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Simon Bolivar Buckner
Civil War Encyclopedia >> People - Confederate Military
As inspector general of the Kentucky militia, early in the war Simon Bolivar Buckner met with George McClellan to assure him that Kentucky would remain neutral and not attack Cincinnati. McClellan in turn promised Buckner that Union forces would not invade Kentucky unless the state's neutrality was threatened by Confederate forces. President Abraham Lincoln wrote Buckner on July 10, 1861, reiterating McClellan's pledge.
On August 17, with Buckner still in charge of the Kentucky militia, Lincoln secretly approved a commission at the rank of Brigadier General for Buckner. Buckner refused. After Confederate troops under Gideon Pillow invaded Kentucky from Tennessee, occupying Columbus, Ulysses S. Grant seized Paducah. On September 13, 1861 Buckner showed exactly where his loyalty lay, calling for Kentuckians to take up arms against the northern invaders. The following day Buckner accepted a commission as brigadier general in the Confederate States of America Army.
He was placed in charge of state troops in central Kentucky, although the once neutral Kentucky sided with the Union following the occupation of Columbus. Under the command of Albert Sidney Johnston, Buckner took Bowling Green on September 18 with his Central Division of Kentucky. The Central Division was renamed the Central Army of Kentucky and early in October, 1861, when Buckner reported increased Yankee activity, William Hardee came from Missouri to take command. Buckner was put in charge of a division and command of a second division was given to John Floyd.
When Johnston's right flank evaporated following the Battle of Mill Springs, Simon Bolivar Buckner and some of his men were ordered to assist in the defense of Fort Donelson, Tennessee at the request of fort commander Gideon Pillow. Meanwhile, Floyd and his brigade was detached and ordered to scout the Cumberland River. Hardee prepared to move the rest of the Central Army of Kentucky to Nashville from Bowling Green.
Johnston decided John Floyd should advance to take command of the Confederate forces at Donelson to strengthen his center, but did not take into account the aggressive nature of General Ulysses S. Grant. Advancing quickly from Fort Henry, Grant invested Donelson, which contained 15,000 troops and three generals, Buckner, Pillow and Floyd, in overall command. Buckner was the lowest ranking of the three.
Following an abortive breakout attempt on February 15, General Floyd abandoned the fort, quickly followed by General Pillow. Buckner surrendered the fort the next when Grant issued his "unconditional surrender" demand. The next 6 months Buckner spent in a Yankee prisoner-of-war camp in Boston Harbor. Upon his release, Buckner was promoted to Major General and joined Braxton Bragg as a division commander in the advance on Perryville. At the battle of Perryville, Buckner's division battled the right flank of the federal army, under the command of Alexander McCook.
During Bragg's withdrawal from Kentucky Buckner was reassigned to over see coastal defenses in the Gulf of Mexico, and later to the Department of East Tennessee. After the end of the Tullahoma Campaign, Buckner was reassigned to Bragg, rejoining him as a corps commander. At Chickamauga, his corps consisted of Bushrod Johnston's division, Alexander P. Stewart's division and William Preston's division. During the first day his men pierced the Union line about 1/2 mile north of the Brotherton Cabin, but quick action on the part of William Hazen, Eli Lilly and others turned the tide for the federals.
On the second day Bragg hastily reorganized his corps into a Left Wing and Right Wing. Buckner operated under James Longstreet and participated in the breakthrough at Brotherton Cabin. After routing the Army of the Cumberland Buckner led senior staff in speaking out against Bragg and his performance since Perryville. As a result of his outspokenness, he was reassigned to Longstreet's Corps (another critic of Bragg's) and left for Knoxville before the Battles of Chattanooga.
For the rest of the Civil War Buckner was in command of the Department of East Tennessee and at the end of the war, the Trans-Mississippi Department. In 1887 he ran for governor of Kentucky as a Democrat, defeating William Bradley in the election. Notable among his accomplishments as governor was his work on standardization of the parole and school systems. His son, Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., rose to the rank of Lieutenant General before being killed in battle on the island of Okinawa.
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Simon Bolivar Buckner was last changed on - November 24, 2007
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