Slike strani

generous and forbearing tone which forms one of CHAP. IV. his characteristic traits; but it does not conceal his sadness that the cause is to lose an advantage which a resolute commander might have grasped :

Your dispatch of yesterday has been received, and it disappoints and distresses me. I have shown it to General McClellan, who says he will write you to-day. I am not competent to criticize your views, and therefore what I offer is in justification of myself. Of the two, I would rather have a point on the railroad south of Cumberland Gap than Nashville. First, because it cuts a great artery of the enemy's communication, which Nashville does not; and secondly, because it is in the midst of loyal people, who would rally around it, while Nashville is not. Again, I cannot see why the movement on East Tennessee would not be a diversion in your favor, rather than a disadvantage, assuming that a movement towards Nashville is the main object. But my distress is that our friends in East Tennessee are being hanged and driven to despair, and even now, I fear, are thinking of taking rebel arms for the sake of personal protection. In this we lose the most valuable stake we have in the South. My dispatch, to which yours is an answer, was sent with the knowledge of Senator Johnson and Representative Maynard of East Tennessee, and they will be upon me to know the answer, which I cannot safely show them. They would despair, possibly resign to go and Lincoln to save their families somehow, or die with them. I do not intend this to be an order in any sense, but merely, as intimated before, to show you the grounds of my pp. 927, 928. anxiety.


Jan. 6, 1862.
W. R.
Vol. VII.,

McClellan did not let Buell off so easily. A sensitive officer would have little relished to be told that he had not only caused himself to be misunderstood, but had deranged the plans of his superior. "I was extremely sorry," wrote McClellan the same day, "to learn from your telegram to the President that you had from the beginning attached

CHAP. IV. little or no importance to a movement in East Tennessee. I had not so understood your views, and it develops a radical difference between your views and my own, which I deeply regret. My own general plans for the prosecution of the war make the speedy occupation of East Tennessee and its lines of railway matters of absolute necessity. Bowling Green and Nashville are in that connection of very secondary importance at the present moment. My own advance cannot, according to my present views, be made until your troops are solidly established in the Eastern portion of Tennessee. If that is not possible a complete and prejudicial change in my own plans at once becomes necessary. Interesting as Nashville may be to the Louisville interests, it strikes me that its possession is of very secondary importance in comparison with the immense results that would arise from the adherence to our cause of the masses in

East Tennessee, West North Carolina, South CaroMcClellan lina, North Georgia, and Alabama; results that I

to Buell,

Jan. 6, 1862. feel assured would ere long flow from the move

W. R. Vol.

VII., p. 531. ment I allude to."

This candid lecture was within a week supplemented by another letter from the General-in-Chief to Buell containing a suggestion so strong as almost to amount to a positive order. "You have no idea of the pressure brought to bear here upon the Government for a forward movement. It is so strong that it seems absolutely necessary to make the advance on Eastern Tennessee at once. I incline to this, as a first step, for many reasons. Your possession of the railroad there will surely prevent the main army in my front from being reënforced

McClellan to Buell, Jan. 13, 1862.

VII., p. 547.

and may force Johnston to detach. Its political CHAP. IV. effect will be very great." In his answer, written the same day, Buell at length promised to carry w. R. Vol. out the instruction. "As I told you in my dispatch, I shall now devote myself to it, contenting myself, as far as Bowling Green is concerned, with holding it in check and concealing my design as long as possible." But though he, in the same letter, acknowledged that the numerical strength of his command had risen to ninety thousand men, he could not bring himself to act even in fulfillment of his own definite promise. Nearly three weeks later, he wrote a letter alleging that “the want of transportation and the condition of the roads" had thwarted the programme. To a long argument in support of this opinion, he added: "For the reasons I have stated I have been forced reluctantly to the conviction that an advance into East Tennessee is impracticable at this time on any scale which will be sufficient." The real reason of his conviction appears in a few sentences which follow, and which show a final decision to carry out his long cherished design of a movement pp. 931, 932. in force against Bowling Green.


If there be a question among military experts as to the momentary feasibility or local value of this East Tennessee movement, there can be none when considered in its influence and relation to the whole great theater of war. A glance at the map, and a study of attendant circumstances, can leave no doubt that it was entirely possible to have seized and held the mountain region of Eastern Tennessee, and that such an occupation would have been a severance of the rebel Confederacy, almost as

Buell to

Jan. 13, 1862
VII., p. 548.

W. R. Vol.

Ibid., Feb. 1, 1862. W. R.

CHAP. IV. complete and damaging to its military strength as the opening of the Mississippi. If, also, there had been any doubt about the earnestness of the Union sentiment of the people of Eastern Tennessee, events soon developed ample proofs of their patriotism and devotion to the Government. The reader will remember the transmittal of arms and ammunition by Nelson and Carter, and the formation of secret military organizations by the bolder Unionists. Rumors and promises of the coming of a Union army also reached them from time to time in such form as to excite their hope and measurably inspire their reliance. Had General Thomas been permitted to march his column to Cumberland Gap and Knoxville, as he desired, about the first of November, his presence would have been favored by extraordinary events.

Startling news reached the rebel Secretary of War on the 9th of November. "Two large bridges," telegraphed a railroad president," on my road were burned last night about twelve o'clock; also one bridge on the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad at the same time, and an effort made to burn the largest bridge on my road. There is great excitement along the whole line of road and evidence that the Union party are organizing and preparing Benjamin, to destroy or take possession of the whole line from

Branner to

Nov. 9, 1861.
W. R. Vol.

IV., p. 231.

Bristol to Chattanooga." Two days later the commanding officer at Knoxville wrote further details. "My fears, expressed to you by letters and dispatches of the 4th and 5th instants, have been realized by the destruction of no less than five railroad bridges: two on the East Tennessee and Virginia road, one on the East Tennessee and


Georgia road, and two on the Western and Atlan- CHAP. IV. tic road. The indications were apparent to me, but I was powerless to avert it. The whole country is now in a state of rebellion; a thousand men are within six miles of Strawberry Plains Bridge, and an attack is contemplated to-morrow. . . An attack was made on Watauga yesterday. Our men succeeded in beating them off, but they are gathering in larger force and may renew it in a day or two. They are not yet fully organized, and have no subsistence to enable them to hold out long. . . I learn from two gentlemen, just arrived, that another camp is being formed about ten miles from here in Sevier County, and already three hundred are in camp. They are being reënforced from Blount, Roane, Johnson, Green, Carter, and other counties. I need not say that great alarm is felt by the few Southern men." "Civil war has broken out at length in East Tennessee," said another letter; "in the late election scarcely a so-called Union man voted. . . They look confidently for the reëstablishment of the Federal authority in the South with as much confidence as the Jews look for the coming of the Messiah, and I feel quite sure when I assert it that no event or circumstance can change or modify their hopes. In this state of affairs this part, and, indeed, all of East Tennessee, will be subjected during the war to apprehensions of internal revolt, more or less remote, as the tide of war turns in this direction. The recent bridgeburning in this section was occasioned by the hope that the Federal troops would be here in a few days from Kentucky to second their efforts. . . There are now camped in and about Elizabethtown, in

Wood to Cooper, Nov.

1861. W. R.


pp. 236, 237.

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