Monday, September 17, 2012

The Fall of Munfordville

The news reaches Lincoln that Munfordville has been taken by the rebels and H.G. Wright dares to move south, leaving A.J. Smith in charge of the armies amassed at Covington, Kentucky, across the river from Cincinnati. Recall that Wright had transferred most of Louisville's defenses to Covington to protect his headquarters across the Ohio in Cincinnatti, despite the fact that he had been promoted and appointed to protect Kentucky from the rebel invaders.


LOUISVILLE, KY., September 17, 1862.
Honorable ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President:

After more than two day's fighting and great slaughter to the rebels I think our force at Munfordville has had to surrender. bragg is in force at Glasgow and near Munfordville. Kirby Smith has formed a junction with him. There may be a small force in front of Cincinnati. General Buell is at Bowling Green; his force not sufficient to attack Bragg. We have heard from buell, but he is cut off from re-enforcements from here if we had them. The rebel force in Kentucky much larger than at first supposed.



Cincinnati, Ohio, September 17, 1862.
Brigadier General A. J. SMITH,
Commanding U. S. Forces, Covington, Ky.:

GENERAL: I shall leave for Louisville to-night, as stated in a previous communication, and you will be in command of the forces in this vicinity.The columns under Gillmore and Murray should not I think proceed beyond Crittenden; unless therefore there is some good excuse for farther advance order them back after the advance reaches that vicinity or if thought best keep them a short time. Louisville is in some danger some of our force must be sent to that point.Please therefore hold, say ten regiments ready to be transported to that point by rail and river, with as much transportation in the shape of wagons, ambulances, &c., as can be had.

Major-General, Commanding.

The impetus for Wright's new-found adventurism is found in this report from General Lew Wallace, who had been sent to challenge the 3,500 rebel forces that so threatened the 40,000 Federal troops at Covington.


Covington, Ky., September 17, 1862.
Major-General WRIGHT:

SIR: Mr. B. E. Bradford, a citizen of Georgetown, indorsed by General G. Clay Smith as perfectly reliable, just arrived from Georgetown, reports having passed through the enemy's column on the full retreat.Their rear guard stopped him yesterday about 4 o'clock or the would have been in sooner. Their main body, he says, is now beyond Crittenden.

Major-General, &c.

The Crittenden referred to is not the division of General  Thomas Leonidas Crittenden (USA),  his brother, General George B. Crittenden (CSA) or their cousin General Thomas Turpin Crittenden (USA).  Rather, Wallace is referring to Crittenden, Kentucky, a small town about  25 miles south of Covington along a road that is today called the "Dixie Highway" (US 25) that leads south to Tennessee.  Forty-file miles to the south on the Dixie Highway lies Georgetown.  From Georgetown,  Lexington is 20 miles further south, Frankfurt 20 miles to the west and Louisville another 55 miles west of Frankfort.  It is clear that the rebels are rapidly consolidating their forces, and Wallace apparently does not realize that his fleeing enemy is headed for a rendezvous with Kirby Smith and Bragg.  This will create the largest "main body" of Confederate soldiers to be found on Northern soil, following Lee's withdrawal from Maryland. 

Lee withdrew to Virginia on this date in 1862, unhindered, after the bloodiest single-day battle in American history near Sharpsburg, Maryland. Will another battle comparable to  Antietam be required to drive this force from Kentucky?  The casualties at Shiloh and Antietam were comparable in number, although the devastation in Maryland was accomplished in only one day.  Are the volunteers from the 17th and 25th Kentucky Regiments that survived two days of Shiloh, and now form the Seventeenth Kentucky under Alexander McCook, headed for yet another "bloodiest battle", this time on their own soil?  Will the hand of God reach out and take another one out of three men from their ranks, or maybe more?  Certainly, the generals on both sides are anticipating such a decisive battle before the month is out.

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