Sunday, 5 April 2015

CSA Department of Western Kentucky

Department of West Kentucky – Order of Battle, March 1865

This brief order of battle has been compiled chiefly from OR Volumes XLV.1 and XLIX.1, which contain them a number of documents pertaining to the Department. The former includes General Lyon's report of his actions during the Nashville campaign, including the makeup of his force; the latter including Taylor's proposed reassignment of General Lyon, Lyon's protests to Richmond regarding this, and an Inspector-General's report on Morgan's Men which mentions men of Johnson's regiment serving in this Department.

Department of Western Kentucky – OOB, March 1865
Brigadier General Hiram B. Lyon

250 Cavalry [Paris, Tennessee]

The small cadre under Lyon's command, based at Paris in Tennessee, were the remnants of an 800 strong raiding force that had operated in Tennessee and Kentucky during Hood's Nashville campaign. The raiders had been largely new recruits, some sourced by enforcing the draft laws. The balance consisted of members of Johnson's veteran Kentucky cavalry regiment, who had arrived with that general when he had had command of the Department. The raid was largely successful in achieving its objectives, but led to the near destruction of Lyon's force between battlefield casualties and wholesale desertion once the troops learned that Hood had left Tennessee (500 deserted, according to Lyon). Both his artillery pieces were captured as well.

This left him with “250 undrilled men”. Taylor sought to dissolve the command, but Lyon sent a passionate letter defending his Department's existence, on the basis that it constituted a distraction to the Federals and was of little use to anyone further south. It is hard to know exactly how accurate his appraisal was; there is little or no Federal mention of his command after the Nashville campaign. If perhaps he had gathered together a few more men and conducted another raid, he may have been proven correct. We may say more surely that he was correct in the second part of his argument; 250 extra men were unlikely to have made a great deal of difference further south, especially given their general quality.

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