Friday, October 19, 2012

I Say, I Say Again, Sir

In case General Don Carlos Buell was not sufficiently persuaded by his letter of the previous day, Halleck reiterates his instructions to push on toward either Knoxville or Chattanooga, with an endorsement by President and Commander-in-Chief Abraham Lincoln. It seems that the orders to live off the land also originate from the top of the chain of command.  This plan can only work if Buell is is moving to intercept Bragg's army.  If he follows Bragg, he will again find that the Confederate Army has consumed or destroyed any materiel available for forage.


Washington, October 19, 1862 - 1.33 p. m.
Major-General BUEL, Mount Vernon, Ky.:

Your telegram of the 17th was received this morning, and has been laid before the President, who concurs in the views expressed in my telegram to you yesterday. The capture of East Tennessee should be the main object of your campaign. You say it is the heart of the enemy's resources; make it the heart of yours. Your army can line there if the enemy's can. You must in a great measure live upon the country, paying for your supplies where proper and levying contributions where necessary. I am directed by the President to say to you that your army must enter East Tennessee this fall, and that it ought to move there while be no serious difficulty in reopening your communications with that place. He does not understand why we cannot march as the enemy marches, live as he lives, and fight as he fights, unless we admit the inferiority of our troops and of our generals. Once hold the valley of the Upper Tennessee and the operations of guerrillas in that State and Kentucky will soon cease.


Perhaps the President is recalling the land of his youth, with bountiful farmlands tilled and maintained by the slaves and small farmers. Or possibly his opinion is informed by observations from the northern states, where the labor shortage has had only a small impact on agriculture.  He obviously fails to appreciate the fact that, in Kentucky and Tennessee, there were few men available for sowing or reaping and the harvest, such as it was, has largely been consumed, destroyed or hidden from the marauding armies.  In this part of the country, October of 1862 will not be remembered for it's Fall Festivals where local growers gathered to celebrate the abundance of their harvests.

General Buell has to weigh these instructions to march forward and live off the land with the reality on the ground. The following letter from Corps Commander T.L. Crittenden provides a substantial dose of reality, in case it was needed. By all accounts, the Confederate army is exhausted, demoralized and surviving on short rations. Is this the army Mr. Lincoln wants Buell to emulate?


October 19, 1862 - 8.30 a. m.

[Major-General BUELL or THOMAS:]

GENERAL: I inclose you a note from General Smith, which gives all the information yet received from either of the brigades sent to the Richmond road. I am afraid Cruft came on the last of them and that Colonel Matthews will not see them. General Smith is convinced from information derived from a man who escaped from the rebels on the London road that they have fallen back to London. If so I have no hope of catching them. However, in obedience to orders, I send out a brigade this morning to press on in that direction. We cannot subsist our animals here and it looks like rain to-day. If it should rain and we don't succeed better than I dare hope in foraging we will, in my opinion, do ourselves more damage than we can do the enemy either by pursuing or remaining here. This is my opinion, but I am ready to do with alacrity whatever the general directs.My command will be out of provisions to-night.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major-General, Commanding.

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