Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Buell's Evaluation from Cincinatti

Cincinnati, Ohio was the scene of Buell's final evaluation later that fall, when a Court of Inquiry was held under the guidance af General Lew Wallace.  The findings of that court are reprinted in the Official Records Extracts and can be found online at Findings of the Buell Comission.  In the following selection, the commission presents a scathing report on Buell's performance in the Pursuit of Bragg from Louisville through Perryville.


Braxton Bragg defeated the design. He did not march on Louisville nor dare he risk an engagement with the superior Army of the Ohio. 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 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 check 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 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 were suffering for, he suddenly threw the wight 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, 2 1/2 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 Gilber's corps remained idle spectators of the unequal contest, and not only failed to tender re-enforcements, 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.

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