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Ever hear of Major Mudd?

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Not having studied the Federal operation against Fort Donelson to the level that I should, I assumed that the redeploy of Union troops from Fort Henry, east across the eleven miles separating the two Confederate fortifications, was conducted quickly and unopposed. But upon reading General Buckner's report [OR 7 page 328-9] and The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest (page 43) it  became clear that an "unopposed stroll" was a fabrication of my own imagination. So, I decided to brave John McClernand's 12-page after-action report, and see what the self-promoting General from Illinois had to say...

On pages 170-1 John McClernand details -- almost gleefully -- his "disregard of Grant's orders" to commence his march towards Fort Donelson at 11am on the morning of February 12th. Not only did McClernand commence his march at 8am ...he had advanced his troops five miles east during the late afternoon of February 11th. And at 11am on Feb 12th McClernand "was within three miles of Rebel pickets." [This is important, because on the morning of Feb 12th Confederate General Gideon Pillow was called away to meet with General Floyd IRT the turnover of command of Fort Donelson. Command of the fort was put under temporary control of General Buckner, in Pillow's absence. And before departing, cavalry commander Colonel NB Forrest was sent west by Pillow on a reconnaissance mission, with strict orders "Do not bring on a general engagement."]

Major John Mudd of the 2nd Illinois Cavalry was in advance of McClernand's marching men, scouting the way ahead. At a point approximately two miles from the enemy's Outer Works of trenches and blinds, Mudd "encountered a detachment of the enemy's cavalry, strongly supported, indicating the determination to resist our further progress. Major Mudd, having driven back the enemy's cavalry, held its support in check until the arrival of our advanced guard... Detachments of the enemy still hovered upon the hills in front; the First Brigade was formed [line of battle] in the open field; the Second and Third Brigades were formed as they arrived, at supporting distance...

"A large body of the enemy's cavalry again appeared, and attempted to dispute our progress... The enemy cavalry was driven away, and shortly afterwards -- about 2pm --you [General Grant] came up and advised me of the approach of the Second Division, which you had directed be disposed on my left."

When I first read these details -- months ago-- I believed it was just McClernand 'grand-standing' in an attempt to pad his report and take attention away from the near-catastrophe resulting from the Confederate Breakout on February 15th. However, with substantiation contained in Confederate records, it now appears:

  • there was a Rebel attempt to hinder the Federal march towards Fort Donelson;
  • it was not well-conducted (or authorized)
  • because John McClernand "disregarded orders" his Division was too far advanced for Forrest to have made a difference [Forrest would have required a larger force; authorization; and an earlier start; and the Rebels needed to embrace the reality that "bringing on a General Engagement" perhaps five miles west of their fortifications was precisely what was needed]
  • Major John Mudd, in preventing commencement of a General Engagement on ground favorable to the Rebels, appears to have played a role similar to one played later by Major James Powell at Shiloh ...and I'll bet you never heard of him, before now.

Isn't the study of History wonderful...



Colonel John J. Mudd at find-a-grave  http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=5401509  



Edited by Ozzy
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