Henry Halleck

This tag is associated with 15 posts

150 Years Ago: Wednesday, November 26, 1862

George Robertson is a long-time Kentucky lawyer and professor who once served as legal counsel for Abraham Lincoln and other Illinois heirs of Robert Todd, Mary Lincoln’s now deceased father. George and U.S. President Lincoln have been exchanging correspondence since September, when Lincoln issued a preliminary version of the

George RobertsonSource: Library of Congress

George Robertson
Source: Library of Congress

Emancipation Proclamation that now is set to go into effect in almost a month. Robertson had complained to Lincoln that Union troops were “forcibly detaining the slaves of Union Kentuckians” and asked him to prevent such an action. To make matters worse, the policy has now personally affected Robertson as one of his slaves fled to the camp of the 22nd Wisconsin Infantry, commanded by Colonel William Utley. Per established Union military guidelines on how runaway slaves should be treated, Utley enforced those rules and not only refused to return the slave but also banned Robertson from visiting the camp. In retaliation, Robertson – now a judge – had Utley indicted for harboring a slave and sued him in a U.S. District Court. Lincoln has been receiving exasperated correspondence from Utley and Robertson on the matter. Lincoln takes up his pen and proposes an offer to Robertson in an effort to end the situation:

My dear Sir: A few days since I had a dispatch from you which I did not answer. If I were to be wounded personally, I think I would not shun it. But it is the life of the nation. I now understand the trouble is with Col. Utley; that he has five slaves in his camp, four of whom belong to rebels, and one belonging to you. If this be true, convey yours to Col. Utley, so that he can make him free, and I will pay you any sum not exceeding five hundred dollars. Yours, A. LINCOLN

Lincoln hopes that his offer to pay Robertson for his runaway slave will be accepted; then the charges against Utley are dropped and more importantly, Robertson’s slave is free and no longer has to feel threatened that his old master may forcibly bring him back. It’s an interesting but not a rare situation, to have someone in support of the Union but still wanting to keep the institution of slavery intact.

In Richmond, Virginia, Confederate President Jefferson Davis is writing a more urgent letter to the governors of the Confederate states. He appeals for aid and assistance in enrolling conscripts (their version of a military draft) and in securing more supplies (guns, clothing and food) for army use. In addition, Davis strongly pushes for the continued use of slave labor in building defensive works for the army. If the slaves can do the hard manual labor in building the defenses, then the Confederate Army can reserve their energy for fighting and winning battles. The use of slaves for military purposes is a difficult thing to ask for, as many Southern women are relying on slave labor to help keep the farms running and afloat while their husbands are away fighting for the cause.

Union Commanding General Ambrose Burnside cannot catch a break. He has his pontoon boats, but Confederate General Robert E. Lee has his cannons and arms aimed at the Rappahannock River; if Burnside’s men try to connect the boats to build the two bridges needed for the army to cross, their position will be attacked. Also, in his haste to move quickly and take action in his new leading role, Burnside had failed to establish a working supply line. He had ordered train depots at Aquia Creek to be rebuilt weeks ago, but only today a working rail line is finally established so the large army can be supplied with food and other necessary goods.

Burnside had began the Fredericksburg to Richmond campaign with vigor, but now he found himself stuck. The rain continued to fall and the river was rising. The fords were all becoming impassable, especially for his army of over 110,000. The roads were a sloppy, muddy mess, which slowed any travel by foot or wagon. He has always been focused on crossing at Fredericksburg, but now that Lee’s troops are firmly and well positioned, Major General Edwin Sumner, leader of the Grand Division that would be the first to cross, asks Burnside to reconsider as he felt the move would mean undeniable slaughter of his men. Sumner suggests that Burnside “look down the river” instead.

From Washington City it was clear to President Lincoln that his new General that was so quick to move is now frozen and going nowhere. He had seen it before with previous General George B. McClellan, but Lincoln, as he had done with McClellan, thought that maybe if he met with Burnside one-on-one he could boost his confidence and talk Burnside into taking some kind of action. Without notifying his Secretary of War Edwin Stanton or General-In-Chief Henry Halleck, Lincoln makes his way to Acquia Creek, Virginia and arrives late that evening with Burnside there to greet him. They go aboard the steamer Baltimore almost immediately; but it is too late for such a serious discussion. Lincoln decides that both should get a good night’s sleep and the true meeting of the minds can wait until morning.

In Baltimore, Maryland, nine-year-old Thomas “Tad” Lincoln has been spending the last couple of days at Barnum’s Hotel with Augustus “Gus” Gumpert, a well-to-do Philadelphia tobacco dealer that Mrs. Lincoln conducts business with and also a man whom Tad is very found of and considers his friend. Joining them is Thomas Cross, a White House messenger who is often charged with looking after Tad. Gus receives a telegram from Mary Lincoln, who has been on yet another shopping trip in New York City; she is leaving for Washington and would like Mr. Cross to come back with Tad tomorrow. It’s possible that the Lincoln’s knew they would both be away from home and thought Tad would be happier away from the city on his own adventure instead of left behind at the White House.

 

150 Years Ago: Saturday, November 22, 1862

Example of a Pontoon BoatSource: Library of Congress

Example of a Pontoon Boat
Source: Library of Congress

Though Union General Ambrose Burnside had reached the Fredericksburg, Virginia area first, he has been stuck looking at the small town from across the Rappahannock River. The pontoon boats necessary for his men to cross the river have yet to arrive, though they should have already been assembled and ready for use. Burnside and his men watch helplessly as Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s once small gathering of troops turn into thousands of men who have obtained the best ground for a battlefield advantage: the high ground south of the city.

Burnside’s main objective at this time is to find the location of the missing pontoon boats. He finally receives communication from Aquia Creek, Virginia, approximately 28 miles north of his position; it is not the news Burnside is hoping for.

I have found General Woodbury here. He says the pontoon train left Washington last Wednesday; that it had orders to come up as rapidly as possible. It has 20 pontoons on the train, and wagons to carry 20 more, which are at Belle Plain. I sent out from the latter place to turn in the empty pontoon wagons. I ordered Major Magruder, at Belle Plain, to land his wagons, and load up his pontoons. He has about 50 pontoons, and some 26 wagons. The quartermaster will furnish teams; common wagons cannot carry pontoons. I see no way of having enough at Fredericksburg before to-morrow evening.

Rufas Ingalls, Lieutenant-Colonel and Chief Quartermaster

While many of Lee’s key men have already arrived in Fredericksburg, one corp is just leaving today. That corp belongs to Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. They have over 150 miles to travel eastward before they reach their destination, but Jackson’s troops are well trained to keep up a good pace and will likely make good time during their journey.

Though U.S. Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s plan south into Mississippi had included the use of railroads to transport men & supplies, his request for additional railroad cars is denied by General-in-Chief Henry Halleck. Grant is not to take any rail cars south of Memphis, Tennessee. While Halleck’s reasoning is unclear, the bureaucracy is nothing new to Grant; he will have to come up with another plan that meets his needs but one that can also get approval from those that sit behind a desk.

The use of railroads for troop and supply movements is starting to become more prominent in both the North and South. The North has over 22,000 miles of rail, with the South having just over 9,000 miles. However, even the South realizes that the railroads are a great resource that might have to be converted from personal and military use to strictly military if they are to win the war. An editorial in The Southern Confederacy tries to prepare citizens for this likely change:

The Southern ConfederacyEditorial, November 22, 1862

The Southern Confederacy
Editorial, November 22, 1862

150 Years Ago: Thursday, November 20, 1862

C.S.A. Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson provides written instructions to division commander Major General D.H. Hill for him to proceed immediately to Fredericksburg, Virginia. Hill is to take his 9,000 troops and march 200 miles south; the 120 men that are still sick/wounded (most from the battle of Antietam in September) will be allowed to go with them via ambulance. There are several routes Hill can take, but Jackson informs him to take the one that is the quickest, not the one that will better mask their movements. Obviously Jackson feels it’s more important that the men get to the meeting point quickly, even if it’s not the most discreet route.

U.S. Brigadier General John F. Reynolds has gained an additional 6,000 men over the last month, bringing the total troops under his command to 20,000. He is advancing with Franklin’s Grand Left Division of General Ambrose Burnside’s army. Always the firm disciplinarian, today he holds a court martial for six men who had stolen a cow, killed it and divided the meat between them. He makes each man stand on a barrel with the word “thief” and the stolen meat on their back. A soldier correspondent writes of Reynolds “He uses few words but with a look he could crush an offender. He never neglects his duty and never overlooks neglect in others.” Reynolds has the reputation of a man with a generous heart, strong affections and constant zeal for the welfare of his men. He runs a tight command, old army style. He also had the reputation of being a good provider throughout the army; he knew none of the men who stole the cows lacked rations. The punishment was fitting and no doubt sent a message to the rest of his men.

Carl Schurz, 1860'sSource: Library of Congress

Carl Schurz, 1860’s
Source: Library of Congress

U.S. Brigadier General Carl Schurz, a German who immigrated to the U.S. in 1852, has known Lincoln for several years. When Lincoln ran for the Senate in 1858, it was Schurz who campaigned for Lincoln, often giving speeches in German and enhancing Lincoln’s reputation among German immigrants. Even though Schurz was part of the Wisconsin delegation that voted for William Seward to be the 1860 Republican Presidential candidate, he was the one who had the honor of going to Springfield and personally telling Lincoln that he had won the nomination. Lincoln values Schurz and has been corresponding with him about the recent election where the Republicans lost many seats in the House and Senate. Schurz is keen to outline what he feels is going wrong in the war and how Lincoln’s public perception is being unfairly tainted. One key point is that he feels Lincoln’s support of Democrat Generals such as George B. McClellan and Henry Halleck, not to mention Lincoln’s support of other Democrats that he has put in powerful positions (including his Cabinet), have weakened Lincoln and the Republican party. To have dissenters so close to him makes Lincoln an easy target not only in the media but also in the public eye. And to continue the war effort to a successful conclusion, public perception and opinion is very important. As Schurz brings the letter to a close, he writes:

No, sir, let us indulge in no delusions as to the true causes of our defeat in the elections. The people, so enthusiastic at the beginning of the war, had made enormous sacrifices. Hundreds of millions were spent, thousands of lives were lost apparently for nothing. The people had sown confidence and reaped disaster and disappointment. They wanted a change, and as an unfortunate situation like ours is apt to confuse the minds of men, they sought it in the wrong direction. I entreat you, do not attribute to small incidents, the enlisting of Republican voters in the Army, the attacks of the press etc., what is a great historical event. It is best that you, you more than anybody else in this Republic, should see the fact in its true light and acknowledge its significance: the result of the elections was a most serious and severe reproof administered to the Administration. Do not refuse to listen to the voice of the people. Let it not become true, what I have heard said: that of all places in this country it is Washington where public opinion is least heard, and of all places in Washington, the White House.

The result of the elections has complicated the crisis. Energy and success, by which you would and ought to have commanded public opinion, now form the prestige of your enemies. It is a great and powerful weapon, and, unless things take a favorable turn, troubles may soon involve not only the moral power but the physical existence of the Government. Only relentless determination, heroic efforts on your part can turn the tide. You must reconquer the confidence of the people at any price.

As armies are on the move in the east and south, thousands of men find themselves in camps around the country waiting to be called into active service. From Camp Kellogg in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Edwin R. Havens (7th Michigan Cavalry) writes to his brother Nell back home:

Brother Nell,

I received your most welcome letter this morning and now lay down to answer it. I have been anxiously waiting for it all this week and began to fear that there was something wrong about it. I am usually well, as are all of the boys from our way. We are doing very well but I must say that we are living pretty hard at present. But we hope that there will be a change for the better soon, as we are going to cook for ourselves, I think next week. The talk about our going to Detroit is “played out” and we are now calculating to stay in Camp Kellogg this winter. Col. Mann went down to Detroit last week and is expected back in a day or two. For the present Capt. Walker is commandant of the camp, which is not much as our company represents the 7th regt. at present. We drill every day nearly,  but this afternoon we are to have no drill instead of which we are going to help make a road to haul lumber over to make our new barracks of. The new barracks are to be built about 20 rods north of our present ones to extend 360 feet east and west across the ground but I do not know the plan on which they are to be built. Our present ones are quite comfortable in warm weather but I am afraid that they will be most too much so for real biting cold weather. Last Monday evening our Captain took the entire regiment consisting of about 35 men to the theater, which although the first time many of us had ever attended it was not very entertaining to me at least. Tuesday morning we went down to the railroad and unloaded several car loads of horse equipment consisting of saddles and bridles. Besides the guns, carriages and ammunition wagons for two guns together with more than a ton of shot shell cartridges, three kegs of powder and one box of sabres. The guns belong to the battery to be attached to our regiment and are of steel three inch bore and rifled. They have not yet been mounted and we have not seen the guns, but I should judge by the boxes that they were about nine feet long, and weigh [950?] lbs. apiece. The 6th regt. has been drilling on horseback this week and are doing very well. They begin to think a little more of “the ten cent regiment” than they used to. They hope to leave here soon and I hope they will. I should like to be at home and visit with our visitors, but must postpone it until the future. Give them my best respects and tell them that I wish they had come a few days earlier. I hope that Isom will give up the notion of going to war for I do not fancy the appearance of Capt. Miller myself, and besides I think his proper place is at home. I received two letters from Carlisle the other day one from Keokuk Iowa, the other from Buchanan. Tell George Lee that I have no forgotten him, but will write him soon. He need not be afraid to write us I shall not be home again very soon. I may send for my fiddle bye and bye after we get settled, and I wish you could come with it. I can not imagine what that fellow meant by saying we had been set up a little, for we remain as we were with the exception of one private being promoted to 8th corporal. But I will now stop as you must be weary. Give my best respects to all of the friends, and my love to our folks and visitors, and write soon.

Your Brother

Edwin R. Havens

150 Years Ago: Friday, November 14, 1862

Ambrose E. Burnside
Source: Library of Congress

The new commander of the Army of the Potomac, U.S. Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, has presented his plan to take the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. It calls for the army to move forty miles south to Fredericksburg, Virginia, located across the Rappahannock River. Once his troops have assembled there he will advance south to Richmond. His plan gives protection to Washington City, which U.S. President Abraham Lincoln greatly appreciates. When Lincoln consults with his General-In-Chief Henry Halleck over Burnside’s plan, they both express concern that he is focusing solely on capturing Richmond instead of defeating C.S.A. General Robert E. Lee’s army, but approve the plan anyway with the warning to Burnside that he must act quickly.

Burnside reorganizes the command structure into three Grand Divisions:

  • Right Grand Division – Edwin V. Sumner
  • Central Grand Division – Joseph Hooker
  • Left Grand Division – William B. Franklin

Burnside immediately sends Sumner’s corp of troops to occupy the vicinity of Falmouth, located near Fredericksburg; the rest of the army will soon follow.

James Birdseye McPherson, 1862
Source: Library of Congress

At Grand Junction, Tennessee, U.S. Major General James B. McPherson celebrates his 34th birthday. He has risen very quickly in the ranks since joining Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee as a Captain in the Army Corp of Engineers in late 1861. With his efforts in helping to capture Forts Henry and Donelson, Grant saw the great potential in this calm, compassionate and intelligent West Point graduate. He now waits for Grant to move the troops into place before they begin to set out for their target of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Midterm elections for the U.S. House of Representatives have been ongoing since October in the various states and the results have not been positive for Lincoln and the Republican party. Approximately 27% of the Republican seats are lost; though they only hold 46% of the House, 25 Unionists (a group of pro-war Democrats who broke with their party during the previous Congressional session) agree to side with them so they can maintain the majority. The losses are due to critical disapproval of the Lincoln administration to deliver a quick end to the war along with rising inflation, new taxes to help pay for the war effort, draft law, and fears that freed slaves would undermine the labor market. While the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation gains votes with the more abolitionist areas of New England and the upper Midwest, it accounts for lost votes in diverse cities like New York and Philadelphia, as well as the lower Midwest.

The U.S. Senate actually gains a few seats for the Republicans, but only because Senators are elected by state legislatures.

One state that Lincoln is eagerly awaiting results from is the border state of Missouri. He impatiently sends a telegraph to Brigadier General Francis P. Blair, Jr. – who is also up for re-election in the U.S. House – asking him to telegraph the results of the election. At 7:30pm Blair replies that “We have elected five Republicans, one Emancipationist Democrat, two Unconditional Union and 2 Pro-Slavery Dem’s to Congress. The Legislature is Emancipation in both Branches on your plan and secures two Senators to support the administration. My election is certain. I think the army vote yet to come in will not change the result.”

Though women cannot vote it does not mean that they do not hold strong opinions when it comes to politics and the war. A group from Massachusetts visits Lincoln and presents him with a petition signed by 12,333 women who wanted to show support for his administration.

150 Years Ago: Friday, February 14, 1862

At Fort Donelson, Tennessee, the soldiers on both sides wake up to three inches of snow. The temperature is below freezing, and the men find their guns and wagons frozen to the ground. It’s vastly different conditions from just a few days before, when they were dealing with endless rain and flooding.

Though the Confederate soldiers are ready as ever to put up a fight to save the fort, Confederate military leaders have known from the beginning that there would likely be no other outcome but to lose Donelson and retreat to Nashville or Memphis. But they could not just hand over Donelson and surrender to the rebel Union forces like they did at Fort Henry. This morning C.S.A. Brigadier General Gideon Pillow readies his soldiers to attempt a breakout, but he postpones the attempt when one of his aides is killed by a sniper. From that attack Pillow incorrectly concludes that their movements have been detected and delays any attempts to escape for today.

Though U.S. Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant’s ground forces have already put the squeeze around Donelson, the final piece of the puzzle arrives in the early afternoon hours: U.S. Commodore Andrew Foote’s flotilla of six ironclads and an additional 10,000 reinforcements brought via transport ships. The additional troops are immediately used to reinforce Brigadier General John A. McClernand’s right flank. The ironclads are met with fierce fire from the fort; the enemy lands more than 150 shots and kill a number of Union soldiers. But at the end of the day the Union still maintains the advantage on water and land.

In St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. Brigadier General William Tecumseh Sherman is put in command of the District of Cairo, Department of the Missouri. He is given orders to transfer immediately to Paducah, Kentucky and take command of that post. Once Sherman arrives he is to immediately assist in expediting operations up the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.

Major General Henry Halleck is not completely behind what Grant is trying to accomplish, but in Washington City Major General George B. McClellan supports the move to take Donelson. Because of McClellan, it pushes Halleck to support Grant in ways he doesn’t entirely agree with, such as providing reinforcements or using Sherman to assist in operations. Also resisting support of Grant is Brigadier General Don Carlos Buell, who has been operating in Union-friendly eastern Tennessee. Though there have been many requests for reinforcements from Buell, he does not agree with the strategy and refuses to provide assistance.

Residents in Bowling Green, Kentucky must deal with a change in control over their city; Union troops commanded by Brigadier General Ormsby M. Mitchel arrive to occupy the city that was evacuated yesterday by the Confederates.

Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston sends correspondence to Secretary of War Judah Benjamin, confirming that he’s received orders to move four regiments to Knoxville, Tennessee. He also notifies Benjamin that he’s concerned over their ability to reenforce the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, as the recent furlough system that is being utilized to get men to re-enlist has reduced their force by almost a third.

By order of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton issues Executive Order No. 1, in which general amnesty and pardons will be given for all political prisoners who consent to a loyalty oath. It also gives Stanton the authority to refuse the amnesty/pardon for any individual deemed as a spy or potentially harmful to U.S. citizens.

From her plantation in North Carolina, Catherine Edmondston writes an entry in her diary at the close of Valentine’s Day:

The mail tonight brought Mr Edmondston a Commission as Lieut Col of Cavalry in the service of the Confederate States! Ah! me, I ought to be happier than I am but the prospect of long and uncertain separation eclipses for the present the glory & honour of serving his country.  After all I am but an “Earthen vessel,” but Courage!  I will be a vessel made to honour!  Courage! I will be worthy of my blood, of my husband.  Yes, I am glad, glad that he can serve that land to which we owe so much, our home, our native-land.  The Cotton creeps slowly away.  I go out & count the bales & do numberless sums in addition & subtraction, calculating how long ere it be all gone!

Susan came down today & made a strong appeal to Kate Miller to go up with her.  The Misses Smith being gone, she feels lonely, but Kate was staunch & steadily refused to leave me.  Then came the resort to me, backed by a message from Father that he had sent the carriage and expected me, but I declined & to Sue’s chagrin wrote and gave my reasons, in which McCullamore fully sustained me.

Young Selden of Norfolk, nephew of my friend Mrs Henry Selden, had his head blown entirely off by a shell at Roanoke Island! What sorrow for his family!

How differently has this Valentine’s Day been passed from the last! Then I was peacefully planting fruit trees at Hascosea. Today, in the face of a stern reality am I packing up my household goods to remove them from the enemy. Ah, this water and these roads!

150 Years Ago: Sunday, February 9, 1862

It’s 2am in Washington City and U.S. Provost Marshal Major George Sykes and 18 members of the U.S. Third Infantry arrive at The Willard hotel to arrest U.S. Brigadier General Charles P. Stone. Sykes has no charges to present and isn’t exactly sure what the reason is; but he does know that Sykes is to be taken by train to Fort Lafayette, an island coastal fortification off of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. “Why, Fort Lafayette is where they send secessionists! I have been as true a soldier to the Government as any in service,” replies Stone when he is told the news. He had been relieved from command by Major General George B. McClellan days earlier and was unaware that any other action was going to be taken. After being calmed by his wife Fanny and at the suggestion of Sykes, Stone changes into civilian clothes for the journey. He is kept in a nearby building until morning and then boards a train for the two day journey.

Death of Colonel Baker, October 21, 1861
Source: Library of Congress

Unknown to Stone, the unofficial charges against him are serious and involve the his conduct in the battle of Ball’s Bluff back in October 1861. It was during this battle that U.S. Senator and Colonel Edward D. Baker was killed; this not only enraged Congress, but also President Abraham Lincoln. Baker had been a close family friend, so close that the Lincoln’s had named their second born after him (though little Eddie Lincoln died in 1850 when he was four years old).

Due to the combination of losing one of their own, the defeat in battle and the death of over 1,000 Union soldiers (against the Confederate’s 160 dead), Congress formed the first Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. This led to questioning key military personnel involved in the battle, and with McClellan being untouchable the focus turned to who was second in command for this particular engagement: Charles P. Stone. Congress eventually comes to the conclusion that Stone should be charged with the following:

  • Misbehavior at the battle of Ball’s Bluff
  • Holding correspondence with the enemy before and since the battle of Ball’s Bluff, and receiving visits from rebel officers in his camp
  • Treacherously allowing the enemy to build a fort or strong work since the battle of Ball’s Bluff, under his guns without molestation
  • A treacherous design to expose his force to capture and destruction by the enemy, under pretense of orders for a movement from Commanding General which had not been given.

But this West Point graduate and former brevet First Lieutenant who was praised for his “gallant and meritorious conduct” during the Mexican War has no clue about any of this. Based on the Articles of War, the U.S. government has eight days to notify Stone of the charges.

In Alton, Illinois, U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Sidney Burbank and companies from the U.S. 13th Infantry Division arrive to the newly renovated military prison. Major General Henry Halleck has already furnished some general orders on how the prison is to be managed:

“You will arrange so that the officers may be confined apart from the men. The medical officer of your command will have the general charge of the sick, aided by the surgeons, prisoners of war. The sick prisoners of war will be in all respects treated as our own sick soldiers. The two officers next in rank to yourself and the surgeon of your command will be constituted a board, to examine and decide what articles of clothing are necessary for the health and proper cleanliness of the prisoners where not furnished by their own Government or friends, and you will make the necessary requisitions on the quartermaster’s department at Saint Louis for such articles as may be needed. The prisoners will be required to sign a receipt for any articles of clothing issued to them, the same as in the case of our enlisted men, the issue in all cases to be witnessed by a commissioned officer.”

Also arriving today are the prisoners of war from McDowell’s College in Missouri. They not only include Confederate soldiers, but southern sympathizers, saboteurs, spies and guerrilla fighters. They are also not only men; several women are also among them. They land via steamer and are ordered to march from the river landing to the prison. Along their path are a group of local residents, many who spit and shout at them as they pass by.

As the Confederates continue to prepare for an attack at Fort Donelson, Tennessee, General Albert Sidney Johnston makes a change in command. Though his first preference is General P.G.T. Beauregard, he instead places Brigadier General Gideon Pillow in command of the fort. Pillow replaces Simon Buckner and Bushrod J. Johnson.

Up the river in Fort Henry, Tennessee, U.S. Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant issues General Field Order No. 5 stating that there is to be no pilfering or marauding. Every offense will be tracked to a responsible party, so even the military leaders may be held responsible if they can’t identify the guilty party or if they don’t provide prompt punishment. He writes:

“In an enemy’s country, where so much more could be done by a manly and humane policy to advance the cause which we all have so deeply at heart, it is astonishing that men can be found so wanton as to destroy, pillage, and burn indiscriminately, without inquiry.”

Grant also writes a letter to his sister Mary, who currently lives in Covington, Kentucky:

Dear Sister,

I take my pen in hand “away down in Dixie” to let you know that I am still alive and well. What the next few days may bring forth, however, I can’t tell you. I intend to keep the ball moving as lively as possible, and have only been detained here from the fact that the Tennessee is very high and has been rising ever since we have been here, overflowing the back land and making it necessary to bridge it before we could move.—Before receiving this you will hear by telegraph of Fort Donelson being attacked.—Yesterday I went up the Tennessee River twenty odd miles, and to-day crossed over near the Cumberland River at Fort Donelson.—Our men had a little engagement with the enemy’s pickets, killing five of them, wounding a number, and, expressively speaking, “gobbling up” some twenty-four more.

If I had your last letter at hand I would answer it. But I have not and therefore write you a very hasty and random letter, simply to let you know that I believe you still remember me. Whilst writing I am carrying on a conversation with my Staff and others.

Julia will be with you in a few days and possibly I may accompany her. This is barely possible, depending upon having full possession of the line from Fort Henry to Fort Donelson, and upon being able to quit for a few days without retarding any contemplated movement. This would not leave me free more than one day however.

You have no conception of the amount of labor I have to perform. An army of men all helpless, looking to the commanding officer for every supply. Your plain brother, however, has as yet no reason to feel himself unequal to the task, and fully believes that he will carry on a successful campaign against our rebel enemy. I do not speak boastfully but utter a presentiment. The scare and fright of the rebels up here is beyond conception. Twenty three miles above here some were drowned in their haste to retreat, thinking us such vandals that neither life nor property would be respected. G.J. Pillow commands at Fort Donelson. I hope to give him a tug before you receive this.

U.S.G.

150 Years Ago: Friday, February 7, 1862

Last night Major General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson had withdrawn his resignation in the Confederate army. Part of his original outrage was regarding the town of Romney, Virginia (TWCP note: the town will eventually be part of West Virginia). He had entered the city on January 13, 1862, immediately after Union troops had evacuated it. Jackson had decided to take his Stonewall brigade to Winchester, Virginia, leaving Brigadier General William W. Loring’s brigade to occupy the town. Loring and his men were unhappy with the situation and perceived to be in a dangerous situation, though in reality it was a very secure area. Loring had gone behind Jackson’s back and sent a request directly to Richmond on January 23 asking to be recalled and the request was approved. When Jackson found out, he was furious and submitted his resignation. But now Jackson is back in command and his first act is to charge Loring with seven acts of insubordination and dereliction of duty. Richmond will ignore the request, but they will reassign Loring to a new command to avoid future conflicts between him and Jackson.

From his headquarters in St. Louis, U.S. Major General Henry Halleck writes a letter to Major General George B. McClellan notifying him of the victory and casualties during the battle of Fort Henry yesterday. He also notifies McClellan that their forces are moving down the river to capture Fort Donelson.

U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Sidney Burbank has been serving in the U.S. military for almost thirty-two years. A West Point graduate, the 55 year-old received notification three days ago from Halleck that he was going to be in charge of a new military prison camp in Alton, Illinois.

The former old state penitentiary was built in 1833, and at the beginning of the war it was considered a strategic location because of its position on the border and its proximity to St. Louis and the Union command there. The town was originally split on this move as there was concern it would put the citizens in danger of attacks from the Confederates, but in the end many saw it as their contribution to the Union cause. With over eight years of experience in the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Lieutenant Colonel James B. McPherson was trusted to carefully assess the facility in December 1861 to determine whether it was feasible to use it as a military prison. With $2,400 in improvements, it was estimated that it could house approximately 1,700 prisoners.

Alton Military Prison, 1861 (Prior to modifications made in 1862 for the Confederate POWs)

Today Burbank is making his way towards the Alton military prison along with three to four companies of the 13th U.S. Infantry Division who will serve as guards. The prison was to be completed today, but workmen are still rushing to complete the project. Also on their way to the prison via river steamers are Confederate POW’s from McDowell College in Missouri and those who were captured yesterday at Fort Henry.

Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard sends out a memorandum from his headquarters in Bowling Green, Kentucky. After meeting with his military leadership regarding the fall of Fort Henry, they start to prepare for the likelihood that their troops at Fort Donelson will soon be attacked and unable to hold the position. If it does fall, they are prepared to move the troops just south of Nashville to develop a fortified point of strength so they can defend the Cumberland River from the passage of enemy gunboats and transports. He orders troops in Clarksville, Tennessee to head to the site, only leaving behind a sufficient force to protect manufacturing facilities and other property that the Confederate government has deemed important.

Beauregard also realizes that the fall of Fort Henry and subsequent Union control of the Tennessee River means that his armies in Bowling Green and Columbus, Kentucky are separated and therefore must act independently of each other in their defense of the State of Tennessee. He also foresees the dreaded possibility that the Union forces will be successful in taking over the other key rivers that divide the state, so he lists the southwest city of Memphis as the fallback point; or Grand or even Jackson, Mississippi if necessary.

Map of the Battle of Roanoke Island, February 7-8, 1862
Source: Library of Congress

At noon, U.S. army and navy forces begin their attack in the North Carolina Sound. Approximately 2,000 Confederate forces are armed and ready, but the various islands and regions have gaps in coverage. The C.S.A. Navy – nicknamed the “Mosquito Fleet” – fights hard but retires when they run out of ammunition. Slowly Union forces made their way towards Roanoke Island; even though there is heavy fighting on both sides, casualties are few. At 3pm, U.S. Brigadier General Ambrose E. Burnside ordered landings to begin at Ashby Harbor, which is near the midpoint of the island. An hour later his troops begin to reach the shore. A 200-man Confederate force is already there, but they flee when Union gunboats open fire. By midnight, all 10,000 Union men are safely on the island and settled into camp for the night.

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