Thursday, August 23, 2012

The New Department of the Ohio

As reported in a previous post, Halleck is planning a reorganization to provide the state of Kentucky a new district to command the military forces  along and south of the Ohio River.  This was the original assignment for D.C. Buell's Army of the Ohio before it was co-opted for the operations in Tennessee, Mississippi and northern Alabama.  As the threat of invasion grows in Kentucky, Halleck organizes a "New" Department of the Ohio and places newly appointed Major General Horatio G. Wright in charge.  This comes as a surprise to other officers who out-rank Wright by seniority but are now ordered to report to him.


HEADQUARTERS, Louisville, Ky., August 23, 1862-11.10 a. m.
Major-General HALLECK, Commander-in-Chief:  

I arrived here this morning, in obedience to orders from Major-General Buell, to assume command of the troops arriving in Kentucky, to repel the threatened invasion of Kentucky and Tennessee north of the Cumberland River. I was directed to organize these troops into brigades and divisions and enforce discipline and instruction without an hour's delay. Two batteries of artillery are ordered to join me from Nashville, both of which accompanied me to Franklin, Ky., where I left them last night. Generals Manson, Jackson, and Cruft accompany me on this mission. The rebel General Kirby Smith is moving in the direction of Burkesville, on the Cumberland River, with 15,000 good troops. My business was to meet him and drive him back. I find here Major-General Wright, who arrived in this city one hour before, and is announced to command the new Department of the Ohio. Under these circumstances shall I return to my division? I solicit your orders in the premises.  


 Halleck responds:

WAR DEPARTMENT,Washington, August 23, 1862.
Major-General NELSON, Louisville, Ky.: 

You and the officers under your command will remain in the new Department of the Ohio, and render all possible assistance to General Wright in driving the enemy from Kentucky. 


General Wright spends the better part of his first day sending telegrams to establish his new authority and moving his headquarters from Louisville to Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, Buell is gathering his forces to meet Bragg's break-out from Chattanooga, although he still can't predict where the rebels are heading.  In the process of abandoning the long-cherrished railroads to the south he orders the trains to run toward Nashville, collecting detached garrisons along the way.  It is likely that the Seventeenth has already been transported to the capital by this time.


HEADQUARTERS, Decherd, August 23, 1862.
General NEGLEY, Columbia:

General Rousseau is ordered to take up all bridge guards between Huntsville and Columbia by cars. As soon as he gets to Columbia you must march with all the force there for Nashville and pick up all the troops on the line.


Apparently, there aren't enough cars for everybody.

HEADQUARTERS, Decherd, August 23, 1862.
General NEGLEY, Columbia:

As soon as General Rousseau takes up the troops south of you and passes Columbia you will march your whole force to Nashville. Take everything that can be taken or sent and destroy the rest.


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