Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Saturday, March 1, 1862 (Saturday): "Better To Retreat Than Risk A General Battle"

USS Tyler (NPS)

SAINT LOUIS, March 1, 1862.
Major General U. S. GRANT,
Fort Henry:
    Transports will be sent to you as soon as possible to move your column up the Tennessee River. The main object of this expedition will be to destroy the railroad bridge over Bear Creek, near Eastport, Miss., and also the connections at Corinth, Jackson, and Umboldt. It is thought best that these objects be attempted in the order named. Strong detachments of cavalry and light artillery, supported by infantry, may by rapid movements reach these points from the river without very serious opposition. Avoid any general engagement with strong forces. It will be better to retreat than to risk a general battle. This should be strongly impressed upon the officers sent with the expedition from the river. General C. F. Smith, or some very discreet officer, should be selected for such command.
    Having accomplished these objects, or such of them as may be practicable, you will return to Danville and move on Paris. Perhaps the troops sent to Jackson ad Humboldt can reach Paris as easily by land as to return to the transports. This must depend on the character of the roads and the position of the enemy. All telegraph line which can be reached must be cut.
    The gunboats will accompany the transports for their protection. Any loyal Tennessee who desire it may be enslited and supplied with arms.
    Competent officers should be left to command the garrisons of Forts Henry and Donelson in your absence. I have indicated in general terms the object of this.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 7, Part 1, Page 674.

Grant was anxious for his next assignment.  This expedition moved a portion of his troops under Brigadier General C. F. Smith 115 mile Northwest of Nashville, in position to destroy rail supply connections on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad the Confederates would need as they fell back toward Corinth.  Grant had 27,000 men, two gunboats, and 58 transports.  The original intent was for a limited strike, avoiding battle, but this would become the opening move in the Shiloh Campaign.

Monday, February 27, 2012

February 28, 1862 (Friday): McClellan Fails to Measure Up

General Randolph Marcy

SANDY HOOK, February 28, 1862. (Received 9.30 p. m.).
    It is impossible for many days to do more than supply the troops now here and at Charleston. We could not supply and move to Winchester for many days, and had I moved more troops here they would have been at a loss for food on the Virginia side. I know that I have acted wisely, and that you will cheerfully agree with me when I explain. I have arranged to establish depots on that side so we can do what we please. I have secured opening of the road.

Major-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 5, Part 1, Page 730.

The President believed McClellan finally was going to move, going across the Potomac to take Winchester.  He waited for word of the movement, only to discover McClellan was not going to move toward his objective because, after arranging to build a bridge of canal boats to carry supplies over the Potomac, it was discovered nobody had measured the size of the boats in relation to the locks which opened onto the Potomac. McClellan proposed to advance as far as Charlestown, secure his bridgehead, and wait for other means of getting the supplies over.  This was either a supreme example of bad planning or evidence, as Lincoln put it, that "The general impression is daily gaining ground that the General does not intend to do anything."  While this bizarre episode was going on, Johnston was preparing to abandon Manassas, which would open Winchester to the Union without opposition in two weeks.  It would also open the door for McClellan to change base to the Peninsula and, temporarily, avert the questions which had arisen concerning his reluctance to commit to the offensive.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

February 27, 1862 (Thursday): A Poisoning In Arkansas

Mudtown Was About 30 Miles South of Pea Ridge

          No. 49.              }                    Saint Louis, Mo., February 27, 1862.
   Official information has been received that the rebel troops in evacuating Mudtown, Ark., poisoned the provisions which they were obliged to abandon, and that forty-two officers and men of one of our regiments were poisoned by eating these provisions.  One brave officer and several men have died and others have suffered terribly from this barbarous act—an act condemned by every civilized nation, ancient and modern.
   We cannot retaliate by adopting the same barbarous mode of warfare; nor can we retaliate by punishing the innocent for the acts of the guilty.  The laws of war forbid this; but the same code authorizes us to retaliate upon the guilty parties.  Any person guilty of such acts, when captured will not be treated as ordinary prisoners of war; they will not be shot but will suffer the ignominious punishment of being hung as felons.  Moreover, all officers are in a measure responsible for the acts of the troops under their command.  Officers of troops guilty of such acts, although not themselves the advisers or abettors of crime, will therefore when captured be put in irons and conveyed as criminals to these headquarters.  The laws of war make it their duty to prevent such barbarities; if they neglect that duty they must suffer the consequences.
   By command of Major-General Halleck:
                                                                                    N. H. McLEAN,
                                                                        Assistant Adjustant-General

Series II., Vol. 3, Part 1, Page 334.

As Curtis advanced through Missouri and drove Price’s men into Arkansas, the Confederate forces were accused of poisoning abandoned provisions and wells in Mudtown, Arkansas.  Mudtown, also known as Bloomington (now Lowell), was about 75 miles southwest of Springfield, Missouri.   It was located on the Old Wire Road (named for the telegraph wires on it) between Fort Smith and Fayetteville.  During the war as many as 10,000 troops camped in the area. As far as we can find out, no other repercussions occurred from the incident.  It is known at least one Union officer had to retire from the Army due to liver damage in the incident.

February 26, 1862 (Wednesday): Lander Ordered to the Ready

General Frederick W. Lander
WASHINGTON, D. C., February 26, 1862.
General F. W. LANDER,
Paw Paw, Va.:
    Banks' advance occupies Harper's Ferry, and he is now throwing across the river at that place a pontoon bridge, after which a bridge of canal boats will be constructed, if this does not prove substantial. I do not think the movement on Winchester will be made until a proper bridge can be made. This will soon be determined, when you will be duly informed. The present intention of the general commanding is for you to march by Bloomery, and I would think it advisable for you to make all your preliminary arrangements accordingly. The general will time your departure from your present position so as to reach Winchester about the same time with Banks' column. The information from Banks regarding the position of enemy at Winchester I sent you yesterday seems to make if quite positive. I regret that I cannot procure Snyder or Butler for you. The former is aide to General Sykes, and the latter the only officer present with his company.

Chief of Staff.

Series I., Vol. 51, Part 1, Page 541.

With progress being made in the West, McClellan prepared to make a quick strike towards Winchester to secure the Valley.  Jackson was rumored at this time to be contemplating a move toward Bath (west of Frederick and South of Hancock)A move against Winchester would place Union forces well into Jackson's rear, cutting off his supply line. At the time of this writing, Lander had recently come down with chills and fever, which would lead within weeks to his death from pneumonia.  Lander was an able commander, and his loss one of consequence to McClellan.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

February 25, 1862 (Tuesday): Grant Waits On Orders

Grant's Headquarters at Fort Donelson

Fort Donelson, February 25, 1862. 

Commanding District of Cairo, Paducah, Ky.:
    Your letter of the 23d*, asking what disposition I will have made of large re-enforcements now on their way, is just received. I do not know what work General Halleck intends me to do next, therefore cannot say where it is best to have them. Probably they had better remain at Paducah until further orders are received from headquarters of the department.
    Our troops are now occupying Nashville. The rebels have fallen back to Chattanooga, only 3 miles from Georgia State line.
    Two soldiers from the Eighth Missouri Regiment, who were sent as spies, have just returned from Memphis. They describe the feelings of the people as much inclined to return to their allegiance.
Orders have been given for the evacuation of Columbus. This I get not only from the men themselves, but from a Memphis paper of the 19th, which they bring with them.
    There is a detachment of troops belonging to my command at Henderson, Ky., which there can be no further use of detaining there. If you have an opportunity of having them transported, I would like them to join their regiments.

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

*Not found.

Series I., Vol. 7, Part 1, Page 667

Nashville fell quickly to the advancing Union Army.  In some ways the overwhelming superiority in numbers in the west seems to have made the task at hand more difficult.  There was no central task to put the senior commanders to work collectively to achieve.  So Halleck fretted and wanted authority over Buell.  Buell moved cautiously, Grant looked for his next objective.  There was also the matter of defining an objective to the effort.  Had the Union forces maintained contact with the Confederate armies they could have perhaps destroyed them early in 1862, changing the entire dynamic of the war.  But at this point the administration and the generals in the field were both focused on the geographic and political dimensions of victory in Tennessee and Kentucky. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

February 24, 1862 (Monday): Florida Defenseless?

Old Florida State Capital

Richmond, Va., February 24, 1862.
General R. E. LEE,
Savannah, Ga.:
    SIR: The recent disaster to our arms in Tennessee forces the Government to the stern necessity of withdrawing its lines within more defensible limits, so as to enable us to meet with some equality the overpowering numbers of the enemy. The railroad line from Memphis to Richmond must be defended at all hazards. We can only do this by withdrawing troops from the seaboard. You are therefore requested to withdraw all such forces as are now employed in the defense of the seaboard of Florida, taking proper steps to secure the guns and munitions of war, and to send forward the troops to Tennessee, to report to General A. S. Johnston, by the most expeditious route.
   The only troops to be retained in Florida are such as may be necessary to defend the Apalachicola River, as the enemy could by that river at high water send his gunboats into the very middle of the State of Georgia. Let General Trapier put that river and harbor in a satisfactory state of defense, and then further orders can be given to him; but I beg that there be no delay that you can possibly avoid in forwarding to Tennessee the troops now at Fernandina and on the eastern coast.
     I am, your obedient servant,

       J. P. BENJAMIN,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 6, Part 1, Page 398.

It is interesting to consider Robert E. Lee did not start the momentus year of 1862 with a major command.  He was in charge of the defense of the South Atlantic coast, including Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.   Due to the devastating defeat at Fort Donelson and the rapid retreat of Confederate forces in Kentucky and Tennessee, it became essential to defend the rail line from Memphis to Richmond.  So dire was the state of affairs, Secretary of War Benjamin ordered away most of Lee's forces in Florida to provide reinforcements to Albert Sydney Johnston's Army of the Tennessee.  With too much territory to defend and too few soldiers, the Confederates were faced with hard choices.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

February 23, 1862 (Sunday): Halleck Makes A Power Play

General Henry Halleck (National Archives)

Saint Louis, February 23 [21], 1862.
Secretary of War:
    One whole week has been lost already by hesitation and delay. There was, and I think there still is, a golden opportunity to strike a fatal blow, but I can't to it unless I can control Buell's army. I am perfectly willing to act as General McClellan dictates or take any amount of responsibility. To succeeded we must be prompt. I have explained everything to General McClellan and Assistant Secretary Scott. There is not a moment to be lost. Give me authority, and I will be responsible for results.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 7, Part 1, Page 655.

Halleck had heard rumors of a panicked Confederate evacuation of Nashville and wanted to push forward.  Commandore Foote wanted permission to advance the gunboats, even ahead of troops, and no doubt the city could have been easily taken.  But Buell was out of telegraph range and Halleck believed McClellan wanted Buell, McClellan's friend, to take the city.  Meanwhile Grant was headed for Nashville as well.  It was a volatile mix of opportunity and ego and in this message Halleck was showing the strain of the combination. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February 22, 1862 (Saturday): Johnston Prepares to Abandon the Potomac

Cockpit Point (Library of Congress)

Headquarters, Manassas, February 22, 1862.


   Mr. President: The condition of the country is even worse than I described it to be and rain is falling fast.  I fear that field artillery near the Potomac cannot be moved soon.
   The enemy may not allow us much time for change of position.  He has been more active than usual lately.  It is reported that a picket of 8 men was captured this morning near Fairfax Court-House. 
   Reconnaisance on the Lower Occoquan and the Potomac have been frequent, the latter in balloons as well as boats.  Two of the three guns at Cockpit Point are busted; one (a rifle) partially.
   Let me suggest, most respectfully, that several general officers are required here.  I have repeatedly reported the fact to the War Department.  I beg you also to have orders expedited for the assignment of engineer officers to my command.  It is of great importance that their services should commence immediately. 
   Most respectfully, your obedient servant.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 5, Part 1, Page 1079.

Anticipating a general Union advance, Davis and Johnston had agreed to pull off the guns from batteries along the Potomac.  The weather was uncooperative, having rained or snowed six times already in February.  The loss of positions along the Potomac was of less consequence to Confederates than the Union.  The batteries could be passed easily at night.  But their existence along the river leading to the nation’s capital was a psychological and political affront to the Union.  Johnston was very conscious of rank and repeatedly asked for more general officers, which after a fashion gave him the power of patronage with his subordinates. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

February 21, 1862 (Friday): McClellan Struggles to Get Answers

A Civil War telegraph.

WASHINGTON, D. C., February 21, 1862-12.30 a.m. 

General G. W. CULLUM, Cairo:
   Gun and mortar boats must be ready in much less than ten days. Call on Chicago for assistance; we cannot now stand on forms. From two to four gunboats and a few mortar boats would secure evacuation of Columbus. You need have no fear for Cairo if you have a respectable garrison there. The enemy will not attack you.
    Ten days to prepare boats is inadmissible; they must be ready by Monday, if you have to take the affair in charge yourself.


Major-General, Commanding U. S. Army.

WASHINGTON, D. C., February 21, 1862-12.30 a.m.
Major-General HALLECK, Saint Louis:
   Buell at Bowling Green knows more of the state of affairs than you at Saint Louis. Until I hear from him I cannot see necessity of giving you entire command.
   I expect to hear from Buell in a few minutes. I do not yet see that Buell cannot control his own line. I shall not lay your request before the Secretary until I hear definitely from Buell.


WASHINGTON, D. C., February 21, 1862-1 a.m.
General BUELL:
   Telegraph me at least once every day the position of your own troops, that of the rebels, and the state of affairs. Unless I have this detailed information I cannot tell whether it is necessary or not to suspend or abandon my own plans here. Neither Halleck nor yourself give me as much detailed information as is necessary for me. This is the critical period, and I must be constantly informed of the condition of your affairs.

(Similar dispatch, same date, to Halleck.)

WASHINGTON, D. C., February 21-7.30 p.m.
Major General H. W. HALLECK, Saint Louis, Mo.:
   I think you are entirely right in not wishing to push Curtis beyond Bentonville. No necessity for anything more than a party of cavalry at Fayetteville. The true line of advance into Arkansas is by Pocahontas and Jacksonport; there you seriously threaten Memphis. To-morrow I shall hear definitely from Buell what he can do. I think our next move must be on Nashville with least possible delay. As soon as we can move a column on Humboldt or vicinity Columbus will fall. Hurry repairs of gunboats; work on them day and night. As soon as enough of them are ready to protect mortar boats send latter to shell Columbus.

Major-General, Commanding U. S. Army.

WASHINGTON, D. C., February 21, 1862-9.30 p.m.
General BUELL:
T   he advance on Nashville is of the greatest importance. If you can make it by the line of the Cumberland more rapidly than by Bowling Green at once change your line of operations, and I will direct Halleck's troops on Memphis and Columbus.
   What is Thomas' division doing at Bardstown? Rapid movements are now necessary. If railroad to Nashville is destroyed, take the line of Cumberland River. I repeat, both Halleck and yourself keep me to much in the dark. Your reports are not sufficiently numerous or explicit.


WASHINGTON, D. C., February 21, 1862
General HALLECK:
   What more have you from Columbus? You do not report either often or fully enough. Unless you keep me fully advised, you must not expect me to abandon my own plans for yours.


WASHINGTON, February 21, 1862
J. B. FRY, Assistant Adjutant-General, Louisville:
   It will be better for all concerned if you will keep us fully advised about matters in Kentucky. The general is embarrassed all the time for want of definite information from both Generals Halleck and Buell. Your dispatch of to-day was more definite than any yet received from either party since they left Washington. This is strictly private.


BOWLING GREEN, February 21, 1862
General HALLECK, Saint Louis:
   I shall start from here to-morrow and expect to be opposite or near Nashville to-morrow night. Move up the river with your gunboats, but without exposing them unnecessarily.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 7, Part 1, Page 645.

This was America's first modern war.  The telegraph allowed McClellan in Washington access to real time information from the field.  Unfortunately for him, neither Halleck nor Buell was very forthcoming with information.  McClellan was pressing for an advance on Nashville to exploit the advantage gained at Forts Henry and Donelson.  The center of the Confederate line had been penetrated and Tennessee lay open to attack.  Johnston was falling back in disorder.  Halleck was reluctant to move on Nashville without naval support, which would be delayed until the damaged gunboats from Donelson could be repaired.  Opportunity was the Union's, if McClellan could get Halleck and Buell to act in concert.

Official Records, Series

Sunday, February 19, 2012

February 20, 1862 (Thursday): Butler Gets Reigned In

Governor John A. Andrew of Massachusetts
WAR DEPARTMENT, February 20, 1862. 

Major General B. F. BUTLER, Boston, Mass.:
    The following telegram was sent to Governor Andrew last night:
    Your communication of the 18th instant has just been received. This Department recognizes the right of a Governor to commission volunteer officers. If General Butler assumes to control your appointment or interfere with it he will transcend his authority and be dealt with accordingly. The Adjutant-General has left the Department and gone to the country, but to-morrow he will transmit an order to General Butler that will prevent his improper interference with your legitimate authority. 

Secretary of War. 

Assistant Secretary of War. 

ADJUTANT-GENERAL'S OFFICE, Washington, February 20, 1862.
Major General B. F. BUTLER, U. S. Volunteers,
Boston, Mass.:
    The Secretary of War directs that all vacancies of commissioned officers in all New England regiments shall be filled by the Governors. General Williams is attached to your command. Fourteenth Connecticut is not organized. Acknowledge by telegraph. 


BOSTON, MASS., February 20, 1862.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:
    General Butler has in no way attempted to interfere with the legitimate authority of Governor Andrew. 


Official Records, Series III., Vol. 1, Part 1, Page 897.

Butler was a controversial figure throughout his war service, even with the government.  He was in Massachusetts recruiting for an expedition which ultimately would take New Orleans when he raised the ire of Massachusetts governor John A. Andrew.  Andrew, like most governors, reserved the right to make appointments of officers to volunteer regiments raised in their states.  He and Butler disagreed over his selections and in this Butler overplayed his hand.  Andrew was a key figure in the Republican Party and a leading abolitionists, and regardless of his successes Butler did not have the political connections to take on a powerful opponent. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

February 19, 1862 (Wednesday): "Simply A Question of Humanity"

Camp Douglas Chicago, Illinois

SAINT LOUIS, February 19, 1862.

C. H. ELDRIDGE, Davenport, Iowa:
All wounded are sent to Cincinnati, Mound City, Evansville and Saint Louis. No distinction is made between States or between friends and foes. It is simply a question of humanity.


Official Records, Series II., Vol. 3, Part 1, Page 281.

The 10,000 prisoners taken at Fort Donelson presented a logistical challenge to their captors.  But they also presented an opportunity for the government to gain influence in Kentucky and Tennessee by their humane treatment.  Union officers would be excused for believing the war was now turning in their favor and such considerations were important if the North won and the Union was to be restored.  Others, like the Radical Republicans took a dim view of such leniency.

Friday, February 17, 2012

February 18, 1862 (Tuesday): Chicken Stealing Rebels


Iuka, Miss., February 18, 1862.

    The general commanding has been deeply mortified to hear from the citizens that we came to protect complaints that some of the troops of this command had been guilty of the most disgraceful plundering of private property; that chickens had been stolen, hogs had been killed, a horse wantonly stabbed, private gardens robbed. Such conduct is disgraceful in itself, unworthy of Southern soldiers, and only equaled by the marauding hordes that are invading our soil. It is hoped that such things may not occur again in future, but if ever they should, it is enjoined not only all officers, but upon all good men also, to ferret out and expose to ignominy and punishment the guilty parties, whose conduct when unexposed brings down common disgrace upon all. The patriot soldier who has left all the comforts and luxuries of home to battle for his country's rights will be exposed to suspicion and must bear his portion of the common disgrace. It therefore behooves him above all others to assist in detecting the quilt.
    By order of Brigadier General James R. Chalmers:

Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 7, Part 1, Page 891.

Confederate troops in Mississippi were not an occupying Army, were not in a country of divided loyalties, and had the good will and support of the population.  And still offenses against the local population occurred.  It does not excuse those instances were armies in occupied territory exploited the vulnerability of civilians, but it does show how easy it was for the worst elements in a military unit to act as a mob and take advantage of their position.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

February 17, 1862 (Monday): "Give the Little Frenchman a Warm Reception"

General G. W. Callum
CAIRO, ILL., February 17, 1862.
   I have telegraphed to-day pretty much all the glorious news of the surrender of Fort Donelson.
I presume your telegram to "Stop all forces required to resist Beauregard" has reference to a possible movement from Columbus on this point which he might make, thinking us stripped of the troops for the Cumberland. I have anticipated it, but was willing to trust to luck a little to strengthen Grant. Now that Fort Donelson has fallen I won't be so generous till all danger has passed. I have had cavalry scouts constantly out on both sides of the Mississippi, and to-day have sent a gunboat and steamer armed with infantry to look along the river, but not to fight.
    For our defense I think we have a force that will give the little Frenchman a warm reception.
At this point (Cairo) we have nearly three regiments and a company of artillery to serve the guns in the fort. At Bird's Point we have four small regiments and some cavalry, and at and above Fort Holt say 250 artillery, with sixteen field guns, and 150 cavalry.
    Besides the land forces we have two of the disabled gunboats from Fort Donelson-more than capable to encounter any of the rebel gunboats, and two others out of order and with no power of locomotion, but can use their batteries, for which I will supply infantry details.
    In consequence of their sending up a rebel steamer this morning to reconnoiter I have this afternoon returned the compliment. I have given special instructions to Colonel Buford and Captain Phelps, who go on the expedition, to carefully observe whether, as is possible, they are about to evacuate the place.
I though it important to push gunboats and the mortar flats to Clarksville, which bars our way to Nashville.
    Though I suppose I am no longer necessary here for the present, with three other generals ranking me in the district, yet I will not return till you think I can be spared. As I made provision but for a short stay, if of no special necessity here I would like to return to Saint Louis to bring up arrears and prepare for any forward move you propose. I think I have made ample provision for the wounded at Paducah and Mound City.
Yours, truly,


Official Records Series I., Vol. 7, Part 1, Page 940.

Callum was Halleck's chief engineer and one of the most experienced in the Army.  Halleck relied heavily on his judgment.  In the aftermath of the victory at Donelson (a victory for which it appears Halleck was unprepared) he was concerned with the idea Beauregard would move south from Columbus and fall on the Union rear as they advanced into Tennessee.  Buell was proposing to move more rapidly, but he acknowledged the lack of transportation and the poor condition of the roads in winter were obstacles to his advance.  The administration would surely expect Grant's great victory to be exploited, but the pressure brought by success was surely preferable to the alternative. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February 16, 1862 (Sunday): "Unconditional Surrender" Grant

Dover Hotel (NPS)

[Inclosure Numbers 3.]

Camp near
Fort Donelson, February 16, 1862.
SIR: Yours of this date, proposing armistice and appointment of commissioners to settle terms of capitulation, is just received. No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.
General S. B. BUCKNER,
Confederate Army.
[Inclosure Numbers 4.]

Dover, Tenn., February 16, 1862.
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 army yesterday, to accept the ungenerous an unchivalrous terms which you propose.
I am, sir, your very obedient servant, 

Brigadier-General, C. S. Army. 

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 7, Part 1, Page 161.

It is difficult to overstate the impact of Fort Donelson’s capture on the war.  It forced the Confederate Army from Kentucky, opened Middle Tennessee to the threat of invasion, and provided a tremendous morale boost to the Northern cause.  There were three Confederate generals at Donelson (Floyd, the ranking officer, Pillow, and Donelson).  After opening a line to remove the garrison and fall back into Tennessee, Pillow ordered his men back to their entrenchments.  Grant, on a gunboat during the attack, returned and ordered a counterattack which established the Union forces in a commanding position.  Floyd and Pillow escaped, along with Forrest’s cavalary, and Buckner surrendered 12,000 men to Grant, hereafter known as “Unconditional Surrender”.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

February 15, 1862 (Saturday): Grant Asks the Navy for Help

CAMP NEAR FORT DONELSON, February 15, 1862.
Commanding Officer Gunboat Flotilla:
    If all the gunboats that can will immediately make their appearance to the enemy it may secure us a victory. Otherwise all may be defeated. A terrible conflict ensued in my absence, which has demoralized a portion of my command, and I think the enemy is much more so. If the gunboats do not show themselves it will reassure the enemy and still further demoralize our troops. I must order a charge to save appearances. I do not expect the gunboats to go into action, but to make appearance and throw a few shells at long range.

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 7, Part 1, Page 618.

The Confederates had made a good defense against the gunboats.  Grant's men were demoralized and the Navy was reluctant to commit their battered ships again.  But the rebels failed to take either of two good options, to retire toward Nashville on an open road from the fort or to counterattack Grant's force.  The purpose of holding the fort was to buy time for Johnston's withdrawal into Tennessee from Bowling Green and this had been accomplished.  Victory was likely not possible, but a draw of sorts was.  The Confederate generals in the Fort, though, would soon enough find a way to cause maximum destruction to their cause.

Monday, February 13, 2012

February 14, 1862 (Friday): Twelve Degrees in Tennessee

FORT HENRY, February 14 [12], 1862. 

Major-General HALLECK:
We start this morning for Fort Donelson in heavy force. Four regiments from Buell's command and two from Saint Louis arrived last night and were sent around by water. I hope to send you a dispatch from Fort Donelson to-morrow. 


NEAR FORT DONELSON, TENN., February 14, 1862

General H. W. HALLECK,
Commanding Department of the Missouri, Saint Louis, Mo.:
GENERAL: Five gunboats and twelve transports arrived this morning and will materially strengthen us. The enemy have been receiving heavy re-enforcements every night since the investment commenced. They are now all driven inside their outer works, which, however, cover an extensive area. It was impossible, in consequence of the high water and deep sloughs, to throw a force in above Dover to cut off their re-enforcements. Any force sent for such a purpose would be entirely away from support from the main body.
Last night was very severe upon the troops. At dusk it commenced raining, and in a short time turned cold and changed to snow and sleet. This morning the thermometer indicated 20 below freezing.
Respectfully, your obedient servant, 


NEAR FORT DONELSON, February 14, 1862
Major-General HALLECK,
Floyd arrived at Donelson to-day with 4,000 men. Generals Johnson, Buckner, Floyd, and Pillow are said to be there. I have but one gunboat to-day. We have had considerable skirmishing, losing some 10 or 12 killed and about 120 wounded. Rebel loss probably much heavier. I am hourly looking for more gunboats and re-enforcements. 


NEAR DONELSON, February 14, 1862
Major-General HALLECK:
Our troops now invest the works at Fort Donelson. The enemy have been driven into their works at every point. A heavy abatis all around prevents carrying the works by storm at present. I feel every confidence of success and the best feeling prevails among the men. 


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 7, Part 1, Page 612.

The Confederates had driven back the Union gunboats, but Grant had extended his right flank to almost encircle the Confederate lines.  Faced with a siege and encirclement, the Confederates would have to find a way to make a breakthrough to fall back on Nashville.  This very likely should have been the plan before Grant arrived, but there was much confusion as to whether the fort could be maintained.  In fact Beauregard, on arriving in Kentucky, had advocated this move and did not envision a defense at Fort Donelson.  But the Confederate commanders on site initially believed they could hold the fort against attack and Albert Sydney Johnston chose to send reinforcements in the hope they were right.  A striking aspect of the attacks on the 14th was the temperature, as Grant notes here 12 degrees at worst with stinging sleet.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

February 13, 1862 (Thursday): Lane's "Jayhawking Expedition"

General David Hunter

SAINT LOUIS, February 13, 1862.
Major Gen. D. HUNTER:

Commanding, Department of Kansas, Fort Leavenworth, Kans.:
   GENERAL:  Your very kind letter of the 8th is this moment received.*  I must write you a very hasty letter to-day.  You are entirely mistaken about my having received any information, official or unofficial, from Washington about the great “jayhawking expedition.”  Not a word or hint has been communicated to me.  Orders were sent direct by General Thomas to various regiments in this department to repair immediately to Fort Leavenworth and report to General Hunter as a part of General Lane’s expedition.  No notice of such orders was given to me.  To put a stop to these irregularities I issued General Orders Numbers 8 and protested to General Thomas and General McClellan against such an irregular and unmilitary proceeding.  No reply.  I stopped some of the troops on their way, and reported that they could not move until some order was sent to me.  No reply.
   I am satisfied that there have been many such orders issued directly by the President and Secretary Cameron without consulting General McClellan, and for that reason no reply could be given without exposing the plans of the great jayhawker and the imposition of himself and Cameron on the President.  Perhaps that is the key to the silence of the authorities at Washington.  I know nothing on the subject except what I see in the newspapers.
   In regard to my own plans, they are very simple.  I have sent some 16,000 or 17,000 men under General Curtis, against Price at Springfield.  He has been re-enforced by McIntosh, and it is said that Van Dorn and Frost are also marching to his relief.  If it would be possible for you to move a cavalry force rapidly by Fort Scott to threaten Price’s right flank it would have a most excellent effect.  This possibly was the original intention of Lane’s expedition, but I protested to Washington against any of his jayhawkers coming into this department, and saying positively that I would arrest and disarm every one I could catch.
   The remainder of all my available force will be sent to the lines of the Cumberland and Tennessee.  Who will take command there is not yet determined.
   Yours in haste,

                                                                                    H. W. HALLECK
*Not Found
Official Records, Series. I, Vol. 8, Part 1, Page 555.
The Lane expedition was a source of controversy.  One newspaper referred to the expedition as existing only in Lane's imagination, but the New York Times would report Lane did have authority for an expedition moving through Kansas and then to the South.  The raid ignited debate between Republicans who wanted the war to directly address slavery and punish the South and Democrats who wanted to interfere as little as possible with slavery while reuniting the Union.  Republicans cried foul when the expedition did not materialize, blaming McClellan and Democratic politicians.  And, as seen in Halleck’s letter, the military establishment was not being kept informed of the administration’s plans, sometimes even when it affected their commands.  Beginning with McClellan’s bout of dysentery in January, Lincoln and the War Department had begun making moves and plans without McClellan’s approval or knowledge.  Lane had been sent west and made a general by Lincoln, and it would appear his orders were coming directly from him.  Within days of this memo, McClellan would put a stop to all troop movements to Lane’s expedition and the effort would grind to a halt.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

February 12, 1862 (Wednesday): Word From Fort Donelson

Fort Donelson

CUMBERLAND CITY, [February] 12, [1862.] 

Governor ISHAM G. HARRIS, Nashville, Tenn.:
    One gun-boat made its appearance in sight of Fort Donelson this morning about 10 o'clock and opened a fire on the fort without injury, which fire the fort returned, when the boat retired. The Federals have landed in force, and the battle with light artillery commenced this evening. They are reported to have 10,000 or 12,000. We have the same number, probably more, to meet them. The steamer giving this news says when it left the battle was raging, but knows nothing further. I will telegraph you as fast as the news comes. Generals Pillow and Buckner are there.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 52, Part 2, Part 272.

Reinforced, Floyd entered the battle expressing confidence of victory.  The task for the Union would be much tougher than at the flooded and indefensible Fort Henry.  The Navy would again lead the way.  On the first day about 20 shots were fired and the gunners in the fort only slowly answered with return fire so as not to help the Union fleet establish range. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

February 11, 1862 (Tuesday): Banks Sizes Up Jackson

General Nathaniel P. Banks

                                                                        DIVISION HEADQUARTERS,
                                                                        Frederick, Md., February 11, 1862.
                        Commander-in-Chief, U. S. Army:
   GENERAL: In obedience to your order I have endeavored, since my return from Washington, to obtain correct information of the condition of affairs in this portion of the Department of the Potomac.  The enemy on our front has been unquestionably greatly weakened and demoralized by the late movements of General Jackson’s army.  Not less than 1,500 men were disabled at one time by the effects of frost and cold alone, and many amputations were necessary.  It is said on good authority that 2,500 men were in their various hospitals.  No important results whatever were obtained by him at any point on our lines to compensate for the suffering and loss of his men, and the consequence have been great discontent among men and quarrels among officers, ending in the tender of his resignation by General Jackson.  The enemy was never in a feebler condition than at this time.  His force is chiefly in the vicinity of Winchester and beyond.  The reports of large detachments near Charlestown and Harper’s Ferry are greatly exaggerated, in my belief.
   On our side it may be said our men are healthy, well clothed, pretty well armed, with a very sharp appetite for work.  The earth roads in our vicinity are almost impassable, so much so that it would be with difficulty that we could get our troops out of camp; but once out there are railroads or turnpikes to every post from Point of Rocks to Cumberland, upon which we could move at any moment without serious obstruction.  The same is true of the roads in Virginia.  Nothing could be worse than the cross-roads there, but from every point between Harper’s Ferry to Cumberland there are passable roads or turnpikes centering on Martinsburg and Winchester.  The state of the roads constitutes no insuperable difficulty in our way.  I think as soon as the batteries reach me which you ordered forward, and which we hope to receive at the close of this week, we shall be ready for any movement .  We can occupy Harper’s Ferry at any moment now, and I do not doubt , with the co-operation of General Lander, that we can occupy Winchester and Leesburg by the 1st of March.  The enemy has not been in worse condition, and our troops never in better, than at this time.
   Unless the opening of the road is contemplated by the armed occupation of the country thorough which it passes or the enterprise with which Lieutenant Babcok was connected requires it, of which I am not able to judge, I do not see that any important advantages would result from the occupation of the town and heights alone, and if we were to move on this line to Martinsburg and Winchester I do not but think it would be advisable to occupy the town more than a day or two before our columns were ready to move.  I may, however, be mistaken in this.  The chief doubt suggested on this point is the possible occupation of the heights by the enemy, and to this it may be said that he does not now suspect our purpose, that he could not hold Loudoun while the Maryland Heights were in our possession, and that Harper’s Ferry could be easily turned, even if held in force by the enemy, which is not likely to occur under any circumstances.
   In view of an immediate opening of the road, or the country through which it passes, or the repulse of the left wing of the enemy on the Potomac, I think an immediate occupation of Harper’s Ferry and a vigorous concentrated movement of the columns from Harper’s Ferry, Williamsport, Hancock, and Cumberland or Romney upon Winchester would be advisable.  Success could hardly fail us, possibly without a battle; but if a fight should occur we shall hardly find the enemy in worse or our troops in better spirits.  It is possible that this view may conflict with other plans.  If so I should be glad to have the privilege of conferring with you for a few moments, that I might bring my forces to harmonize entirely with your purposes.  I could visit Washington with the absence of an evening and morning only.
   With great respect, general, I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
                                                                                    N. P. BANKS,
                                                            Major-General, Commanding Division.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part 1, Page 530.

Banks had been a member of Congress, Governor of Massachusetts, and president of the Illinois Central Railroad before the war.  Intelligent, but no tactician, Banks went into the campaign which would stamp him as foil to Stonewall Jackson with high hopes and a low estimation of his opponent.  The reports he received of dissension among Jackson’s command were accurate enough, but reports of frost bit and amputation were far from accurate.  Banks would soon learn what stuff Thomas J. Jackson was made of.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

February 10, 1862 (Monday): "It is true".

Colonel A. V. Colburn of McClellan's Staff

POOLESVILLE, February 10, 1862

I have received this moment a dispatch from Colonel Tompkins, chief of artillery in this division, who is now in Washington, that General Stone has been arrested and sent to Fort Lafayette. Is this true? Please reply. 

Brigadier-General, Commanding. 

It is true that General Stone has been arrested and sent to Fort Lafayette.

Assistant Adjutant-General. 


(Received February 10, 1862.)
I have placed all General Stone's public and private papers and personal effects under strict guard from a sense of duty to the public service and his own defense, and will seal all up in presence of General Burns, Colonel Dana, and Colonel Devens, and await further orders. Have you any orders on the subject? 

Brigadier-General, Commanding.


Keep them in charge for the present.
By order: 


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part 1, Page 528.
McClellan ordered the arrest of Stone and the lack of notification to that officer’s subordinates may be a good indication McClellan caved to Radical Republican pressure to arrest Stone at the last minute.  The Committee on the Conduct of the War had a bigger target (McClellan) firmly in sight and he sacrificed Stone to expediency.  The war offers few examples of greater cynicism (the Radical Republican’s star chamber persecution of Stone on charges they could not reasonably have believed true) or moral weakness (McClellan’s choice to order Stone’s arrest).  The affair also paints Lincoln as either more subject to pressure from his own party than is usually believed, or callous enough to sacrifice Stone as an object lesson for Democratic generals.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

February 9, 1862 (Sunday): "Regret and Mortification" at Roanoke Island

Fort Huger (NC Highway Historical Marker Program)

February 9, 1862.

   SIR:  On Friday the 7th instant, at about noon, the enemy opened fire on our squadron and Fort Bartow.  In obedience to your orders I took charge of Forts Huger and Blanchard, and awaited the approach of the enemy; but as they did not come within range of our rifled guns (which I fired eight times) and seemed to concentrate their fire on the left flank of Fort Bartow, I immediately rode to that battery where I remained until the enemy ceased firing, assisting Major Hill, the commanding officer of that post.
   On the morning of the 8th, about 10 a.m.., Fort Bartow fired a shot at the enemy's ships, to prevent what seemed to be an attempt to cut off re-enforcements approaching the island from the northward (the other batteries being manned to drive back the enemy should the attempt be persevered in), when their fleet commenced a desultory fire upon Fort Bartow. I immediately repaired to that post, where I remained until the battery was evacuated, in consequence of our land defenses having been forced by the enemy’s troops.
   I then returned to Fort Blanchard, thinking the fleet would attempt to pass through Croatan Sound, which, however, they did not.  Leaving orders to fire upon them should they attempt to pass or come within range, I went to Fort Huger, where I soon received your order to spike the guns and send the men to your encampment.  This was done, the powder destroyed, and the gun-carriages somewhat injured, about 2.30 p.m.
   I should have entirely dismantled the batteries at Fort Huger and Blanchard but for two reasons; First, because, in doing so, the enemy would have been made aware of it, and would, no doubt, have sent their ships up to take your position in the rear; and second, because I had not time; for while we were throwing shells into the water a sharp conflict was heard in the direction of the encampment of the Thirty-first Regiment; so I immediately dispatched the companies to go by the beach and through the woods to your support.
   While on my way to your headquarters I heard that a flag of truce had been sent out, and received orders not to spike the guns; but it was too late.
   I do not hesitate to say, from the service done by the three barbette guns at Fort Bartow (the only guns brought fully into action), and the little damage sustained by that battery, notwithstanding the incessant and terrible fire kept up against it for more than six hours by perhaps sixty guns, that if all our batteries had been brought into action the enemy’s fleet would have been destroyed or beaten back.
  I desire to say that the officers and men brought under fire behaved in a highly creditable manner, and that they seemed to be in better condition the second day, notwithstanding their fatigue and loss of rest, than they were during the first.  I would also say that the officers and men at the batteries not engaged evinced a fine spirit; and I have to regret for them, for myself, and for our cause, that they had not an opportunity to illustrate their skill and patriotism against the gunboats of the enemy.
   I understand that the loss in the enemy’s fleet was about five times as great as ours in the battery.  Ours was 1 killed and 3 wounded.  Major Hill will no doubt pay a just tribute  to the services of Lieutenant Loyall of the Navy, and Lieutenant Talcott, of the artillery, which cannot be too highly commended.
   Allow me to join in the regret and mortification which I know you feel that our cause should have sustained a defeat while in our hands.
   Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                                                    JOHN S. TAYLOR,
                                                            Captain, C. S. Army, in charge Heavy Artillery.
Col. H. M. SHAW,
     Eighth Regt., N. C. State Troops, Comdg. Forces Roanoke Island.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 9, Part 1, Page 182.

The Burnside expedition arrived at Pamlico Sound on February 7 with 65 vessels (19 warships and 46 transports).  A naval action commenced against the forts around 11:30, continuing into the afternoon.  Burnside landed his troops near Ashby’s Harbor and defeated Henry Wise’s force of 2,500 (taking them prisoner).  Federal losses were 14 from the Navy and 264 in the landing parties.  The Confederates had six wounded on their gunboats and 143 killed, wounded, or missing in their land force, beyond those taken prisoner.  While the victory passed with less notice than the taking of Forts Henry and Donelson, it gave the Union a foothold in eastern North Carolina and another morale boost.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

February 8, 1862 (Saturday): "Your Military Superiors Are Attacked"

Colonel James Allen Hardie

Washington, January 8, 1862.
Brigadier-General STONE,
Poolesville, Md.:
    I have taken time for reflection on your inquiry. I think you should not apply at this moment. Besides, your military superiors are attacked, and that consideration involves the propriety of abstaining just now.


Under attack by the Committee on the Conduct of the War and some Northern newspapers, Stone desired a hearing on the Ball's Bluff affair to clear his name.  Hardie, an aide to McClellan, advises against the request on the ground his (Stone's) superiors were under political attack by Republicans and to some extent the Lincoln administration itself.   Stone would have been well advised to ignore Hardie's advice, the next day he would be arrested on McClellan's orders at the behest of the Committee.  Had he spoken on his own behalf it would have been difficult to make a credible case against him.  His silence, and the failure of McClellan to expend political capital coming to his aide made it possible to keep him imprisoned for months without formal charges.  President Lincoln was to deny knowledge of the reason for Stone's arrest.  However, records in the deliberations of the Committee state they visited Lincoln with the evidence they had against Stone just prior to his arrest being ordered.