In honor of Pvt. Nathan R. Oakes, CSA

150 years ago, my great grandfather, Nathan Richardson Oakes, served as a private in Company D of the distinguished 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment in the Army of Tennessee. He participated in the great Civil War campaigns, including the battles of Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Atlanta, Franklin, Nashville, and Bentonville. I am writing about his engagements as well as some details about fighting for the Lost Cause. I hope to honor him and commemorate the events and individuals that contributed to making this a renowned unit in the Confederate Army of Tennessee.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Buell arrives first at Louisville

Union Gen. Buell's army reached Louisville in time to prevent Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg from taking the city. He received an additional 30,000 reinforcements, bringing his total to over 60,000 to confront Bragg's army of 45,000. Needless to say, losing the initiative, and without obtaining assistance from fellow general Edmund Kirby Smith, Bragg did not attempt to take Louisville. Instead, the 2 armies will clash in a little more than a week at Perryville.

Although Louisville was was a strategic Union stronghold and supply route, the city escaped being attacked by the Confederate armies even once throughout the war.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bragg and Smith Meet

Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith
On this date, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg travels to Lexington with his staff for a few days to confer with Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, and then on to install a Confederate government in the capital at Frankfort. Gen. Leonidas Polk was left in charge of the army at Bardstown.

Later, Confederate Cavalry Gen. Wheeler will write about that period: “So worn and wearied was the condition of our army that [Bragg, Polk, and Hardee] did not feel justified in attempting an aggressive movement [against Buell].” Soon, Polk will feel compelled to withdraw. His decision will move the army toward a climatic battle at Perryville in a few days.

Bragg and Smith could agree about taking Louisville. Instead, a clever ruse by Union Gen. Buell will compel them to move their forces out of the region toward Harrodsburg.

Sources: Battles and Leaders, Vol. III; The Third Battalion Mississippi Infantry and the 45th Mississippi Regiment: A Civil War History, David Williamson

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The unpopular Second Conscription Act, 1862

On today's date, the Confederate Congress passed the Second Conscription Act. The first conscription was passed on April 16, 1862, requiring military service for 3 years from all males aged 18 to 35 not legally exempt. This second act increased the age to 45. In all, the Confederacy will pass 3 such laws.

Both North and South passed similar conscription laws during the war, and resistance was widespread.  In the North, the war by this time was generally unpopular. In New York, notes Civil War Times author, Daniel Wait Howe, opponents rioted for 3 days, destroying recruiting offices, dragging bodies of murdered Union soldiers through the streets, burning colored orphan asylums, and hanging blacks.

Southerners, too, resisted the legislation requiring men to serve in the army. But volunteer troops were most rankled by conscription laws. Understandably, men in units like the 32nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, who had enlisted for military service in defense of their country, were resentful about conscripts who only served under compulsion.

The unfairness of conscription laws, affected both the North and the South. Conscripts were permitted to hire substitutes to serve in their place, and certain categories of draftees, like the planter class, were exempted entirely. On both sides, enrolling officers and local judges often practiced favoritism or were susceptible to bribery. Attempts in the South to deal with the issue were frustrated by conflict between state and local governments on the one hand, and the government of the Confederacy on the other.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bragg's disappointment at Bardstown

Arriving in Bardstown, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg sent a disappointing report to Richmond on today's date:
With only three days of provisions, we marched to this place (59 miles) and reached here after some privation and suffering. It is a source of deep regret that this move was necessary as it has enabled Buell to reach Louisville, where a very large force is now concentrated.
On the 26th, Union troops paraded along the streets of Louisville. Buell sent a dispatch to his superior:
My troops are concentrated at this place. They have made long and rapid marches and require clothing, which is being issued today. I shall immediately advance against the enemy.
By now, Bragg has lost any advantage he may have had in taking Louisville, his earlier objective.

Source: Official Records, Vol. 16, Pt. 2

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Company D Arrives at Bardstown

According to company reports for Lowrey's Regiment, including my great grandfather's Company D, having departed Munfordville on the 21st, the regiment arrived at Bardstown on today's date. So far, it has traveled with Bragg's army a distance of over 300 miles since leaving Chattanooga on August 28th. The remaining elements of Bragg's army will continue to arrive for the next several days.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Lincoln's decision to free the Southern slaves

On September 22, 1862, Lincoln issued a preliminary order that on January 1, 1863,1 he would order the emancipation of all slaves in any state of the Confederate States of America that did not return to Union. None of the states in the Confederacy returned, so Lincoln signed and issued his executive order on that date, which, ironically, was only directed at states in which Lincoln’s government had no authority at the time. Those slaves in the territory Lincoln actually controlled, he left enslaved.2 

According to Northern Civil War author and contemporary, Daniel Wait Howe,
The grave question uppermost in men's minds was whether the Union could be saved at all; but, slowly evolving out of the doubts and perplexities of the situation, and beginning to assume definite shape, was another, destined to overshadow all other questions, whether it were best to try to save the Union with slavery or to try to save it without. The Radicals declared that it must be saved without slavery, but Lincoln hesitated and seemed to be groping his way.
In a letter to Horace Greeley August 22, 1862, President Lincoln revealed his logic in reaching his momentous decision: 
My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it—if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it—and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save this Union.
On today's date, 1862, Lincoln made up his mind to cross his Rubicon. The war now would become a crusade to free slaves. However, a vast segment of Northern voters were not yet in agreement with Lincoln’s intention. The fall elections in 1862 went heavily against the administration, and there were large opposition majorities in states like New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. Even in Illinois, the president's home state, there was an enormous majority against him. And in almost all the other northern states his Republican party lost their majorities.

1 Indeed, Lincoln's will issue his executive order on January 1, 1863, recalled today as the Emancipation Proclamation.
2 Actually, Lincoln emancipated the slaves in the nation's capital when he signed the District of Columbia Emancipation Act on April 16, 1862.

Source: Civil War Times, 1861-1865, Daniel Wait Howe

Bragg's army begins arriving at Bardstown

On this date in 1862, lead elements of Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Mississippi begin arriving at Bardstown, Kentucky, to join forces with Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, in order to push on into Louisville, 40 miles to the north.

When the first of Bragg's troops marched into town, people embraced them as deliverers in a tableau reenacted over several days. The streets were lined with people, and Dixie and Bonnie Blue Flag were played. Bragg and his generals gave speeches. However, in spite of the warm reception, Kentuckians continued to fearfully hold back from joining the army and supporting the Confederate cause.

In nearby Louisville, the citizens were in a panic at the prospect of battle between the 2 opposing armies gathering there. Union General Nelson issued an evacuation order on the 22nd, in anticipation of an attack. Southern forces reached to within 2 miles of the city, but did not invade it. Having been beaten 
by Buell in the march to Louisville, and being refused by Gen. Smith to join forces in an attack on that city, Bragg eventually withdrew his army without a fight.

Sources: Perryville:  This Grand Havoc of Battle, Kenneth W. Noe; Official Records, Vol. 16, Pt. 1

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bragg's army moves to Bardstown

On today's date in 1862, Gen. Braxton Bragg moved his Confederate army northeastward from Munfordville, through Lincoln’s birthplace at Hodgenville, then on past Gethsemane Abby towards Bardstown, Kentucky.

Bragg's Kentucky Campaign, 1862
Source: Civil War Trust
At Bardstown, Bragg left his army and rode to Lexington to counsel with Gen. Kirby Smith and arrange for the inauguration in Frankfort of Richard Hawes as Confederate governor. The inauguration was observed on October 4th. However, as the ceremonies were taking place, Federal troops began approaching the capital. The sounds of enemy shells interrupted Hawes’s address. The capital was quickly evacuated, and the new Confederate government of Kentucky spent the rest of the war in exile.

On the 25th, Bragg wrote to Richmond justifying his dubious actions at Munfordville: “For want of provisions it was impossible for me to… stay where I was [i.e., Munfordville], the population being nearly all hostile and the country barren and destitute, having been ravaged by the enemy.” With only 3 days provisions, Bragg said he had “marched on [Bardstown] (59 miles) and reached it after some privation and suffering.” The Kentuckians in large numbers choose not to support the Confederacy. Even if there had been a major military victory, it is doubtful that attitudes would have changed.

Civil War historian James Lee McDonough notes, "[Bragg's] soldiers were inspired by the capture of [Munfordville] and might well expect to find Buell's men correspondingly depressed." It is generally understood now that Bragg would have been in a good position to fight Buell at Munfordville, with likely success. But his failure to do so ended up being one of the biggest disappointments—and greatest lost opportunity—of his Kentucky Campaign.

Source: War In Kentucky, James Lee McDonough 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Battle of Green River Crossing, 1862

On today's date in 1862, Union Gen. Thomas’s division reached Buell’s army on the road near Munfordville and that evening battled with some of Confederate Gen. Bragg’s troops.

Joseph Wheeler
after promotion to general
Bragg had left Col. Joseph Wheeler and his cavalry command* to conceal his army's movement and to hold off the overwhelming Union advance. This would allow Bragg to withdraw his army toward Bardstown, about 50 miles to the northeast, to connect with Smith's army. The Battle of Green River Crossing, as it is known today, began about 3 miles north of Horse Cave, near today's intersection with I-65. There is no list of casualties, but Col. T.B. Brown of the 1st Alabama, was killed leading his regiment.

The Battle of Green River Crossing is counted as a Union victory, since Wheeler was forced to withdraw. However Wheeler's attack did succeed in slowing the the Union advance long enough for Bragg to cross the Green River unmolested. Wheeler will continue to harass the Union army along its march to Louisville.

Having changed his mind about engaging Buell's army at Munfordville, Bragg has now vacated his strategic position and turns his army northeast, marching to Bardstown. This allowed Buell to pass on to Louisville unopposed. Abandoning Munfordville on the Green River cost Bragg the opportunity to take the Federal Depot at Louisville before Buell’s army arrived there.

* In the months ahead, an ancestor of mine, Great-Great Grandfather David Crockett Neal, will fight in a the 6th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment under Gen. Wheeler.

Sources: The Third Battalion Mississippi Infantry and the 45th Mississippi Regiment: A Civil War History, David Williamson; Campaigns of Wheeler and His Cavalry, 1862-1865, Joseph Wheeler

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Buckner and the 32nd Mississippi Infantry at Munfordville

Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner
Simon Bolivar Buckner was born on his family's estate near Munfordville, Kentucky, on April 1, 1823. He was named for the South American military and political leader in the war for independence from Spain, Simón Bolívar. Buckner attended schools in Munfordville and later Greenville, then Christian County Seminary in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. In 1840, Buckner enrolled at the United States Military Academy, where he graduated in 1844, 11th in his class of 25. He served for a while as an infantry officer before returning to West Point to teach ethics, history, and geography.

In 1844, Buckner resigned his teaching post to take part in the Mexican-American War. He participated in many of its notable battles, earning citations for gallant conduct. At the conclusion of the occupation of Mexico, Buckner was given the honor of lowering the American flag over Mexico City for the last time.

After the war with Mexico, Capt. Buckner returned to the academy as a professor of infantry tactics. Then, he served in various military posts until 1855, including some on the frontier, gaining a reputation for his fair dealings with the Lakota Indians. After that time, Buckner managed property in Chicago, which he inherited, eventually becoming a major in State Militia of Cook County. He would later serve as Adjunct General for the State of Illinois before rising to the rank of colonel.

By now, Buckner had a family, and in 1857, he returned with them to his native state of Kentucky, settling in Louisville. Due to his successful military experience, he was made captain of the local militia and served in that capacity until 1860, when the militia was incorporated into the State Guard's Second Regiment. He then was chosen to be inspector general of Kentucky, and in 1861, appointed major general of the state militia.

As momentum for the Civil War was mounting that year, Buckner found himself at odds with Kentucky’s neutral stance, so he resigned his commission. He was twice offered a commission as a brigadier general in the Union Army, but declined each time. On September 14, 1861, Buckner accepted a Confederate commission as a brigadier, and was followed by many of the men he had commanded in the state militia. Union officials in Louisville reacted by indicting him for treason and seizing his property. Assigned to Brig. Gen. William J. Hardee’s Corps, Buckner was appointed a general of a division in the Army of Central Kentucky and was stationed in nearby Bowling Green.

After the fall of Fort Henry in February of 1862, Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston assigned Buckner to the defense of Fort Donelson. The fort soon fell to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's forces during his offensive to divide the Confederacy by controlling the Mississippi River. The surrender was a humiliation for Buckner and a strategic defeat for the Confederacy, which lost more than 12,000 men and much equipment. Soon, Nashville had to be evacuated.

After 5 months in solitary confinement, under indictment for treason, Buckner was released in a prisoner exchange. He was then promoted to major general and ordered to Chattanooga to join Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Army of Mississippi assembling there for the Kentucky Campaign in late August. As Bragg pushed his invasion army north, his first battle was in Buckner's hometown of Munfordville at Fort Craig along the Green River. The fort capitulated on September 17, 1862, and Buckner was chosen to receive the formal surrender. Participating with Buckner’s troops in the surrender ceremony was my great grandfather’s unit, Lowery’s Regiment, in S.A.M. Wood's Brigade.


In an interesting side note to history, while growing up in Munfordville, Buckner’s closest friend was Thomas J. Wood, later a classmate at West Point, who became a career officer in the Union Army. Wood just missed being present at Munfordville in September, or the two old friends would have met in battle on their childhood playground. As Providence will have it though, Wood will soon oppose Buckner at the climatic Battle of Perryville, and, again, in the great Battle of Chickamauga.

Gen. Simon Buckner, Jr.
Another historical fact worthy of note is that after the war, Buckner became governor of Kentucky. He raised a son, named after him, who went on to become a famous American general in World War II. On June 18, 1945, while commanding the Tenth Army in the Battle of Okinawa, Gen. Simon Buckner, Jr. was killed by an enemy shell, the highest ranking American killed during that war. Father and son are buried in the family plot in the Frankfort Cemetery in Kentucky.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Day of Thanksgiving, 1862

Elated at the bloodless Confederate victory over Fort Craig in Munfordville, Kentucky, on this date in 1862, Gen. Braxton Bragg called for a day of thanksgiving and prayer. Unfortunately for the Confederacy, the delay at Munfordville would allow 30,000 Federal troops to dig in at Louisville.

By the afternoon of the 19th, Bragg had made up his mind to join his force with Gen. Kirby Smith near Louisville. In an attempt to uncover Buell's position, Bragg sent Buckner's division, in which my great grandfather was serving, to the front to feel out the enemy. Buckner will report nothing of importance on his front, so Bragg will continue with his plans to meet up with Kirby Smith's army and face Buell another day.

Bragg sent his supply trains on to Bardstown. On the morning of the 20th, he began moving his Army of Mississippi north to Nolin, then moved off the Louisville pike onto the Bardstown road. His hesitation at Munfordville cost him 3 days, enough time for the enemy at Louisville to prepare.

Sources: The Third Battalion Mississippi Infantry and the 45th Mississippi Regiment: A Civil War History, David Williamson; Army of the Heartland: The Army of Tennessee, 1861-1862, Thomas Lawrence Connelly

Monday, September 17, 2012

Victory at Munfordville | Defeat at Antietam, 1862

As Civil War historian James Lee McDonough observes, September 17 stands out dramatically and tragically in the history of the Confederacy as the bloodiest single day of the war, as the Federals and Confederates battled it out in western Maryland along the banks of Antietam Creek, near the town of Sharpsburg. General Robert E. Lee’s army had held on against overwhelming numbers, but was forced to pull out during the night of the 18th, ending Lee’s Maryland Campaign. This gave Lincoln the victory he needed to consider the emancipation of slaves for military purposes. On the 22nd, Lincoln will present Congress his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

When it was over, Gen Robert E. Lee’s invasion of the North had failed, and the important border state of Maryland would remain loyal to the Union. The Confederates were forced to retreat into Virginia. Lincoln’s announcement of his Emancipation Proclamation, changed the complexion of the war, and effectively ended the Confederacy’s hope of foreign recognition, a factor which well might have meant success for the Confederacy.

But on that same day, there was a bit of good news for the Confederacy. Bragg forced the surrender of the Union garrison at Munfordville without loss of life. Earlier in the day, Bragg ordered Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, whose home was Munfordville, to attack the bridge on the northern bank of the Green River. Gen. Hardee would attack from the south side, while Gen. Leonidas Polk crossed upriver and would attack the Federal rear. Most of the previous day had been spent getting into position, while skirmishing fire continued on the south bank. Late in the afternoon Bragg sent a message to the Union commander, Col. John T. Wilder, to surrender, and a truce was called for the evening. Wilder surrendered his garrison at midnight.*

According to the Official Records, my great grandfather's brigade, S.A.M. Wood's, participated in the the formal ceremony of surrender on today's date:
By command of Major General Hardee, “Chalmers brigade, Withers’ division, and Wood's Brigade, Buckner’s Division, will be present at the surrender of the garrison of Munfordville at Rowlett’s Station at 6 a.m. to-day.”
Like Lee, Bragg will face his own failure to turn an important state to the Confederacy. In less than a week, he will move his army away from Munfordville and out of Gen. Don Carlos Buell's path, yielding up a strategic and advantageous location for a decisive battle. Also, as McDonough points out, if having decided to move, Bragg had immediately marched on Louisville from Munfordville, his army probably could have taken it. Bragg simply let events slip from his control, stemming from his lack of a clearly defined objective in his Confederate Heartland Offensive.

But Bragg will have one more opportunity to confront the Federal army in early October, in an unexpected encounter in the Chaplin Hills west of Perryville, Kentucky.

* Wilder will return to fight a portion of Bragg's army at the Battle of Hoover's Gap, Tennessee, on June 24, 1863. In that attack his mounted infantry, for the first time on a battlefield, will make use of Spenser repeater rifles in a decisive outcome for the Union. He will also have a significant role in the Chickamauga Campaign later that year.

Sources: War In Kentucky, James Lee McDonough; The Third Battalion Mississippi Infantry and the 45th Mississippi Regiment: A Civil War History, David Williamson; Official Records, Vol. 16, Pt. 2

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Siege of Munfordville

Munfordville, 1862
Source: Civil War Trust
Learning of Chalmers’ repulse at Fort Craig, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg decided on today's date in 1862, to avenge the defeat. He diverts his army 50 miles around Bardstown to Munfordville, and there will surround the federal garrison. At midnight, he forces the garrison to surrender without a fight.

While awaiting an attack by Buell, Bragg, with tired men and exhausted supplies, will grow apprehensive and make the lamentable decision to abandon his strategic position to join Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, moving out on the 20th.

Abandoning Munfordville will give Federal Gen. Don Carlos Buell unimpeded access to the Louisville road and cost Bragg the opportunity to take the Federal Depot at Louisville before Buell’s army arrives there. On the same day, Federal Gen. G.W. Gordon’s Federal troops evacuated Cumberland Gap and moved east to the Ohio River.

Source: The Third Battalion Mississippi Infantry and the 45th Mississippi Regiment: A Civil War History, David Williamson

Friday, September 14, 2012

Confederate Attack on Munfordville

Munfordville is 20 miles directly north of Glasgow, Kentucky. The vital Louisville & Nashville Railroad crossed the Green River at Munfordville on one of the most important bridges on the entire line, and a relay station on the Louisville-Nashville turnpike.

Knowing that a Confederate attack was imminent, Federal reinforcements were arriving to the Fort Craig garrison at Munfordville on the 13th and 14th. In the meantime, Confederate Gen. Polk’s Corps cut off the Federal supply line at Cave City.

Without consulting the commanding general, Braxton Bragg, who was at Glasgow, Brig. Gen. James R. Chalmers brigade, with reinforcements from Gen. Edmond Kirby Smith that had been sent south to locate Bragg, attacked the Federal garrison. Chalmers was deceived by the strength of the Federals and their ability to repel his assault.

The Battle of Munfordville, Kentucky, from Harper's Weekly
Source: Wikipedia

The attack was a failure, resulting in 285 Rebel casualties to only 37 on the Union side. Bragg believed that Chalmers’s action had destroyed his option to bypass Munfordville. Nevertheless, Bragg will decide to bring all of the army’s strength to attack the Federals at the bridge on the 16th.

Sources: War In Kentucky, James Lee McDonough; Official Records, Vol. 16

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bragg's army arrives at Glasgow, Kentucky

The Union fort at Munfordville, Kentucky, along the Green River, was defended by a force of 4,000 men under Col. John T. Wilder—large enough to deal with any Confederate raiders that roamed about, but far too small to resist Gen. Braxton Bragg's army of 30,000 men, which was arriving in the vicinity in the early days of September.

On today's date in 1862, a Confederate cavalry brigade under Gen. James R. Chalmers approached Munfordville, and unaware that they were outnumbered, demanded the surrender of the garrison. The next day, more Confederates arrived, bringing his force to 1,900. But unbeknownst to Chalmers, his was still too small of a force to take the fortified Union garrison.

In the meantime, Gen. Bragg was assembling his army. He had begun his invasion from Chattanooga in late August, in hopes that the presence of a Confederate army in Kentucky would encourage the state  to join the Confederacy. Until now, the Union army led by Gen. Don Carlos Buell, had remained further west, uncertain about what Bragg was up to and where he may be headed. When it became clear that he was heading north, Buell turned towards Munfordville. However, Bragg's forces arrived there first.

In only 2 weeks, Bragg had moved his army rapidly through Tennessee’s Sequatchie Valley, traveling through Pikeville to Sparta, and then on to Carthage, crossing the Cumberland River and heading for Glasgow and the Green River crossing at Munfordvile, Kentucky. On today's date, Bragg arrived with the balance of his army at Glasgow, some 30 miles east of Bowling Green, near what is known today as Mammoth Cave National Park. From here, Bragg was in a good strategic position to effectively cut off Buell’s line of retreat, both by road and by railroad, to Louisville.

In camp between Glasgow and Munfordville, with other elements of Bragg's army, was my great grandfather, Nathan Oakes, a private in the 32nd Mississippi Infantry, a volunteer regiment made up of nearly 1,000 men from tiny towns around Corinth, Mississippi. He and Great Uncle William Turner were in Company D, comprised of men from their hometown of Kossuth, Mississippi and nearby villages. Three hundred miles from home, these recruits were about to face their first organized battle, the attack on the Union garrison at Munfordville, also known as the Battle of Green River.

Source: War In Kentucky, James Lee McDonough

Friday, September 7, 2012

32nd Mississippi Infantry arrives at Munfordville, 1862

Union Gen. Don Carlos Buell learns that Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg’s army is bypassing Nashville. Both armies are now heading for the Federal railroad supply line running through Cave City, Kentucky, about 28 miles northeast of Bowling Green, and the junction of the Louisville Pike. If Buell arrives first, his army will be between Bragg’s and Gen. Smith’s armies. However, if Bragg arrives ahead of him, then he can unite with Smith and drive Buell out of Kentucky, and perhaps take the fight all the way to Cincinnati. (In fact, Smith's force was at this time only 7 miles from Cincinnati. His army's proximity caused the citizens to flee in panic.)

For the first few days of September, Bragg's Army of Mississippi has been bivouacked in Sparta, Tennessee. Here Bragg receives word from Gen. Smith of the Confederate victory at Richmond. Smith also recommends that the 2 Southern armies join forces at Lexington. But considering both the drought in Kentucky and the inadequate forage for his troops along the way to Lexington, Bragg decides instead to change course for Glasgow, Kentucky. There he hopes to find adequate water and the fertile ground of the Green and Barren Rivers area.

On today's date in 1862, my great grandfather's regiment, the 32nd Mississippi Infantry, arrived near Munfordville, Kentucky. With Gen. Hardee's left wing, they completed their march to join the rest of Bragg’s army at Glasgow, about 30 miles south of the Union garrison at Munfordville, which guarded the strategic Green River bridge on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lee's simultaneous invasion of Maryland, 1862

Over about the same period of time when Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee was invading Kentucky, Gen. Robert E. Lee embarked on is own campaign into Maryland. It will be his first invasion into the North and will begin on this date in1862, and last through the 20th.

Gen. Robert E. Lee
Following his victory in the Northern Virginia Campaign, Lee moved north with 55,000 men through the Shenandoah Valley toward Maryland. His objective was to resupply his army and to damage Northern morale in anticipation of the November elections. His plan was risky, splitting his army so that he could continue north into Maryland, while simultaneously capturing the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferrry. In an accident of war, Lee's orders to his subordinate commanders fell into the hands his opponent, Gen. George McClellan, enabling him to plan Lee's defeat accordingly.

While Lee's general, Stonewall Jackson, was taking Harpers Ferry from the 12th through the 15th, McClellan moved his army of 84,000 through the South Mountain passes that separated him from Lee. The Battle of South Mountain/Boonsboro Gap ensued on the 14th, which delayed McClellan's advance and allowed Lee sufficient time to concentrate most of his army at Sharpsburg. The Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg* on September 17, was the bloodiest day in American military history, with over 22,000 casualties. Lee, outnumbered 2 to 1, moved his defensive forces to ward off each offensive blow. However, McClellan never deployed all of his reserves to capitalize on successes and destroy the Confederates. On September 18, Lee ordered a withdrawal across the Potomac. On September 19–20, fights by Lee's rear guard at Shepherdstown ended his campaign.

Although from a tactical perspective Antietam was a draw, Lee's Maryland Campaign failed to achieve its objectives. As a result of McClellan's success, President Lincoln used the timing of Union victory for his announcement to free the salves in Southern states, to be effective on January 1, 1863. His public stance on slavery effectively will end any threat of European support for the Confederacy.

* To take a virtual tour of the battlefield visit the Civil War Trust webpage, Antietam 360.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Capture of Frankfort, Kentucky, 1862

On today's date in 1862, fresh from their complete victory at Richmond on September 3, Confederate forces under Gen. Edmond Kirby Smith capture Frankfort, the capital of Kentucky. Frankfort will be the only Union state capital captured in the war, earning Smith the "Thanks" of the Confederate congress. Generals Smith's and Braxton Bragg's armies will continue their invasion of Kentucky in an attempt to outflank the Union army in a series of military movements to win that state for the Confederacy.

Kentucky's Capital Building Cir. 1862

During Frankfort's occupation, Gen. Bragg installed a provisional Confederate government. However, he was only able to hold Frankfort for less than a month. Union Gen. Don Carlos Buell ambushed the inauguration ceremony on October 4, and drove the provisional government from the state. Frankfort, along with Kentucky, will continue to have strong sympathies for the Union, and the Confederate government will continue only in shadow until the end of the war.