Proof of Sherman's 200,000 for "this" line
- I stated before that Sherman's conclusion of requiring 200,000 men was
*not* related to clearing out the Mississippi Valley, but was just for
his own line in Kentucky.
The most perfect proof of Sherman's mistakes comes from his own words.
His estimate was restated on 11/4/61. He started by writing: "I
submit this report of the forces in Kentucky and of their condition."
He then lays out in detail the disposition and condition of his
forces in Kentucky. He does not talk about the rest of the western
theatre of war. This message cannot be read as pertaining to the
Mississippi Valley. [The entire message is pasted below.]
After describing only his lines, he wrote: "I am told that my estimate
of troops needed for this line, viz, 200,000, has been construed to my
prejudice, and therefore leave it for the future. This is the great
center, on which our enemies can concentrate whatever force is not
In fact, Sherman wanted 50,000 men, just for the portion of his line
After this, on 1/19/1862, Sherman recognized and admitted his great
blunder, "In leaving Kentucky I confessed my want of ability & nerve
for that important command and the past has shown I was sadly mistaken
in the power & plans of the Enemy."
Even Sherman's sympathetic biographers, Fellman , Kennett, and
Marszalek, seem to agree, despite Sherman's later assertions that he
was talking of a broader set of needs.
P.S. As to Wood's defense of Sherman, I cannot explain it beyond
being a response to a request from a friend and/or an officer of
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND,
Louisville, Ky., November 4, 1861.
General L. THOMAS,
Adjutant-General, Washington, D. C.:
SIR: In compliance with telegraphic orders of General
McClellan received late last night, I submit this report of
the forces in Kentucky and of their condition.
The tabular statement shows the position of the several
regiments. The camp at Nolin is at the present extremity of
the Nashville Railroad. This force was thrown forward to meet
the advance of Buckner's army, which then fell back of Green
River, 23 miles beyond. These regiments were substantially
without means of transportation other than the railroad, which
is guarded at all dangerous points, yet is liable to
interruption at any moment by the tearing up of a rail by the
disaffected inhabitants or a hired enemy. These regiments are
composed of good material, but devoid of company officers of
experience, but have been put under thorough drill since being
in camp. They are generally well clad and provided for.
Beyond Green River the enemy has masked his forces, and it is
very difficult to ascertain even the approximate numbers. No
pains have been spared to ascertain them, but without success,
but it is well known that they far outnumber us. Depending,
however, on the railroads to their rear for transportation,
they have not thus far advanced this side of Green River, save
in marauding parties. This is the proper line of advance, but
will require a very large force-certainly 50,000 men-as their
railroad facilities south enable them to concentrate at
Munfordville the entire strength of the South. General
McCook's command is divided into four brigades, under General
Wood, R. W. Johnson, Rousseau, and Negley.
General Thomas' line of operations is from Lexington towards
Cumberland Gap and Ford, occupied by a force of Tennesseeans
under the command of Zollicoffer. He occupies the position at
London in front of two roads which lead to the fertile part of
Kentucky, the one by Richmond and the other by Crab Orchard,
with his reserve at Camp Dick Robinson, 8 miles south of the
Kentucky River. His provisions and stores go by railroad from
Cincinnati to Nicholasville, and thence in wagons to his
several regiments. He is forces to hire transportation.
Brigadier-General Nelson is operating on the line from
Olympian Springs, east of Paris, on the Covington and
Lexington Railroad, towards Prestonburg, in the valley of the
Big Sandy, where is assembled a force of from 2,500 to 3,500
Kentuckians, waiting re-enforcements from Virginia. My last
report from him was to October 28, at which time he had
Colonel Harris' Second Ohio, 900 strong; Colonel Norton's
Twenty-First Ohio, 1,000; and Colonel Sill's Thirty-third
Ohio, 750 strong, with two irregular Kentucky regiments,
Colonels Marshall and
PAGE333 CHAP. XII.] CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.-UNION.
Metcalf. These troops were on the road near Hazel Green and
West Liberty, advancing towards Prestonburg.
Upon an inspection of the map you will observe these are all
divergent lines, but rendered necessary from the fact that our
enemies in the State chose them as places of refuge from
pursuit and there cluster to receive the assistance of
neighboring States. Our lines are all too week, probably, with
the exception of that of Prestonburg. To strengthen them I am
thrown on the raw levies of Ohio and Indiana, who arrive in
detachments perfectly fresh from the country and loaded down
with baggage; also upon the Kentuckians, who are slowly
forming regiments all over the State at points remove from
danger, and whom it will be an almost impossible task to
assemble together. The organization of this latter force is by
the laws of Kentucky under the control of a military board at
the capital (Frankfort) and they think they will be enable to
have 15 regiments towards the middle of this month, but I
doubt it, and deem it unsafe to rely on them.
There are four regiments forming in the neighborhood of
Owensborough, near the mouth of Green River, who are doing
good service; also in the neighborhood of Cambellsville, but
it is unsafe to rely on troops so suddenly armed and equipped.
They are not yet clothed or uniformed. I know well you will
think our force too widely distributed, but we are forced to
it by the attitude of our enemies, whose force and numbers the
country never has and probably never will comprehend. I am
told that my estimate of troops needed for this line, viz,
200,000, has been construed to my prejudice, and therefore
leave it for the future. This is the great center, on which
our enemies can concentrate whatever force is not employed
Detailed statements of present force inclosed with this.
With great respect, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN,