Reorganizing the Department of the Mississippi

July 15, 1862 – As Major General Henry W. Halleck prepared to go to Washington to become general-in-chief, he reorganized the armies within his Department of the Mississippi.

Generals H.W. Halleck and U.S. Grant

Halleck summoned his second-in-command, Major General Ulysses S. Grant, from Memphis: “You will immediately repair to this place and report to these headquarters.” Grant, unaware why Halleck was summoning him, asked if he should come alone. Halleck replied, “This place will be your headquarters, you can judge for yourself.”

The relationship between Halleck and Grant had been strained ever since Halleck removed Grant from command for alleged dereliction of duty, only to reinstate him shortly after. Grant was “promoted” to a meaningless job as second in command after the terrible Battle of Shiloh, and Halleck had recently admonished Grant for allowing press leaks within his command: “The Cincinnati Gazette contains the substance of your demanding reinforcements and my refusing them. You either have a newspaper correspondent on your staff or your staff is very leaky.”

Halleck also issued orders directly to officers within Grant’s army and not through Grant himself. When Grant complained, Halleck explained that it was too awkward for Grant to directly communicate with his own army because he was headquartered about 100 miles east. Halleck then wrote, “I will further add that from your position at Memphis, it is impossible for you to exercise the immediate command in this direction (i.e., Corinth).”

Grant arrived at Corinth on the 15th and received orders notifying him that Halleck would be going to Washington to become general-in-chief. Grant’s District of West Tennessee (consisting of the Army of the Tennessee) was expanded to include the District of the Mississippi (consisting of the Army of the Mississippi), and the District of Cairo.

Grant’s jurisdiction would include northern Mississippi, western Tennessee, and Kentucky west of the Cumberland River. Halleck directed Grant to “take up all active (Confederate) sympathizers, and either hold them as prisoners or put them beyond our lines. Handle that class without gloves, and take their property for public use… It is time that they should begin to feel the presence of the war.”

He also transferred many of Grant’s troops to Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio, currently advancing on Chattanooga. This indicated that Halleck intended Buell, not Grant, to conduct offensive operations. Grant was expected to protect railroads and occupy towns in the region currently under Federal occupation. He had just 53,000 men divided into two armies and spread throughout the occupation zone.

Major General William T. Sherman would replace Grant as commander of the District of West Tennessee, headquartered at Memphis. He quickly issued threats to impose strict rule on civilians, but he was generally lenient in reinstating their freedom to move and buy liquor. Sherman also acted against northern speculators and Federal troops who treated civilians disrespectfully.

At Corinth, Major General William S. Rosecrans replaced John Pope in command of the Army of the Mississippi. Rosecrans’s main objectives were to maintain the extensive defensive works that Halleck had established around the town and improve the poor sanitation that had forced over 30 percent of the army onto the sick list.

Things remained relatively quiet in northern Mississippi through July. The largest action occurred on the 1st, when Federal forces under Brigadier General Philip Sheridan clashed with General James R. Chalmers’s 4,700 Confederates 20 miles south of Corinth at Booneville. Chalmers outnumbered Sheridan, but the Federals had modern Colt revolving rifles. Sheridan directed two regiments to penetrate the Confederate rear around 3:30 p.m., prompting them to withdraw under close pursuit. Sheridan reported losing one man killed, 24 wounded, and 16 missing while killing 63 Confederates. The Federal high command noted Sheridan’s aggressiveness.


References; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 146-47; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 189; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 544; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 178, 182; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 240-41; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 766; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 501

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