Tag Archives: Department of the Mississippi

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.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; 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

The President’s Special War Order Number 3

March 11, 1862 – President Abraham Lincoln issued an executive order removing George B. McClellan as general-in-chief of all Federal armies and creating new military departments that would report directly to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.

Abraham Lincoln and George B. McClellan | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Abraham Lincoln and George B. McClellan | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Lincoln had long been concerned that McClellan could not command all the Federal armies while staying in the field with the Army of the Potomac at the same time. This concern intensified when Stanton reported “great ignorance, negligence and lack of order and subordination–and reckless extravagance” within the Army of the Potomac. Now that McClellan had finally taken the field by leading that army into northern Virginia, the time was right for a military reorganization.

In addition to limiting McClellan’s authority to the Department of the Potomac, Lincoln assigned Major General Henry W. Halleck to command the new Department of the Mississippi. This consolidated the Departments of Kansas, Missouri, the Tennessee, and the Ohio, totaling 128,810 men ranging from Knoxville to Kansas.

Halleck had lobbied for this change since the fall of Fort Donelson; he had taken most of the credit for Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s capture of that fort as well as Fort Henry. Major General Don Carlos Buell, who had been reluctant to cooperate with Halleck as an equal, became Halleck’s subordinate, commanding the Army of the Ohio within Halleck’s new department. Major General David Hunter, commanding the Department of Kansas, was transferred east.

In a surprise move, Lincoln brought back controversial Major General John C. Fremont to command the new Mountain Department. This absorbed Brigadier General William S. Rosecrans’s Department of Western Virginia, and included southwestern Virginia and eastern Kentucky. Rosecrans would command the new department until Fremont arrived. He was expected to invade eastern Tennessee in support of the Unionists in that region.

Fremont had been removed as commander of the Department of the West the previous November and later censured by the House of Representatives (103 to 28) for mismanaging that department. However, Fremont had backing from Radical Republicans, abolitionists, and the influential Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, so Lincoln bowed to their pressure and reinstated him.

U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton | Image Credit: Flickr.com

U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton | Image Credit: Flickr.com

McClellan, Halleck, and Fremont, now commanding the three major theaters of operation, were to “report severally and directly to the Secretary of War.” This put Stanton in charge of military administration and efficiency.

Before issuing this order, Lincoln had shared it with Stanton, Secretary of State William H. Seward, and Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. All three cabinet members endorsed it, with Seward suggesting that Stanton issue the order through the War Department. Stanton demurred to avoid causing further animosity between himself and his once-close friend McClellan. So Lincoln officially signed the order and issued it under his authority.

Hoping to notify McClellan of the order before it became public, Lincoln dispatched one of his supporters, Ohio Governor William Dennison, to McClellan’s headquarters. Dennison bore a message from the president explaining that the move was not a demotion; rather, “having personally taken the field,” Lincoln wanted McClellan to fully concentrate on the Army of the Potomac. Lincoln also stated that McClellan would take on this lesser role “until otherwise ordered,” implying that he might reinstate him as general-in-chief in the future.

Dennison was too late. On the morning of the 12th, the National Intelligencer released details of the order, and McClellan’s allies in Washington telegraphed his headquarters at Fairfax Court House. Dennison arrived with Lincoln’s explanation after the fact, and McClellan wrote a reply: “I shall work just as cheerfully as before, and that no consideration of self will in any manner interfere with the discharge of my public duties.”

Most Washington insiders, especially Stanton and the Radical Republicans, pushed for this reorganization to elevate Halleck and Fremont while stripping McClellan of some of his authority. Many hoped that McClellan’s removal as general-in-chief would be permanent. Speculation soon abounded that, despite Lincoln’s assertions, the order indicated his doubts about McClellan’s abilities.

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References

Bailey, Ronald H., Forward to Richmond: McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 87-89, 92; CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 139; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 7186-97; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 407-08, 502; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 266, 318; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 121; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 428-31; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 183; 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. 424; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 500, 542-43; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 515, 815; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q162