« PreviousContinue »
Movements in the West.-The splendid Programme of the Yankees.-Kentucky the critical Point.--Gen. Kirby Smith's Advance into Kentucky.-THE BATTLE OF RICHMOND.-Reception of the Confederates in Lexington.-Expectation of an Attack on Cincinnati.-Gen. Bragg's Plans.-Smith's Movement to Bragg's Lines.-Escape of the Yankee Forces from Cumberland Gap.-Affair of Munfordsville.-Gen. Bragg between the Enemy and the Ohio.-An Opportunity for a decisive Blow.-Buell's Escape to Louisville.-The Inauguration of Governor at Frankfort.-An idle Ceremony.-Probable Surprise of Gen. Bragg.-THE BATTLE OF PERRYVILLE.—Its Immediate Results in our Favor.-Bragg's failure to concentrate his Forces.-His Resolution of Retreat.-Scenes of the Retreat from Kentucky.-Errors of the Campaign.A lame Excuse.- Public Sentiment in Kentucky.-The Demoralization of that State.-The Lessons of Submission.
On the same day that victory perched on our banners on the plains of Manassas, an important success was achieved by our brave troops in another part of the Confederacy. A victory gained at Richmond in Kentucky gave a companion to Manassas, and opened in the West a prospect of the advance of our troops simultaneous with the dawn of new hopes and aspirations in the East.
A few paragraphs are sufficient for the rapid summary of events necessary to the contemplation of the situation in the West, in which the battle of Richmond was won.
The North had prepared a splendid programme of operations in the country west of the Alleghanies. But few persons on the Southern seaboard had adequate ideas of the grandeur of the enemy's preparations, or of the strength of the forces concentrating on the march in the Western country. These preparations exceeded in magnitude all military movements designed or attempted since the commencement of the war; for they contemplated not only the expulsion of our forces from Kentucky and Tennessee and the States west of the Mississippi, but the penetration through the Gulf States of the heart of the South. The army, now well on its way into Middle Tennessee, had Northern Alabama and Georgia for its ultimate destination; that of Grant was already advanced into Mississippi; that of McClernand, organizing at Columbus and
Memphis, was intended to operate on the Mississippi ; another army was already operating in Missouri and Arkansas; and a gunboat fleet had been placed on the waters of the Mississippi which was said to be terrible in destructiveness, and impreg náble in strength. Such was the extent of the enemy's plans of campaign in the West.
The situation left the South but little choice than that of making an aggressive movement by which North Alabama and Middle and East Tennessee might be cleared of the forces of the enemy, and they compelled to fall back to assist Gen. Buell in Kentucky-this State being fixed as the critical point in the West, and the field of the active campaign. The brief retirement of Gen. Beauregard from active command on account of ill health, which was made shortly after his evacuation of Corinth, left the way open to the promotion of Gen. Bragg, a favorite of the administration, who had a certain military reputation, but, as an active commander in the field, had the confidence neither of the army nor of the public. The first steps of the campaign were easily decided by this commander : it was to use the forces of Gen. Kirby Smith to threaten Cincinnati, and thus distract the attention and divide the forces of the enemy; while Gen. Bragg himself, co-operating with Smith, was to fulfil the great purpose of the campaign, which was the expulsion of the enemy from Kentucky and the capture of Louisville—thus subjecting the whole of that great grain-growing and meat-producing commonwealth, with all its rich stores, to our control.
Early in the month of August, Gen. McCown, under the orders of Gen. Smith, moved his division from London to Knoxville in East Tennessee. Thence our troops moved to the gaps in the Cumberland mountains, being joiced by Claiborne's division at the lower gap, when the whole force was ordered through, with the trains and artillery. From this time our troops made forced marches until they reached Barbourgville, which is on the main thoroughfare by which the Yankees received their supplies at the gap by way of Lexington. Halting there long enough only to get water, our wearied army was pushed on to the Cumberland ford. Here a few days' rest was allowed to the troops, who had performed their hard march over stony roads, with their almost bare feet, and with green corn garnished with a small supply of poor beef for their food.
THE BATTLE OF RICHMOND.
On the 29th of August our troops were in striking distance of the enemy at Richmond. Until our advance descended the Big Hill, it met with no opposition from the enemy. Here, on the morning of the 29th, the enemy was discovered to be in force in our front, and a bold reconnoissance of the cavalry under Colonel Scott, in the afternoon, indicated a determination to give us battle. Although Churchill's division did not get up until quite late in the afternoon, and then in an apparently exhausted state, Gen. Smith determined to march to Richmond the next day, even at the cost of a battie with the whole force of the enemy. The leading division, under Gen. Claiborne, was moved early the next morning, and, after advancing two or three miles, they found the enemy drawn up in line of battle in a fine position, near Mount Zion church, six miles from Richmond. Without waiting for Churchill's divi. sion, Claiborne at once commenced the action, and by halfpast seven o'clock in the morning, the fire of artillery was orisk on both sides. As our force was almost too small to storm the position in front, without a disastrous loss, Gen. Churchill was sent with one of his brigades to turn the enemy's right. While this movement was being executed, a bold and well-conducted attempt on the part of the enemy, to turn Claiborne's right, was admirably foiled by the firmness of Col. Preston Smith's brigade, who repulsed the enemy with great slaughter. In the mean time Gen. Churchill had been completely successful in his movement upon the enemy's right flank, where, by a bold charge, his men completed a victory already partially gained by the gallantry of our troops on the left.
The Yankees having been repulsed and driven in confusion from this part of the field, might have retreated without risk ing another passage at arms, had they not misapprehended our movements.
Gen. Smith having ordered the cavalry to go around to the north of Richmond and attempt to cut off the retreat of the enerny, our artillery ceased firing, and the enemy, thii king our army was preparing for a retreat, had the foolhardiness to rally on their own retreat and attempt a charge upon the Texas and Arkansas troops under McCray, who, to the grea astonishment of the enemy, instead of running away, met them on the half-way ground. This gallant brigade of Texans and Arkansians had to fight the battle alone. Although the odds opposed to them were fearful, yet by reserving their own fire, under the deafening roar of the enemy's guns, and by a well-timed and dashing charge upon the advancing lines, they completely routed and put to flight the hosts of the enemy. They fled in the wildest confusion and disorder. Their knapsacks, swords, pistols, hats, and canteens, scattered along the road, would have marked the route they travelled, even if their dead and dying had not too plainly showed the way.
In passing a deserted camp of the enemy, Gen. Smith found from some of the wounded that Gen. Nelson, the Yankee commander, with reinforcements, had arrived after the second battle. A march of two miles brought us within sight of the town, in front of which, and on a commanding ridge, with both flanks resting upon woods, Nelson had determined to make a final stand. Churchill, with a brigade, was sent off to the left, when a deafening roar of musketry soon announced the raging of a furious combat. In the mean while, Preston Smith, bringing up his division at a double-quick, formed in front of the enemy's centre and left. Almost without waiting the command of the officers, this division coolly advanced under the murderous fire of a force twice their number, and drove them from the field in the greatest confusion, and with immense slaughter. The exhausted condition of our men, together with the closing in of night, prevented the pursuit of the enemy more than a mile beyond Richmond.
The results of the day were gratifying enough. With less than half his force, Gen. Smith had attacked and carried a very strong position at Mount Zion church, after a hard fight of two hours. Again, a still better position at White's farm, in half an hour, and finally, in the town of Richmond, just be fore sinoet, our indomitable troops deliberately walked (they were too tired to run) up to a magnificent position, manned by ten thonsand of the enemy, many of them perfectly fresh, and
carried it in fifteen minutes. In the last engagement, we took prisoners from thirteen regiments. Our loss in killed and wounded was about four hundred; that of the enemy wae about one thousand, and his prisoners five thousand. The immediate fruits of the victory were nine pieces of artillery and ten thousand small-arms, and a large quantity of supplies. These latter were greatly increased by the capture of Richmond and Frankfort, the whole number of cannon taken being about twenty.
On the 1st day of September Gen. Smith took up the line of march for Lexington; and on the morning of the fourth day of that month, our forces, consisting of a Texas brigade and an Arkansas brigade, under the command of Gen. Churchill, and Gen. Claiborne's division and Gen. Heath's division, all under the command of Gen. Kirby Smith, marched through the city amidst the hearty and generous welcome of thousands of meys, women, and children.
The entrance of our troops into Lexington was the occasion of the most inspiriting and touching scenes. Streets, windows and gardens were filled with ladies and little girls with stream · ers of red and blue ribbons and flags with stars. Beautiful women seized the hard brown hands of our rough and ragged soldiers, and with tears and smiles thanked them again and again for coming into Kentucky and freeing them from the presence and insults of the hated and insolent Yankees. For hours the enthusiasm of the people was unbounded. At every corner of the streets, baskets of provisions and buckets of water were placed for the refreshment of our weary soldiers, and hundreds of our men were presented with shoes and hats and coats and tobacco from the grateful people. Private residences were turned for the time into public houses of entertainment, free to all who could be persuaded to go and eat. But if the reception of the infantry was enthusiastic, the tears, the smiles, and shouts and cheers of wild delight which greeted Gen. John Morgan's cavalry as they came dashing through the streets amidst clouds of dust, was without a parallel. The wildest joy ruled the hours. The bells of the city pealed forth their joyous welcome, whilst the waving of thousands of white handkerchiefs and tiny Confederate flags attested the gladness and delight of every heart.