
what was happening. He rode forward to get some answers.
Polk had fought the October 8, 1862, battle against his better
judgment. The decision
to fight had not been his to make; he was merely carrying out the orders of his
superior, General Braxton Bragg, who, since June, had headed the Confederate
Western Department (better known as Department Number 2) and its Army of
Mississippi, in which Polk commanded the right wing. Attacking Major General Don
Carlos Buell's approximately 50,000-man Union Army of the Ohio had seemed risky to
Polk and right wing commander Major General William J. Hardee, who together fielded
only about 16,000 troops. But Bragg had ambitious plans for Kentucky, and he
demanded that Polk attack the meddling Union force that he wrongly believed was
only a fragment of Buell's army.
Bragg was out to win Kentucky for the Confederacy. In August
he and Major
General Edmund Kirby Smith had launched a two-pronged invasion of the Union-held
but officially neutral state, in the wake of sweeping raids by Confederate cavalry
leaders Colonel John Hunt Morgan and Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest. In
July and August, Morgan and Forrest rode with impunity throughout middle Tennessee
and Kentucky, demonstrating the ineffectiveness of the Union defenses of Kentucky
and its Tennessee border. Bragg thought Kentucky was ripe for the taking. "Our
cavalry is paving the way for me in Middle Tennessee and Kentucky," he wrote
excitedly in July.
The two-headed invasion began on August 14, when Smith and his
Army of Eastern
Tennessee moved north from Knoxville, Tennessee, "in the hope of permanently
occupying Kentucky," as Smith put it. "It is," wrote Smith, "a bold move, offering
brilliant results." Bragg's army made its way north through Tennessee from
Chattanooga and entered the Bluegrass State two weeks after Smith's force.
By mid-September, Smith's troops had whipped a Federal force
Richmond, and had
occupied Lexington and Frankfort. Bragg's men, for their part, had toppled a Union
garrison at Munfordville. The campaign seemed to be proceeding smoothly. The truth,
however, was that Bragg was spreading his forces too thin. If combined, the two
Confederate armies could field about 40,000 men--a sufficient amount to challenge
Buell. Yet Bragg and Smith were not coordinating their efforts and movements, offering
their Federal opponent the chance to crush the smaller forces separately.
Nevertheless, the Confederate commanders basked in their success, and late in
September traveled to Frankfort to inaugurate Richard Hawes as provisional
Meanwhile, Union forces finally responded to the Confederate
the Chattanooga area in south-central Tennessee, Buell raced his army toward
Louisville, on the Indiana border in north-central Kentucky. The Federals reached the
city on September 29; Bragg did nothing to block their path. After securing Louisville,
Buell turned his attention to the Confederate armies. On October 1, he sent a column
due east on a feint toward Smith's troops near Frankfort, and ordered the balance of
his army to converge on Bragg's force, which had moved toward Bardstown, to the
southeast of Louisville. Throughout the first week of October, Buell and Bragg
stumbled toward a confrontation that would become the biggest Civil War battle
fought in Kentucky.
Bragg was still in Frankfort when Confederate intelligence
that Federals were
approaching Bardstown. Polk, commanding Bragg's army in the general's absence,
decided to pull back toward Perryville, to the southeast, to avoid a general
engagement. Drought had parched the Kentucky landscape, so Polk had part of
Hardee's command take up a strong position west of a reliable source of water, the
Chaplin River, while he led the remainder of the army to Harrodsburg, about 10 miles
northeast of Perryville. One division of Bragg's troops were with Smith's army near
Frankfort, where Bragg insisted the real Federal attack would come. Bragg, however,
joined Polk at Harrodsburg on the 5th.
MEANWHILE, BUELL'S MAIN FORCE MOVED STEADILY toward
In response to
the growing number of Yankees arriving there, on October 7 Bragg had Polk move all
the Confederate units from Harrodsburg to Perryville for the purpose of attacking the
Federals. Buell's thirsty troops soon reached the area, also looking for water. Small
pools of water still dotted nearby Doctor's Creek, so Buell ordered Brigadier General
Philip Sheridan's 11th Division to attack at "day dawn" and secure the water-bearing
ground. Sheridan's men moved out at 3:00 a.m. on October 8 and quickly took
possession of the creek and Chaplin Heights to the northwest.
Bragg arrived on the field at Perryville later that morning,
anxious to take the
offensive, ordered an attack, leaving Polk to conduct the battle as acting army
commander. At 2:00 P.M., Polk's right wing, under Major General Benjamin F.
Cheatham, crossed the nearly dry Chaplin River, climbed the bluffs above, and struck
the left flank of Union Major General Alexander McDowell McCook's I Corps, which
formed the left of the Union line. Major General Simon Bolivar Buckner's Rebel division
of Hardee's left wing followed by assailing McCook's right.
The battle was heating up fast. Still, the bulk of the Federal
unengaged and to the rear. Ironically, Buell thought Bragg's entire Confederate force
was in his front, and he had done his best to avoid a general engagement. Curious
atmospheric conditions around the hills prevented him from hearing the sound of
musketry--and responding to the situation--until late in the afternoon. At 3:30 P.M.,
Union Major General Charles C. Gilbert finally sent two brigades from his III Corps to
McCook's support. One of these units--the 30th Brigade of the 9th Division-included
the 59th Illinois, the 75th Illinois, and the 22d Indiana Infantry regiments, all under the
command of Colonel Michael Gooding. Many of these men were new recruits who
assumed the double-quick march with "feelings akin to those of the chained lion when
most eager for his prey." Their bravado would quickly be tested.
By the time the Union reinforcements reached McCook's line,
"found the forces
badly cut up and retreating (they then having fallen back nearly 1 mile) and were being
hotly pressed by the enemy." McCook's flanks were crumbling and Brigadier General
S.A.M. Wood's 4th Confederate brigade, of Buckner's Division, had driven in his center.
Gooding quickly formed his brigade and tried to stem the tide of Confederates pushing
west. As McCook's tired regiments began falling back, Wood's Confederates swept
forward and took on Gooding's fresh troops. William Cunningham of the 59th Illinois
described the violent action to his wife as being as "near pandemonium as I care to
The brigades struggled back and forth across a dusty
both sides taking
heavy casualties. Wood was struck in the head by a shell fragment and carried from
the field. Command of his Confederates passed in succession to four others who also
fell wounded. Colonel Mark Lowery finally took control of the brigade. Surgeon J.D.S.
Hazlett of the 59th Illinois, nicknamed "Quinine" by his men for the frequency with
which he meted out that medicine, was shot in the neck and killed as he dressed a
soldier's wound. Lieutenant Samuel West, adjutant of the 59th, received five different
wounds but "did not quit the field until entirely disabled." West survived at the cost of
Gooding ordered the 22d Indiana to move in support of his
troops on the left,
where the fighting was the hottest. Meanwhile, trying to rally his comrades, Lieutenant
A. R. Johnson of the 59th stuck his hat on the end of his sword, waved it, and shouted
"Stand firm, men of Company C, stand firm!" He took a bullet in the chest seconds
later. About this time Private Sam Watkins of the 1st Tennessee, in Cheatham's
Division, saw "a great red ball sinking in the west." The sun was setting behind the
hills, and the firing between Gooding's and Wood's men began to grow sporadic.
With his Arkansas troops of Buckner's Division in reserve for
the moment, Confederate
Brigadier General St. John Richardson Liddell found himself musing about larger
themes. He watched "a flag of the Union carried forward in the center of a regiment
until it came exactly between my line of sight and the rays of the declining sun. Shining
through the folds and stripes gave the sun the appearance of a flame of fire. I could
not suppress the sudden misgiving that the Union flame would yet consume the
Confederacy. Our ancestors had given us this right by helping to make this flag for our
own protection. Perhaps it would have been better for us to fight for our rights in the
Union under the same flag. The sight was an ill omen to me, but I had no longer time
to give way reflections of this nature." At 5:30 P.M., Liddell's private thoughts were
interrupted by an order for him to join the action.
Liddell gathered his brigade and moved toward the front. The
had just sunk
behind the trees," he later wrote. "I looked around for the hottest place. It seemed to
be everywhere." Liddell decided to move toward the Federal left. There he found
Cheatham, who approached him and said, "General, you can save the fight! Go on and
"I shall try General," Liddell replied, "but come and show me
your line. It is now getting
too late to distinguish colors clearly. I might fire by mistake upon your men."
"No," Cheatham answered, "go on and save the fight. You will
the line." When the
Arkansas troops neared Wood's brigade, loud cheers erupted from the Rebels, who
had been battling Gooding for more than two hours. Liddell moved his brigade to the
left of Wood's line. "Suddenly," Liddell recalled, "we confronted a dark line hardly more
than twenty-five paces off on the crest of the elevation we were ascending." Liddell's
troops immediately opened fire. The dark line responded in kind, but cries of "You are
killing your friends" and "for God's sake stop!" also erupted from across the road.
Liddell ordered his men to cease fire.
At this point, Polk appeared on the scene and spurred his
up to Liddell. Known
as the "Bishop General," the 56-year-old Polk was an 1827 West Point graduate who
had left the U.S. Army to enter the ministry of the Episcopal Church, becoming bishop
of Louisiana in 1841. He had returned to military service in June 1861, persuaded by
the Confederate cause. Liddell told Polk that his men might have fired upon fellow
Southerners. The bishop looked around for a staff member to investigate, but found
none. "What a pity," he said, "I hope not. I don't think so. Let me go and see. Open
your ranks." With that, Polk rode toward the unidentified troops across the road.
Polk found the colonel of the mysterious regiment and demanded
to know why he was
firing upon friendly troops. "I don't think there can be any mistake about it," the
colonel replied. "I am sure they are the enemy."
"Enemy?" Polk huffed. "Why I have only just left them
firing, sir; what is
your name sir?"
"My name is Colonel ---- [Squire I. Keith], of the ---- [22d
and pray sir, who
are you?" At that moment Polk realized he was inside the Federal line. The general
instantly decided "there was no hope but to brazen it out," hoping that the darkness
and his dark-colored blouse would conceal his allegiance. Polk shook his fist in the
Yankee colonel's face and growled, "I'll soon show you who I am. Cease firing at
once!" Then, mustering all his courage, the general boldly rode down the Union line,
shouting for the men to cease fire.
As he wove through the enemy regiment, Polk "experienced a
like screwing up my back, and calculating how many bullets would lie between my
shoulders every moment." Reaching a grove of trees he spurred his horse and
galloped back to the Confederate line. His bluff had worked.
Back among his own troops Polk declared to Liddell, "General,
every mother's son of
them are Yankees. I saw the colonel commanding the brigade and looked closely at
the dark clothing of the men and am sure of not being mistaken. You may get up and
go at them!" All along the Confederate line the cry went up, "Yankees!"
"The trumpet sounded to 'fire,'" Liddell recalled. "A
flash of musketry for
the whole extent of the line for nearly one quarter of a mile in length followed. It
continued for some fifteen minutes." Polk told an acquaintance the muskets "blazed as
one gun. And I assure you, Sir, that the slaughter of that Indiana regiment was the
greatest I had ever seen in the war."
When the Union ranks grew silent, Liddell ordered a
He and Polk then rode
forward to investigate. Liddell found that "the Federal force had disappeared
everywhere. The ground before my line was literally covered with the dead and dying."
Polk wrote that the Southern fire "closed the operations of the day in that part of the
field.... The enemy's command in their immediate front was well-nigh annihilated."
The massed volleys had decimated the 22d Indiana. Nearly
regiment's 300 men were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner, mostly during the final
encounter with Liddell's troops. Keith, the Union colonel whom the fist-shaking Polk
had duped, lay dead from a chest wound. Brigade commander Gooding was a prisoner.
Darkness crept over the battlefield as Liddell's Arkansans
up Union rifles
scattered across the ground. Overall, Buell's army had suffered about 4,200 casualties
and the Confederates had lost about 3,500. The Confederates had captured McCook's
personal baggage, and an officer brought Liddell a canteen of McCook's whiskey. After
taking a sip, Liddell recalled, the "wretched, sickening taste led me to doubt that the
property was his, but someone present who knew him well said, 'He drinks no other
That night Bragg ordered the withdrawal of his outnumbered
from Perryville, a
decision met, Liddell wrote, "with manifest surprise and regret by the whole
command." Bragg had finally discovered that only a fragment of Buell's army had
actually participated in the battle. The unengaged Yankees would be ready to strike
the vastly outnumbered Rebels the next day.
Neither Bragg nor Buell covered themselves in glory during the
Bragg finally did link up with Smith, but too late to accomplish much. With his supplies
running low and Buell's army trailing him, the Confederate commander abandoned the
campaign, much to the dismay of his colleagues. Southern hopes for a Confederate
Kentucky were dashed. Buell's army crept along behind Bragg, doing little besides
watching the Confederates slip away. Unable to understand "why we cannot march as
the enemy marches, live as he lives, and fight as he fights," an exasperated President
Abraham Lincoln finally replaced Buell with Major General William S. Rosecrans.
As for Polk, his luck failed to get him through the war. On
14, 1864, at Pine
Mountain, Georgia, he suffered a direct hit from an artillery shell as he reconnoitered
enemy lines. He died instantly.
While the strategic results of the Battle of Perryville were
than clearcut, the cold
reality of the struggle was clear to the men on the front lines. No one knew the cost of
the battle better than the surviving members of the 22d Indiana Infantry. "On calling
the roll at 8 o'clock that night," a veteran later wrote, "to nearly every other name in
the regiment there was no answer." They had Bishop Polk to thank for the silence.
By Stuart W. Sanders and DANIEL O''LEARY
Stuart W. Sanders is a freelance writer and the assistant
of the Perryville
Battlefield Preservation Association.
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8. Benjamin Franklin Cheatham
He was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on 20 October 1820. He served first as a captain of Tennessee volunteers in the War with Mexico and became a Colonel when Mexico City was attacked. In the Civil War he commanded the Tennessee volunteer militia and became a Brig. General in the Confederate Army on 9 July 1861. He commanded a division of General Polk's army in the fighting around Belmont, Shiloh, and Perryville having been promoted Maj. General in March of 1862. As one of Bragg's division commanders at Chickamauga, he first tried to turn the Union left flank under McCook; and then along with Hardee, he attacked the Union right center. This center was under the commands of Generals Dodge, Reynolds, and Schofield. Generals Thomas and Sheridan, however, checked the attack. In 1864 Cheatham was assigned as one of the main corps commanders of General Hood's army. He took a part in the fighting around Atlanta and Nashville, and in the Atlanta campaign he was in charge of the inner defense of the city. During Hood's fighting against Thomas, a heated argument arose between Cheatham and Hood. Cheatham charged that Hood had not been specific in his order to attack Schofield's corps at Atlanta. Cheatham was transferred to the army of Joseph E. Johnston, which later surrendered to Sherman. After the war Cheatham operated a livestock farm in Tennessee. He entered politics, becoming State Superintendent of Prisons, and was later appointed by Grover Cleveland to be postmaster of Nashville, Tennessee, where he died on 4 August 1886.
9. William J. Hardee
He was born October 12, 1815 in Camden County Georgia. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1838, standing 26th in a class of 45. After graduating from West Point in 1838 he had the opportunity to study for two years at the well-known French cavalry school at St. Maur. When the United States went to war with Mexico, Hardee saw action, was taken prisoner, and soon afterward was exchanged in time to take part in the battles of Vera Cruz, Contreras, and Molino del Rey. Two years after the end of the war he became the commander of West Point. While there he wrote and then published a textbook, United States Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics, which for years was the standard book on the subject. When the Civil War broke out, Hardee resigned his commission and entered the Confederate forces as a Colonel. Appointed Brig. General on June 17, 1861 he organized the Arkansas brigade, and transferring in the fall of 1861 to Kentucky, was promoted Maj. General on October 7, 1861. He led his corps at Shiloh, Perryville, Murfreesboro (Stones River), Missionary Ridge, and the Atlanta campaign, having been named Lt. General on October 10, 1862. In September of 1864 he was named to command the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Trying to stop Sherman on his March to the Sea, Hardee had an ineffective force that was powerless before the Federal Hordes. He evacuated Savanah on December 18, 1864 and left Charleston in January 1865 to join J. E. Johnston in North Carolina. He died at Wytheville, Virginia, on November 6, 1873.
couldn't follow his own advice.
James "Pete" Longstreet was born on 8 Jan. 8, 1821 in Edgefield District, S.C. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. (1842), he resigned from the U.S. Army when his native state seceded from the Union (December 1860); he was made a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. He fought in the first and second battles of Bull Run, called First and Second Manassas by the Confederates (July 1861; August-September 1862); was a division commander in the Peninsular Campaign (March-July 1862); and at Antietam (September 1862) and Fredericksburg (November-December 1862) commanded what was soon called the I Corps in the Army of Northern Virginia. Promoted to lieutenant general (1862), Longstreet participated in the Battle of Gettysburg as Gen. Robert E. Lee's second in command. His delay in attacking and his slowness in organizing "Pickett's Charge," his critics argue, were responsible for the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg; others, however, place the blame on Lee, citing his inability to cope with unwilling officers. In any case, Longstreet later claimed that he had counseled Lee to not make the attack on 3 July, but rather to attempt a grand flanking movement around the Federal left. In September 1863 he was sent west to reinforce the Army of Tennesse under Braxton Bragg and directed the attack at Chickamauga which broke the right flank of the Federal lines. However, he was unable to overcove the resistance of the Union commander George H. Thomas at Snodgrass Hill on the Federal left. After the battle he joined in the intrigue among some of Bragg's officers, hoping to replace him. Jefferson Davis came personally, interviewed most of the people involved, and decided to keep Bragg as overall commander of the Army of Tennessee. Thereafter Bragg assigned to Longstreet the responsibility for the entire left flank during the siege of Chattanooga, but Longstreet neglected this charge and disobyed direct orders to take effective measures against the arriving Union reinforcements arriving from the West under Hooker. He was then sent by Davis to Knoxville where he completely failed to dislodge Burnside. Longstreet was severely wounded the following summer in the Wilderness Campaign. In November 1864, although with a paralyzed right arm, he resumed command of his corps. He surrendered with Lee at Appomattox. After the war he became unpopular in the South--partly because of his admiration for Pres. Ulysses S. Grant and partly because he joined the Republican Party. He served as U.S. minister to Turkey (1880-81) and commissioner of Pacific railways (1898-1904). His reminiscences "From Manassas to Appomattox" appeared in 1896. He died on 2 Jan. 1904 in Gainesville, Ga.
12. John C.
He was born on 21 Jan. 1821 near Lexington, Ky. U.S. vice president (1857-61), unsuccessful presidential candidate of Southern hard liners (November 1860), and Confederate officer during the Civil War (1861-65). Descended from an old Kentucky family distinguished in law and politics, Breckinridge, an attorney, began his political career in 1849 as a member of the state legislature. In 1851 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. During this troubled ante-bellum period, he established his reputation as a faithful Democrat, and when his party nominated James Buchanan of Pennsylvania for president in 1856, Breckinridge was a natural choice to "balance the ticket" between North and South. Once in office, however, Buchanan and Breckinridge were unable to fend off the sectional conflict. Challenged by the newly formed Republican Party, which resisted extension of slavery into the territories, the Democrats broke apart at their national convention in the summer of 1860. The Northern wing nominated Stephen A. Douglas on a platform favouring popular sovereignty (local option), while the Southerners chose Breckinridge on a separate ticket demanding federal intervention in behalf of slave property in the territories. Breckinridge insisted that he was not anti-Union but held that slavery could be banned in a territory only after it had become a state. Defeated in the November election by Republican Abraham Lincoln, Breckinridge succeeded John J. Crittenden as U.S. senator from Kentucky in March 1861, but he resigned later that year. He never ceased working for accommodation and compromise, but after the firing on Ft. Sumter, S.C. (April 12), he maintained that the Union no longer existed and urged Kentucky to feel free to secede (it temporarily remained neutral). His formal expulsion from the Senate in December was a meaningless gesture because he had already been commissioned a brigadier general in the Confederate Army in November. After the Battle of Shiloh (6-7 April 1862), in which he commanded the reserve, he was promoted to the rank of major general and thereafter took part in many campaigns, including Vicksburg (June 1863), Chattanooga (Nov. 1864) the Wilderness (May 1864), and Shenandoah Valley (1864-65). In the final months of the war, Breckinridge served as Confederate secretary of war, and at the end of hostilities he fled to England. After a self-imposed exile of three years, he returned to resume his law practice in Lexington, where he died seven years later on 17 May 1875.
13. Edmund Kirby-Smith
He was born Edmund Kirby Smith on 16 May 1824 in St. Augustine, Fla. He later signed his name E. Kirby Smith; the hyphenated form of the name was adopted by his family after his death. Graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., in 1845, Kirby-Smith fought in the Mexican War (1846-48) and in Indian warfare on the frontier before he reached the rank of major in 1860. When Florida seceded from the Union (January 1861), he entered the Confederate Army and was made a brigadier general in June. Commanding a brigade at the first battle of Manassas (Bull Run) in July 1861, he was seriously wounded. In 1862 he led the advance in the Kentucky campaign, defeated the Union forces at Richmond, Ky., and fought at Perryville, Ky., and Murfreesboro (Stones River) in Tennessee. He was promoted to lieutenant general in October and the following February was given command of the Trans-Mississippi Department. Cut off from the East by the fall of Vicksburg (July 1863), Kirby-Smith exercised both civil and military powers and made his section self-supporting. In April 1864 he met and defeated the Federal Red River expedition. On June 2, 1865, he formally surrendered the last armed Confederate force at Galveston, Texas. After the war Kirby-Smith headed a military academy until 1870, when he became president of the University of Nashville. He resigned in 1875 to teach mathematics at the University of the South. He died on 28 March 1893 in Sewanee, Tenn.