Monday, June 10, 2013

The Tullahoma Campaign

In April of 1863, the men of the Seventeenth Kentucky Infantry had been stationed at Clarksville, Tennessee for more than four months, having missed the Battle of Stones River and accepted the fact that their dear colonel would not be returned to them.

Their garrison duty provided a respite from the grueling tour they had endured after the fall of Corinth- across northern Mississippi and Alabama, north through Nashville to Louisville and (after Perryville) south and west to Logan County Kentucky before arriving in Clarksville.

For once the men had the luxury of time. Time to reflect on their commitment to the cause of preserving the Union and the effects it was having on their families back home.  Reports from nearby Ohio County Kentucky were of frequent harassment and public derision by the many secessionists that remained.  When Confederate troops and, more frequently, their less-civil guerrillas passed through, the Unionist families were always targeted by their foragers.  Also, many property disputes were filed and won by those who stayed behind, as the wives and widows of Union soldiers were typically unable to properly defend the claims that had been staked out by their husbands.

In addition to personal concerns, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation had officially linked the war with the abolition of slavery.  Perhaps the significance of this change in mission was more significant to the Seventeenth than any other regiment from the four border states in which slavery remained legal, as it had led to the dismissal of their beloved Colonel McHenry in December.

Apparently the command of Rosecrans' Army of the Cumberland decided that the battle-tested men of the Seventeenth had been given enough time to adjust to the command of Colonel Stout, and they were called to join the Tullahoma Campaign in April of 1863.  They arrived in Brentwood, Tennessee to serve again under General Thomas L. Crittenden of Russellville, who had commanded their muster-in at Calhoun, Kentucky just fifteen months prior.  Not surprisingly, they found themselves in the fight to re-take the territory of middle Tennessee that they had occupied the previous summer and abandoned in pursuit of Bragg into Kentucky.

Following Brig. General Nathan Bedford Forrest's attack on Rosecrans' communications center in March (see: the Seventeenth was transferred to Brentwood, Tennessee in April, moved to Murfreesboro in May and then marched to McMinnville in July.  During this period, the Seventeenth Kentucky was involved in limited action as they again attempted to balance the civil liberties of their neighbors to the south while they maintained order in occupied Tennessee.

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