Media Relations Officer, Public Affairs Office
Dec. 16, 2012
Following his October 8, 1862 defeat at Perryville, Ky., Maj. Gen. Braxton Bragg, commander of the Army of Mississippi, withdrew leaving Kentucky in control of the Union. Facing a lack of supplies and dwindling prospects for success, Bragg’s army fell back through Cumberland Gap eventually reaching the town of Murfreesboro, Tenn. in late November 1862. Bragg’s army was reorganized and redesignated as the Army of Tennessee, a sobriquet it would carry until its tattered remnants disintegrated at the Siege of Nashville two years later.
Ordered to send reinforcements to bolster Confederate defenses at Vicksburg, Miss., Bragg’s army had dwindled to just two corps under command of Maj. Gens. William Hardee and Leonidas Polk. Author of Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics, Hardee had literally written the book of tactics by which the Civil War was largely fought. Polk meanwhile was a political appointee who had served as a Bishop in the Episcopal Church prior to the War. While Hardee and Polk had widely dissimilar backgrounds they were united in their contempt and distrust of Bragg – a sentiment shared by most of their division commanders.
Whereas Bragg dealt with a divided command, Union Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans faced pressure of a different kind. Rosecrans was Abraham Lincoln’s choice to replace Don Carlos Buell who, like previous Union generals, had failed to move with the alacrity the chief executive demanded. As Rosecrans set out from Nashville in pursuit of Bragg, the memory of the Battle of Fredericksburg, not two weeks old, hung over the North with a thick melancholy. The Union needed victories, and Lincoln made it clear, if Rosecrans did not deliver them the President would find someone who would.