The Western Theater, delineated by the Appalachian Mountains in the east and the Mississippi River in the west, also included the states of Missouri and Arkansas. The states that were most perplexed about how to proceed at the outbreak of war included Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri. The fact that the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, as well as two significant tributaries, the Cumberland and the Tennessee, flowed through this region made it all the more significant as a war zone. 'Whatever Nation gets ... control of the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers,' concluded Union General William T. Sherman, 'will control the continent.'
This region was settled largely by Southerners, but it was tied geographically and economically to the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys. This meant that economic exchanges with Northern markets were commonplace and thus a shared regional identity took shape in the pre-Civil War decades. Nowhere were loyalties more divided and the term a 'brother's war' more applicable than in the west. John L. Crittenden, the Kentucky-politician who proposed the Crittenden Compromise months before, would have two sons who fought on opposite sides.
Volunteers came from all over the United States and filled the ranks of both armies as
Note the maze of rivers and railroads that afforded Union and Confederate armies strategic avenues to campaign in the west.
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