Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tennessee Civil War Notes 10/15/2013

15, Governor Isham G. Harris to President Jefferson C. Davis relative to difficulties in recruiting, Confederate strategy and geopolitical concerns


Nashville, October 15, 1861

His Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS, Richmond:

As you are doubtless already informed, General [A.S.] Johnston has called upon me for 30,000 volunteers, in addition to the Provisional Army of Tennessee heretofore transferred to the Confederate States. To fill this requisition companies and regiments are rapidly reporting themselves, yet, from the constant inquiry made as to when and how they can be armed, I fear there will be some difficulty in raising so large a force unless I am authorized to give more satisfactory assurances than I am at present able to do.

It is the prospect of immediate and active service that swells the ranks of a volunteer force. They are reluctant to go into camp for winter quarters, where, without arms, they feel that they can render no service and really be of no use to the Government. I am exceedingly anxious to have this force armed and equipped to aid in repelling invasion, so strongly threatened at this point upon the northern border of the State, feeling certain that if properly prepared we can prevent the enemy reaching our soil.

Tennessee had placed every arm that she could command in the hands of the troops transferred to the Government. If it is the policy of the Government to cease operations in Western Virginia until the winter is past, I would be pleased if it can be done consistent with the public interest, to see the Tennessee troops there removed to the scene of action in this vicinity. The term of service of these troops will about expire with the winter in the mountains, in view of which fact the Government can make more profitable use of them in the manner indicated than by quartering them there; besides, a re-enlistment would be much more probable than in their present location.

The confidence of our people in their security from invasion is necessary to insure the production of such supplies and provisions as are absolutely demanded by the wants of our armies; to aid in doing which (if there were not more important considerations), it becomes of the utmost importance that Kentucky shall be held by the South. If the movement in Kentucky should halt or fail, it may seriously affect the amount of supplies produced in Tennessee. Recent movements indicate the purpose of the Federal Government to throw an overwhelming force into that State. I am satisfied that Kentucky is not the battle ground, and if superior numbers should give the enemy even a temporary success, it would not only endanger the safety of Tennessee, but carry with it incalculable mischief to the whole Confederacy. I am sure your policy is to drive them back to the Ohio.

The requisition of General Johnston will be promptly filled upon the assurance of arming. Without such assurance I frankly confess that there will be some delay.

If there could be thrown into this quarter an army large enough to drive the enemy back to the Ohio and push a column forward to Saint Louis, from these points ample supplies could be obtained to support the armies of the Government, and aggressive movements inaugurated and pushed forward which would deprive the North of the rich grain fields of the West, cut them off from their supplies, break up their hives of men, and enable you to make peace upon fair and honorable terms. It is the West that sustains the Federal Government in prosecuting the war. If able to take such positions as will command that section the East becomes powerless, and our supplies, so necessary and important to all our future movements, become abundant and certain

But I find myself digressing from the object of my letter, which was to suggest the importance of a large force for a winter campaign in Kentucky; to ask that the Tennessee troops be sent from Western Virginia, or a part of them, if it can be done with safety, and to appeal for arms for the 30,000 men now being raised here. The interest and anxiety which I feel for the success of our cause and the safety of Tennessee, which I regard as now seriously threatened with invasion, must be my apology for the length of this communication and the freedom of my suggestions. Feeling the highest assurance that your excellency will do all that is possible to prevent such a calamity,

I have the honor....etc.

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 4, pp. 449-450.





A correspondent of the Nashville Union writes from our army in Southeastern Tennessee thus:

"The barbarity of the bushwhackers is unexampled. About ten days ago our scouts found the bodies of four Union soldiers hanging to one tree. They appeared to have been hanging for two or three days.

"A few days since, while I was out with a scouting party we found the body of a well dressed young lady, shot through the breast!

"We discovered that she belonged to a respectable family, two miles distant, every member of which had been murdered. She had evidently been shot while trying to escape.

"I had partaken of the hospitality of her father's table but three days before; and as I kneeled by her slide, and felt no pulse, no breath, no sigh, I could but think of my sister, of my mother, of my friend.

"Oh God! That flesh and blood should be so cheap.

"We buried her there among the racks and pines of the mountain, and seven of Ohio's sons vowed by her grave that her death should be avenged."

Nashville Union, October 15, 1863.[1]

[1] As cited in: Colonel Percy Howard, The Barbarities of the Rebels, as shown in their Cruelty to the Federal Wounded and Prisoners; in their Outrages on Union Men; in the Murder of Negroes, and their Unmanly Conduct Throughout the Rebellion, (Providence, R.I.: Printed by the author, 1863.), p.13. The date and year are an approximation. Howard did not provide that information.

James B. Jones, Jr.

Public Historian

Tennessee Historical Commission

2941 Lebanon Road

Nashville, TN  37214

(615)-532-1550  x115

(615)-532-1549  FAX


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