MILITARY REMINISCENCES OF THE CIVIL WAR
BY JACOB DOLSON COX, A.M., LL.D.
Formerly Major-General commanding Twenty-Third Army Corps
APRIL 1861--NOVEMBER 1863
BURNSIDE AND ROSECRANS--THE SUMMER'S DELAYS
Condition of Kentucky and Tennessee--Halleck's instructions to Burnside--Blockhouses at bridges--Relief of East Tennessee--Conditions of the problem--Vast wagon-train required--Scheme of a railroad--Surveys begun--Burnside's efforts to arrange co-operation with Rosecrans--Bragg sending troops to Johnston--Halleck urges Rosecrans to activity--Continued inactivity--Burnside ordered to send troops to Grant--Rosecrans's correspondence with
Halleck--Lincoln's dispatch--Rosecrans collects his subordinates' opinions--Councils of war--The situation considered--Sheridan and Thomas--Computation of effectives--Garfield's summing up--Review of the situation when Rosecrans succeeded
Buell--After Stone's River--Relative forces--Disastrous detached expeditions--Appeal to ambition--The major-generalship in regular army--Views of the President justified--Burnside's forces--Confederate forces in East Tennessee--Reasons for the double organization of the Union armies.
Burnside was not a man to be satisfied with quasi-military duty and the administration of a department outside of the field of active warfare. He had been reappointed to the formal command of the Ninth Corps before he came West, and the corps was sent after him as soon as transportation could be provided for it. He reached Cincinnati in person just as a raid into Kentucky by some 2000 Confederate cavalry under Brigadier-General John Pegram was in progress. Pegram marched from East Tennessee about the middle of March, reaching Danville, Ky., on the 23d. He spread reports that he was the advance-guard of a large force of all arms intending a serious invasion of the State. These exaggerations had their effect, and the disturbance in the Department of the Ohio was out of proportion to the strength of the hostile column. [Footnote: Letter of Governor Robinson, Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. p. 97; _Id_., pp. 121, 126.] The troops belonging to the post at Danville retreated to the hither side of the Kentucky River at Hickman's Bridge, where they took up a defensive position. They saved the railway bridge from destruction, and Brigadier-General Quincy A. Gillmore, who commanded the District of Central Kentucky with headquarters at Lexington, was able to concentrate there a sufficient force to resume the offensive against Pegram.
Burnside ordered reinforcements to Gillmore from the other parts of Kentucky, and Pegram, whose report indicates that a foray for beef, cattle, and horses was the principal object of his expedition, commenced his retreat. Gillmore followed him up vigorously, recapturing a considerable part of the cattle he had collected, and overtaking his principal column at Somerset, routed him and drove him beyond the Cumberland River.
The month of March had begun with pleasant spring weather, and on the 15th General Wright had written to
Halleck that an invasion of Kentucky was probable, especially as Rosecrans showed no signs of resuming the aggressive against Bragg's army in middle Tennessee. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 143.] In Halleck's letter of instructions to Burnside as the latter was leaving Washington to relieve Wright, the general plan of an advance on East Tennessee in connection with that of Rosecrans toward Chattanooga was outlined, but the General-in-Chief acknowledged that the supply of an army in East Tennessee by means of the wagon roads was probably impracticable. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 163.] He pointed out the necessity of reducing the number and size of garrisons in the rear, and making everything bend to the great object of organizing the army for active initiative against the enemy. He recommended building block-houses to protect the principal bridges on the railroads, where very small garrisons could give comparative security to our lines of communication. This plan was ultimately carried out on a large scale, and was the necessary condition of
Sherman's Atlanta campaign of 1864. Taken as a whole, Halleck's instructions to Burnside presented no definite objective, and were a perfunctory sort of introduction to his new command, which raises a doubt whether the organization of a little army in the Department of the Ohio met his approval.
The fact was that Burnside was acting on an understanding with
President Lincoln himself, whose ardent wish to send a column for the relief of the loyal people of East Tennessee never slumbered, and who was already beginning to despair of its accomplishment by Rosecrans's army. The uneasiness at Washington over Rosecrans's inaction was becoming acute, and Mr. Lincoln was evidently turning to Burnside's department in hope of an energetic movement there. In this hope Burnside was sent West, and the Ninth Corps was detached from the Army of the Potomac and sent after him. The project of following up his advance by the construction of a railroad from Danville, then the terminus of the railway line reaching southward from Cincinnati, was discussed, and the President recommended it to Congress, but no appropriation of money was made. The scheme was hardly within the limits of practicable plans, for the building of a railway through such difficult country as the Cumberland mountain region implied laborious engineering surveys which could only be made when the country was reduced to secure possession, and the expenditure of time as well as of money would be likely to exceed the measure of reasonable plans for a military campaign. The true thing to do was to push Rosecrans's army to Chattanooga and beyond. With the valley of the Tennessee in our possession, and Chattanooga held as a new base of supply for a column in East Tennessee as well as another in Georgia, the occupation of
Knoxville and the Clinch and Holston valleys to the Virginia line was easy. Without it, all East Tennessee campaigns were visionary. It was easy enough to get there; the trouble was to stay.
Buell's original lesson in logistics, in which he gave the War Department a computation of the wagons and mules necessary to supply ten thousand men at Knoxville, was a solid piece of military arithmetic from which there was no escape. [Footnote: _Ante_, p. 199. Official Records, vol. vii. p. 931.]
When Burnside reached Cincinnati and applied himself practically to the task of organizing his little army for a march over the mountains, his first requisitions for wagons and mules were a little startling to the Quartermaster-General and a little surprising to himself. He began at once an engineering reconnoissance of the country south of Lexington and Danville, as far as it was within our control, and employed an able civil engineer, Mr. Gunn, to locate the preliminary line for a railway. [Footnote: _Id_., vol. xxiii. pt. ii. p. 610.] These surveys were the starting-points from which the actual construction of the road between Cincinnati and Chattanooga was made after the close of the war.
Burnside also urged that the troops in Kentucky, exclusive of the Ninth Corps, be organized into a new corps with General Hartsuff as its commander. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 259.] Halleck demurred to this, but the President directed it to be done, and the order was issued by the War Department on 27th April. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 269, 283, 400.] Burnside also applied himself earnestly to procuring from Rosecrans a plan of active co-operation for an advance. As soon as Hartsuff assumed command of the new Twenty-third Corps, Burnside sent him, on May 3d, to visit Rosecrans in person, giving him authority to arrange an aggressive campaign. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 312.] Hartsuff's old relations to Rosecrans made him a very fit person for the negotiation. Rosecrans hesitated to decide, and called a council of his principal officers. He suggested that the Ninth Corps be sent down the
Louisville and Nashville Railroad to Glasgow, near the Tennessee line, but did not indicate any immediate purpose of advancing. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. pp. 313, 315.] Burnside meant to take the field with both corps of his command, which he had organized under the name of the Army of the Ohio; but to reassure Rosecrans, he wrote that if in co-operation the two armies should come together, he would waive his elder rank and serve under Rosecrans whilst he should remain in middle Tennessee. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 331.] It was now the 15th of May, and he sent a confidential staff officer again to Rosecrans to try to settle a common plan of operations. On the 18th Halleck had heard of Bragg's army being weakened to give General Joseph E. Johnston a force with which to relieve
Pemberton at Vicksburg, and he became urgent for both Rosecrans and Burnside to advance. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 337.] He thought it probable that raids would be attempted by the enemy to distract attention from his real object, and pointed out concentration and advance as the best way to protect the rear as well as to reach the enfeebled adversary. Burnside hastened in good faith his preparations for movement. He was collecting a pack mule train to supply the lack of wagons, and put his detachments in motion to concentrate. He begged for the third division of his corps (Getty's), which had been detained in the Army of the Potomac and could not yet be spared, but did not wait for it. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 338.] By the 1st of June he was ready to leave in person for the front, and on the 3d was at Lexington, definitely committed to the movement into East Tennessee. There he was met by an order from Halleck to send 8000 men at once to reinforce
General Grant at Vicksburg. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 384.] The promise was made that they should be returned as soon as the immediate exigency was over, but the order was imperative. Burnside never hesitated in obedience. The two divisions of the Ninth Corps made about the number required, and they were immediately turned back and ordered to the Ohio River to be shipped on steamboats. Sorely disappointed, Burnside asked that he might go with his men, but was told that his departmental duties were too important to spare him from them. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. pp. 384, 386.] Major-General Parke was therefore sent in command of the corps. Burnside returned to Cincinnati, grieving at the interruption of his plans, yet hoping it would not be for long. His duties at the rear were not agreeable, especially as this was just the time when he was directed to recall his order suppressing disloyal newspapers, and to refrain from arrests of civilians without explicit authority from Washington.
We may safely assume that the President and his War Secretary were as little pleased at having to order the Ninth Corps away as Burnside was to have them go. In fact the order was not made till they entirely despaired of making Rosecrans advance with the vigor necessary to checkmate the Confederates. On the receipt of Halleck's dispatch of the 18th May, Rosecrans entered into a telegraphic discussion of the probable accuracy of Halleck's information, saying that whatever troops were sent by the enemy to Mississippi were no doubt sent from
Savannah and not from Bragg. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 337.] He insisted that it was not good policy to advance at present. On the 21st he said, "If I had 6000 cavalry in addition to the mounting of the 2000 now waiting horses, I would attack Bragg within three days." [Footnote: _Id_., p. 351.] He also interposed the unfavorable judgment of his corps commanders in regard to an advance. Military history shows that this is pretty uniformly an excuse for a delay already fully resolved on by a commanding general. Halleck had no more cavalry to send, and could only say so. Burnside notified Rosecrans on the 22d that his columns had begun the movements of concentration and that they would be complete in three or four days. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. p. 355.] On the 28th Mr. Lincoln himself telegraphed Rosecrans, "I would not push you to any rashness, but I am very anxious that you do your utmost, short of rashness, to keep Bragg from getting off to help Johnston against Grant." [Footnote: _Id_., p. 369.] Rosecrans curtly answered, "Dispatch received. I will attend to it." In his dispatches to
Mr. Stanton of similar date there is no intimation of any purpose whatever to move. [Footnote: _Ibid_.] In telegraphing to Burnside, Rosecrans said that he was only waiting for the development of the former's concentration, and that he wished to advance by the 4th of June. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 372, 376.] Burnside had already informed him that he would be ready by June 2d, and repeated it. On the date last named Rosecrans telegraphed Burnside that his movement had already begun, and that he wanted the Army of the Ohio to come up as near and as quickly as possible. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 381.] Still he gave no intimation to the authorities at Washington of an advance, for none had in fact been made by his army, nor even of any near purpose to make one. On June 3d, Halleck telegraphed him: "Accounts received here indicate that Johnston is being heavily reinforced from Bragg's army. If you cannot hurt the enemy now, he will soon hurt you." He followed this by his dispatch to Burnside ordering reinforcements to be sent to Grant, and the remainder of the troops in the Department of the Ohio to be concentrated defensively in Kentucky. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 383, 384.] The only move that Rosecrans made was to send on the 8th to his general officers commanding corps and divisions, a confidential circular asking their opinion in writing in answer to the following questions, in substance,--
1. Has the enemy been so materially weakened that this army could advance on him at this time with strong reasonable chances of fighting a great and successful battle?
2. Is an advance of our army likely to prevent additional reinforcements being sent against General Grant by Bragg?
3. Is an immediate or early advance of our army advisable? [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. p. 395.]
With substantial unanimity they answered that it was not advisable to move, though they seem generally to have been aware that Breckinridge with about 10,000 men of all arms had gone from Bragg to Johnston. When Rosecrans reported the result of this council to Halleck, the latter reminded him of the maxim that "councils of war never fight," and that the responsibility for his campaign rests upon a commanding general and cannot be shared by a council of war.
The careful study of the correspondence elicited by Rosecrans's circular would make a most valuable commentary upon the theme, "_Why_ Councils of War never fight." The three questions were addressed to sixteen general officers commanding corps and divisions. [Footnote: Their answers are found in Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. as follows: Davis, p. 395, Johnson, do., McCook, 396, Turchin, 397, Brannan, 402, Crittenden, 403, Granger, 403, Wood, 405, Negley, 407, Palmer, do., Reynolds, 409, Rousseau, 410, Sheridan, 411, Stanley, 412, Thomas, 414, Van Cleve, 415, Mitchell, 417, and Garfield's summing up, 420.] In reading the responses the impression grows strong that there was what may be called a popular feeling among these officers that their duty was to back up their commanding general in a judgment of his on the subjects submitted, which could hardly be other than well known. On the question as to the probable reduction of Bragg's army by detachments sent to Johnston, whilst they nearly all have some knowledge of the diminution of the Confederate army to about the extent mentioned above, most of them answer that they do not think it a _material_ weakening, that being the tenor of the inquiry put to them. Some of them, however, say very naturally that as the secret service is managed from headquarters and all the information received is forwarded there, General Rosecrans should be much better able to answer this question than his subordinates. As to the second part of that question, nearly all seem to assume that the battle would be in the nature of a direct attack on the fortifications at Shelbyville and are not sanguine of a successful result. The few who speak of turning manoeuvres feel that the further retreat of Bragg would only lengthen their own line of communications and do no good. Strangely, too, they argue, many of them, that an advance would not prevent further depletion of Bragg to strengthen Johnston. They consequently and almost unanimously advise against an immediate or early advance.
It is instructive to compare these opinions with the actual facts. The inaction of the summer had led directly to the detachment of two divisions of infantry and artillery and one of cavalry to reinforce Johnston, just as the inactivity of
Meade later in the season encouraged the Richmond government to send Longstreet to Bragg from Virginia. If Rosecrans had moved early in the season, not only must Bragg have kept his army intact, but the battle of Chickamauga, if fought at all, must have been decided without Longstreet, and therefore most probably with brilliant success for our arms. It was delay in advancing, both in Tennessee and in Virginia, that thus directly led to disaster. If a brilliant victory at Chickamauga had been coincident with the fall of Vicksburg and Lee's defeat at Gettysburg, it does not seem rash to believe that the collapse of the Confederacy would have been hastened by a year. Two of the generals who answered these questions attained afterward to such distinction that their replies are an interesting means of learning their mental character and gauging their development. Sheridan answered briefly that he believed Bragg had no more than 25,000 or 30,000 infantry and artillery, with a "large" cavalry force. In this he was very close to the mark. Bragg's report for the latter part of May, before sending reinforcements to Johnston, showed his forces present for duty to be 37,000 infantry, a little less than 3000 artillery, and 15,000 cavalry, in round numbers. Deduct 10,000 from these, and Sheridan is found to be sufficiently accurate. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. p. 846.
The reference to Bragg's returns of strength to the Adjutant-General's office makes this an appropriate place to note the method of making these returns and its bearing on the much debated question of the "Effective Total" commonly given by Confederate writers as the force of their armies compared with ours. The blanks for these reports were sent out from the Adjutant-and-Inspector-General's office at Richmond, with the order that the numerical returns be made "on the forms furnished and according to the directions expressed on them" (General Orders No. 64, Sept. 8, 1862). The column "Effective Total" in these returns included only enlisted men carrying arms and actually in the line of battle. It excluded all officers, the non-commissioned staff, extra-duty men, the sick in hospital, and those in arrest. To secure uniformity in the method of reporting in his army and to correct some irregularity, General Bragg issued a circular, as follows (Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. p. 619):--
"HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF TENNESSEE, TULLAHOMA, January 29, 1863.
Hereafter, under the column of 'Effective Total' in the reports from this army, extra-duty men and men in arrest will not be included. The 'Effective Total' must include only the fighting field force--those who are carried into the field of battle with fire-arms in their hands.
By command of General Bragg. GEORGE WM. BRENT, Assistant Adjutant-General."
Before the publication of the Official Records, I had occasion to call attention to the subject: see "The Nation," May 21, 1874, p. 334; also "Atlanta" (Scribners' Series), pp. 27, 28; and again in "The Nation," February 2, 1893, p. 86. A fair comparison between the Confederate and the National armies, therefore, demands a computation of numbers by the same method; and as we did not use forms containing the "Effective Total" as reported by the Confederates, the columns of officers and men "present for duty" which are computed alike in the returns on both sides are the most satisfactory and fair basis of comparison.] He did not think Bragg would fight, but would retreat, and thought that in such a case he would not be hindered from sending more help to Johnston. Again, as forage in the country was scarce, he voted against an early advance.
Thomas did not believe Bragg had been materially weakened, for if any troops had been sent away, he thought they had returned or their places had been supplied. He concluded that Bragg was ready to fight with an army at least as large as that of Rosecrans; that to hold our army where it was would sufficiently prevent further reduction of Bragg's; that an advance would give the latter the advantage and was not advisable. His preference for defensive warfare was very evident. He said it was true that Bragg might be reinforced and take the initiative, but that he "should be most happy to meet him here with his reinforcements." In conclusion he indicated the necessity of 6000 more cavalry to be added to the army. [Footnote: See also _ante_, p. 478.]
When the answers were all received, Garfield summed them up in a paper, which must be admitted to be a remarkable production for a young volunteer officer deliberately controverting the opinions of such an array of seniors. He gave, as the best information at headquarters, the force of Bragg, before sending help to Johnston, as 38,000 infantry, 2600 artillery, and 17,500 cavalry. This made the infantry about 1000 too many, the artillery nearly exactly right, and the cavalry 2500 too many,--on the whole a very close estimate. From these he deducted 10,000, which was right. He stated Rosecrans's force at 82,700 "bayonets and sabres" with about 3000 more on the way, but deducted 15,000 for necessary posts and garrisons. The balancing showed 65,000 to throw against Bragg's 41,500. He further showed that delay would give time for the enemy's detachments to return, whilst we could hope for no further increase during the rest of the season. He then analyzed the military and civil reasons for activity, declared that he believed we could be victorious, and that the administration and the country had the right to expect the army to try.
The result was a curious but encouraging result of bold and cogent reasoning. Although Rosecrans reported to General Halleck on the 11th of June the opinion of his corps and division commanders against an early advance, the logic and the facts pressed upon him by his chief of staff evidently took strong hold of his active intellect, so that when Halleck on the 16th asked for a categorical answer whether he would make an immediate movement forward, he replied, "If it means to-night or to-morrow, no. If it means as soon as all things are ready, say five days, yes." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. i. pp. 8-10.] No doubt the rather plain intimation that a categorical "no" would be followed by action at Washington helped the decision; but it would have helped it to a decided negative if Garfield's paper, reinforced by the personal advice and oral discussions which we now know were of daily occurrence between them, had not had a convincing weight with him, both as to the feasibility of the campaign of turning manoeuvres which he devised and adopted, and as to its probable success. The result is reckoned one of his chief claims to military renown.
But to judge properly the relations of the government to both the commanding generals in Kentucky and Tennessee, it is necessary to go back to the days immediately after the battle of Stone's River, and to inquire what were the tasks assigned these commanders and the means furnished to perform them. The disappointment of the administration at Washington with Rosecrans's conduct of his campaign dated, indeed, much earlier than the time indicated. He had succeeded Buell at the end of October when Bragg was in full retreat to the Tennessee River. The continuance of a vigorous pursuit and the prompt reoccupation of the country held by us in the early summer was regarded as of the utmost importance for political, quite as much as for military reasons. It was not a time to halt and reorganize an army. The question of foreign intervention was apparently trembling in the balance, and to let European powers rest under the belief that we had lost most of what had been gained in the advance from
Corinth, was to invite complications of the most formidable character. The Washington authorities had therefore a perfect right to decide that to press Bragg vigorously and without intermission was the imperative duty of the commander of the
Army of the Cumberland. He would be rightly held to have disappointed the expectations of his government if he failed to do so. Rosecrans had been chosen to succeed Buell because of the belief that his character was one of restless vehemence better adapted to this work than the slower but more solid qualities of Thomas, who was already second in command in that army. [Footnote: Since the text was written the Life of O. P. Morton has appeared, and in it his part in the change from
Buell to Rosecrans is given. He urged the change upon Lincoln on the ground that aggressive vigor was imperatively demanded. "Another three months like the last six, and we are lost," said he. "Reject the wicked incapables whom you have patiently tried and found utterly wanting." On October 24th he telegraphed, "The removal of General
Buell and the appointment of Rosecrans came not a moment too soon." Life, vol. i. pp. 197, 198.] Halleck was obliged very soon to remind Rosecrans of this, and to claim the right of urging him onward because he himself had given the advice which had been decisive when the question of the choice was under consideration.
Yet as soon as the army was again concentrated about Nashville, Rosecrans's correspondence took the form of urgent demands for the means of reorganization. He insisted that his cavalry force must be greatly increased, that he must have repeating arms for his horsemen, that he must organize a selected corps of mounted infantry and obtain horses for them--in short, that he must take months to put his army in a condition equal to his desires before resuming the work of the campaign. His energy seemed to be wholly directed to driving the administration to supply his wants, whilst Bragg was allowed not only to stop his rather disorganized flight, but to retrace his steps toward middle Tennessee.
On the 4th of December Halleck telegraphed that the President was so disappointed and dissatisfied that another week of inaction would result in another change of commanders. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xx. pt. ii. p. 118.] Rosecrans replied detailing his necessities, but taking a high tone and declaring himself insensible to threats of removal. The next day Halleck patiently but decidedly gave the reasons which made the demand for activity a reasonable one, adding the reminder that no one had doubted that Buell would eventually have succeeded, and that Rosecrans's appointment had been made because they believed he would move more rapidly. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 124.] Meanwhile every effort was made to furnish him with the arms, equipments, and horses he desired.
The battle of Stone's River had many points of resemblance to that of Antietam, and like that engagement was indecisive in itself, the subsequent retreat of the Confederates making it a victory for the national arms. The condition of the Army of the Cumberland after the battle was a sufficient reason for some delay, and a short time for recuperation and reinforcement was cordially accepted by everybody as a necessity of the situation. Congratulations and thanks were abundantly showered on the army, and promotions were given in more than common number. It was not concealed, however, that the government was most anxious to follow up the success and to make the delays as short as possible. An aggressive campaign was demanded, and the demand was a reasonable one because the means furnished were sufficient for the purpose.
At the close of the month of January, Rosecrans's forces present for duty in his department numbered 65,000, [Footnote: _Id_., vol. xxiii. pt. ii. p. 29.] the Confederates under Bragg were 40,400. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 622.] The end of February showed the National forces to be 80,000, [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. p. 93.] the enemy 43,600. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 654.] After this Bragg's army gradually increased till midsummer, when it reached a maximum of about 57,000, and Rosecrans's grew to 84,000. The Confederates had a larger proportion of cavalry than we, but this was at the expense of being much weaker in infantry, the decisive arm in serious engagements. In fact this disproportion was another reason for active work, since experience showed that the enemy kept his cavalry at home when he was vigorously pushed, and sent them on raids to interrupt our communications when we gave him a respite. Our superiority in numbers was enough, therefore, to make it entirely reasonable and in accord with every sound rule of conducting war, that the government should insist upon an active and aggressive campaign from the earliest day in the spring when the weather promised to be favorable. Such weather came at the beginning of March, and the Confederates took advantage of it, as we have seen, by sending Pegram into Kentucky. Their cavalry under
Wheeler attacked also
Fort Donelson, but were repulsed. A reconnoissance by a brigade under Colonel Coburn from Franklin toward Spring Hill resulted in the capture of the brigade by the Confederates under Van Dorn. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 115.] In the same month Forrest made a daring raid close to Nashville and captured Colonel Bloodgood and some 800 men at Brentwood. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 171, 732.] Rosecrans organized a raid by a brigade of infantry mounted on mules, commanded by Colonel Streight, with the object of cutting the railroad south of Chattanooga. It was delayed in starting till near the end of April, and was overtaken and captured near Rome in Georgia. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 232, 321.] These exasperating incidents were occurring whilst the Army of the Cumberland lay still about Murfreesboro, and its commander harassed the departments at Washington with the story of his wants, and intimated that nothing but carelessness as to the public good stood between him and their full supply. He was assured that he was getting his full share of everything which could be procured,--rifles, revolvers, carbines, horses, and equipments,--but the day of readiness seemed as far off as ever.
On the 1st of March the President, feeling that the time had come when his armies should be in motion, and plainly discouraged at the poor success he had had in getting Rosecrans ready for an advance, authorized General Halleck to say to him that there was a vacant major-generalcy in the regular army which would be given to the general in the field who should first win an important and decisive victory. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. p. 95.] The appeal to ambition was treated as if it had been an insult. It was called an "auctioneering of honor," and a base way to come by a promotion. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 111.] Halleck retorted conclusively that Rosecrans himself had warmly advocated giving promotion in the lower grades only for distinguished services in the field, and said: "When last summer, at your request, I urged the government to promote you for success in the field, and, again at your request, urged that your commission be dated back to your services in West Virginia, I thought I was doing right in advocating your claim to honors for services rendered." [Footnote: _Id_., p. 138.] In view of this unique correspondence it is certainly curious to find Rosecrans a few days later enumerating his personal grievances to
Mr. Lincoln, and putting among them this, that after the battle of Stone's River he had asked "as a personal favor" that his commission as major-general of volunteers should be dated back to December, 1861, and that it was not granted. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 146.] It was considerably antedated, so as to make him outrank General Thomas, much to the disgust of the latter when he learned it; but the date was not made as early as Rosecrans desired, which would have made him outrank Grant, Buell, and Burnside as well as Thomas.
Persuasion and exhortation having failed, Grant must either be left to take the chances that part of Bragg's army would be concentrated under Johnston in Mississippi, or he must be strengthened by sending to him that part of our forces in Kentucky and Tennessee which could most easily be spared. There can be no doubt that it was well judged to send the Ninth Corps to him, as it would be less mischievous to suspend Burnside's movement into East Tennessee than to diminish the Army of the Cumberland under existing circumstances. It is, however, indisputably clear that the latter army should have been in active campaign at the opening of the season, whether we consider the advantage of the country or the reputation of its commander.
If we inquire what means the administration gave Burnside to perform his part of the joint task assigned him, we shall find that it was not niggardly in doing so. His forces were at their maximum at the end of May, when they reached but little short of 38,000 present for duty in his whole department. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. p. 380.] This included, however, all the great States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan as well as the eastern half of Kentucky, and there were several camps of prisoners and posts north of the Ohio which demanded considerable garrisons. Eight thousand men were used for this purpose, and nobody thought this an excess. Thirty thousand were thus left him for such posts in Kentucky as would be necessary to cover his communications and for his active column. He expected to make his active army about 25,000, and the advance movements had begun when, as has been stated, he was ordered to suspend, and to send the Ninth Corps to Grant.
The enemy in East Tennessee were under the command of General Dabney Maury at first, but when he was sent to Mobile, General S. B. Buckner was made the commandant. His returns of forces for May 31st show that he had 16,267 present for duty, with which to oppose the advance of Burnside. The information of the latter was that his opponent had 20,000, and he reckoned on having to deal with that number. The passes of the Cumberland Mountains were so few and so difficult that it was by no means probable that his campaign would be an easy one; yet the difficulties in the first occupation were not so serious as those which might arise if Bragg were able to maintain an interior position between the two National armies. In that case, unless he were kept thoroughly employed by Rosecrans, he might concentrate to crush Burnside before his decisive conflict with the Army of the Cumberland. This was the inherent vice of a plan which contemplated two independent armies attempting to co-operate; and if Rosecrans had been willing to open his campaign on the 1st of March, it is almost certain that the troops in Kentucky would have been ordered to him. The President did not determine to send Burnside to the West and to give him a little army of his own till he despaired of the liberation of East Tennessee in that season by any activity of Rosecrans. This cannot be overlooked in any candid criticism of the summer's work.