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
THE LIBERATION OF EAST TENNESSEE
News of Grant's victory at Vicksburg--A thrilling scene at the opera--Burnside's Ninth Corps to return--Stanton urges Rosecrans to advance--The Tullahoma manoeuvres--Testy correspondence--Its real meaning--Urgency with Burnside--Ignorance concerning his situation--His disappointment as to Ninth Corps--Rapid concentration of other troops--Burnside's march into East Tennessee--Occupation of
Cumberland Gap--The garrison surrenders--Good news from Rosecrans--Distances between armies--Divergent lines--No railway communication--Burnside concentrates toward the Virginia line--Joy of the people--Their intense loyalty--Their faith in the future.
Morgan Raid and whilst we in Ohio were absorbed in the excitement of it, events were moving elsewhere. Lee had advanced from Virginia through Maryland into Pennsylvania and had been defeated at Gettysburg by the National army under
Meade. Grant had brought the siege of Vicksburg to a glorious conclusion and had received the surrender of
Pemberton with his army of 30,000 Confederates. These victories, coming together as they did and on the 4th of July, made the national anniversary seem more than ever a day of rejoicing and of hope to the whole people. We did not get the news of Grant's victory quite so soon as that of Meade's, but it came to us at Cincinnati in a way to excite peculiar enthusiasm.
An excellent operatic company was giving a series of performances in the city, and all Cincinnati was at Pike's Opera House listening to _I Puritani_ on the evening of the 7th of July. General Burnside and his wife had one of the proscenium boxes, and my wife and I were their guests. The second act had just closed with the famous trumpet song, in which Susini, the great basso of the day, had created a _furore_. A messenger entered the box where the general was surrounded by a brilliant company, and gave him a dispatch which announced the surrender of Vicksburg and
Pemberton's army. Burnside, overjoyed, announced the great news to us who were near him, and then stepped to the front of the box to make the whole audience sharers in the pleasure. As soon as he was seen with the paper in his hand, the house was hushed, and his voice rang through it as he proclaimed the great victory and declared it a long stride toward the restoration of the Union. The people went almost wild with excitement, the men shouted hurrahs, the ladies waved their handkerchiefs and clapped their hands, all rising to their feet. The cheering was long as well as loud, and before it subsided the excitement reached behind the stage. The curtain rose again, and Susini came forward with a national flag in each hand, waving them enthusiastically whilst his magnificent voice resounded in a repetition of the song he had just sung, and which seemed as appropriate as if it were inspired for the occasion,--
"Suoni la tromba, e intrepido Io pugnero da forte, Bello e affrontar la morte, Gridando liberta!"
The rejoicing and the cheers were repeated to the echo, and when at last they subsided, the rest of the opera was only half listened to, suppressed excitement filling every heart and the thought of the great results to flow from the victories absorbing every mind.
Burnside reckoned with entire certainty on the immediate return of the Ninth Corps, and planned to resume his expedition into East Tennessee as soon as his old troops should reach him again. The Morgan raid was just beginning, and no one anticipated its final scope. In the dispatch from the Secretary of War which announced Grant's great victory, Burnside was also told that the corps would immediately return to him. In answering it on the 8th July, he said, "I thought I was very happy at the success of
General Grant and General Meade, but I am still happier to hear of the speedy return of the Ninth Corps." He informed Rosecrans of it on the same day, adding, "I hope soon to be at work again." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. pp.522, 524.]
Washington authorities very naturally and very properly wished that the tide of success should be kept moving, and Secretary Stanton had exhorted Rosecrans to further activity by saying, on the 7th, "You and your noble army now have the chance to give the finishing blow to the rebellion. [Footnote: _Id_., p.518.] Will you neglect the chance?" Rosecrans replied: "You do not appear to observe the fact that this noble army has driven the rebels from middle Tennessee, of which my dispatches advised you. I beg in behalf of this army that the War Department may not overlook so great an event because it is not written in letters of blood." He, however, did not intimate any purpose of advancing. No doubt the manoeuvering of Bragg out of his fortified positions at Shelbyville and Tullahoma had been well done; but its chief value was that it forced Bragg to meet the
Army of the Cumberland in the open field if the advantage should be promptly followed up. If he were allowed to fortify another position, nothing would be gained but the ground the army stood on. Had Rosecrans given any intimation of an early date at which he could rebuild the Elk River bridge and resume active operations, it would probably have relieved the strain so noticeable in the correspondence between him and the War Department. He did nothing of the kind, and the necessity of removing him from the command was a matter of every-day discussion at Washington, as is evident from the confidential letters
Halleck sent to him. The correspondence between the General-in-Chief and his subordinate is a curious one. A number of the most urgent dispatches representing the dissatisfaction of the President and the Secretary were accompanied by private and confidential letters in which
Halleck explains the situation and strongly asserts his friendship for Rosecrans and the error of the latter in assuming that personal hostility to himself was at bottom of the reprimands sent him on account of his delays. It was with good intentions that Halleck wrote thus, but the wisdom of it is very questionable. It gave Rosecrans ground to assume that the official dispatches were only the formal expression of the ideas of the President and Secretary whilst the General-in-Chief did not join in the condemnation of his dilatory mode of conducting the campaign. To say to Rosecrans, as Halleck did on July 24th, "Whether well founded or without any foundation, the dissatisfaction really exists, and I deem it my duty as a friend to represent it to you truly and fairly," [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. pp. 552, 555, 601.] is to neglect his duty as commander of the whole army to express his own judgment and to give orders which would have the weight of his military position and presumed knowledge in military matters. When, therefore, a few days later he gave peremptory orders to begin an active advance, these orders were interpreted in the light of the preceding correspondence, and lost their force and vigor. They were met by querulous and insubordinate inquiries whether they were intended to take away all discretion as to details from the commander of an army in the field. [Footnote: Aug. 4, _Id_., p. 592.] It has been argued that Rosecrans's weakness of character consisted in a disposition to quarrel with those in power over him, and that a spirit of contradiction thwarted the good military conduct which his natural energy might have produced. I cannot help reading his controversial correspondence in the light of my personal observation of the man, and my conviction is that his quarrelsome mode of dealing with the War Department was the result of a real weakness of will and purpose which did not take naturally to an aggressive campaign that involved great responsibilities and risks. Being really indecisive in fixing his plan of campaign and acting upon it, his infirmity of will was covered by a belligerence in his correspondence. A really enterprising commander in the field would have begun an active campaign in the spring before any dissatisfaction was exhibited at Washington; and if he had a decided purpose to advance at any reasonably early period, there was nothing in the urgency shown by his superiors to make him abandon his purpose. He might have made testy comments, but he would have acted.
Halleck's correspondence with Burnside in July is hard to understand, unless we assume that it was so perfunctory that he did not remember at one time what he said or did earlier. In a dispatch to the General-in-Chief dated the 11th, Rosecrans had said, "It is important to know if it will be practicable for Burnside to come in on our left flank and hold the line of the Cumberland; if not, a line in advance of it and east of us." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. p. 529.] It was already understood between Rosecrans and Burnside that the latter would do this and more as soon as he should have the Ninth Corps with him; and the dispatch must be regarded as a variation on the form of excuses for inaction, by suggesting that he was delayed by the lack of an understanding as to co-operation by the Army of the Ohio. On receipt of Rosecrans's dispatch, Halleck answered it on the 13th, saying, "General Burnside has been frequently urged to move forward and cover your left by entering East Tennessee. I do not know what he is doing. He seems tied fast to Cincinnati." On the same day he telegraphed Burnside, "I must again urge upon you the importance of moving forward into East Tennessee, to cover Rosecrans's left." [Footnote: _Id_., p. 531.] It is possible that Burnside's telegraphic correspondence with the Secretary of War was not known to Halleck, but it is hard to believe that the latter was ignorant of the proportions the Morgan raid had taken after the enemy had crossed the Ohio River. The 13th of July was the day that Morgan marched from Indiana into Ohio and came within thirteen miles of Cincinnati. Burnside was organizing all the militia of southern Ohio, and was concentrating two divisions of the Twenty-third Corps to catch the raiders. One of these was on a fleet of steamboats which reached Cincinnati that day, and the other, under Hobson, was in close pursuit of the enemy. Where should Burnside have been, if not at Cincinnati? If the raid had been left to the "militia and home guards," as
Halleck afterward said all petty raids should be, this, which was not a petty raid, would pretty certainly have had results which would have produced more discomfort at Washington than the idea that Burnside was "tied fast to Cincinnati." Burnside was exactly where he ought to be, and doing admirable work which resulted in the capture of the division of 3000 rebel cavalry with its officers from the general in command downward. That the General-in-Chief was entirely ignorant of what was going on, when every intelligent citizen of the country was excited over it and every newspaper was full of it, reflects far more severely upon him than upon Burnside.
But this was by no means the whole. He forgot that when he stopped Burnside's movement on 3d June to send the Ninth Corps to Grant, it was with the distinct understanding that it prevented its resumption till the corps should return. He had himself said that this should be as early as possible, and meanwhile directed Burnside to concentrate his remaining forces as much as he could. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. p.384.] Burnside had been told on the 8th of July, without inquiry from him, that the corps was coming back to him, and had immediately begun his preparation to resume an active campaign as soon as it should reach him. Not hearing of its being on the way, on the 18th he asked Halleck if orders for its return had been given. To this dispatch no answer was given, and it was probably pigeonholed and forgotten. Burnside continued his campaign against Morgan, and on the 24th, when the last combinations near Steubenville were closing the career of the raider, Halleck again telegraphs that there must be no further delay in the movement into East Tennessee, [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. p.553.] and orders an immediate report of the position and number of Burnside's troops organized for that purpose! He was still ignorant, apparently, that there had been any occasion to withdraw the troops in Kentucky from the positions near the Cumberland River.
Burnside answered temperately, reciting the facts and reminding him of the actual state of orders and correspondence, adding only, "I should be glad to be more definitely instructed, if you think the work can be better done." Morgan's surrender was on the 26th, and Burnside immediately applied himself with earnest zeal to get his forces back into Kentucky. Judah's division at Buffington was three hundred miles from Cincinnati and five hundred from the place it had left to begin the chase. Shackelford's mounted force was two hundred miles further up the Ohio. This last was, as has been recited, made up of detachments from all the divisions of the Twenty-third Corps, and its four weeks of constant hard riding had used up men and horses. These all had to be got back to the southern part of central Kentucky and refitted, returned to their proper divisions, and prepared for a new campaign. The General-in-Chief does not seem to have had the slightest knowledge of these circumstances or conditions.
On the 28th another Confederate raid developed itself in southern Kentucky, under
General Scott. It seemed to be intended as a diversion to aid Morgan to escape from Ohio, but failed to accomplish anything. Scott advanced rapidly from the south with his brigade, crossing the Cumberland at Williamsburg and moving through London upon Richmond. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. p. 568.] Colonel Sanders endeavored to stop the enemy at Richmond with about 500 men hastily collected, but was driven back. He was ordered to Lexington and put in command of all the mounted men which could be got together there, 2400 in all, and advanced against Scott, who now retreated by Lancaster, Stanford, and Somerset. At Lancaster the enemy was routed in a charge and 200 of them captured. Following them up with vigor, their train was destroyed and about 500 more prisoners were taken. At the Cumberland River Sanders halted, having been without rations for four days. The remnant of Scott's force had succeeded in crossing the river after abandoning the train. Scott claimed to have taken and paroled about 200 prisoners in the first part of his raid, but such irregular paroles of captured men who could not be carried off were unauthorized and void. The actual casualties in Sanders's command were trifling. [Footnote: _Id_., pt. i. pp. 828-843; pt. ii. pp. 568, 589.]
The effect of this last raid was still further to wear out Burnside's mounted troops, but he pressed forward to the front all his infantry and organized a column for advance. In less than a week, on August 4, he was able to announce to the War Department that he had 11,000 men concentrated at
Lebanon, Stanford, and Glasgow, with outposts on the Cumberland River, and that he could possibly increase this to 12,000 by reducing some posts in guard of the railway. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 591.] Upon this, Halleck gave to Rosecrans peremptory orders for the immediate advance of the Army of the Cumberland, directing him also to report daily the movement of each corps till he should cross the Tennessee. On the next day Burnside was ordered in like manner to advance with a column of 12,000 men upon Knoxville, on reaching which place he was to endeavor to connect with the forces under Rosecrans. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. pp.592-593.] The dispatch closed with what was called a repetition of a former order from the Secretary of War for Burnside to leave Cincinnati and take command of his moving column in person. Burnside had never dreamed of doing anything else, as everybody near him knew, though he had in fact been quite ill during the latter part of July. The mention of a former order was another sheer blunder on General Halleck's part, and Burnside indignantly protested against the imputation contained in it. [Footnote: _Id_., pp.593, 594.] The truth seems to be that Halleck was in such a condition of irritation over his correspondence with Rosecrans, that nothing pertaining to the Department of the Ohio was accurately placed in his mind or accurately stated when he had occasion to refer to it. In cutting the knot by peremptory orders to both armies to move, he was right, and was justified in insisting that the little column of 12,000 under Burnside should start although it could only be got together in greatest haste and with the lack of equipment occasioned by the "wear and tear" of the operations against Morgan. If, in insisting on this, he had recognized the facts and given Burnside and his troops credit for the capture of the rebel raiders and the concentration, in a week, of forces scattered over a distance of nearly a thousand miles, no one would have had a right to criticise him. The exigency fairly justified it. But to treat Burnside as if he had been only enjoying himself in Cincinnati, and his troops all quietly in camp along the Cumberland River through the whole summer,--to ignore the absence of the Ninth Corps and his own suspension of a movement already begun when he took it away,--to assume in almost every particular a basis of fact absolutely contrary to the reality and to telegraph censures for what had been done, under his own orders or strictly in harmony with them,--all this was doing a right thing in as absurdly wrong a way as was possible. A gleam of humor and the light of common sense is thrown over one incident, when
Mr. Lincoln, seeing that Burnside had full right from the dispatches to suppose the Ninth Corps was to come at once to him from Vicksburg and that no one had given him any explanation, himself telegraphed that the information had been based on a statement from General Grant, who had not informed them why the troops had not been sent. "General Grant," the President quaintly added, "is a copious worker and fighter, but a very meagre writer or telegrapher. No doubt he changed his purpose for some sufficient reason, but has forgotten to notify us of it." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxiii. pt. ii. p. 561.] The reference to copious work as contrasted with the _copia verborum_ gains added point from a dispatch of Halleck to Rosecrans, quite early in the season, in which the latter is told that the cost of his telegraph dispatches is "as much or perhaps more than that of all the other generals in the field." [Footnote: _Id_., p. 255.] The form of the reference to Grant enables us also to read between the lines the progress he was making in reputation and in the President's confidence. He kept "pegging away," and was putting brains as well as energy into his work. The records show also that Burnside took the hint, whether intended or not, and in this campaign did not err on the side of copiousness in dispatches to Washington.
To avoid the delay which would be caused by the distribution of his mounted force to the divisions they had originally been attached to, Burnside organized these into a division under Brigadier-General S. P. Carter, and an independent brigade under Colonel F. Wolford. He also reorganized the infantry divisions of the Twenty-third Corps. The first division, under Brigadier-General J. T. Boyle, was to remain in Kentucky and protect the lines of communication. The second was put under command of Brigadier-General M. D. Manson, and the third under Brigadier-General M. S. Hascall. Each marching division was organized into two brigades with a battery of artillery attached to each brigade. Three batteries of artillery were in reserve. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxx. pt. ii. pp. 553-555.]
On the 11th of August General Burnside went to Hickman's Bridge, and the forward movement was begun. [Footnote: _Id_., pt. iii. p. 16. Hickman's Bridge, as has already been mentioned, was at the terminus of the Central Kentucky Railroad. There, on the bank of the Kentucky River, Burnside made a fortified depot from which his wagon trains should start as a base for the supply system of his army in East Tennessee. It was called Camp Nelson in honor of the dead Kentucky general.] At this date the Confederate forces in East Tennessee under General Buckner numbered 14,733 "present for duty," with an "aggregate present" of 2000 or 3000 more. Conscious that the column of 12,000 which Halleck had directed him to start with was less than the hostile forces in the Holston valley, Burnside reduced to the utmost the garrisons and posts left behind him. Fortunately the advanced division of the Ninth Corps returning from Vicksburg reached Cincinnati on the 12th, and although the troops were wholly unfit for active service by reason of malarial diseases contracted on the "Yazoo," they could relieve some of the Kentucky garrisons, and Burnside was thus enabled to increase his moving column to about 15,000 men. The earlier stages of the advance were slow, as the columns were brought into position to take up their separate lines of march and organize their supply trains for the road. On the 20th Hanson's division was at
Columbia, Hascall's was at Stanford, Carter's cavalry division was at Crab Orchard, and independent brigades of cavalry under Colonels Wolford and Graham were at Somerset and Glasgow. [Footnote: _Id_., pt. ii. p. 548.] On that day orders were issued for the continuous march. General Julius White relieved Manson in command of the second division, and the two infantry divisions were to move on Montgomery, Tenn., Hascall's by way of Somerset, Chitwoods, and Huntsville, and White's by way of Creelsboro,
Albany, and Jamestown. Carter's cavalry, which covered the extreme left flank, marched through Mt. Vernon and London to Williamsburg, where it forded the Cumberland, thence over the Jellico Mountains to Chitwoods where it became the advance of Hascall's column to Montgomery. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxx. pt. ii. p. 548.] At this point the columns were united and all moved together through Emory Gap upon Kingston. Burnside accompanied the cavalry in person, and sent two detachments, one to go by way of Big Creek Gap to make a demonstration on Knoxville, and the other through Winter's Gap for the same purpose of misleading the enemy as to his line of principal movement.
[Illustration: Map of East Tennessee.]
Nothing could be more systematic and vigorous than the march of Burnside's columns. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 569.] They made from fifteen to twenty or twenty-five miles a day with the regularity of clock-work, though the route in many parts of it was most difficult. There were mountains to climb and narrow gorges to thread. Streams were to be forded, roads were to be repaired and in places to be made anew. On the 1st of September Burnside occupied Kingston, having passed through Emory Gap into East Tennessee and communicated with Crittenden's corps of Rosecrans's army. [Footnote: Itinerary, Official Records, vol. xxx. pt. ii. pp. 576-578.] Here he learned that upon the development of the joint plan of campaign of the National commanders, Bragg had withdrawn Buckner's forces south of the Tennessee at Loudon, there making them the right flank of his army about Chattanooga. There was, however, one exception in Buckner's order to withdraw. Brigadier-General John W. Frazer was left at Cumberland Gap with 2500 men, and though Buckner had on August 30th ordered him to destroy his material and retreat into Virginia, joining the command of Major-General Samuel Jones, this order was withdrawn on Frazer's representation of his ability to hold the place and that he had rations for forty days. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxx. pt. ii. p. 608.] There being therefore no troops in East Tennessee to oppose its occupation, Burnside's advance-guard entered Knoxville on the 3d of September. Part of the Twenty-third Corps had been sent toward London on the 2d, and upon their approach the enemy burned the great railroad bridge at that place. A light-draught steamboat was building at Kingston, and this was captured and preserved. [Footnote: _Id_., pt. iii. p. 333.] It played a useful part subsequently in the transportation of supplies when the wagon-trains were broken down and the troops were reduced nearly to starvation. No sooner was Burnside in Knoxville than he put portions of his army in motion for Cumberland Gap, sixty miles northward. He had already put Colonel John F. DeCourcey (Sixteenth Ohio Infantry) in command of new troops arriving in Kentucky, and ordered him to advance against the fortifications of the gap on the north side. General Shackelford was sent with his cavalry from Knoxville, but when Burnside learned that DeCourcey and he were not strong enough to take the place, he left Knoxville in person with Colonel Samuel Gilbert's brigade of infantry and made the sixty-mile march in fifty-two hours. Frazer had refused to surrender on the summons of the subordinates; but when Burnside arrived and made the demand in person, he despaired of holding out and on the 9th of September surrendered the garrison. A considerable number got away by scattering after the flag was hauled down, but 2,205 men laid down their arms, and twelve pieces of cannon were also among the spoils. [Footnote: _Id_., pt. ii. pp. 548, 599, 604, 611.] DeCourcey's troops were left to garrison the fortifications, and the rest were sent to occupy the upper valley of the Holston toward the Virginia line.
On the 10th, and while still at
Cumberland Gap, Burnside received a dispatch from General Crittenden with the news that he was in possession of Chattanooga, that Bragg had retreated toward Rome, Ga., and that Rosecrans hoped with his centre and right to intercept the enemy at Rome, which was sixty miles south of Chattanooga. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxx. pt. iii. p. 523.] Everything was therefore most promising on the south, and Burnside had only to provide for driving back the Confederates under Jones, at the Virginia line, a hundred and thirty miles northeast of Knoxville. It becomes important here to estimate these distances rightly. Knoxville is a hundred and eleven miles distant from Chattanooga by the railroad, and more by the country roads. From Bristol on the northeast to Chattanooga on the southwest is two hundred and forty-two miles, which measures the length of that part of the Holston and Tennessee valley known as East Tennessee. If Rosecrans were at Rome, as General Crittenden's dispatch indicated, he was more than a hundred and seventy miles distant from Knoxville, and nearly three hundred miles from the region about Greeneville and the Watauga River, whose crossing would be the natural frontier of the upper valley, if Burnside should not be able to extend his occupation quite to the Virginia line. It will be seen therefore that the progress of the campaign had necessarily made Rosecrans's and Burnside's lines of operation widely divergent, and they were far beyond supporting distance of each other, since there was no railway communication between them, and could not be for a long time. Burnside captured some locomotives and cars at Knoxville; but bridges had been destroyed to such an extent that these were of little use to him, for the road could be operated but a short distance in either direction and the amount of rolling stock was, at most, very little. Complete success for Rosecrans, with the reopening and repair of the whole line from Nashville through Chattanooga, including the rebuilding of the great bridge at London, were the essential conditions of further co-operation between the two armies, and of the permanent existence of Burnside's in East Tennessee.
Efforts had been made to extend the lines of telegraph as Burnside advanced, [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxx. pt. ii. p. 574; pt. iii. p. 717.] but it took some time to do this, and even when the wires were up there occurred a difficulty in making the electric circuit, so that through all the critical part of the Chickamauga campaign, Burnside had to communicate by means of so long a line of couriers that three days was the actual time of transmittal of dispatches between himself and Washington. [Footnote: _Id_., pt. iii. p. 718.] The news from Rosecrans on the 10th was so reassuring that Burnside's plain duty was to apply himself to clearing the upper valley of the enemy, and then to further the great object of his expedition by giving the loyal inhabitants the means of self-government, and encouraging them to organize and arm themselves with the weapons which his wagon trains were already bringing from Kentucky. He had also to provide for his supplies, and must use the good weather of the early autumn to the utmost, for the long roads over the mountains would be practically impassable in winter. The route from Kentucky by way of
Cumberland Gap was the shortest, and, on the whole, the easiest, and a great system of transportation by trains under escort was put in operation. The camp at Cumberland Gap could give this protection through the mountain district, and made a convenient stopping-place in the weary way when teams broke down or had to be replaced. Other roads were also used whilst they seemed to be safe, and the energies and resources of the quartermaster's department were strained to the utmost to bring forward arms, ammunition for cannon and
muskets, food and medical supplies, and all the munitions of war. The roads were covered with herds of beeves and swine, and feeding stations for these were established and the forage had to be drawn to them, for nothing could be got, along the greater part of the route. Burnside hoped that the railway by Chattanooga would be put in repair and be open before winter should shut in, but he very prudently acted on the principle of making the most of his present means. It was well he did so, for otherwise his little army would have been starved before the winter was half over.
Cumberland Gap the courier line was sixty miles shorter than from Knoxville, and the first dispatches of Burnside announcing his capture of Frazer's troops reached Washington more quickly than later ones. At noon of the 11th Mr. Lincoln answered it with hearty congratulations and thanks. This was quickly followed by a congratulatory message from Halleck accompanied by formal orders. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxx. pt. iii. p. 555.] These last only recapitulated the points in Burnside's further operations and administration which were the simplest deductions from the situation. Burnside was to hold the country eastward to the gaps of the North Carolina mountains (the Great Smokies) and the valley of the Holston up to the Virginia line. Halleck used the phrase "the line of the Holston," which would be absurd, and was probably only a slip of the pen. The exact strength of General Jones, the Confederate commander in southwestern Virginia, was not known, but, to preserve his preponderance, Burnside could not prudently send less than a division of infantry and a couple of brigades of cavalry to the vicinity of Rogersville or Greeneville and the railroad crossing of the Watauga. This would be just about half his available force. The other division was at first divided, one of the two brigades being centrally placed at Knoxville, and the other at Sevierville, thirty miles up the French Broad River, where it covered the principal pass over the Smokies to Asheville, N. C. The rest of his cavalry was at London and Kingston, where it covered the north side of the Tennessee River and communicated with Rosecrans's outposts above Chattanooga.
Halleck further informed Burnside that the Secretary of War directed him to raise all the volunteers he could in East Tennessee and to select officers for them. If he had not already enough arms and equipments he could order them by telegraph. As to Rosecrans, the General-in-Chief stated that he would occupy Dalton or some other point south of Chattanooga, closing the enemy's line from Atlanta, and when this was done, the question would be settled whether the whole would move eastward into Virginia or southward into Georgia and Alabama. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxx. pt. iii. p. 555.] Burnside's present work being thus cut out for him, he set himself about it with the cordial earnestness which marked his character. He had suggested the propriety of his retiring as soon as the surrender of Frazer had made his occupation of East Tennessee an assured success, but he had not formally asked to be relieved. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 523.] His reasons for doing so dated back to the Fredericksburg campaign, in part; for he had believed that his alternative then presented to the government, that he should be allowed to dismiss insubordinate generals or should himself resign, ought to have been accepted. His case had some resemblance to Pope's when the administration approved his conduct and his courage but retired him and restored McClellan to command, in deference to the supposed sentiment of the Army of the Potomac. Halleck's persistent ignoring of the officially recorded causes of the delay in this campaign, and his assumption that the Morgan raid was not an incident of any importance in Burnside's responsibilities, had not tended to diminish the latter's sense of discomfort in dealing with army head-quarters. A debilitating illness gave some added force to his other reasons, which, however, we who knew him well understood to be the decisive ones with him. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxx. pt. iii. p. 523; vol. xxxi. pt. i. p. 757.] Mr. Lincoln's sincere friendship and confidence he never doubted, but his nature could not fully appreciate the President's policy of bending to existing circumstances when current opinion was contrary to his own, so that he might save his strength for more critical action at another time. Burnside had now the _eclat_ of success in a campaign which was very near the heart of the President and full of interest for the Northern people. This, he felt, was a time when he could retire with honor. Mr. Lincoln postponed action in the kindest and most complimentary words, [Footnote: _Id_., vol. xxx. pt. iii. p. 554. "Yours received. A thousand thanks for the late successes you have given us. We cannot allow you to resign until things shall be a little more settled in East Tennessee. If then, purely on your own account you wish to resign, we will not further refuse you."] and when he finally assigned another to command the department, did not allow Burnside to resign, but laid out other work for him where his patriotism and his courage could be of use to the country.
The advent of the army into East Tennessee was, to its loyal people, a resurrection from the grave. Their joy had an exultation which seemed almost beyond the power of expression. Old men fell down fainting and unconscious under the stress of their emotions as they saw the flag at the head of the column and tried to cheer it! Women wept with happiness as their husbands stepped out of the ranks of the loyal Tennessee regiments when these came marching by the home. [Footnote: Temple's East Tennessee and the Civil War, pp. 476, 478. Humes's The Loyal Mountaineers, pp. 211, 218.] These men had gathered in little recruiting camps on the mountain-sides and had found their way to Kentucky, travelling by night and guided by the pole-star, as the dark-skinned fugitives from bondage had used to make their way to freedom. Their families had been marked as traitors to the Confederacy, and had suffered sharpest privations and cruel wrong on account of the absence of the husband and father, the brother, or the son. Now it was all over, and a jubilee began in those picturesque valleys in the mountains, which none can understand who had not seen the former despair and the present revulsion of happiness. The mountain coves and nooks far up toward the Virginia line had been among the most intense in loyalty to the nation. Andrew Johnson's home was at Greeneville, and he was now the loyal provisional governor of Tennessee, soon to be nominated Vice-President of the United States. General Carter, who had asked to be transferred from the navy to organize the refugee loyalists into regiments, was a native of the same region. It was at the Watauga that the neighboring opponents of secession had given the first example of daring self-sacrifice in burning the railway bridge. For this they were hanged, and their memory was revered by the loyal men about them, as was Nathan Hale's by our revolutionary fathers. East Tennessee was full of such loyalty, but here were good reasons why Burnside should push his advance at least to the Watauga, and if possible to the Virginia line. His sympathies were all alive for this people. The region, he telegraphed the President, is as loyal as any State of the North. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xxx. pt. iii. p. 523.] It threw off all disguise, it blossomed with National flags, it took no counsel of prudence, it refused to think of a return of Confederate soldiers and Confederate rule as a possibility. It exulted in every form of defiance to the Richmond government and what had been called treason to the
Confederate States. The people had a religious faith that God would not abandon them or suffer them to be again abandoned. If such an incredible wrong were to happen, they must either leave their country in mass, or they must be ready to die. They could see no other alternative.