The campaign in Kentucky and Tennessee 186162

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As winter approached, the prospects of campaigning were dismal and the difficulty of moving men in the winter brought the Federal offensive to a halt. Both Union and Confederate armies went into winter quarters expecting little military activity, but commanders began to exploit the natural advantages afforded them by the rivers. In the months that followed, the Union's edge on the water helped it recover from the defeat at First Bull Run, Wilson's Creek, and Belmont. Union commanders pondered the best avenues of invasion. They could move down the Mississippi River against Columbus, which had proven to be impregnable; they could move by railroad from Louisville to Bowling Green into central Kentucky, which the Confederates could easily stall; or they could move up either the Tennessee or Cumberland River or both toward the river forts.

Whatever the case, the western commanders would first have to agree on the same avenue and, secondly, be willing to commit significant numbers of troops to hold on to supply areas as they moved south, which would reduce the number of troops for combat. A seemingly logical solution at the time, the divided departments would come to plague Union operations in the west, as neither Halleck nor Buell, cautious by nature and sensitive about administering their departments, could agree on the same route of invasion. Thus, the better part of the winter of 1861-62 was spent campaigning with a map. They convinced themselves that because the Confederates had the advantage of interior lines, any Union assault would have a distinct disadvantage. Consequently, an impatient Northern public and a frustrated president, tired of the inactivity, demanded an end to procrastination and the beginning of some movement in the west.

It was the subordinates of Halleck and Buell who, disheartened by the inactivity of camp life, convinced their superiors to allow them to take the initiative. The war began to

Commodore Andrew Foote was wounded by splinters of wood in his foot while on deck of the USS St Lous. Though somewhat incapacitated, he took part in the attack on Island No. 10 in April. His injury forced him to shore duty and in June he was transferred to Washington. (Ann Ronan Picture Library)

move in the west in early January when Halleck ordered Grant to send a small expeditionary force up the Tennessee River to test the defenses at Fort Henry. This diversionary trip, Halleck thought, might also force Johnston to consider his options as to where he might concentrate his force.

At the other end of the Confederate defensive line, Major-Generals George B. Crittenden and George H. Thomas engaged and defeated Confederate forces under Brigadier-General Felix Zollicoffer at the Battle of Mill Springs or Logan's Cross Roads, Kentucky. The battle, on 19 January 1862, revealed the weakness in Johnston's line and advanced the Union cause in the eastern portion of the Bluegrass state and in eastern Tennessee.

Meanwhile, Grant had finally convinced Halleck that Fort Henry could easily be taken. In early February about 15,000 troops boarded transports and steamed up the Tennessee. To cooperate with the Union troops. Grant ordered a flotilla of gunboats commanded by Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote to accompany the expedition. On 6 February, while Grant disembarked his troops, the flotilla continued upriver and at 11.00 am opened fire on the fort. Realizing that the Union forces were closing in by land and river, Brigadier-General Lloyd Tilghman decided to send the 2,500-man garrison out of the fort to Fort Donelson some 12 miles (19km) east. The winter rains had forced the Tennessee out of its banks and the fort had succumbed to nearly 6 feet (2m) of water. Within three hours, the gunboats had reduced the fort and forced Tilghman to surrender before Grant's infantrymen even arrived on the scene. 'Fort Henry is ours,' read the news as it made its way east. 'The flag of the Union is re-established on the soil of Tennessee,' asserted Halleck.

The Federals had correctly pinpointed the weakness in the Confederate defensive line: the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers. Thinking that the Confederates would reinforce Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River, Grant destroyed the railroad over the Tennessee, sent gunboats south toward northern Alabama, and prepared to move eastward toward the river stronghold. Brigadier-General John B. Floyd commanded the Confederates at Fort Donelson, and Johnston decided to strengthen his line by sending some reinforcements, withdrawing part of the garrison at Columbus and abandoning Bowling Green. Confederate authorities had faced the crucial dilemma that would plague them for the rest of the war: how and where to defend the several-hundred-mile line with insufficient forces at their disposal.

Although reinforcing the fort seemed the strategic thing to do, it ultimately proved to be a colossal mistake. On 13 February, Grant's army of 23.000 men had made it to Fort Donelson and encircled it. The following day, Foote's gunboats arrived and began shelling the fort from the river, expecting to force its surrender. After several

Ulysses S. Grant seized Fort Donelson and with it considerate fame. When he was asked for terms after defeating a Confederate breakout attempt, his reply earned him the nickname 'Unconditional Surrender' Grant. (Ann Ronan Picture Library)

hours of heavy shelling, however, the fort's well-positioned artillery forced the gunboats to retire. The cold and blustery day ended and the two disheartened armies prepared to do battle the next day. During the night, the Confederate command, convinced that Grant had completely invested the fort by now, determined to attempt a breakout and head south. The next day, 15 February, General Pillow, aided by some of General Buckner's men. broke through the Federal line after a brutal fight. When nothing was done to break the entire army out of the fort, Floyd ordered his army to return to their fortifications.

That evening the Confederates held a council of war and determined to surrender. Floyd and Pillow abdicated their responsibility as the highest-ranking commanders and left the job to General Buckner, a prewar friend of Grant's. When Buckner requested terms of surrender on 16 February, Grant replied. 'No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted.' The words that forever immortalized him as 'Unconditional Surrender' Grant gave the Union its first real victory of the entire war.

Strategically, the loss of the river forts was catastrophic to the Confederacy, but equally significant was the fact that Grant also captured the reinforcements sent to support the garrison. Some 12,500 soldiers and 40 guns were surrendered. The next day, the Northern press printed a sensational story of the Donelson campaign, made Grant an unsuspecting hero, but gave Halleck credit for planning the entire invasion. Frustrated by the news that 'All was quiet along the Potomac,' all winter, Lincoln was elated by the news along the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers and instantly rewarded the nation's new hero with a promotion to major-general of volunteers.

The Union invasion along the rivers forced the Confederates to retreat south all the way to the Tennessee-Mississippi and Alabama border. Northern gunboats now threatened Southern river towns as far south as Clarksville and Nashville. Columbus, a Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi, also succumbed to the Federals, as did a significant portion of Middle Tennessee. Tennessee Governor Isham Harris prepared to abandon Nashville and move the government with him to Memphis. Significantly, the rivers, the great market highways that had provided a regional unity at harvest times, had now become the axis of military invasion and the great weakness of the Confederacy during the winter.

On the heels of the defeats in the west, there was a somber mood in Richmond on 22 February, the day Jefferson Davis was inaugurated President of the Confederacy. As the rain poured, the Confederate President claimed that 'The tyranny of the unbridled majority, the most odious and least responsible form of despotism, has denied us both the right and the remedy. Therefore we are in arms to renew such sacrifices as our fathers made to the holy cause of constitutional liberty.' While he was speaking, the citizens and soldiers of Nashville were evacuating the city. By the 25th, the Tennessee capital had surrendered to Union commander Don Carlos Buell. Wanting to move quickly to restore civilian government to the occupied region, Lincoln had named Andrew Johnson military governor of the state.

Confederate Commander Simon Bolivar Buckner was a prewar friend of Grant and had loaned him money. When John B. Floyd and Gideon Pillow abdicated responsibility for surrendering Fort Donelson. Buckner yielded to circumstances and accepted Grant's unfriendly terms of 'Unconditional Surrender'. (Ann Ronan Picture Library)

West of the Mississippi River, MajorGeneral John Pope assumed command of the Army of the Mississippi at Commerce, Missouri. He ordered his troops to move against New Madrid, Missouri, in an attempt to dislodge the Confederate stronghold at Island No. 10 near the Kentucky-Tennessee border. By the time the Confederates had evacuated Columbus, Kentucky, Federal troops under Brigadier-General Samuel R. Curtis had pushed the Confederates under Major-General Sterling Price south out of Missouri and into the northwestern portion of Arkansas. At Fayetteville, Confederate General Earl Van Dorn joined Price in an

The St Louis was one of the earliest ironclad gunooats constructed. It saw action against Confederate batteries at Columbus, Kentucky, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, and Memphis. In October 1862, its name changed to Baron de Kalb and it participated in river action against Vicksburg in 1862-63. A Confederate torpedo sank the ironclad on 12 July 1863, in the Yazoo River. (Ann Ronan Picture Library)

Known as the Hero of Fort Sumter. Pierre Gustav Beauregard was second in command to Albert Sidney Johnston, who commanded the Army of Mississippi. After Johnston was killed at the Battle of Shiloh,

6-7 April 1862. Beauregard assumed command of the army but he was relieved by Jefferson Davis shortly after. (Ann Ronan Picture Library )

Known as the Hero of Fort Sumter. Pierre Gustav Beauregard was second in command to Albert Sidney Johnston, who commanded the Army of Mississippi. After Johnston was killed at the Battle of Shiloh,

6-7 April 1862. Beauregard assumed command of the army but he was relieved by Jefferson Davis shortly after. (Ann Ronan Picture Library )

effort to stop the Federal advance, and on

7-8 March they counterattacked at the Battle of Pea Ridge. The Union victory allowed Halleck to concentrate his energies east of the Mississippi.

Having assumed command of the entire west. Halleck ordered his armies south to occupy Corinth, Mississippi, an important railroad junction on the Memphis and Charleston, or the 'Vertebrae of the Confederacy,' as the Confederate Secretary of War, Leroy P. Walker, characterized it. The Mobile and Ohio line bisected the Memphis and Charleston at Corinth, and Halleck came to believe that after Richmond, occupation of this tiny railway junction might bring the rebellion to a close.

Halleck ordered Grant to Savannah, Tennessee, to wait for Buell to reinforce him before heading south. Confident that the Confederates would not attack, Grant assembled his army at Pittsburg Landing, a well-known landing for river transports. It was about 25 miles (40km) north of Corinth, and above the river bluffs the land was relatively flat, which made the landing a suitable choice to land a large number of troops. Still, it was on the west side of the Tennessee River and Halleck had ordered Grant to await reinforcements from Buell's army before heading south toward Corinth. Buell had departed Nashville with 36,000 men and was expected to meet up with Grant before he crossed his army over the river.

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