Thomas at Louisville
- There have been many posts in the past about Thomas' reluctance to
replace Buell at Louisville.
I'm surprised that it seems not to have been mentioned--at least not
lately--that other significant events were taking place that very
day. Early that morning, Gen. Jefferson C. Davis shot Gen. William
Nelson to death at the Galt House. Davis was accompanied by the
Governor of Indiana. With the situation in the city getting out of
control in the aftermath of the shooting, Buell responded by sending
a "strong provost guard into the streets and ordering the army into
its camps, canceling the parade of the Third Division scheduled for
that afternoon." Davis was arrested.
There was also mention of other political intrigues, the possibility
that Buell was to be replaced by McCook, and great distrust between
the Indiana and Kentucky factions. Mr. Wakefield provided a very
comprehensive write-up on Nelson and Davis which can be found at
Message #3353. It included the statement that, "Buell was
unquestionably one of his admirers and planned for Nelson to play a
significant role in the upcoming campaign to re-take Kentucky."
According to Kevin S. Coy's excerpt (Message #5961) from Cist's "The
Army of the Cumberland," the AotO had also just finished arriving
that day and Buell was going to incorporate into it inexperienced
soldiers under Gilbert (I'd guess that they might have been under the
command of Nelson or Davis until earlier that morning).
Someone here had mentioned that Buell's advance toward Bardstown was
scheduled for the next day, but didn't start until the day after due
to the possible change in leadership. The article I read in Civil
War History also noted: "Senator Garrett Davis and two Kentucky
representatives added the weight of their influence against the
change. Halleck accepted the advice of the political leaders and
agreed to suspend--not withdraw--the order."
Thus, the situation in Louisville wasn't as simple as some people
- The first chapter ("article") of the Civil War Army Regulations:
1. All inferiors are required to obey strictly, and to execute with
alacrity and good faith, the lawful orders of the superiors appointed
There is nothing wrong about raising some questions about an order --
which Thomas did. But when the order is given, an officer (whether in
1862 or 2001) is to obey the order. When CW generals turned down orders
to take command, the War Department respected and accepted those
refusals: an unwilling commander is likely to be worse than an
In Thomas' case(s), when offered army or independent command, he
consistently turned the offer down (until Chattanooga). To me -- and I
imagine to Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Stanton and Gen. Halleck -- that is the same
as telling your superior that you have no desire for such a position.
Judy and Bob Huddleston
10643 Sperry Street
Northglenn, CO 80234-3612
You stated, "a soldier has the responsibility to obey an order. Was
it customary or allowable for a general to question his superiors
about an order?
You stated, "Thomas refused." No, he didn't.
You stated, "Since Thomas had told them that he had no desire to be
an Army commander ...." I'm sorry, but I must have missed something;
when did Thomas say that?