November 9, 1861 – The U.S. War Department issued General Orders No. 97, authorizing a major military reorganization.
The orders were intended to divide the various military departments west of the Alleghenies into more manageable jurisdictions. Previously, the Western Department had included all states west of the Mississippi and east of the Rockies (as well as Illinois and the New Mexico Territory). The orders divided the organization into several smaller departments:
- The Department of Missouri
- The Department of Kansas
- The Department of New Mexico
Major General Henry W. Halleck was assigned to command the Department of Missouri with headquarters at St. Louis. This consisted of Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Kentucky west of the Cumberland River. Halleck’s primary tasks were to reorganize John C. Fremont’s former command and direct operations on the Mississippi and Tennessee rivers.
Halleck had taught at West Point and written a textbook on military strategy; his reputation as a respected military theorist earned him the nickname “Old Brains.” He quickly replaced corruption and mismanagement with efficiency and discipline, but his Napoleonic concepts of strategy did not necessarily translate to the frontier-style of war in the West.
Within the Department of Missouri, Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant’s command was changed from the District of Southeast Missouri to the District of Cairo. Grant absorbed General C.F. Smith’s small district covering the mouth of the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers.
Major General David Hunter, the former interim commander of the Western Department, was assigned to command the new Department of Kansas. This consisted of Kansas, the Indian Territory, and the Colorado, Nebraska, and Dakota territories. Before taking command, Hunter complied with President Lincoln’s order to pull the Federal forces in Missouri back from Springfield to Rolla.
Colonel E.R.S. Canby, an officer with frontier fighting experience, was assigned to command the Department of New Mexico. His primary objective was to confront the rapidly gathering Confederates under Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley. The department consisted of the New Mexico Territory (now New Mexico and Arizona), including the western New Mexico Territory, which had formerly been part of the Department of the Pacific.
In addition to dividing the Western Department, Brigadier General Don Carlos Buell was assigned to command the new Department of the Ohio, with headquarters at Louisville. This absorbed the former Departments of the Ohio and the Cumberland, and it consisted of Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky east of the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers. Buell replaced Brigadier General William T. Sherman, who had suffered a nervous breakdown while commanding in Kentucky; Sherman was assigned to report to Halleck at St. Louis.
Flaws were soon exposed in this new organization, especially regarding the jurisdictions of Halleck and Buell. Both men resisted cooperating with each other and each man wanted to be in command of the combined area.
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