Once again, evidence is presented that rebel cavalry are moving toward Nashville. Communications are iffy also, as telegraph lines may be cut or co-opted by invaders. Note that Major Sidell is the “acting assistant adjutant-general” who sent one of these dispatches, and in fact who seems to be primarily in charge at Nashville. When “Bull” Nelson got to Nashville, he was not at all impressed with Major Sidell and the way things ran in the district; he complains below to Buell about this situation. Nelson is probably not a man to cross, so Sidell should watch out.
NASHVILLE, August 18, 1862.
Major General D. C. BUELL, Huntsville, Ala.:
General Nelson is now here, having come last night, and got your dispatch sent in cipher yesterday.
There is no communication with Louisville by rail. The damages on direct line are not repaired, and on the other line by Springfield the Red River Bridge is again destroyed. No train in since Friday. Nothing about enemy on road beyond what was sent you yesterday, which I repeat.
Morgan, Starnes, and Forrest reported to have made junction, 8,000 strong, and crossed Cumberland River from near Gallatin southerly toward Lebanon, their men proclaiming Nashville as ultimate destination. I informed General Nelson of this last night, with the sources of information. Also warned by operator at Lebanon Junction, Ky., not to send dispatches to Cumberland Gap because enemy had cut wire at Mount Vernon, and were advancing in two bodies northerly from Somerset and London, latter under Bledsoe, force not known, toward Stanford and Lexington. People flying before them.
W. H. SIDELL,
Major, Fifteenth U. S. Infantry, Actg. Asst. Adjt. General
NASHVILLE, August 18, 1862-12 midnight.
Colonel J. B. FRY:
One of your scouts, taken prisoner as a spy and sentenced to death about a month since and now escaped, overheard while prisoner in camp at McMinnville council between Morgan, Forrest, Starnes, and some other general. After much exultation over Murfreesborough fight their plan was arranged to war on General Buell’s means of supplies incessantly and but little at a time; destroy a bridge and suffer it [to be] repaired, then destroy another, and so continuously at various points. They admitted to scant resources of Confederate army, and expected thus to necessitate such movements of Buell as would enable them to move in search of supplies for themselves. The informant, now one of Bingham’s agents, was of Seventh Pennsylvania, not at Murfreesborough in the fight, but sent out as scout shortly after. He is an English Crimean soldier, and regarded by Bingham as trustworthy.
W. H. SIDELL,
Major, Fifteenth Infantry, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
Meanwhile, the Official Record shows that Nelson wasn’t too happy:
NASHVILLE, August 18, 1862.
General BUELL, Huntsville:
GENERAL: I had the honor to receive your telegram last night. I will proceed to execute the instructions therein to the best of my ability.
Permit me to recommend to you that a visit on your part to this place of three days’ duration only as being very necessary. There is no control here at all. Two regiments (the Twenty-seventh Kentucky and Ninth Indiana, which arrived last night) are now, at twenty minutes past 8 o’clock, seeking some one to report to, and trying to get teams to haul their baggage from the depot to camp. I am sure, from my experience when serving in your immediate presence, that your staff here do not do their duty with the promptness that would be pleasing to you. My answer was unnecessarily detained at Murfreesborough when en route for McMinnville by their dilatory proceedings. My ordnance officer was detained three hours in the ante-chamber of Major Sidell; my inspector-general two hours, and my adjutant-general failed to see him altogether, though they had gone up from Murfreesborough for that purpose.
The baggage of the division was detained at the depot and no effort of mine could procure its transportation, and in reply to my order to Captain Bingham to have it forwarded he sends me the copy of a letter from Major Sidell, said to have been written by your order, to the effect that Captain Bingham was not under my orders. At my request General Jackson went to see him this morning about transportation to Louisville and he was not up. I arrived here at midnight last night and was ready to move at 6 o’clock this morning but Captain Bingham was not to be seen by a general sent to call on him. I confess that I am not exactly acquainted with the importance that attaches to Major Sidell and Captain Bingham. My services in the army are too short to judge by my own experience, but I think that it cannot be right that the promptness of execution of the service required of any person should be relaxed to gratify the personal pretensions of any one.
A Captain Clarke, of the Sixth Ohio Regiment, fell out on the march and got into an ambulance, and instead of having himself hauled to camp, had himself taken to Nashville-in short, deserted. The next thing I heard of him was after two weeks a letter came to my headquarters detailing him for duty with Colonel Miller. I directed Captain Kendrick to write a note to Major Sidell about Clarke’s case, and inclosed an order to the provost-marshal at Nashville to arrest him and send him up under guard. I find that my instructions have not been attended to, and Major Sidell, besides, returns the letter of Captain Kendrick with an indorsement, to which I call your attention. I inclose the paper. [Not found] It will be proper to state that upon the report of the officers detained in Major Sidell’s ante-chamber I wrote him a very polite and civil note, to which he replied, denouncing as false their statements. It is since then that Major Sidell has used his office so as not to facilitate the business I have had to transact with him. The denial of Major Sidell was referred to the officers making the report, and they reaffirmed it.
I mention these things because I am sure that you wish the public service to go ahead, not to be stopped while this or that man ruffles his plumes.
For my part, in my own limited vision, I estimate the value of an officer in the precise ratio of his zeal for the service, and if anything crosses him to still go on, and appeal to his superior. It seems to me that any other rule would be productive of discordant action upon too many occasions to be tolerated.
I have the honor to be, &c.,