Thursday, June 14, 2012

Buell's Final Report

 General Buell felt compelled to set the record straight in his final report on activities between April 8 and June 10, 1862, a portion of which is reprinted below.  The following excerpt begins with operations on May 29th.  The Skirmish at Bridge Creek, which involved the Seventeenth, was one of the few named engagements during this period.  Recall that General Pope had fallen for Beauregard's trick and, hearing the cheering crowds greeting each empty train on it's arrival, had wired Halleck at 1:00 AM, May 30th that the enemy was reinforcing to his front and that he full well expected to be attacked in force at dawn.

There was some skirmishing on the 29th. On the evening of that day I advised General Halleck of my purpose, with his approval, to crowd the enemy back and cross Bridge Creek with two and perhaps three more divisions, and suggested that General Pope should be prepared to advance also. He replied that General Pope was of opinion that he could not advance without bringing on a general attack, and he deemed it best, therefore, that Pope should hold on to his position until we felt the enemy more on the right and center. I accordingly gave specific instructions for the advance of my troops on the following morning. About 2 o'clock next morning I received dispatches from General Halleck and General Pope, informing me that the enemy were re-enforcing heavily on our left, which, it was stated, would undoubtedly be attacked at daylight, and desiring me to be prepared to support General Pope. Deeming the orders I had given the evening before sufficient for that contingency, if it should occur, I made no change in my dispositions. About 4.30 o'clock I received a message from General Nelson, to the effect that the enemy were evacuating Corinth and that he had ordered his troops to advance. In view of the dispatches I had received from General Halleck and General Pope only two hours and a half earlier, I deemed it proper to adhere to the instructions I had given the evening before, and accordingly sent word to General Nelson to advance at the time I had appointed. Very soon after the divisions of McCook and Nelson entered the enemy's works. About a hundred prisoners, the most of them sick, were found in the place, but no stores of any importance. The little that the enemy did not carry away he destroyed.

It appears that the officers from the right and left who entered Corinth on the morning of the 30th reported the fact promptly to General Halleck, who immediately telegraphed the reports to Washington, and the publicity given too them through the press has given rise to some rivalry as to which of the three armies first entered the enemy's works. I have no doubt myself that the honor is due to Major-General Nelson. It is certain that he discovered the enemy were evacuating when others supposed instead that they were preparing to attack. I did not, however, deem the question of priority of so much importance as to anticipate it, and therefore did not forward General Nelson's report for some time after it was received.*

This will not be the last time that some overly eager-beaver general designs to take credit for an accomplishment that truly belonged to the Seventeenth, only to have the record retrospectively corrected.

*, pp.675-676

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