Sherman Reluctantly Takes Command in Kentucky

Tuesday, October 8, 1861

After commanding at Fort Sumter, Robert Anderson was promoted to Brigadier-General and given command of the Department of Kentucky. With things heating up in that state, he was quickly succumbing to the stress and wear that went with the position. A couple of days prior, he had called upon General William Tecumseh Sherman, who commanded a brigade in Anderson’s Army, to come to his headquarters in Louisville. The two generals had been in daily communication and Sherman was well aware that Anderson was near his breaking point.

Three days prior, Sherman and Anderson wrote General-in-Chief Winfield Scott, bringing him up to speed on the situation. Anderson wished for Sherman to take over and Scott saw no objection, writing on the 6th, that it was to be so.

On this date, Anderson released General Orders, No. 6, relinquishing the command of the department to Sherman. The retiring General hoped that Sherman “may be the means of delivering this department from the marauding bands, who, under the guise of relieving and benefiting Kentucky, are doing all the injury they can to those who will not join them in their accursed warfare.”

For his part, Sherman was reluctant to take command. It was true that he was the senior-most General in the Department and would accept the position, but he was also apparently aware the General Don Carlos Buell, a division commander in McClellan’s Army of the Potomac, was soon to be ordered to replace him.

Sherman’s dislike for his new command was expressed to Senator Garret Davis from Paris, Kentucky on the same day he took up the post: “I am forced into the command of this department against my will ,and it would take 300,000 men to fill half the calls for troops.”

Sherman was also short on equipment. “We are moving heaven and earth to get the arms, clothing, and money necessary in Kentucky,” wrote Sherman to one of his Generals, “but McClellan and Fremont have made such heavy drafts that the supply is scant.”

To Col. Jackson in Owensborough, Sherman admitted that he was “forced to organize and operate with insufficient means and materials.” He added that “they have not sent me a single regular officer from Washington, and so engrossed are they with Missouri, that they don’t do us justice.” Sherman, however, was not one to complain: “The more necessity for us to strain every nerve.”

Through the shortness of men and arms, Sherman wasted no time getting his affairs in order. He turned over his old command at Muldraugh’s Hill to Col. Lovell Rousseau of the 5th Kentucky just before leaving for Louisville. He tapped General Thomas L. Crittenden, son of Senator John J. Crittenden and brother of Confederate General George B. Crittenden, who was currently a brigade commander in Johnston’s Army of the Potomac in Virginia, to organize the Union troops gathering in Owensborough, Kentucky.

It was clear that Sherman expected a Confederate attack to soon materialize. “Kentucky looks for some bold stroke,” wrote Sherman to Crittenden, “and with such men as Jackson, Johnson, Burbridge, Hawkins, and McHenry almost anything might be attempted.”1


The Night Landing at Santa Rosa Island, Florida

Since the start of the war, Confederate General Braxton Bragg commanded Rebel forces in Pensacola, Florida. Fort Pickens, located on Santa Rosa Island, just off the coast from Pensacola, had been held by Union forces for just as long. Bragg wished to attack the island and capture the fort and finally devised a plan to do so.

To enact this surprise attack, Bragg selected Brigadier-General Richard H. Anderson, who took over the command of Fort Sumter after it fell. Bragg hoped that the confusion arising from a night attack would be enough to scatter the outnumbered enemy.

At 10pm on this date, 1,200 Confederate troops from Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana, boarded the CSS Ewing and transport barges towed by the Neaffie. After a two hour crossing of the bay, all the troops were disembarked four miles north of Fort Pickens, which sat on the southern northwestern tip of Santa Rosa Island.

By 2am, a few hours before sunrise, the Confederates were prepared to march.2

At Fort Pickens, word of the landing came quickly to the fort’s commander, Union Col. Harvey Brown. It was said that sixty Rebels had driven in one of his outposts. Brown, disbelieving in the report, ordered that no alarm be sounded. An hour and a half later, however, Brown received another report of musket fire near the camp of the 6th New York Zouaves, a mile from the fort.3

  1. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 4, p296-299. []
  2. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 6, p460-461. []
  3. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 6, p439. []
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7 thoughts on “Sherman Reluctantly Takes Command in Kentucky

    1. I’m a bit in the dark about that, too. From what I’ve been able to find, it’s mostly localized books (not a bad thing, of course) and books of essays. Aagain, not a bad thing, but it always bugs me for some reason, especially as far as this project is concerned. I nearly lost it when I received Sister States, Enemy States: The Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee by Kent Dollar, a book of essays. I was hoping for a narrative about the war in KY and TN (none exists), but got a bunch of essays. However, it really is a great book, just not so good for my usage here. Otherwise, one you should own.

      1. Yes, I realize that I responded to your question about a book on the Civil War in Florida with a suggestion of a book on the Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee. And in doing that, gave it an undeservedly bad review. 🙂

  1. I really love the blog! I’m learning so much about the war. Keep up the great work.
    I was confused when reading about Ft Pickens being on the “southern” tip of Santa Rosa Island. After looking at the map, I think it would be better to say it was at the NW tip.
    Keep up the work on the blog. It’s a real contribution to remembering the war.

    1. Thank you so much!

      Here’s a secret about me: While I’m great with directions and can usually find my way out of anywhere, I have a problem flipping things around. Normally this comes into play when I’m telling someone to “turn right!” when I actually mean left. I also flip east and west around. It’s odd that I flipped northern and southern around, but it’s most definitely not the first time.

      Thanks for the correction and compliments, they’re both very appreciated.

  2. I wonder what contemporary Northern papers thought of the war far south or west. I can imagine some strange views by small town Maine papers about places as far away as Florida.

    I love Sherman’s quote about the other generals. He sounds resigned and respectful at once.

    1. From what I can tell (and I’ve not looked at a LOT), places out west and down south were fairly well known. At this point in the war, they were mostly fighting in and around forts (in the south coast, especially). People knew their geography then. Out west, it may have been a slightly different story (especially anything west of Missouri).

      Early war Sherman is a really interesting story. I wish more was known about it. I’ll be covering it as much as I can, though I did have to leave a bit of it out due to time/space.

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