Don Carlos Buell

Don Carlos Buell, a descendant of a Welshman who came to Connecticut in the 1630's, was born in what is now Lowell, Ohio, on March 23, 1818. Having passed most of his boyhood in the home of an uncle in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, he was appointed to West Point in 1837 and was graduated in the celebrated class of 1841, which contributed twenty general officers to the Civil War. Buell's class standing, thirty-second out of fifty-two, caused him to be posted to the 3rd Infantry, with which he served against the Florida Indians, on garrison and frontier duty, and in the Mexican War. He was severely wounded at the battle of Churubusco and won the brevets of captain and major. Buell then transferred from line to staff and for the next thirteen years performed the duties of the adjutant general's department, serving at the headquarters of a number of military departments on the frontier, as well as in the East, including Washington. At the outbreak of war he was in San Francisco as adjutant of the Department of the Pacific with rank of lieutenant colonel. Prior to his departure from the coast he was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers on May 17, 1861. After his arrival in Washington in September, he assisted in organizing and training the embryonic Army of the Potomac. George B. McClellan selected Buell to lead a force from Kentucky (the Army of the Ohio) into East Tennessee by way of Louisville and Knoxville. Because of the lack of roads and rail facilities, Buell urged an alternative: an advance via the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers toward Nashville. Despite the opposition of both Abraham Lincoln and McClellan, Buell's idea was carried out with only minor changes. Buell's plan may have been a contributing factor to the success of U. S. Grant, whose victories at Forts Henry and Donelson enabled Buell with his fifty thousand men to march into Nashville virtually unopposed. He later arrived at Shiloh in time to stem the Confederate assault of the first day and turn almost certain defeat into victory. Buell then served under Henry W. Halleck in the Corinth campaign, and was promoted to major general of volunteers on March 22, 1862. In June he was detached with four divisions under orders to advance on Chattanooga and to repair the Memphis & Charleston Railroad as he went. Buell's forces were continuously harassed by Confederate cavalry, and John H. Morgan arrested the advance in July by destroying Buell's line of supply to Louisville. In September, Buell moved into Kentucky to resist the invasion of the state by the Confederates Braxton Bragg and Edmund Kirby Smith. He occupied Louisville unopposed and on October 8 fought the bloody but indecisive battle of Perryville. Bragg yielded the field to the Federals, but Buell followed too slowly. As a result, he was relieved from command on the twenty-fourth of the month, and on the thirtieth was succeeded by W. S. Rosecrans. Accused of dilatory tactics, he was investigated by a military commission in November, but no recommendations were made. After more than a year of awaiting orders, he was mustered out of volunteer service in May, 1864, and on June 1 resigned his regular commission. Although subsequently recommended by U. S. Grant for restoration to duty, he was not recommissioned and consequently retired to a civilian career, operating an ironworks and a coal mine in Kentucky, where he settled. He was also for a time (1885-89) a government pension agent. During the war Buell ignored political considerations; he had a Southern-born wife and he was a friend of McClellan. He was also reserved in manner and was thought to be unfriendly to the administration. These deficiencies were not compensated for by his abilities as organizer, disciplinarian, and logistician. He died at his home in the now abandoned village of Airdrie, a mile from the hamlet of Paradise, Kentucky, on November 19, 1898, and was buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis.

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Reference:  Generals in Blue.  Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner.  Louisiana State University Press.  Baton Rouge.