Tag Archives: Charles F. Smith

Prelude to Battle in Tennessee

March 25, 1862 – Federals advanced deep into western Tennessee this month as Confederates gathered in northern Mississippi to counterattack.

By this month, the Confederate defensive line across Kentucky had been shattered by the loss of Forts Henry and Donelson, along with Nashville. Confederates on the eastern part of the line, primarily at Bowling Green, Kentucky, fell back to Murfreesboro in middle Tennessee. Those at Columbus, Kentucky, to the west withdrew to New Madrid and Island No. 10 on the Mississippi, along with other points in western Tennessee and northern Mississippi.

Gen P.G.T. Beauregard | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Gen P.G.T. Beauregard | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

General P.G.T. Beauregard commanded the Confederate Army of the Mississippi in the western sector. When Federal forces captured New Madrid, Beauregard began concentrating his remaining forces at Corinth, Mississippi, where the Mobile & Ohio and Memphis & Charleston railroads intersected. At Beauregard’s request, General Braxton Bragg led 10,000 Confederates from Pensacola and Mobile to join the force gathering at Corinth. Also joining was 5,000 men under General Daniel Ruggles from New Orleans, leaving that important city nearly defenseless.

As Beauregard tried collecting manpower, he faced three armies advancing on three sides: Major General John Pope’s Army of the Mississippi in Missouri (left), Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee in western Tennessee (front), and Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio at Nashville (right).

Grant’s advance was preceded by two Federal timber-clad gunboats, U.S.S. Lexington and Tyler, reconnoitering up the Tennessee River all the way to the Tennessee-Mississippi line. The vessels exchanged fire with Confederate batteries at Pittsburg Landing, and then sailors (with sharpshooter support) came ashore to drive the Confederates off. Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote, commanding the Federal squadron, praised the commanders for securing the area and then added:

“But I must give a general order that no commander will land men to make an attack on shore. Our gunboats are to be used as forts, and as they have no more men than necessary to man the guns, and as the Army must do the shore work, and as the enemy want nothing better than to entice our men on shore and overpower them with superior numbers, the commanders must not operate on shore, but confine themselves to their vessels.”

Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

The Federals also captured the C.S.S. Eastport, a gunboat under construction that was larger and faster than any in Foote’s squadron. Foote wrote:

“I have applied to the Secretary of the Navy to have the rebel gunboat, Eastport, lately captured in the Tennessee River, fitted up as a gunboat… She can be fitted out for about $20,000, and in three weeks. We want such a fast and powerful boat. Do telegraph about her, as we now have carpenters and cargo ahead on her and she is just what we want. I should run about in her and save time and do good service. Our other ironclad boats are too slow. The Eastport was a steamer on the river, and she, being a good boat, would please the West. No reply yet from the Secretary and time is precious.”

Advance elements of Grant’s army, temporarily commanded by General Charles F. Smith, reached Savannah, Tennessee, on March 5. The rest of what became known as the Army of the Tennessee arrived nine days later, ferried by 80 transports and a gunboat escort. Smith directed recently arrived Brigadier General William T. Sherman to continue up the Tennessee to reconnoiter the area of Eastport, Mississippi.

Along the way, Sherman secured Pittsburg Landing as a staging area for an advance on Corinth and received permission from Smith to land his division there. The rest of the army soon followed. Sherman’s Federals reconnoitered from Pittsburg Landing to Monterey, Tennessee, about halfway to Corinth.

During this time, Major General Henry W. Halleck was promoted to command not only the forces under Pope and Grant, but Buell as well. Halleck ordered Buell to move from Nashville to Savannah and join forces with the Federal troops assembling there. Buell opted to advance overland rather than by water to protect the Memphis & Charleston Railroad and cover the Federal forces sent to occupy northern Alabama.

General A.S. Johnston | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

General A.S. Johnston | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Meanwhile, General Albert Sidney Johnston, commanding Confederate Department No. 2 (the Western Theater), was stationed with the former Army of Central Kentucky at Murfreesboro. At Beauregard’s urging, Johnston began moving west to join forces with those gathering at Corinth.

Passing through Columbia just before Buell’s Federals arrived, Johnston’s Confederates burned the bridges spanning the Duck River. Rather than build temporary pontoon bridges to hurry his men across, Buell directed engineers to build new permanent ones. Buell notified Halleck on the 18th that the work would take three or four days. At that time, Buell’s army was about 85 miles away from the Federals at Savannah and Pittsburg Landing.

The delay gave Johnston more time to consolidate. To bolster his manpower, he peremptorily ordered Major General Earl Van Dorn, commanding the Confederate Army of the West in Arkansas, to move east by “the best and most expeditious route” to Corinth.

Van Dorn, who had recently lost the Battle of Pea Ridge, had been moving north when he received this directive. Beauregard tried sending transports from New Orleans to take Van Dorn’s men east, but Louisiana Governor Thomas Moore would not release the boats for army use due to a political dispute he was having with President Jefferson Davis.

Johnston entered Corinth with his rear guard on the 24th, where he assimilated the Army of Central Kentucky into the new Army of Mississippi (referred to by Beauregard as the Army of the Mississippi). Johnston was overall commander, with Beauregard second-in-command. Beauregard declined Johnston’s offer to head the army while Johnston maintained administrative command. President Davis wrote his close friend Johnston:

“My confidence in you has never wavered, and I hope the public will soon give me credit for judgment, rather than continue to arraign me for obstinacy… You have done wonderfully well… If you can meet the division of the enemy moving from the Tennessee before it can make a junction with that advancing from Nashville, the future will be brighter…”

When Grant resumed command over Smith, he set up headquarters at a Savannah mansion. His army consisted of two divisions on the east bank of the Tennessee at Savannah, two division nine miles upriver (or south) on the west bank at Pittsburg Landing, and one on the west bank at Crump’s Landing, between Savannah and Pittsburg. His army totaled 27,000 men, with reinforcements arriving from St. Louis that Grant formed into another division.

Grant knew about the Confederates gathering at Corinth, but Sherman reported that they could number no more than 20,000. Grant sent two messengers to try finding Buell, whose 37,000 men were expected to join him at some point, though there seemed to be no hurry. Buell’s insistence on building proper bridges delayed him over two weeks. Added to the problem was the Duck River being swollen due to rain and melting snow.

When Buell finally relented and allowed his army to cross on pontoon bridges, the Duck had receded enough to allow a crossing without any bridges at all. Buell’s lead division under Brigadier General William “Bull” Nelson crossed first and headed for Savannah on the 28th. The rest of Buell’s army followed the next day.

By that time, Johnston had reorganized the new Army of Mississippi. The 1st Grand Division under Leonidas Polk was re-designated the I Corps. The new army also included the II Corps under Braxton Bragg, the III Corps under William J. Hardee (really just three brigades), and the Reserve Corps under George B. Crittenden.

Bragg served double-duty as corps commander and army chief of staff. Crittenden, already under fire for his embarrassing defeat at Mill Springs, was soon relieved for alleged drunkenness on duty. Despite Crittenden’s shortcomings, his removal deprived the army of an experienced military leader. He was replaced by former U.S. Vice President John C. Breckinridge.

Most of Johnston’s officers and men had never experienced combat before, and many were equipped with obsolete or non-functioning weapons. Nevertheless, the 40,000 Confederates assembling at Corinth were being organized to destroy Grant’s army concentrating around Pittsburg Landing, about 22 miles north, before Buell’s army crossing the Duck River could come to its aid.

Grant remained stationary and awaited Buell’s arrival. Unconcerned about the Confederates, he did not order the men to build any defensive works.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 71-72; CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 12851, 12910, 12927, 12947; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 135, 137, 143-44, 147; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 292, 320; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 116-17, 124, 127, 129; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 168-71; Harrison, Lowell H., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 123; Hattaway, Herman, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 171, 500; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 177-79, 185-86, 189-90; Rutherford, Phillip R., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 168, 169; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 684-85

Grant Removed Then Reinstated

March 3, 1862 – Major General Henry W. Halleck received authorization to remove Major General Ulysses S. Grant from command after Halleck alleged that Grant had neglected his duty.

Federal General U.S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikispaces.org

Federal General U.S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikispaces.org

Grant commanded the Federal District of West Tennessee within Halleck’s Department of Missouri. Following the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson, Halleck directed Grant to occupy the forts with small detachments while leading his main force up the Tennessee River as far as Eastport, Mississippi. The Federals were to destroy railroad bridges along the way but “avoid any general engagement with strong forces”; to Halleck it would be “better to retreat than to risk a general battle.”

Grant did not respond to this directive and instead went to confer with Major General Don Carlos Buell, who had recently captured Nashville. Halleck, frustrated by Grant’s lack of response, became especially irritated upon learning that Grant had gone to meet with the head of another military department without his knowledge or permission. Halleck contacted his superior, General-in-Chief George B. McClellan:

“I have had no communication with General Grant for more than a week. He left his command without my authority and went to Nashville. His army seems to be as much demoralized by the victory of Fort Donelson as was that of the Potomac by the defeat of Bull Run. It is hard to censure a successful general immediately after a victory, but I think he richly deserves it. I can get no returns, no reports, no information of any kind from him. Satisfied with his victory, he sits down and enjoys it without any regard to the future. I’m worn-out and tired with this neglect and inefficiency.”

Halleck suggested that Grant be replaced by Brigadier General Charles F. Smith, one of Grant’s division commanders, as he “is almost the only officer equal to the emergency.” McClellan immediately responded:

“The future success of our cause demands that proceedings such as Grant’s should at once be checked. Generals must observe discipline as well as private soldiers. Do not hesitate to arrest him at once if the good of the service requires it, & place C.F. Smith in command. You are at liberty to regard this as a positive order if it will smooth your way.”

That same day, Grant received a message from McClellan requesting a report on the current situation. The message was dated February 16, or 15 days before it finally reached Grant. Messages from Halleck were also delayed in getting to their intended recipient. This led Halleck to believe that Grant was simply ignoring him. The next day, Halleck wrote McClellan speculating about why Grant may be doing this: “A rumor has just reached me that since the taking of Fort Donelson General Grant has resumed his former bad habits (i.e., drunkenness on duty). If so, it will account for his neglect of my often-repeated orders.”

Seizing the authority that McClellan had given him, Halleck telegraphed Grant: “You will place Gen. C.F. Smith in command of expedition, and remain yourself at Fort Henry. Why do you not obey my orders to report strength and positions of your command?”

Grant was shocked upon receiving Halleck’s order. He had received no messages inquiring about strength and positions as Halleck had indicated. Grant had been planning for the drive up the Tennessee, but now he turned his command over to Smith as ordered and asked Halleck for an explanation. Grant contended that he had sent daily updates to Halleck’s chief of staff, along with a general listing of troop strength.

Maj Gen H.W. Halleck | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Maj Gen H.W. Halleck | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Halleck responded: “Your going to Nashville without authority, and when your presence with your troops was of the utmost importance, was a matter of very serious complaint at Washington, so much so that I was advised to arrest you on your return.”

This message was the first indication to Grant that Halleck had objected to his meeting with Buell. Grant had merely gone to Nashville to discuss coordinating operations with Buell’s army, not to move his troops there as Halleck feared. Moreover, the borders of Grant’s military district were “not defined,” so Nashville was not necessarily outside his jurisdiction.

Over the next week, Smith led Grant’s army up the Tennessee, with a new division under Brigadier General William T. Sherman reconnoitering around southern Tennessee (particularly Pittsburg Landing) and into northern Mississippi. Smith’s Federals were to ultimately join forces with Buell’s Army of the Ohio coming south from Nashville, and together they would advance on the vital railroad center at Corinth, Mississippi.

Meanwhile, Grant and Halleck continued exchanging messages, with Halleck accusing Grant of not adequately reporting troop strength. Grant responded, “You had a better chance of knowing my strength whilst surrounded Fort Donelson than I had. Troops were arriving daily, by your order, and immediately assigned to brigades.” Finally, Grant became exasperated and asked to be relieved of duty after sending a precise headcount of “infantry present and fit for duty, 35,147.”

Halleck did not respond, during which time Grant received news from an anonymous source that Halleck was questioning Grant’s report of captured stores from Fort Henry. Grant repeated his request to be relieved, this time adding a threat to go over Halleck’s head to clear his name: “There is such a disposition to find fault with me that I again asked to be relieved from further duty until I can be placed right in the estimation of those in higher authority.”

On the 13th, Halleck seemed to have a sudden change of heart:

“You cannot be relieved from your command. There is no good reason for it. I am certain that all which the authorities at Washington ask is that you enforce discipline and punish the disorderly. The power is in your hands; use it, and you will be sustained by all above you. Instead of relieving you, I wish you as soon as your new army is in the field to assume command and lead it on to new victories.”

Grant replied that Halleck’s latest message had put “such a different phase upon my position that I will again assume command.” Halleck informed his superiors at Washington that the matter had been settled: “Grant has made the proper explanation and has been directed to resume command in the field.”

Halleck blamed the lack of communication on bad telegraph lines, and his unauthorized trip to Nashville on his “praiseworthy, though mistaken, zeal.” Halleck did not mention rumors of drunkenness. It was later revealed that a Confederate sympathizer in the telegraph office had interfered with the transmissions between Grant and his superiors, causing the delays.

On March 17, Grant resumed command of what became known as the Army of the Tennessee, with headquarters at Savannah, Tennessee. By that time, Smith was bedridden due to an infected cut on his leg, and he soon died of blood poisoning.

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References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 281, 283; CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 12927; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 136, 143; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 116; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 12927; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 316-17; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 116-17, 122-23; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 167-68; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 177-78, 185

The Fall of Fort Donelson

February 16, 1862 – Federals scored their greatest victory of the war up to this time, generating a new northern military hero.

Late on the 15th, the Confederate commanders surrounded in Fort Donelson had agreed to surrender their force. As the two ranking generals, John B. Floyd and Gideon Pillow, escaped across the Cumberland River, Brigadier General Simon B. Buckner sent a message to the Federal commander, his old friend Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant:

“Sir: In consideration of all the circumstances governing the present situation of affairs at this station, I propose to the Commanding Officer of the Federal forces the appointment of Commissioners to agree upon the terms of capitulation of the forces and fort under my command, and in that view suggest an armistice until 12 o’clock to-day.”

Federal General U.S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikispaces.org

Federal General U.S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikispaces.org

Grant shared Buckner’s message with Brigadier General Charles F. Smith, a division commander in Grant’s army and a senior officer whom Grant admired. Smith advised, “No terms with traitors, by God!” Grant directed his men to prepare for an attack as he sent a messenger to Buckner with his reply:

“Sir: Yours of this date, proposing armistice, and appointment of Commissioners, to settle terms of capitulation is just received. No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.”

This response shocked Buckner, considering his relationship with Grant before the war; he had even loaned Grant money when he fell on hard times. Compared to the liberal terms that General P.G.T. Beauregard had offered to Major Robert Anderson at Fort Sumter, Buckner considered this insulting. But having no choice in the matter, he responded:

“Sir: The distribution of the forces under my command, incident to an unexpected change of commanders, and the overwhelming force under your command, compel me, notwithstanding the brilliant success of the Confederate arms yesterday, to accept the ungenerous and unchivalrous terms which you propose.”

Grant and Buckner met to discuss the surrender, where they soon rekindled their pre-war friendship. Grant ordered rations distributed to the Confederates and allowed their burial details to enter Federal lines to inter their dead comrades. After the terms were settled, Grant offered to repay Buckner’s old loan to him; Buckner politely declined.

Toward the day’s end, Grant dispatched Brigadier General Lew Wallace’s division to return to Fort Henry and guard against any possible Confederate attack from Columbus, Kentucky. Grant then directed his remaining troops to occupy Fort Donelson. The troops ignored orders against looting and pillaging.

Fort Donelson was a tremendous victory that included the largest capture in American history: 12 to 15,000 Confederate troops, 20,000 stands of arms, 48 cannon, 17 heavy guns, around 4,000 draft animals, and vast amounts of supplies and provisions. The Federals had sustained 2,691 casualties (507 killed, 1,976 wounded, and 208 missing) in the operations in and around Fort Donelson, while the Confederates lost an estimated 1,454 (327 killed and 1,127 wounded) in addition to the prisoners taken. Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest’s 700 Confederate cavalry were not part of the surrender; they had slipped through the Federal lines during the night and escaped by crossing an icy swamp too deep for infantry.

The dual victories at Forts Henry and Donelson permanently destroyed the Confederates’ defensive line across Kentucky by punching a hole between Confederate forces at Bowling Green and Columbus, and opening Tennessee for a Federal invasion. The wins also gave the Federals control of the important Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. The gunboat fleet soon continued up the Cumberland to Dover, where it destroyed the important Tennessee Iron Works before continuing on toward Clarksville.

With Nashville and the Deep South now vulnerable to Federal advances, General Albert Sidney Johnston, commanding the Confederate Western Theater, withdrew the Army of Central Kentucky from Bowling Green to Murfreesboro. This meant that it was only a matter of time before the Confederates at Columbus would have to fall back as well.

Confederate officials quickly began looking for someone to blame for the devastating loss. Some blamed Navy Secretary Stephen R. Mallory for failing to develop a naval squadron that could match the Federal gunboats. However, while Fort Henry had been won by the navy, Fort Donelson was won by Grant and his army. Grant’s victory, along with his unequivocal message, made him an instant hero throughout the northern states, as some newspapermen quipped that the “U.S.” in his name now stood for “Unconditional Surrender.”

Mass celebrations swept the northern states when news first arrived on the 17th that Fort Donelson had fallen. An editorial in the Chicago Tribune noted that the city “reeled mad with joy.” A Cincinnati correspondent reported, “Everybody was shaking hands with everybody else, and bewhiskered men embraced each other as if they were lovers.” Some pundits even began predicting that these victories would soon end the war.

At Washington, officials planned to hold a grand celebration to commemorate the victories alongside George Washington’s Birthday. At St. Louis, the Union Merchants Exchange closed temporarily as speculators sang patriotic songs and cheered Major General Henry W. Halleck at his headquarters.

President Lincoln quickly promoted Grant to major general of volunteers. In signing the commission, Lincoln explained that while he could not adequately judge the fighting ability of eastern men, the fighting spirit of Grant and other fellow Illinoisans proved that “if the Southerners think that man for man they are better than our… western men generally, they will discover themselves in a grievous mistake.”

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 70-71; CivilWarDailyGazette.com (16 Feb 1862); Cochran, Michael T., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 694-95; Delaney, Norman C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 272-73 | 280-81; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 129-30; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 7055; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 211-14, 315; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 111; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 417-18; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 158-59; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 106-07; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 171-72; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 735; 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. 401-02; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 95-97; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 251; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 98, 267

Fort Donelson: The Confederate Breakout

February 15, 1862 – The Confederates tried breaking out of the Federal grip around Fort Donelson before deciding on whether to surrender.

Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant, commanding the Federal troops surrounding Fort Donelson, met with Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote, commanding the naval flotilla that had been severely damaged in the aborted attack on the fort the previous day. Foote, nursing his wound from that engagement, informed Grant that the gunboats would have to return to Mound City for repairs. This left Grant to place Fort Donelson under siege. However, the siege plans changed when the Confederates attacked on the morning of the 15th.

At 5 a.m., Brigadier General Gideon Pillow assembled his Confederates for their attempt to break through the southern part of the Federal line around Fort Donelson and escape to Nashville. Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry troopers began the action by skirmishing with the Federal pickets in the northern sector to divert Federal attention from Pillow’s impending assault to the south.

Kentucky militia commander Simon B. Buckner | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Kentucky militia commander Simon B. Buckner | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Pillow’s advance began in full force around 7 a.m., aided by Confederates under Brigadier General Simon B. Buckner. The Federals blocking them were commanded by Brigadier General John A. McClernand. Fighting soon raged all around the Wynn’s Ferry road leading directly to Nashville.

After several hours of hard combat, the breakout appeared successful. McClernand had been pushed back nearly a mile, and the road to Nashville was open for the Confederates to take. Both Pillow and the overall commander, Brigadier General John B. Floyd, telegraphed General Albert Sidney Johnston, commanding the Confederate Western Theater, that they had won a great victory.

Grant, hearing the gunfire, hurried back from the river to prepare for a counterattack. He told his officers: “The position on the right (south) must be retaken. Some of our men are pretty badly demoralized, but the enemy must be more so, for he has attempted to force his way out, but has fallen back; the one who attacks first now will be victorious and the enemy will have to be in a hurry if he gets ahead of me.”

Grant was correct–the enemy had indeed “fallen back” as the Confederate victory began turning sour. Buckner’s diversionary attack on the Federal left had been stopped cold, and the commanders had not decided on whether to immediately escape or fall back and regroup before taking the road to Nashville. Pillow chose the latter, ordering a withdrawal back to the trenches.

Confederate General John B. Floyd | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Confederate General John B. Floyd | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Buckner protested to Floyd, who had ordered Buckner’s men to hold the road so the rest of the army could escape. Floyd went to Pillow and demanded an explanation for the withdrawal. Pillow convinced him that the road would stay open long enough to reorganize. Floyd changed his mind and sided with Pillow.

This dispute gave Grant time to direct Brigadier General Charles F. Smith’s division to attack from the north. Grant told Smith, “All has failed on our right–you must take Fort Donelson.” Smith’s Federals quickly captured the fort’s outer ramparts. Meanwhile, Grant’s third division under Brigadier General Lew Wallace shifted southward to help McClernand stem the Confederate advance. The Federal gunboats renewed their bombardment as well until the escape route was blocked and the fort surrounded.

When the fighting ended for the day, both sides held roughly the same positions they did before the battle began, but they had suffered a combined 4,000 casualties (1,000 killed and 3,000 wounded). Mary Ann “Mother” Bickerdyke tended to the cold, wounded men left lying on the battlefield and gained fame for her role in caring for Federal troops.

That evening, the Confederate commanders held a council of war at the Dover Inn. Their troops had been in their trenches for several days, exposed not only to enemy fire but the brutal rain, sleet, wind, and cold. Floyd began discussing plans to take the road to Nashville the next morning, but those plans were dashed by reports that the Federals had regained all their lost ground.

Pillow and Buckner blamed each other for failing to capitalize on the initial Confederate success that morning. Colonel Forrest, who had two horses shot out from under him in the fighting, argued that a path to escape was still open on the extreme Federal right, along the river. However, the army surgeon warned that a nighttime escape attempt could cause many deaths from exposure to the extreme cold.

Buckner urged surrender, saying, “It would be wrong to subject the army to a virtual massacre when no good would come from the sacrifice.” Pillow wanted to try another breakout, but Floyd and Buckner asserted that it could cost them three-fourths of their men, and they were not willing to sacrifice that many just to save the remaining fourth.

The three commanders finally agreed that surrender was the only option. However, Floyd and Pillow had become generals mostly due to their political careers, and as such, neither wanted to surrender personally. In particular, Floyd feared that Federal authorities might punish him for arms deals he had allegedly made with southern states as U.S. secretary of war in late 1860.

Floyd asked Pillow, his second-in-command, if he would surrender the fort if Floyd passed command to him. Pillow declined; he had vowed never to surrender and insisted that breaking his pledge would demoralize the Confederacy. Buckner said that he would surrender if the command was passed to him, if only to avoid further bloodshed without hope of victory. The men may have also thought that Buckner might get better terms from Grant, who was his friend before the war.

Floyd asked, “General Buckner, if I place you in command, will you allow me to get out as much of my brigade as I can?” Buckner said, “I will, provided you do so before the enemy receives my proposition for capitulation.” In accordance with military protocol, Floyd motioned to Pillow and said, “I turn over my command, sir.” Pillow said, “I pass it.” Buckner said, “I assume it. Give me pen, ink and paper, and send for a bugler (to sound the parley).”

This deal was unacceptable to Forrest, who declared, “I did not come here for the purpose of surrendering my command.” Pillow advised him to “Cut your way out,” and Buckner authorized Forrest to try escaping. Forrest took the route he had noted on the extreme right, leading his 700 cavalry troopers along a narrow path through a freezing swamp and snowy woods to Nashville.

On the early morning of the 16th, Floyd and Pillow slipped out of Fort Donelson, rowing across the Cumberland River under cover of freezing darkness with about 2,500 of their men.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 70-71; Bearss, Edwin C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 585; CivilWarDailyGazette.com (15 Feb 1862); Cochran, Michael T., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 694-95; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 180-81; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 12624; Delaney, Norman C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 272-73; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 128-29; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 207-11; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 110; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 155-57; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 171; 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. 400-01; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 82, 93-94; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 250; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 96-97

The Fall of Fort Henry

February 6, 1862 – Federals captured a key point on the Tennessee River that opened a path to invade Tennessee.

Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant | Image Credit: Flickr.com

On the 5th, Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant’s 17,000 Federal troops began landing at Camp Halleck, about three miles north (or downstream) from Fort Henry on the Tennessee River. Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman, commanding just 3,400 Confederates inside the fort, wired his superior, General Albert Sidney Johnston: “If you can reinforce strongly and quickly we have a glorious chance to overwhelm the enemy.” However, no reinforcements would be coming, and the Federal force was much stronger than Tilghman had anticipated.

At a council of war that evening, Tilghman announced to his officers that Fort Henry could not be held. As such, part of the garrison would stay in the fort to stall the Federal advance while the bulk of Tilghman’s force would escape to Fort Donelson, a stronger work 12 miles east on the Cumberland River.

Grant resolved to attack Fort Henry at 11 a.m. on the 6th, even though his entire force had not yet landed. Grant wanted to hurry the action because he had received a report (later proved wrong) that the Confederates were rushing to reinforce the fort.

Meanwhile Grant’s superior, Major General Henry W. Halleck, asked Brigadier General Don Carlos Buell to send some Federals from the Department of the Ohio against Bowling Green, Kentucky. This would create a diversion to ensure that Fort Henry would not be reinforced. However, Buell responded that it would take over a week to conduct such an operation. Ultimately, Buell’s help would not be needed, as Tilghman’s call for Confederates from both Bowling Green and Columbus went unanswered.

The Federal movement began that evening, as a brigade from Brigadier General Charles F. Smith’s division captured Fort Heiman, across the Tennessee from Fort Henry. The Confederates had abandoned this fort, which was never completed, and crossed the river to Henry. Meanwhile, Brigadier General John A. McClernand’s division was to march up the east side of the Tennessee, but heavy rain had turned the roads to mud. This not only hampered the Federal march, but it also partly flooded Fort Henry, thus demoralizing the Confederate defenders.

Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

The next morning, Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote’s Federal gunboat fleet advanced with the four ironclads leading and the three timber-clads behind. Foote’s flagship Cincinnati, along with the Carondelet, Essex, and St. Louis, began firing on Fort Henry from within 600 yards around 11 a.m. Meanwhile, the Federal troops struggled in the mud to take up positions along the Confederate escape routes.

Tilghman directed Battery B of the 1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery to maintain an “honorable” defense using just 11 obsolete guns, while he led most of his men to Fort Donelson. Tilghman asked his artillerists to delay the Federals for an hour, but they did much better than that, holding off the fleet for several hours while scoring 59 hits. The Cincinnati sustained 32 hits that disabled two guns and damaged her stacks and after-cabin. A Confederate round exploded a boiler on the Essex, scalding 28 men (some to death) and putting her out of action.

Despite some Confederate success, the Federal firepower slowly took its toll. The gunboats finally found their range and began disabling the enemy cannon. When Tilghman returned from Fort Donelson, he saw that ammunition was running low and the Federal fleet was now within 300 yards. He manned one of the artillery crews himself, but just before 2 p.m., he conceded defeat and ordered the white flag raised. Tilghman said that “it is vain to fight longer; our gunners are disabled; our guns dismounted; we can’t hold out five minutes longer.”

The Federals on the gunboats cheered when they saw the Confederate flag replaced by a white flag. The Cincinnati lowered a launch, on which Federal naval officers rowed into Fort Henry’s flooded sally port and onto the parade grounds. They ferried Tilghman back to the flagship, where he and Foote agreed on an unconditional surrender of the fort’s remaining defenders.

Tilghman sustained 21 casualties (five killed, 11 wounded, and five missing), and surrendered 94 (12 officers, 66 men, and 16 patients). Foote’s naval crews lost 47 (11 killed, 31 wounded, and five missing). Grant’s troops arrived around 3 p.m., too late to play any role in the fort’s surrender. They also could not block the escape routes as hoped, with only a pursuing Federal cavalry detachment capturing some stragglers and cannon.

Meanwhile, the Federal timber-clads continued up the Tennessee as far as Muscle Shoals, Alabama. They destroyed a bridge linking the Confederates between Bowling Green and Columbus, and placed themselves directly between A.S. Johnston’s two main armies. This, along with the fall of Fort Henry, permanently broke Johnston’s fragile Confederate line across Kentucky. He noted:

“The capture of that Fort by the enemy gives them the control of the navigation of the Tennessee River, and their gunboats are now ascending the river to Florence (Alabama)… Should Ft. Donelson be taken it will open the route to the enemy to Nashville, giving them the means of breaking the bridges and destroying the ferryboats on the river as far as navigable.”

This was the first significant Federal victory on the western rivers, and it boosted the morale of northerners starving for any kind of victory. Capturing Fort Henry and opening the Tennessee gave the Federals options to attack Columbus from the rear, capture Fort Donelson and open the path to Nashville, or attack Bowling Green in concert with Buell’s Army of the Ohio.

The same day that Fort Henry fell, Grant had already decided his next move. He wired Halleck at St. Louis: “Fort Henry is ours… the gunboats silenced the batteries before the investment was completed. I shall take and destroy Fort Donelson on the 8th and return to Fort Henry.”

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 68-70; CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 12526; Delaney, Norman C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 272-73, 280-81; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 121-22; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 188-91; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 105-07; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 417; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 148-49; Harrison, Lowell H., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 274; Hattaway, Herman, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 756; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 107-08; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 166-67; 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. 396-97; McPherson, James M., War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 (Littlefield History of the Civil War Era, The University of North Carolina Press, Kindle Edition, 2012), p. 74-76; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 64-67; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 244; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 95

Federals Target Fort Henry

February 1, 1862 – The Federal invasion of Tennessee began with a joint army-navy operation against Fort Henry on the Tennessee River.

Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote’s Federal gunboat flotilla had been observing Confederates building Forts Henry and Donelson on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers respectively since the previous fall. Foote became convinced that his vessels could, with army help, subdue these forts and threaten the rear of General Albert Sidney Johnston’s Confederate defensive line across Kentucky.

In late January, both Foote and Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant requested permission to launch a joint operation against Fort Henry from Major General Henry W. Halleck, commanding the Federal Department of Missouri. Halleck had considered a move against Fort Henry as a first step to a drive on Nashville, but he was reluctant to put Grant in charge of army operations due to his past reputation for drunkenness. Halleck finally went along with it on Foote’s recommendation.

Grant assembled about 17,000 troops for the mission, but he soon learned that winter rains had made the roads unusable for marching. Therefore, Grant planned to use river transports to move his men, horses, supplies, and equipment. The transports would be escorted by Foote’s gunboat flotilla of three wooden (timber-clad) vessels (U.S.S. Conestoga, Lexington, and Tyler), and four ironclads (U.S.S. Carondelet, Cincinnati, Essex, and St. Louis).

The Conestoga had previously steamed up the Tennessee to remove obstructions and explosive mines known as “torpedoes” that Confederates had placed in the river. Foote telegraphed Halleck on the 1st: “I leave early to-morrow with four armored gunboats on an expedition cooperating with the Army. Senior officer will telegraph you during my absence…”

Grant initially instructed his division commanders, Brigadier Generals Charles F. Smith and John A. McClernand, to leave a skeleton force and most of their supplies back at their camps at Paducah, Kentucky, and Cairo, Illinois, respectively. This was partly due to rumors that Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard was leading 15 regiments westward from Virginia. However, Halleck instructed Grant, “Make your force as large as possible. I will send more regiments from here (St. Louis) in a few days.”

The expedition began on the 2nd, as Federal troops began boarding the transports at Cairo. Since they could not accommodate all Grant’s soldiers at once, McClernand’s men went first and then the vessels came back to Paducah and collected Smith’s division. Meanwhile, Foote sent his three timber-clads up the Tennessee to clear the way and issued instructions to the gunboat crews:

“Let it be also distinctly impressed upon the mind of every man firing a gun that, while the first shot may be either of too much elevation or too little, there is no excuse for a second wild fire, as the first will indicate the inaccuracy of the aim of the gun, which must be elevated or depressed, or trained, as circumstances require. Let it be reiterated that random firing is not only a mere waste of ammunition, but, what is far worse, it encourages the enemy when he sees shot and shell falling harmlessly about and beyond him…”

In St. Louis, Halleck exchanged messages with General Don Carlos Buell, commanding the Federal Department of the Ohio. Halleck and Buell had found it difficult to coordinate their efforts, but when Buell learned that one of Halleck’s armies was targeting Fort Henry, which was technically within Buell’s department, he quickly offered assistance.

Maj Gen H.W. Halleck | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Maj Gen H.W. Halleck | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Halleck responded that “co-operation at present not essential” because it was “only proposed to take and occupy Fort Henry and Dover (Fort Donelson), and, if possible, cut the railroad from Columbus to Bowling Green.” Halleck continued:

“If we take Fort Henry and concentrate all available forces there, (Confederate) troops must be withdrawn either from Bowling Green (under Buell’s department) or Columbus (under Halleck’s) to protect the railroads. If the former, you can advance, if the latter, we can take New Madrid (in Missouri) and cut off the (Mississippi) river communication with Columbus.”

Grant reported to Halleck on the 3rd: “Will be off up the Tennessee at 6 o’clock. Command, twenty-three regiments in all.” McClernand’s Federals reached the Tennessee aboard nine transports, escorted by the U.S.S. Essex and St. Louis. Among those participating in the expedition, only Grant and Foote knew that capturing Fort Henry was the mission. The Federals were to disembark several miles below the fort, beyond Confederate artillery range. They would then march overland and, with gunboat assistance, attack and capture the fort.

Confederate Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman commanded Fort Henry. The fort stood across the Tennessee from Fort Heiman, named for Colonel Adolphus Heiman, Tilghman’s second-in-command. Fort Heiman stood on higher, more defensible ground, but its works were incomplete. Thus most of the Confederate garrison was stationed at Henry. Tilghman had about 3,400 Confederates in Henry, most of whom were armed only with shotguns or obsolete flintlock muskets. The fort had just 12 cannon.

Tilghman observed the advancing Federal gunboats and telegraphed A.S. Johnston that if he received reinforcements immediately, he had “a glorious chance to overwhelm the enemy.” But no reinforcements were on the way, and the river began rising into the fort’s lower tier due to the heavy rains. Tilghman left Colonel Heiman in charge and went to inspect defenses at Fort Donelson, 12 miles east on the Cumberland River.

McClernand’s Federals reached their debarkation point at 4:30 a.m. on the 4th. They landed about eight miles north of (or downriver from) Fort Henry, just south of the Kentucky-Tennessee line on the east bank of the Tennessee River. Considering the terrible roads, Grant considered this too far for an overland advance and tried to find a closer landing.

Grant personally reconnoitered Fort Henry from Foote’s flagship Cincinnati, flanked by two other gunboats. The Federals sought to test the enemy artillery range, and the Confederates obliged by opening fire. Nearly every shot missed except one that struck the cabin of the U.S.S. Essex. The vessels pulled back, Grant having learned what he needed. Federals also retrieved some of the torpedoes moored in the river and examined them.

Returning to his men, Grant directed the transports to take them further upriver to about three miles within Fort Henry. McClernand called this debarkation point Camp Halleck. C.F. Smith’s troops soon came up to join McClernand’s. Grant and Foote developed a plan of attack by which the gunboats would bombard the fort while the troops attacked from the rear to prevent escape. However, the operation was delayed by heavy rain and deep mud.

Meanwhile, with Tilghman still at Fort Donelson, Colonel Heiman received word that a large Federal force had landed five miles away. He called on General Leonidas Polk, commanding all Confederates in the region, for reinforcements but soon realized that they would probably not arrive in time. Heiman began pulling all available nearby troops to take up the defense of Fort Henry.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 12518-26; Delaney, Norman C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 280-81; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 119-21; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 183-85, 187-88; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 104-05; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 417; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 147-48; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 165-66; McPherson, James M., War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 (Littlefield History of the Civil War Era, The University of North Carolina Press, Kindle Edition, 2012), p. 74; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 61-62; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 243

The Fort Henry Campaign

January 29, 1862 – Major General Henry W. Halleck received intelligence that convinced him to allow Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant and Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote to move against Fort Henry, Tennessee.

Maj Gen H.W. Halleck | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Maj Gen H.W. Halleck | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Fort Henry stood on the Tennessee River, across from the uncompleted Fort Heiman near the Tennessee-Kentucky border. Halleck, commanding Federals west of the Cumberland River, had considered seizing this fort to break General Albert Sidney Johnston’s tenuous Confederate line across Kentucky from behind. Taking Fort Henry would also facilitate a drive on Nashville.

Grant, commanding Federals at Cairo, Illinois, and Paducah, Kentucky, within Halleck’s department, telegraphed his superior on the 28th: “With permission, I will take Fort Henry on the Tennessee, and establish and hold a large camp there.”

This was not the first time that Grant had asked to take this fort. Previously Brigadier General Charles F. Smith, one of Grant’s subordinates, had reconnoitered the fort aboard the U.S.S. Lexington and reported that it could be taken with two gunboats. Grant went to Halleck’s headquarters at St. Louis to explain this to him. Halleck, wary of Grant’s past reputation for drunkenness, did not want to give him such an important assignment and rejected his plan.

Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Grant then consulted with Foote, who deemed the plan solid and explained to Halleck that Fort Henry could “be carried with four iron-clad gunboats and troops to permanently occupy.” Halleck stated that he would not authorize a movement without investigating the condition of the roads. Foote countered that the movement needed to happen now, before the water levels on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers receded. Foote and Grant awaited Halleck’s reply.

The next day, General-in-Chief George B. McClellan notified Halleck that a Confederate deserter claimed that General P.G.T. Beauregard was about to leave northern Virginia for Kentucky with 15 regiments to reinforce A.S. Johnston’s Western Theater department. Halleck also received a message from Grant repeating the reasons why Fort Henry should be taken immediately. This convinced Halleck to approve the proposed operation.

Halleck telegraphed Grant on the 30th: “Make your preparations to take and hold Fort Henry. I will send you written instructions by mail.” Halleck then wrote thorough directives in which Grant would leave behind a force to threaten the Confederates at Columbus, Kentucky, while sending the rest of his men up the Tennessee River (the impassable roads made marching untenable). Halleck declared, “Fort Henry must be taken and held at all hazards.”

Grant was to divide his force into divisions and brigades, avoiding “political influences” while doing so. Halleck wrote, “Don’t let any political applications about brigades and divisions trouble you a particle. All such applications and arrangements are sheer nonsense and will not be regarded.”

Halleck informed both McClellan and Major General Don Carlos Buell, commanding the Federal Department of the Ohio, of the movement against Fort Henry. Since Grant would be operating near Buell’s department, Buell requested details about the plan, including the strength of the force and the launch date. Halleck provided the information as Grant quickly organized his men and put them into motion.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 118-19; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 182-83; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 102-03; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 147; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 165; Nevin, David, The Road to Shiloh: Early Battles in the West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 60-61