Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Buell's Eye View

On this, the 16th day of October, 1862, Buell sends the following assessment of his army's predicament to General Halleck in Washington.  The normally clear headed general seems to be rambling a bit, probably showing the effects of exhaustion.  If  Halleck was looking for a sign that General Buell needed to be replaced, this letter certainly provided it. His claim that his entire army, including new recruits, defeated Bragg when only McCook's Corps was seriously engaged is either misleading or it reflects a profound misunderstanding of the events at Perryville.

The other possibility is that this attribution reflects the old school general's approach to battle, simply moving units around on a map until the enemy decides to leave.  This was a lesson taught by Halleck himself and demonstrated at Corinth.  That performance had earned Halleck a promotion only four months earlier, but such results were no longer acceptable in the ever-changing landscape of the Civil War.  The need was growing for generals that could find, attack and capture or kill the enemy.  It had become clear that the highly organized and methodical Buell did not meet these job requirements.

Ref.:  http://ehistory.osu.edu/osu/sources/recordView.cfm?Content=023/0619

October 16, 1862. (Received October 17.)

Major-General HALLECK, General-in-Chief:

You are aware that between Crab Orchard and Cumberland Gap the country is almost a desert. The limited supply of forage which the country affords is consumed by the enemy as he passes. In the day and a half that we have been in this sterile region our animals have suffered exceedingly. The enemy has been driven into the heart of this desert and must go on, for he cannot exist in it. For the same reason we cannot pursue in it with any hope of overtaking him, for while he is moving back on his supplies and as he goes consuming what the country affords we must bring ours forward. There is but one road and that a bad one. The route abounds in difficult defiles, in which a small force can retard the progress of a large one for a considerable time, and in that time the enemy could gain material advantage in a move upon other points. For these reasons, which I do not think it necessary to elaborate, I deem it useless and inexpedient to continue the pursuit, but propose to direct he main force under my command rapidly upon Nashville, which General Negley reported to me as already being invested by a considerable force and toward which I have no doubt Bragg will move the main part of his army. The railroads are being rapidly repaired and will soon be available for our supplies. In the mean time I shall throw myself on my wagon transportation, which, fortunately, is ample. While I shall proceed with these dispositions, deeming them to be proper for the public interest, it is but meet that I should say that the present time is perhaps as convenient as any for making any changes that may be thought proper in the command of this army. It has not accomplished all that I had hoped or all that faction might demand; yet, composed as it is, one-half of perfectly new troops, it has defeated a powerful and thoroughly disciplined army in one battle and has driven it away baffled and dispirited at least, and as much demoralized as an army can be under such discipline as Bragg maintains over all troops that he commands. I will telegraph you more in detail in regard to the disposition of troops in Kentucky and other matters to-morrow.


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