Friday, September 21, 2012

September 21, 1862

September 21, 1862: Campaigning in Kentucky - Gen. Braxton Bragg and his 26,000 men of the Army of Mississippi are now deep into Kentucky, and Gen. Don Carlos Buell and the U.S. Army of the Ohio are following timidly behind. Buell has a problem, and he knows it: by following Bragg, he has put Bragg between himself and Louisville, his main supply base. Bragg has an opportunity, but even after leaving a large garrison in Nashville, Buell’s troops number about 40,000, which are too many for Bragg to take on alone. Bragg is also aware that large Union forces are accumulating in Louisville under Gen. Nelson (in Lousiville) and Gen. Lew Wallace (in Cincinnati), so the danger that he could get caught between the Federals to the north and to the south was palpable. At the moment, since they did not bother to coordinate, Kirby-Smith and his troops were too far away from Bragg for either of them to come quickly to the aid of the other. So Bragg decides that he must effect a junction with Kirby-Smith farther north, in Bardstown. He evacuates Munfordville, which is uncomfortably close to Bowling Green, where Buell is.

Mississippi: Gen. Price and his army march southwest, burning and looting the countryside as they go (yes, ravaging the Southern citizens they are supposed to protect), until they end up in Baldwyn, Mississippi, about 70 miles away from Van Dorn, with whom they are supposed to rendezvous. Grant turns his attention back to Corinth, wary of Van Dorn and Price and what might happen if they combine.


—The New York Herald publishes this rather overconfident editorial about the Union’s prospects after the victory at Antietam:
The expulsion of the grand rebel army from Maryland is one of the most important and decisive events in the history of this rebellion. It marks the limit of General Lee’s advance to the northward, it secures Washington, it [.....] Maryland, it destroys the prestige of rebel invincibility, it demoralizes this hitherto successful and powerful rebel army of Virginia, it restores confidence, solidity and enthusiasm to our own troops, it breaks up the whole of this last audacious rebel programme of a winter campaign on the northern side of the Potomac and the Ohio, it opens our way to the easy occupation of the rebel capital, and it marks that final turn in the tide upon which, from the Potomac to the Mississippi, we may pursue our advantages down to the Gulf of Mexico.

The loss on the part of General McClellan of the great battle of Wednesday last might have involved the loss of Baltimore, of Maryland, and of Washington; it might have been a loss which a thousand millions of money and another year or two of war on the grandest scale would have failed to repair. But with the victory on our side the losses to the rebel cause, as we have indicated, are correspondingly great. The game is now in the hands of President Lincoln, his Secretary of War and his General-in-Chief, and especially is their opportunity for the capture of Richmond so clear and inviting that if they neglect it they will surely be called to account for it by a disappointed and justly indignant people.
The editorial then goes on to suggest buoyantly that a swift march could bring Federal troops into Richmond in less time it would take Lee to return, and that Richmond was guarded by no more than 10,000 troops—and that the time to strike is now. The North would have all of the advantages in the race to Richmond. The editorial thus recognizes the prime issue at hand: Now that Lee has been forced out of Maryland, the whole point of McClellan’s victory is to follow it up by moving with speed and deliberation—which are not the Young Napoleon’s strong suits.


—James A. Graham, a soldier in the 27th North Carolina Infantry, writes home to his mother about the ghastly battle at Antietam:

Camp near Martinsburg Va
Sept 21st 1862

My dear Mother

I would have written before this but we have been on the march ever since we left Rapidan Station and I have had no chance to send a letter. We have been marching every day this month and several times we have marched all night. We were at Harper’s Ferry when it was taken, but our Reg’t was not engaged. Our Reg’t was in the fight at Sharpsburg Md. last Wednesday (17th) and lost nearly 200 men killed and wounded. I escaped without a single scratch. Our company lost 3 killed and 20 wounded. . . . It was the hottest time I ever saw and I am very thankful that I came out unhurt for I hardly thought I could escape where so many were falling. Our Reg’t took a battery from the enemy and in fact covered themselves with honor. No troops could display more cool determination & bravery than they did. Four of our men viz Shields, W.T. Patterson Merrit & G.W. Woods were left in the hospital on the other side of the river when we crossed to this side and fell into the hands of the enemy, but they will be well cared for as our Surgeon stayed with them. The rest of our company are getting along very well.

There is no news. I will write as often as I can and if I should get hurt will get somebody to write for me. Love to all. I remain

Your affectionate Son

James A. Graham
A young Rebel soldier from Louisiana

—Sarah Morgan, staying with friends in the countryside, relates this interesting example of Southern chivalry:
Many officers were in church, and as I passed out, Colonel Breaux joined me, and escorted Miriam and me to the carriage, where we stood talking some time under the trees before getting in. He gave us a most pressing invitation to name a day to visit the camp that he might "have the pleasure of showing us the fortifications," and we said we would beg the General’s permission to do so. Charming Colonel Breaux! Like all nice men, he is married, of course. He and another officer drove just behind our carriage in coming home, until we came to the fork of the road. Then, leaning from their buggy, both gentlemen bowed profoundly, which we as cordially returned. Two more behind followed their example, and to our great surprise, ten, who were seated in a small wagon drawn by two diminutive mules, bowed also, and, not content with that, rose to their feet as the distance between the two roads increased, and raised their caps, though in the most respectful silence. Rather queer; and I would have said impertinent had they been any others than Confederates fighting for us, who, of course, are privileged people.


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