Buell Commission
The Opinion
Part 2

     The Commission was of the opinion that General Buell really did not see that he was engaged in battle at that time; but realized he should have either been on the field at that time taking every precaution or advantage presented to him, and established a line of communications for intelligence to his headquarters. The established Signal Corps that he had with his army made the failure to have done so all the more culpable. Likewise, it was found that General McCook's failure to notify headquarters there had been an attack upon him was equally as culpable.

     It had been further determined, that Bragg had thrown his entire army upon McCook, that as much as two hours after the attack commenced, the Confederate commander had completely left his routes of retreat exposed. Had the Union commander been on the field, he could have moved Thomas forward and completely cut off the rebel retreat, or had Buell sufficient knowledge of the ongoing battle to begin with.

     The rebel retreat after the battle of Perryville had not occurred without significant loss. In addition to the killed and wounded, Bragg's army was compelled to destroy a large quantity of stores which had been stockpiled at Camp Dick Robinson. The evidence left behind of Bragg's retreat on the 9th, caused the belief that his army left in great confusion and should Buell have given rigorous pursuit, of which he had not, the Confederate retreat would have been a rout. The manner in which he followed; however, could hardly have been called a pursuit, yet with an energetic movement of his entire army, the rebels should have been crushed between Perryville and Dick's River.

     It had been established that General Buell was informed the night of October 11th that the rebels had crossed the river to Camp Dick Robinson, yet no determined movement was made with the main body of his army until after midnight of the 13th. From the 9th to the 13th, he waited to learn whether the rebels would cross the river; and lost two days in taking decisive action. It was this delay that allowed the Confederates to escape from Kentucky.

     Based on the opinion of the Commission, no charges were reported against Major General Don Carlos Buell. They had been dissolved by Major General Henry Halleck, the General in Chief, permitting Buell and the Commission to return to their routine assignments.

     General Halleck had not been happy with the finding that Buell had been delayed by repairs to the Memphis and Charleston Railroad and that his supply lines had been unnecessarily long. General Buell was given the latitude to select his own supply lines; and there was fault found in him not living off the country he operated in. He had been frequently urged to subsist his troops in such fashion, and whether he could have done so or not was never reported by the Commission.

     Although not included in the letter of instruction from the War Department, the Commission included in their investigation the march of the Army of the Ohio from Corinth to Chattanooga. The operations commenced with that march and therefore had been included.

     When the rebels vacated Corinth, there appeared no place upon which they could rally in a timely fashion to successfully oppose the army under Major General Halleck. General Buell was sent in the direction of Chattanooga, with instructions to seize the city and with it secure East Tennessee. It had been proved by the government and not denied by the defense that the rebels were not in force at that time in either place, and if General Buell would have pushed on, he would have taken the more strategic places almost without resistance.

     The most extraordinary fact brought before the Commission is that the commander of the army knew the railroad line was useless for rolling stock. Although he made an attempt to shield himself under the orders of Major General Halleck, the Commission found no earnest remonstrance that would justify them in regarding such a defense as sufficient.

     The brief oral instructions and yet fewer telegrams, evinced a confidence in the discretionary power given General Buell which had barred any attempt at shifting the responsibility.

     Since the army had supplies enough to justify the long delay in repairing lines, then there was sufficient supplies to seize East Tennessee, and no better in getting John Hunt Morgan and Nathan Bedford Forrest out of his rear than keeping them both busy at the front; the defenseless state of Chattanooga and East Tennessee would have called for every available rebel soldier, while Buell's engineers could have fixed the railroads unmolested.

     Although the Commission itself produced no judgment against Major General Don Carlos Buell and his operations during the campaign; he was relieved of duty by the government having replaced him with Major General William S. Rosecrans. He continued to await further orders which were never forthcoming; and he was mustered out of voluntary service in May of 1864. On June the 1st of that year, the former commander of the Army of the Ohio resigned his commission. Recommended by General Grant for restoration, again the government remained silent in answer. With the perceived disappointment of the national government, his reserved character had been considered hostile to the Lincoln Administration and quietly passed from his career as a soldier to that of citizen.

Aldie Daniel Moran
© 2006

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at dmoran@us-civilwars.net