Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lincoln / Boyle / Gilbert: Threat Assessment

The following exchange between President Lincoln and Brig.-General Boyle as well as the Lincoln to Wright telegram provides insight into the president's hands-on involvement in the War Department.  The defense of his birthplace and childhood home and the family home of his wife has considerable personal and political ramifications, not to mention the military consequences of  Kentucky falling into Confederate hands.  Note that Lincoln mistakenly address his telegram to Major-General Boyle.  Would his tone have been different if he was aware that Boyle was actually just a Brigadier-General?


WASHINGTON, September 12, 1862.
Major-General BOYLE, Louisville, KY:

Your dispatch of last evening received. Where is the enemy which you dread in Louisville? How near to you to? What is General Gilbert's opinion? With all possible respect for you I must think General Wright's military opinion is the better. He is as much responsible for Louisville as for Cincinnati. General Halleck telegraphed him on this very subject yesterday and I telegraph him now, but for us here to control him there on the ground would be a babel of confusion which would be utterly ruinous. Where do you understand Buell to be and what is he doing?


                              * * *

U. S. MILITARY TELEGRAPH,Washington, September 12, 1862.
Major-General WRIGHT, Cincinnati, Ohio:

I am being appealed from Louisville against your withdrawing troops from that place. While i cannot pretend to judge of the propriety of what you are doing, you would much oblige me by furnishing me a rational answer to make to the Governor and others at Louisville.


                              * * *

LOUISVILLE, KY., September 12, 1862.

I expect no enemy here soon. If Bragg is in the State when Smith and he unite they may move on Louisville. General Gilbert's opinion may be inferred from dispatch he sent you. I believe he concurs with me. I have no idea there is any considerable force of the enemy near Cincinnati. Bragg is reported already in the State with large force on the line I indicated some days ago. I do not believe it. There is some force, but it is not large. Bragg may enter soon. Buell is at Nashville. Part of his army is at Bowling Green. McCook's division, which was on this side the Cumberland River, now is reported to have recrossed to the Nashville side. i have heard nothing from Buell. My information is from Colonel Bruce at Bowling Green. I concur with you that General Wright's military opinion is better than I ever thought mine to be, but I can know facts as well as the ablest military man. There are many reports. Deserters from Buckner report him with 10,000 men near Tompkinsville. Bragg reported at Burkesville and Columbia advancing into the center of the State. I do not believe any of the reports of an early attack at any point. They can, and I hope will, be driven out before they attack.


For the record, General Gilbert's opinion is presented below.  It seems that no one concurs with Wright's prediction of an eminent attack on Cincinnati and the newly promoted Wright, who seems to be in over his head, blames his generals.  Notice Gilbert's adherence to military protocol as he  copies his commanding officer in this response to President Lincoln.


LOUISVILLE, KY., September 12, 1862.
His Excellency the PRESIDENT:

The enemy must destroy Buell's army or cast it off to the west a long distance before attempting the capture of Cincinnati. If we secure Buell's line of communication with this place an attack on Cincinnati in force is an impossibility unless by the way of the Kanawha and Western Virginia. Granger's division is of the utmost importance as a head to the force now here, and a head it must have before it can move to co-operate with Buell, whose forces now show themselves at Bowling Green.


(The same to Major-General Wright.)

                              * * *

CINCINNATI, OHIO, September 12, 1862.
Major General H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief:

 We have no good generals here and are badly in want of them. Sheridan is worth his weight in gold. Will you not try and have him made a brigadier at once? It will put us in good shape.

Major-General, Commanding.

Hopefully, this dispatch was not read by Generals Wallace, Boyle, Gilbert or Nelson, the later of whom is recuperating at Louisville from his wounding at the Battle of Richmond.

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