January 27, 1862: Buell can’t get to east Tennessee

Don Carlos Buell
Don Carlos Buell

Buell’s back to being unable to move, after Thomas’ success at Mill Springs. Knowing the region, it’s not hard to believe that the roads would have been impassable at this time of year. Once again, Lincoln’s desire to support the unionists in east Tennessee would be thwarted.

From the Official Record:


HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE OHIO,
Louisville, Ky., January 27, 1862.
General LORENZO THOMAS,
Adjutant-General U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.:

SIR: The natural expectation that our success at Somerset would be followed rapidly by other successful operations against the enemy makes it proper that I should state for the information of the General-in-Chief the circumstances which, I fear must to some extent disappoint that expectation. My order to General Thomas to march and, in conjunction with General Schoepf, attack the enemy at Mill Springs was dated the 29th of last month, and General Thomas accordingly marched from Lebanon on the 1st instant. The roads were then comparatively good, and I hoped that the limited amount of transportation we had been able to get up would enable him to move promptly and accomplish his work completely in ten days. By that time I hoped also that we would have accumulated transportation enough to enable us to act vigorously upon the heels of the success which I calculated upon; but the bad weather set in the very day of his departure, and instead of ten days to accomplish the whole work him eighteen days to get on the ground and eight days’ hard work to make the last 40 miles.

Although I had long since, with our present organization of the quartermaster’s department, almost despaired of getting an anything like an efficient footing in the matter of transportation for the whole force, yet the result has been even worse than I expected, and the almost impassable condition of the roads has rendered double the allowance necessary. With all the means we have it has been barely possible to keep the force at Somerset from starving, and at times for several days some of them have been on half rations. The country yields but little besides corn, and that in so small a quantity, that it is with difficulty forage can be obtained for the animals. I have now four regiments engaged in corduroying road to Somerset for a distance of some 40 miles.

Under these circumstances any advance beyond Somerset as present impossible, though I had instructed General Thomas on going there to be prepared to move into East Tennessee or in any other direction that circumstances might require. I am making every effort to remedy this condition of things, but it is not to be concealed that the difficulties are very great. Colonel Swords has here been assiduous and anxious, but his health has not been equal to the labor, and his assistants have been totally inadequate, both in number and in experience.

The General-in-Chief is advised that in carrying out his views it was my purpose to move upon East Tennessee on two routes. The column on the Cumberland Gap route I have put in motion; the other is detained by the circumstances I have described. The first alone cannot be expected to penetrate the State, but will at least encourage the loyal inhabitants and guard Kentucky again invasion by that route.

This is not as favorable a result of our efforts as I should like to present, but they have not been altogether without fruits, and I feel assured that the difficulty of moving large bodies of troops in the winter upon long lines of communication of common dirt roads, and through a country which affords but supplies, will be rightly appreciated.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D. C. BUELL,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

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