September 1862 General Order Issued by General William "Bull" Nelson a Week Before his Murder - Heartland Offensive - Louisville in Danger - "We will give them a bloody welcome!"

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September 1862 General Order Issued by General William "Bull" Nelson a Week Before his Murder - Heartland Offensive - Louisville in Danger - "We will give them a bloody welcome!"

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Item No. 4183494

A very interesting September 1862 general order issued by General William “Bull” Nelson to the soldiers defending Louisville, Kentucky. Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s Heartland Offensive was in full swing—his men had forced the surrender of the federal garrison at Munfordville on September 16 and Union generals across the Ohio River states were bracing for a storm. This included Nelson in Louisville, who, on September 22, sparked panic by ordering women and children to be evacuated from the city. General Order No. 17, offered here, was issued the same day. It reads:

Head-Quarters Army of Kentucky,
Louisville, Sept. 22, 1862.

General Order
No. 17.

SOLDIERS!—
Intelligence has reached me that the Rebel hordes who are now ravaging the fair land of Kentucky are advancing to attack this city.

We will give them a bloody welcome! Let every man feel the importance of this occasion, and do his whole duty!

A little patience and energy is all that is required. Be attentive to the commands of your officers. Keep stay in your ranks, and fire cooly and with aim, and victory will attend us.

Officers will set an example to their soldiers of resolution, patience and endurance; and make good, by their bearing, their pretensions to the rank which their several States have conferred on them.

Fellow-soldiers! shoulder to shoulder we will meet the enemy, and rival on the plains of Louisville the glory won by our fellow-soldiers at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Pea Ridge, and other memorable fields of honor.

W. NELSON, Major General Commanding.

This copy of the order has additional handwriting on the front indicating that it was given to Private George Washington Phillips of the 117th Ohio by General Nelson’s orderly. He held on to it at least until after Nelson’s death on September 29 (the General had been murdered by General Jefferson C. Davis in the lobby of the Galt House in Louisville). Phillips’s note reads:

This was printed by General Nelson & his orderly gave them away to the soldiers before he was shot & this was handed to me & I meant to have sent it home long time ago.

Father you can have it if you want it.

From your son who tries to do his duty.
George Washington Phillips

In the end Louisville would be spared. Reinforcements from Buell’s Army of the Ohio arrived to bolster the city’s defenses. Shifting his attention from Louisville, Bragg turned his Confederate army east, where he would meet Buell in October at Perryville. He’d achieve a tactical victory there, but would be forced to abandon the offensive and retreat back into Tennessee.

The order measures about 5” x 7 3/4” and is in very good condition. Light toning and foxing. There are several horizontal creases where originally folded. It’s easy to imagine Phillips stuffing this in his pocket while on the march.

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