Tuesday, January 15, 2013

January 16, 1863 (Friday): Gall and Wormwood

Approaches to Fort Hindman (Library of Congress)

Post Arkansas, January 16, 1863
President of the United States:
    SIR: Herewith I have taken the liberty to transmit a copy of a communication to General Grant.
    I believe my success here is gall and wormwood to the clique of West Pointers who have been persecuting me for months. How can you expect success when men controlling the military destinies of the country are more chagrined at the success of your volunteer officers than the very enemy beaten by the latter in battle? Something must be done to take the hand of oppression of citizen soldiers whose zeal for their country has prompted them to take up arms, or all will be lost .
    Do not let me be clandestinely destroyed, or, what is worse, dishonored, without a hearing. The very moment you think I am an impediment to the public service, upon the slightest intimation of it my resignation will be forwarded. Until then you may count upon my best endeavors, at whatever peril, to sustain the sacred cause for which we are contending.
    In addition to the reasons set forth in the copy of the dispatch inclosed for the Arkansas River expedition I might assign the order of the Secretary of War, indorsed by you, to open the Mississippi River.
    The Mississippi River being the only channel of communication, and that being infested with guerrillas, how can General Grant, at a distance of 400 miles intelligently command the army with me? He cannot do it. It should be made an independent command, as both you and the Secretary of War, as I believe, originally intended.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Post Arkansas, January 16, 1863.
Major General U. S. GRANT,
Commanding Department of the Tennessee:
    GENERAL: Your dispatch of the 16th [13th] instant came to hand at 6 o'clock p. m. this day, and I hasten at the same moment to answer it.
    I take the responsibility of the expedition against Arkansas Post, and had anticipated your approval of the complete and signal success which crowned it rather than your condemnation.
In saying that I could not have effected the reduction of Vicksburg with the limited force under my command, after its repulse near that place under General Sherman, I only repeat what was contained in a previous dispatch to you. From the moment I fell back from Oxford, and the purpose of a front attack upon the enemy's works near Vicksburg was thus deprived of co-operation, the Mississippi River Expedition was doomed eventuate in a failure.
    I had heard nothing of General Banks when I left Milliken's Bend on the 4th instant, and if, as you say, Port Hudson has been made "very strong," it will be some time before he will be in a situation to receive the co-operation of the Mississippi River Expedition, unless he should prove more successful than the latter.
    Had I remained idle and inactive at Milliken's Bend with the army under my command until now I should have felt myself guilty of a great crime. Rather had I accept the consequences of the imputed guilt of using it profitably and successful upon my own responsibility.
    The officer who, in the present strait of the country will not assume a proper responsibility to save, it is unworthy of public trust.
    Having successfully accomplished the object of this expedition I will return to Milliken's Bend, according to my intention communicated to you in a previous dispatch, unless otherwise order by you.
    Respectfully, your obedient servant,

    Major-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 17, Part 2, Page 567.

McClernand had been authorized by Lincoln and Halleck to raise forces for his expedition  to take Vicksburg.  On arrival he was at cross purposes with Sherman and Grant.  Grant was determined to move on Vicksburg and would have preferred McClernand's forces had been commanded by Sherman.  On his own initiative McClernand moved on Fort Hindman (Arkanas Post) and took it, capturing nearly 5,000 Confederates.  As seen by this correspondence, this success was not looked upon favorably by Grant.  Obviously, McClernand, a pre-war attorney with Illinois political connections, did not look with favor on Grant or West Pointers in general.  As a side not, the site of Fort Hindman is now underwater, excluding some earthworks which extended from the salient angle to the northwest of the fort.  The fort was on a bluff and the Arkansas River's changing course gradually eroded it before finally taking the site entirely.

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