On this day in 1862, Union General Don Carlos Buell is replaced because of his ineffective pursuit of the Confederates after the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky, on October 8. He was replaced by William Rosecrans, who had distinguished himself in western Virginia in 1861 and provided effective leadership at the battle of Corinth, Mississippi, just prior to Perryville.
Buell, an Ohio native, served with distinction in the Mexican War. (1846-48)When the Civil War began, he became a brigadier general in the Army of the Potomac. In November 1861, General George McClellan recommended Buell to replace William T. Sherman as commander of the Department of the Ohio. Arriving too late to mount an overland offensive, Buell sent troops up the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers in the winter, resulting in the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson by General Ulysses S. Grant. In 1862, Buell fought at Shiloh, Tennessee,and Corinth, Mississippi, before returning to Kentucky to head a Confederate invasion in the fall of1862.
At Perryville, Buell’s army met Rebel leader Braxton Bragg’s force as Bragg was driving northward. In a bloody but indecisive engagement, the Yankees halted Bragg’s advance. Buell’s force outnumbered Bragg’s, so the Confederates began to retreat back to Tennessee. Buell offered a weak and slow pursuit,enabling Bragg’s army to slip safely away. President Abraham Lincoln was distressed by Buell’s inaction. He was already frustrated with both Buell and McClellan, who allowed General Robert E. Lee’s army to escape to Virginia just three weeks prior to Perryville. Lincoln also saw the Democrat Buell, who was outspoken in his criticism of the Emancipation Proclamation, as a political liability.
Buell was upset with his removal and demanded a trial to restore his reputation. After five months of testimony, he was cleared of any wrongdoing or army mismanagement. His military career was effectively over, however. He settled in Kentucky after the war and died in 1898.