Battle Of Munfordville Ky - Pair Of 9/16/1862 Surrender Letters - Wilder & Bragg
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Battle Of Munfordville Ky - Pair Of 9/16/1862 Surrender Letters - Wilder & Bragg:
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You are purchasing the exact two hand-carried letters shown in the photographs--first the Union's from Colonel Wilder who commanded Munfordville's Union Forces and its garrison.
Head Qtrs U. S. Forces
Munfordsville, KY Sept 16th 1862
At a consultation
of officers of this command held since
dark this evening, it is agreed upon that
if satisfactory evidence is given them of your
ability to make good your assertions of
largely superior numbers, so as to make the
defense of this position a useless waste of human
life, we will treat as to terms of honorable surrender.
I am sir
Yours & c
J. T. Wilder
To Braxton Bragg
Gen. Com'g C. S. forces
and then the Confederate from what must have been an exhausted General Braxton Bragg:
Headqtrs C. S. Forces
Near Munfordville KY
16 Sept. 1862 10 P.M.
By Reference to my Note you
will see it was only stipulated that
"no firing will take place if your
troops keep within their lines
before 9: o'clock P.M." This condition
has been complied with.
Your Obt servant,
Col. J. T. Wilder
Commdg U. S. Forces
Condition: The Union letter--folded into sixths--has a piece gone from the lower right--probably contemporaneously--and has some light staining on the reverse from perhaps being mounted to be displayed to troops. The Confederate letter is in excellent condition, also folded into sixths. Both have some minor wrinkling.
Here's the history I have written to accompany these two letters (one from the Federals and one from the Confederates) with help from Internet Sources:
The Battle of Munfordville (also known as the Battle of Green River) was a military engagement in Kentucky during the American Civil War. Victory there allowed the Confederates to briefly strengthen their hold on the region and impair Union supply lines.
On August 26, 1862, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg's army left Chattanooga, Tennessee and marched north through Sparta, TN and then to Glasgow, KY. Pursued by Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell's Union Army, Bragg approached Munfordville on September 12-14, a station on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad and the location of a key 1,800 foot long railroad bridge crossing Green River.
Federal Colonel John T. Wilder commanded the Union garrison at Munfordville and--effectively the town--which consisted of three regiments behind extensive fortifications. Wilder's occupation force was first approached and then fully-engaged by Confederate Brig. Gen. James R. Chalmers, who marched on Munfordville from Cave City, KY without orders from General Braxton Bragg. Chalmers had received an erroneous report from Confederate Cavalry under Kirby Smith that the federal force in Munfordville had "not more than 1,800 men, entirely raw troops, and that they were fortifying their position, but that the railroad and telegraph had been destroyed in their rear, cutting them off completely from all communication and re-enforcements." Upon fully arriving on September 14, Chalmers demanded a surrender, which was rejected by Colonel Wilder, and then proceeded to launch frontal assaults that were repulsed by the Federal defenders. Chalmers' brigade suffered 288 casualties in the attacks before retreating back to Cave City.
Confederate General Braxton Bragg was angry at Chalmers for his "unauthorized and injudicious" assault, but was determined to force Munfordville's surrender by Federal Colonel Wilder nonetheless. Bragg believed that leaving Munfordville intact would "throw a gloom upon the whole Confederate Army [but forcing its (Munfordville’s) surrender would] turn defeat into victory."
Bragg's forces made a forced march of 25–35 miles the night of September 15–16 to the edges of the Town of Munfordville. Late on September 16, realizing that General Buell's Federal forces were threatening nearby, and not wishing to kill or injure innocent civilians in Munfordville, the Confederates sent various demands for surrender. Colonel Wilder—commanding the town and its garrison—thought Bragg was bluffing and did not realize the proximity of General Buell's Union Forces. He wanted to see the Confederate lines and fortifications for himself in order to be able to verify Braxton Bragg’s claim that his (Bragg’s) force was “far superior.” Colonel Wilder entered the Confederate lines blindfolded under a Flag of Truce. Confederate Maj. Gen. Simon B. Buckner removed his blindfold and escorted him to view the Confederate strength, which was enough to convince him that further resistance was futile. Realizing the odds he faced (45 cannon and 25,000+ infantry), Federal Colonel Wilder agreed to surrender and he (Wilder) and Bragg exchanged notes delivered by couriers under additional Flags of Truce to negotiate a specific moment for the cessation of hostilities—9:00 p.m.
The Union letter here I believe to be the first Wilder sent back to Bragg after he (Wilder) returned from the Confederate Lines to confer with his command staff.
The Confederate letter here is I believe to be one that Bragg sent to Wilder to confirm that Federal troops were obeying the terms of a 9:00 p.m. order to hold their positions as of 9:00 p.m.
The formal ceremony took place the next day (the 17th). The paroled Federals marched out of Munfordville with new uniforms. W.L. Trask, a Confederate soldier, said the federals "were well clothed, looked fat and sleek and clean and neat and were in strange contrast to our own hungry, ragged and dirty looking rebels."
Despite the capture of over 4,000 Federals and stores of supplies at Munfordville, the victory did little for the Confederates other than slow them down. Author Kenneth W. Noe said "Unless he [Bragg] intended to fight it out along the Green River, an idea that flickered only briefly under duress, Munfordville was a three-day distraction the Confederate cause could ill afford." The incident is a good example of how Bragg had little overall vision for the Kentucky Campaign and instead simply reacted from event to event.
These letters were preserved among the papers of Confederate Surgeon T. A. LaFar and this is the first time they have been offered publicly with adequate descriptions accompanied by a history and provenance.
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