President Arranges for Relief of Union Troops in Tennessee

September 27, 1863

Presidential aide John Hay writes that General Slocum and Secretary of State William H. Seward visit President Lincoln at the White House: “The result of the visit, a request by the President to Genl Rosecrans urging him to take Slocum from Hooker’s force and give Hooker some corresponding force.  Slocum does not seem to me a very large man.  He seems peevish, irritable, fretful.  Hooker says he is all that on account of his digestive apparatus being out of repair.  Hooker does not speak unkindly of him; while he never mentions Hook but to attack him.”

Later, Hay “rode out to the Soldiers Home with Hooker.  The President, who has been spending the evening at the War Dept. Arranging some plan by which Burnside may be allowed to continue his occupation and protection of East Tennessee, went out at 9 oclock & Hooker who wanted to take leave went out afterwards, picking me up on the street.  He does not specially approve of the campaign down there.  He thinks we might force them to fight at disadvantage, instead of allowing them to continually choose the battleground.   Does not think much can be made by lengthening Rosecrans’ line indefinitely into Georgia.  Atlanta is a good thin on account of its railroads & store houses & factories.  But a long line weakens an army by constant details while the enemy falling back gradually keeps his army intact till the itinerary equalizes the opposing forces.”

Hooker goes in the morning. I hope they will give him a fair show.  Slocum’s hostility is very regrettable.  Hooker is a fine fellow.  The President says “Whenever trouble arises I can always rely upon Hooker’s magnanimity.’  The President this morning asked him to write to him.  I told him if he did not wish to write to the President he might write to me.  I wish I was able to go with him.  But Nicolay is in the mountains getting beef on his bones and I am a prisoner here.  With Rosecrans, Sherman, Burnside & Hooker, they will have a magnificent army there is a few days & some great fighting if Bragg does not run.  Deserters say A. P. Hill is coming.  I don’t believe that.

Rather maddingly, General Ambrose Burnside demanded specific instructions about what was expected of him: “Does the President’s order requiring me to move with my force intend the evacuation of that portion of East Tennessee held by me, or do you desire sufficient force left here to hold the line of the railroad? . . . .

You . . . speak of my delay. I have made no delay. I was ordered to move into East Tennessee. . . . I was then ordered to hold the railroad to the crossing of the Holston River, and the gaps of the mountains leading into North Carolina, and to recruit all the men possible. . . . I made dispositions to carry out these orders which necessarily scattered my forces. . . . Had we commenced moving to General Rosecrans by detail down the north side of the Tennessee River, as we were directed, the cavalry . . . of the enemy would have destroyed our trains and prevented any possibility of an effective junction with Rosecrans. . . . If I can be allowed to move down the south side of the river, keeping a force between the enemy and our depots here . . . I feel quite sure we can do Rosecrans some good. . . . In order to satisfy you of our disposition to aid General Rosecrans, if you desire the evacuation of East Tennessee, we can do it at once, but I must say that I think the move would be very unwise.

President Lincoln telegraphs General Ambrose E. Burnside, even more insistently, to support General William Rosecrans: “Your despatch just received. My order to you meant simply that you should save Rosecrans from being crushed out, believing if he lost his position, you could not hold East Tennessee in any event; and that if he held his position, East Tennessee was substantially safe in any event. This despatch is in no sense an order. Gen. Halleck will answer you fully.”

Halleck wrote Burnside during the evening: ”The substance of all telegrams from the President and from me is, you must go to General Rosecrans’ assistance, with all your available force, by such route as, under the advices given you from here and such information as you can get, you may deem most practicable.  The orders are very plain, and you cannot mistake their purport.  It only remains for your to execute them.  General Rosecrans is holding Chattanooga and waiting reenforcements from you.  East Tennessee must be held at all hazards, if possible.   The President has just shown me his telegram, which is added, and in which I fully concur.”

It was suggested to you, not ordered, that you should move to Rosecrans on the North side of the river, because it was believed the enemy would not permit you to join him if you should move on the South side. Hold your present positions, and send Rosecrans what you can spare, in the quickest and safest way. In the mean time, hold the remainder as nearly in readiness to go to him as you can consistently with the duty it is to perform while it remains. East Tennesse can be no more than temporarily lost, so long as Chattanooga is firmly held..”

In the morning, according to John Hay, Hawkins Taylor had a talk with [President Lincoln regarding conflicting Missouri factions]….& came out very much disheartened.  He thinks there is no hope of an agreement.”

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Published in: on September 27, 2013 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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