THE CONFEDERATE HEARTLAND OFFENSIVE

In August of 1862, Confederate generals Braxton Bragg and Kirby Smith moved their armies north into Kentucky to perform the Confederate Heartland Offensive. Smith left Knoxville on August 14, with around 10,000 men and on August 29, Confederate Cavalry under Patrick Cleburne began skirmishing with Union Infantry on the road to Richmond from Big Hill. During the Afternoon, Union artillery and infantry reinforced the Union skirmishers and forced the Confederates back to Big Hill. The next day, the Confederate army surged forward, doing away with the skirmishers, and met the Union infantry near Zion Church. Reinforcements came to the aid of both sides throughout the day. After artillery bombardments from both sides, the Confederates delivered a right hook and the Union lines broke. The Union army then made an unsuccessful stand in their camp but once again was pushed back. A last stand was made in a cemetery outside Richmond but again the resistance was swept aside.

The battle ended with 4,000 Union soldiers captured and around 1,000 killed or wounded. The Confederate casualties numbered only about 400

On September 14, Confederate troops under James R. Chalmers (under Bragg’s command) approached the vital town of Munfordville, Kentucky. There, they met 4,000 Union troops under John T. Wilders and demanded they surrender, to which Wilders refused. The following attack went extremely well for the Union, as they lost 37 men to the Confederate 283 men. After a two day siege Wilders entered the Confederate camp under a flag of truce and asked Confederate Maj. Gen. Simon B. Buckner if he should surrender, to which Bragg ordered Buckner to give Wilders a tour of the Confederate camp and convince him to surrender. Wilders agreed, and so 4,000 Union soldiers were captured without much of a fight.

In August of 1862, Confederate forces under Braxton Bragg and Kirby Smith penetrated deep in Kentucky’s unstable and split homesteads. Both commanders had achieved great victories with thousands of prisoners to show off because of them. Smith had even pushed so far as to capture Lexington and threaten Cincinnati. This forced Northern states to throw thousands of men into a makeshift force, many of who were raw recruits. But the two generals were performing separately and needed to unite to create a uniform and more organized advance. Before doing so, however, the Union attacked Bragg at Perryville. The Union army sped toward the Confederate lines, forcing some regiments to be late and out of position when the battle started. It started with skirmishes between the 10th Indiana and and 7th Arkansas around Peter’s Hill on October 7-8, which later spread to other units and turned into full fighting. In the afternoon of October 8, the Confederates delivered a blow to the Union left, forcing it back.

The Confederate advance soon was halted with Union reinforcements stabalizing their line. After another futile Confederate attack on the Union left flank, the Union counterattacked and broke into Perryvile itself. Outnumbered and exhausted, Braxton Bragg pulled the Confederate army away from Perryville and later out of Kentucky altogether, ignoring any and all protests from his subordinates. Kirby Smith pulled out with him, unable to support an offensive by himself. Bragg’s retreat became extremely controversial, even prompting him to be summoned to Richmond to explain himself. The Confederates could have easily remained and fought for Kentucky. Instead, the Confederates forfeited the state to the Union and decided to cut their losses. The Heartland Offensive or Kentucky Campaign thus was referred to as more of a “giant raid”, though this is not the case.

-By Southern Revivalist

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