1. Don Carlos Buell
2. Buell court of inquiry, findings
3. George H. Thomas, testimony
4. Braxton Bragg's report plus correspondence
1. Don Carlos Buell
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XVI/1 [S# 22] OCTOBER 8, 1862.--Battle of Perryville, or Chaplin Hills, Ky. No. 1.--Reports of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, U.S. Army, commanding Army of the Ohio, including operations October 1--30, with congratulatory orders.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE OHIO, Perryville, October 9, 1862.
I have already advised you of the movement of the army under my command from Louisville. More or less skirmishing has occurred daily with the enemy's cavalry since then. It was supposed the enemy would give battle at Bardstown. The troops reached that point on the 4th, driving out the enemy's rear guard of cavalry and artillery. The main body retired toward Springfield, whither the pursuit has continued. The center corps, under General Gilbert, moved on the direct road from Springfield to Perryville, and arrived on the 7th within 2 miles of the town, where the enemy was found to be in force. The left column, under General McCook, came up on the Mackville road about 10 o'clock yesterday, the 8th. It was ordered into position to attack and a strong reconnaissance directed. <ar22_1023>
At 4 o'clock I received a request from General McCook for re-enforcements, and heard with astonishment that the left had been seriously engaged for several hours and that the right and left of that corps were being turned and severally pressed Re-enforcements were immediately sent forward from the center; orders were also sent to the right column, under General Crittenden, which was advancing by the Lebanon road, to push forward and attack the enemy's left, but it was impossible for it to get into position in time to produce any decided results. The action continued until dark; some sharp fighting also occurred in the center. The enemy was everywhere repulsed, but not without some momentary advantage on the left.
The several corps were put in position during the night and moved to attack; at 6 o'clock this morning some skirmishing occurred with the enemy's rear guard. The main body has fallen back in the direction of Harrodsburg. I have no accurate report of our loss yet. It is probably pretty heavy, including valuable officers. Generals Jackson and Terrill, I regret to say, are among the number of killed. I will report more in detail as soon as possible.
D.C. BUELL, Major-General, Commanding.
LOUISVILLE, KY., November 4, 1862.
SIR: It is due to the army which I have commanded for the last twelve months, and perhaps due to myself, that I should make a circumstantial report of its operations during the past summer. Such a report requires data not now at hand, and would occupy more time than can be spared at present from the subject of more immediate interest, namely, the operations from Louisville against the rebel forces in Kentucky under the command of General Bragg. I therefore commence this report from that period premising only, in a general way that my attention to the condition of affairs in Kentucky was demanded, first, by the minor operations of the enemy, which by the destruction of the railroad had completely severed the communications of my army and left it at a distance of 300 miles from its base with very limited supplies; and, second, by the formidable invasion, which not only threatened the permanent occupation of the State, but exposed the States north of the Ohio River to invasion.
Leaving a sufficient force to hold Nashville, the remainder of the army under my command was put in march for Kentucky. The rear division left Nashville on the 15th and arrived at Louisville, a distance of 170 miles, on September 29. The advance arrived on the 25th. The particulars of the march will, as I have said, be given in a subsequent report, in connection with other matters.
I found in and about the city a considerable force of raw troops, hurriedly thrown in from Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, for the defense of the city against the formidable force that had invaded the State under Generals Bragg and Kirby Smith. Under the command of Major-General Nelson, whose untimely death cannot be too much deplored, these troops had been organized into brigades and divisions, and they had some able and experienced officers in Generals Boyle, Jackson, Cruft, Gilbert, Terrill, and others. But the troops were as yet undisciplined, unprovided with suitable artillery, and in every way unfit for active <ar22_1024> operations against a disciplined foe. It was necessary to reorganize the whole force. This was done as far as possible by intermixing the new troops with the old without changing the old organization. The troops were supplied with shoes and other essentials, of which they were greatly in need; among them certain light cooking utensils, which the men could carry, and dispense with wagons, the allowance of which was reduced to one for each regiment, to carry a few necessary articles for officers and one for hospital supplies, besides the ambulances.
The army was to have marched on September 30, but an order, which was subsequently suspended, relieving me from the command delayed the movement until the following day.
The army marched on the 1st ultimo in five columns. The left moved toward Frankfort, to hold in check the force the enemy which still remained at or near that place; the other columns, marching by different routes, finally fell respectively into the roads leading from Shepherdsville, Mount Washington, Fairfield, and Bloomfield to Bardstown, where the main force of the enemy under General Bragg was known to be. These roads converge upon Bardstown at an angle of about 15° from each other.
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.
The information which I received indicated that the enemy would concentrate his forces at Danville. The First Corps, under Major-General McCook, was therefore ordered to march from Bloomfield on Harrodsburg, while the Second Corps, under Major-General Crittenden, moved on the Lebanon and Danville road, which passes 4 miles to the south of Perryville, with a branch to the latter place, and the Third Corps on the direct road to Perryville. My headquarters moved with the Third (or center) Corps. Major-General Thomas, second in command, accompanied the Second (or right) Corps. After leaving Bardstown I learned that the force of Kirby Smith had crossed to the west side of the Kentucky River near Salvisa, and that the enemy was moving to concentrate either at Harrodsburg or Perryville. General McCook's route was therefore changed from Harrodsburg to Perryville.
The center corps arrived on the afternoon of the 7th, and was drawn up in order of battle about 3 miles from Perryville, where the enemy appeared to be in force. The advance guard, under Captain Gay, consisting of cavalry and artillery, supported toward evening by two regiments of infantry, pressed successfully upon the enemy's rear guard to within 2 miles of the town against a somewhat stubborn opposition.
The whole army had for three days or more suffered from a scarcity of water. The last day particularly the troops and animals suffered exceedingly for the want of it and from hot weather and dusty roads. In the bed of Doctor's Creek, a tributary of Chaplin River, about 2½ miles from Perryville, some pools of water were discovered, which the enemy showed a determination to prevent us from gaining possession of. The Thirty-sixth brigade, under the command of Col. Daniel McCook, from General Sheridan's division was ordered forward to seize and hold a commanding position which covered these pools. It executed the orders that night, and a supply of bad water was secured for the troops. <ar22_1025>
On discovering that the enemy was concentrating for battle at Perryville I sent orders on the night of the 7th to General McCook and General Crittenden to march at 3 o'clock the following morning, so as to take position respectively as early as possible on the right and left of the center corps, the commanders themselves to report in person for orders on their arrival, my intention being to make the attack that day if possible. The orders did not reach General McCook until 2.30 o'clock, and he marched at 5.
The Second Corps, failing to find water at the place where it was expected to encamp the night of the 7th, had to move off the road for that purpose, and consequently was some 6 miles or more farther off than it would otherwise have been. The orders did not reach it in time, and these two causes delayed its arrival several hours. Still it was far enough advanced to have been pressed into the action on the 8th if the necessity for it had been known early enough.
The engagement which terminated at night the previous day was renewed early on the morning of the 8th by an attempt of the enemy to drive the brigade of Colonel McCook from the position taken to cover the water in Doctor's Creek. The design had been discovered, and the divisions of Generals Mitchell and Sheridan were moved into position to defeat it and hold the ground until the army was prepared to attack in force. A spirited attack was made on Colonel McCook's position and was handsomely repulsed.
Between 10 and 11 o'clock the left corps arrived on the Mackville road. General McCook was instructed to get it promptly into position on the left of the center corps and to make a reconnaissance to his front and left. The reconnaissance had been continued by Captain Gay toward his front and right, and sharp firing with artillery was then going on. I had somewhat expected an attack early in the morning on Gilbert's corps while it was isolated; but, as it did not take place, no formidable attack was apprehended after the arrival of the left corps.
The disposition of the troops was made mainly with a view to a combined attack on the enemy's position at daylight the following morning, as the time required to get all the troops into position after the unexpected delay would probably make it too late to attack that day.
The cannonading, which commenced with the partial engagement in the center, followed by the reconnaissance of the cavalry, under Captain Gay, extended toward the left, and became brisker as the day advanced but was not supposed to proceed from any serious engagement, as no report to that effect was received [boldface mine].
At 4 o'clock, however, Major-General McCook's aide-de-camp arrived and reported to me that the general was sustaining a severe attack, which he would not be able to withstand unless re-enforced; that his flanks were already giving way. He added, to my astonishment, that the left corps had actually been engaged in a severe battle for several hours, perhaps since 12 o'clock. It was so difficult to credit the latter that I thought there must even be some misapprehension in regard to the former. I sent word to him that I should rely on his being able to hold his ground, though I should probably send him re-enforcements. I at once sent orders for two brigades from the center corps (Schoepf's division) to move promptly to re-enforce the left. Orders were also sent to General Crittenden to move a division in to strengthen the center and to move with the rest of his corps energetically against the enemy's left flank. The distance from one flank of the army to the other was «65 R R--VOL XVI» <ar22_1026> not perhaps less than 6 miles, and before the orders could be delivered and the right corps make the attack night came on and terminated the engagement.
The roads going from Mackville and Springfield enter Perryville at an angle of about 15° with each other. The road from Lebanon runs nearly parallel to the Springfield road to within 5 miles of Perryville and then forks, the left-hand fork going to Perryville and the right continuing straight on to Danville, leaving Perryville 4 miles to the north. There is' also a direct road from Perryville to Danville. Perryville, Danville, and Harrodsburg occupy the vertices of an equilateral triangle, and are 10 miles apart. Salt River rises midway between Perryville and Danville, and runs northward 2 miles west of Harrodsburg. Chaplin Fork rises near and passes through Perryville, bending in its course so as to run obliquely away from the Mackville and Perryville road, on which the left corps advanced. Doctor's Creek, running north, crossed the Perryville and Springfield roads at right angles about 2½ miles west of Perryville, and empties into Chaplin Fork about 3 miles from town. The ground bordering the Chaplin is hilly, with alternate patches of timber and cleared land. The hills, though in some places steep, are generally practicable for infantry and cavalry and in many places for artillery. The ground afforded the enemy great advantages for attacking a force on the Mackville road, taken in the act of forming, as was the case in the battle of the 8th. General McCook's line ran nearly parallel with Chaplin Fork, the right resting on the road and the left to the north of it. Two of General Rousseau's brigades(the Seventeenth, under Colonel Lytle, and the Ninth, under Colonel Harris) were on the right: then the Thirty-third Brigade, under General Terrill, of Jackson's division, then on the extreme left and to the rear of Terrill the Twenty-eighth Brigade, under Colonel Starkweather, of Rousseau's division. The other brigade of Jackson's division, under Colonel Webster, was at first in the rear of Rousseau's two right brigades, and in the course of the battle was brought into action on the right. General Gilbert's corps was on the right of Rousseau, but the space between them was somewhat too great--first, Sheridan's division, then Mitchell's, and Schoepf's in reserve opposite the left of the corps.
The fight commenced early in the day, as has been described, with a feeble attack on the center corps; then, later, the attack fell with severity and pertinacity on Rousseau's right brigades; then, somewhat later, on Terrill's brigade, and on Rousseau's third brigade on the extreme left. It was successful against Terrill's brigade, composed of new regiments.
The gallant commander of the division, General J. S. Jackson, was killed almost instantly. The heroic young brigadier, Terrill, lost his life in endeavoring to rally his troops and ten pieces of his artillery were left on the ground. Two of them were carried off by the enemy the next morning; the rest were recovered.
The main weight of the battle thus fell upon the Third Division, under General Rousseau. No troops could have met it with more heroism. The left brigade, compelled at first to fall back somewhat, at length maintained its ground and repulsed the attack at that point.
Taking advantage of the opening between Gilbert's left and Rousseau's right, the enemy pressed his attack at that point with an overwhelming force. Rousseau's right was being turned and was forced to fall back, which it did in excellent order, until re-enforced by Gooding's and Steedman's brigades from Gilbert's corps, when the enemy was <ar22_1027> repulsed. That result was also promoted by the fire which the artillery of Sheridan's division poured into the enemy's left flank. Simultaneously with the heaviest attack on Rousseau's division the enemy made a strong attack on Sheridan's right. Sheridan was re-enforced from Mitchell's division by Colonel Carlin's brigade, which charged the enemy with intrepidity and drove him through the town to his position beyond, capturing in the town 2 caissons and 15 wagons, loaded with ammunition, and the guard that was with them, consisting of 3 officers and 138 men. This occurred about night-fall, which terminated the battle.
The corps of General Crittenden closed in, and Wagner's brigade, of Wood's division, became engaged and did good service on the right of Mitchell's division, but knowing nothing of the severity of the fight on the extreme left the rest of the corps did not get into action.
No doubt was entertained that the enemy would endeavor to hold his position. Accordingly orders were sent to the commanders of corps to be prepared to attack at daylight in the morning. They received instructions in person at my headquarters that night, except General Crittenden, for whom instructions were given to Major-General Thomas, second in command. General McCook supposed, from indications in his front, that the enemy would throw a formidable force against his corps, in pursuance of the original attempt to turn our left. He represented also that his corps was very much crippled, the new division of General Jackson having in fact almost entirely disappeared as a body. He was instructed to move in during the night and close the opening between his right and General Gilbert's left. His orders for the following day were to hold his position, taking advantage of any opportunity that the events of the day might present. The corps of Generals Crittenden and Gilbert were to move forward at 6 o'clock and attack the enemy's front and left flank.
The advance the following morning, in pursuance of these orders, discovered that the enemy's main body had retired during the night, but without any indications of haste or disorder, except that his dead and many of his wounded were left upon the field. The reconnaissance during the day showed that his whole force had fallen back on Harrodsburg, where the indications seemed to be that he would make a stand.
It will be impossible to form any correct judgment of the operations from this time, particularly without considering the condition of the two armies and the probable intentions of the enemy. The rebel army has been driven from the borders of Kentucky without a decisive battle. It is spoken of as if it were a comparatively insignificant force and pursued by an overwhelming one, which had nothing to do but to send out patrols and gather in the fragments of a routed and disorganized army. The very reverse was the ease. The rebel force which invaded Kentucky, at the lowest estimates, has been rated at from 55,000 to 65,000 men. It was composed of veteran troops, well armed, and thoroughly inured to hardships. Every circumstance of its march and the concurrent testimony of all who came within reach of its lines attest that it was under perfect discipline. It had entered Kentucky with the avowed purpose of holding the State; its commanders declared that to be their intention to the last. Intercepted communications, disclosing their plans and the disappointment expressed by the Southern press at the result, show that to have been their purpose. The enterprise certainly seemed desperate, but it was entered upon deliberately, was conducted by the best talent in the rebel service, and there was <ar22_1028> nothing to indicate that it would be abandoned lightly. Some maneuvering for advantage and one decisive battle were to be expected before Kentucky could be rid of her invader. Everything goes to show that the final retreat of the enemy was suddenly determined on, and that it was not at the time to be calculated upon as a matter of course. Any movement on my part, solely in anticipation of it, would only have turned the enemy in a different direction, and any presumptuous attempt to capture a superior force by detachments would, according to all probabilities, have been more likely to result in defeat than in success.
The effective force which advanced on Perryville on the 7th and 8th under my command was about 58,000 infantry, artillery, and cavalry. Of these about 22,000 were raw troops, with very little instruction, or none at all. The reports show an actual loss of upward of 4,000 killed, wounded, and missing in the battle, which would leave the effective force about 54,000 after it. I did not hesitate therefore, after crossing Chaplin River and finding the enemy had fallen back, to await the arrival of General Sill's division, which had marched to Frankfort, and had been ordered to join, via Lawrenceburg and Chaplintown, when it was ascertained that Kirby Smith's force had marched to form a junction with Bragg. That division on the march from Louisville encountered a strong outpost of the enemy on the Frankfort road about 12 miles out, and skirmishing was kept up until its arrival at Frankfort.(*) It was followed closely by the division of General Dumont which remained at Frankfort.
In marching from Frankfort to join the main body Sill's division was attacked near Lawrenceburg by a portion of Kirby Smith's force, which it drove off, and then continued its march, arriving at Perryville on the evening of the 11th. Pending its arrival the army took position, with its right 4 miles from Danville, its center on the Perryville and Harrodsburg pike, and the left near Dicksville, on roads converging on Harrodsburg.
On the 11th three brigades from Crittenden's and Gilbert's corps, with Gay's and Colonel McCook's cavalry brigades, were sent out to reconnoiter the enemy's position. He was found in some force 2 miles south of Harrodsburg in the morning, but retired during the day, and his rear guard was driven out in the evening, with the loss of some stores and about 1,200 prisoners, mostly sick and wounded. It was probable that he would retire his whole force to Camp Dick Robinson, though it was not certainly ascertained what portion of it had crossed Dick's River. To compel him to take at once one side or the other, and either give battle on this side or be prevented from recrossing to attack our communications when a move was made to turn his position, the left corps moved on the 12th to Harrodsburg (General Sill's division having arrived the night before), the right corps moving forward and resting near and to the left of Danville, and the center midway on the Danville and Harrodsburg road, while a strong reconnaissance was sent forward to the crossing of Dick's River. The enemy was found to have crossed with his whole force.
The ground between the Kentucky River and Dick's River, as a military position, is rendered almost impregnable on the north and west by the rocky cliffs which border those streams, and which are only passable at a few points easily defended. Such is the character of Dick's River from its mouth to where the Danville and Lexington road crosses it, a <ar22_1029> distance of about 12 miles. It could only be reached by turning it to the south, while the passes to the west, by which our lines of communication would be exposed, were suitably guarded. The army was moving with that view, when I learned, on the evening of the 13th, at Danville, that the enemy was retiring from his position toward the south. Pursuit was immediately ordered for the purpose of overtaking or intercepting him if he should attempt to pass toward Somerset.
General Wood's division marched at 12 o'clock that night, and engaged the enemy's cavalry and artillery at Stanford at daylight the next morning. The remainder of General Crittenden's corps and General McCook's corps followed on that road and General Gilbert's marched on the Lancaster road. The enemy kept the road toward Cumberland Gap, opposing with cavalry and artillery the advance of both of the pursuing columns, which, however, progressed steadily.
At Crab Orchard the character of the country suddenly changes. It becomes rough and barren, affording scarcely more than enough corn for its sparse population, and the road passes through defiles, where a small force can resist with great effect a large one; where in fact the use of a large force is impracticable. The little forage the country afforded was consumed by the enemy in his retreat, rendering it impossible to subsist any considerable number of animals. The corps of General McCook and General Gilbert were therefore halted at Crab Orchard, while that of General Crittenden, with General W. S. Smith's division in advance, continued the pursuit as far as London on the direct road and on the branch road to Manchester.
I have not received the formal report of the operations of this corps, but the pursuit was conducted by its commander, according to my orders, with judgment and energy. The road was cleared of the trees felled across it by the enemy and his rear guard attacked successfully at several points. Some prisoners were taken, and about 300 head of cattle and other property, to no very great amount captured.
It was not expedient to continue the pursuit beyond London, partly because it was impracticable in a manner to afford any material advantage; partly because, without advantage, it took the troops out of the way when they were likely to be required elsewhere. They were therefore promptly turned upon other routes toward Tennessee. A portion were to be at Bowling Green and the rest at Glasgow on the 31st ultimo, and thence continue their march by certain routes.
In that position I relinquished the command of the army on the 30th to Major-General Rosecrans, in obedience to instructions from the general-in-chief. In the mean time the railroads, which had been broken up by the enemy and suspended for two months, had been repaired as far as Bowling Green to carry forward supplies.
I have no means at this time of reporting the casualties that occurred in the minor engagements or skirmishes that took place during the campaign, nor is it possible for me to do justice to the services of the officers and soldiers engaged in them, as the subsequent movements of the troops and my separation from them have prevented me from obtaining detailed reports, except concerning the battle of the 8th. The particulars referred to outside of the battle are based on the brief and sometimes oral reports made at the time, and are unavoidably less complete and definite than I could wish. For the same reason many such I am unable to mention at all. In regard to the battle of the 8th, the reports of the several commanders go much more into detail than is necessary in this report, and I beg leave to commend them to your consideration especially in relation to the services of many officers whose <ar22_1030> names are not herein mentioned. Where I have mentioned troops by the name of their commander, unless otherwise expressed, I wish to be understood as commending him for their good conduct.
The daily services of officers in an active campaign, though less brilliant, are often more arduous and important than those of the battlefield, and in this respect also the commanders of corps, Major-General McCook, Major-General Crittenden, and Brigadier-General Gilbert, are entitled to my thanks and the approbation of the Government. This commendation should extend also to many other officers in proportion to their responsibilities, particularly to the commanders of divisions.
I am indebted in the highest degree to the members of my staff for their assistance, especially to my chief of staff, Col. James B. Fry, whose efficient aid I have had during the whole period of my command in Kentucky and Tennessee.
The difficult and responsible duty of supplying a large force by wagon transportation over a line of about 140 miles was ably performed by Capt. J. G. Chandler, chief quartermaster, and Capt. Francis Darr, chief commissary.
Capt. H. C. Bankhead, acting inspector-general; Capt. J. H. Gilman, chief of artillery and acting ordnance officer, and Capt. N. Miehler, Topographical Engineers, discharged their duties in the most satisfactory manner. At Perryville they were active and useful in reconnoitering the ground with a view to posting troops for battle.
Maj. J. M. Wright, assistant adjutant-general; Lieut. C. L. Fitzhugh, aide-de-camp, and Lieut. T. J. Bush, aide-de-camp, conveyed my orders to different commanders during the 8th, and at all times performed their duties with intelligence and zeal. The duties of his office have been ably and faithfully performed by Surg. Robert Murray, medical director.
The intelligent officers of the Signal Corps, Capt. Jesse Merrill and Lieutenants Meeker, Sheridan, and Fitch, attached to my headquarters, rendered good service at Perryville and other points.
Private Oakford, of the Anderson Troop, in carrying orders late on the evening of the 8th, fell into the enemy's lines and was captured, but had the presence of mind to destroy his dispatches.
I cannot omit to make honorable mention of the Michigan regiment of Mechanics and Engineers. It has not only rendered invaluable service in its appropriate duties during the past year, but at Chaplin Hills and on other occasions it has, in whole or in part, gallantly engaged the enemy. I especially commend Colonel Innes, Lieutenant-Colonel Hunton, and Major Hopkins for the efficient services of this fine regiment.
The cavalry, under Col. John Kennett, Fourth Ohio, commanding a division; Col. Lewis Zahm, Third Ohio, commanding a brigade; Col. E. M. McCook, Second Indiana, commanding a brigade, and Capt. E. Gay, commanding a brigade, rendered excellent service.
The brigade of Captain Gay was conducted with gallantry and effect by that officer at Perryville on the 7th and 8th.
The other brigades were not in the battle, but came in contact with the enemy on other occasions during the campaign. When the army marched on Louisville they were left on the south side of Salt River, under the command of Colonel Kennett, to escort the train of the army from Bowling Green and watch the enemy in the direction of Bardstown. The train was conducted in the most successful manner by Colonel Zahm.
The brigade of Colonel McCook also acquitted itself in the most satisfactory manner. A portion of it, under Lieut Col R. R. Stewart, <ar22_1031> captured Colonel Crawford and the principal part of his regiment of Georgia cavalry near New Haven on September 29.
Colonel Kennett, with Colonel McCook's brigade, rejoined the army at Bardstown on the 5th. Colonel Zahm's marched across from the mouth of the Salt River to join the column at Frankfort and thence to the main body at Danville.
The campaign, the history of which I have sketched, occupied a period of about twenty days. The result can be stated in a few words: An army, prepared for the conquest and occupation of Kentucky, with full knowledge of our means of resistance and with a confident expectation of prevailing over them, has been driven back, baffled and dispirited, from the borders of the State. It is true that only one serious battle has been fought, and that was incomplete and less decisive than it ought to have been. That it was so is due partly to unavoidable difficulties, which prevented the troops, marching on different roads, from getting upon the ground simultaneously; but more to the fact that I was not apprised early enough of the condition of affairs on my left. I can find no fault with the former, nor am I disposed at this time to censure the latter, though it must be admitted to have been a grave error. I ascribe it to the too great confidence of the general commanding the left corps (Major-General McCook), which made him believe that he could manage the difficulty without the aid or control of his commander. As before stated, there was skirmishing along the whole front, but after a certain hour, for the reasons stated, no general engagement was anticipated that day, and no sound of musketry reached my headquarters by which the sharpness of the action on the left could be known or even suspected, and when the fact was ascertained it was too late to do more than throw in succor before night set in. But although this lack of information was attended with disappointment and unfortunate consequences, yet the unequal struggle was marked by no disaster and conspicuously displayed the courage and discipline of the troops.
From first to last I suppose 4,000 or 5,000 prisoners, sick, wounded, and well, were taken; and at various points some stores and property fell into our hands, among them 2,500 barrels of pork and two pieces of cannon, abandoned by the enemy at Camp Dick Robinson. I do not believe that he carried off in his retreat any large amount of stores. He may have sent off a good deal, from first to last, while he was in quiet occupation of so much of the State.
The reports show a loss of 916 killed, 2,943 wounded, and 489 missing. Total, 4,348 in the battle of the 8th.(*) It includes many valuable lives. The loss of such men as James S. Jackson, William R. Terrill, George P. Jouett, George Webster, W. P. Campbell, Alexander S. Berryhill, and John Herrell would be mourned in any army and any cause where true manliness and earnest devotion are appreciated.
I inclose herewith the reports of subordinate commanders as far as received and a map showing the lines of operation of the army.(+)
Major-General Thomas acted as second in command during the campaign, and I am indebted to him for the most valuable assistance.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D. C. BUELL, Major-General.
General LORENZO THOMAS, Adjutant-General U.S. Army, Washington, D. C.
GENERAL ORDERS No. 47b.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE OHIO
October 12, 1862.
The battle of Chaplin Hills, fought near Perryville on the 8th instant will stand conspicuous for its severity in the history of the rebellion. It deserves to be commemorated for the determined valor displayed by the portion of the army that was engaged.
The principal force of the enemy, on chosen ground, under General Bragg, attacked our left wing as it was moving into position after a fatiguing march. The suddenness and strength of the attack, and the fall of two of their gallant leaders, Jackson and Terrill, caused some of the new troops of the Tenth Division to fall into disorder, and threw the weight of the battle mainly on the Third Division. This was subsequently re-enforced by two brigades from the center corps, which itself had met with considerable opposition in moving into position. The enemy was repulsed with heavy loss, and when the army advanced to the attack at 6 o'clock the following morning was found to have retreated during the night.
The good conduct exhibited by the troops on this field only realized that which the general has always confidently expected from them. Fortuitous circumstances, which so often affect the incidents of war screened the enemy from a combined effort of the different corps until night intervened to prevent his defeat from terminating in the destruction of his army, but the thanks of the general are not less due to the gallant officers and men under his command. In the battle and on the march the old troops have given the highest proofs of discipline and courage. The new troops already vie with them. Let them preserve order, remembering that lawlessness in an army is both disgraceful and fatal. The sacredness and dignity of the cause for which they are battling demand nothing less. The nation will mourn the loss of the heroes who fell at Chaplin Hills; it will honor those who prove worthy to fib their places.
By command of Major-General Buell:
JAMES B. FRY, Colonel and Chief of Staff
Washington City, November 4, 1862.
GENERAL: You will please organize a Military Commission to inquire into and report upon the operations of the forces under command of Major-General Buell in the States of Tennessee and Kentucky, and particularly in reference to General Buell suffering the State of Kentucky to be invaded by the rebel forces under General Bragg, and in his failing to relieve Munfordville and suffering it to be captured; also in reference to the battle of Perryville and General Buell's conduct during that battle, and afterward suffering the rebel forces to escape from Kentucky without loss or capture; and also to inquire and report upon such other matters touching the military operations aforesaid as in the judgment of the Commission shall be beneficial to the service. The Commission will sit at the city of Cincinnati. General Buell will <ar22_7> be ordered there and have permission to appear and produce and examine witnesses before the Commission.
EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
SPECIAL ORDERS No. 356.
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, Adjt. Gen.'s Office Washington, November 20, 1862.
I. A Military Commission will convene at Cincinnati, Ohio, on the 27th instant to investigate and report upon the operations of the army under the command of Maj. Gen. D.C. Buell, U.S. Volunteers, in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Detail for the Commission.--Maj. Gen. Lewis Wallace, U.S. Volunteers; Maj. Gen. Edward O. C. Ord, U.S. Volunteers; Brig. Gen. Albin Schoepf, U.S. Volunteers; Brig. Gen. N. J. T. Dana, U.S. Volunteers; Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler, U.S. Volunteers; Maj. Donn Piatt, aide-de-camp, judge-advocate and recorder.
The Commission will adjourn from place to place as may be deemed advisable for the convenience of taking testimony and will report an opinion in the case.
* * * * * * * * * *
By command of Major-General Halleck:
E. D. TOWNSEND, Assistant Adjutant-General.
WAR DEPARTMENT, April 13, 1872.
The Secretary of War has the honor to report to the House of Representatives, in reply to a resolution of the 1st of March, calling for a copy of the proceedings of the Military Commission instituted by the War Department in the year 1862 to inquire into the military operations and conduct of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, including all letters, dispatches, opinions, and orders on file in that Department relative thereto, that a careful and exhaustive search among all the records and files in this Department fails to discover what disposition was made of the proceedings of the Commission and the papers annexed thereto, and that no record indicative of the nature of the report of the Board or the conclusions reached by it can be found, other than what is contained in the accompanying papers, which are as follows'
Copy of the original opinion of the Commission called to investigate the operations of the Army of the Ohio in Tennessee and Kentucky, under command of Major-General Buell, U.S. Volunteers, with the-views of the General-in-Chief thereupon. [Inclosure No. 2.]
Copy of a communication from General Buell of April 10, 1864, addressed to the Adjutant-General of the Army, commenting upon the report of the Board. [Inclosure No. 5.]
Copy of an unsigned communication reviewing the proceedings of the Commission, which was referred to the Secretary of War by the Judge-Advocate-General, at the request of Lieutenant-Colonel Piatt, on the 23d of May, 1863. [Inclosure No. 3.]
Copy of a communication submitted by General Buell to the Commission May 2, 1863, a copy of which was furnished the War Depart merit by him April 11, 1864. [Sub. inclosure No. 1.] <ar22_8>
Copy of a communication from General Buell April 11, 1864, transmitting copy last above named, and also a copy of a statement prepared by him for submission to the Commission, reviewing the evidence taken before it, which is herewith. [Inclosure No. 4 and sub-inclosure No. 2.]
Copy of General Orders No. 29a, Headquarters Army of the Ohio, July, 11, 1863. [Inclosure No. 6.]
WM. W. BELKNAP, Secretary of War.
[Inclosure No. 1.]
ADJUTANT - GENERAL'S OFFICE, Washington, December 11, 1871.
General JOSEPH HOLT, Judge-Advocate-General, Washington, D. C.:
SIR: I have respectfully to inform you that the proceedings of the Military Commission convened by Special Orders, No. 365, War Department, Adjutant-General's Office, November 20, 1862, which investigated Maj. Gen. D.C. Buell's operations in Kentucky and Tennessee, have been submitted to the Secretary of War April 15, 1863.
The accompanying correspondence of General Buell in review of the evidence before the Military Commission is all that could be found on the files in this office.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. D. TOWNSEND, Adjutant-General.
Opinion of the Commission.
The order convening the Commission requires it " to investigate and report upon the operations of the army under the command of Maj. Gen. D.C. Buell in Kentucky and Tennessee." It further requires the Commission to "report an opinion in the case?
Very early in its sessions the Commission resolved to direct its investigations to the following points:
1st. The operations of Major-General Buell in Tennessee and Kentucky.
2d. Suffering Kentucky to be invaded by rebels under General Bragg.
3d. The failure to relieve Munfordville.
4th. The battle of Perryville and conduct there.
5th. Permitting the rebels to escape without loss from Kentucky. 6th. Inquire and report upon such other matters touching military operations above specified as in the judgment of the Commission shall be beneficial to the service.
The first point really comprehends all the rest; but convenience required such a division of the subject.
The sixth point, it will be perceived, is general, and was made to cover such subjects as--
1st. General Buell's loyalty, against which there is no evidence worthy of consideration.
2d. General Buell's policy toward the inhabitants of disaffected districts into which his operations extended. This we find to have been what is familiarly known as the conciliatory policy. Whether good or <ar22_9> bad in its effects, General Buell deserves neither blame nor applause for it, because it was at that time understood to be the policy of the Government. At least he could violate no orders on the subject, because there were none [boldface mine].
2. SUFFERING KENTUCKY TO BE INVADED BY REBELS UNDER BRAGG.
We find that the rebels under Bragg concentrated at Chattanooga about the 22d of July, 1862, for the purpose of invading Kentucky. Prior to that, on the 11th day of June, General Buell, with his Army of the Ohio was ordered by General Halleck to march against Chattanooga, and take it, with the ulterior object of dislodging Kirby Smith and his rebel force from East Tennessee. We are of opinion that General Buell had force sufficient to accomplish the object if he could have marched promptly to Chattanooga. The plan of operation, however, prescribed by General Halleck compelled General Buell to repair the Memphis and Charleston Railroad from Corinth to Decatur and put it in running order, as a line of supply during the advance. While that road proved of comparatively little service, the work forced such delays that a prompt march upon Chattanooga was impossible. The delays thus occasioned gave Bragg time to send a numerous cavalry force to operate against General Buell's lines of supply, which were unnecessarily long. So successful were the incursions of the cavalry that no opportunity was found, after the Memphis and Charleston Railroad was completed to Decatur, to concentrate enough of the Army of the Ohio to capture Chattanooga and execute the ulterior purposes of the expedition [boldface mine].
The massing of the rebel force at Chattanooga compelled a relinquishment of the design against that place; after which General Buell was required to exert all his energies to prevent the recapture of Nashville and the invasion of Kentucky. This he could have done, in our opinion, by an early concentration of his army at Sparta, McMinnville, or Murfreesborough, with a view to active offensive operations against Bragg the moment he debouched from the Sequatchie Valley. Instead of that, he waited until the 5th of September before concentrating at Murfreesborough, from which he retired to Nashville, thereby allowing Bragg to cross the Cumberland River without interruption. The Commission cannot justify the falling back from Murfreesborough to Nashville, but is of opinion that it was General Buell's duty from that point to have attacked the rebel army before it crossed the Cumberland, and it is the belief that had that course been pursued Bragg would have been defeated.
3.-THE FAILURE TO RELIEVE MUNFORDVILLE.
In the relative movements of the armies of Generals Buell and Bragg Munfordville was important on account of its railroad bridge over Green River and its natural strength as a position for battle. Bragg moved upon it by way of Glasgow, and not anticipating great resistance, he dispatched a column in advance of his main body to take it. The column was repulsed by the garrison on the 14th of September. Bragg then moved his whole army against the post. On the 17th of September it was justifiably surrendered. The order to hold Munfordville proceeded from General Wright, commanding the Department of the Ohio, of which Kentucky formed a part. It was given in expectation that General Buell would reach the place in time to save it. General Wright <ar22_10> seems to have had no certain information upon which to base his expectation; at the time the order was given he only knew that both Bragg and General Buell were advancing toward it. Nor was there any undertaking on General Buell's part to relieve the garrison or any preconcert of action whatever respecting it. We are of opinion therefore that the orders given the commander of the post should have left him discretion to fight or retire according to circumstances.. As it was, the order was to hold it to the last. Had not Bragg moved so quickly on Munfordville he would have been attacked at Glasgow by General Buell, who was moving to the attack when the surrender took place. Defeat of the rebels at Glasgow would of course have saved Munfordville. While General Buell was on the march to Munfordville he heard of its surrender. Relief was then too late.
It is our opinion, therefore, that General Buell is not responsible for the capture of the town, except so far as his failure to attack Bragg south of the Cumberland River made him responsible for the consequences of that failure.
4.--BATTLE OF PERRYVILLE AND CONDUCT THERE.
General Buell left Louisville about the 1st of October with a force superior, in our judgment, not only to Bragg's army, but to the armies of Bragg and Kirby Smith united. His routes were well chosen and the advance of his columns admirably regulated. His immediate object was to attack the rebels and destroy them; failing in that, he was to drive them out of Kentucky.
Engagement was expected at Bardstown, but Bragg sullenly retired toward Perryville, at which place it would seem from his orders and instructions to corps commanders General Buell next intended to attack him on the 9th September [October]. Positions for the formation of the line of battle were defined in those orders.
Accordingly, on the morning of the 8th, Gilbert, with his corps, was in position in the center; McCook, with his corps (less Sill's division), arrived on the left about 9 o'clock, and Thomas, in command of the right wing (Crittenden's corps), reached his position and reported his arrival to General Buell about noon.
About 2 o'clock in the afternoon the enemy poured a heavy column of attack upon McCook, effecting, in our opinion, a partial surprise. The contest, however, was obstinate and bloody and ended by night-fall, at which time McCook's right had been turned and driven back with serious loss. The duration of the battle was about five hours.
There can be no question about its being the duty of somebody to assist McCook. As his right had been posted not exceeding 300 yards from Gilbert's left and as the severest fighting was on McCook's right we cannot see why Gilbert did not re-enforce him when so requested. He should have done it, if for no other reason than because McCook's discomfiture exposed his own flank. Nothing but positive orders fixing and holding him in his position can justify his failure. If such there were, they have not been heard of in the testimony. Moreover, it is clear that all General Buell's orders were in preparation for attacking the next morning, not in anticipation of being attacked that day. In this latter event therefore the exercise of discretion could not have been improper if the action taken had been promptly reported to headquarters [boldface mine], particularly as General Buell was not on the field for instant consultation. As it was, assistance did not reach McCook until about dark.
General Buell established his headquarters about 2½ miles from the <ar22_11> front on the Springfield road. He was not on the field or along the line during the day, and had no intelligence of the attack on McCook until 4 o'clock in the evening. About 2 o'clock a heavy and furious cannonading was heard at his headquarters, and coming out of his tent he said, "There was a great waste of powder over there," and directed General Gilbert, who was with him at the time, to send an order to the front "to stop that useless waste of powder." It is clear to us that General Buell did not believe a battle was in progress, and that he supposed the firing heard was from some reconnaissance. On this point it is our opinion that he should either have been on the field in person ready for emergencies and advantages, or have taken and required to be taken every precaution for the instant transmission of intelligence to his headquarters. As he had an organized signal corps with his army, this failure was all the more culpable. And in this connection we are of opinion that General McCook's failure to send up instant notice of the attack upon him in force was equally culpable [boldface mine].
We find that during the greater part of the attack on McCook Gilbert's corps was unengaged, while Thomas' wing had not so much as a demonstration made against it. We have reason to believe also that all Bragg's army at Perryville at the time was flung upon McCook, and that his lines of retreat by way of Harrodsburg and Danville were so exposed that after 4 o'clock they could have been to a great degree, if not entirely, cut off if Crittenden's corps had been vigorously pushed forward for the purpose. In our judgment the opportunity slipped through General Buell's absence from the field or on account of his ignorance of the condition of the battle. We are very sure that if he could have ordered supports to McCook at an earlier hour than he did order them the attack would have been repulsed with less loss to himself and greater to the enemy.
5.--PERMITTING THE REBELS TO ESCAPE WITHOUT LOSS FROM KENTUCKY.
It cannot be said that the rebels escaped without loss from Kentucky. Besides their killed and wounded at Perryville they were compelled to destroy a large quantity of stores which had been collected at Camp Dick Robinson.
The morning after the battle it was very early discovered that Bragg had retreated from his positions near Perryville and that his army had for the most part gone in the direction of Harrodsburg. Leaving all his sick and wounded and some material at Harrodsburg, and being joined by Kirby Smith, he hastened across Dick's River to Camp Dick Robinson. There he destroyed and abandoned the stores mentioned and resumed his retreat. In these movements the march of his columns was hurried ; that part of it from Perryville to the river was confused and disordered. Our opinion is that if General Buell had taken up a vigorous pursuit as soon in the morning of the 9th as the retreat was discovered the check received by the rebels at Perryville would have been turned into rout, with all its consequences. But the manner in which they were followed to Harrodsburg can hardly be called a pursuit. General Buell should have endeavored, by energetic movement of his whole army, to crush them somewhere between Perryville and Dick's River.
From Camp Dick Robinson Bragg had but two roads left him by which he could hope to escape from Kentucky. Dividing his forces at Crab Orchard, one portion of them could go out by way of Cumberland Gap, <ar22_12> the other by way of Somerset. Had General Buell intercepted him on these lines, as we think he could have done, from either Perryville or Danville, Bragg would have been compelled to give battle, with the same results, we doubt not, as if he had been defeated before crossing Dick's River.
The evidence establishes that General Buell received information on the night of the 11th that Bragg had crossed the river to Camp Dick Robinson; yet he made no determined movement with the main body of his army until 12 o'clock in the night of the 13th. From the morning of the 9th to the night of the 11th he waited to learn whether his enemy would cross the river; that being definitely known, he lost two days before taking any decisive action. Finally, on the night of the 13th, as stated, he started Crittenden's corps through Danville toward Crab Orchard. It was then too late; Bragg, with his column and all his train, had passed the point of interception. To this delay we are compelled to attribute the escape of the rebels from Kentucky.
LEWIS WALLACE, Major-General and President of Commission.
DONN PIATT, Lieutenant-Colonel, U.S. Volunteers, Judge-Advocate.
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, Washington, D C., May 29, 1863.
As the Commission has reported no charges against Maj. Gen. D.C. Buell nor recommended any further proceedings I respectfully recommend that the Commission be dissolved, and its officers, as well as General Buell, be ordered on other duty.
So much of the report as states that General Buell's march on Chattanooga was delayed by the repairs of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad and that General Buell's lines of supply were unnecessarily long is incorrect. General Buell had no other line of supply than this road till he reached Decatur and connected with Nashville. General Buell was not delayed an hour beyond what he himself deemed necessary to secure his supplies. Moreover, his lines of supply were those which he himself selected. Indeed there were no others from which to select.
The fault here, as elsewhere, was having too large supply trains and in not living more upon the country. He was frequently urged to subsist his troops in this manner. Whether or not he could have done so is not reported by the Commission.
H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief.
[Inclosure No. 8.]
The Commission called to investigate the operations of the Army of the Ohio in Kentucky and Tennessee has seen fit to include the march from Corinth toward Chattanooga of that army within its limit of investigation, although such inquiry is evidently not included in the letter of instructions from the War Department. The operations of the Army of the Ohio commenced with that march, and therefore it is considered properly the correct commencement.
When the rebels vacated Corinth in 1862, where they had accumulated large stores and an efficient force, there appeared no place upon <ar22_13> which they could rally in time to oppose successfully the army ruder Major-General Halleck in the attempt to open the Mississippi and possess ourselves of East Tennessee. To accomplish the latter purpose, General Buell, in command of what has since been known as the Army of the Ohio, was sent in the direction of Chattanooga, with instructions to seize that place and through it East Tennessee. It has been proved on the part of the Government and not denied by the defense that the rebels were not in force at that time in either place, and had General Buell pushed on he would have taken the more important strategic points almost without resistance. Why this was not done General Buell assures us, as I gather from the character of evidence introduced and the direction of the examination, was owing to a lack of supplies and the attempt to repair and keep open long lines of railway through a hostile population, which lines it seems were continually being cut by rebel cavalry and by the inhabitants, organized into guerrilla bands for that purpose.
This explanation or defense the Government claims is not satisfactory [boldface mine]. The lack of supplies cannot justify a delay of a month or six weeks for repairs when that time would have enabled the army to seize and occupy a country rich as was East Tennessee, and inhabited by a friendly, loyal population. Raids on lines of communication with outrages of a disloyal people would have ceased with the necessity that caused them. They were inaugurated and continued for the purpose of embarrassing the expedition into East Tennessee. They would have ended with its occupancy.
But the most extraordinary fact pressing in this connection upon the Commission is that the commander of the Army of the Ohio knew at the time that these lines would be useless for the lack of rolling stock, and although an attempt is made evidently to shield himself under the orders of Major-General Halleck, we find no earnest remonstrance that would justify this Commission in regarding such a defense as sufficient. The brief oral instructions claimed to have been received, followed by the yet briefer telegrams, evince a confidence in and a discretionary power given to Major-General Buell which should now bar any attempt at shifting the responsibility. The fact that he knew at the time the hopelessness and absurdity of these efforts is conclusive. If the army had supplies enough to justify the long delay for the purpose of reconstructing lines, which were cut almost as rapidly as they were connected, I hold that he had sufficient to seize and hold East Tennessee, and the better way to get Morgan and Forrest from his rear was to keep them busy at his front [boldface mine]. The defenseless state of Chattanooga and East Tennessee would have called for every available rebel soldier, and General Buell's regiment of engineers could have repaired the roads unmolested.
While Major-General Buell was thus engaged the enemy had not only time to strengthen their exposed points but to elaborate the invasion, which changed our operations from offensive to defensive, and eventually forced the army from Battle Creek back to its base at Louisville.
Some time in the first part of August General Bragg crossed the Tennessee at Chattanooga with about 30,000 men. At that time General Buell had his lines extended some 40 miles. The returns found at headquarters (Nashville) give us effective men present for duty 50,000 as the Army of the Ohio, and of these 47,500 were south of the Cumberland, and, the Government claims, could have been missed so as to have forced Bragg to a fight before he left Tennessee. <ar22_14>
The case then as claimed by the Government is this: General Buell, in command of a largely superior force of veteran soldiers, well disciplined and equipped, was forced to fall back in long, rapid marches, under great privations, suffering shameful disasters, and with every mark of defeat, from its advance on Battle Creek, in Tennessee, to its base of supplies on the Ohio River.
ARMY OF THE OHIO.
As to the efficient force under Major-General Buell at the time of the invasion I call the attention of the Commission to the testimony of Major Wright and Lieutenant-Colonel Dart, both of Major-General Buell's staff, and the returns found at headquarters in Nashville. From an examination of this evidence it will be found that of the Army of the Ohio General Buell had 47,500 men south of the Cumberland River at the time Bragg crossed the Tennessee. The returns and other evidence introduced by the Government make the force at least 10,000 men [more?]. But I prefer taking the testimony offered by the defense.
Bragg crossed the Tennessee with about 30,000 men of all arms. For evidence of this fact I refer in the first place to the testimony of the spy Pratt. He was in the employ of General Buell, and had excel lent opportunities of observation in the enemy's lines. He informs us that Bragg had of infantry from 22,000 to 24,000. No attempt is made to impeach this man. On the contrary, General Buell in his cross-examination makes him his own witness, and the Commission will find that in his statement he is fully sustained by circumstances and the testimony of other witnesses. Col. M. Shoemaker, a prisoner at the time, saw Bragg's forces cross the Cumberland on the 9th of September, and states that he had about 30,000 men. Colonel Wilder, the gallant commander at Munfordville, refused to surrender until he had seen the forces opposed to him, with liberty to report the number. He estimates Bragg's army at not over 36,000. Mr. G. R. Taylor, a Union citizen of Munfordsville, who was within the enemy's lines, gives 30,000 as the outside of Bragg's army. Mr. F. A. Smith learned from one of Bragg's staff at Munfordville that they had sixty regiments, confirming what the spy Pratt had sworn to. I have called attention here to evidence of actual observation. The fact is known to the witnesses of their own knowledge and is free of doubt or speculation. It will be observed that these witnesses are unknown to each other, widely separate, and yet concur in the same statement. To this we may add the Forsyth letter, one of Bragg's staff, introduced by General Buell through the testimony of General Rousseau, that states the entire army in Kentucky, including of course Kirby Smith's, to be 40,000 men, and we may now add General Bragg's report of his operations in Tennessee and Kentucky, which gives his army that crossed as not exceeding 30,000.
Circumstantial evidence comes in to sustain this already well-established fact. General Bragg, after capturing Munfordville, a naturally strong position, which, held by him, would have forced Buell to a fight at great odds or a surrender of Bowling Green and Nashville, suddenly evacuated and fell back to Bardstown. It will not do to say that this resulted from a lack of supplies. Bragg's stores, collected by Kirby Smith, were at Bardstown, and available with their possession of the country at Munfordville. He retreated because he saw the approach <ar22_15> of an army nearly double his own. The opinion of officers of intelligence and position in the Army of the Ohio are introduced by the Government, not for the purpose of proving the force under Bragg, but to show that something near his actual strength was known at the time, and it is somewhat remarkable that General Buell was ignorant of a fact patent to his army. General Thomas, for example, said that he could never make out the strength of Bragg's army above 45.000, and of this 10,000 were left to take care of the flank and rear and to threaten Nashville. This force he says was not within supporting distance had Bragg been compelled to fight between the Cumberland River and Munfordville. General Thomas, although introduced by the Govern-meat, is made General Buell's witness, and his statements are to be regarded as beyond dispute. General Rousseau, a witness summoned by the defense, says:
My impression is that the strength of General Bragg's army was overrated. I put Bragg at from 35,000 to 47,000 at Munfordville.
Major-General McCook states:
On Monday at Bowling Green I understood the enemy was at Glasgow, his force estimated at about 30,000 men. It was simply the talk among my brother generals.
I am satisfied by information received from various sources that Bragg's army led into Kentucky did not exceed 35,000 men.
Brigadier-General Steedman says:
The opinion is firmly fixed in my mind by frequent conversation with officers at various points on the march that the strength of the Confederate Army was in the neighborhood of 35,000.
From all sources of information Bragg's army was estimated at 36,000. There were rumors that he had 50,000 or 60,000. The most intelligent officers placed it at not exceeding 36,000.
Colonel Streight states:
From facts I could gather they (the rebels) had from 30,000 to 35,000. At Gallatin I learned from General Wood that he had placed them at about 33,000.
I could multiply these evidences of knowledge on the part of subordinate officers, but do not consider it necessary. True, other officers make the estimate greater, but they are men whose opportunities would not justify a positive opinion, such as Generals Granger and Boyle.
It is true that a man by the name of Rapier is introduced, who claims to have counted the forces under General Bragg, and makes them over 100,000. But his story is so improbable and contradictory that it cannot claim reasonable credence. He flies in fear from his dwelling on the approach of the rebels, and yet places himself in full view of their column on the road-side, when for two days from early in the morning until late at night, without rest and without refreshment, he calmly counts and notches upon a stick the regiments as they hurry past upon the double quick. He makes the force over 100,000 and marches them upon one road. He has no motive for this other than idle curiosity; and, again, Captain Jones produces certain tables, showing that prisoners representing one hundred and sixty regiments had been taken during Bragg's occupation of Kentucky. It would be quite impossible to ascertain through such testimony the number of Bragg's army. It is certainly worthless when brought forward to contradict that of witnesses who speak from positive knowledge. However, General Buell himself saves <ar22_16> us further doubt upon the subject. In his telegram from Louisville to General Halleck, shortly before moving out against the enemy, he states their force to be 60,000. This estimate is subsequently asserted by witnesses both on the part of the Government and the defense. General Buell has proven that of this Kirby Smith's, Stevenson's, and Marshall's forces make 30,000, leaving to Bragg the 30,000 with which he drove the Army of Ohio from North Alabama to Louisville.
The Government considers this a subject of careful investigation on the part of the Commission. That an army of veterans, numbering, with the divisions added from General Grant, some 65,000--that, as claimed by the defense, no defeat could dishearten and no marches in retreat could demoralize--that such an army should fall back through shameful disasters, with long fatiguing marches and great privation, bearing every mark of defeat, before half its numbers, makes a new page in our history of shame, and calls for explanation or severest punishment.
Bragg seems from the evidence to have anticipated that his crossing the Tennessee River would be disputed. Upon what his anticipation was based is difficult to determine. Long after his design, if not his plan, of invasion had been developed the Army of the Ohio was stationed along an extended line, devoted to guarding and repairing railways, in a manner that made it impossible to concentrate for the purpose of opposing his crossing. When, however, this crossing was effected the ablest military minds in the army, other than its commander, suggested a concentration where the rebels could be met as they passed from the Sequatchie Valley to the plains of Middle Tennessee.
Sparta or McMinnville is suggested, but especially Sparta, where they could have been fought with every prospect of success. That Bragg must pass by Sparta was reasonable to suppose at the time, and with the light before the Commission a necessity. Had he retained (Chattanooga as his base he could not have passed to the right or the left of our army in position without having his line of communication cut and his army turned upon a line of country where General Buell has been at some pains to prove an army could not subsist. If, on the other hand, he burdened himself with little transportation and only carried subsistence for eight or ten days, thereby cutting loose from his base, which proved to be the fact, his road lay through the Sequatchie Valley out by Sparta, and on the almost direct line to Bardstown, along which route his supplies had been provided. The position at Sparta is, we are assured, naturally a strong one, and offers such advantages that 15,000 might have been intrusted to its defense against the 30,000 of the enemy; but while all seems doubtful on the part of our army, with hesitation in its movements and uncertainty in its future, Bragg acts as if his way were assured to him and success the certain result of his efforts. History of military campaigns affords no parallel to this of an army throwing aside its transportation, paying no regard to its supplies, but cutting loose from its base, marching 200 miles in the face of and really victorious over an army double its size.
Why the Army of the Ohio was not massed at Sparta, or indeed at any other point in Tennessee, for the purpose of disputing the further progress of this confident enemy was owing, the defense assures us, to <ar22_17> the fact that while our lines were successfully cut our supplies would not justify extended operations. The defense is not tenable. The defense shows us that the Army of the Ohio had twenty days' rations; this, on half rations, made forty days, and in less than forty days the campaign in Kentucky and Tennessee was at an end. But in addition to this we learn that the line of railway from Nashville to McMinnville was in operation, and that from Louisville to Nashville could have been opened in two weeks, with the exception of that through the burnt tunnels, which left a wagon road of about 20 miles.
General Buell made no effort to mass his army and meet Bragg, but fell back to Nashville. It is believed on the part of the Government that a key to this extraordinary conduct may be found in the fact that, threatened as he was in front by Bragg and in rear by Kirby Smith, with his supplies limited and his communications cut, General Buell deemed it necessary to abandon both Tennessee and Kentucky and continue or rather renew the contest on the banks of the Ohio. He certainly did not fall back upon Nashville for the purpose of defending that place. Had he believed Nashville threatened from its front McMinnville or Sparta would have been the point to concentrate for its defense. But the Government has shown that this could not have been Bragg's intent, and that General Buell had every reason to know it at the time. Bragg's objective when he crossed at Chattanooga must have been Bowling Green. The possession of Bowling Green gave him Nashville, while at the same time he was marching in the direction of his supplies. General Buell by massing his forces at some point on the Cumberland, Lebanon for example, could have disputed the crossing of the river and at the same time have carried Nashville. Had Bragg attempted to avoid him by crossing farther up he would have been thrown upon a country so destitute of subsistence that his march must have proved disastrous.
As to General Buell's intention, however, we are not left in doubt. That he fell back to Nashville to gather up his supplies and then evacuate his acts prove. But in addition to this we have the testimony of Governor Andrew Johnson as to what General Buell actually said.
Before calling attention to this deposition it is well to consider, however, the significance of the defense in relation to it. Long before such a charge was ever dreamed of General Buell had strengthened his case in response to it. As if conscious of something that might come up, he has indicated the charge by a defense in advance. But Governor Johnson says positively that General Buell informed him that he considered Nashville of no importance in a military point of view, and it would have been evacuated three months before had his advice been followed. That he became alarmed evidently at the attitude of (Governor Johnson, and said subsequently to Generals Thomas and McCook that Nashville must be held at all hazard, is true; but he never changed his intention. And it will be observed that he takes and uses up Governor Johnson's opinion when he says that the place should be preserved on account of its political importance.
This evidence of Governor Johnson's is further sustained by a telegram from General Halleck, which was found lying loose and unrecorded at the Department Headquarters, General Buell informing me in open court at the time I presented it to him that he knew nothing of it, while «2 R R--VOL XVI»<ar22_18> the dispatch to which it is an answer cannot be found at all. The answer, however, carries the query that produced it. It reads:
WASHINGTON, September 7, 1862.
March where you please, provided you will find the enemy and fight him.
There was little intent of this sort at a time when, as Colonel Fry testifies, there was a sense of relief or rejoicing when it was found that Bragg had really crossed the Cumberland, from the fact, I suppose, that Bragg had not directly sought his enemy and fought him. Had not the telegram read that was sent, "Where shall I march?" And does such telegram indicate a settled purpose of any sort? But, again, on the 14th of September, two days before the surrender of Munfordville, we find him telegraphing to General Halleck, "It has been apparent to me for some time that on purely military grounds the force in Middle Tennessee should fall back on its base;" that is, Louisville. "The political effect of such a move, however, seemed to me so serious that I hesitated to execute it." He was hesitating then when Governor Johnson called and pressed this political view on him. This important dispatch closed with a prayer for instructions. Instructions for what? Had not his course been determined upon? Or was not the general seeking to shield his abandonment of these States under instructions from Washington?
He fell back upon Nashville for its defense, and yet left open the only road by which Nashville could be assailed. He left Nashville on the 7th to get between the enemy and Louisville and keep open his line of communication, yet he delays his march so as to permit an inferior force to get between him and Louisville, and, by seizing Munfordville, make the discomfiture of our army complete by compelling the surrender or evacuation of all the important posts in its rear. Had Bragg have seen fit to make a stand at Munfordville, Buell would have been forced to abandon Bowling Green and Nashville and steal off the best route he could find to the Ohio.
Bragg, with his inferior force and lack of supplies, dared not to remain in Munfordville, and fell back to Bardstown, and six days after General Buell writes to General Nelson at Louisville. This extraordinary letter is so important as proving the real intent of General Buell that I quote it at length. It must be remembered that Munfordville had surrendered, and the paroled officers had sought General Buell and informed him of the exact strength of Bragg's army as being but 36,000 strong and suffering terribly for lack of food, and yet he fled with his brave army of 50,000 from this force, while a like number awaited his coming at Louisville. Under these circumstances this is the advice he gives General Nelson:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE OHIO,
September 22, 1862.
I dispatched to you last evening from Horse Cave, but the courier did not leave until after I arrived here last night. I learn since, with tolerable certainty, that the enemy marched in force toward Elizabethtown. He may go rapidly through to attack Louisville, or if he thinks you too strong to be easily beaten he may go to Bardstown to effect a junction with Smith, or he may halt at Elizabethtown to complete the junction and fight me there. The latter I consider the more probable, considering I am so close at hand. If he marches on Louisville he will probably go by Shepherdsville, and it might be possible for him to reach there Thursday. In any event you <ar22_19> should be re-enforced to the last man without a moment's delay. My own movements depend so much on the movements of the enemy that I can hardly tell you what to do. 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. But, as I tell you, so much depends upon circumstances that I must leave this question to your discretion. I only offer you my suggestions in regard to it. This much do at any rate: Send a million of rations down the river, say opposite Brandenburg, to make them safe, to be subject to my order, and have a boat bridge made to be thrown rapidly across the mouth of the Salt River for my use, if I require it. Lose no time. Steamers should be opposite Salt River subject to my orders.
Bear in mind in these arrangements that the enemy will probably have a small cavalry force at the mouth of Salt River. All steamers used for the service referred to should be kept constantly under steam and ready to escape if threatened. Communicate with me daily. I shall probably continue on the Louisville pike at least as far as Elizabethtown. I shall be at Bacon Creek to-night or beyond there if the enemy should be determined to stand at Elizabethtown. Your advance on the Louisville pike, with the means of crossing Salt River, would undoubtedly have an important effect and perhaps give you an opportunity of acting an important part.
I received your dispatch in answer to mine from Dripping Spring.
D.C. BUELL, Major-General, Commanding.
Braxton Bragg defeated the design. He did not march on Louisville nor dare he risk an engagement with the superior Army of the Ohio. He marched off toward Bardstown, where his subsistence was accumulated, and thereby lost the conquest he set out to accomplish. General Buell marched into Louisville, incorporated into his army the raw recruits that had been gathered there, and set out vigorously in search of the enemy. His army from Tennessee, numbering over 45,000, was joined by an army of 48,000, while the enemy he went out to fight had not over 60,000 men. The doubt and hesitation which seemed to paralyze his movements on the retreat from North Alabama to Louisville vanished, and what the clear-headed, energetic general could do was done. Sending Sill's division to hold Kirby Smith in cheek near Frankfort, General Buell divided the Army of the Ohio on three different roads converging on Bardstown and set out in a vigorous pursuit of Bragg. Bragg retired from Bardstown to Perryville, closely pressed by Buell. At Perryville the rebel leader evidently expected to fall in with Kirby Smith. Kirby Smith was not there, and Bragg found it necessary to check the farther advance of our army until Kirby Smith could come to his assistance. Of this fact General Buell was evidently well acquainted. He warned his subordinate generals of the approaching struggle, and on the morning of the 8th we find the immense army in line of battle, prepared to advance upon the enemy.
And here he fell into the same state of doubt and confusion that marked the retreat from Nashville, and this continued until the rebel invaders were safe out of Kentucky. After getting his force into line by noon on the 8th why he delayed the attack until the 9th we have been unable to understand; nor has the Commission been favored with a reasonable explanation. It was evidently the policy to overwhelm Bragg before he could form his junction with Smith. This junction General Buell had feared from the first moment he began his retreat from Nashville. Here was the long-wished-for opportunity, and yet his army was to be kept in line, suffering for the water which the enemy held possession of, from noon of the 8th till morning of the 9th. What else could Bragg desire? The rebel general evidently misunderstood the design, for observing that, McCook, in command of the left wing, had broken his line and was moving in column to the water the soldiers <ar22_20> were suffering for, he suddenly threw the weight of half his army upon the one corps, drove it back a mile, killing 918 men and wounding some 5,000.
There are circumstances attending this brief but bloody engagement which baffle comprehension. -General Buell, who had approached Perryville conscious of the presence there of the enemy in force, retired to headquarters, 2½ miles in the rear of his left wing, and, surrounded by a large and well-organized staff, was ignorant of the struggle until too late to render aid, although he heard the furious cannonade that gave token of a combat about 2 o'clock, pronouncing it a waste of ammunition and demanding that it should stop, took no steps, either through the signal corps then in operation or by his staff, to investigate the cause, or, if necessary, to apply a remedy.
What a golden opportunity to annihilate the rebel army then presented itself we now learn. Had the right wing of our army been swung around, the rebel force would have been captured or destroyed. General Mitchell, without orders, marched his brigade through Perryville, and, coming in the rear of the rebels, then attacking McCook's corps, actually took prisoners and captured the ammunition train of the battery playing upon the left wing. All this while Gilbert's corps remained idle spectators of the unequal contest, and not only failed to tender re-enforcement's, but when such aid was solicited by subordinate officers and men positively refused.
At 4.30 General Buell learned of the battle and sent an aide to General Thomas ordering the forces under his command to re-enforce McCook. The aide lost two hours in the search of General Thomas, who was found at the front after night when the battle had ceased.
This blow seems to have paralyzed the Army of the Ohio. No further effort was made to find and attack the enemy from the 8th till the 12th. No advance was even ordered, for an army of 70,000 men that is confined in its maneuvers to a space of 10 miles cannot be said to advance. In the mean time the rebels retreated through Harrodsburg past our forces to Camp Dick Robinson. This was a third time a march of this kind was successful. A pursuit was then ordered that resulted in nothing.
After the fight before Perryville had our army been pushed through Danville to Camp Dick Robinson the retreat of Bragg and Smith would have been intercepted. The defense claims that other roads were open to them on which to escape. It is a singular fact that in the opinion of the defense a road is always open to the rebels, who need no transportation and are not dependent upon the ordinary laws of subsistence; while to us there seems to be but one road, and that is through disaster to our base.
The fact is the route through Camp Dick Robinson to Cumberland Gap was the only available one to Bragg. On this their supplies were collected, and from the nature of the country at Crab Orchard the pursuit would have to cease. Had Bragg have been forced back to the center of Kentucky, depending as he would have to on the country for supplies, the move must have been fatal to him. Already disheartened by the reception given them by the people of the State, had he been forced to open plunder of that people for support the effect in both a political and military point of view must have been disastrous. But as the road into Kentucky had been strangely left open to him, so was the road out of Kentucky made easy. <ar22_21>
May 23, 1863.
Respectfully referred to the Secretary of War by the request of Lieutenant-Colonel Platt.
J. HOLT, Judge. Advocate-General.
[Inclosure No. 4.]
BALTIMORE, MD., April 11, 1864.
General LORENZO THOMAS, Adjutant-General U.S. Army:
SIR: I have the honor to inclose herewith a copy of the communication which I addressed to the Commission which investigated my military operations in Kentucky and Tennessee. As I received no information in regard to the action taken on the original, or the disposition made of it, I request that this copy may be filed with the record. I inclose also a printed copy of the statement in review of the evidence which I prepared to submit to the Commission. I request that it also may be filed with the record.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D.C. BUELL, Major-General.
BURNET HOUSE:, Cincinnati, May 2, 1863.
To THE COMMISSION:
On examination I have found the record of the Commission to be deficient and inaccurate in several particulars of greater or less importance.
It will be remembered that at an early stage of the proceedings I proposed an examination of the record for the purpose of correcting such errors, but the Commission deemed it best to defer the examination until the investigation should be closed. I desire now to call attention to the most important of them.
While the first witness, Colonel Lytle, I think, was giving his evidence the Commission was cleared, at the motion of one of the members, for some purpose not stated at the time. After the Commission had been in secret session some time I was invited in, and the president directed or intimated to the judge-advocate to swear me to secrecy in regard to the proceedings of the Commission. I declined to be sworn, and the Commission was again cleared. The judge-advocate subsequently came out and informed me that it had been determined that the investigation should be continued without my presence. I objected to this decision, and the judge-advocate returned to the Commission, and I presume stated my objection. He subsequently returned to me again, and informed me that it had been concluded to admit me to the sessions of the Commission, but that it had been decided that I should not cross-examine witnesses, though I could introduce witnesses in the defense. I objected to this also. I returned to the Commission and stated in person my objections to its decisions. I was asked by the president whether I based my claim to be present an(l cross-examine witnesses on the privileges belonging to a party accused. I answered that undoubtedly the <ar22_22> pending investigation implied some sort of accusation or imputation against me, but that I did not think it necessary to say whether I considered myself in the light of a party accused or not; that for the present I based my claim upon the instructions of the Secretary of War under which they were acting, which stated that I would "be permitted to appear and produce and examine witnesses before the Commission."
Without coming to any final decision on these questions the Commission adjourned.
The following morning I submitted a written statement of what I considered to be my right with reference to these several points, and that statement was sustained by the Commission. It is proper that these facts should appear on the record, and I request that they may be placed there.
It will be remembered that some discussion took place at the time with reference to the rights which I claimed. It is impossible for me now to repeat the precise words in which I presented them. If there should be any question in regard to these several points then I desire to establish them by evidence, in order that the record may be corrected.
The other errors, as far as I have observed them, I have noted in my copy, and they can be pointed out more conveniently by referring to the record.
D.C. BUELL, Major-General.
BALTIMORE MD., April 11, 1864.
The above is a true copy of a communication submitted to the Commission which investigated my military operations in Kentucky and Tennessee. I request that it may be filed with the record, because I have not been informed what action was taken upon or what disposition was made of the original.
D.C. BUELL, Major-General.
[Sub-inclosure No. 2.]
Statement of Major-General Buell in review of the evidence before the Military Commission.
The investigations of this Commission have not gone further back than shortly after the evacuation of Corinth by the rebel army in May last, and it might perhaps be expected that this review of my command in Kentucky and Tennessee would not go beyond that period; but I have for more than a year remained silent under misrepresentations which have misled the public mind with reference to the administration of my command. I deem it proper, therefore, to sketch briefly the history of the army I recently commanded and of my connection with it for the period anterior to the time to which this investigation has extended. It is proper also as bearing on subjects that have been investigated, because many circumstances connected with it shaped or affected the subsequent operations under my command.
In the early part of November, 1861, the condition of affairs in Kentucky became the subject of the most anxious solicitude to the Government and throughout the country. One-third of the State was in the possession of the rebel forces, under whose protection a provisional government was inaugurated at Russellville. It was supposed that the Union element was confined for the most part to the old men; that <ar22_23> the mass of the young men were or the eve of joining the rebel cause, and that nothing but extraordinary exertion and judicious management could rescue the State from the vortex toward which the excitement of revolution was rapidly carrying her. This was certainly an unjust reflection on the loyalty of the State, but there is no doubt that the presence of a large rebel force rendered the occasion critical.
It was unexpectedly announced to me about the 9th of November that I was to be charged with this weighty responsibility. I received general instructions from the general-in-chief, Major-General McClellan, on the night of the 12th, and on the 15th of November I assumed command at Louisville of the new Department of the Ohio, embracing the States of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, that portion of Kentucky east of the Cumberland River, and the State of Tennessee.
The enemy, under the command of General Sidney Johnston, was in possession of Bowling Green, with, according to the best information, about 25,000 men, his advance guard extending to Munfordville. Including Hopkinsville and other points his force north of the Cumberland amounted probably to 35,000 men. He had a small force at Fort Henry, on the Tennessee River, and Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland: and he had railroad communication with Columbus, on the Mississippi, where he had a large force, and with Nashville and all points south and east. These facilities enabled him to concentrate at any point in a very short time all the force in the Confederacy not required for defense elsewhere. At that time he could hardly be said to be threatened in any quarter except in front of Washington. The coast expeditions had not been inaugurated, and our force in Missouri was not yet prepared to operate beyond the limits of that State. He had also a small force, not probably exceeding 2,500 men, under Humphrey Marshall, threatening the northeastern part of Kentucky through Pound Gap, and a considerable force, under General Zollicoffer, at Cumberland Gap and on the road north of it. These last had recently been compelled to fall back from an attempt to invade the central part of the State, but they were still in a position to renew the effort. In addition to this the population was in a state of great disquiet. Bands were constantly organizing to join the rebel ranks and intimidate the loyal people, and in some parts of the State the Union element scarcely dared to express itself.
Kentucky at this time was the point which offered to the enemy the best prospect of advantage. His intention to have possession of Louisville within It limited period was constantly avowed. The disloyal element confidently expected it, and if the Government force had not been speedily increased the attempt would no doubt have been made. As soon, however, as the re-enforcements began to arrive he commenced fortifying strongly at Bowling Green and other points.
In reality the effective Government force which I found in Kentucky consisted of two divisions, about 23,000 men, on the Cumberland Gap road and the Nashville road, and about 4,000 men on the Big Sandy: in the northeast part of the State; but there were besides some forty or more Kentucky regiments or fractions of regiments scattered over the State in recruiting districts that were more or less available for local service. Very many, in fact nearly all, of them were not yet mustered in; many without arms, equipments, or proper organization; some of t hem embracing various arms of service--artillery, cavalry, and infantry. In the whole force were included about eight field batteries and four regiments of cavalry. The latter were all without any suitable arms; some had pistols only and some muskets. There was not, I believe, a <ar22_24> carbine in the hands of the troops. In the infantry arms of two on three different calibers could frequently be found in the same regiment, and many of these were of foreign make, and unfit for service from various defects which rendered them unsafe or unreliable. The troops were but little instructed some of them not at all, and four or five general and perhaps as many staff officers embraced the whole military experience in the department. Officers having no rank whatever were acting as generals and staff officers under conditioned promises of appointment, and the supplies and equipment were in many respects deficient and defective. There was not transportation enough not already employed to serve 20,000 men two days' march from a depot or line of railroad.
The first thing to be done was to organize, arm, equip, and mobilize this heterogeneous mass, and this was both a difficult and tedious work. The Kentucky troops had to be collected from remote quarters and the fractions consolidated and organized; a work which the Military Board of the State had commenced before my arrival. Supplies of every kind had to be procured; a difficult matter, owing to the quantity suddenly required to supply the enormous force the Government was calling into service. In a word, pretty much everything necessary to make an army of soldiers had to be done. But little assistance could be obtained from abroad. Experienced staff officers could not be obtained. I expected two regular batteries from Missouri. About the 1st of January two companies of artillery, without batteries, making together about 70 men, with one officer, reported to me. The expectation of a regiment of regular cavalry resulted even worse than that. After my arrival at Nashville two companies reported, with about 70 men. New regiments began to report occasionally very soon after my arrival, and from the 26th of November to the 1st of January several regiments that had seen some service joined from Western Virginia. About the last of December some fourteen raw regiments were received from Ohio and Indiana. The force was afterward further increased from time to time. In the mean time the enemy had also received considerable accessions to his strength.
The organization of the troops into brigades and divisions was effected without delay as fast as they arrived. It was made a rule in the organization not to group the regiments by States, but to represent as many States as possible in each brigade; an arrangement which was attended with the happiest results in the discipline and tone of the army.
The instructions which I received on leaving Washington pressed upon me the importance of sending a column into East Tennessee. While the organization of my army and the preparation of transportation to enable it to move were going on I studied the subject very carefully, and also suggested a plan of campaign against Nashville, and expressed my views very fully to the general-in-chief with reference to both. I said that the campaign to East Tennessee would give occupation to 30,000 men--20,000 to enter the State, with a reserve of 10,000 on the line of communications; and I stated what means would be required to supply the force at such a distance--200 miles by wagon transportation, a good part of the way through a barren, mountainous region. For a campaign against Nashville I proposed to march rapidly against that city, passing to the left of Bowling Green through Glasgow and Gallatin, while a force from Missouri should ascend the Cumberland River under the protection of gunboats. This was essential, because to make the movement successful it would be necessary to <ar22_25> move very light and depend on receiving supplies by the Cumberland River after getting through. In organizing my troops I disposed them so that they could be directed upon either or both of these objects. By the last of December I had collected troops enough to organize four divisions--about 40,000 men. I had thrown one division forward to Munfordville, one to Bacon Creek, on the same road, one near Green River, on the New Haven turnpike, and had one at Lebanon. Many of the Kentucky troops were yet scattered and not mustered in, but in some cases two or more regiments had been brought together for local service, with as many regiments added from other States, as at Calhoun, where there were perhaps 6,000 men for the protection of the Green River country, and at Columbia perhaps 3,000. Other new regiments were rendezvousing at Bardstown for organization and preparation for service. As yet the most strenuous efforts had not succeeded in obtaining the necessary means of transportation for an advance.
About the middle of December Humphrey Marshall again invaded the State through Piketon with about 2,500 men, though his force was represented at 6,000 or 7,000. On the 17th I sent Colonel Garfield to take charge of a force of five regiments of infantry and about a regiment of cavalry and operate against him. Marshall was defeated in two sharp engagements on the Big Sandy, near Prestonburg, and by about the middle of February, was driven out of the State.
Simultaneously with the advance of Marshall into Northeastern Kentucky General Zollicoffer made his appearance on the Cumberland River near Somerset. - His force was represented at 12,000 men, but probably did not exceed 8,000. The force sent for that purpose and to observe his movements failed to prevent him from crossing. I had previously kept a regiment at Somerset, and ordered the erection of a small work, both to watch that route into the State and to prevent the shipment of coal to Nashville. Zollicoffer crossed at Mill Springs and intrenched himself on the north bank of the river. On the 27th of December I ordered General Thomas to march from Lebanon and attack him, in conjunction with the force already at Somerset, and at the same time sent two regiments of infantry and a battery of artillery to Jamestown to blockade the river, a steamer having already passed up with supplies for the enemy at Mill Springs.
Want of transportation delayed General Thomas' departure until the 1st of January. The weather had previously been tolerably good, but that very day the rainy season set in, and from that time until near the end of March the earth was thoroughly saturated and every stream was flooded. The season in that respect was remarkable. The difficulties of the march were so great that General Thomas only arrived at a position 12 miles from Mill Springs and about 75 miles from Lebanon on the 18th. The enemy came out and attacked him at daylight on the morning of the 19th. The result was a signal victory to our arms. The enemy was pursued to his intrenchments and during the night crossed the river. He lost a considerable number of men in killed, wounded, and prisoners, fourteen pieces of artillery, some 1,400 animals, and a large amount of other property and stores. General Zollicoffer was among the killed.
The battle of Mill Springs was at that time one of the most important that had occurred during the war, and the victory was, I believe, the first the Union arms achieved where the forces engaged were so large; but the lack of transportation and the condition of the roads rendered it impossible to follow it up. <ar22_26>
Owing to the delay in procuring sufficient transportation for the expedition to East Tennessee I had regarded the campaign against Nashville as the one which it would be necessary to enter upon first in order to save time. I was waiting for the arrangement of the necessary concert between the forces on the Mississippi and my own to commence it, when, owing to the illness of the general-in-chief, and at the request of the President, I wrote on the 3d of January to Major-General Halleck, who was in command in Missouri, and proposed substantially the same plan I had submitted to the general-in-chief, and substantially the same as that which afterwards resulted in the capture of Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, and Nashville. It contemplated an advance upon Nashville through Kentucky, a strong demonstration, which might be converted into a real attack, against Columbus, if the enemy should weaken that point to strengthen others that were threatened, and an advance of 20,000 men up the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers under the protection of gunboats. Such a force I deemed sufficient at that time, for the works at Forts Henry and Donelson had as yet no great strength and were but feebly armed and garrisoned. If the expeditions should be threatened by a superior force they were to unite, under the protection of the gunboats, and make themselves secure until released by my advance upon Nashville. At that time I expected that the expedition already commenced against the enemy at Mill Springs would be fully accomplished in ten days and General Thomas' troops in a position to be available for other service.
General Halleck replied to my proposition that he had not spare force enough to undertake it, and suggested the objection that the proposed operation was one upon outer lines, but he offered to make a demonstration from Paducah toward Columbus. These facts explain in part why I was not prepared to act as promptly as I could otherwise have done when General Halleck subsequently commenced his advance up the Tennessee River. He stated also that he hoped in a few weeks to be able to render me material assistance. A mere demonstration, not in sufficient force to take a decided part in the campaign, would have been of no avail, because either my advance must be rapid directly against Nashville by flanking Bowling Green--an essential condition of which would be that I should meet supplies transported up the Cumberland-.- r else it must be deliberate, and with heavy artillery, against Bowling Green, strengthened as that position was by fortifications on both sides of Barren River, and I had not then the means necessary for such an operation. Besides, I received about the same time communications from the President and the general-in-chief urging the expedition to East Tennessee as of primary importance. I therefore gave my attention to it, intending to start that expedition from Somerset with the troops that were moving against the enemy at Mill Springs. The preparation of transportation was urged forward, and a strong force was set to work to corduroy the road to render it practicable. Nevertheless it was barely possible to subsist the 10,000 men at Somerset. The experiment demonstrated the impracticability of sending an expedition to East Tennessee in such force as to insure success in the present condition of the roads, and on the 1st of February I so advised the general-in-chief in a letter, with full explanations, and expressed my purpose to proceed against Bowling Green.
I had had no communication with General Halleck since his reply to my letter of the 3d of January, but on the 30th I received a dispatch from him, saying, without giving particulars, that he had ordered an expedition against Fort Henry. The same day I had suggested to him <ar22_27> by letter a rapid gunboat expedition up the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers to destroy bridges over those streams. Although Forts Henry and Donelson had been considerably strengthened, I believed the gunboats could pass them without any great risk. On the 6th I ordered one brigade from the mouth of Green River and eight new regiments to re-enforce General Halleck's expedition. They did not, however, arrive until after the capture of that place, which occurred on the 6th, but took part in the subsequent operations against Fort Donelson.
General Halleck found great difficulty in the movement against Fort Donelson, although the distance from Fort Henry was only about 12 miles The enemy had greatly strengthened the works and increased the garrison. Protected as Bowling Green was by fortifications, the formidable river in front, and by the condition of the roads, I apprehended that my operations against that place could not be rapid enough to prevent the enemy from re-enforcing Fort Donelson so strongly as to endanger the success of General Halleck's operations, Upon consultation with him, therefore, I commenced on the 13th the movement of three divisions to re-enforce him by water, which would not only make the reduction of the place certain, but give force enough to operate against Nashville on that line, while the rest of my force was threatening Bowling Green in front. The advance of General Mitchel's division arrived opposite Bowling Green on the morning of the 14th, and found the bridge in flames and the enemy evacuating the place. That officer was directed to cross rapidly and throw a force forward toward Nashville, and the advance on that line was strengthened by a division which was to have gone to the Cumberland.
The operation of passing the river at Bowling Green in its swollen condition was difficult and tedious. The advanced division, General Mitchel's, did not get entirely over for ten days, notwithstanding the energy of that officer. While this was going on the troops in rear were employed in repairing the railroad. On the 24th the river was so high that small steamers were taken over the broken dams and reached Bowling Green with supplies and to assist in ferrying. About the same time a pontoon-bridge was laid, and although the overflow of the banks seriously interfered, yet the troops were able to pass with comparative rapidity.
In the mean time I was informed about the 17th of the surrender of Fort Donelson. I arrived at Bowling Green on the 20th, and on the 21st learned that the enemy had evacuated Clarksville and fallen back on Nashville, and that he had burned the bridges at Nashville. On the morning of the 22d the troops that had crossed the river at Bowling Green, two brigades and a half, started for Nashville, without wagons, very few having yet been got across. With about 1,000 men on cars, which the enemy had not succeeded in carrying off or destroying, I expected to reach within 9 miles of Nashville that night; but a heavy rain destroyed the road in advance of us and I did not reach the river opposite Nashville until the night of the 24th. The remainder of the troops arrived at the same time by marching. I had telegraphed General Halleck, and sent a courier through to Clarksville giving information of my movements, and requesting that the gunboats should proceed at once up the river. I apprended that they would meet one battery on the way, but they arrived without molestation on the night of the 24th, convoying the transports with the troops of General Nelson and General Crittenden, three brigades; and on the morning of the 25th the troops entered Nashville, and took position beyond the city toward Murfreesborough, the enemy having retired to that place. <ar22_28>
The river was out of its banks and the work of crossing was tedious. General Mitchel's division passed over on the 25th and 26th and the other divisions as rapidly as possible, but the whole had not crossed until about the 5th of March. General Thomas' division arrived by water on the 2d. The troops moved by forced marches, without bag gage, owing to the difficulty of getting their wagons over the streams. The trains did not, therefore, arrive for several days after. Those that could arrive more rapidly that way were transported by water up the Cumberland.
The strength of the enemy at Murfreesborough, after the evacuation of Nashville, was estimated at the time, and has since been stated by persons who had means of judging at about 30,000 men. This force included what was collected of the troops that were defeated at Mill Springs and the force that had been at Bowling Green and other points north of the Cumberland River, excepting what was captured at Fort Donelson. It commenced moving south from Murfreesborough in a very few days after my arrival at Nashville, and, as is well known, eventually formed a junction with the forces of General Beauregard at Corinth. A pursuit with the hope of overtaking it on its line of march would have been futile for that object even if the force had been up to commence it at once, for every stream was flooded and every bridge was destroyed as the enemy retired. The only alternative was to operate deliberately against some line or point which it was his object to defend, and the Memphis and Charleston Railroad presented such an object. It was the same for the forces that were operating up the Tennessee River, under the orders of Major-General Halleck, more particularly against the enemy's forces that by the recent operations had been compelled to evacuate the principal part of West Tennessee. It was necessary that our forces should act in concert against that object; better still that they should act under one direction; and the order of the War Department, which I received on the 12th of March, placing the whole force under General Halleck's command, was therefore eminently proper. On the 15th I commenced the movement toward the Tennessee River, in pursuance of the understanding which had voluntarily taken place between us before the orders of the War Department were received. General Halleck's dispatch of the 16th designated Savannah as the point where I was to form a junction with the force already assembling on the Tennessee River.
Before leaving [Nashville I sent Brig. Gen. G. W. Morgan to take command of a column I had left on the Cumberland Gap road, which was increased to a division by scattered regiments that remained in Kentucky. He was instructed to pursue with energy and discretion the object of taking Cumberland Gap, and for his further progress to be governed by circumstances in East Tennessee or to hold the enemy in check in that quarter if his force should prove insufficient to advance. The operations of this column have been investigated partially by the Commission, and I shall allude to them again in that connection. I also moved General Mitchel's division forward to Fayetteville, 26 miles from Huntsville, for the purpose of seizing the Memphis and Charleston road. The enemy withdrew his troops from that line, excepting small guards, and General Mitchel, on the 12th of April, five days after the battle of Shiloh, entered Huntsville. Various other dispositions and instructions were made with reference to the troops that were to occupy Middle Tennessee during my absence with the main army. The latter numbered about 37,000 men, the former about 18,000.
The march toward the Tennessee River on the 15th of March commenced <ar22_29> with one division, preceded by a rapid movement of cavalry, to get possession of the bridges as far as Columbia before the enemy could destroy them. It succeeded with all of the bridges excepting the one over Duck River at Columbia and one 4 miles north of that place. The work of preparing the means of crossing Duck River was urged forward by all possible means and was under the charge of zealous and energetic officers, but it was not completed until the 31st of March. The river, which, at first 40 feet deep, had been gradually receding, was watched day by day, and finally became fordable for cavalry the very day the bridges were completed. The army then moved forward steadily, the advance and myself reaching Savannah, about 90 miles from Columbia, on the evening of the 5th of April. The other divisions followed, with intervals of 6 miles from the head of one division to the head of the next.
The battle of Shiloh, which occurred on the 6th and 7th of April, has been justly considered one of the most remarkable of the war, in regard to the numbers engaged, the reverses of the first day, and the success of the second. The particulars, so far as my command was concerned, have been given in my official report of that battle, hereunto appended,(*) and it is not necessary to repeat them. I believe that report states in very moderate terms the part which my command took in the incidents of that field. It has been conceded that my army rescued our forces on the west bank of the Tennessee from certain destruction or capture, and the movement which preceded the battle was prompt and even rapid. I marched from Nashville not to rescue those forces, but to form a junction with them to operate against the enemy's position at Corinth; and it was desirable, and General Halleck's instructions required me, to effect the junction as promptly as possible. I was informed that I should find General Grant's army at Savannah, on the east side of the river, and I was surprised, and even concerned, when I heard during the march that it was on the west bank; but I was relieved from anxiety by the information that it was so protected by high water in the streams which interposed between it and the enemy, and nearly surrounded it, as to be perfectly secure.
It is not necessary to go into the particulars of the campaign against Corinth. My command formed the center in the advance on that place. By General Halleck's order one of my divisions--General Thomas'-served with General Grant's command in that advance, and did not again come under my supervision, or actually under my control, until about the last of July. The enemy's works were entered about daylight on the morning of the 30th of May, having been evacuated the previous night.
I come now to the period embraced in the investigations of the Commission, and proceed to a general review of the more material facts which have been developed in the evidence. I shall do this without pretending to offer at present a nice analysis of the testimony, or, as a general rule, even citing that which bears on the points which I claim to be established by it. No other course could well be pursued, because otherwise much time would be consumed in illustrating facts to which no importance might attach, as no specific charges or allegations have been submitted for trial. Such an analysis could only be made by me after knowing what points the Commission may give importance to. That I have no means of knowing now, a vast amount of evidence, oral and documentary, having been submitted without any explained <ar22_30> purpose, and which may be important or not, according to the interpretation or bearing given to it. Nor shall I remark upon any of the incidents of this investigation.
The subjects submitted to the Commission by the War Department are as follows:
First. In reference to General Buell suffering the State of Kentucky to be invaded by the rebel forces under General Bragg.
Second. In his failing to relieve Munfordville and suffering it to be captured.
Third. In reference to the battle of Perryville and General Buell's conduct during that battle and afterward suffering the rebel forces to escape from Kentucky without loss or capture.
Fourth. Such other matters touching the military operations aforesaid as in the judgment of the Commission shall be beneficial to the service.
On the 30th of May, after the evacuation of Corinth by the rebel forces, I received a communication from Major-General Halleck, informing me that his first object was to open the lines of railroad centering at that point from our rear and flanks, and directing me to put one of my divisions on that duty on the Memphis and Charleston road east of Corinth. I accordingly detached the division of General Wood on that service. The army of General Pope was following up the retiring enemy in the direction of Baldwyn. On the 4th of June 1 received instructions to reenforce General Pope, near Booneville, with two divisions, in anticipation of an attack from the enemy. I accompanied those divisions myself. The enemy, however, continued his retreat toward Okalona; and on the 9th I received intimation that a part of the force under my command would return to Tennessee, and that I could make my arrangements accordingly. At my request I was authorized to start the two divisions (Nelson's and Crittenden's) that were with me in that direction. General McCook's division, then at Corinth, was to remain there until relieved by General Thomas' division, which had also been sent to re-enforce General Pope. General Thomas' division originally formed part of my army, but had been detached from my command since the commencement of the advance upon Corinth. I was informed that it would probably rejoin me at a future day for the movement toward Tennessee.
I stopped at General Halleck's headquarters on my return from Booneville on the 10th, and visited them again on the 11th, and during those visits received his oral instructions with reference to the campaign I was to enter upon. Its object was the occupation of East Tennessee and certain important points on the railroad through that region of country; Chattanooga, Dalton, and Knoxville were points which it was considered important to occupy. I requested that I might be allowed to choose my own route, and at that interview General Halleck assented, though he had been in favor of moving directly on Chattanooga through North Alabama; but on the 12th I received a dispatch from him saying that, on further reflection, he deemed it best that the route he had suggested should be pursued. My own idea had been to strike a little farther north, through Middle Tennessee and McMinnville.
General Halleck desired that the movement should be made as promptly as possible, but it was a condition that the railroad from Corinth east should be repaired, and it was his idea that I should draw my supplies by that route. I did not concur in his views in regard to the advantages of that route, and I immediately gave orders for repairing the roads from Nashville through Tennessee and for procuring supplies in that way, but I placed the superintendence of the Memphis <ar22_31> and Charleston road under an energetic and experienced engineer, Brigadier-General Smith, put troops on the route, and gave orders for pushing the repairs as rapidly as possible. Subsequently I suggested the inexpediency of repairing the road. It was for 80 miles parallel with the enemy's front and peculiarly exposed to attack. This objection was realized in the end, and, in addition, it was found impossible to get stock enough on the road to make it of material use even while it was kept open, so that substantially we derived no advantage from it. It however occupied the troops until about the last of June in opening it and detained General Thomas' division a month longer in guarding it, so that that division did not reach Athens and Huntsville until the last of July.
As soon as my destination was pointed out to me instructions were given to my engineer officer, Captain Morton, to prepare the means of crossing the river at Florence, and similar instructions were given to General Mitchel, then commanding at Huntsville, for crossing a portion of my force at Decatur, so as to have the advantage of two roads and two crossings. A very efficient ferry was prepared at Florence and a very inefficient one at Decatur.
General McCook's division marched from Corinth on the 11th and reached Florence on the 15th of June. It was followed closely by Crittenden's division, which had come into the road at Iuka from Booneville. General Wood's was advanced to and beyond Tuscumbia to repair and guard the road, while General Nelson's took its place between Iuka and Tuscumbia. The few boats that were of light enough draught were employed in forwarding supplies by water to Florence, and in order to make up for the deficiency wagon trains were put on the road from Eastport to Iuka to connect with the single half-serviceable locomotive an(l the few cars that were available on the railroad. The boats were only able to carry from 30 to 40 tons over the shoals, and after a few trips could not run at all after which wagon trains were started on the northside of the river between Florence and Waterloo, nearly opposite Eastport. The ferry at Florence was ready for use on the 22d of June and the crossing was commenced, but rumors of a movement of the enemy toward Iuka suspended the forward movement from the opposite side until the 25th. Wagon trains were first put across and dispatched to Reynolds' Station, where they connected with the railroad trains from Nashville, to convey supplies over the gap in the road to Athens. General Mitchel had previously been instructed to have supplies for a certain number of days, until the trains should be established, to meet the troops on their arrival at Athens and Decatur. The divisions moved forward in close succession by marches of about 14 miles a day--Nelson's and Wood's as soon as they were relieved from the road by other troops. Wood's division finished crossing at Decatur on the 6th of July. The other three divisions, crossing at Florence, commenced arriving at Athens on the 27th of June. The troops halted at these points momentarily, and their trains were thrown into the gap on the railroad to push forward supplies.
The problem of advancing into East Tennessee was now fairly before me. The force which I brought along numbered between 24,000 and 25,000 effective men, and there were besides about 16,000 more scattered through Middle Tennessee and North Alabama, that I had left behind for service in that region when I marched to form the junction with General Grant's army on the Tennessee River in April. That force, mainly under the command of General Mitchel, has been generally awarded praise for the service it performed and very justly, yet not <ar22_32> more than 2,000 men ever appeared on the field of its operations to oppose it. It was not the numbers of the enemy that made its service difficult and creditable, but it was the large extent of country it occupied, the length of the lines it had to guard, and the difficulty of supplying it. Those lines had still to be held in a further advance and with no less force to make them secure, for the force which endangered them had been largely increased by the transfer of a large part of the enemy's cavalry to the north side of the Tennessee River after the evacuation of Corinth and by the organization of an additional force of guerrillas throughout Middle Tennessee and North Alabama and in the southwestern portion of Kentucky.
The limited force available for a further advance into the enemy's country was not, however, at the time of my arrival, the difficulty, for undoubtedly it was superior to the force which the enemy at that moment had in East Tennessee. Experience has shown what might have been deduced from reason, that if the movement could have been made without serious resistance while the enemy was yet inferior in force, it could have had no permanent result with no more troops than I had. The advance of 60,000 veteran rebel troops through a friendly population into Kentucky, where they undoubtedly met many friends, has been considered bold, and must have proved fatally disastrous to them but for their precipitate retreat. I know no reason why 25,000 or 30,000 men should be sufficient to advance with any greater prospect of a permanent advantage into an exhausted and comparatively barren country and in as close proximity to the whole power of the enemy. It was my error to believe at that time that the thing was practicable, and I did not represent it otherwise when I was assigned to the execution of it; but I must say also, in extenuation, that I did not anticipate that the enemy was to be left so unemployed at other points that he could devote his greatest effort against my enterprise. Besides, I regarded it as in the highest degree important and I supposed that no larger force could be spared for it.
However, at the time of my arrival with my army in North Alabama the immediate obstacle to the execution of the first step, the capture of Chattanooga, was that of supplies and the means of crossing the Tennessee River. The means to overcome these difficulties had to be created, for they did not exist. The lumber had to be sawed and a bridge built, and supplies for the troops had to be brought, for the country was destitute of them. The country between Decatur and Huntsville and extending up into Middle Tennessee is a cultivated and productive one; but as far north as the Tennessee line, and even including the southern tier of the counties of Tennessee, it is cultivated mainly in cotton. The planters never produce more than an ample supply of meat and corn for their own use and not always that. Farther north Tennessee produces considerable quantities of surplus provisions, but not enough to supply the demand farther south, as is shown by the fact that large quantities of produce from the Northwestern States have annually found a market at Nashville. The demand upon the surplus provisions of Tennessee had been increased by the rebellion, which cut off the supply from the Northwest, and by the armies, rebel and Union, which during the winter and spring of 1862 fed upon the country to a considerable extent. Noah Alabama particularly was left in a condition to need the necessaries of life, instead of affording subsistence for an army. East of Huntsville the spurs of the Cumberland Mountains run down nearly to the river, leaving only here and there a narrow valley or cove of arable land. The whole country is rough and almost <ar22_33> barren, producing no more than is necessary for the support of a poor and sparse population. East of Stevenson, as far as Chattanooga, it may be said to be destitute both of population and supplies. Beyond Chattanooga the productive region of East Tennessee commences; but during last summer it was exhausted of supplies, and the people themselves were, as they are now, notwithstanding the new crop they have since gathered, suffering for food. These facts go to the extent of rendering it impossible for my army to have advanced and depend on the resources of the country. The alternative of drawing its supplies from its principal base, the Ohio River, was imperative, and my wagon transportation was not sufficient to cover breaks in the railroads north of Huntsville and to advance beyond Bridgeport at the same time.
The first essential, therefore, was the opening of the railroads from Nashville; and to that end the force which General Mitchel had been ordered to put at that work was increased by engineer and other troops to the whole force that could be employed. Hired mechanics, under the military superintendent of railroads, an able and efficient man at such work, were also employed, and orders were given to push forward the repairs with all possible dispatch. But the work was much more formidable than had been supposed, and the work which I had expected to see completed in ten or fifteen days was not finished until the 31st of July on the Nashville and Decatur road. The Nashville and Chattanooga road was completed on the 12th of July; the trains started through on the 13th, and were stopped by the attack and surrender at Murfreesborough, by which and by subsequent successful attacks the completion of that road was delayed until the 28th of July.
In order to conceal the object, or at least the progress, of my campaign as much as possible it was desirable not to concentrate my force at a point which immediately threatened the enemy's position until I was prepared to move against him. This was also expedient from the necessity of placing the troops in positions where they could be most conveniently subsisted, and where they could give the necessary assistance in repairing the roads and in guarding them until they should be securely established, and protected at the more vulnerable points by stockades or other defenses which would enable a small force to maintain itself against a larger one. Prior to my arrival in North Alabama, however, General Mitchel had entertained serious apprehensions of an attack on the positions which he occupied in that region, particularly at Battle Creek and along the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, and repeated dispatches from him urged the pressing importance of re-enforcements to guard against the supposed danger. These reports of a probable attack at Battle Creek were repeated just after my arrival, and rendered it proper to increase the three at that point. McCook's and Crittenden's divisions were accordingly ordered there. They marched from Athens about the 4th and arrived at Battle Creek about the 14th of July. One brigade from the former was put at work on the road from Stevenson to Decherd. Nelson's division still remained at Athens, furnishing a strong working party on that road. Wood's division was stopped near Decatur, where it protected the ferry and the small garrison on the opposite side of the river, the idea not having been yet abandoned of making the Memphis and Chattanooga road west of that point available for supplying my troops and communicating with the forces about Corinth. With these dispositions, orders were given for establishing the regular road guards and for getting together <ar22_34> again the fragments of brigades and regiments previously there, which were found scattered in very great confusion; a brigade was organized to move from Murfreesborough and Tullahoma and occupy McMinnville; intelligent and energetic officers were put in charge of the road guards and road repairs; mills were set to work to get out lumber for a pontoon bridge; horses were ordered for the cavalry, which had been left in Middle Tennessee, and was in bad condition; and various other preparations ordered to enable the troops to move promptly and effectively as soon as the roads were completed so that supplies could be provided.
The first raid of Morgan into Kentucky took place early in July. He threatened Bowling Green and Munfordville about the 8th of July, defeated three companies of cavalry at Burkesville about the same time, and then went to Lebanon, where he destroyed the depot and hospital buildings. Thence he proceeded north through Lexington as far as Paris. He was engaged at Paris and other points during his expedition, but with no important result. He finally recrossed the Cumberland River at or near Mill Springs about the 23d of July and made his way to Knoxville.
The force which made this incursion has been said not to have exceeded 1,000 men, though at the time it was estimated as high as 2,500 or 3,000. It produced a good deal of alarm in the State, and many apprehended that the three would receive large accessions to its ranks and that the sympathizing part of the population would become troublesome, but those apprehensions were not realized. The injury was confined mainly to the inconvenience and suffering inflicted on individuals, and I have no doubt that the effect on the population was to strengthen its adhesion to the Union.
A good deal of censure was cast on the troops and the military officers in the State that Morgan should have escaped without capture or greater loss, but not with much justice, when the circumstances are considered. The objects to be aimed at by my army, after the occupation of Nashville in February, made it necessary to carry forward, for further operations, nearly the whole of the force at my disposal; and, indeed, the high stage of water in the Cumberland River afforded security at that time against such invasions, even if the rebel force had not left that region of country to concentrate for the struggle on the south side of the Tennessee. For these reasons, except the column which was operating against Cumberland Gap, not more than about 4,000 troops, mostly infantry, were left behind, and these were scattered over the principal part of the State, more as a police force and to guard railroads than to prevent invasion.
The probable result of our operations against Corinth developed to my mind the advantage the enemy could derive from the employment of a large cavalry force in Middle Tennessee and Kentucky, and on the 12th of May I advised the Secretary of War of the necessity of having at least five more cavalry regiments in those two States. I was answered that there was not at the time any cavalry to spare for that service, but that an additional force was to be raised, and that a part of it would be sent to me. 1%he came, though authority was given to the officer commanding in Kentucky to raise some cavalry regiments. These, however, were in no condition to render much service at the time of Morgan's first raid. Subsequent events have shown, what might have been evident enough without the experiment, that to prevent such incursions and carry on the operations in front which the progress of our arms had rendered necessary was physically impossible <ar22_35> with the force that was available. I had a front extending from Corinth to Cumberland Gap, through a hostile population, a distance of 300 miles; in fact it extended to Piketon, in the northeast corner of Kentucky, 100 miles farther, with lines of communication varying from 200 to 300 miles in depth. To press successfully against the rebel armies along the line of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad it had been necessary to denude the lines and the whole country :n my rear almost entirely of troops. The front from Battle Creek to Cumberland Gap it was not possible to occupy at all. Is it astonishing that 1,000 cavalry, familiar with every path, should be able to penetrate this vast extent of country and escape without capture?
Morgan had not yet disappeared from Kentucky, after his first inroad, when Forrest, with a large force, suddenly appeared at Murfreesborough on the 13th of July, surprised and captured the garrison, consisting of some 1,400 men--cavalry, artillery, and infantry--forming part of the force which was about to march from that place and Tullahoma to occupy McMinnville, and did serious damage to the railroad. Two other regiments which had been designed as a permanent garrison for Murfreesborough had been detached and sent into Kentucky on the occasion of Morgan's incursion. The consequence of this disaster was serious. The use of the railroad from Nashville, which had been completed the very day before and which I was depending on to throw supplies into Stevenson for a forward movement, was set back two weeks; the force of Forrest threatened Nashville itself and the whole line of railroad through Tennessee, and the occupation of McMinnville was delayed two weeks. It became necessary to move northward some of the troops in North Alabama to drive out the rebel force and guard against further embarrassment. Nelson's division was ordered by rapid marches to Murfreesborough, one brigade going by railroad through Nashville; two brigades of Wood's division were ordered from Decatur to Shelbyville by forced marches and subsequently to Decherd, to give greater security to Elk River Bridge and guard the important route from the mountains into North Alabama through Winchester. A little later the remaining brigade of Wood's division was ordered to Stevenson to erect defensive works for the depot which was to be established at that point for the movement against Chattanooga. The excitement caused by Morgan's raid into Kentucky had been so great and the call for troops so urgent that I apprehended I should be compelled to send a division there; but to do that was to put an advance into East Tennessee out of the question, and I determined to trust Kentucky to the few troops already there rather than abandon the object for which I had started.
The movement of General Nelson toward Nashville was delayed somewhat by injury to the Duck River Bridge by high water. He arrived at Murfreesborough on the 18th. The enemy left as he advanced, threw himself on the road between that place and Nashville, and captured a guard of about 80 men and destroyed two more bridges. The efforts of General Nelson to intercept him were unsuccessful. After throwing up some field works for a small force at Murfreesborough to protect the depot which it was necessary to establish there, General Nelson started on the 2d of August with two brigades and arrived at McMinnville on the 3d of August. One brigade remained at Murfreesborough, but on the arrival of the force which had been designated to occupy the place that brigade joined him at McMinnville.
The railroad from Nashville to Stevenson was completed on the 28th of July, that from Nashville to Decatur on the 31st, and preparations <ar22_36> commenced for an advance. Supplies were pushed forward to the depot at Stevenson, the pontoon bridge was gotten ready to be laid, the wagon trains which had been in use on the Decatur road were thrown across to Decherd, from which point they could be moved rapidly to Stevenson, and the troops, including General Thomas' division, which arrived at Athens and Huntsville about the 31st of July, were moved so as to be in convenient positions for the same object. In the mean time the enemy continued his operations with large bodies of cavalry against our long lines of communication through Tennessee and Kentucky, seconded in Tennessee by the organization of guerrilla bands, which swarmed in every part of the country. These latter were frequently encountered and defeated by detachments of our small cavalry force; but the former, moving in superior force and striking at vulnerable points, were generally successful, and finally on the 10th of August severed effectually our communications between Nashville and Louisville. In addition to the destruction of our lines of communication the effect of these operations and of the formidable preparations which were reported and believed to be in progress for the invasion of Middle Tennessee and the capture of Nashville was to intimidate our friends and embolden our enemies among the people, who not only would not bring in supplies voluntarily, but used every means to prevent us from finding them, so that nothing could be obtained from the country except by means of our own trains under the protection of strong escorts. On the 6th of August I gave orders for fortifying Nashville, to make it secure with a small garrison against any attack from cavalry.
On the 10th of August Morgan again made his appearance at Gallatin, surprised and captured the garrison, amounting to 150 infantry; then moved toward Nashville, destroying several bridges and capturing the guards; then toward Bowling Green, destroying the tunnel 7 miles north of Gallatin and several trestle-works and small bridges in that region. He was, however, handsomely repulsed in some instances by the small force opposed to him in these attacks. Simultaneously with this Forrest, with a large force, moved toward the Cumberland River, to be in a position to support Morgan or threaten Nashville if it should diminish its garrison, which consisted of about 2,000 men. Immediately after the occurrence of the first raid I determined to withdraw my cavalry as much as possible from its service in detachments against the bands of guerrillas which infested the roads and concentrate it in large bodies. By supporting them with infantry, equipped to move lightly, I hoped to be able to drive the enemy's heavy cavalry force from the lines. One of these commands I designed should operate from Murfreesborough and another from McMinnville. An experienced cavalry officer was assigned to the command of the former, with general instructions which allowed him a good deal of discretion. The zeal of this officer caused him to move in pursuit of the enemy with about 700 men before the whole of his command had joined. On hearing of this, and knowing that he was outnumbered by the enemy, I dispatched instructions for re-enforcing him with infantry from McMinnville if he could be reached and to restrain him until he had sufficient strength. The instructions did not, however, reach him, nor could his whereabouts be ascertained so as to re-enforce him. Hearing that Morgan had again appeared in the neighborhood of Gallatin he crossed the river at Hartsville in pursuit, engaged Morgan's force not far from that place about the middle of August, was defeated, and himself and some 150 of his men taken prisoners. The remainder made their escape, <ar22_37> in stragglers and small bodies, to Nashville. The strength of Morgan's band at this time was estimated at from 1,500 to 3,000.
Work was immediately commenced to repair again the road north of Nashville, but the continued presence of Morgan's force in that quarter made it impossible to carry it beyond Gallatin, except by withdrawing from the front so large a force as to preclude the idea of an advance, and I therefore determined to defer it until it could be protected by force which I hoped might come from Louisville of the new troops that were being called out. On the 16th of August I ordered Major-General Nelson to Kentucky to command, and sent with him three generals and some other officers of experience and two batteries of artillery. The position required an officer of his rank, and I had great confidence in his energy and ability.
While the enemy was producing this serious embarrassment by the operations of his large cavalry force, regular and irregular, on our long lines of communication, he was collecting a large army at various points in Tennessee from Chattanooga eastward. For a considerable time the main point of concentration was doubtful and the railroad facilities which the enemy possessed enabled him to concentrate speedily at any point. General Bragg arrived in person at Chattanooga on the 28th of July, by which time his whole force was within easy reach of that point, and from that time reports were current of his intention to assume the offensive. Sometimes they were quite positive that he was already crossing the river at Chattanooga, Kingston, and other points.
The lowest estimate that could be made of the force with which the enemy was prepared to advance, according to the best sources of information, was 60,000 men. That has, I think, been more than confirmed by the evidence before the Commission. Eye-witnesses estimated the force as high as 100,000. My dispatch of the 7th of August to the General-in-Chief, Major-General Halleck, gave information on this subject somewhat in detail and not in a discouraging tone; for I was continuing my preparation to advance, and was, in my own mind, disposed to make perhaps more than due: allowance for exaggeration in the formation that reached me. I was the more confident when, on the 10th of August, General Halleck authorized me to call on General Grant for two divisions if I should find it absolutely necessary. On the 12th I requested General Grant to send the divisions, intending to use one of them to protect my communications with Louisville and bring the other to the front' but their movements were at first involved in some uncertainty. At a later period I could get no information of them at all, and feared that General Grant had not been able to spare them, as he was himself threatened. One of them reached Murfreesborough on the 1st and the other Nashville about the 12th of September.
Very soon the information of the enemy's intention took such shape as to leave no doubt that he was about to invade Middle Tennessee with a superior force, and to make it proper to suspend the accumulation of supplies at Stevenson and establish a depot at Decherd, as being most suitable for that disposition of my troops which the designs of the enemy, as far as they could be divined, rendered proper to oppose him. The information pointed to Nashville as his principal aim, and justified the conclusion that at least he believed he had force enough to accomplish his object. It was ascertained that the number of my troops was quite accurately known to him. The route which he would take was altogether a matter of conjecture, to be founded on probabilities. McMinnville was mentioned very often, in the information which reached me, as the first point of attack, and they were so frequent that I deemed it proper <ar22_38> to strengthen the force in that quarter ; but the difficulty of crossing the mountain weakened the probability of an advance in that direction, while an advance into North Alabama was not only spoken of in connection with the enemy's plans, but offered many advantages. By crossing Walden's Ridge into the Sequatchie Valley he had a good, level road down that valley to Battle Creek, which was an indefensible position for us while he occupied the opposite side of the Tennessee River with his artillery. This would keep him in constant communication with his supplies at Chattanooga by means of the railroad on the opposite bank and the steamers which he had ; his large cavalry force operating against Nashville and on my lines of communication would compel me to employ at least 20,000 men to protect them even that far, leaving about 25,000 men to oppose his advance in front. If the column from Kingston should advance on Nashville I should be compelled to fall back in the face of even an inferior force for the protection of that place; and thus both Alabama and the principal part of Middle Tennessee could be reclaimed by the enemy without necessarily risking a battle. It is not too much to say that 50,000 men thus employed on this theater of operations, with the superior cavalry force which the enemy had, would be an overmatch for 60,000 operating upon lines of such depth in the midst of an unfriendly population.
Such were the inducements which an advance upon Battle Creek offered to the enemy, even supposing that I was entirely on the north side of the Cumberland ridge, say at Decherd; but in fact he was well aware that I still occupied North Alabama, with some 12,000 men at Battle Creek, while the rest of my force extended as far north and east as McMinnville. If he could reach Battle Creek before the force at that place should extricate itself by moving to the east it would have to go around by the way of Huntsville, and thus make a march of 120 miles to reach Decherd, the nearest point at which it could possibly form a junction with the forces north of the mountain, while he, by a march of 25 miles from Jasper, could reach the same point, and thus throw his whole force between my scattered troops. The position at Battle Creek is, for a force whose communications are on the north side of the mountain, one of the worst that can be imagined against an enemy coming from the Sequatchie Valley and holding the opposite bank of the Tennessee River. A spur of the Cumberland ridge comes to within 200 yards of the river; Battle Creek runs at the foot of this spur on the east side, emptying into the river near the point; the only position for troops is west of the spur; the road to Decherd a distance of 25 miles, passes around the point of this spur and along its side up Battle Creek in full view from the opposite side of the river and the creek; and there is no other road to the north side of the mountain practicable for loaded wagons short of Huntsville, distant 75 miles.
For the double purpose of guarding against an attack in this faulty position and of observing the movements and checking the advance of the enemy in the Sequatchie Valley I issued the instructions of the 19th of August to Major-General McCook, my purpose then being to attack the enemy in the Sequatchie Valley if possible or to give him battle at the first point on his route where I could concentrate my troops. Those orders required General McCook, upon the first intelligence of an advance of the enemy toward the Sequatchie Valley, to move promptly up the valley to the Anderson and Therman road with the two brigades of his division which were with him, to check the progress of the enemy and observe his movements. If pressed, he was to fall back on the Therman road deliberately until he should form a junction with <ar22_39> the main force coming from the side of McMinnville. The other division which was with him at Battle Creek, General Crittenden's, was also to move up the valley to the Tracy City and Altamont road. Which enters the valley 10 miles below the Therman road. He was to support General McCook in the valley, watching the old Nashville and Chattanooga stage road, which enters it from the Tennessee River at the point designated, and under like circumstances he was to fall back for a similar purpose on the Higginbottom road toward Tracy City and Altamonte, where the junction would be formed.
On the 20th I learned that the enemy was certainly crossing at Chattanooga and other points, and I immediately directed General McCook to execute the orders already described. On the same day I left Huntsville, visited the posts at Stevenson and Battle Creek, and the following day went to Decherd to direct the movements for the proposed junction. I deemed it of the highest importance, for political as well as military reasons, to maintain my position in North Alabama, if possible, in connection with those movements, for which the instructions of the 19th of August, given to General Rousseau, the officer in command in North Alabama, in anticipation of my advance upon Chattanooga, were equally applicable; but I reduced the force in that quarter somewhat, leaving a regiment in fortifications at Battle Creek, one at Stevenson, and two at Huntsville, besides the road guards and the force on the Nashville and Decatur line. The orders for the concentration at Altamont (see the instructions of the 23d of August to General Thomas) had reference to the plan of operations above referred to for opposing the movements of the enemy, except that the information rendered it apparently certain that the enemy would advance on the Therman road, and that Altamont was the point farthest to the front at which he could be met. On the first supposition I had expected to intercept him in the Sequatchie Valley.
In moving up the valley on the 20th General McCook received information from his spies and scouts which made him believe that the enemy would be in the Sequatchie Valley, and therefore in a position to intercept him before he could march to the Therman road, and he therefore returned down the valley to the Higginbottom road. That road was found to be impractible for his artillery, and he moved still nearer to Battle Creek, and put himself on the road which follows up Battle Creek and then crosses the mountain. I there sent him orders on the 23d to move to Pelham for the purpose of effecting the concentration at Altamont. The difficulties of the route prevented the concentration at the time appointed, and in the mean time information in regard to the movements of the enemy made it a matter of very great doubt whether it could be effected at that point at all before the enemy would anticipate it. The only alternative seemed to be to concentrate there or at Murfreesborough. I determined to attempt the former, and gave the orders accordingly. Those orders anticipated that, from the greater difficulties General McCook had to overcome, the troops moving from McMinnville under Major-General Thomas would reach Altamonte first. The latter was instructed to attack the enemy's advance, if it should have reached there, and hold his position, if' possible, until the other troops came up; and in the event of being unable to do that the various columns were instructed as to the roads by which they should fall back to form a junction in rear. General Thomas marched to Altamonte with a portion of his force at the time appointed. He found no enemy, and believing that he could not remain there for want of water, returned immediately to McMinnville. On his report and in consequence <ar22_40> of his action I stopped the movement of all except General McCook's division, which remained at Altamont in observation until the final concentration at Murfreesborough.
The information which I received still pointed clearly to the Therman road as the one by which the enemy would advance, if at all. It is the best road across the mountain, and has the advantage of branching at Altamont into no less than four roads, which descend the mountain to an arc 40 miles long, from McMinnville on one flank to Decherd on the other. Still the movements of the enemy were less rapid than was expected, and placed him in a position to use that road or those farther east. Many officers doubted that he meant to cross out of the Sequatchie Valley at all, but supposed that his movements were only intended as demonstrations to cover the advance of his columns into Kentucky from Knoxville.
In the mean time our supplies were diminishing rapidly, with no prospect of renewal until a sufficient force was detached to restore our broken communications. This pressing necessity left no time either to advance or to await the arrival of an enemy who could choose his time and route, with the certainty that the necessity of subsistence would very soon compel me to fall back, in whole or in part, whether there was an enemy in front or not, as long as his cavalry continued its operations in rear. The news from Kentucky was unsatisfactory. The rebel force under Kirby Smith was coming into the State, there was nothing but new levies to oppose him, and it was not known what number of them had been collected. So far from being able to open the communication between Nashville and Louisville and from Cumberland Gap to Lexington, it was not improbable that those places themselves might soon be seized by the rebel forces. Under these circumstances I determined to concentrate my army at Murfreesborough and set to work to open the railroad north of Nashville. That object had already been delayed too long upon the hope of having it done by a force from Louisville. Orders were accordingly given on the 30th of August to the various commands and guards, distributed over an area of about 150 by 100 miles of territory and some 300 miles of railroad, so as to concentrate on the 5th of September. The routes and marches were prescribed, and the movement was executed simultaneously and with perfect precision. With the exception of the force on the Decatur road, which was ordered to Nashville, the whole army, coming from various quarters and different distances on four roads, concentrated at Murfreesborough on the 5th of September, bringing with it whatever supplies could be collected from the country. A small remnant of provisions, for which there was insufficient transportation, was destroyed at Huntsville, and with that exception not a pound of supplies was lost by the movement. After it was ordered I learned that a considerable quantity of cotton, belonging to persons who had purchased it in the country, was at Athens, awaiting transportation. In order to give them an opportunity to remove it I delayed the evacuation of that place perhaps a day or so.
On the 1st of September I learned that a large rebel force, under General Kirby Smith, had actually appeared in Central Kentucky, having defeated and routed the force under General Nelson at Richmond. This effectually cut off the division at Cumberland Gap from its base. I was anxious to rescue that force, and the shortest route by which it could be done was to direct a column from McMinnville, by the way of Somerset, upon the rear of Kirby Smith's army. I supposed that that might be done and still keep a front about McMinnville toward <ar22_41> the army of General Bragg in the Sequatchie Valley, while the two divisions, one of which had arrived that day from Corinth, should open the communications between Nashville and Louisville. The forces at McMinnville and in that vicinity had not yet withdrawn from their position, and I accordingly suspended their movement, leaving its execution, however, to General Thomas, who was at McMinnville, and had the best opportunity to know any movements of the enemy in the Sequatchie Valley that would affect it. He answered, stating the advantages of a concentration at Murfreesborough, and advising me that he would march the following day, and so the concentration was executed as originally ordered.
I proceed now to notice certain theories and opinions that have been advanced concerning a plan of operations to oppose the movement of the rebel army across the mountain. As evidence they are of no more value than though they had been expressed in idle discussion around a camp-fire, and are only entitled to credit according as they are correct in their premises and rational in their conclusions. They were new to me until this investigation had made some progress, and it appears that one of them in particular was promulgated after the arrival of my army in Louisville, where it was used as a text for criticism by officers who have not appeared as friendly witnesses before this Commission.
Neither my own feelings nor any fact that I am aware of would justify me in assuming that General Thomas has entertained any other than the most friendly disposition toward me; but I was surprised at the opinion expressed by him before the Commission that Bragg's army might have been attacked at Sparta, and more astonished at the statement that he had urged upon me to concentrate at that place. My inquiries elicited the information that this proposition was communicated to me by telegraph on the 28th of August. At my request the dispatch was subsequently presented. It proved to have been written on the 22d instead of the 28th. It will be better understood after a brief re view of the circumstances that gave rise to it [boldface mine].
General Thomas took command at McMinnville on the 19th of August. About that time I received very positive intelligence that the rebel forces were crossing the Tennessee River at three points at least--about 10,000 at Kingston, at least 10,000 at Harrison, and a force variously estimated at from 40,000 to 60,000 at-Chattanooga. I telegraphed General Thomas and other officers on the 19th and 20th in regard to this information, and prepared them for the further movements the enemy might be expected to make. I told him to look to Sparta and Smithville, anticipating that the column from Kingston might advance on that route against McMinnville while we were threatened by a larger force elsewhere, or else toward Nashville to threaten our communications. This column he evidently kept in his mind, and it seemed to me that it was the only one he seriously regarded. The Chattanooga force proper, as he called it, he appeared either to doubt the existence of, or at least its purpose to cross the mountain. On the contrary I had reasons, which he probably did not know, to believe that it would advance by the Therman road. I therefore telegraphed General Thomas on the 22d of August as follows:
From McCook's information this morning it seems almost certain that Bragg is marching on McMinnville. His advance was at the top of Walden's Ridge last night. McCown is said to be crossing at Kingston and Withers at Harrison. Of course they will expect to unite. What sort of ground can we take by concentrating at McMinnville? How would it do at Altamont? Is the ground such as to give us the advantage of our artillery? How many days' rations have you? Are you provided with ammunition? Be ready to march in the morning. Answer immediately. <ar22_42>
And again as follows:
Of course you will instantly recall your absent troops. I will probably bring the Second Kentucky by rail to march from here. We will advance to attack in the Sequatchie Valley. I can hardly think the enemy will attempt the march across to McMinnville-at least not immediately. It appears to me that he wil1 rather endeavor to get into North Alabama, and perhaps strike across to Decherd. If we advance to Altamont we may thwart him in both and preserve our communications with Decherd and Nashville. If we concentrate at McMinnville we lose North Alabama and Decherd. What think you? The great difficulty is in moving in the mountains with our trains. Of course we must cut loose front everything but our ammunition trains and subsistence for about six days, most of it in haversacks.
His answer to the first is the dispatch dated the 22d, at McMinnville, referred to in his testimony, and is in these words:
By all means concentrate here. The enemy cannot reach Nashville by any other route across the mountains unless by Sparta. At Altamont I am positively informed the enemy would have an equal advantage with ourselves. Here we will have a most decided advantage; and 1,y being here, should he march by Sparta, we can meet him either there or at Allen's Ford, across Caney Fork. He is obliged to pass this place or Sparta to reach Nashville. I have six days' rations and plenty of ammunition. Did you get my dispatch of to-day? I cannot think that Bragg is coming here either by the Hill or Therman road. My reconnoitering party went into Dunlap yesterday.
His answer, of the same date, to the second is as follows:
We can get neither forage nor water at Altamont. It will be as difficult for us to march across the mountains as the enemy to come either to Altamont or this place. I would not advise concentrating here except for battle or for an advance into East Tennessee. I think our communications with Nashville will be better preserved by holding Decherd with a division, to enable us to concentrate either there, if threatened, or at this place. I have also information that Tupelo has been abandoned, and the most of the enemy at that place have been sent to Chattanooga. I therefore de not apprehend an attempt to regain North Alabama.
Upon further information that the enemy was advancing rapidly on the Therman road I answered him on the 23d as follows:
There is no possibility of our concentrating at McMinnville. We must concentrate in advance and assume the offensive or fall back at last to Murfreesborough. I deem the former the wisest, and we will act accordingly. I wish you therefore to move by a forced march to Altamount, there to form a junction with McCook, Crittenden, and Schoepf. McCook and Crittenden started for Tracy City front Jasper yesterday. I presume they are now at Tracy City, though possibly not. Schoepf will march at once. The junction must be formed to-morrow, and any division meeting the head of the enemy's column first must at last hold it in check until a larger force arrives.
One battery to a division will, I think, be ample in the mountains. McCook and Crittenden have with them six batteries. Leave all of yours, therefore; at least don't take more than two. It will be necessary to leave some force with them, at least two regiments, and they should be covered with breastworks to-night without fail.
I shall order Schoepf's batteries here to be similarly disposed of. There must be no delay or failure. The enemy's advance was at the top of Walden's Ridge, 10 miles from Chattanooga, night before last, and talked of being at McMinnville to-morrow. That is hardly possible, but they must be met at the earliest possible moment. Communicate with McCook to-night by a trusty scout. The distance is 32 miles. He may possibly not be at Tracy City. If not, look for him on the road to Battle Creek. If you think best you may send your artillery to this place, which will release the force that would be required to protect them there; though if they will be safe there is some advantage in having a force at McMinnville. Take no wagons except what will be necessary to carry rations and cooking utensils. I shall probably leave here with Sill's brigade to-morrow for Tracy City to join you. Communicate always in cipher by telegraph to this place and by courier through Tracy City. Schoepf sends a report that Hardee is advancing on the Dunlap road. Answer, so that I may know exactly what you do. Your staff officers make mistakes in the use of the cipher.
I apprehend that further comment on this subject is unnecessary. The dispatch in question was in answer to my own inquiry, and had reference to the relative merits of McMinnville and Altamont as battlegrounds. <ar22_43> It is certain that General Thomas has not consciously laid claim to an idea which did not possess him; but I apprehend that developed facts have been so mingled in his mind with impressions coincident in some particulars, though essentially different in the material points, that his memory has failed to draw the exact distinction between them. It is, however, due to him to say that the idea may have been in his mind that Bragg might cross the mountain to Sparta., and that he did not distinctly express it to me, imagining that I also entertained it myself.
But I do not propose to draw any advantage from the question whether or not a proposition was made to me to concentrate at Sparta. If it had been made, I should have judged it according to its merits with the lights before me at the time, and I do not doubt that I should have rejected it on grounds which I will state.
Besides the road which crosses from Jasper to Decherd and the one which ascends the valley and thence goes to Crossville there are no less than three roads by which the enemy could ascend the mountain to debouch from the Sequatchie Valley: First, the Therman road, which passes through or near Altamont, and then branches into at least four roads that descend the mountain into the plains of Middle Tennessee between Decherd and McMinnville, a distance of about 40 miles; second, a road which ascends the mountain at Dunlap and passes to McMinnville; third, a road which ascends the mountain a short distance below Pikeville and branches on the mountain, the left-hand branch going to McMinnville and the right hand forking again some 20 miles from McMinnville, one fork going to the latter place and the other to Sparta. There is also a road on the top of the mountain connecting all these roads. These geographical features would enable the enemy to arrive within 20 miles of McMinnville by not less than two roads before determining whether he would move on that point or Sparta, and by covering his movements with his superior cavalry force he could easily arrive within 6 or 8 miles of either of those points before his destination could be known at all, and it is 22 miles at least from McMinnville to Sparta. If I had been at Sparta he could have been at McMinnville and in possession of my line of supplies before I could have known it. If I awaited at McMinnville the development of his plan he could have gone to Sparta and pursued his course as he did. If I had divided my force between McMinnville and Sparta, to anticipate him at both points, he could have advanced with reasonable probability of success against either of them; and if the fractions should have been so strongly fortified as not to warrant an attack, he could have avoided them, thrown himself between the two, and thus have forced them to retreat separately, or attempt the offensive against a concentrated force. General Thomas' own experience at McMinnville in obtaining information on which success would have depended confirms my answer to one phase of this proposition and is applicable to all of them.
On the 31st he reports:
The general impression is that the enemy is advancing, but I have yet to see the person who has seen any of the Chattanooga forces proper.
And on the 2d of September, in reply to the discretional instructions heretofore alluded to, he says:
I will start to-morrow. I have heard again that the enemy intends advancing on this place by The Therman, Dunlap, and Sparta roads. By concentrating at Murfreesborough we shall be within striking distance of this place. By convenient roads our main force can be thrown upon the enemy between this and Decherd or Hillsborough, overcome him, and drive him toward Sparta, his longest line of retreat. A <ar22_44> large force of cavalry and light infantry can be pushed across the mountains by the Dunlap and Therman roads, attack him in rear, and completely rout his whole force. I have studied the roads, and am now convinced that this is our best plan of attack.
It was afterward ascertained that the rebel forces under General Bragg actually commenced to arrive at Sparta the day after the date of this dispatch.
The reasons which made the concentration at Murfreesborough necessary and proper may now be briefly summed up:
It had been supposed that for the lack of supplies on the route the enemy would make his march across the mountains rapidly. Several days had already elapsed since, from the best information that could be obtained of his movements, it was supposed he would have arrived within striking distance, and he was still not nearer than the Sequatchie Valley.
My supplies had been cut off for twenty days, and the expectation that the force in Kentucky would reopen the railroad, on which they were dependent, was frustrated by the invasion of the State by Kirby Smith, which, as the result proved, gave more than ample occupation to the raw troops that were there. I did not even know what force of that kind could be expected, for its organization had only very recently been commenced and the State had recently been organized into a separate department not under my command. I was already reduced to about ten days' supply--a little more than that of breadstuff and some minor articles and a good deal less of meat and other articles scarcely less essential. The quantity was increased at Nashville a little by the collection of flour and meat in the country. General Thomas reported on the 28th from McMinnville that no provisions could be procured in that region, and that for forage he could get fodder, but no corn; and his statement in regard to the scarcity in the country is confirmed by testimony before the Commission. Such straits did not admit of any further delay to await an enemy who could choose his own time for the meeting and who had already been eight days behind the time at which I had reason to expect him. An immediate concentration at a point nearer the source of supply, from which I was separated 260 miles, was clearly necessary. It promised the only means of opening the railroad and still holding Nashville, the possession of which was believed to be the enemy's first object.
But the concentration at Murfreesborough was expedient on other grounds. I could not have concentrated at any point as far in advance as McMinnville more than about 31,000 men, and that force was not sufficient to attack Bragg's army united at any point. If I could have taken any position in which I could force or induce him to attack without delay it would have been well, but such was not the case. In this uncertainty as to the time he might delay and as to the route on which he would strike in force, while perhaps threatening by other routes, screened as he was by a range of mountains, with our communications with Louisville completely severed, and our supplies already reduced to a narrow margin, perhaps to be entirely exhausted when the advance of the enemy would make rapid operations necessary, it was plainly necessary to concentrate at some point nearer our base, by which means my effective force would be increased so as to be sufficient to meet the enemy whenever he should come and still have enough to open our communications.
The plan of operations presented in the evidence of another witness of rank before the Commission was to concentrate the army at Murfreesborough as soon as the rebel army commenced its advance from <ar22_45> Chattanooga. This, except as to the time of the concentration, is the plan that was actually executed. The earlier execution of it would not have affected the result, but the distribution of my small cavalry force to guard the various passes across the mountains, from 40 to 60 miles distant---which was one feature of the plan--could only have resulted in the capture or dispersion of the whole of them whenever the enemy chose to effect it. As for the idea of first concentrating at Murfreesborough and then advancing to attack the enemy at Sparta, it must suppose that the enemy would wait seven or eight days at that place to be attacked, which he did not do. I do not, therefore, see any advantage in this variation of the plan that was adopted; and if it had been submitted to my judgment I should have rejected it.
Two witnesses of high rank, in answer to a question as to points north of the Cumberland River at which Bragg's army "could have been attacked with a prospect of success," expressed the opinion that it might have been done at Glasgow. This opinion was undoubtedly expressed without reflection, unless it referred to the advantage which the locality of Glasgow would have afforded for the attacking army in case of a collision there, and not to the possibility of intercepting Bragg's army at that point; for the testimony of these two witnesses shows and the map shows that until Bragg's army crossed the Cumberland River and took up its march northward it was impossible to know from its movements whether its plan was to go into Kentucky or turn to the west against Nashville; that it is 50 miles from the Cumberland River where Bragg crossed it to Glasgow, while it is 95 miles from Nashville, where my army was, to Glasgow; and from these facts the witnesses admit that it was not possible to have intercepted Bragg's army at that point unless he had tarried there. In point of fact the evidence shows that on the 7th of September I learned that a portion of Bragg's army had crossed the Cumberland River at Carthage and was moving northward, probably toward Bowling Green, where I had caused some supplies to be accumulated by the way of Green River, and that I immediately ordered a portion of my army to march for that point; that on the 10th I learned, what was before unknown, if not improbable, that another portion bad crossed at Gainesborough, and had probably marched in the same direction, and that I ordered other divisions, making six, for the same point, accompanying them myself; that this movement was made rapidly, the last of the six divisions arriving at Bowling Green Monday morning, the 15th, which was the time at which the rear of Bragg's army passed Glasgow. Thus, after gaining intelligence of his passage over the Cumberland River, I moved my army 65 miles while he was moving 50, with the advantage of two roads, and I was still 30 miles in rear of him.
The same process of demonstration will show that even if I had known he was going by Munfordville, and if there had been nothing to delay me an hour at Bowling Green, I could not have intercepted him at Munfordville, because I had 105 miles to march, while he had but 68, the distance from Glasgow to Munfordville being 18 miles. In fact his advance actually attacked the latter place the day before my sixth division reached Bowling Green. But, furthermore, it was not yet to be assumed that his destination was Central Kentucky; on the contrary, Glasgow was an important position for him, It effectually commanded my line of communication with my base of supplies, while he had two lines open---one with the East Tennessee Railroad, which was his permanent base, and also with the valley of the Cumberland, and <ar22_46> the other with Central Kentucky, where the occupation of Kirby Smith had established for him a second base.
Munfordville did not offer the same advantages, for, although a much stronger natural position, yet in taking it he gave up his communications with Tennessee, and rendered those with Kirby Smith less secure against a force operating from the Ohio River, supposing Louisville to be secure to us. At Munfordville his communication with Kirby Smith must have been along the Louisville turnpike and thence across to Bardstown, while at Glasgow it would be along the old Lexington road through Summersville and Lebanon, or through Columbia and Lebanon or Liberty, by all of which roads I have moved large bodies of troops. Besides, at Munfordville he would have been in a much less productive region than at Glasgow. These considerations, taken in connection with the risk he would run by advancing farther into Kentucky, made it at least reasonably doubtful whether he would not halt at Glasgow. The fact that his purpose was to penetrate still farther into Kentucky and that he bad designs on Louisville was only known when it was ascertained that he had left Glasgow and through correspondence which was captured subsequent to that time. But supposing it had been reasonably certain that Bardstown was his destination, it was not to be assumed that he would go by the way of Munfordville; on the contrary, it is undoubtedly true that but for the bait which was offered to him in the garrison at that place he would not have gone there at all, for the simple reason that without any object whatever it would have taken him off the direct and excellent turnpike from Glasgow to Bardstown and thrown him on another road not so good and 12 miles longer. This brings me naturally to the question of the relief of Munfordville.
The foregoing explanations show that I could not have reached Munfordville in advance of the rebel force even if it had been desirable to leave it between me and Nashville. The first information received at Bowling Green that Munfordville was attacked or threatened was on the 14th, and the report was that it had been captured, though that was not certain. On the same day the last of five of my divisions arrived at Bowling Green, and on the same day, as was afterward ascertained, the main body of the rebel army marched from Glasgow, 18 miles from Munfordville, with the advantage of two roads. If I had moved forward at once I could not have reached Munfordville in less than four days, for, considering that I must march on one road, it would, for the rear of my column, have been equivalent in time to a march of 60 miles; and in the presence of an enemy whose position was not known the march could not well have been made more rapidly. As for re-enforcing the garrison by the first of my divisions which arrived at Bowling Green, even if the necessity of it could have been known it would have been out of the question, for those divisions would have been thrown into the midst of the whole rebel force; a folly which it appears the enemy actually anticipated, and prepared to reap the fruit of.
But I propose to inquire also what necessity there was for such relief and on what grounds it could reasonably have been expected that I would furnish it. It is apparent from a study of the map, and the evidence shows, that the possession of Munfordville was not essential to Bragg's army in a strategical point of view. At least three other preferable routes were open to him, whether his object was to attack Louisville directly or to advance into Central Kentucky for other purposes First, the shorter and better road from Glasgow to Bardstown and thence on to Louisville; second, the old Lexington road to Lebanon; <ar22_47> third, the road through Columbia, Liberty, and Danville. He would not in any event take the road to the mouth of Salt River; because it threw him more away from the base of supplies which Kirby Smith's presence had established in Central Kentucky, because it made his junction with Kirby Smith more difficult and uncertain, and because it placed him in the angle between the Ohio and Salt Rivers, neither of which could he cross without ferrying or bridging. The same facts made the possession of Munfordville a matter of no strategical value to us. Its importance, therefore, was determined by the value of the bridge, which alone it was intended to protect as a link in the chain of communication between the troops farther south and Louisville, their base of supplies. The bridge, if destroyed, could be rebuilt in a week--was actually rebuilt in about ten days; and as the principal part of the force which drew supplies across the bridge was coming north, its preservation was not of immediate importance. I have been disposed to say, therefore, that the determination to hold the bridge was an error of judgment; but I will not now assert that it was so, seeing that doubt existed as to the probability of Bragg's coming that way and that the commander considered himself able to hold his position against the force which at first threatened him. If it was evident that Bragg would come against the place with his whole or any considerable part of his army, then it is certain that to attempt to hold it was an error, for no position could be less tenable for a small force against a very large one. It must be apparent that the possession of Munfordville was of no importance that would justify the jeopardizing any considerable force to hold it, and the evidence shows that for two days and a half after the first attack the way was open for the withdrawal of the garrison. Its relief from the direction of Bowling Green was therefore unnecessary, if it had been possible. Let us see now how far the place was considered to be in jeopardy and on what ground it was reasonable to expect relief front Bowling Green.
It appears that on Saturday, the 13th, the commanding officer learned that a force, represented to be 7,000 strong, was advancing upon his post from the direction of Glasgow; that he reported the fact to his superiors at Louisville, saying:
If I had one more good regiment and a few more pieces of artillery that force could not take me. As it is I shall do my best to prevent it. Can you send me re-enforcements to-night? I shall send train to Salt River for them.
To which he received in reply, "I send you what you ask." The same day he also reports, "Some indications that the main rebel force are going toward Lebanon," and that his intrenchments would be finished that night. These reports were certainly not alarming, and did not indicate that he expected or required assistance from Bowling Green, however desirous he might be to see a force coming from that quarter. On the same day he sent scouts to Bowling Green with verbal messages. These scouts could not have carried word that he was in jeopardy and required help from there, for his superiors had given him all he thought necessary at that time and as yet no force had appeared in front of him. I now remember that the scout Miller came to me, but so little was there in his communications to me different from the information I derived from unauthorized persons, that I had forgotten, nor do I now remember, that he came as a messenger. He knew less about the enemy and scarcely if any more about the garrison than others, especially one who came from the vicinity of the fort the morning of the attack and reported quite confidently that the garrison had surrendered. <ar22_48> Those persons reported first to the commanding officer at Bowling Green, and he had no better recollection of the special object and importance of their mission than myself Nor could it at any rate have altered the case. I must of necessity have operated against the rebel army which was already virtually between me and Munfordville. There was no communication between me and the commander in Kentucky, and, knowing that the rebel army was between me and Munfordville, he had no reasonable assurance that I could succor that place. It was not under my command, I really knew nothing of its condition, and I could not suppose that it would be needlessly exposed to so large a force.
All the information I had led to the supposition that Bragg's army was probably yet at Glasgow, and on Tuesday afternoon, the 16th, I marched with six divisions (one being still in the rear), in three columns, to attack the enemy if he should be at that place. The facts shown in evidence that the last of those six divisions had only arrived after a march of 15 miles the day before, with very rapid and fatiguing ones on previous days; that some time was necessarily required to make arrangements with reference to the garrison and trains that were to remain; that supplies had to be distributed, and that the supply of provisions was imperfect, making it necessary to collect breadstuffs from the country to supply the troops, will amply justify this short delay. The troops in three columns had to start upon the main turnpike road from Bowling Green to Munfordville, but successively turned upon roads which converge on Glasgow. The cavalry thrown in advance reported on Tuesday night that the enemy had left Glasgow, and the following day my army marched to Cave City and Horse Well, within 10 miles of Munfordville. During that day I heard of the surrender of Munfordville, and on the night of that day the commanding officer of the post reported to me at Prewitt's Knob with his troops on parole.
The position at Munfordville is one of great natural strength for a large force I understand that it was the subject of dissatisfaction that the rebel army was not attacked in that position; but I have never heard that the feeling was concurred in by the officers of higher rank, several of whom, distinguished before and since for gallant conduct, have testified that such an attack would not have been judicious under the circumstances. The advantage of position in favor of the enemy must have made the result at least doubtful; and even a very serious check, in the exhausted condition of our supplies, would have been disastrous. I could have avoided the enemy by passing to either side of him, but I deemed it all-important to force him farther into the State, instead of allowing him to fall back upon Bowling Green and Nashville, and I matured a plan and determined to attack there rather than allow him that course. I believed that the condition of his supplies would compel him to abandon his position; and I was very well satisfied when that proved to be the case. He commenced to withdraw on the night of the 20th, and my advance drove out his rear guard, after some skirmishing, on the 21st. The march was continued, and skirmishing was kept up with his rear guard until he turned off toward Bardstown.
Many considerations rendered it proper to direct my march on Louisville instead of following his route. The want of supplies made it necessary, many of the troops being out by the time they reached the mouth of Salt River. This reason would have been insuperable if, as was not improbable, the enemy should concentrate his force and throw <ar22_49> himself rapidly between me and Louisville. The junction of Bragg and Kirby Smith was not only possible but probable. It would have made their combined force greatly superior to me in strength, and such a disposition would have placed him between two inferior forces, which, from their positions, could not have acted in concert against him, and which, therefore, were liable to be beaten in detail. One of these forces, that occupying Louisville, was composed of perfectly raw, undisciplined, and in a measure unarmed troops, with but very little artillery and very few officers of rank or experience. It could not have withstood the veteran rebel army two hours, and the consequence of its defeat and the capture of Louisville would have been disastrous in the extreme. That force, however, mixed judiciously with my old troops, could be made to render good service, as the result proved.
These considerations determined me to concentrate rapidly at Louisville. The last division reached that point on the 29th of September. On the same day the incorporation of the new troops with the old, and other preparations which a long and fatiguing march of the old troops and the inefficiency of the new rendered necessary, were completed, and on the morning of the 30th the consolidated army was prepared to march against the rebel forces which occupied the principal part of Kentucky. The campaign which ensued, and which resulted in the expulsion of the enemy from the State, has been sketched in my official report of the 4th of November, herewith appended.(*) As the as the facts are concerned the investigations of this Commission have shown, perhaps, that I did not make allowance enough for the diminution of my force by absentees and stragglers from the new regiments, and that therefore I probably overestimated my own strength at and after the battle of Perryville, if I did not also underestimate the combined strength of the enemy. These investigations also give reason to believe that the aggregate loss of the enemy during the campaign was greater than I represented, and they have developed additional interesting incidents; but they point to no statement which I could now desire to alter. I shall limit myself, therefore, to the elucidation of certain particulars in which the wisdom of my acts would seem to have been called into question by the course of the investigation.
The battle of Perryville, although but a partial and by no means as fruitful a contest as I had expected, was not without important and gratifying results. I shall notice very briefly the causes which prevented it from being more so.
When, on the 5th of October, Bragg's army proper retired from Bardstown it was uncertain where it would unite with the force of Kirby Smith, though Danville was the point where I most expected to find them, and my corps were accordingly directed on Perryville and Harrodsburg. When, on the night of the 6th, I ascertained that Kirby Smith had crossed the Kentucky River at Salvisa, Harrodsburg or Perryville became the most probable point of concentration? and the destination of the corps which were marching on Harrodsburg had to be changed to Perryville. Information during the 7th that the enemy were turning toward Harrodsburg inclined me to suppose, though not confidently, that Harrodsburg, and not Perryville, would be the point. In the movement on that place the center corps, with which I was, marched by a shorter and better road, and therefore arrived within about 3 miles of Perryville on the evening of the 7th, while the other «4 R R--VOL XVI» <ar22_50> corps were expected to be still about 7 miles in rear, on their respective roads to the right and left.
Finding a sufficient force at Perryville on the evening of the 7th to stop our progress without a general engagement of the corps it was presumed that the enemy had determined to make his stand there, and the following instructions were sent to General McCook:
OCTOBER 7--8 p.m.
GENERAL The Third Corps (Gilbert's) is within 3 ½ miles of Perryville, the cavalry being nearer, probably within 2 ½ miles. From all the information gained to-day it seems probable that the enemy will resist our advance into the town. They are said to have a strong force in and near the place. There is no water here, and we will get but little, if any, until we get it at Perryville. We expect to attack and carry the place to-morrow. March at 3 o'clock precisely to-morrow morning without fail, and move up till the head of your column gets to within about 3 or 3 ½ miles of Perryville; that is to say, until you are abreast of the Third Corps. The left of this corps rests near Bottom's place. Perhaps Captain Williams, Jackson's cavalry, will know where it is. From the point of the road Gilbert is now on across direct to your road is about 2 ½ or 3 miles. When the head of your column gets to the vicinity designated (3 or 3½ miles from town) halt and form it in order of battle, and let the rear close well up; then let the men rest in position and be made as comfortable as possible, but do not permit them to scatter. Have the country on your front examined, a reconnaissance made, and collect all the information possible in regard to the enemy and the country and roads in your vicinity, and then report in person as quickly as practicable to these headquarters. If your men have an opportunity to get water of and kind they must fill their canteens, and the officers must caution them particularly to use it in the most sparing manner. Send to the rear every wagon and animal which is not required with your column. All the usual precautions must be taken and preparations made for action. Keep all teams back except ammunition and ambulances. Nothing has been heard from you to-day. Send orderlies by bearer to learn the locality of these headquarters. The general desires to see Captain Williams, Jackson's cavalry, by 7 o'clock in the morning at these headquarters.
JAMES B. FRY,
Colonel and Chief of Staff.
Similar instructions, but suited to the locality on which he was to form for the attack, were given to General Thomas, who, as second in command, was with the right corps.
It was expected that these instructions would get these two corps into position for the attack by 7 or 8 o'clock in the morning; whereas, in consequence of delays which were more or less unavoidable, the heads of the columns did not come up until between 10 and 11 o'clock and the rear division of the right corps did not get into, position until about 4 o'clock. This rendered it improbable that the attack could be made until next morning and was one of the causes which marred the success I confidently expected. Afterward the lateness of the hour at which I received intelligence of the condition of affairs on the left rendered it impossible to reap the fruit that would otherwise still have remained.
It has been a matter of surprise that so severe an engagement could have taken place within 2 ½ miles of my headquarters without my knowledge. The commander of an army covering a line 6 or 7 miles long, interspersed with woods and hills, must of necessity depend on the reports of his generals for information of what is transpiring on different parts of the field. After the failure to get into position as soon as I had expected I no longer anticipated a battle that day; but a good deal of artillery firing had been going on between the advance guards of the two armies since our arrival the evening before, excepting at night. The cause of this was well understood, and the greater or less rapidity of the firing at intervals was not a matter to attract particular attention, <ar22_51> especially as it was to be expected that information of anything of serious import would be promptly conveyed to me. For that reason I received with astonishment the intelligence of the severe fighting that commenced at 2 o'clock. Not a musket-shot had been heard nor did the sound of artillery indicate anything like a battle. This was probably caused by the configuration of the ground, which broke the sound, and by the heavy wind, which it appears blew from the right to the left during the day, though the latter I had not thought of until it was established in evidence before the Commission. Be that as it may, many witnesses, without exception, have testified to the absence of all reason to suppose at my headquarters that a battle was raging, and the testimony of hundreds more could have been adduced to the same effect.
It has been asked why, after the battle of Perryville, I did not immediately follow the enemy to Harrodsburg, without waiting for Sill's division to come up. That the entire rebel army could have been brought to battle there I have no doubt. The forces were nearly equal on both sides----on one side nearly all veteran troops, under perfect discipline ; on the other, a portion, the old "Army of the Ohio," equally good, but more than one-third of the whole raw and undisciplined.(*) The enemy would have had the advantage of the strong position which he selected. The result of a conflict under such circumstances is not to be predicted. I am not willing to admit that I might have failed, and yet no man can assert that the result ought certainly to have been otherwise under the circumstances. It was sufficient for me that I could make it reasonably certain by waiting for my troops to come up.
My studies have taught me that battles are only to be fought for some important object; that success must be rendered reasonably certain if possible--the more certain the better; that if the result is reasonably uncertain, battle is only to be sought when very serious disadvantage must result from a failure to fight or when the advantages of a possible victory far outweigh the consequences of probable defeat. These rules suppose that war has a higher object than that of mere bloodshed, and military history points for study and commendation to campaigns which have been conducted over a large field of operations with important results and without a single general engagement. In my judgment the commander merits condemnation who, from ambition or ignorance or a weak submission to the dictation of popular clamor and without necessity or profit, has squandered the lives of his soldiers. In this connection it is proper to review the circumstances which should have weight upon the question of hastening a battle at the particular juncture referred to.
There is not, I venture to say, a particle of evidence upon the records of this Commission which does not lead to the conclusion that the objects and intention of the rebel Government in the invasion of Kentucky last summer were to hold possession of the State by force of arms and secure it to the cause of the rebellion. The circumstances of the invasion and the formidable force employed in it, the advance of the smaller force under Kirby Smith, which established depots and collected sup plies, that made comparatively easy and safe the subsequent advance of the main force under General Bragg to a point so remote from its original base; the further re-enforcement of this large force by the column under Breckinridge at the very time when, if a temporary raid <ar22_52> had been the object, the main force should have been rapidly withdrawing instead of re-enforcing; the deliberation and permanency with which the invading army maintained its position in the face of the force which was preparing to drive it out; the inauguration of a provisional State government under the authority of the Confederate Government; the enforcement of the conscription and other Confederate laws; the avowal of the Confederate authorities; the plan of campaign sketched in the letter of General Beauregard to his Government; the convictions of the people of Kentucky from what they saw and the assurance of the rebel authorities; the constant and confident declarations of all persons connected with the invading force; the disappointment and disapprobation which the whole Southern press expressed at the result--all go to show that the object of the invasion was permanent occupation. That object could only be secured by giving battle to and destroying or driving from the field the army which was opposed to it.
Such a plan and determination were also clearly indicated by the movements of the enemy after the commencement of my march from Louisville. If his object had been to retreat without a struggle as soon as I moved against him, the force of Kirby Smith, which was then at various points north of the Kentucky River, would at once have moved by the roads concentrating at Richmond and thence on to Cumberland Gap. It was for that force the shortest and best road and a better route for supplies than the one it pursued. The main force, under Bragg, would have moved on one or more of the roads which converge upon Glasgow through New Haven, Lebanon, and other points. This line would have given him the advantage of marching by several of the best roads in the State, converging at convenient distances. It would have taken him through a region of country where supplies were comparatively abundant; it would have enabled him to concentrate his army at Bowling Green and perhaps capture that place before he could be overtaken; or, if not, to move upon Murfreesborough, where he would have railroad communication with Chattanooga and good lines of retreat to the other side of the Tennessee River if necessary, or the opportunity of capturing Nashville if he should deem that feasible; or, if he desired to retreat through Cumberland Gap, he would go on through Danville and Stanford. Instead, however, of starting upon these natural lines of retreat toward Tennessee, Kirby Smith moved west, entirely off his line of retreat, and crossed the Kentucky River near Salvisa; and Bragg, after turning the angle at Perryville, moved northward, the very opposite of his direction of retreat. That the original object of this movement was to concentrate the whole rebel force at Harrodsburg instead of Camp Dick Robinson is evident from the fact that if the latter had been the object Kirby Smith would have moved directly to that point over the Hickman bridge, instead of fording the river lower down to go out of his way, and Bragg would have marched through Danville to the same point. Thus the circumstances of the invasion indicated that there would be a formidable struggle for the possession of the State, and the movements of the rebel forces to meet the operations that were in progress against them pointed to a great battle at or near Harrodsburg.
The battle of Perryville, by every reasonable explanation, increased instead of weakening the probability of a great battle at Harrodsburg. It has been asserted that General Bragg fought the battle of Perryville with portions of three divisions, only about 15,000 men. It is certain that he fought it with only a part of his whole force. His motive therefore may be supposed to have been either to check my advance to give <ar22_53> time to take up a position with his main force beyond, or else because he hoped to gain some advantage by striking the head of my column, supposing I was moving on only one road, before I could get a superior force up to oppose him. In either case he could not have expected to accomplish much more than he did in this partial engagement. He was repulsed, it is true, but not until night protected him from very serious consequences, and there was nothing in the result that should have decided the fate of so important a campaign. His loss was probably much leas than mine, from the fact that the attack was made when my troops were in column and to that extent unprepared.
That General Bragg moved to Camp Dick Robinson instead of awaiting an attack by my whole force at Harrodsburg is no evidence that he would not have been willing to give battle to the part of it which I had at Perryville. With an equal force he could safely risk a battle in the strong position he could have taken, and in fact did select, when the result would by no means be as certain there, against a superior force, as it would be in the still stronger position of Camp Dick Robinson, which had the further advantage of being a depot for his supplies. For these reasons, and on account of its inaccessibility and superior strength, neither did his withdrawal to Camp Dick Robinson indicate an intention to abandon the object of his campaign and retreat precipitately from the State. These reasons justified the conclusion that the rebel army was to be encountered in battle, notwithstanding critics after the fact may answer that the result contradicts the conclusion, and they justify every reasonable precaution to have made the success of such a struggle certain. They afford an interpretation to the movements of the army under my command subsequently to the battle of Perryville.
Pending the arrival of General Sill's division the left corps, General McCook's, laid near Dicksville, from which a road extends to Harrodsburg; the center, General Gilbert's, was abreast of the left, on the direct road from Perryville to Harrodsburg; and the right, General Crittenden's, was on Salt River, about 4 miles from Danville. Cavalry was in front on the Harrodsburg and Danville roads. A good deal of the ammunition of McCook's corps and some in the center corps had been expended in the battle of the 8th, and so much of the means of transportation had been required for provisions that wagons could not be spared for a sufficient supply of reserve ammunition on starting from Louisville. This was hurried forward and other matters attended to in the condition of the army which had resulted from the battle. These of themselves would not have delayed my movements, though they were important.
General Sill's division arrived on the evening of the 11th and the army was ordered to move on the 12th. Strong cavalry reconnaissances had been kept out every day, but on the evening of the 10th I ordered out three brigades of infantry with cavalry to move on the 11th to discover more of the position or movements of the enemy. One moved beyond Danville toward Camp Dick Robinson; one on the Danville and Harrodsburg road toward the latter point; and the third toward the same point on the Perryville and Harrodsburg road. About daylight an officer, just in from Harrodsburg, came to my tent and reported to me with great earnestness that the enemy was moving against us in force from Harrodsburg, distant about 8 miles. The troops were put in position to be prepared, if the report should prove true, and in the mean time the several reconnaissances proceeded as ordered. The one on the left discovered and reported the enemy apparently in force about <ar22_54> 2 miles south of Harrodsburg early in the morning; but he withdrew during the day, and the two reconnaissances which were ordered toward Harrodsburg entered that place in the evening, capturing some property and a large number of sick, wounded, and some other prisoners.
It was probable that the enemy had retired to Camp Dick Robinson, but it was reported that some at least had gone in the direction of the Kentucky River, and it was necessary to ascertain the fact. It would require a day to do that by reconnaissance. If the reconnaissance were supported in force, we should be prepared to take advantage of the contingency of the enemy still being this side of Dick's River; and, in any event, no time would be lost in the movement to turn the position at Camp Dick Robinson, if it should be found that the enemy had actually retired to that place. On the 12th, therefore, the whole army swung around on Danville as a pivot, the right and center on the Danville and Harrodsburg road and the left near Harrodsburg on the Perryville and Harrodsburg road while a reconnaissance was pushed forward to gain the desired information. It ascertained that the enemy had crossed Dick's River.
If it should be said that these dispositions proved to have been unnecessary by the withdrawal of the enemy, it may be answered that such may be the case with nine out of ten of the dispositions that are made in every campaign; that battles occur only occasionally in the movements of opposing armies, but that preparation for battle may be necessary every day. Without such preparation battles may be multiplied, and so in most cases are defeats to the careless.
The enemy's position in rear of Dick's River being, from the character of that stream, impregnable in front, I moved on the 13th to turn it by the south. On the night of that day I heard that the enemy was retreating from Camp Dick Robinson toward the south and I immediately ordered pursuit. The leading division marched at 12 o'clock that night and the others following in rapid succession. Crittenden's and McCook's corps, the former leading, took the road to Stanford and Crab Orchard, while Gilbert's took the road to Lancaster and Crab Orchard. On both roads the enemy's rear guards were overtaken the next day and were pressed continually as far as London. No general battle occurred between the two armies, though the enemy was foiled in his object and driven from the State.
Anticipating a movement of the rebel army into Middle Tennessee, the Army of the Ohio moved promptly in that direction, and on the 31st of October had, under my orders, advanced as far as Bowling Green and Glasgow. It was my intention to have reached Murfreesborough by the 10th of November. On the 30th of October I turned over the command to Major-General Rosecrans, in obedience to orders from the general-in-chief.
A careful study of the topography of Central Kentucky shows it to be a region possessing remarkable strategical features for defensive operations, especially for a force whose line of retreat is toward the State of Tennessee. The Kentucky River, running across the State from east to west, with its cliffy banks, makes a strong line of defense, while its somewhat frequent fords, opposing but slight obstacles to the movements of an army when the river is low, yet easily defended from the opposite bank, make it an admirable line for a retreating army to take shelter behind, and a perfect curtain to cover ulterior movements Its advantages in this respect are very greatly increased by the character and position of Dick's River, which, coming from the south, empties into the Kentucky River where the latter makes a strong bend to the <ar22_55> north. Dick's River has the same characteristics of cliffy banks, and its fewer crossings make it a much stronger line of defense than the Kentucky River.
Together these streams make the position of Camp Dick Robinson, in the fork, almost impregnable for a large army, except from the southeast. In that case the defensive army, with its right flank protected by Dick's River and its left by the broken ground to the east, may fall back easily and securely to the north side of the Kentucky, and by a short march either to the east or the west recross to the south side and fall upon good lines of retreat; and these movements can only be counteracted by considerable detours or by previous detachments, which would weaken the opposing army so much as to endanger the main attack, unless the army is very greatly superior in strength. On the north side of the Kentucky River the country is traversable by good roads between the Lexington and Richmond road and any of the roads crossing the river lower down; but on the south side the country bordering the river between the mouth of Dick's River and the Lexington and Richmond road is destitute of practicable roads parallel with the river. Besides the advantages already alluded to, the whole of that region of country abounds in strong positions commanding the only water for an army within several miles, so that the attacking force is forced to fight under all the disadvantage of exhaustion for the want of it, as was the case at Perryville.
These details make it easy to answer the theories that have been advanced for the annihilation or capture of the entire rebel army under General Bragg. One of those theories assumes that that army might have been destroyed in crossing Dick's River.
A defile, if it does not retard the march materially, is always a benefit to a retreating army, and the line of Dick's River is admirably adapted to such an object. It is only necessary for the retreating army to make demonstrations of battle with a strong rear guard, which will require corresponding preparations and delay on the part of the pursuer. In the mean time it throws its artillery across rapidly to take positions to sweep the opposite bank, and under such protection the remainder of the retiring army crosses with safety.
Great stress has been laid on the importance of Danville to cut off the retreat of the rebel army from Perryville. My right rested after the battle within 4 or 5 miles of Danville and my cavalry watched and went beyond that place. Danville controlled no line of retreat for the enemy except through that point and thence on toward Somerset or Columbia. That was as well covered by being 4 or 5 miles from Danville with a perfectly open and unobstructed country between as it would have been at Danville itself, and the enemy did not attempt to use it at all. Danville is 8 miles at the nearest point from the road going from Camp Dick Robinson to Cumberland Gap, and the strong line of Dick's River between prevents Danville from having any command of that road.
The first point at which the enemy's retreat on the Cumberland Gap road could be intercepted is Lancaster, 10 miles from Danville. If the Army of the Ohio moved to Lancaster in force in advance of the rebel army, it threw its communications into the hands of the enemy. If, before being assured that the enemy had crossed Dick's River, it divided its force over the 20 miles from Perryville to Lancaster to protect its communications and intercept the retreat of the enemy through Lancaster, it rendered itself liable to be beaten in detail; and if, after being assured that the enemy had crossed Dick's River, it left small <ar22_56> detachments sufficient to guard the passes over that river and then moved with the main body on Lancaster, there is no reason why the enemy should not have been able to hold it in check on the line of Dick's River long enough to secure his line through Lancaster if he was determined to retreat.
An army on ordinary marches, continued for many days, will average about 2 miles all hour; but in a forced march for 20, and at least for l0 miles, it can average 3 miles an hour. If the rebel army had 60,000 men, with artillery, and 1,500 wagons for baggage, supplies, &c., it would in marching occupy 39 miles along the road in one column or 19½ miles each in two columns. It would therefore require six hours and a half to clear its camp on two roads; the whole of it will have arrived at or passed a point 20 miles distant in fourteen hours or a point 10 miles distant in ten hours. Thus the rebel army, moving from Camp Dick Robinson in two columns, would clear its camp in six hours and a half, and arrive at Lancaster, 10 miles distant, in ten hours; or, if it continued on without stopping, would arrive at Crab Orchard, 20 miles distant, in fourteen hours.
It appears that the retreating army actually marched in three columns from its camp at Dick Robinson, the country along its route being open and practicable. From Lancaster it took two roads, the one to the left going by the way of Lowell and coming into the Cumberland Gap road at Big Hill, and the other going through Crab Orchard, Mount Vernon, and London. The latter is intersected at Crab Orchard, 20 miles from Danville, by the road from Danville through Stanford. The reasons which would render it injudicious to expose my communications and leave open a better line of retreat to the enemy, by anticipating his possible retreat through Lancaster, apply with greater force to Crab Orchard. If the rebel army would retreat without accepting battle, the topography of the country made it entirely possible for it to do so. Being once established on its line of retreat beyond any point where it could by any possibility be intercepted the rebel army made good its retreat, as other armies have done in this and other wars under less favorable circumstances.
There are few circumstances under which a disciplined and well-man-aged army can be forced to a general battle against its will, though the occasions are multiplied if the opposing army has a greatly superior force of good cavalry or is so greatly superior in strength that it can divide its force with reasonable prospects of success to each fraction. A disciplined army, moving on its line of communication, can always retreat more rapidly than it can be pursued. It meets or overtakes its supplies on the road, or finds them at temporary depots previously established, or it collects them from the country as much as possible on its line of march. The pursuing army, on the other hand, finds the country stripped; it has nothing in advance to rely on ; it must carry everything along, with the hinderance of enormous trains, and the difficulties are increased with every day's march. The retreating army prepares a front of resistance more rapidly than the pursuer can prepare a front for attack. The strong positions are reconnoitered in advance, on which the requisite force forms as rapidly as on a drill ground; while the pursuer, ignorant of the ground and of the force that awaits him, must inform himself of both in order to develop a corresponding force, or else find the head of his column beaten back. In the mean time the main body of the retiring army has gained some hours' march; the rear guard watches the enemy's preparation, awaits his attack, and repulses it if it is made injudiciously or with insufficient force, or else at dark <ar22_57> resumes its march, to repeat the same operation whenever it is necessary and the occasion is favorable. A single tree felled judiciously across the road will delay the pursuer perhaps fifteen minutes, four of them at intervals will delay him an hour, and thus the distance between him and his adversary is increased.
These advantages to defensive operations do not exist in the same degree in all descriptions of country. They are particularly marked in a broken and wooded country, where the movements and position and strength of an enemy are only to be ascertained by feeling him, and especially where there are no parallel roads by which the retreating army can be attacked in flank. The advantages alluded to make it wise frequently for a commander to fall back to a chosen ground when his adversary advances, and the battle of Perryville affords an illustration of this principle. The rebel army was moving for concentration at some point which could not be known to its adversary. A portion of it took advantage of the strong position at Perryville, commanding the only water within a distance of several miles, over which the Army of the Ohio must march to attack. That position afforded also the advantage of several lines of retreat. With these combined advantages, when it was discovered that a part of the rebel army was making a stand, it was as reasonable to expect to find its combined force there as at any other point, and dispositions had to be made accordingly. I believe that a sound and unprejudiced criticism will show that the movement of the Army of the Ohio was executed promptly and judiciously; that it arrived more simultaneously and in better order than the enemy could have expected, considering that the point which he would choose for battle could not be foreseen; and that but for the lack of timely information of the condition of things on the afternoon of the 8th the main portion of the enemy's force at Perryville would have been captured.
Contests between unequal forces result sometimes, but very rarely, from the fact that the inferior has no alternative but to fight or surrender. In by far the greatest number of cases, however, the- conflict results from a lack of ability on the part of the inferior to avail himself of the means of extricating his army; or from a contempt for or ignorance of the strength of his adversary; or from an advantage of position which in his opinion will outweigh that of superiority of numbers and a corresponding ignorance of that advantage or faulty dispositions on the part of the superior army; and these last are the cases in which most frequently the inferior army is victorious. When the armies are about equal, they maneuver so as to deceive and cause each other to make detachments or force each other to battle on ground unfavorable to the adversary. In all these cases the object is not merely to give battle for the sake of fighting, but to fight for victory, or at least safety, and with such advantages as will make success reasonably certain; and the more serious the consequences of defeat the greater the caution to be observed. Ignorance and error multiply battles far more than valor and generally with the penalty of disaster. If precaution and the observance of rule diminish the number of battles, and sometimes miss the accidental success which folly and recklessness might have gained, it is nevertheless true that in the end they usually triumph.
The operations of the column under the command of General G. W. Morgan at Cumberland Gap have been brought before the Commission. The deposition of Colonel De Courcy, an officer under General Morgan's command, introduced as evidence for the Government, alleges that after General Morgan commenced his advance upon Cumberland Gap in May last he was suddenly arrested by a telegraphic dispatch from me, ordering <ar22_58> a retrograde movement and stopping all further proceedings on the Tennessee side against the Gap.
General Morgan commenced his advance against Cumberland Gap in pursuance of the orders which I gave him in March preceding about the 22d of May. He had repeatedly represented that he was operating against a superior force of the enemy, and on the 8th of June he telegraphed that the enemy had--
Over 5,000 at Cumberland Gap, 8,000 at Big Creek Gap, with troops at Clinton and Knoxville. Should their force concentrate the enemy will outnumber us nearly three to one. What is General Negley doing?
Seeing no reason why I should expect him to advance by difficult mountain roads and defeat three to one of the enemy, and supposing that he may have regarded my orders for him to advance as more imperative than I meant them to be, without regard to the force opposed to him, I telegraphed him on the 9th as follows:
General Negley is fully employed in Tennessee and can give you no direct assistance. The force now in Tennessee is so small that no operations against East Tennessee can be attempted. You must therefore depend mainly on your own resources.
And on the 10th I telegraphed him as follows:
Considering your force and that opposed to you, it will probably not be safe for you to undertake any extended operations. Other operations will soon have an influence on your designs, and it is therefore better for you to run no risk at present.
These are the dispatches which caused the retrograde movement referred to. I leave them to speak for themselves, in connection with the dispatches which elicited them.
But, furthermore, on the same day, the 10th, I received a dispatch from General Morgan, giving a rumor that the Gap was evacuated, to which I replied the same day:
If Cumberland Gap is evacuated you should seize and hold it, and take any other advantage that may present itself, but not advance to a point from which you would have to fall back.
About this time General Mitchel, considering himself in danger from an anticipated advance upon him, was urging the necessity of a stronger force in Middle Tennessee and I was about commencing my march from Corinth in that direction.
Cumberland Gap was occupied on the 18th of June. General Morgan had about 7,500 men. His dispatches report the strength of the enemy opposed to him at not less than 10,000 or 12,000, and I have no reason to doubt that he reported correctly. At no time did he represent that he was able to hold East Tennessee with the force he had or the wish to attempt it, nor do I believe that he could have done it. It is true that on the 20th he telegraphed:
My telegraph orders from Major-General Buell of the 10th instant do not permit me to advance upon Knoxville, and I will not, until further instructions, advance farther than Tazewell.
And he also stated the preparation he had made to destroy bridges, but had countermanded in consequence of that dispatch. He was answered on the 22d, four days after his arrival at the Gap, as follows:
It is impossible at present to send you any cavalry. The general has not intended his orders to prevent such expeditions for special purposes as you refer to in your dispatch of the 20th; on the contrary, he approves them. His wish is for you to make yourself secure in the Gap and accomplish all the results you can by rapid expeditions, but not to attempt a deliberate advance on Knoxville as long as it seems probable that you would not be able to maintain your position there. The general wishes <ar22_59> to make no actual advance which he cannot maintain. It brings our friends among the people into trouble and is injurious otherwise to our interests.
JAMES B. FRY,
Chief of Staff.
I have no doubt that General Morgan acted wisely, and that he had not force enough to attack the enemy in force. He certainly was not restrained from doing anything that duty and honor demanded.
The policy which I observed toward the people of the territory occupied by my army has been vehemently and bitterly assailed by a portion of the press, but I believe that reason and justice will sustain it on every score, whether of expediency or humanity. In entering on my command it was with an earnest willingness to devote my life to the object of restoring the Union, and I never doubted as to the course my duty required me to pursue. It was to defeat the rebels in arms whenever I could and to respect the Constitution and laws and the rights of the people under them as far as was possible consistently with a state of things which rendered military success a matter of primary importance for the restoration of the authority of the Govern-meat. This has been my rule of action from first to last. I did not undertake to punish men for opinion's sake or even for past acts, for Congress has prescribed the penalty for their offenses and the mode of proceeding against them. Men in arms I treated as enemies; persons not in arms I treated as citizens of the United States; but I allowed no man to preach or act treason after the progress of my army bad brought him again under the protection as well as the authority of the Government.
I have, when necessary, given protection to the persons and property of peaceable citizens; and this I have done both to preserve the discipline of my troops and out of respect for the just rights of the people under the laws of war, if not under the civil law. When the public interest has required the use of private property for public purposes I have so used it, allowing just compensation for it as far as practicable; and this I did not only on the ground of justice, but as a measure of military expediency, for it enabled me to secure for my army necessaries which otherwise would have been concealed or destroyed.
The bearing of this question on the success of my military operations is something which I was bound to weigh well. It is recognized as one of great importance to the success of an invading army. Wars of invasion, always difficult, become tenfold so when the people of the invaded territory take an active part against the invading army. A system of plunder and outrage in such cases will produce the same effect of hatred and revenge that such treatment does under other circumstances among men, and the embarrassments resulting from them to the invading army become of the most serious nature.
These considerations are of such importance to success that there is no exception to the rule of securing the neutrality if not the friendship of the population as much as possible by just and mild treatment, and then, having given no good cause for hostility, to treat with kindness those who behave well and with severity those who misbehave.
Some months ago a statement appeared in the newspapers, on the reported authority of Gov. Andrew Johnston, that I had only been prevented by his resolute expostulations from abandoning Nashville when I moved north with my army in September last. He has since made the same assertion in a deposition. Whenever I have spoken on this subject I have denounced the statement as false and I now repeat that denunciation. I am very willing to bear the responsibility of my <ar22_60> own acts or intentions, and it gives me sincere pleasure at all times to acknowledge any assistance I may receive from others either in counsel or action. If I had determined to abandon Nashville it would have been upon my best judgment, and I should cheerfully have submitted to a verdict on the wisdom of my course. I assert that I never intimated to Governor Johnson an intention or wish to leave Nashville without a garrison; that there was no discussion between us pro and con on the subject, and that the determination to hold the place was my own, uninfluenced by him in any manner. I had not that confidence in his judgment or that distrust of my own which would have induced me to seek his counsel. On account of his official position I called on him first to inform him what I meant to do, and last to tell him what garrison I had concluded to leave. On both occasions, as far as my plans were concerned, I was the speaker and he the listener. My officers were far more likely to know my views than he, and they have stated that I said always that the political importance of the occupation far outweighed any purely military bearing of the question, and that I should hold the city.(*)
D. C. BUELL,
May 5, 1863.
[Inclosure No. 5.]
BALTIMORE, MD., April 10, 1864.
General LORENZO THOMAS, Adjutant-General U. S. Army:
SIR: I have heard that the Secretary of War intends to publish in General orders the result of the investigation of my military operations in Kentucky and Tennessee during the summer of 1862 by the Military Commission organized by Major-General Halleck. Supposing that the pressure of official business may thus far have prevented the Secretary from making a careful examination of the record, which is very voluminous, and believing that such an examination will essentially modify the effect of the manner in which the Commission has stated facts and refute many of its opinions, my object is to ask attention to some of the features of the report and to request that its publication may be accompanied by the official decision of the Department. The report premises by saying that "very early in its sessions the Commission resolved to direct its investigations to the following points," and it specifies six "points." It would appear from this as though the
The documents appended to the foregoing statement
appear in this series as follows:
Major-General Buell's report of the battle of Shiloh, Vol. X, Part I, p. 291.
Major-General Buell's report of the battle of Perryville, Vol. XVI, Part I, p. 1022
General Orders, Department of the Ohio:
No. 23, December 27, 1861,Vol. VII, p. 15.
No. 4a, January 20, 1862, Vol. VII, p. 94.
No. 4b, January 23, 1862, Vol. VII, p. 78,
No. 13a, February 26, 1862, Vol. VII, p. 669.
General Orders, Army of the Ohio:
No. 6, April 8,1862, Vol. X, Part I, p. 297.
No. 29a, July 11, 1862, Vol. XVI, Part I, p. 65.
No. 47b, October 12,1862, Vol. XVI, Part I,p. 1032.
No. 50, October 30, 1862, Vol. XVI, Part II,, p. 654.
<ar22_61> first steps in the inquiry
had developed ground for these six grave questions; the truth is that they
had been submitted in the instructions under which the Commission acted.
I do not consider this discrepancy unimportant.
The report then takes up in their order the several subjects referred to; the first, however, "The operations of General Buell in Kentucky and Tennessee," being disposed of as being included in the other five.
" SUFFERING KENTUCKY TO BE INVADED BY THE REBELS UNDER BRAGG."
But few facts are given on this subject, and those are vague and indefinite. What is meant by saying that my lines of supplies were "unnecessarily long"? It is true that I was more than 300 miles from my base, the Ohio River, with only a thread of railroad for communication; but how could the line be said to be unnecessarily long when it was impossible to make it shorter. On the more material points the report is silent. Nothing is said of the strength of the enemy, nor of some of the most important of his movements, nor of the strength of my army, nor of the state of my supplies; but the Commission contents itself with expressing the belief that--
By an early concentration of my army at Sparta, McMinnville, or Murfreesborough, with a view to active offensive operations against Bragg the moment he debouched from the Sequatchie Valley, he would have been defeated.
Subsequent events have confirmed what the evidence abundantly shows, that the force under my command was inadequate for the mission it had undertaken. The statement in which I reviewed the evidence before the Commission presents this subject more circumstantially and I extract from it here. After explaining the embarrassment under which I had labored in consequence of the enemy's large cavalry force operating on my communications the statement continues:(*)
* * * * * * * * * *
I am conscious of having carried my statement into tedious details out of much anxiety to explain my acts and the reasons that dictated them. I will not extend it to show why it was that although the concentration of my army at Murfreesborough was necessary in consequence of the state of my supplies, and although it was suitable to meet any direct advance against Nashville, yet it was no longer suitable after it became probable, though uncertain, that Bragg, instead of moving directly on Nashville, was moving toward, in fact was probably already at, the Cumberland River by the time my army was concentrated. As it was, my movement from Murfreesborough to Nashville did not "allow Bragg to cross the Cumberland," which he had already nearly reached, but it enabled me the easier to take measures against his subsequent movements.
Undoubtedly a much earlier concentration of my army at Murfreesborough would have had certain advantages. It would have enabled me to re-establish my communications and made them much shorter, but I have explained that I hoped until the last that they would be reopened by the troops in Kentucky, and that I was unwilling to abandon the object with which I had started out and give up the advanced positions I occupied. <ar22_62>
"THE FAILURE TO RELIEVE MUNFORDVILLE"
The Commission is of opinion that General Buell is not responsible for the capture of the town, except so far as his failure to attack Bragg south of the Cumberland River made him responsible for that failure.
This implies that Bragg could have been and should have been attacked south of the Cumberland. I have discussed that point in the preceding pages of this communication.
"BATTLE OF PERRYVILLE AND CONDUCT THERE."
The facts under this head are imperfectly and inaccurately stated, and the opinions, to my mind, show a misconception of the subject. The strength, positions, and to a great extent the movements of the opposing armies, with many other facts essential for a proper understanding of the subject, are omitted.
The rebel forces occupied a line extending from Lexington to Bardstown, Kirby Smith's force being on the right and Bragg's army proper on the left. It was to be presumed that those forces would concentrate when I moved against them, and it was " intended" to attack them whenever they could be properly brought to battle. It cannot be said that " an engagement was expected at Bardstown," though it was thought to be possible. The statement that "I next intended to attack him (Bragg) on the 9th of October" conveys no correct explanation of my plans and movements. The evidence shows that after reaching Perryville, where the enemy appeared to have concentrated, my instructions, given on the night of the 7th, contemplated an attack on his position on the morning of the 8th. That purpose was frustrated by the lateness of the arrival of the right and left corps, and it was deemed necessary to defer the attack until the next morning. The evidence is not that McCook's corps arrived at 9 o'clock on the 8th ; the head of it arrived between 10 and 11. The evidence shows that General Thomas' staff officer about 1.30 o'clock reported the arrival of the head of the right corps; the rear division of it was not yet up. The staff officer took back to General Thomas more detailed instructions in regard to the disposition of that corps.
The camp of my headquarters was located the evening of the 7th at a proper distance in rear of the center corps, the disposition of which I personally directed, and it was not necessary or convenient to change my camp. The signal station for headquarters was somewhat in advance, on a high elevation, commanding a more extended view of the ground than any other.
The assertion that I--
should either have been on the field in person ready for emergencies and advantages, or have taken and required to be taken every precaution for the instant transmission of intelligence to my headquarters--
as I had an organized signal corps with my army, this failure was all the more culpable-
discloses a want of knowledge on the part of the commission of what was necessary to be done and misrepresentation of what was actually done. Had I considered my presence along the lines necessary I might as properly have been required on the right as on the left, in which case I should have been 5 miles from the left instead of 2½ miles. The evidence <ar22_63> shows that the signal corps was in operation, and that signal stations had been established to communicate intelligence from different parts of the line to my headquarters. What further precautions could be required except the presence of commanders, whose duty to communicate with me was as well understood as though it had been prescribed in their commissions!
The evidence shows that Gilbert's corps was not "unengaged." It lost nearly 1,000 men that day, which proves that the "whole force of the enemy" was not "flung upon McCook." It is not a very ingenuous representation of the matter to assert what could have been accomplished "if Crittenden's corps had been vigorously pushed forward," when all mention of the fact is omitted that orders to that effect were given as soon as I was advised of the attack on McCook and that they could not be executed because of the lateness of the hour.
"PERMITTING THE REBELS TO ESCAPE WITHOUT LOSS FROM KENTUCKY."
The same misconception and errors of statement run through the report of the Commission under this head as under the preceding one. It is right in one admission, that--
it cannot be said that the rebels escaped without loss from Kentucky.
The evidence does not justify the statement in any proper sense that--
the morning after the battle it was very early discovered that Bragg had retreated from the position near Perryville.
On the contrary, the fact was not ascertained until about 10.30 o'clock, between which time and the early morning my army was moving to attack; the opinion being general that the enemy would be found near Perryville and the battle renewed that morning. The evidence shows this conclusively, though it also shows that some of the most advanced troops discovered very early that the portion of the enemy which they could see was moving from the position which it held the previous night ; but even that did not come to the knowledge of the corps commanders nor to my knowledge. There is no evidence to justify the broad statement nor is it substantially true that Bragg--
left all his sick and wounded and some artillery at Harrodsburg, and being Joined by Kirby Smith, hastened across Dick's River--
and that that part of the movement---
from Perryville to the river was confused and disordered.
Still less is it proven or true that any portion of the statement was known by me or by my army at the time. On the contrary, it is shown that the advance of my cavalry toward Harrodsburg on the 9th was effectually resisted, and that on the morning of the 10th Kirby Smith's forces, and probably a large portion of Bragg's army proper, were actually in line of battle 2 miles south of the town. This fact justified the presumption that his whole force was there, and I have now no doubt that the whole of it would have been there in case of battle.
I have never called my movement to Harrodsburg nor from there to Danville "a pursuit." I meant and have described it as a movement to find and give battle to the rebel army. The pursuit I have described as commencing at Danville on the 13th, when the retreat from Camp Dick Robinson was first discovered.
The comments of the Commission on the retreat of the enemy would <ar22_64> seem to indicate ignorance of the topography of the country and of the facts concerning the retreat. There is ground in the evidence for the belief that Bragg's retreat was decided upon on the 12th of October in opposition to the views of a majority of his commanders and the sentiment of his army. There is a mass of facts in evidence and of public notoriety to show that his determination to avoid battle and retire from the State was suddenly adopted. The failure of the Commission to give place to this material fact has the effect of giving a wrong impression as to the dispositions the circumstances required me to make. The subject is treated as though Bragg's army was a disorganized rabble, which it was only necessary to surround with a line of skirmishers to capture. The evidence does not--
establish that General Buell received information on the night of the 11th that Bragg had crossed the river at Camp Dick Robinson--
nor that "he made no determined movement with the main body of his army until the night of the 13th." The statement that from the morning of the 9th until the night of the 11th I waited to learn whether my enemy would cross the river is unfit to appear in an official report; and the further statement that, that fact being definitely known, I lost two days before taking any decisive action, is contrary to the evidence, as is also the statement that finally, on the night of the 13th, I started Crittenden's corps through Danville--for it was there already. This statement, taken in connection with other remarks, would convey the false impression that that corps, in fact the main body of my army, was still at Perryville.
It is thus that the Commission explains "the escape of the rebels from Kentucky."
In the review which I prepared of the evidence taken by the Commission I made a different statement and explanation of the incidents of that campaign. I hope it is a more intelligent one. I know it is more in accordance with the facts, and it may not be inappropriate to insert it here. After describing the operations about Munfordville and the close movement after Bragg's army until it turned off toward Bardstown the statement proceeds:(*)
* * * * * * * * * *
The Commission states that it made its sixth "point" to cover the question of my "loyalty." I certainly made no defense of my loyalty, nor did I know that it was under investigation, though I did not fail to observe that evidence was elicited of the scandalous remarks that had been made concerning it by some persons, one of them a member of the Commission. I shall not cavil at the brief announcement that against my loyalty "there is no evidence worthy consideration."
My policy toward "the inhabitants of disaffected districts" was also brought under the sixth " point," and the Commission concludes that--
Whether good or bad in its effects, General Buell deserves neither blame nor applause for it, because it was at that time supposed to be the policy of the Government. At least he could violate no orders upon the subject, because there were none.
I am not disposed to take exception to this opinion; though I dissent from it. If an officer faithfully does what the policy of his Government makes a duty, in my opinion he deserves approbation; and if, without any such obligation, he elects to do what he is at liberty to do or omit, then he deserves approbation or blame accordingly as his acts are good <ar22_65> or bad in their effects. It might, I think, very properly be asked why the Commission introduced the subject at all.
I will not use this occasion, though I cannot think that it would be inappropriate, to comment on the irregularities which marked the proceedings of the Commission and the spirit manifested by a portion of its members. Just and thinking men will hesitate to declare in a judicial verdict, with reference to the conduct of operations of such magnitude, more particularly when an important result has been obtained, that the commander ought to have acted differently: First, because, under circumstances which make it frequently impossible to know exactly the true state of affairs, he must act on appearances and probabilities more than on positive knowledge; and, second, because it is seldom possible to say what would have been the consequences of a different action. In this case no such hesitation is apparent.
For want of time I was not able to present my review of the evidence until the Commission had prepared their report and adjourned. How far that review might have modified the report if it had been before them it is impossible for me to say.
I submit these remarks with the confident belief that the justice of the Secretary will see ample ground for them.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D. C. BUELL,
[Inclosure No. 6]
General ORDERS NO. 29a.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE OHIO,
In Camp, Huntsville, Ala., July 11, 1862.
The general commanding the Army of the Ohio takes pleasure in announcing the success of an arduous and hazardous campaign by the Seventh Division, Brig. Gen. G. W. Morgan commanding, by which the enemy's fortified position at Cumberland Gap was turned and his force compelled to retreat as our troops advanced to attack.
The general thanks Brigadier-General Morgan and the troops of the Seventh Division for the ability displayed in the operations against this important stronghold, and for the energy, fortitude, and cheerfulness which they exhibited in their struggle with difficulties of the most formidable magnitude for an army.
By command of Major-General Buell:
JAMES B. FRY,
Colonel and Chief of' Staff.
GENERAL ORDERS No. 45.
WAR DEPT., ADJT. GEN.'S OFFICE,
Washington, June 14, 1872.
The following act of Congress is published for the information and government of all concerned:
AN ACT to provide for the restoration of the records of the proceedings of the court of inquiry concerning the operations of the army under the command of General Don Carlos Buell, in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Whereas it appears in the matter of investigation made by the court of inquiry, in the years eighteen hundred and sixty-two and eighteen hundred and sixty-three, into the operations of the army under the command of General Don Carlos Buell, in Kentucky and Tennessee, that the records of the proceedings of said court are not to be found on the proper files in the War Department: and whereas it further appears that «5 R R--VOL XVI» <ar22_66> there is now in the possession of Benn Pitman, the phonographic reporter of said court, a full and complete report of the proceedings of said court of inquiry: Therefore,
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Secretary of War be directed to employ at once Benn Pitman, the reporter for the court of inquiry in the said matter, to make a full and complete transcript of the phonographic notes taken by him during the said investigation, and to put the same on file among the records of the War Department, and to furnish a copy of the same to Congress.
Approved June 5, 1872.
By order of the Secretary of War:
E. D. TOWNSEND,
AIRDREE, KY., February 12, 1873.
Hon. WILLIAM W. BELKNAP,
Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.:
SIR: Among the papers sent to the Military Committee from the War Department on the 13th of April last, in answer to the call of the House for the record of "The Buell Commission," as it is sometimes called, is one which comes to my knowledge in that way for the first time, and is described as "an unsigned communication, reviewing the proceedings of the Commission," &c.(*) The paper is, in fact, without date, address, or signature, but bears the following indorsement:
May 23, 1863.
Respectfully referred to the Secretary of War by request of Lieutenant-Colonel Piatt.
On the last day of the open session of the Military Commission the President inquired, "Does the judge-advocate propose to submit any paper?" To which the judge-advocate (Lieutenant-Colonel Platt) replied:
From the nature of the Commission, or Board of Officers, as I understand it, called to investigate the operations of the Army of the Ohio, I am not required to sum up the evidence. Indeed so voluminous is the evidence that it would not be possible to do so within any reasonable time. Most of the questions under consideration am mat-tens of opinion, and as military men the Board is better able to treat of them than I am. There is very little conflict of testimony coming within my peculiar province, and I therefore ask to be excused.
It is not necessary to remark here that by the rules governing the proceedings of military tribunals, as well as upon general principles of law, any argument of the case by the judge-advocate before the Commission should have been submitted in the hearing of the accused and the latter would have been entitled to answer. The paper referred to did not follow that rule. Indeed it seems only to have made its appearance after the Commission had concluded its labors and while its voluminous record awaited the action of the reviewing authority.
I do not ascribe this circumstance to a preconcerted plan; on the contrary, I believe that such a course had not entered the thoughts of the that however suggested, the judge-advocate, and the execution was the offspring of the moment. To my mind, nevertheless, the proceeding has the character of a surreptitious attempt to warp the ordinary course of <ar22_67> justice and is deserving of rebuke. It is for this reason mainly that I make this mention of it.
It is not my purpose to comment on the paper itself. I will not correct its representation of facts nor weigh its criticisms, though they are for the most part in conflict with themselves and with my review of the subject. Its most prominent feature is an effort to sustain a statement made by Gov. Andrew Johnson, which I had denounced, to the effect that I was prevented by his expostulations from abandoning Nashville in the fall of 1862. I shall leave that question where the evidence places it, without going into further personal statements.
I request that you will be good enough to let this communication accompany the records of the Commission, and I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D. C. BUELL.
GEORGE H. THOMAS (a witness for the Government), being duly sworn by
the judge-advocate, testified as follows:
By the JUDGE-ADVOCATE:
Question. State, if you please, general, your name and position in the service.
George H. Thomas; major-general of the United States Volunteers.
Question. You will state, if you please, whether there was time between the 22d of August and the 2d of September to have concentrated the army under General Buell at Murfreesborough; and, if so, what effect that would have had on the invading forces under Bragg.
As far as I can remember now I think there was sufficient time to have concentrated the army at Murfreesborough. I do not think that would have prevented Bragg from taking the road he did take.
Question. What point, in your judgment, would have been a better one to have operated from against the invasion?
I should have concentrated the army sufficiently to have fought at Sparta and urged General Buell to do so. His reply to me was that we had not subsistence enough at Murfreesborough to enable us to do so.
Question. You can state what your opinion was and is upon the sufficiency of that reason.
I believe now that the supplies were very limited at Murfreesborough. I did not know at that time anything about the state of supplies, as I was far away on the flank of the army.
Question. You can state whether, depending upon the supplies we <ar22_183> had and what we could have gathered from the country, that proposition of yours was practicable.
Well, I think it was practicable; I think we had supplies enough to have enabled us to have met the enemy, fought, and whipped him; but that is simply my opinion, for I do not know the state of supplies.
Question. State to the Commission, general, why you selected Sparta in preference to Altamont.
There was an ample supply of water for our troops at Sparta, greater abundance of forage on the Caney Fork, and the position, in addition to that, was a very strong one. The enemy could not possibly have passed Sparta without fighting. He would have arrived in an exhausted condition, both from fatigue and want of supplies, and in my opinion could not have fought more than one day.
Question. With the army concentrated at Sparta would it have been necessary to have watched the passes at Spencer, Altamont, and other points by which he might have gone into the plains of Tennessee?
Yes; it would have been necessary until we ascertained positively that the enemy was on the road to Sparta.
Question. Had the Army of the Ohio sufficient force to have accomplished that?
That is a difficult question to answer, because we cannot always tell what move merits an enemy may make. If the enemy had turned either of the roads in force I: might have compelled us to withdraw from some of those roads to meet him. If he had not attempted any of those roads in force it would not have been necessary to use so large an observing force. I cannot say positively whether the army had a sufficiently strong force to have accomplished that thoroughly.
Question. After the army was concentrated at Nashville what would have been the effect upon the invading force had our army moved to Lebanon, upon the Cumberland?
The enemy being at Sparta and having their flank protected by Coney Fork, it would have been affected but little by the removal of the army to Lebanon, because they could have thrown out flank guards sufficiently strong to have prevented us from making any decided attack upon them until they had prepared themselves.
Question. What point upon the Cumberland would your better judgment suggest as being sufficient to affect the invading force and at the same time cover Nashville?
Lebanon would be an excellent place to cover Nashville while the enemy were marching from Sparta to the Cumberland, and as soon as they arrived at the Cumberland it would have been necessary to cross our forces to prevent the enemy from approaching Nashville from the north side of the river. Therefore if I had been in command of the forces while the enemy were marching from Sparta and Gainesborough I should have thought the best plan to throw a portion of the forces into Lebanon and concentrate the remainder at Gallatin, so as to be as near supporting distance to the troops at Lebanon as possible.
Question. When General Buell and forces marched out of Nashville toward Gallatin and Bowling Green did you understand the object of their march?
I understood it generally to be to watch the enemy and if possible to get into Bowling Green before he could arrive, so marching, however, as to prevent him from striking at the railroad from Nashville to Bowling Green. I do not think that General Buell wished to engage the enemy before reaching Bowling Green himself.
Question. Having secured Bowling Green, did you understand what next was the object?
As far as I know his next object was to offer battle to the enemy, that is, if he could succeed by reaching Bowling Green in putting his troops between Louisville and the enemy.
Question. Having secured Bowling Green, what other point on the railroad became one of importance to our army? <ar22_184>
Munfordville and the crossing of Salt River. These were the two most important points.
Question. Had the enemy made a stand at Munfordville what would have been the effect on our army? Could we have passed that place without a battle, and if defeated what would have been the result?
If the enemy had made a stand at Munfordville it would have been necessary for us to have fought him, and if defeated it would have been disastrous, as it was a difficult position for us to get out of.
Question. You can state, general, what effort was made on the part of General Buell to possess himself of that point before the enemy came up.
So far as I know, without ever having conversed with General Buell on the subject, I think he made very strenuous efforts to get possession of Munfordville before the enemy reached there. I was not with the main army at the time and cannot speak from positive knowledge.
Question. Can you state to the Commission how General Buell regarded Munfordville; whether it was an important point or not?
In a conversation I bad with him at Prewitt's Knob, when I arrived, I came to the conclusion that he regarded it as a very important point, so much so that he believed the enemy would resist him, they being in Munfordville when I arrived at Prewitt's Knob, and he immediately after my arrival made all necessary preparations for a battle at Munfordville.
Question. State if you know the number of the army that marched out of Louisville under General Buell to attack Bragg at Bardstown.
I do not know how many, but I should estimate that there were about 54,000.
Question. What was the object in view when that army left Louisville?
The object was to overtake the enemy, fight, and destroy him if possible, either by a disastrous defeat or by cutting off his retreat if he succeeded in getting off in considerable force from the battle-field.
Question. How was that object affected by Kirby Smith's forces?
It became necessary for General Buell to divide his main army and leave two divisions watching Smith, marching against Bragg with his remaining divisions.
Question. Where was Kirby Smith at that time?
A portion of his force was at Frankfort, but his main force was believed to be at Lexington.
Question. Was it known what point Kirby Smith had been threatening and in what direction he was moving at that time?
It was generally believed he was threatening Louisville. I do not remember that his forces moved about that time. They had remained stationary for some days.
Question. Looking at the positions of the two armies under Bragg and Kirby Smith, what roads would they follow and at what point would they form a junction and by what roads was it reasonable to suppose they would leave Kentucky?
After the battle of Perryville, when it became necessary for them to leave Kentucky, there were but two roads that offered them any security to get to Tennessee direct; the one by Somerset and the other by Mount Vernon and London. They might have retreated through Mount Sterling and into Western Virginia.
Question. With what expectation did General Buell's army approach Perryville in reference to the enemy?
We expected to be resisted by the enemy at Perryville.
Question. What reason had you for such expectation? <ar22_185>
We had met with resistance all the way from Louisville and the resistance became stronger and stronger every day. At Bardstown there was quite a skirmish; there was also a skirmish between Bardstown and Springfield as our troops advanced; and there being a very scant supply of water between Springfield and Perryville and a good supply at Perryville, I think that all thought the enemy would take and hold possession of the water and give us battle there.
Question. What, in your judgment, should have been the course of our army immediately following that battle?
I think as soon as we could determine whether the enemy was going to retreat across Dick's River we ought to have marched upon Danville or Lancaster or Stanford, whichever we could have effected.
Question. What would have been the effect, in your opinion, of such a movement?
I think, sir, we should have had, in all probability, another battle, depending entirely upon the good management of our army whether it would have been a complete disaster to the enemy or not.
Question. You can state whether that was your opinion at the time and what suggestions you made upon it.
As well as I can remember now I suggested to General Buell on the evening of the 9th that Crittenden's corps should be advanced as far as Danville; that future movements should depend upon what was developed by that movement.
By General DANA:
Question. Had you posted a portion of your force at Lebanon and the remainder of it at Gallatin while Bragg was approaching Gainesborough was it not at the option of the enemy to avoid you and march toward Munfordville?
Question. Why did not General Buell wish to engage Bragg's forces before reaching Bowling Green?
He wished to get his army between Louisville and the enemy and secure his supplies; for, his supplies secured, he could then attack him.
Question. At the time you were at McMinnville what number, from your best recollection, did you estimate the aggregate of Bragg's forces to be?
I never could make out more than 45,000, but the information I received at McMinnville was not very definite. The people who gave me information were generally ignorant and did not know how to estimate numbers. I therefore did not know how to estimate them.
Question. Taking into consideration all the information you then possessed, with what force would you then have felt justified to give battle to Bragg on his descending into the plains of Tennessee?
I think if I could have got 45,000 men at Sparta I would have given battle to him.
Question. Were Bragg's forces materially increased or diminished from that time prior to their reaching Munfordville?
I do not remember to have heard of any additional force joining him. I understood that he was marching by way of Sparta and concentrating his troops as he passed along. My estimate of his forces was based upon what I could learn--what passed through Sparta by the various roads. A force was left to watch his flank and rear and threaten Nashville. I do not think, however, that that force was more than 10,000.
Question. In the event of his having been compelled to accept battle on his line of march from the Cumberland to Munfordville was this force within supporting distance
I think not. I believe that the greater part of it was south of the Cumberland, though I am not positive as to where the whole was. <ar22_186>
Question. After General Buell became aware that Bragg probably did not intend to take Nashville, but would cross or halt crossed the Cumberland, could General Buell then have safely reached Glasgow in sufficient force to have compelled Bragg either to retreat or accept battle?
I do not think he could.
Question. What was the earliest moment after the battle of Perryville at which it was known that the enemy would cross Dick's River?
I do not think that it was decided before 12 o'clock on the 11th. It was strongly suspected however, on the night of the 10th, Colonel Harker's brigade, in Wood's division, had quite a skirmish with their rear guard on the morning of the 11th.
Question. Could any earlier information have been reasonably gained on this subject?
We were compelled, of course, to depend for our information on persons who were friendly to the Federal cause. We had to feel our way entirely from Perryville to the crossing of Diok's River. The information we received from some of those loyal persons was that they were retreating across Dick's River; but of course we had to ascertain that positively ourselves, and it was necessary to be sufficiently strong to resist any attack on their part.
Question. What was your position on the 8th of October?
I was in command of the right wing.
Question. What was the position of the right wing in reference to the town of Perryville?
The extreme right was about 3 miles southwest of Perryville, on the hills bordering the stream that runs by Perryville (Chaplin River I think it is called). The troops were facing toward the east.
Question. Where were your headquarters or personal position on the night of the 8th?
Half a mile in rear of the center of the right wing.
Question. On the morning of the 9th did you receive any report from any source as to the enemy being in view in retreat near the town of Perryville; and, if so, from what source and at what hour?
I did not receive any such report.
Question. Did you receive any report on the morning of the 9th of the fact of any officer in your command having been in the suburbs of the town of Perryville?
I did not.
Question. Where was General Buell during the day of the 8th of October?
He was at night, when I saw him, at his headquarters, immediately on the road between Springfield and Perryville. I do not know the exact distance, but I believe his headquarters were about half a mile beyond the line. I passed the camp of one division in going to his headquarters, which was but a short distance in front of this camp. During the day of the 8th I did not leave the right wing, and therefore do not know where General Buell was during the day.
Question. Was General Buell ill during that day?
Yes, sir; he was lame from the effects of a fall from his horse or the falling of his horse upon him.
Question. Was your personal whereabouts on the forenoon of the 9th probably known to the corps, division, and brigade commanders under your command?
It should have been. I sent word to all of them on the day of the 8th where I <ar22_187> could be found, and it was understood that I should return to the same place on the morning of the 9th. After the troops commenced moving I could easily have been found by any one, as I was on the road all the time from the position the troops occupied the morning until they reached the camp near Perryville, where they encamped that night.
Question. General, from the habits of the sub-commanders under your orders is it at all likely that any one of them on the morning of the 9th made any reports to the headquarters of the army which were not made through your headquarters?
I do not think they would have done it. They usually reported through me. I am not aware of an instance of their having reported direct to headquarters.
Question. On the morning of the 9th did you hear of any baggage trains of the enemy being seen in retreat?
I do not remember any such report being made.
Question. On the night of the 8th, after the battle was ended, what was your belief as to the relative condition of the two armies as affected by the work of the day?
The only information I received was after reaching headquarters (General Buell's) on the night of the 8th, that is, regarding the battle on the left, and the impression made on my mind then was that General McCook's corps had been very much cut up and could do but little fighting the next day, but General Gilbert's corps and the right wing were in as good condition as before the battle. I believed from what I had heard that the rebel army would resist us the next day; that they considered they had achieved a victory on the left and would resist us the next day [boldface mine].
Question. At what time on the day of the 8th did you become aware that the left wing was engaged with the enemy?
I did not know that a battle had been fought on the left until after night-fall, when, as I was riding to my tent, Lieutenant Fitzhugh, of General Buell's staff, over took me and told me. This must have been about 7 o'clock.
Question. Did you hear any firing on that day; and, if so, what was the character of it?
I heard cannonading about the time that the bead of Crittenden's corps reached the position it was to take up, and I directed Captain Mack, my chief of artillery., to report to General Buell that I had arrived in position and with the head of the column, and would superintend the placing of troops in position, and requested the general to send me any orders by Captain Mack. Captain Mack returned about 12, with a plan of the ground and directions from the general to dispose the troops in a certain manner preparatory to an attack the next morning at Perryville but the arrangement was not positive; it left the arrangement of the troops somewhat to my discretion if I thought it was necessary. I asked Captain Mack if he knew what that firing was we heard on the left in front; his reply was that the report came to headquarters that it was Captain Gay, chief of cavalry, reconnoitering and the enemy were firing upon him with artillery. About 3 o'clock in the afternoon? again heard very heavy cannonading, and directed General Crittenden to send a staff officer to General Gilbert to know what that firing was. The sun was probably half an hour high when he returned. General Gilbert replied to General Crittenden by a short note, stating that he had met with some little resistance himself, but was then camping his troops for the night; that General Rousseau had been engaged--I think he said had been driven back slightly, but had regained his ground. The firing continued at intervals from about half past two till about an hour of sundown, but I am not positive.
Question. Would such firing as that which you describe proceed from the resistance of a reconnaissance?
I do not think so; and for that reason I sent to General Gilbert to know why there was such firing.
Question. Taking into consideration the relative distance of yours and General Buell's headquarters from the scene of this conflict and the direction of the wind, would the sound of artillery or small-arms be more readily heard at General Buell's headquarters than at yours? <ar22_188>
I think that with as high a wind blowing as there was that day the cannonading was not more distinctly heard at his headquarters than where I was. The wind was blowing very heavily [boldface mine].
Question. Was the wind blowing from his headquarters toward the firing or from the firing to his headquarters?
I think the direction of the wind was to his left from the direction of the firing.
Question. At the hour that General Gilbert sent his report in answer to General Crittenden's inquiry as to what the firing was, what was the actual condition of things in reference to his own and McCook's command?
With reference to his own, he reported that he was putting his troops in camp for the night. In reference to Crittenden's command, it had been in position for several hours and the troops were quiet in camp, with the exception of Smith's division, a portion of which was skirmishing with the enemy in front. Smith's division was moving up gradually to gain the hills which overlooked the creek and was skirmishing with the enemy till dark. The other two divisions of Crittenden's corps were in position and quite in supporting distance of one another. I cannot state what the condition of McCook's command was, because I had no knowledge of it at that time.
Question. The last question is intended to get the information as to whether the reply of General Gilbert at that time gave the correct information which was desired of him, or whether, from your subsequent knowledge, you do not know that his statement was incorrect.
I learned at General Buell's headquarters that night that the information received from General Gilbert was not a true statement of the case, but at the same time I believe General Gilbert reported all he knew at the time.
Question. Is General Gilbert's ignorance of the actual condition of things at that time a sufficient proof that he was not at those parts of the field where the presence of a commander is most called for while his troops are engaged?
No; I do not think it is. General Gilbert had the superintendence of three divisions, and while superintending those three divisions he could not reasonably be expected to know what was going on at a distant point from his command. There was no unusual delay in the reception of his reply to General Crittenden's note.; therefore I think he must have been with his corps.
Question. How many years is it since you first commenced the study of the military profession; how and in what scenes of service have you been engaged since that time?
About twenty-nine years. I have served in the Florida war, in the Mexican war and in this rebellion.
Question. Placing yourself in the position of General Buell, in command of the Army of the Ohio, at the time he commenced his retrograde movement toward Nashville from Northern Alabama, and being possessed of such information as he was then probably possessed of, what at that time would probably have been your plans and dispositions in reference to performing your duties in the best possible manner so as to have subserved the best interests of your Government, to have inflicted the most damage on the enemy, and to have properly guarded, to the best of your ability, the States of Tennessee and Kentucky? Keep in view in answering this question the information which General Buell probably got from day to day during the whole course of the movement.
I think it very likely that I should have pursued the same course that he pursued, although I believe now, from the information I had myself, that he should have met the enemy at Sparta and fought him there. The information I had, however, at that time was probably very different from that General Buell had. It is my opinion that could we have fought the enemy at Sparta we could have destroyed his army there [boldface mine]. <ar22_189>
Question. Were you second in command of the Army of the Ohio?
I was the second officer in rank.
Question. During the term of the campaign was General Buell as communicative to you as regards his plans as was proper for a commander to be and as was necessary to be in the event of an accident befalling him?
Whenever we met General Buell was always communicative, and after our arrival at Louisville I think that he explained to me his plan of the campaign as fully as was necessary. Previous to that we were not a great deal together, and although I did not know what his intentions were on all occasions, I believe he would have communicated with me freely if we could have been together so that we could converse with safety. He did not like to risk his plans to the hands of a courier or any other means.
Question. Do you know whether a failure to relieve the garrison at Munfordville is in any way to be attributed to the commander of the Army of the Ohio?
I do not know.
By General ORD:
Question. When you suggested to the commander of the army, General Buell, the propriety of concentrating a sufficient force at Sparta to meet the enemy, had you any reliable information of the enemy's position? If so, what was it?
I had information from the citizens of the Sequatchie Valley, the neighborhood of Kingston and Crossville,. also from scouts sent out by myself, that the enemy was crossing that portion of' the country, and said it was their intention to pass through Sparta, and some said attack McMinnville; others said Murfreesborough, others said Nashville, and again others said the army was marching by that road as the most direct to Kentucky.
Question. Did the position of the enemy, as located by this information, afford General Buell ample time, considering the roads and the condition of his men, to concentrate a sufficient force at Sparta to have met them?
I think it did.
Question. After arriving at Sparta, in case the enemy had delayed in the valley or taken another route, was the condition of our supplies such that we could have remained some time at Sparta as the best position for an army of observation?
We could not have remained for any length of time at Sparta with the amount of supplies we had at that time.
Question. Were there at that time other practicable roads leading toward Kentucky which would have enabled the enemy's army to have avoided the army at Sparta?
There is a road from Kingston to Montgomery and Livingston which they could have used. There was also a road from Knoxville, Clinton, Jacksborough, and Monticello which they could have used, and there are intermediate country roads of which I have been told, on which troops could have moved, but they are very difficult.
Cross-examination by General BUELL:
Question. At what date would you have concentrated your army at Sparta to have resisted Bragg?
I would have concentrated at Sparta about the time that the army concentrated at Murfreesborough. Instead of moving the troops to Murfreesborough I would have placed them in such position as to concentrate at Sparta the day it became necessary to fight that I think was about the 2d or 3d of September. <ar22_190>
Question. Where would the enemy have been at that time?
I believe the main body of the enemy would have been between Spencer and Sparta at that time.
Question. How long would it have taken you to move your army from McMinnville to Sparta?
The troops that were at McMinnville could have been removed to Sparta in two days from where they were and placed in position. The other troops could have been started in sufficient time to have arrived immediately afterward. The one division would probably require four days, the other two divisions would have reached in five days, as well as I remember the position of the troops now.
Question. You suppose, do you not, that the enemy would be apprised of your movement?
Question. How close could the enemy come to McMinnville before deciding whether to go to Sparta or McMinnville
They could come within about 24 miles.
Question. Not any nearer?
They might come nearer, but with a force at McMinnville, if they designed going to Sparta, they would turn off before getting so near.
Question. Is there not a road following the general direction of the mountain on its top nearly midway between McMinnville and Pikeville or McMinnville and Dunlap and running into the Sparta road; and, if so, how close would that have brought the enemy to McMinnville before he must necessarily determine whether to go to Sparta or McMinnville?
That is the road I had in view in answering the first question--about 24 miles. According to my recollection that road runs about midway of one edge of the mountain to another; it is nearer to Dunlap than it is to McMinnville.
Question. What is the distance from McMinnville to Dunlap?
The citizens there always represented it to me as being 40 miles. It is about 30 according to the military map and 25 by another map.
Question. Does your estimate of the distance from McMinnville to where the road turns off to go to Sparta remain the same?
The road, as I understood it, was on the top of the mountain, and ran along the mountain near the top of the ridge. It must be 20 miles at least from McMinnville.
Question. How far is it from McMinnville to the foot of the mount-sin, according to your recollection?
It is 12 miles by one road and 14 by another; there are two roads.
Question. How far is it from McMinnville to Sparta?
According to my best recollection now it is about 22 miles, and a little over 20 in a direct course. By the military map, reckoning the winding of the roads, I presume it, would he almost 22.
Question. With your army at Sparta, the enemy concealing his movements by cavalry and other means which are possible, which do you think would reach McMinnville first, if he were suddenly to determine to march on that point?
I think I could march there first with my forces.
Question. Will yet? explain why?
Because the road is better.
Question. How much time would you allow yourself to get knowledge of his movements before commencing your movement?
That is a matter of uncertainty; but in concentrating my forces at Sparta I should <ar22_191> not have left McMinnville unoccupied. I should have left a force sufficiently strong to have checked him in any attempt to take possession of the town, and as far as possible made him determine to take one road or the other decidedly; that is, either the road to McMinnville or the road to Sparta.
Question. Would you not in that way divide your force and render yourself liable to be beaten in detail?
I do not think I would have done so there. As a general rule the forces should not be divided, but the physical features of the ground at McMinnville and between there and Sparta are such as to enable all officer to divide his troops, in my opinion.
Commission adjourned to meet December 19, at 10 o'clock a.m.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XVI/1 [S# 22] TRANSCRIPT FROM
PHONOGRAPHIC NOTES OF THE BUELL COURT OF INQUIRY.
NASHVILLE, -Friday Morning, December 19, 1862.
The Commission met pursuant to adjournment. All the members present; also the judge-advocate and General Buell.
General THOMAS' examination continued.
Cross-examination continued by General BUELL:
Question. Would the enemy in descending from the mountains upon McMinnville have been able to use more than one road?
They would not have been able to use but one road direct from Dunlap. They would approach McMinnville by one road. They could, however, have approached McMinnville by turning off after reaching the road from McMinnville to Pikeville or they might pass from Dunlap to Manchester and descend the mountains toward Altamont.
Question. Or farther away toward Winchester?
Yes; they might descend into the highlands of Tennessee reward Winchester or Pelham.
Question. Or directly from Altamont to McMinnville by a good road?
That would be if they approached direct from Altamont. To reach McMinnville from Altamont they had to strike the road from Dunlap to Altamont in the valley of Rock River some distance from McMinnville. It is, as near as I remember, 8 or 10 miles from McMinnville where the road turns off.
Question. Would an army in descending upon McMinnville by these different roads meet with any greater difficulties than you would have in crosssing Caney Fork between Sparta and McMinnville?
I think it would, for the reason that the roads I saw on the side of the mountain were very rocky and difficult. The only great obstacle on the road between McMinnville and Sparta is the crossing of Caney Fork at Rock Island.
Question. Is that a formidable obstacle?
It is; but an army could pass that easier than down those hill-sides.
Question. Did you travel over the road from McMinnville to Altamont by the way of Beersheba Springs, and is it not a good mountain stage road?
I did not pass over that road, but I have always heard that it was a good mountain stage road, and the only one that is good from the mountains to the highlands.
Question. When you were at McMinnville did you ever have any information which indicated that the enemy might cross or was crossing the mountains by the way of Altamont?
I did not get that information myself. The information I received from my scouts indicated that the enemy were passing toward Pikeville and Sparta, but I think, from the message which I received from General Buell, it was reported to him that the enemy were passing or might pass across the mountains through Altamont.
Question. Did your cavalry report the enemy on the Altamont road?
They reported a portion of the enemy on the top of the ridge, but marching toward Spencer, as far as they could learn. <ar22_192>
Question. At what time did you propose a concentration of the Army of the Ohio at Sparta and in what manner?
As well as I can remember the dates, it, was somewhere about the 28th of August, and I proposed to have the troops in readiness near McMinnville to either sustain the troops that were under my command there if attacked, or if the enemy turned in the direction of Sparta decidedly to take position there.
Question. How was this recommendation made?
I do not remember whether it was sent by a messenger or by telegraph in cipher.
Question. Have you a copy of the recommendation?
I have with my papers, but not here.
General BUELL. I request that it may be presented to the Commission.
Question. Have you ever heard that I proposed to abandon Nashville in marching the Army of the Ohio into Kentucky and what do you know of my determination upon that matter?
General Buell, in conversation with me after the army was concentrated in Nashville, frequently said that it would be perfectly disastrous to abandon Nashville; that we would lose more than we could gain in twelve months, or perhaps more than we could gain at all in Tennessee or in this part of the country. That was the substance of his remarks. I never had an idea that he thought of abandoning Nashville. When he left me to take command of Nashville in his absence he wished me to designate the number of troops I wanted to defend the place, and said that if he could possibly spare them I should have them. And I remember about the last conversation I had with him the subject was again spoken of in the same terms, and I replied that if I had to abandon Nashville I would leave it a heap of ashes.
Question. Have you any reason to suppose that my determination upon that question was influenced by or was the result of any consultation with Governor Johnson?
I have no reason to suppose so.
Question. Did you see while at Prewitt's Knob a man by the name of Pratt, who came into camp and represented himself as having information from the rebel army?
I do remember him, sir. He came to my tent the evening before the army marched, and I sent him to General Buell.
Question. What statement did he make to you?
I was very busy at the time; just returned from the picket line, and did not have a great deal of conversation with him, and cannot say positively what information he did give me. I thought it of more importance that he should see General Buell, mad therefore sent him to him immediately.
Question. Did you deem his information very important, if you remember it?
That was the reason why I sent him to General Buell. He told me in general terms that he was just from the rebel army and could give important information, and knowing he had gone out for the purpose of procuring it and his story being a very connected one I sent him at once to General Buell, thinking it was of very great importance that he should know what information this young man could give.
Question. Did he then or at any other time represent that he had counted the rebel forces, and that they did not exceed 22,000, infantry and artillery?
It appears to me that he stated he had counted the rebel forces, but I do not remember what statement he made as to the number.
Question. Whatever his statement may have been, have you at any time entertained a doubt as to his honesty?
I thought it a little singular that he should have appeared so suddenly at that time. <ar22_193> Since then the members of my staff have spoken of him, and without having any positive ground to base an opinion on I myself have doubted his loyalty and I think they have too.
Question. Were you present when General McCook came to my headquarters on the night after the battle of Perryville?
Question. Did you hear the conversation which passed between us?
I heard the greater part of it.
Question. Did you hear General McCook make application for re-enforcements to enable him to withdraw his corps from the position which it occupied, and did you from that conversation think that the re-enforcements were necessary to enable him to do it safely?
I do not remember that General McCook made any direct application for re-enforce-ments. It seems to me that General Buell was questioning him as to whether he had made certain dispositions of his troops, and General McCook replied that the dispositions were being made or that they were about completed, but represented that some portion of his troops were in bad condition and ought to be sustained, and I think that General Buell replied that if he could make this disposition he did not think support was necessary, but that he would give him support it' he possibly could. I do not remember the particular words of this conversation, but think this was the purport of it, as my attention was particularly called to the dispositions of the troops on the right of the army for the attack in the morning that we were to make. I was thinking of these dispositions more than of the other.
Question. Was any such impression made on your mind as that General McCook asked assistance which was necessary for the safety of his command and that I peremptorily refused it?
No such impression was made on my mind.
Question. Will you state, if you please, what the orders were for the following day?
The orders for Crittenden's corps were to form in column so as to be able to deploy into line of battle immediately and march upon Perryville and attack the enemy if he was there in the morning, and it was the impression that we would have a battle the next day.
Question. At what hour was the advance to be made?
At 4 o'clock in the morning.
Question. Were those orders executed?
They were not executed at the time. The troops did not get fairly in motion, I presume, before half past six. I was detained at General Buell's headquarters till nearly 4 o'clock myself, but sent a message by signal to General Crittenden to commence the movement, and when I reached the ground, about half past six, I found the troops were just about to move. I believe the cause of their not moving was the result of General Crittenden's misconstruing the order [boldface mine]. The impression was that he was to be ready to move at 4 o'clock.
Question. Will you give the particulars of the movements of that day, as far as they are important, stating where you stopped?
After the right wing entered Perryville I sent word to General Buell that the troops were in Perryville and that the enemy seemed to have retired toward Harrodsburg--this must have been about half past ten or eleven o'clock, and then asked for orders. The orders for Crittenden's corps were to go on to the spring beyond Perryville and encamp for the day. There was a considerable delay in getting this order, as it took some time for messengers to go to General Buell's headquarters and back. I do not know where General Gilbert's corps encamped that night nor McCook's. In advancing to the position in which I was to encamp the right wing, I was told to he particular in guarding against any demonstration of the enemy to attack us. One division was placed on the road between Perryville and Danville.
Question. Will you explain, if you please, general why the right corps«13 R R-VOL XVl» <ar22_194> did not get into Perryville before the time you mentioned and what delayed its movements?
The division of General Smith had some skirmishing on the morning of the 9th with the enemy's cavalry. That was the only delay of which I know. After this cavalry was driven off the troops then marched into Perryville as rapidly as the ground would permit. A portion of the troops marched by the road and the other across the fields and pasture.
Question. How much of the time was occupied with this skirmishing?
The troops must have been engaged skirmishing through the woods from half past six till probably 9. I do not remember to have noted the time particularly, but the troops moved as soon as I arrived there.
Question. Did you know of a portion of General Wood's division being very near the town early in the morning?
I did not know of it.
Question. Did you know of their being recalled and why?
No, I did not.
Question. At what time and on what occasion did you recommend that the army should take position at Danville?
That was on the 10th, I think; the day after we left Perryville and marched to Mr. Harlan's farm, I think on the Salt River or a branch of it. My recollection is that I suggested that Crittenden's corps should be sent to Danville and that the whole army should be sent, its after movements to be regulated by what we might discover the enemy to be about.
Question. How far, in fact, was Crittenden's corps from Danville?
I think about 5 miles, as well as I can remember.
Question. Was one division encamped at Fry's Spring?
Question. Was it known then what the position of the enemy was certainly?
It was not certainly known.
Question. Was it known until the evening of the 12th that the enemy had certainly crossed Dick's River, and in moving from Harrods-burg might he not have gone toward the Kentucky River without his destination being certainly known until it was traced up?
I do not think it was certainly known that he had crossed Dick's River until the 12th but from the information which we got from the citizens of the country I was under the impression that he would cross there, and that was the reason why I recommended to General Buell to place Crittenden's cores in Danville. He could have crossed the Kentucky River from Harrodsburg and either have gone to Camp Dick Robinson or to Lexington. I presume that that was one reason why General Buell was influenced not to send Crittenden's corps to Danville on the 11th.
Question. Considering the character of the enterprise the enemy had undertaken, do you think it unreasonable to suppose that be might go into the interior of Kentucky or that he might move on the Frankfort road and thence across to Louisville?
I don't think it is unreasonable to suppose that he might have gone to Central Kentucky, thence to cross Dick's River, and attempt to hold that, part of the State, at least long enough for them to have completed preparations to get out of the State, but I do not think that he would attempt to march on Louisville without retiring from Perryville.
Question. Was there anything in the condition of Bragg's army or in its relative strength to justify the assumption that he was fleeing ignominiously, and that no enterprising service was to be expected from him? <ar22_195>
Nothing but the fact of his having retired from Perryville; for, as far as I could learn, he had retired in good order. As I said before, I did not think that he would attempt to go to Louisville because he had retired before us from Perryville. There is no reason to suppose that he might not have attempted to hold Central Kentucky, and having selected a strong position, remain there and await a good opportunity to undertake some new enterprise or to resist us as we attacked him.
Question. Was not the attack which he made at Perryville made by a portion of his forces, and was it not calculated to inspire respect rather than contempt for him as an adversary?
As far as I could learn the attack at Perryville was made by a portion of the forces, and the character of the battle was such and the result such that it would have been imprudent to have marched against him without proper precautions.
Question. Is it to be assumed that he had no other design, and that he had no alternative except to retreat by Lancaster and Crab Orchard from Camp Dick Robinson?
No; it cannot be assumed that he had no other design.
Question. Suppose my army had been put in the way of his retreat by that route, what line of conduct was he at liberty to pursue by a study of the map?
If he should choose to run the risk of battle, and, if successful, he might have retired, through Danville toward the south by Hustonville and Liberty and Jamestown or by the roads south, or he might have passed through Stanford and Somerset if he felt obliged to leave Kentucky. If successful against us, of course then he could have remained in Kentucky. If we had fought him and he had been defeated, he still might have been strong enough to have marched by way of Richmond toward the eastern part of Kentucky, but I do not think he could have retreated through Mount Vernon and the Rockcastle Hills or by Somerset if we had had a battle and had whipped him.
Question. Suppose he had crossed the Kentucky River at Camp Dick Robinson toward Lexington, what would you have done?
I would have secured all the ferries and fords on the river with a sufficient force to have held him there and then march against him by way of Frankfort, that route being the best for the security of our supplies.
Question. What force would be required, do you suppose, for these different crossings to prevent him from making use of any one of them at his option?
I believe a brigade of infantry and one battery of artillery could hold the Hickman Bridge against any force that could be brought against it. The crossing at the mouth of Dick's River, as well as I understood it, could be held by probably the same amount of troops; and I am also of opinion that a brigade could hold the crossing at Clay'e Ferry.
Question. What force would have been sufficient to prevent you from crossing the river at Frankfort?
We had possession of Frankfort at that time, so I was informed.
Question. Was that possession in sufficient force to withstand Bragg's army, considering the character and the number of the troops?
? do not suppose it was sufficient to withstand it entirely.
Question. Suppose he had designed to pursue this course, crossing the river on the Lexington and Richmond road, which would have been likely to procure possession of that crossing first?
The enemy would, of course.
Question. What would prevent the enemy, then, while you were marching to Frankfort, from actually marching out of Kentucky by the Cumberland Gap
If he secured the ferry, of course he could take that road to the Cumberland Gap. <ar22_196>
Question. Is not the river fordable near that point at a low stage?
It is seldom, if ever, fordable there; so I am informed by the citizens
Question. Are there many fords lower down on the river?
There is one about half way between Clay's Ferry and Hickman Bridge which is fordable at a very low stage of water, but it is a difficult crossing. That is the only ford I know of.
Question. Is it your impression that the river is generally not fordable; that is, only passable by ferries and bridges?
Question. State, if you please, the more important particulars of your march from Corinth into Middle Tennessee last summer--the date of your orders, and the occasion of any delay you met with in the march, and the route you took, &c.
I do not remember now the date that I left Corinth, because I do not fix those things in my mind. It would have been in the latter half of the month of June. I left under orders to distribute my division along the railroads from Iuka to Decatur. The troops commenced moving the second or third day after I received the order. It was as soon as they could move and get rations. We reached Iuka the second day. As soon as I arrived there General Nelson marched, and I sent a cavalry force to distribute along the road for the purpose of relieving the bridge guards and allow General Nelson's troops to concentrate at Tuscumbia. I think it was about four days after General Nelson left that the troops again moved forward to Tuscumbia, leaving infantry guards at different bridges as far as that town. At Tuscumbia details were made to relieve the bridge guards which had been posted by General Wood from Tuscumbia to Decatur; the remainder of the divisions remained at Tuscumbia. It took some little time to make these different arrangements, but I do not think there was any unnecessary delay.
About the last of July I received information that my division would be relieved from duty on the railroad, and General Buell ordered me to concentrate as soon as possible and march to Huntsville, I believe. Before that was commenced, however, General Fry's brigade was ordered to cross the river and go to Reynolds' Station, on the Nashville and Decatur Railroad, I believe it is called, for the purpose of guarding a provision train from Reynolds' Station to Pulaski. The railroad not being completed at that time, General Schoepf's brigade was ordered to march by way of Athens, and the third brigade was ordered to cross at Florence and Eastport and march to Huntsville by way of Athens. There was also some delay in effecting all these movements, because it was necessary to wait for the arrival of the division which was to relieve my troops, and also the difficulty of crossing the Tennessee River. The troops were occupied in crossing the Tennessee River probably two days. After the delay of about ten days from the time the order was given to the time the division was relieved from guarding that road there was no delay from Corinth to the point where the troops were finally ordered, namely, Decherd, after the crossing of the Tennessee River was effected. As well as I remember now the division was concentrated in Decherd about the 10th of August.
Question. Were there any rumors, about the time of your arrival at Decherd of an advance of the enemy into Middle Tennessee from Chattanooga and other points?
Yes; there were rumors that Forrest and Morgan were reported to be at Sparta.
Question. Do you know anything of any difficulty in supplying the troops in North Alabama in consequence of roads being out of order?
I suppose I may say I knew officially, as I was informed by Captain Dart, that it was a very difficult matter to get supplies for the troops. This, however, was in ordinary conversation between officers. I may have been told by General Buell himself when I met him in Huntsville, though I am not positive; but I know that Captain Darr informed me.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XVI/1 [S# 22] TRANSCRIPT FROM
PHONOGRAPHIC NOTES OF THE BUELL COURT OF INQUIRY.
FRIDAY AFTERNOON, December 19, 1862.
General THOMAS' examination continued.
Cross-examination by General BUELL:
Question. Did you know of any petition having been gotten up and <ar22_197> signed by officers within your own division for the removal of one of your brigade commanders? If you do, please state what you know about it and how that matter came to my notice?
There was such a petition, signed by a good many officers of the brigade, and it was handed to me with this officer's resignation. I tried to persuade him not to resign, but he insisted on doing so, and requested also to forward this application with his resignation. I permitted him to do so without approving of his resignation in the Army, and I presume that was the way in which the information reached General Buell.
Question. State, if you please, what I did in reference to that matter.
I think General Buell saw this officer, and after conversation with him his resignation was withdrawn and the application of those officers with it. I do not remember that any other action was taken in the matter. I sent for some officers and spoke to them myself-about it, and I believe that the greater part of them apologized to the brigade commander for having signed any such paper; but I do not know whether General Buell saw any of these officers or not.
Question. Do you remember whether that paper was referred to you for official information with reference to official action?
That paper was referred to me, as I remember now, for a report of how it came to my headquarters, and I explained on the indorsement that was sent back with the resignation how it came to my headquarters. It came to my headquarters, and I sent it back to the officer concerned, the brigade commander. The officer concerned heard of it and tendered his resignation, and requested me to permit him to hand that paper with his resignation. I tried to dissuade him from doing so, but he still desired and I permitted him to do it, but disapproved of the acceptance of his resignation, and that was the explanation I gave, to General Buell when the paper was sent back.
Question. Do you know any reason why I could not at that time take any further steps with reference to such a breach of discipline?
I think about the next day after my division was transferred from the Army of the Ohio to the Army of the Tennessee.
Question. Who commanded that division immediately after the battle of Perryville and who were the brigade commanders in it, as well as you remember?
General Schoepf commanded the division up to the day of the battle of Perryville; and I was informed by some person a few days afterward he had obtained a leave of absence about that time, probably the day after the battle, and that General Fry., being the senior brigadier-general in the division, commanded the division. General Steedman commanded the Third Brigade; Colonel Walker, of the Thirty-first Ohio, commanded the First Brigade, and Colonel Harlan, of the Tenth Kentucky, commanded the Second Brigade. Up to the battle of Perryville I presume General Fry commanded the Second Brigade.
Redirect examination by the JUDGE-ADVOCATE:
Question. General, did you hear General Buell express any discontent or administer any rebuke to General McCook for his conduct on the 8th at Perryville?
I do not think I heard him administer any rebuke, but I heard him say to General McCook that he had no idea that a battle was being fought till it was all over. I inferred from the remark of General Buell that he thought that General McCook ought to have been certain of his being informed of the necessity of sending some re-enforcements, though I might have been mistaken. The conversation was friendly--no harshness on the part of General Buell at all [boldface mine].
Question. General Buell is remarkable, is he not, for the manner in which he holds subordinate officers to what he considers their duty
I regard General Buell as an excellent disciplinarian. I do not know that he is more remarkable than any other good disciplinarian in enforcing discipline.
Question. Can you state whether the signal corps was at work on that afternoon
Yes, sir; part of it was. <ar22_198>
Question. Do you know whether any information was sent regarding that fight in the afternoon by the signal corps?
None was received by me. The first information I ever received was through Lieutenant Fitzhugh.
Question. Do you know whether General Buell or any part of the army not immediately engaged did receive through the signal corps any information of that fight?
I do not know.
Question. Had we any higher respect or regard for the enemy after that fight than we had before?
I should think not.
Question. Was the attack there of such a nature as to throw us on the defensive?
It was not. General Buell made his dispositions to attack the enemy in the morning.
Question. Had the enemy attempted to hold Central Kentucky what position would he have selected and from whence would he have drawn his supplies
If I had been placed in his position and should have attempted to hold Central Kentucky I should have taken a position somewhere near Lexington, where I could have drawn all my supplies. Of course every one has his idea as to the proper position to hold any territory.
Question. The enemy then would have had to draw his supplies from the country around Lexington?
By General DANA:
Question. Besides the instance you have mentioned of the officers of a brigade signing a petition for the removal of their brigade commander, do you know of any other instance in the Army of the Ohio of a similar petition being signed for the removal of a division commander? And, if so, state the time and circumstance.
I merely know from report that such a petition was signed by the majority of the officers of the division. Some of the officers of rank in that division refused to sign it. The paper never came to me, although the petition was forwarded, and I believe returned to the officers.
Question. What division was that, and did any of the brigade commanders refuse to sign it?
It was then the Seventh Division of the Army of the Tennessee, now the First Division of the Army of the Ohio. One brigade commander I heard of who refused to sign it--Brigadier-General Schoepf.
Question. Had General Schoepf any conversation with you and did he state any reasons for refusing to sign this petition
He did have some conversation with me upon the subject, and stated that he refused to sign it because he did not think there was any reason for signing it; and in addition to that he regarded it as an act of insubordination, to say the least, and might be construed into a combination. If they were dissatisfied they should prefer charges against the officers; and he would have nothing to do with it. I think that was the only time that the subject was mentioned, when General Schoepf told me what he had done and asked me if I had heard of this petition being sent m.
By General ORD:
Question. In the retreat of General Bragg's army, after the battle of Perryville, did the enemy's cavalry sufficiently outnumber ours to require <ar22_199> that our infantry or artillery should deploy at times in order to dislodge them?
Yes [boldface mine].
Question. Did this involve the necessity of halts or delays on the part of our columns, that our infantry might form and take the road again?
It did on two occasions, once at Stanford and the second time on the road beyond Crab Orchard. There were two other halts until our advance could dislodge the enemy's rear guard of cavalry. We did not halt for the night until 9 o'clock.
Question. Did these maneuvers of the cavalry in the rear of their infantry make corresponding halts necessary to the enemy's infantry on the retreat
No; not at all.
Question. In the pursuit of an enemy by the roads taken by General Bragg's army after the battle of Perryville did the country afford facilities especially for defensive positions?
The country did afford facilities for defensive positions at intervals of 3 or 4 miles. Strong defensive positions could have been taken after leaving Crab Orchard.
Question. Did the enemy make use of these?
Question. Did this involve further necessity for slow and cautious pursuit?
It did; that is, it involved the necessity for cautious pursuit. The pursuit was as rapid as we could make it under the circumstances.
Question. After the battle of Perryville do you think there were reasons why the enemy were not pursued farther than they were?
The difficulty of obtaining forage was one cause; the difficulty of getting subsistence for the men over one narrow and bad road another cause; and the obstruction thrown in the road by felling trees to so great an extent that by the time the road was cleared the enemy had effected his escape [boldface mine].
Question. As the pursuit advanced did the country become more difficult for the pursuing army to form and more susceptible of defense?
It did. It became more difficult and more susceptible of defense until we reached the neighborhood of London; there the country became open again. Before we could reach London the enemy had been enabled by the obstructions placed in the road to escape.
Question. Had we had as efficient and as large a force of cavalry as the enemy could we not have forced them to form the columns of infantry and give us battle on some ground favorable to ourselves?
Not unless we could have anticipated their line of retreat before they reached Crab Orchard. We might, however, if we had had a very large force of cavalry, have attacked them at London as their column was passing through while their rear was involved in the hills of Rockcastle and have thrown them into confusion.
Question. Supposing the marching qualities of both retreating and pursuing armies the same, is plenty of good cavalry necessary to force a battle from a retreating army?
I should think it was.
Question. Did the enemy's large force of cavalry and our deficiency, on the other hand, give them any great advantage in the way of enabling their infantry to form and select their own ground upon which to fight did they not feel disposed to continue their retreat?
Yes, sir; I think it did [boldface mine]. <ar22_200>
Question. Which army can march the fastest, a large army or a small one?
A small one.
Question. Was our army larger or smaller than the enemy's after the battle of Perryville?
I think our army was the largest.
Question. Do you think the new troops which joined from Louisville in order to enable our army to pursue Bragg were able to march as fast as old troops or as fast as the enemy's troops? Were they any clog to our movements in rapid pursuit?
The new troops would have impeded our rapid march; they could not endure the fatigue of marching as well as the old soldier.
By General TYLER:
Question. Was it a military probability that Bragg could pass his army and baggage over the mountain at Altamont, and was not the route by Perryville and Sparta in fact the only practicable military route up into the Tennessee Valley after he had passed forward into the Sequatchie Valley?
I think so.
Question. Crittenden was ordered to move on the enemy at 4 o'clock on the 9th of October, and moved at 6.30 o'clock, and Smith's corps engaged the enemy until 9 o'clock; during the whole of this time what kind of forces did General Smith engage? Did it or did it not indicate that the enemy was in force in his front?
He was under the impression that the enemy was in force in his front until he had cleared those skirmishers from the woods. The skirmishing had been quite heavy at times. There were some few dismounted men, whether cavalry or not I do not know; the largest portion was cavalry.
Question. Did General Buell's army ever get hold of Bragg's army before he fought the battle of Perryville?
We had several sharp skirmishes after the battle of Perryville between portions of our troops and the enemy's. I think it more than likely that portions of the two armies were opposed to each other at the battle of Shiloh. There were skirmishes in Alabama, but they occurred with General McCook's and General Crittenden's troops, not as army against army.
Question. The battle of Perryville was fought on the 8th. You testify that on the 11th was the first time you knew that Bragg's army had crossed Dick's River; between what places were the enemy's forces during this interval and what area of country did they go over?
We knew by 12 o'clock on the 11th that they had crossed, but we received information from the citizens that they were crossing before. Their rear guard crossed on the morning of the 11th either at King's Mill or at the mouth of the river. A portion of them were pursued by Harker to the crossing at King's Mill.
Question. What was the distance from Perryville to where Bragg crossed Dick's River?
I think about 16 miles: I am not positive.
Question. Where was the bulk of General Buell's army when the enemy crossed Dick's River; how far to the rear?
I believe the whole army was in the vicinity of Harrodsburg by 12 o'clock of the 11th, 6 or 8 miles from the crossing at King's Mill. <ar22_201>
Question. If Bragg had been hardly pursued would not the crossing of Dick's River have been a serious obstacle to him?
It would think though he would have crossed a portion of his forces at the mouth of the river.
Question. Assuming that Kirby Smith had occupied and plundered Lexington and had abandoned it, what possible military inducement could Bragg, after the battle of Perryville, have had in moving on Lexington?
He could have had none, except the desire to hold Kentucky or draw his supplies from the surrounding country.
Question. General, did or did not the battle of Perryville make it almost a military necessity that Bragg's army should commence its retreat, coupled with the abandonment of Lexington and that part of Kentucky, and that the intention was, if possible, to join the two armies and get out of Kentucky?
I thought so [boldface mine].
Question. We have heard of large trains of transportation, plunder, &c., which Bragg took out of Kentucky. What disposition did he make of those trains in the retreat and what was their position at the battle of Perryville, if you know?
I do not know what their position was at the battle of Perryville, but I believe they were assembled at Camp Dick Robinson, for we had heard before that they were assembling all their trains of transportation at Camp Dick Robinson; and after the retreat was decided upon these trains must have been sent in front, as we came across very few wagons on the road.
Question. Would you not consider it a very great military success for a small army, hampered with a large transportation train, retreating, to make its escape out of any country in the face of a superior army?
Yes; I should consider it a great military success.
Question. Is not the transportation train to an army a great hinderance to rapid military movement?
Question. Were you encumbered by any of that kind of train except artillery in following up the enemy?
We were encumbered by the necessary subsistence train; nothing more.
Question. Where was Bragg's base of operations and supplies from the time he crossed the Tennessee River at Chattanooga or the vicinity?
I think he obtained his supplies from the country until he got to Bardstown; then he commenced collecting supplies from different points in Kentucky, with the intention of making a permanent depot at Camp Dick Robinson.
Question. What distance did Bragg march his army from the time he crossed the Tennessee River until he commenced what is now known to have been his retreat?
It was probably about 200 miles.
Question. During this whole march how did Bragg get his supplies?
I think he took ten days' supplies from Chattanooga; after that he drew his supplies from the country--Tennessee and Kentucky.
Question. What number of days did Bragg's military movement in Tennessee and Kentucky cover from the time he crossed the Tennessee River at Chattanooga until he was out of the reach of the army of General Buell beyond London?
I do not know precisely the date of his crossing the Tennessee River, but I suppose <ar22_202> that it was about fifty days from the time he got fairly across the river to the time he got safely beyond Loudon.
Question. During this time did General Bragg's army, with the exception of the ten days' provisions be brought from Chattanooga, necessarily subsist on the country?
Question. Would not a country that would furnish provisions to a rebel army no more loyal than the States of Tennessee and Kentucky, under a proper military management, furnish at least half rations for an army of the same size as that of Bragg's?
Yes, I suppose it would.
Question. Have the military rules that an army occupying a section of country possessed by the rules of war [has the right] to draw provisions from the country, been efficiently exacted by General Buell during his command of the Army of the Ohio?
I do not know that any supplies have been drawn from the country occupied by General Buell's army except cattle, occasionally flour, and forage for the animals; the animals have generally been foraged on the country.
Question. And has not the result been that General Bragg, marching through the same country, has been consequently enabled to subsist his army?
General BUELL. I beg leave to suggest to the Commission that one of their members is proceeding to condemnation, when their business is consideration. I must say for myself that I am astonished it should be asked ; I am very glad that it has been asked.
The court was cleared. On being reopened the witness proceeded [boldface mine].
The WITNESS. General Bragg has not marched over the same ground, except in Kentucky from Bardstown as far as London and from Chattanooga up to Murfreesborough. I presume he had drawn some of his supplies in the vicinity of the railroad from Chattanooga to Murfreesboro.
By the PRESIDENT:
Question. From the time he concentrated his army at Murfreesborough to the time he reached Louisville was General Buell acting on the defensive or offensive?
I should consider it as acting on the defensive; that is, first defending Nashville and then Louisville, with the railroad to Louisville.
Question. In your judgment what circumstance, if any, required such a policy from General Buell?
The fact of the injury to the railroad making it necessary for him to keep between the enemy and Louisville, taken in connection with the fact that Kirby Smith had invaded and already had got possession of Central Kentucky.
Question. Do you mean to say that those circumstances required that policy from him from the time Bragg marched through the Sequatchie Valley until General Buell with his army reached Nashville?
I believe that General Buell thought so.
Question. I am not asking that; I am asking your judgment.
I have said already that I desired to concentrate the army and meet Bragg at Sparta and fight him, because I thought we had supplies enough to enable us to do it.
Question. How am I to understand your answer, general?
According to my judgment there was not a sufficient reason for falling back from Murfreesborough to Nashville. <ar22_203>
By General BUELL:
Question. What force would you have required to meet the enemy at Sparta as you proposed?
I believe that four divisions would have been sufficient.
Question. What number of men
Four divisions of 6,000 men; 24,000.
Question. And by that estimate what force do you suppose the enemy to have?
I supposed, from all I knew, that the enemy had marched into Tennessee with 45,000 men, but I do not believe he could have brought that many men into an engagement at Sparta.
Question. About how many?
I do not suppose that he could have brought into an engagement more than 30,000 men.
Question. You think, then, that with 24,000 men you could have kept Bragg out of Tennessee?
If I could have brought him to a battle at Sparta.
Question. Do you not regard that as a matter of certainty?
I believe he could have been brought to battle at Sparta.
Question. How many days' rations would you require to make that result certain?
Twenty days' would have been sufficient.
Question. Suppose that at the end of twenty days the enemy failed to give you battle at Sparta.
Then I should have been compelled to subsist upon the country.
Question. Could you have done that and maintain your position at Sparta; If so, explain how.
I think we could have maintained our position at Sparta ten days longer by subsisting on the country; that is, thirty days.
Question. Do you give that opinion from your knowledge of the supplies the country affords
Not from positive knowledge, but from reliable information.
Question. Do I understand you that you made a deliberate proposition to concentrate the army at Sparta and meet the enemy there?
Question. And you have a copy of that communication
Question. Did you specify the force you thought necessary?
I think that I proposed arranging the whole army so that it could be concentrated at Sparta.
Question. Did you give the details of your plan?
Nothing further than the proposition to hold McMinnville, so as to compel the enemy to march by Sparta, and then concentrate the armor at Sparta to meet him when he was compelled to march by Sparta on his way to Kentucky.
Question. Do you know what trains or supplies Bragg carried with him from Chattanooga?
I do not know. <ar22_204>
Question. How long was the principal part of Kentucky in possession of the rebel forces before Bragg's arrival there?
I do not remember; I expect a couple of months or so.
Question. Did the mass of the people make any active resistance to that occupation do you suppose
They did not seem to make any active opposition.
Question. Was it very well known during that time that Kirby Smith was collecting supplies of various sorts necessary for the army; that he was making shot and shell and preparing other necessary supplies?
I heard after my arrival in Louisville that he had been very actively engaged in collecting supplies, and also had been preparing ammunition at Lexington, and one man also told me he had seen a train of twenty-five or thirty wagons going from Lexington to Camp Dick Robinson loaded with ammunition.
Question. As a source of supplies for an army, what comparison is there between Middle Tennessee in July and August last and the bluegrass region of Kentucky in September and October?
The resources of the blue-grass region of Kentucky were far greater than those of Middle Tennessee; there was an abundant supply in Kentucky. The supply in Middle Tennessee was not so great by half at least.
Question. Was it by seven-eighths?
The supply of some things in Tennessee was quite abundant--green corn, and there is some cattle; not a great deal of wheat; as far as I could learn; but a very abundant supply of all these in Kentucky.
Question. Have you any reason to suppose that in retreating from Kentucky Bragg took with his army any greater train than was necessary to the subsistence for it on the march; if so, how do you know it?
I could not learn positively of any train larger than was seen to carry supplies for his army. We heard from citizens that he had sent before his army large quantities of dry goods and things of that sort.
Question. Has it ever, that you know of, been stated that the rebel army plundered Lexington?
I think I heard some reports of that sort from citizens, but I do not think it has ever been known that they plundered Lexington; that is, that they stripped it of everything. They may have taken some things from Lexington.
Commission adjourned to meet December 20, at 10 o'clock a.m.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT No. 2,
Bryantsville, Ky., October 12, 1862.
SIR: By a great pressure of active engagements I have been unable to communicate since my last dispatch until now. My rapid tour of inspection was suddenly terminated at Frankfort just at the close of the ceremony of installing the Provisional Governor into office, a heavy advance of the enemy on that point rendering it necessary for me to concentrate my forces. General Polk was about the same time heavily pressed at Bardstown, and he, in accordance with previous orders, fell back toward Harrodsburg.
Not having succeeded in getting my supplies from Lexington to my new depot near Bryantsville, it was necessary to hold a large portion of General Smith's forces in that direction. Finding the enemy pressing heavily in his rear near Perryville, Major-General Hardee, of Polk's command, was obliged to halt and check him at that point. Having arrived at Harrodsburg from Frankfort I determined to give him battle there, and accordingly concentrated three divisions of my old command (the Army of the Mississippi, now under Major-General Polk)--Cheat-ham's, Buckner's, and Anderson's---and directed General Polk to take the command on the 7th and attack the enemy next morning. Withers' division had gone the day before to support Smith.
Having on the night of the 7th learned that the force in front of Smith had rapidly retreated, I moved early next morning to be present at the operations of Polk's forces. The two armies were formed confronting each other on opposite sides of the town of Perryville. After consulting with the general and reconnoitering the ground and examining his dispositions I declined to assume the command, but suggested some changes and modifications of his arrangements, which he promptly adopted.
The action opened at 12.30 p.m. between the skirmishers and artillery on both sides. Finding the enemy indisposed to advance upon us, and knowing he was receiving heavy re-enforcements, I deemed it best to assail him vigorously and so directed. The engagement became general soon thereafter, and was continued furiously from that time until dark, our troops never faltering and never failing in their efforts.
For the time engaged it was the severest and most desperately contested engagement within my knowledge. Fearfully outnumbered, our troops did not hesitate to engage at any odds, and though checked at times, they eventually carried every position and drove the enemy about 2 miles. But for the intervention of night we should have completed the work. We had captured 15 pieces of artillery by the most daring charges, killed 1 and wounded 2 brigadier-generals and a very large number of inferior officers and men, estimated at no less than 4,000, and captured 400 prisoners, including 3 staff' officers, with servants, carriage, and baggage of Major-General McCook The ground was literally covered with his dead and wounded.
In such a contest our own loss was necessarily severe, probably not less than 2,500 killed, wounded, and missing. Included in the wounded are Brigadier-Generals Wood, Cleburne, and Brown, gallant and noble soldiers, whose loss will be severely felt by their commands. <ar22_1088>
To Major-General Polk, commanding the forces; Major-General Hardee, commanding the left wing (two divisions), and Major Generals Cheatham, Buckner, and Anderson, commanding divisions, is, mainly due the brilliant achievements on this memorable field. Nobler troops were never more gallantly led. The country owes them a debt of gratitude which I am sure will be acknowledged.
Ascertaining that the enemy was heavily re-enforced during the night, I withdrew my force early the next morning to Harrodsburg and thence to this point. Major-General Smith arrived at Harrodsburg with most of his forces and Withers' division the next day (10th), and yesterday I withdrew the whole to this point, the enemy following slowly but not pressing us. My future movements cannot be indicated, as they will depend in a great measure on those of the enemy.
The campaign here was predicated on a belief and the most positive assurances that the people of this country would rise in mass to assert their independence. No people ever had so favorable an opportunity, but I am distressed to add there is little or no disposition to avail of it. Willing perhaps to accept their independence, they are neither disposed nor willing to risk their lives or their property in its achievement. With ample means to arm 20,000 men and a force with that to fully redeem the State we have not yet issued half the arms left us by casualties incident to the campaign.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
BRAXTON BRAGG, General, Commanding.
GENERAL ORDERS No. 1.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF TENNESSEE, Tullahoma, Tenn., November 23, 1862.
I. The several regiments, battalions, and independent companies engaged in the ever-memorable battle at Perryville, Ky., on October 8, in which they achieved a signal victory over the enemy, numbering three to their one, and drove him from the field with terrible slaughter and the loss of his artillery, will inscribe the name of that field on their colors. The corps of Cheatham's division which made the gallant and desperate charge resulting in the capture of three of the enemy's batteries will, in addition to the name place the cross cannon inverted.
* * * * * * * * * *
By command of General Bragg:
GEORGE WM. BRENT, Assistant Adjutant-General.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF TENNESSEE, May 20, 1863.
SIR: Constant occupation and the absence of my records during the active service in this quarter have prevented until now a full narrative of the events incident to the campaign of this army last autumn in Tennessee and Kentucky.
Early in July, 1862, under instructions, a division of troops under Major-General McCown was sent from my headquarters, at Tupelo, Miss., to the Department of East Tennessee. In the latter part of that month <ar22_1089> it became evident we were being pressed there by a heavy corps of the enemy sent from Corinth under Major-General Buell. This movement threatened the very heart of our country, and was destined, unless checked immediately, to sever our main line of connection between the East and West. At this time the army in Mississippi had much improved in health and strength, and had progressed rapidly in discipline, organization, and instruction. Leaving a sufficient force, I determined to move to Chattanooga, oppose this dangerous combination of the enemy, and, if practicable, drive him from our important provision country in Western Alabama, Middle Tennessee, and Kentucky.
Early in August the infantry force for this purpose (four divisions) was concentrated near Chattanooga and awaited the arrival of the artillery, cavalry, an(l baggage train, which necessarily moved across the country by land. Maj. Gen. E. Kirby Smith, commanding the Department of East Tennessee, met me by invitation in Chattanooga, and most generously placed his whole command at my disposal. It was soon determined, upon his suggestion, that all his force should be used to operate upon the enemy's left at Cumberland Gap, and he was requested to confer with Brig. Gen. Humphrey Marshall, commanding in Southwestern Virginia, with whom he was already in correspondence, to secure his co-operation also in the movement. After returning to Knoxville General Smith asked for further assistance, and two fine brigades, under Brig. Gen. P. R. Cleburne and Col. Preston Smith, were sent to him in addition to the division which had gone from Tupelo. The balance of my immediate command, the Army of the Mississippi, divided between Major Generals Polk and Hardee, made every preparation and awaited only its baggage train and artillery to cross the Tennessee River and enter upon its arduous and perilous campaign over the mountains dividing East and Middle Tennessee. The movement of the artillery and wagons across the mountain region of North Alabama having been successfully accomplished, late in August we commenced crossing the river at Chattanooga with very limited means. The enemy with a largely superior force occupied the lines of the railroads from Decatur to Bridgeport, Ala., from Decatur to Nashville, and from Nashville to Stevenson, with large detached commands at McMinnville and Cumberland Gap.
Having crossed the river at Chattanooga the column took up its march on August 28 over Walden's Ridge and the Cumberland Mountains for Middle Tennessee. Major-General Smith had already successfully passed through Northeastern Tennessee and gained the rear of Cumberland Gap, held by the enemy in strong force, well fortified. Leaving a sufficient force to hold the enemy in observation, his dislodgment being considered impracticable, he moved, as authorized, with the balance of his command on Lexington, Ky. This rich country, full of supplies so necessary to us, was represented to be occupied by a force which could make but feeble resistance. How well and successfully that duty was performed has already been reported by General Smith. His complete victory over the enemy at Richmond, Ky., and his occupation of Lexington rendered it necessary for me to intercept General Buell, now rapidly moving toward Nashville, or to move toward the right, so as to secure a junction with General Smith when necessary.
On reaching Middle Tennessee it was found that the enemy's main force, by use of railroads and good turnpikes, had concentrated in Nashville and was strongly fortified. With a heavy demonstration against «69 R R--VOL XVI» <ar22_1090> this position my force was thrown rapidly to Glasgow, Ky., and to my great satisfaction reached that point September 13, before any portion of the enemy passed Bowling Green. As soon as my object was discovered they moved in haste by railroad and turnpike, but reached Bowling Green only in time to find we had seized and now held both roads near Cave City. An assault on the enemy's superior force, well fortified at Nashville, gave no promise of success, while any movement for that purpose would have enabled him to throw his whole force to his rear rapidly, thus rendering certain the capture or destruction of General Smith's small command at Lexington, whereas by the flank movement adopted the enemy's communications were severed and his forces separated, while my own communications were secured. Without firing a gun we had also compelled the evacuation of Northern Alabama and Middle Tennessee south of the Cumberland. Prepared to assail Buell's forces should he attempt to pass north, I determined to rest my jaded troops at Glasgow, where some subsistence was to be had. While thus engaged I learned that the commander of my outpost brigade at Cave City had advanced upon and assailed the enemy's fortified position at Munfordville (the railroad and pike crossing the Green River), and after a gallant fight against largely superior numbers had been repulsed with considerable loss. Unwilling to allow the impression of a disaster to rest on the minds of my men, the force was rapidly prepared and our march renewed on the evening of the 15th, with a very scanty supply of provisions. Hardee's wing moved by Cave City direct upon Mun-fordville, and Polk, by the Bear Wallow road, crossed the river some miles to the right and gained the enemy's rear in the afternoon of the 16th. An immediate demand for the surrender of the garrison was made, and after a few hours' negotiation an unconditional submission was obtained. We secured 4,267 prisoners, 10 pieces of artillery, 5,000 small-arms, and a proportional quantity of ammunition, horses, mules, and military stores.
This surrender having been received and completed on September 17, dispositions were made for an attack from General Buell's main force, supposed to be advancing on our rear from Bowling Green. Efforts were made to draw him to an attack by maneuvering a division in his front, while our main force held position south of the intrenchments on Green River. I failed to accomplish this object. 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. Should I pursue him farther toward Bowling Green he might fall back to that place and behind his fortifications. Reduced at the end of four days to three days' rations, and in a hostile country, utterly destitute of supplies, a serious engagement brought on anywhere in that direction could not fail (whatever its results) to materially cripple me. The loss of a battle would be eminently disastrous. I was well aware also that he had a practicable route by way of Morgantown or Brownsville to the Ohio River and thence to Louisville. We were therefore compelled to give up the object and seek for subsistance. Orders were sent for a supply train from our depot at Lexington to meet us in Bardstown, and the march was commenced for the latter place. Instructions had been given General Smith for a simultaneous movement of the column at Lexington to Shelbyville, that combined operations might be immediately undertaken against Louisville. Orders had also been given for a close observation on the enemy at Cumberland Gap, and that he should be intercepted in any attempt to escape. <ar22_1091>
On my arrival at Bardstown I learned from Major-General Smith, then at Lexington, that the enemy was moving from Cumberland Gap, endeavoring to escape by the valley of Sandy River, in Eastern Kentucky, and that he had sent his whole available force in pursuit. A sufficient force to prevent this escape and to hold the enemy in check there and compel his surrender had been ordered and was confidently expected from another quarter to have followed General Smith's movement in time for this purpose. Circumstances unknown to me in our then isolated position, and over which I could not exercise control, had prevented this consummation so confidently relied on and so necessary to our success. The delay necessarily resulting from this pursuit of the enemy by General Smith prevented a junction of our forces, and enabled General Buell to reach Louisville before the assault could be made upon that city.
The troops at Bardstown, much jaded and foot-sore from the long and arduous march, were placed in position for rest and recuperation during the absence of the column from Lexington.. Having made all needful arrangements for them, ordered our supplies at Lexington transferred to a position selected as a general depot near Bryantsville, and provided for opening a line of communication through Cumberland Gap, I left Bardstown on the 28th for Lexington to confer with General Smith and inform myself fully as to our condition and the resources of the country. Major-General Polk, left at Bardstown in command was directed, if pressed by a force too large to justify his giving battle, to fall back in the direction of the new depot near Bryantsville, in front of which I propose to concentrate for action.
Arriving in Lexington on October 1, I met the Provisional Governor of the State, who had previously been invited to accompany me, and arranged for his installation at the capital on the 4th. The available forces of General Smith, just returned to Lexington, were ordered immediately to Frankfort.
Finding but little progress had been made in the transfer of our accumulated stores from Lexington, and learning of a heavy movement of the enemy from Louisville, I ordered Major-General Polk in writing, dated Lexington, 1 p.m., October 2, and sent it by two routes, to move from Bardstown with his whole available force by way of Bloomfield toward Frankfort, to strike the enemy in flank and rear, and informed him that Major-General Smith would attack in front. When received at Bardstown on the 3d the general submitted this order, which is not mentioned in his report (see Exhibit No. 1), to a council of wing and division commanders, and determined to move as originally instructed by me on leaving Bardstown. Fortunately notice of this determination reached me at Frankfort in time to prevent the movement against the enemy's front by General Smith, but it necessitated an entire change in my plans, the abandonment of the capital, and the partial uncovering and ultimate loss of our stores at Lexington. Not doubting but that some imperative necessity unknown to me existed with the general for this departure from instructions I conformed at once to his movements, and put General Smith's command in motion to form the junction farther south, still covering the supplies at Lexington as far as practicable.
Proceeding rapidly to Harrodsburg myself, I was met there by Major-General Polk on October 6, with the head of the column, which had marched from Bardstown on the 3d. After a full and free conference with the general my first views remained unchanged, and as he reported to me at midnight of October 6, when inclosing a written report from <ar22_1092> Major-General Hardee that he did not regard the enemy in large strength near there (see Exhibit No. 2), I renewed early on the morning of the 7th the orders to concentrate all the forces in front of the depot at Lexington. (See Exhibit No. 3.) But before this order was put in full operation information was received that the enemy in limited force was pressing upon General Hardee at Perryville; that he was nowhere concentrated against us, but was moving by separate columns; his right (see map herewith, marked A(*)) was near Lebanon, a corps in front of Perryville, and his left (two entire corps) extending by way of Mackville to Frankfort, a line of at least 60 miles. This presented an opportunity which I promptly seized of striking him in detail. Accordingly written orders were given to Major-General Polk, dated Harrods-burg, October 7, 5.40 p.m. (see Exhibit No. 4), to move Cheatham's division, now at Harrodsburg, back to Perryville, and to proceed to that point himself, attack the enemy immediately, rout him, and then move rapidly to join Major-General Smith, as before ordered, and, it was added, "no time should be lost in this movement?
Meanwhile, during the same day, I had received repeated and urgent applications from General Smith (near Frankfort) by express, representing the enemy to be in strong force in his immediate front and earnestly asking for re-enforcements. Accordingly Withers' division had been detached and sent to him (before receipt by me of the information from Perryville), and was already far on the way thither at the time when the movement to Perryville was ordered, and this will account for my being without the benefit of this division in the battle which ensued next day at the latter place. Major-General Polk arrived at Perryville with Cheatham's division before midnight of the 7th and the troops were placed by General Hardee in the line of battle previously established.
Our forces now in this position consisted of three divisions of infantry (about 14,500) and two small brigades of cavalry (about 1,500). To this the enemy opposed one corps (Gilbert's), about 18,000 strong. Information reached me during the evening and night of the 7th at Harrods-burg which indicated that no attack could be made on General Smith's command the next day, and I immediately changed my purpose to join him and determined to go to Perryville. From unofficial sources I was led to fear the existence of serious misapprehension in regard to the position and strength of the enemy's forces near Perryville, as well as to the location of our supplies, supposed to be at Bryantsville, when in truth but two days' rations for the army had yet reached that point.
Having ordered the attack and that no time should be lost, I was concerned at not hearing the commencement of the engagement early in the morning, but was much relieved for the time by receiving from General Polk a note, dated Perryville, 6 a.m., October 8, informing me that the enemy's pickets commenced firing at daybreak and that he should bring on the engagement vigorously. (See Exhibit No. 5.) To my surprise, however, no gun was heard, and on my arrival, about 10 a.m., I was informed that it was determined not to attack, but to assume the "defensive-offensive." After a hasty reconnaissance and consultation orders were given for some changes deemed necessary in the line of battle; a, portion of it being withdrawn was restored, and Major-General Polk was ordered to bring on the engagement. Impatient at the delay after this order I dispatched a staff officer to repeat it to the general, and soon thereafter I followed in person and put the troops in motion.
Major-General Buell, commanding the forces there in our immediate <ar22_1093> front, in his official report says, "I had somewhat expected an attack early in the morning on Gilbert's corps while it was isolated." These delays had postponed the action until it was now past noon and a second corps of the enemy (18,000) had reached the field. The general officers at the meeting about daylight (see General Polk's report) who resolved on this delay must have acted without correct information and in ignorance that my orders were urgent and imperative for the attack; moreover I was within one hour's ride and was not consulted or informed.
The action, having at length commenced, was fought by our troops with a gallantry and persistent determination to conquer which the enemy could not resist; and though he was largely more than two to our one he was driven from the field with terrible loss. Night closed the operations just as a third corps of the enemy threw the head of its column against our left flank. We had entire possession of the battlefield, with thousands of the enemy's killed and wounded, several batteries of artillery, and 600 prisoners. For the details of this action, so creditable to our arms, I refer to the reports of subordinate commanders, herewith forwarded. In the progress of the engagement we had advanced so far as to expose our left flank to the third corps, just arrived from the direction of Lebanon. I therefore caused our line, which rested upon the field until midnight, to fall back to its original position. Assured that the enemy had concentrated his three corps against us, and finding that our loss had already been quite heavy in the unequal contest against two, I gave the orders to fall back at daylight on Harrodsburg, and sent instructions to Major-General Smith to move his command to form a junction with me at that place. There I again offered the enemy battle, which he declined, and moved to possess himself of my line toward Cumberland Gap.
My whole force was accordingly retired on the 11th upon Bryantsville. Here the enemy again declined to advance upon me, but occupied himself in the destruction of the numerous mills and other sources from which we drew our only supply of breadstuffs. There was no accumulation of this essential article at any point except Lexington which had been now lost, though the country afforded an immensity of grain. The necessary concentration of my forces rendered accumulation from the small country mills impracticable, and our supply was reduced to only four days' rations. To attack and rout an enemy largely superior in numbers (for simply to cripple him would not suffice) or to evacuate the country in which we could no longer subsist became now an imperative necessity. Moreover I was informed that still another force was moving on my right flank from Cincinnati in addition to the overwhelming one with which I was already contending. The season of autumnal rains was approaching; the rough and uneven roads leading over the stupendous mountains of Eastern Tennessee and Kentucky to and through Cumberland Gap would then become utterly impassable to an army. Should I remain till then and meet with a reverse the army would be lost. Had the foregoing considerations permitted a doubt to remain in my mind as to the course of duty it would have been entirely removed upon receipt of the intelligence of our disasters in North Mississippi, by which the whole country in our rear was left open to the enemy's victorious forces there.
Accordingly all necessary arrangements were made and the troops put in motion by two columns, under Major-Generals Polk and Smith, on October 13, for Cumberland Gap. After a rapid march, with some privations in the absence of baggage trains, which had been sent ahead, we passed the Gap with immaterial loss from October 19 to 24. The <ar22_1094> column of Major-General Polk was vigorously pursued by the enemy for several days, but was so successfully protected by the cavalry, under the admirable management of Colonels Wheeler and Wharton, that but little annoyance was felt.
Though compelled to yield to largely superior numbers and fortuitous circumstances a portion of the valuable territory from which we had driven the enemy the fruits of the campaign were very large and have had a most important bearing upon our subsequent military operations here and elsewhere. With a force enabling us at no time to put more than 40,000 men of all arms and in all places in battle we had redeemed North Alabama and Middle Tennessee and recovered possession of Cumberland Gap, the gate-way to the heart of the Confederacy. We had killed, wounded, and captured no less than 25,000 of the enemy; taken over 30 pieces of artillery, 17,000 small-arms, some 2,000,000 cartridges for the same; destroyed some hundreds of wagons and brought off several hundreds more with their teams and harness complete; replaced our jaded horses by a fine mount; lived two months upon supplies wrested from the enemy's possession; secured material to clothe the army, and finally secured subsistence from the redeemed country to support not only the army but also a large force of the Confederacy to the present time.
In four weeks after passing Cumberland Gap on this memorable and arduous campaign, jaded, hungry, and ragged (as necessarily incidental to that service), this noble army was found with serried ranks in front of the enemy at Nashville better organized, better disciplined, better clothed and fed, in better health and tone, and in larger numbers than when it entered on the campaign, though it had made a march at least three times as long as that of the enemy in reaching the same point, and was moreover entirely self-sustained. · Too high an estimate cannot be placed upon officers and men capable of such fortitude, resolution, courage, and self-denial. Nothing short of the patriotism which pervaded our ranks, and the intelligence, zeal, and gallantry displayed on all occasions and by all grades, can account for such results.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
BRAXTON BRAGG, General, Commanding.
General S. COOPER, Adjutant and Inspector General.
JANUARY 5, 1863.
Respectfully submitted to the President. I see very little objection to this report, and believe the effect will be on the whole to vindicate rather than diminish the reputation of the commander in the Kentucky campaign.
J. A. SEDDON, Secretary of War.
[Exhibit No. 1.]
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
Bardstown, Ky., October 3, 1862---3 p.m.
General BRAXTON BRAGG, (*) Commanding Department No. 2, Frankfort, Ky.:
GENERAL: I am in receipt of your note of the 2d, 1 p.m., directing me to move with all my available force via Bloomfield to Frankfort to <ar22_1095> strike the enemy in his flank and rear. The last twenty-four hours have developed a condition of things on my front and left flank which I shadowed forth in my last note to you, which makes compliance with this order not only eminently inexpedient, but impracticable. I have called a council of wing and division commanders, to whom I have submitted the matter, and find that they unanimously indorse my views. I shall therefore pursue a different course, assured that when the facts are submitted to you will justify my decision. I move on the route indicated by you toward Camp Breckinridge. The head of my column moves this afternoon. I will keep you advised. I send this by a relay of couriers I have established at intervals of 10 miles from here to Lexington via Danville.
I remain, general, your obedient servant,
L. POLK, Major-General, Commanding Army of the Mississippi.
[Exhibit No. 2.]
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE MISSISSIPPI, Harrodsburg, Ky., October 6, 1862--11 p.m.
GENERAL: I send you some dispatches just received. I have ordered General Anderson to move at 3 a.m. to-morrow morning to join General Hardee at Perryville and General Cleburne to follow him at 4 a.m. I have ordered both to have two days' cooked rations in the haversacks. Wood's rations will be sent him in the morning. I have ordered Wharton to report to General Hardee with his own and Wade's cavalry and the regiment of infantry now at Lebanon. This force, I think, will be sufficient for the general's purposes. I have directed General Cheatham not to leave his present camp near town for that under General Withers, 4 miles out, until further orders. I have directed General Hardee to ascertain, if possible, the strength of the enemy which may be covered by his advance. I cannot think it large.
I am, general, respectfully, your obedient servant,
L. POLK, Major-General, Commanding Army of the Mississippi.
P. S.--I have had two companies of cavalry posted on the road leading to Mackville,
[Exhibit No. 3.]
CIRCULAR.] HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT No. 2, Harrodsburg, Ky., October 7, 1862.
Major-General POLK, Commanding Army of the Mississippi:
I. Cheatham's division will move forward to-night to Withers' position, and both divisions of the right wing (Withers' and Cheatham's) will move to-morrow to Lawrenceburg, thence to Versailles, and to follow General E. Kirby Smith's command.
II. General E. Kirby Smith's command will move to-morrow to Versailles, throwing a division toward Frankfort. Allston's cavalry, now at Salvisa, will cover Cheatham's movement, reporting to Major-General Cheatham.
III. Major-General Hardee, commanding left wing, Army of the Mississippi, will follow these movements as circumstances allow, notifying <ar22_1096> these headquarters of his move. Colonel Wade's infantry will join the guard at the depot at Bryantsville, reporting to the commanding officer there, and his cavalry will report to Colonel Wheeler, commanding cavalry of Hardee's wing.
By command of General Bragg:
GEORGE WM. BRENT, Chief of Staff and Assistant Adjutant-General.
[Exhibit No. 4.]
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT No. 2,
Harrodsburg, Ky., October 7, 1862--5.40 p.m.
GENERAL: In view of the news from Hardee you had better move with Cheatham's division to his support and give the enemy battle immediately; rout him, and then move to our support at Versailles. Smith moves forward to-day in that direction, and I wish Withers to march to-nigh t toward Lawrenceburg, crossing thence to-morrow to Versailles, and follow up Smith and report to him. His wagon train, except the ammunition and ordnance, had better cross at McCown's, turning off at Salvisa. No time should be lost in these movements. I shall follow Smith.
Respectfully and truly, yours,
BRAXTON BRAGG, General, Commanding.
[Exhibit No. 5.]
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE MISSISSIPPI, Perryville, Ky., October 8, 1862--6 a.m.
General BRAGG, Commanding Department No. 2:
GENERAL: The enemy seem disposed to press this morning. Their pickets commenced firing at daylight. Understanding it to be your wish to give them battle we shall do so vigorously. Should we succeed we will pass to the right, with the view of joining General Kirby Smith. If it should become necessary to fall back we will do so on Danville and Bryantsville, with a view of uniting with General Smith at that point. I have directed General Preston Smith to have all the trains belonging to this army now at Harrodsburg collected and moved out on the road to Bryantsville, and to be ready to move, when it should become expedient, on that place.
Respectfully, yours, &c.,
L. POLK, Major-General, Commanding Army of the Mississippi.
P. S.--General Smith should cover and protect these wagons should it become necessary.
List of ordnance and other articles captured and of men killed, wounded, and taken prisoners by General Bragg's army from August 27,1862, to January 2, 1863.
A Artillery. E Killed.
B Muskets. F Wounded.
C Wagons. G Prisoners.
A B C D E F G Date.
Richmond,.Ky 10 11,000 200 1,000 200 1,000 7,000 August 31 . 1862.
Munfordville, Ky 10 4,000 20 200 .... .... 4,300 September 17, 1862.
Perryville, Ky 15 .... .... .... 2,000 8,000 500 October 8,1862.
Salvisa, Ky .... .... 10 50 .... .... 700 October 8,1862.
Morgan in Kentucky .... .... 100 500 200 500 2,000 September and October, 1862.
Bridgeport, &c .... .... .... .... 30 100 .... August 27, 1862.
Hartsville, Term 2 2,000 20 100 100 400 1,800 December 6,1862.
Murfreesborough, Tenn. 40 6,000 800 4,000 5,000 16,000 6,103 December 31, 1862, to January 2, 1863.
Morgan in Kentucky .... 2,500 50 250 100 400 2,000 December 26-30, 1862.
Forrest in West Tennessee. 4 2,000 50 250 300 700 1,500 December, 1862.
Total 81 27,500 1,250 6,350 7,930 27,100 25,903
Kentucky Campaign, August 27 to October 12, 1862.
Total killed, wounded, and prisoners 26,530
Campaign in Tennessee, December 1, 1862, to January 2, 1863.
Total killed, wounded, and prisoners 34,403
CORRESPONDENCE RELATING TO THE BATTLE OF PERRYVILLE, OR CHAPLIN HILLS.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF TENNESSEE, Tullahoma, Tenn., April 13, 1863.
Lieut. Gen. W. J. HARDEE, Commanding Corps:(*)
GENERAL: In a communication from Major-General Polk, commanding Army of the Mississippi, dated Bardstown, October 3,1862, addressed to me, he says: <ar22_1098>
I am in receipt of your note of the 2d, 1 p.m., directing me to move with all my available force via Bloomfield to Frankfort to strike the enemy on his flank and rear. * * * I have called a council of wing and division commanders, to whom I have submitted the matter, and find that they unanimously indorse my views. I shall therefore pursue a different course assured that when the facts are submitted to you you will justify my decision.
In the official report of the battle of Perryville by the general, after stating that he was ordered to attack the enemy early in the morning, he says:
At a meeting of general officers held about daylight it was resolved, in view of the great disparity of our forces, to adopt the "defensive-offensive;" to await the movements of the enemy, and to be guided by events as they were developed.
As these councils (usually regarded as sacred among military men) are now publicly disclosed, and in a manner compromising you as advising a disobedience to my orders, the facts are laid before you, and I beg, if consistent with your sense of duty, you will inform me to what extent you sustained the general in his acknowledged disobedience. For your information I inclose a copy of my order directing him to give the enemy battle at Perryville "immediately," and request to be informed whether, in asking your advice, he informed you of the existence of this order.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
BRAXTON BRAGG, General, Commanding.
General POLK, Commanding, &c. :
DEAR GENERAL: I send you this paper, received yesterday, as I fear you may not have received it from headquarters, and I think it right you should have it. My impression now is to decline answering it. First, because your "acknowledged disobedience" may lead to a court-martial, and, second, because I cannot well do so without opening up the Kentucky campaign, which would lead to controversy, which at this time ought to be avoided. These are my present convictions. The paper has been sent to Cleburne and Wood, and I suppose to all the general officers who were under your command. If you choose to rip up the Kentucky campaign you can tear Bragg into tatters.
W. J. HARDEE, Lieutenant-General.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF KENTUCKY, Harrodsburg, Ky., October 7, 1862--5.40 p.m.
GENERAL: In view of the news from Hardee you had better move with Cheatham's division to his support and give the enemy battle immediately. Rout him, and then move to our support at Versailles. * * * No time should be lost in these movements.
Respectfully and truly, yours,
BRAXTON BRAGG, General, Commanding.
PERRYVILLE, KY., October 7, 1862--7.30 p m.
General BRAGG, Commanding Army:
MY DEAR GENERAL: I am receipt of your "confidential circular" of this date, also your loiter of instructions to General Polk. From the tenor of the letter of instructions to General Polk I presume that this is later than the confidential circular. Both are in the same inclosure and of the same date. Permit me, from the friendly relations so long existing between us, to write you plainly. Do not scatter your forces. There is one rule in our profession which should never be forgotten; it is to throw the masses of your troops on the fractions of the enemy. The movement last proposed will divide your army and each may be defeated, whereas by keeping them united success is certain. If it be your policy to strike the enemy at Versailles, take your whole force with you and make the blow effective; if, on the contrary, you should decide to strike the army in front of me, first let that be done with a force which will make success certain. Strike with your whole strength first to the right then to the left. I could not sleep quietly to-night without giving expression to these views. Whatever you decide to do will meet my hearty co-operation.
Your sincere friend,
W. J. HARDEE, Major-General.
N.B.--If you wish my opinion, it is that in view of the position of your depots you ought to strike this force first.
I have no envelope, but I send this by an officer.
SHELBYVILLE, TENN., April 15, 1863.
General BRAXTON BRAGG, Commanding Department No. 2:
GENERAL: I am this day in receipt of yours of the 13th instant,(*) in which reference is made to action had in council of wing and division commanders held at Bordstown, Ky., on the 3d and at Perryville on October 8, 1862. After quoting extracts from General Polk's reports of these deliberations you remark that--
As these councils (usually regarded as sacred among military men) are now publicly disclosed, and in a manner compromising you as advising a disobedience of my orders, the facts are laid before you, and I beg, if consistent with your sense of duty, you will inform me to what extent you sustained the general in his acknowledged disobedience.
As I can see no way in which detriment to the public interest might now arise from such a course I do not hesitate to comply with your request.
On October 3, 1862, I was present at General Polk's headquarters in Bardstown at a council composed, as well as I now remember, of Major-Generals Polk, Hardee, and Cheatham, and Brig. Gen. S. A.M. Wood and myself. Your dispatch from Frankfort, of date 1 p.m. October 2, was read, and after an interchange of views in regard to our military condition, as junior officer present I was called upon by General Polk to give my views as to what was best to be done. I hesitated to do so, whereupon General Polk inquired as to the cause of my reluctance to advise a course which seemed to be so clear, and I replied that your order just read did not seem to admit of any other course than that of <ar22_1100> compliance, and that if any other alternative than that of obedience to the order was adopted it might involve you and the forces with you near Frankfort in embarrassment, if not defeat; that in your dispatch you definitely stated that General Kirby Smith would attack the enemy then in your front, and that we must move through Bloomfield upon him and "strike him in flank and rear;" that in your contemplated attack you evidently relied upon cooperation, and that if we failed in that co operation disaster might be time consequence. After other conversations, not now remembered, General Polk, again addressing me as the junior present, inquired what would be my advice in case there was no such order as the one referred to, remarking at the same time that you could not have had the lights before you at the time you issued the order which we had at that time, and that therefore the order should not be taken into consideration in making up our judgment as to what should be done. I replied promptly:
In that case, were there no order to the contrary, I should unhesitatingly recommend that we fall back to a more favorable position, to cover our depots at Danville and Bryantsville.
I understood that all of the other officers present concurred in that opinion. General Polk at once announced his intention to move in the direction of Danville. It is proper that I should state that he subsequently told me that he had received a dispatch from you the purport of which indicated the wisdom of the move he had determined on; remarked that it was fortunate that he had not obeyed the letter of your order. Of course at this late day, speaking from memory only, I cannot give more than the substance of conversations.
In regard to the action that was had at a meeting of general officers held about daylight near Perryville, on October 8, in which the "defensive-offensive" was adopted, I have no recollection at all. I cannot remember that I was present at any council at or near Perryville, except an informal one, composed of Major-General Hardee, Brigadier-General Wood, and myself, improvised on the evening of October 7, at which General Hardee, of his own motion, addressed you the note which I suppose is referred to in your communication to General Polk, dated Harrodsburg, October 7, 5.40 p.m. In that note General Hardee advised the policy of concentrating our forces before we made an attack. He read me the note after it was written and I fully concurred in the policy it advised. Your note just referred to I did not see nor was I made acquainted with its contents. Had I been present at a council on the occasion referred to, in the absence of orders to the contrary I think it quite probable I should have advised the "defensive-offensive" policy; but at this lapse of time I would not undertake to censure a different course.
Believing that throughout the Kentucky campaign, with the lights then before us, the best was done which could have been done under the circumstances, and having no disposition to cast censure now upon those whom I failed to find fault with at the time, I can only hope that the same army under its tried leaders may soon be permitted to repeat the experiments with better facilities and under more favorable circumstances.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
PATTON ANDERSON, Brigadier-General.
HEADQUARTERS HARDEE'S CORPS, Tullahoma, Tenn., April 16, 1863.
General BRAXTON BRAGG:
GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 13th instant, containing extracts from official communications made by Lieutenant-General Polk to you in regard to the operations in Kentucky in October last. You refer to an order issued by you on October 2, directing Lieutenant-General Polk to move his forces to Frankfort and strike the enemy on his flank and rear, which order you say was disobeyed by the general after a council of war and at which I was present. You also refer to the official report of Lieutenant-General Polk of the battle of Perryville, and state that after another meeting of general officers he disobeyed your orders of October 7, a copy of which you inclose. After referring to these topics you censure the disclosure of these facts, which you assert are in a manner compromising to me [and begged me], if consistent with my sense of duty, to inform you to what extent I sustained the general in his acknowledged disobedience.
In answer I have the honor to say that while I do not desire to shrink from any responsibility incurred by me in the part I took in the councils of war called by Lieutenant-General Polk, I do not consider it proper, in answer to a communication such as you have addressed, to enter into details of what occurred on the occasions referred to.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. J. HARDEE, lieutenant- General.
HDQRS, POLK'S CORPS, ARMY OF TENNESSEE, April 17, 1863.
Lieutenant-General HARDEE, C. S. Army:
DEAR GENERAL: I am in receipt of the letter addressed you on the subject of the alleged disobedience of orders, and thank you for the prompt indication of what was brewing. I am compelled to say it does not at all surprise me; so that when I said to you I felt it to be quite as necessary to watch Tullahoma as Murfreesborough you will see I was not mistaken in my estimate of the necessities of my position or of the character of others. As to the specific acts for which the arrest and trial are to be had (for I am satisfied that an arrest and trial are deliberately determined upon), I have to say I feel quite easy. There was certainly no disobedience of orders in either case. In that of Bardstown I was ordered to take all my available force and move, &c. As to what portion of my force was in that condition the general did not undertake to judge himself nor did he require me to be guided by the judgment of others. By the terms of the order I was to be the judge myself I did judge, and, in view of the fact that I knew I had the largest part of Buell's army in my immediate front on the Elizabethtown, Shepherdsville, Mount Washington, and Taylorsville roads, and that if I moved from my position at Bardstown to strike the column moving upon Shelbyville in flank and rear I should not only cease to hold four columns in check but would expose my own flank to be assailed by them all while I was moving to assault one, I thought it quite plain I had no troops at my command which were available for the execution of such an order. That was the precise point submitted by me to the council of officers I summoned for consultation, to wit: Whether I had any force which in the circumstances before me might be regarded as available for the purpose indicated, I thought not, and every officer in <ar22_1102> the council approved the soundness of my decision. We were all clearly satisfied as to the position of the troops of the enemy, which information we were sure the general commanding the forces could not have, or he would not have issued such an order. It was this view of the case that caused General Anderson, as he admits and as all may remember, to see his way to vote for declining the movement indicated and to counsel the retreat on Harrodsburg.
As to the Perryville affair, if I am to be tried for disobedience of orders there the question arises, What orders? Surely not what purports to be orders in the paper sent you and by you to me. That paper is not mandatory, but simply suggestive and advisory:
In view of the news from Hardee you had better move with Cheatham's division to his support and give the enemy battle immediately, &c. No time should be lost in these movements.
The order was not "you will move upon Perryville and attack the enemy early the next morning," as the paper sent you charges. The writing sent me was not an order at all, but counsel or advice to do a certain thing in view of information received from Hardee. It does not help the matter to say that I was advised to do it immediately and that it was added that no time should be lost in profiting by the advice to rout him, &c. The language was clearly not peremptory, but suggestive and advisory, and left me the use of my discretion as to the details of the attack, it being understood that I accepted the advice and proceeded to carry the operations into execution as judiciously and promptly as a willing mind and sound discretion would allow. It will be observed also that I was advised to act in view of the news from Hardee. If that remark meant anything to an officer who was counseled to move to the support of Hardee it was that he should put himself in communication with Hardee and to take that news into his account in any movement to be made. This was done, as you know, in the council held, and the result was a confirmation of what I already knew--that four-fifths of Buell's army was before me, and consequently with my small force great caution must be observed.
I am said to have acknowledged a disobedience of orders. I have done no such thing. In regard to the paper sent me for my guidance I quoted from memory. I said I was ordered to attack the enemy in the morning, and on looking at the language of the paper it appears that the word "morning" was not used at all nor is the word "attack" used, but I was to give him "battle immediately." But supposing it to have been mandatory instead of advisory, which the face of the paper denies, what is understood by immediately? I could have attacked him the night of my arrival and before I had the benefit of daylight. Would I have been justified in this? Certainly not. Why? Because in the nature of things and in view of the news from Hardee, to which I was referred as the inspiration prompting the order or counsel, it would not have been judicious. I was, I conceived, left at liberty to exercise such discretion as sound sense and the facts before me demanded, and I felt that I was acting on the inside of the instructions given me, and under the deep and painful conviction that the force at my disposal was totally inadequate to perform the duty assigned it; and while I must attempt that duty I should do it in such a way as to prevent the wreck and destruction of the little army with whose conduct and safety I was charged. I took counsel of the general officers with me, frankly stating the whole case as I understood it. I expressed my opinion as to what my duty required me to do in view of all the facts. They unanimously agreed with me so far as I remember, and I proceeded to execute the suggestions, <ar22_1103> or orders, if you will, of the general as promptly and yet as wisely as the condition of affairs before me would allow.
While I was thus engaged the general came upon the field. I was engaging the enemy with my skirmishers, but thus far on the defensive-offensive. This was about the middle of the morning. Shortly after he gave me positive orders to attack the enemy and it was done. As to my being held responsible for disobedience of orders in this matter, it never entered my head until the reception of your note; however, I shall endeavor to bear the matter with becoming moderation, and although I cannot claim to have "a talent for quarreling," I trust I shall not be found wanting either in a capacity or willingness to take care of my reputation so far as it can be vindicated by the truth. The passage in reference to the sacred character of military councils in the connection in which it is introduced is unfortunate. What transpires in council is sacred, truly; that is, not to be disclosed so long as there is a military necessity or expediency for its being kept secret. When that necessity or expediency which affects the public welfare only has passed there can be no reason why the opinion or language of any officer upon any topic should not be the subject of remark. It is to be supposed that every officer, when expressing his opinion in a council, does so independently and honestly in the face of the facts before him and for patriotic objects only; that he has no by-ends to answer, nothing to conceal of which he might be ashamed, and therefore that, so far as his opinions or counsel are concerned, the only measure of concealment of importance to him is the extent to which the public interests would be affected by the disclosure. The implied censure therefore lacks a foundation and fails. Besides, if the general would reflect he would see that in that passage itself he is committing the very offense which he has unsuccessfully charged upon me. The report of the battle of Perryville which I sent to him, and through him to the Senate beyond him, it is not allowable for him or any other person to use for public purposes until its contents have been "publicly disclosed" by order of the Senate to print. This is a trifle, but it belongs to the same family with that to which he invites attention. How far you may feel obliged for the protection he is affording you against the indiscretion or treachery by which you have been exposed, or whether that piece of service has won his way into your confidence far enough to lay you under obligations to join me in acknowledging disobedience to your duty, is a matter I am not competent to determine.
I note what you say of the campaign. There is a time for all things, and I agree with you the time for dealing with that has not arrived.
I am, general, very truly, yours,
L. POLK, Lieutenant-General.
NEAR SHELBYVILLE, TENN., April 17, 1863.
Lieut. Gen. LEONIDAS POLK, Shelbyville, Tenn.:
GENERAL: I have the honor to inclose herewith a copy of a note I have this day addressed to General Bragg, which will explain why I have not sooner complied with my promise to furnish you with a copy of my former communication touching the same subject.
Hoping I may soon have it in my power to do so and that you may suffer no inconvenience by the delay, I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
SHELBYVILLE, TENN., April 17, 1863.
General BRAXTON BRAGG, Tullahoma, Tenn.:
GENERAL: On yesterday Lieutenant-General Polk requested an interview with me, for the purpose of comparing our recollections of the councils at Bardstown and Perryville, referred to in his official report of the battle of Perryville and of which you had inquired in your communication of the 13th instant. In that interview I promised to furnish the lieutenant-general with a copy of my reply to your communication just alluded to; but on returning to my quarters I find that I did not preserve a fair copy, but instead only rough notes, in which verbal corrections and interlineations occur so frequently that I must beg you will supply me with a copy to enable me to comply with my promise. In talking over with General Polk what transpired at the Bardstown council each was enabled to refresh the memory of the other to some extent, and in this way I now recollect that in combating my scruples in regard to any other movement than that indicated in your dispatch from Frankfort the general called my attention to the word "available," made use of in that dispatch, and proceeded to show that he had no available forces at Bardstown for a move of the kind. Again, my impression was that in that Frankfort dispatch you had expressed a purpose of attacking the enemy in your front at an early moment, if not the next day. The general's recollection is that such intention on your part was expressed in a different communication. I have not spoken with any of the other officers composing that council in regard to its deliberations, but the result of my interview with Lieutenant-General Polk discloses no discrepancy between our recollections of what transpired, at least on material points. The point upon which I was embarrassed was this: I feared you would move out with the forces at and near Frankfort and give the enemy battle, relying upon our co-operation upon his flank and rear, and of this trouble I felt entirely relieved when I found that you had not done so.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant.,
PATTON ANDERSON, Brigadier-General, &c.
HEADQUARTERS McCOWN'S DIVISION, April 24, 1863.
Lieutenant-General POLK, Shelbyville, Tenn.:
GENERAL: Herewith I inclose to you copies of the correspondence between General Bragg and myself which was the subject of our conversation on the 22d instant.(*) I had an honest doubt of the propriety of mentioning the matter to you myself. You alluded to it, informed me you had received a copy of General Bragg's letter from another source, and I deem it but right and fair to forward to you a copy of the letter which I received and of my reply.
I am, general, very truly and respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. P. STEWART, Brigadier-General.
HEADQUARTERS McCOWN'S DIVISION, Shelbyville, Tenn., April 14, 1863.
General BRAXTON BRAGG,
Commanding Army of Tennessee:
GENERAL: Your communication of 13th instant, inclosing a copy of your order to General Polk, dated Headquarters Department No. 2 Harrodsburg, October 7, 1862, 5.40 p.m., has just been received. In reply I have to state that I was not present at either of the councils alluded to in your communication, and was not aware until informed of the fact by your letter that a council or meeting of general officers was held by General Polk on the morning of October 8, 1862, nor that he had received orders from you to attack the enemy early that morning When the council was held at Bardstown I was on outpost some 9 miles from Bardstown, on the Louisville road. In short, the only council called by General Polk to which I was ever summoned or ever attended was held in Columbus, Ky., in November or December, 1861. I have been present at one or two other assemblages of officers called by him, but they were not of the nature of advisory councils nor was I called upon to express an opinion.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. P. STEWART, Brigadier-General, C.S. Army.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF, Mobile, Ala., April 26, 1863.
General BRAXTON BRAGG,
Commanding Army of Tennessee, Tullahoma, Tenn.:
GENERAL: Your letter of the 13th instant has been received. You ask me, if I deem it consistent with my sense of duty, to inform you how far I may have sustained Lieutenant-General Polk in his acknowledged disobedience of orders in his conduct at Bardstown and Perryville, Ky., as based upon the opinions of certain councils assembled by his orders at those points. At the first council alluded to in your note I was not present, but was with you at Lexington and Frankfort. My views of that portion of the campaign you can probably recall, as in interviews at each of those cities I gave my opinion, when sought by you, with the candor I have ever used toward my superiors. I was present at the consultation of general officers at Perryville, and at the request of Lieutenant-General Polk, who was my commander, gave my views of what, in my opinion, was the proper course to be adopted under the circumstances in which that portion of the army found itself at the time, without obtruding my opinion upon him more than I had done at other times upon yourself. I expressed it when called upon to do so with the same sincerity I have ever shown toward you.
With a desire to act in accordance with my duty and with proper deference to yourself I have considered for several days the course I should pursue in replying to your letter. While I have never sought responsibility I have certainly never shrunk from any which appropriately belonged to me, and I desire to avoid none which may now attach to any opinions held or expressed by me on the occasion to which you direct my attention; but I cannot, consistently with my sense of «70 R R---VOL XVI» <ar22_1106> propriety and self-respect and my regard for the public interests, reply to your questions. My regard for you personally induces me to assign a few reasons for my action:
1st. It is improper for me to reply categorically to your questions, because my views were given as a matter of duty on the requirement of Lieutenant-General Polk. They were used or rejected by him at the time on his own responsibility, and therefore any official demand for information in regard to them should be sought through that channel.
2d. It is inconsistent with my feelings of self-respect to reply, because the subject may become one of legal investigation, and I consider it unworthy the commission I hold to make myself in advance a party either to aid the prosecution of an officer on the one hand or to defend a subordinate against the legitimate authority of his superior on the other. All the facts within my knowledge can be elicited before the proper tribunal.
3d. It would be hurtful to the public interests for me to reply, because whatever statements I may make to you in reference to the action of Lieutenant-General Polk I must, as an officer and a gentleman, make equally to him, together with the occasion which calls upon me to respond. Such a result would not tend to promote that degree of harmony which should always exist between the first and second in command, and in my opinion the public interest has suffered sufficiently in consequence of the unfortunate differences which have prevailed in the Army of Tennessee.
Such are the chief reasons which have influenced the character of my reply. It has been made in no unkind spirit, but with a sense of what I think is due to you, to myself, and to the public interests.
I cannot close this letter, general, without incurring the risk of appearing perhaps obtrusive. Our acquaintance has been brief, and neither my military position nor personal relations justify me in advising you; but the latter, though they have never been intimate, have not been unkind; and as your military subordinate, even when I may have differed with you officially, I have received every consideration at your hands and have ever found you sensitive to the public good. It is therefore with a confidence that you will review what I say in the kind spirit in which it is urged when I venture upon giving unsought advice. It was the remark of Turenne, when acknowledging a military fault, that "He must have made war but a short time indeed who had not committed errors." The remark is applicable now as it was then, and every officer in his distinct sphere of duty must expect the legitimate criticism of the public and of military men. It is true that these criticisms may sometimes be urged with intemperance, but that should not the less prevent us from awaiting the matured verdict of public opinion and of history.
As to what may have occurred since the Kentucky campaign I am not fully advised, but from my associations with the general officers of your army in Kentucky I feel warranted in stating that while there were essential differences of opinion in regard to the general conduct of the campaign you were sustained in your authority by the whole weight of their character. There was a disposition among all with whom I was thrown to lend their ability and their zeal to carry out successfully the determinations at which you arrived. I think they were alive to the difficulties which surrounded you, and did not view your actions in a critical or censorious spirit even when their views may have differed from yours. From my knowledge of these gentlemen as soldiers of ability and distinction I think I do not hazard too much <ar22_1107> in saying that you can without difficulty still secure their earnest cooperation and support.
In this view I would consider it most unfortunate if I should take any step which might tend to aggravate the feeling which public rumor imputes as existing between you and some of your subordinate commanders. I think the public interests, which with every patriot should be superior to individual preferences or favor, are deeply concerned in harmonious action between you and them. You have been sustained in your position, I understand, by the Government. You therefore better than any one else can afford; to abide the judgment which history may pronounce on your actions. Whatever maybe the asperities of feeling existing between you and your generals, I feel assured from my personal knowledge of them that they are as little disposed as you are to set their own interests above the good of the country. I believe that a frank personal explanation with them will be the means of removing any cause of dissatisfaction which may naturally exist, will harmonize the discordant elements which may now be present in your army, and at the expense of little personal pride on either part result in great public good.
Though I have no claims to your intimacy I profess to be sufficiently a patriot and sufficiently your friend to advise a course which would in my opinion, without any sacrifice of your personal dignity, redound so much to the advantage of the Republic.
Believing that you will appreciate the motives which have induced me reluctantly to urge upon you these views and that you will justify me in the candid manner in which I have conveyed them, I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. B. BUCKNER.
[Indorsement No. 1.]
KNOXVILLE, TENN., May 24, 1863.
This copy is confidentially communicated to Lieutenant-General Hardee, who, after perusing it, will please transmit to Lieutenant-General Polk, who informs me that he desires to retain it as part of the history of the events connected with the campaign.
S. B. BUCKNER.
[Indorsement No. 2.]
MAY 28, 1863.
Respectfully referred to General Polk, with the compliments of Lieutenant. General Hardee.
W. J. HARDEE.
SHELBYVILLE, April 20, 1863.
General BRAXTON BRAGG:
GENERAL: Your letter of the 13th, in reference to the councils of officers called by Lieutenant-General Polk at Bardstown and Perryville, was duly received. My sense of duty at least for the present, compels me to decline to answer what part I took in the councils referred to.
Yours, very respectfully,
B F. CHEATHAM, Major-General.