Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July 28, 1861 (Sunday): Bishop Polk Is Surprised at the Offering

General (and Bishop) Leonidas K. Polk

                                                            HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT NO. 2,
                                                            Memphis, Tenn., July 28, 1861.

HON. L. P. WALKER, Secretary of War:
   I had the honor of addressing you a few days ago, informing you of a movement I was contemplating on Missouri.  I submitted a statement of what I understood to be the force which had been collected by Generals McCulloch and Pearce, or Arkansas, General Price, of Missouri, and General Hardee.  The information submitted was based, as far as the commands of the first three generals are concerned, on information I obtained from Governor Jackson, of Missouri, who came directly from their respective camps.  Upon the supposition that this information was correct it was that my letter containing the plan of campaign I submitted was written.  Since dispatching that letter I have directed General Pillow to move a column of 6,000 across the river to New Madrid.  The details of the movement have been left to him, hand the forces employed were exclusively those hitherto belonging to his command.  Part were taken from Randolph and part from Union City.  General Cheatham accompanied him, and I have ordered General Clark to move up from Corinth to Union City the two Mississippi regiments at that place to replace those withdrawn and himself to replace General Cheatham in the command of that post.  I have not as yet heard from General Pillow the result of the movement beyond Randolph. The boats with troops from that point left there last night.
   Since yesterday I have had to arrive at headquarters the gentleman who is bearer of this, Colonel Little, adjutant-general of the forces of Missouri.  He comes directly from General Price’s camp.  From him I learn that the force stated to be under the command of the respective generals above, as stated by Governor Jackson, is greatly exaggerated, to the extent, indeed, of one-half          ….
   This abatement of the force disposable for the invasion of Missouri has caused me to pause in the execution of the pan indicated.  I shall proceed to fortify my position at New Madrid, with the view of making it a base of operations, and will move forward as soon as circumstances will allow.
   My opinion is, nevertheless, that now is the time to operate in Missouri, if we are to do anything towards setting her on her feet again; and I am also satisfied that the enemy in Virginia will be content for some months to come with their experiences at Manasssas, and that they will make no forward movement there very soon.  That will set them free to act in the West, and they will most probably commence active operations in Missouri.  In that event we must have additional troops, and I submit whether I be not authorized to collect a force in Tennessee and from the States below sufficient to enable us to act vigorously in Missouri, while we maintain a strong position in front of Kentucky, ready for any contingency that may arise in that quarter.
    I remain, respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                                                    L. POLK,
                                                Major-General, Commanding Second Department…

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 3, page 614. 

An Episcopal bishop, kin to President James Polk, he was a classmate of Jefferson Davis at West Point.  He accepted a commission from Davis in late June and was given the mission of fortifying and defending the Mississippi River.  Nothing came of the movement he discusses here, but his occupation of Columbus, Kentucky in September of 1861 in response to Grant’s movement into the state violated Kentucky’s neutrality and harmed the Southern cause in the region.

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