Head Quarters, Company A [Octr. 16, 1862]
129th Ills. Vols., Camp near Crab Orchard, Ky.
My Dear Wife
I understand we will have an opportunity to send letters back to-morrow & am happy to be able to write. I have been quite sick for the last two days but am now much better. I have a slight Bilious attack, I think. We arrived here about noon to-day & are a little in advance of the main part of Buell’s army, surrounded on every side by thousands of troops.1 I met John Manker this evening, an old acquaintance of yours. He is Lieut. of an Ohio Company.2 I presume there are many here I know when I come to find them.
We are now at the foot of that numerous ranges of mountains surrounding Cumberland Gap for which we are now bound. Through the supposed treachery of General Buell, the Rebel Army under Bragg has escaped into the mountains.3 With the thousands of troops, he could have easily been taken, & when at Perryville without Buell’s consent General Jackson attacked Bragg, there were troops enough within a few miles to have surrounded and outnumbered him 3 to 1, they were notallowed to come up.4 Now we have 90 miles over mountains to the Gap, & I am informed we will be detained here some ten days giving the rebels sufficient time to fortify themselves.
It is boldly asserted that Buell & Bragg have been together every few days since they left Louisville, & I feel sure that if ever the troops ever get sight of Buell he will share the fate of General Nelson instantly.5
I have but little hope for the success of our cause while these things last. We will now march to Cumberland Gap at a cost of hundreds of lives; but these things cannot be too publicly talked of, do not commit me in them.
I wrote you quite a long letter a few days ago & hope ere this you have recd. it. If we remain here, I shall endeavor to write often. We have left a large number of men behind, sick & lost, a good many who gave out on the road. We were short 400 men in the Regt. when we arrived in Camp to-day, but many have arrived & they are still coming in. I hope by the mail from Frankfort I shall hear from you. Give my love to all. May the blessings of Heaven rest upon you. Farewell.
Your affect. Husband
J. F. Culver
- Buell, learning on the 13th that Bragg had evacuated his position commanding the
crossings of Dick’s River and was in retreat, ordered his columns to pursue. Next morning
at Stanford, one of Buell’s divisions clashed with Confederate cavalry screening the
retreat. About noon on the 15th, Crittenden’s corps, which was spearheading the pursuit,
entered Crab Orchard. Covered by a strong rear guard, the Confederates retired to Mount
From reports submitted by his scouts, Buell knew that the roads by which the Confederates were retiring passed “through defiles, where a small force can resist with great effect a large one; where in fact the use of a large force is impracticable.” In addition, he knew that the Rebels would use or destroy the small amount of forage in this sterile region. Buell accordingly decided to halt Gilbert’s and McCook’s corps at Crab Orchard. Crittenden’s troops were given the mission of harrassing the retreating Rebel columns. O. R., Ser. I, Vol. XVI, pt. I, p. 1029.
The 129th Illinois had marched from Salvisa to Danville on the 14th, to Stanford on the 15th, and to Crab Orchard on the 16th. At Crab Orchard on the 17th, the 38th Brigade was detached from Dumont’s Twelfth Division and assigned to Brig. Gen. Robert S. Granger’s Tenth Division. Regimental Papers, 129th Illinois, NA, RG 94. [↩]
- John J. Manker had entered service as a private in Company B, 34th Ohio Infantry, and
on Aug. 15, 1862, he had received his discharge to accept a commission as 2d lieutenant in
Company E, Ohio Volunteers, 50th Ohio Infantry Regiment. Compiled Service Records of
Union Soldiers, NA. [↩]
- The story of Buell and Bragg being in collusion was common gossip in the 129th
Illinois. Private Dunham wrote his family on Sept. 29 & 30, it was said that “if B. had
been a mind to he could have taken Br. and his whole force at Green River, but Buell
stopped them and let Bragg pass out.” Through the South with a Union Soldier, p. 23
There was no truth to these rumors. After his relief as commander of the Army of the Ohio, Buell’s conduct was subject of an exhaustive investigation by a military commission. The commission, which focused its attention on accusations that Buell’s tactics were dilatory, adjourned without making any recommendations. After more than a year awaiting orders, Buell was mustered out of the volunteer service in May 1864, and on June 1 he resigned his regular commission. Warner, Generals in Blue, p. 52. [↩]
- Brig. Gen. James S. Jackson had commanded the Tenth Division, one of the three
divisions constituting McCook’s corps. At Perryville, on Oct. 8, Jackson’s division on the
Union left was assailed by elements of three Confederate divisions. Jackson was killed in
the savage fighting which ensued and one of his brigades routed. The Confederate thrust
was blunted by a fresh brigade, and the fighting shifted to McCook’s right.
Because of the configuration of the terrain, the limited use of artillery, and the vagaries of the wind, no sounds of battle were heard at Buell’s headquarters until about 3:30 p.m. It was for this reason, not a desire to subvert the Union, that Buell was slow in ordering Gilbert’s corps to support McCook’s hard-pressed divisions. Charles F. Gilbert, “On the Field of Perryville,” Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Robert V. Johnson and Clarence C. Buel, editors (New York, 1884-1887), Vol. III, pp. 52-57. [↩]
- See J.F. C’s letter of September 29, 1862. [↩]