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Ozzy

Buell's Civil War

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Just for the exercise, and sparked by a recent exchange with Darryl, I thought it might be of benefit to present a list of Don Carlos Buell's noteworthy experiences during the War Between the States. You may find some of the revelations surprising...

  • May 20, 1861   Assigned to Department of the Pacific based at San Francisco, as Asst Adj General on the staff of General E.V. Sumner (the man who replaced Albert Sidney Johnston as Commander of that Department)
  • September 14   Assigned to the Defenses of Washington, D.C. (and promoted to Brigadier General)
  • November 15   Took over Department of the Ohio (replaced W.T. Sherman)
  • Jan 18, 1862    A force belonging to Buell's Department [George Thomas] achieves victory at Mill Springs
  • February           Provided "distant support" for Fort Henry/Fort Donelson operations
  • February 9        A force belonging to Buell's Department [Ormsby Mitchel] occupies Bowling Green, KY
  • February 23      A force belonging to Buell [William "Bull" Nelson] occupies Nashville
  • March 11           Buell's Department is absorbed, becoming part of Henry Halleck's Department of the Mississippi
  • March 21           Buell promoted to Major General (but now junior to US Grant, promoted February 16)
  • March/April        While leading most of the Army of the Ohio to the support of US Grant at Pittsburg Landing, Buell's focus appears to be concentrated on the rebuilding of bridges and roadways, and the establishment of a telegraph line... not timely arrival.
  • April 6                Buell's Army of the Ohio provides support near close of the First Day at Shiloh
  • April 7                Buell provides a major Federal force of fresh troops and helps drive Beauregard from the field at Shiloh, Day 2
  • Aprill 11             A force belonging to Buell [Ormsby Mitchel] occupies Huntsville and cuts the vital M&C R.R.
  • April/May          Buell engages in Crawl to Corinth in command of Army of the Center
  • June                  Following occupation of Corinth, Buell provides support to Federal forces under Pope pushing south towards Beauregard's cantonment at Tupelo, Mississippi. Satisfied that the Rebel Army is dissolving before his very eyes, Henry Halleck calls Buell away mid-June and sends his Army of the Ohio east, with instructions to occupy Chattanooga (but the main focus, as directed by Halleck involves the rebuilding of rail lines and bridges.) Buell is afterwards seen as "responsible" for the escape of Braxton Bragg from Chattanooga.
  •  July 4                Confederate John Hunt Morgan commences an ambitious cavalry raid lasting several weeks through Kentucky (which happens to be Buell's area of responsibility.) Buell is embarrassed; leaders in Washington express growing concern about Buell's competence.
  • August 29-30    A force under Bull Nelson is routed at Battle of Richmond by Kirby Smith (who is in process of joining forces with Braxton Bragg for a planned campaign through Kentucky and Tennessee)
  • September        Following Confederate success at Richmond, Buell is uncertain where Rebels intend to attack next. Louisville, Lexington, Nashville and Cincinnati are hastily defended;
  • Sept 29              About the same day Bull Nelson is gunned down by a brother officer in Louisville, Buell is ordered relieved of command of the Army of the Ohio.  However, George Thomas (the designated replacement) refuses to carry out the order; Buell continues as Commander of that Army.
  • October 8          Battle of Perryville is not seen as correctly fought: although the Confederates under Bragg withdraw south from Kentucky, providing a strategic victory for the North, the focus of leaders in Washington is on the tactical victory won by the Rebels.
  • October 29        William Rosecrans relieves Don Carlos Buell; the Army of the Ohio renamed Army of the Cumberland.
  • October              Buell ordered to Indianapolis to await further instructions. For the rest of the war (until his resignation in 1864) Buell is a Major General without a Department.

Ozzy

 

References:    http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=loc.ark:/13960/t6tx3qs9p;view=2up;seq=8  12 Decisive Battles of the War, by William Swinton (especially pages 124, 179, and 190-192)

wikipedia (various)

Autobiography of Lew Wallace, part 2  pages 562-564, 603-627   http://archive.org/stream/lewwallaceautobi00wall#page/628/mode/2up 

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/America/United_States/Army/USMA/Cullums_Register/1090*.html

http://civilwardailygazette.com/the-assassination-of-bull-nelson-the-firing-and-rehiring-of-don-carlos-buell/

http://civilwardailygazette.com/how-don-carlos-buell-learned-he-was-fired/

 

 

 

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Thanks for the timeline, Ozzy.  Some interesting points of note:

 

Thomas refuses to accept command of the Army of the Ohio - refuses might be a bit strong, but he does decline command as he feels that Buell is in the midst of organizing his forces and developing his plan against the Confederates to drive them from Kentucky.  Buell's operational plan goes very well as his force under Sill (20K men moving towards Frankfort) does fool Bragg into thinking that is the main thrust, leaving a much weakened rebel force to content with Buell's main push.  Of course that ends with the mismanaged (on both sides) Battle of Perryville.

 

Buell's constant hesitation of moving towards east Tennessee was actually the correct choice.  He always wanted to based his foirce in central Tennessee while the supply lines were favorable and the local area could provide more sustenance as well.  Buell "follows" Bragg out of Kentucky half-heartedly, and his replacement Rosecrans also bases his plans starting from central TN.

 

Buell is just another example of a general not being as bad or being as good as we sometimes make out.  He was a decent organizer (although his troops were starving on the march to Louisville), and personally brave (many favorable accounts by his troops at Shiloh).  His martinet role is a bit overplayed as the volunteers did not like his style, but really he was doing what most commanders later in the war would come to do, enforce discipline.  Buell's biggest fault to me was his lack of flexibility and lack of considering what the enemy might do, much like Grant at Fort Donelson where Grant doesn't see the breakout attempt coming.

 

Darryl

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Darryl

You touched on an aspect of Buell of which many are unfamiliar: the "East Tennessee Question" and one man's determination for General Buell to take action there... President Abraham Lincoln. Late in 1861, Lincoln determined that there was a significant Union enclave in East Tennessee; and the President personally pushed for the "liberation" of that enclave. [There was even talk of creating a "new State" out of that region, mimicking the later creation of West Virginia.] Don Carlos Buell received much prodding, with letters directly from the President, and from Lincoln's surrogates.

But Buell saw the East Tennessee problem as "territory once gained, that must be held." Valuable resources (perhaps ten thousand troops or more) would be tied up, even after the conquest was achieved. So General Buell probably saw his "required occupation" of Nashville in February 1862 as a Godsend, allowing him to put East Tennessee further and further behind him as he moved west and south to join forces with U.S. Grant, and ultimately Henry Halleck.

But Halleck failed to chase and engage the Confederates after they abandoned Corinth in May 1862. And as part of the breakup and redeploy of Halleck's Army of the Mississippi, General Buell and his Army of the Ohio were sent east to occupy Chattanooga... and like a dog with a bone, President Lincoln saw an opportunity to return to the Question of East Tennessee; perhaps Don Carlos Buell would take advantage of this second chance to redeem himself...

But every misstep of the Commander of the Army of the Ohio was perceived by Lincoln as revelation of the incapacity of Buell to achieve the President's pet project. And when Buell was ultimately ordered to be replaced, it was by Direction of President Lincoln.

Happy 2017

Ozzy

 

References:   http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/lincoln/letter-to-don-buell-january-13-1862/  (One of Lincoln's letters.)

http://abrahamlincolnandthecivilwar.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/president-lincoln-pressures-for-military-action-in-eastern-tennessee/ 

http://www.abrahamlincolnsclassroom.org/abraham-lincoln-state-by-state/abraham-lincoln-and-tennessee/  Lincoln's view

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Tennessee_Convention   the Union enclave

http://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/don-carlos-buell   Buell's Civil War

http://civilwardailygazette.com/how-don-carlos-buell-learned-he-was-fired/   [Revealing article, because it explains that by not pursuing Braxton Bragg through the Cumberland Gap -- and moving towards Nashville instead -- Don Carlos Buell may have been perceived as avoiding another opportunity to liberate East Tennessee.]

 

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More on D.C. Buell

Actively engaged during the Mexican War (and wounded at Battle of Churubusco) Don Carlos Buell was brevetted to Major, and remained on active duty with the U.S. Army after the war and served in Texas, Missouri, and New York; and in the two years leading up to outbreak of the Civil War was at Washington D.C. on “special assignment” with the War Department. Major Robert Anderson arrived at Charleston Harbor November 1860 and took command of the Federal forces (then based at Fort Moultrie) on the 21st. Shortly afterwards, with unrest growing at Charleston, Captain D. C. Buell was sent to Fort Moultrie (arrived on 11 DEC) with written orders for Major Anderson, which “directed Anderson to remain on the defensive; and upon belief that attack on his force was imminent, to select which ever available fort was deemed strongest to defend to the last.” [See Doubleday pages 42 - 51.] It is also rumored that Captain Buell delivered verbal orders (possibly from General Winfield Scott to Major Anderson) but this has never been proven. Major Anderson moved his force to Fort Sumter on 26 DEC 1860. And, Don Carlos Buell returned to his duties in Washington and was available as Staff officer to General Sumner, when that man was sent by the Lincoln Administration to replace Albert Sidney Johnston as commander of the Pacific Department.

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/24972/24972-h/24972-h.htm#CHAPTER_III  Reminiscences of Forts Moultrie and Sumter by Abner Doubleday (1876).

 

 

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And still more on Buell...

During the 1847 Campaign for Mexico City, General Scott recognized that it was vital to gain control of one of the three causeways leading to the Mexican Capital (the city occupied highground in the midst of a swampy lake.) Thus, the Battle of Churubusco was fought on August 20th. After gaining control of an important convent, Scott's men attempted to advance towards the causeway, but were pinned down by fire of Mexicans occupying a field of corn, nearly ready for harvest. Hesitant to advance until the defenses (trenches or fortification) being used by the enemy were known, the American commander was gratified to observe Brevet-Captain Buell climb onto the roof of an adobe house in order to take stock of the situation. But soon after gaining the elevated position, Buell was seen to tumble off again, obviously shot; it was assumed that he had been mortally wounded. Later, it was surmised that Don Carlos Buell's superior fitness allowed him to survive being shot through the right chest, near the shoulder, although it required nearly two months for him to heal sufficiently to return to active service. In meantime, the American Army crossed the causeway and took possession of Mexico City.

Why is this important? When Major General Buell arrived at Pittsburg Landing at (or just before) 2 pm on April 6th and met Major General Grant aboard the Tigress, it was their first face-to-face encounter since late February 1862... the ill-starred, unauthorized Nashville meeting. Now in the Ladies' Cabin of the steamer, the two generals exchanged pleasantries: Grant showed off the bullet wound to his sword scabbard; and Buell was unimpressed. A man who had cheated death after being shot through the chest could hardly be expected to find such a minor incident noteworthy. General Grant soon departed (to once and for all call forward Lew Wallace.) And General Buell was left behind at the Landing to organize the movement of his Army of the Ohio across the Tennessee River.

References:

Medical Histories of Union Generals by Jack Welsh (1996) Kent State University Press.

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/America/United_States/Army/USMA/Cullums_Register/1090*.html  Don Carlos Buell.

Various SDG posts.

 

 

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I believe that I found it in Don Carlos Buell - Most Promising of All by Stephen D. Engle that as a "parlor trick" Buell would pick up his wife and place on the mantle of a fire-place to demonstrate his strength.

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