Don C. Buell

From Ohio History Central

Don Carlos Buell was a Union military leader from Ohio during the American Civil War.

Buell was born on March 23, 1818, near Marietta, Ohio. His father died in 1825, and Buell went to live with an uncle in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Buell attended public schools, and proved himself a fair student. In 1837, he received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Buell graduated from this institution in 1841, ranking thirty-second in a class of fifty-two graduates. Upon graduation, Buell embarked upon a military career. He participated in both the Seminole War and the Mexican War. In the Mexican War, He was wounded at the Battle of Churubusco. Buell moved slowly up the ranks, finally attaining the rank of brevet major in early 1861.

When the American Civil War began, Buell was serving as an assistant adjutant general. With his military experience, he quickly was promoted to brigadier-general. Buell reported to Washington, DC, in September 1861, where he served as a division commander in the Army of the Potomac under George McClellan. In November of that same year, Buell succeeded William T. Sherman as commander of the Department of the Ohio. He helped organize the thousands of volunteers reporting for duty from Ohio and surrounding states. He also prepared Ohio's defenses for a Confederate attack.

As commander of the Department of Ohio, Buell was also the leader of the Army of the Ohio. During 1862, Buell played an important role in securing Kentucky and Tennessee for the Union. As General Ulysses S. Grant advanced on Confederate Forts Henry and Donelson in February 1862, the Army of the Ohio advanced into Tennessee. Buell's command succeeded in capturing Nashville in central Tennessee, although President Abraham Lincoln and General Henry Halleck wanted Buell to secure eastern Tennessee for the Union. Following the capture of Nashville, Buell went to assist Grant's army along the Tennessee River. Before Buell could arrive, a Confederate army attacked Grant's men, resulting in the Battle of Shiloh on April 6 and 7. On the first day, the Union soldiers were surprised, outnumbered and almost defeated. In the evening, the Army of the Ohio arrived. The combined forces of Buell and Grant drove the Confederates from the battlefield the next day.

Following Shiloh, Buell led the Army of the Ohio against Corinth, Mississippi. Grant eventually detached the Army of the Ohio to advance on the important railroad center of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Before the Army of the Ohio could capture the city, Buell had to fall back into Kentucky, because a Confederate army under Braxton Bragg had invaded the state. On October 8, 1862, Buell caught Bragg's force at Perryville, Kentucky. While Buell claimed victory, the battle was more of a draw. Bragg withdrew his army southwards. Buell failed to pursue the retreating Confederates, claiming that he lacked the necessary supplies to carry out an offensive. On October 24, 1862, Union military and political officials relieved Buell from command because of this inactivity.

For the next six months, a military commission, chaired by General Lew Wallace, investigated Buell's actions. Buell remained on inactive duty in Cincinnati for the entire time that the committee met. The commission drafted a report of its findings but did not release it to the public. Buell was eventually offered new battlefield commands, but he refused to take these commissions under officers that he once outranked. He resigned his commission on June 1, 1864.

Many Northerners refused to honor Buell for his military service during the Civil War, accusing him of being sympathetic with the Confederates. He did support George McClellan in the presidential election of 1864 against Abraham Lincoln. In the latter years of the war, he openly attacked the Union leadership for how it was waging the war. With the war's conclusion, Buell went into a coal and iron ore mining business in Kentucky. He died on November 19, 1898, in Rockport, Kentucky.

See Also


  1. Chumney, James Robert. Don Carlos Buell: Gentleman General. Houston, TX: Rice University Press, 1964.
  2. Dee, Christine, ed. Ohio's War: The Civil War in Documents. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007.  
  3. Engle, Stephen Douglas. Don Carlos Buell: Most Promising of All. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
  4. Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of Rebellion, 1861-1866. Akron, OH: The Werner Company, 1893.  
  5. Reid, Whitelaw. Ohio in the War: Her Statesmen, Generals and Soldiers. Cincinnati, OH: Clarke, 1895.
  6. Roseboom, Eugene H. The Civil War Era: 1850-1873. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1944.