October 16, 1862: Buell fails to stop Bragg’s retreat

Don Carlos Buell, 1861

The New York Times describes the rebel escape from Kentucky. The editor doesn’t criticize Buell directly, but this campaign is not going to bring him much credit. In fact, he’ll be facing an inquest later.

Published: October 16, 1862

The declaration of the Louisville and Cincinnati papers that the Union forces had reoccupied the towns of Lexington and Danville, Ky., almost concurrently with the battle at Perryville, proves to have been incorrect. And these movements failing, the entire theory built upon them, that the rebels were flanked on the east as well as the south and could not escape from the State, fails also. We find it necessary, therefore, on the corrected reports from Kentucky, to recast our views of the position, and to confess that we now see little enough hope of “bagging” the army of BRAGG.

It appears that after the battle of Wednesday, the 8th inst., the rebels back northwardly toward Harrodsburg. But they all not leave the road open that leads castwardly from Perryville to Danville. Consequently our troops did not move immediately on to Danville, which would have cut off the rebel army from Camp Dick Robinson, toward which they have since gone.

Thursday seems to have been spent by Gen. BUELL, in burying his dead, of which he had 500 or more, and caring for his wounded, of whom there were about 2,300. It seems that he must have been required to pay the last offices of humanity to the rebel dead also, for it is stated that, although the rebels sent in a flag of truce, and obtained permission to bury their dead, the party proceeded to the field and after looking over it awhile went away without, doing anything.

Friday, Gen. BUELL’s Army was put under marching orders, and moved toward Harrodsburgh in line of battle. But, on the same day, KIRBY SMITH succeeded in making a junction with Gen. BRAGG at Harrodsburgh, thus making a very formidable army, which, perhaps, BUELL’ sadvance divisions did not feel equal to meet. And so they stood face to face — BUELL waiting to concentrate his army, and BRAGG watching for the chances to retreat to a better position.

BRAGG finding himself not immediately attacked, commenced moving rapidly toward Camp Dick Robinson via Danville. The entire distance is only seventeen miles — ten to Danville and seven to the camp — and all over a splendid turnpike road. It was a fair day’s march, and the bulk of BRAGG’s army safely made it. But the rear guard was closely followed and engaged by BUELL’s advance, and Kentucky dispatches to the Cincinnati papers say that Gen. SMITH (GREEN CLAY SMITH, probably) captured two thousand wounded and fifteen hundred well rebel prisoners, between Harrodsburgh and Danville, in the pursuit. On Sunday night, BUELL’s army entered Danville without a fight. On Monday, it is said that skirmishing was in progress from Harrodsburgh to Stanford — Stanford being a town ten miles southeast of Danville. If the rebels are or have been at Camp Dick Robinson, a movement to Stanford by BUELL would be well calculated to intercept their retreat. We know nothing, however, of the actual position now. The indications, as presented, are that BUELL is fairly south of BRAGG, if the latter is at Camp Dick Robinson. This is a situation that implies, necessarily, a battle, and the rebels are said to declare their purpose To stand at Camp Dick Robinson. We cannot believe it, but regard them as in full flight to the mountains.

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