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The Western Theater of war

^Cincinnati OHIO


soon as the war broke out. Some 700,000 men mustered into the Northern armies during the initial months of the war. Most enlisted tor three years' service. Out of approximately I million white males of military age. the Confederate Congress called on 500,000 men to enlist, which inspired hundreds of thousands to muster into service. Roughly 50 percent signed up for three years and the other half enlisted for 12 months.

Companies of 100 soldiers constituted the primary unit of organization on both sides. Theoretically, 10 companies made up a regiment, four or more regiments comprised a brigade, two or more brigades comprised a division, and two or more divisions comprised a corps. Companies and regiments were frequently raised from single communities and their officers were typically leaders in those communities. Officers with experience or education were frequently commanders of brigades, divisions, corps, and armies.

As armies began to take shape, so did military strategy. Reunion of Northerners and Southerners was the principal goal of Northern political and military leaders. Preservation of the Union was paramount to Union war aims, and politicians and commanders planned to fight a limited war for limited goals. By pledging to protect noncombatants and by respecting their constitutional guarantees (a strategy intended to attract Southerners back to the Unioni. the Union army could concentrate on fighting the Confederate army. But between 1861 and 1863, the means for obtaining reunion changed dramatically. The experience of fighting in the west brought about fundamental political and military changes that shifted and broadened Union war aims. Over time, winning the war became more important than winning the peace.

General-in-Chief Winfield Scott initially-devised a strategic plan for the Union, t he 'Anaconda Plan,' as it was known, called for Union forces to move down the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy, while blockading Southern ports in an attempt to

strangle the economy. Scott's plan would require 300,(XX) well-trained men and would take two years to complete. Political and popular pressure to get the war moving, however, forced Scott to reconsider his overwhelming invasion plan. Still, using the waterways to strike at the Confederacy would ultimately prove to be a great advantage for the Union.

Because slavery and states' rights were central to Southern life, the Confederate war effort struggled with building a nation founded on these beliefs while attempting to fight a war that did not necessarily serve these interests. To wage a war that did not deliberately protect slavery and preserve states' rights would diminish popular support for the conflict. Confederate political

Camp Jackson Missouri was a suburu of St Louis and on 10 May 1861 rt was the scene of a violent outbreak of war After Nathaniel Lyon's troops had forced the surrender of Camp Jackson and its inhabitants, violence erupted that resulted ir. the death of 28 ciizens.Tney were mamly Bystanders, including women ana children (Review of Reviews Company i

and military leaders therefore sought to wage a defensive war. Protection of the South and its institutions from invading armies became the overall strategy for the war in the west.

The Union occupies Missouri

When Kentucky declared neutrality at the outbreak of the conflict, both Lincoln and Davis ordered military commanders to respect the state's dubious position. This meant that Northern penetration in the west would have to skirt Kentucky, and thus Northern armies would be forced to traverse the Appalachian Mountains to tiie east and the Mississippi River to the west, neither of which seemed feasible in the spring of 1861. Southerners feared that a neutral Kentucky might soon fall prey to the Union. Kentucky was indeed important. I think to lose Kentucky,' remarked Lincoln with obvious concern, 'is nearly to lose the whole game.' 'Kentucky gone, we can not hold Missouri, nor. as I think, Maryland. These all against us. and the job on our hands is too large for us.'

Whatever Kentucky's importance, while it remained neutral, little could be done in the Bluegrass state. Missouri then became all the more important for the Confederacy, as its border was just across the river from Kentucky. Missourians rejected secession in March and remained in the Union, but considering the heavy pro-South contingent in the southern part of the state and along the river, war came earls' to the western state. After rejecting Lincoln's call for volunteers in April, the secessionist Governor Claiborne Jackson, with the support of the pro-secessionist legislature, attempted to seize the federal arsenal and federal subtreasury in St Louis. On 10 May the rival factions came to blows at Camp Jackson, near St Louis, where Jackson's militia encamped. Federal Captain Nathaniel Lyon, a fiery, anti-slavery veteran of the earlier skirmishes in Kansas, captured the Confederate force and marched them through the streets of St Louis back to the arsenal. An angry pro-South mob

This lithograph shows Franz Sigel the leader of German-Americans in the war who served under Nathaniel Lyon during the Missouri campaign, being inspired by Lyon, who was killed during the Battle of Wilson's Creek. (Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection Brown University Library!

gathered and triggered a riot that left 28 civilians and two soldiers dead and dozens more wounded.

Days later, I .yon and Jackson met to discuss the future of Missouri in the hope of avoiding more bloodshed. The meeting ended when Lyon refused to concede to the Governor's demands. 'Rather then concede to the State of Missouri for one instant the right to dictate to my Government in any matter,' he defiantly

This lithograph shows Franz Sigel the leader of German-Americans in the war who served under Nathaniel Lyon during the Missouri campaign, being inspired by Lyon, who was killed during the Battle of Wilson's Creek. (Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection Brown University Library!

remarked, 'I would see you ... and every man. woman, and child in the State, dead and buried. This nwans war.'

Ironically, the move to suppress Confederate sympathy had in fact fueled

Missouri, 1861 and Wilson's Creek

25 miles




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