November 17, 1862: Johnson on Buell

Andrew Johnson

Union Governor of Tennessee Andrew Johnson wrote a scathing letter to Lincoln criticizing Buell’s conduct of the Kentucky/Tennessee campaign. The New York Times got hold of it and published it here. Johnson’s views were apparently shared by Lincoln, as Buell was relieved of command and never reinstated.


Gov. Johnson’s Opinion of Gen. Buell’s Course.; The Nashville correspondent of the Philadelphia Press says:

I herewith transmit to you extracts from Gov. ANDREW JOHNSON’S letter to President LINCOLN, criticising the course pursued by Gen. BUELL while in com mand of the Army of the Ohio. This letter would have been sent to the President immediately after it was written, had not the guerilla MORGAN cut off all communication with the North. But here it is:

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Sept. 1.
To His Excellency Abraham Lincoln, Washington City:

On two occasions I have stated to the President that Gen. BUELL would never enter and redeem the eastern portion of this State. I do not believe he ever intended to, notwithstanding his fair promises to the President and others that he would.

A portion of the rebel troops, it is stated, under the command of BRAGG, have crossed the Tennessee River, above Chattanooga, and are marching in the direction of Nashville. His force is variously estimated at from 20,000 to 50,000. My own opinion is that it cannot exceed 20,000.

Gen. BUELL and his forces are in his front, ranging from Decherd, on the railroad, to McMinnville and Sparta, and, in my opinion, with such Generals as he has under his command, could meet BRAGG and whip him with the greatest ease; entering lower East Tennessee, and turn the rear of the force said to be now before Gen. MORGAN, at Cumberland Gap, leaving MORGAN to march into East Tennessee, and take possession of the railroad, at once segregating and destroying the unity of their territory, and that, too, in the midst of a population that is loyal, and will stand by the Government.

The forces which have passed Cumberland Gap, on MORGAN’s right, under command of KIRBY SMITH; entering Kentucky in MORGAN’s rear, can and will be met by forces coming in the direction of Lexington and Nicholasville, and whipped and driven back.

I am now compelled to state, though with deep regret, what I know and believe Gen. BUELL’s policy to be. Instead of meeting and whipping BRAGG where he is, it is his intention to occupy a defensive position, and is now, according to the best evidence I can obtain, concentrating all his forces upon Nashville, giving up all the country which we have had possession of south and east of this place, leaving the Union sentiment and Union men, who took a stand for the Government, to be crushed out and utterly ruined by the rebels, who will all be in arms upon the retreat of our army.

It seems to me that Gen. BUELL fears his own personal safety, and has concluded to gather the whole army at this point as a kind of body guard to protect and defend him, without reference to the Union men who have been induced to speak out, believing that the Government would defend them.

Gen. Buell is very popular with the rebels, and the impression is that he is more partial to them than to Union men, and that he favors the establishment of a Southern Confederacy.

I will not assume that Gen. BUELL desires the establishment of a Southern Confederacy and a surrender of Tennessee to the rebels, but will give it as my opinion that, if he had designed to do so, he could not have laid down or pursued a policy that would have been more successful in the accomplishment of both these objects.

Notwithstanding the untoward events which have transpired since I came to Nashville, I feel and believe that much good has been done in preparing the public mind in being reconciled to the Government; but if the policy which I have indicated is carried out by Gen. BUELL, all will be thrown away, without the most distant idea, if ever, when we shall recover our lost ground. East Tennessee seems doomed. There is scarcely a hope left of her redemption; if ever, no one now can tell. May God save my country from some of the Generals that have bean conducting this war.

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