The Buell Commission

Lubliner

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By the time these court proceedings reconvened in Nashville, Tennessee, a regular pattern of interrogation had been established. They would generally open in the morning at 10:00, and the record is intermittent for showing time spent in recess and when adjourned. As well the times where it specified afternoon sessions and evening sessions were few, when covering the full month of December. Many answers could be brief, and questions fired off rapidly as though a rather heated temperament was involved, especially with General Buell's cross-examinations. On the second week the first witness was Major General A. McD. McCook. (Later on the intensity becomes more involved as questions proliferated from other court members, but because of the scarcity identifiable on the records, I was uncertain as to which member questioned the witness each time. This occurred when McCook was recalled to testify on Dec. 9 and 10.)
Another question I have is whether General McCook recited a written account, whether it was turned in and read, or whether it was spoken directly to the court with spontaneity. His first answer covers four full pages and when he was dismissed, a second witness, Lieutenant Frank Jones, the Acting Assistant Adj.-General (AAG) of the 3rd Division was asked 5 questions by the court and cross-examined with 7 more by General Buell. This ended the opening session in Nashville on December 8. McCook will testify for the next two days.
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Lubliner

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General McCook was put through a grueling court session, as he returned on December 9th to finish his initial testimony. This took the whole day, and the next day (Dec. 10) he was peppered with 66 questions that were answered in such a manner that General Buell jumped into the fray and established a united inquiry against the witness. Then the court adjourned to be opened on the 11th with an official cross-examination by General Buell, when McCook fielded 80 questions. Then the court called a redirect and put 21 more questions upon his accountability. As though he had not enough time in the chair, the next day he was called for the last time to answer 66 more questions by redirect, and Buell was satisfied. Thus ended the first four days in Nashville (Dec. 12), with General McCook interrogated by a total of 233 questions from a united court.
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Lubliner

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Before going any further, allow me to recap on my initial theme, as to the Officers in command that had been called. On the first day, Colonel Lytle had admitted to being wounded and captured at Perryville, and was paroled within a couple of days. He took very seriously the oath of parole he had been sworn to and refused answering any question related to strength or composition of Bragg's army. I could not find him in the Union Order of Battle at Stone's River. He was involved in the Chickamauga Campaign and was killed. Lytle Hill is named after him on the battlefield.
McCook was a Brigadier General of the XIV Corps on the right wing Jan. 2, 1863 and suffered heavy losses. On January 9, it was formed into the XX Corps and moved through Liberty Gap on the advance at Tullahoma. At Chickamauga he again suffered heavy losses and was courts-martialed afterward, being blamed partially for the failure there. Not convicted, he did not see assignment for another year, and commanded at the Battle of Fort Stevens when General Early attacked Washington City. (Monocacy). After the war he had an illustrious career in the Army stretching through to the end of the century.
It should also be pointed out that after the Battle of Stone's River, General Rosecrans remained at Murfreesborough, Tennessee, and in spite of continuous prodding by Lincoln, Halleck, and Stanton, he did not move until the 24th of June. This allowed plenty of time for the Commission to finalize their intelligence and forward some information to base his movement upon. Was the waiting game a contrivance? Were the remarks on crops and seasonal replenishment a bogus excuse? Could the plans be determined in advance by the enemy? Or was the whole game dropped by the highest command in the Army, where vital information was ignored?
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Lubliner

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On December 13 the first Government called was Colonel Shoemaker. He answered 10 questions from the court and on cross-examination replied to 18 more before being dismissed. He was in command of the 13th Michigan Volunteers.
Next was Brigadier General J. B. Steedman who was seated the rest of the day. In answering 57 questions by the court, most of the accusatory allegations were aired openly. Firstly, he pointed out that General McCook had spoken to him that Buell should be replaced by General Thomas. Then he declared General Schoepf, a member of the court had been involved. He spoke further of lack of enthusiasm toward General Buell whenever he appeared among the troops, and stated in plain terms that he was unpopular.
To give a full recount of the activity for deposing Buell of command, General Steedman made the following admission; (p. 135-6)
"We were present for the purpose of conferring with each other as to the condition of the army, and interchange of opinions as to the feeling toward the commander-in-chief of the Army of the Ohio; and after it assembled there was a great deal of discussion as to the best manner of expressing our opinions in relation to General Buell. The result was a dispatch to the President was agreed upon, asking him to relieve General Buell from the command of the army, for the reason that, in the opinion of the signers, he had lost its confidence."
The petition was signed by all present. The Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the Eighth Kansas Regiment doubted Buell's loyalty, thinking he did not want to fight Bragg. All the Colonels commanding regiments in the First Division were present, and one Division commander General Fry (who gave 8 names on the 23rd, excluding his own). Also a number of Colonels from either General Mitchell's or Sheridan's command but he was unsure which. Also the officers commanding every regiment in Col. Daniel McCook's brigade were there, plus Colonel Post from General Mitchell's Division. The last time he saw the dispatch to the President it was with Colonel John M. Harlan, commanding the Second Brigade in the First Division, and claimed there were 21 or 31 names upon it.
This was the fight General Buell was facing among no less than 21 regiments in his army. He cross-examined General Steedman with 70 questions before court adjourned for the day. Due to General Shoepf being a prejudicial member of the court, Buell waited until after the court closed in April before declaring the discrepancy and boldly stated a mistrial.
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A further discontent with General Buell existed due to his policy of returning slaves to their former owners, instead of allowing them a place of refuge within the army encampments. This seems to have occurred in Kentucky, as well as in Mississippi where he would allow a citizen to search a camp for a runaway slave. By the time Kentucky had been reached, the Emancipation Proclamation had been given an official status of becoming active by January 1, 1863. Still it was reported that though the slaves gave honest information about the rebel army, they would always call their masters very pro-confederate. They still were not allowed refuge, but returned. It is said this act made the confederates bolder and saw it as a weakness, and what was worse, put General Buell in sympathy with the rebels. If the petition went directly to the President, which I assume it did, this was enough malignity to cast disfavor upon the General.
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December 14, 1862 was a Saturday. The court proceeded without let up, calling up Colonel A. D. Streight, in command of the 51st Indiana Volunteer Regiment. He was asked just 9 questions by the court and 5 on cross-exam, for a short day.
Sunday, December 15, the court brought Brig. Gen. T. J. Wood as their Government witness. He was asked 20 questions, and cross-examined with 16. (He also held the rank of full Colonel of the 2nd Regular Artillery).
The next day (16th, a Monday) he was cross-examined with 78 more questions by General Buell, which took all day.
On Tuesday, the 17th, the court redirected with 57 questions with objections by the General, and then Buell re-crossed with 30.
On Wednesday the 18th, Major General George H. Thomas answered 63 questions by the court, and 72 by General Buell.
Thursday, December 19, Thomas continued with 52 question by redirect, and 22 by re-cross.
Friday, December 20 was the court's 12th straight day, with but the previous Saturday being a half-day. Colonel John T. Wilder of the 17th Indiana Volunteers, who had surrendered at Munfordville, Kentucky with his whole garrison to Bragg, was called to the stand.
During 51 questions, he brought forth 9 dispatches that were transmitted while being besieged. He was only questioned 8 times by Buell.
A second witness, Morrow P. Armstrong, the Chaplain of the 36th Indiana Volunteers, was called this day. He answered 6 questions by the court, 12 by Buell on cross-exam, and 3 more on the redirect, which ended the day.
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Lubliner

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Please take note that my dates above are off by one day. Thursday was December 18, so backtracking, Wednesday was Dec. 17, Tues. the 16th, etc. Sorry, for the table calendar reference was absent at the beginning of this volume and my miscount is acknowledged.
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Tracking forward, December 20, was Saturday when the last called was the Chaplain. Sunday the court had off, and reconvened on Monday the 22nd of December. I mentioned earlier on of Speed Fry's testimony (post #16) when a list of 8 names were given. He took the stand and remained through the 23rd, (Tues.). He was asked 41 questions from the court, 82 questions on cross-exam, 17 questions on redirect, and 9 final questions on the re-cross.
Still being morning of the 23rd, Colonel G. D. Wagner of the Fifteenth Indiana Volunteers was called to the stand and sworn in. He was asked just two questions before the court broke for lunch, and was called back for that afternoon session. ( ….cont.)
Lubliner.
Edit: insert (post #16).
 

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(….cont.) That afternoon Colonel Wagner was immediately cross-examined by Buell with just 1 question, and then the court redirected with another 16.
Next up was Colonel Daniel McCook, who was a witness for the defense, and therefore was questioned first by General Buell with just one question. Asked what he knew of the events in front of Perryville on the evening of the 7th, and battle of the 8th, his answer took the rest of that Tuesday afternoon. The court posed no further question and adjourned to reconvene on the morrow, Wednesday, December 24. The next four days would be without let up, advancing onward through Christmas.
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rpkennedy

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Before going any further, allow me to recap on my initial theme, as to the Officers in command that had been called. On the first day, Colonel Lytle had admitted to being wounded and captured at Perryville, and was paroled within a couple of days. He took very seriously the oath of parole he had been sworn to and refused answering any question related to strength or composition of Bragg's army. I could not find him in the Union Order of Battle at Stone's River. He was involved in the Chickamauga Campaign and was killed. Lytle Hill is named after him on the battlefield.
McCook was a Brigadier General of the XIV Corps on the right wing Jan. 2, 1863 and suffered heavy losses. On January 9, it was formed into the XX Corps and moved through Liberty Gap on the advance at Tullahoma. At Chickamauga he again suffered heavy losses and was courts-martialed afterward, being blamed partially for the failure there. Not convicted, he did not see assignment for another year, and commanded at the Battle of Fort Stevens when General Early attacked Washington City. (Monocacy). After the war he had an illustrious career in the Army stretching through to the end of the century.
It should also be pointed out that after the Battle of Stone's River, General Rosecrans remained at Murfreesborough, Tennessee, and in spite of continuous prodding by Lincoln, Halleck, and Stanton, he did not move until the 24th of June. This allowed plenty of time for the Commission to finalize their intelligence and forward some information to base his movement upon. Was the waiting game a contrivance? Were the remarks on crops and seasonal replenishment a bogus excuse? Could the plans be determined in advance by the enemy? Or was the whole game dropped by the highest command in the Army, where vital information was ignored?
Lubliner.
Lytle may have been still recovering from his injury or he may have been awaiting exchange rather than parole. His 10th Ohio was acting as the army's provost guard at Stones River with Lt. Colonel Joseph Burke commanding. I'm not sure when his promotion came through but it was backdated to November along with dozens of others.

Ryan
 

Lubliner

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Lytle may have been still recovering from his injury or he may have been awaiting exchange rather than parole. His 10th Ohio was acting as the army's provost guard at Stones River with Lt. Colonel Joseph Burke commanding. I'm not sure when his promotion came through but it was backdated to November along with dozens of others.

Ryan
I was particularly impressed with Lytle's testimony for his brevity in response, and hardline stance on answering questions concerning rumor, or any other person without direct knowledge. Also his complete sincerity in honoring the oath of his exchange and parole. Here following are a few excerpts;
(page 67)~On what he knows of operations of General Buell during the invasion of Kentucky; "I can only give the movements of that portion of the army with which I was connected...."
(page 67)~On the surrender of Munfordville; "I know nothing of it. I know only of the movements of my own command."
(page 68)~On the cause of delay at Bowling Green; "I do not know."
(page 68)~Why the march between Bowling Green and Munfordville was so slow; "I do not know."
In other words Colonel Lytle refused speculation as part of his testimony, and took nothing for granted.
(page 72)~On knowing of the orders of his Division to march from Nashville to Kentucky; "I do not."
(page 71)~The reason preventing him from answering questions about Bragg; "My impression is that there is a provision in the forms of the parole 'that I shall not reveal anything that I might have discovered within the line of the enemy.' I therefore decline to testify on these points."
All quotes are from OR, Series 1, Volume XVI, Part 1. I have not yet investigated the status of the soldier and whether his testimony had an influence on his promotion. Thank you for your attention.
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On Wednesday morning, the 24h of December, the court opened at 10:00 a. m. and three witnesses were called, all belonging to the defense. First was Colonel C. G. Harker, of the 65th Ohio Volunteers, commanding the 12th Brigade of the 6th Division. He answered 32 questions for General Buell, and just 3 on cross-exam by the court. Second came Captain J. H. Gilham of the 19th Regiment of U. S. Infantry, and Inspector of Artillery in the Army of the Ohio. He was a member of General Buell's Staff at headquarters in the field. He answered 15 questions for General Buell, and upon cross-examination, another 17 for the court. The last witness of the day was Colonel W. P. Innes with the 1st Regiment of Michigan Engineers and Mechanics. In his answers he cited the amount of work his companies performed on the railroad bridges and tunnels, stockades, and tracks, from Corinth in June through to the battle in October. He had been asked 25 questions by General Buell, and cross-examined with 19, and stating the importance his work had for the success in moving and feeding the army. The court would close until Christmas day, and begin at 10:00, which was on the morrow, Thursday.
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Lubliner

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His biggest fault, I believe, in Lincoln's and Stanton's eyes, was Buell, 'had the slows' .
Yes, but so did Rosecrans, even more so. Quite a few faults of General Buell's leadership were brought to light during the 'trial'. He seemed to make good excuse on reasons to let the enemy proceed without attacking, and during the campaign he put no real confidence in his subordinates by discussing his options, decisions, and reasons. Thank you for your response, @OpnCoronet, and the public appraisal given for Buell's deposing; but the private matters were opinioned, and kept close.
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Lubliner

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The court held a full days session on Christmas Day in Nashville. They were being pressed for time as Rosecrans was preparing to meet the enemy at Murfreesboro and advancing on that point eastward. Four important witnesses were called forward for the Defense, and Buell began with the questions each time.
First came Major Slidell of the 15 U. S. Infantry, who had been given a special duty as Assistant Adjutant-General since July 20, 1862 in Nashville. His questions centered mainly on enemy cavalry raids in the vicinity, their strength as opposed to Federal forces, and frequency; as well as dispositions made to counter them. He answered 11 questions by Buell, 21 by the court, and 3 more on redirect.
Second was Brigadier General Negley of the United States Service. He commanded the Post at Columbia, Tennessee and from July 1st, occupied the Alabama and Tennessee Railroad from Franklin to the Tennessee River with his troops. He mentions the numerous guerilla bands in all the interior towns of that section, that were responsible for daily depredations on the tracks and cars. Negley so far had the firmest grasp on enemy strength, whereabouts, etc. than any witness thus far (page 257-265). He states he withdrew this defense force in September, removing to Nashville, where he again gives good account of what excursions were taking place with the enemy and in the army. He answered 19 questions for General Buell, and on the cross by the court, 35. Redirect was 20 more questions. (25th cont....)
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Lubliner

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The third defense witness was Brigadier General R. W. Johnson commanding Volunteers. He was on duty with the Army up to August 21st, and I believe captured with his cavalry force in Gallatin, Tennessee about that time. He makes no mention of the capture, but the next witness does. (This is an assumption on Absence I have not fully verified! Treat as such, please.) He was asked just 1 question by General Buell, and the court crossed with 17.
The last witness for Christmas Day was Colonel J. F. Miller of the 29th Indiana Regiment of Volunteers, who was commanding in July and August of 1862 in Nashville. With the 12 questions by General Buell, and 9 on the cross, it came out concerning the capture of General R. W. Johnson as he moved a cavalry force upon the enemy at Gallatin.
With Buell, the judge-advocate, and the witness, the day ended with an argument on terminology of troops, with Buell complaining the use of 'guerilla', and insisting that the enemy forces were regular troops. All during the day of testimony with every witness, the term 'guerilla' had been frequently used, and all made mention of the enemy working farms as civilians whenever approached. As soon as opportunity arose they joined up with cavalry and committed the depredations mentioned. Buell wanted to term them as 'partisan rangers' for the record, or regular troops. The disagreement remained, and the court decided in its own favor. [Edit: page 271.]
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The court met again on the next day, December 26, 1862, and made a full day of testimony. Colonel W. B. Hazen of the 41st Ohio Volunteers was called first. He was questioned by the defense concerning his movements after the battle of Perryville. He had moved in the advance on October 11th to near a mile past Danville with a regiment of Cavalry and a battery of artillery and returned. He answered 9 questions by General Buell, and then cross-examined by the court with 7. On the redirect was 6 questions by Buell and 5 more by the court. He dealt mainly with the topics of pursuit, obstacles, character of civilians, and made only vague estimates of enemy strength.
Second on the stand was Captain O. A. Mack of the 13th Infantry, who was attached to General Thomas's staff. He was questioned 6 times by General Buell, and relates carrying a message to the headquarters and returning to Thomas with a detailed map of a line of battle to be formed, late on October 8th. The court crossed him with an additional 17 questions. He spoke some on the acoustic sounds of an artillery duel heard off to the left, and had been told it was General Gay fighting with cavalry.
The last witness of the day was Capt. John G. Chandler of the quartermaster's department. He had been in charge of supplies while in the field, and spoke of Buell's lines of communication, the problem of subsistence, and the difficulty with foraging *pages 279-283). He answered 19 questions by Buell, and 25 on the cross-exam. He mentioned being at headquarters the day of the battle, Oct. 8th, and McCook visiting there about noon, before firing could be heard. Sometime about 4 p. m. several of McCook's staff came looking for their General, and feared for his safety, that they had not seen him since the fight began. This was the first definite news of the battle at headquarters. The court then adjourned for tomorrow.
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On the 27th of December, after keeping court through Christmas time, they called one witness forward. This was Captain George S. Roper of the subsistence department, a government witness, and working as a member of General Gilbert's staff on the day of battle. He was asked 21 questions regarding the day of October 8th, only, by the court, concerning his movements and what he saw take place at General Buell's headquarters, and with General Gilbert in the field. At the end of his testimony, General Buell asked no question, but replied directly to the court over this testimony stating, in part;
"....I desire to express my great gratification at his [Roper's] evidence...It is manly and direct and goes to show, to some extent, that General Gilbert, who in my opinion has been very much scandalized before this Commission, was not altogether negligent and out of place at the battle of Perryville...."; (page 285).
Of course by proving General Gilbert a competent General, this exonerated General Buell, who had put him in command over more senior officers. Buell stated he had no knowledge of Gilbert's true rank before the promotion, and once it became known, he was removed from the command.
This had also been a very strong point of contention the signers of the petition had raised, at the beginning.
Thanks for your patience, Lubliner.
 

DanSBHawk

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Lew Wallace wrote a chapter in his autobiography about his experience on the Buell Commission. As a result of the commission, Wallace's view of Buell was a bit ambivalent. Some good, some bad.
 

Lubliner

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Lew Wallace wrote a chapter in his autobiography about his experience on the Buell Commission. As a result of the commission, Wallace's view of Buell was a bit ambivalent. Some good, some bad.
I need to look into that. I was surprised to learn that General Wallace was guarding Cincinnati during the Perryville Campaign, and haven't had the chance to compare both their West Point times, but there was no animosity whatsoever between the two, and with Wallace being the sitting 'President' of the Commission, and Buell being the contender....
It is possibly the reason the whole was shelved with no charges made. An old buddies club.
Lubliner.
 


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