John A. McClernand

This tag is associated with 6 posts

150 Years Ago: Monday, April 27, 1863

Joseph Hooker U.S. Commanding General, Army of the Potomac Source: Library of Congress

Joseph Hooker
U.S. Commanding General, Army of the Potomac
Source: Library of Congress

How does it look now?“, reads U.S. Commanding General Joseph Hooker. The telegram in his hands is from President Abraham Lincoln, who, like every Spring since the war started, is highly anxious and high strung now that Winter is behind them. With the warmer weather, the Army of the Potomac should be on the move. But at the beginning of each Spring they must deal with rising rivers from the melting snow and consistent rains, which often hinder their movements. The last major move the Union army made in the Eastern theater of war was at Fredericksburg last December, under U.S. Major General Ambrose Burnside. It had resulted in a major loss that has challenged the will of the people in the North to continue the war and has diminished the power of the United States on an international level. With Hooker now in charge, Lincoln has been sending communications that he no longer wants constant maneuvering of positions. He wants a battle and he wants it won. The Union needs a major victory.

It just so happens that Hooker has just begun moving his troops today, in what he considers a major plan to surprise C.S.A. General Robert E. Lee and the majority of his troops in the Fredericksburg area. Hooker is hoping to swing around Lee and cut off their supply lines from Richmond, and to turn the Confederate left flank. Hooker isn’t looking for a repeat battle at Fredericksburg; he was against the move back in December as he saw Lee’s troops on the high ground behind the stone wall protecting them. He has his own plans for success.

After days of waiting for the water levels to lower, Hooker’s Fifth, Eleventh and Twelfth Corps cross the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers above Fredericksburg. Union cavalry under Major General George Stoneman begins a long distance raid against Lee’s supply lines that Hooker is hoping will be successful and also preoccupy some of Lee’s troops.

The man who had once been a friend of U.S. Major General Ulysses S. Grant and had met with him on surrender terms back in February 1862 at Fort Donelson, Tennessee is promoted today by C.S.A. President Jefferson Davis. Major General Simon Buckner, who has spent the last six months in command of the District of the Gulf and has been in charge of the defenses in Mobile, Alabama, has been assigned command of the Department of East Tennessee. He will make arrangements to make the move to Knoxville, where he will work closely under C.S.A. General Braxton Bragg, who he has worked with before and dislikes as a General. In fact, Buckner had been one of many to publicly denounce Bragg’s performance during his Fall campaign in Kentucky last year, which resulted in Bragg’s army abandoning any future invasion of Kentucky even after a successful fight in Perryville in October.

Two days ago Grant had given specific orders for his men to be ready to take Grand Gulf, Mississippi fortifications in a strategic move to take the final target of Vicksburg. Yesterday Grant had arrived at U.S. Major General John McClernand’s camp only to find it highly disorganized and not at all working on his orders to prepare for the move today. McClernand had steamers and transports that were still scattered freely along the river and bayous, unable to support the move as planned. The two divisions that were to board the steamers were stuck on land. Instead of following Grant’s orders of preparation, McClernand staged a review of a single brigade for his visiting friend, Illinois Governor Richard Yates. McClernand’s men listen to a long and splendid motivational speech from Yates, followed by one from McClernand. At the end, McClernand has his artillery fire a salute to the Governor using ammunition that was to be saved to fight the enemy per Grant’s orders, as they were in very low supply. McClernand couldn’t have made a more obvious statement to Grant that he did not only disagree with his plan, but disrespected him as a leader. This was not new to Grant, who has been struggling with McClernand for months, with McClernand feeling that he should be the one in charge of the Vicksburg campaign. Though Yates has strong political power, Lincoln has the final say and he believes in Grant’s abilities.

Grant again sends specific, written orders to McClernand as to what he wants done today: McClernand’s troops are to board and await orders to move via steamers to a point opposite Grand Gulf. The Navy will reduce whatever batteries the Confederates have in place, and then McClernand’s men will be ferried to the Mississippi shore, where they are to unload from the steamers and storm up the bluffs, capturing the Confederate fortifications. Men are to take only three days supply of rations; Grant wants everyone traveling light and with only the bare necessities. He needs his men to be able to move quickly.

Instead of following Grant’s orders, McClernand again has other ideas. Instead of taking the troops via water, he wants to take an open road to the same point opposite Grand Gulf, which leads to a little village called Hard Times. Grant allows a reconnaissance party to see if roads are passable, and instead they find Confederate cavalry. As McClernand still does not have enough transports to board his men, Grant seizes the opportunity and orders the last two of McClernand’s divisions to drive the Confederates out and take the village of Hard Times. There will be no move today against Grand Gulf but at least the Union army can accomplish something.

Wanting to create a diversion, Grant turns his attention to his most trusted fellow officer, U.S. Major William T. Sherman, who is the furthest north and closest to Vicksburg. He sends a note to Sherman:

“If you think it advisable, you may make a reconnaissance of Haynes’ Bluff, taking as much force and as many steamers as you like. The effect of a heavy demonstration in that direction would be good so far as the enemy are concerned, but I am loath to order it, because it would be so hard to make our own troops understand that only a demonstration was intended, and our people at home would characterize it as a repulse. I therefore leave it to you whether to make such a demonstration. Publish your order beforehand, stating that a reconnaissance in force is to be made for the purpose of calling off the enemy’s attention from our movements south of Vicksburg, and not with any expectation of attacking.”

The orders Sherman receive give him a lot of leeway and decision making power. But Grant trusts him fully. Sherman immediately swings into action. To cover the road from Milliken’s Bend to New Carthage, he detaches a division under Major General Frederick Steele. Sherman reveals to Steele that “General Grant directs me to control matters at this end.” Sherman knows he has Grant’s trust and that fuels him; it gives him confidence in his own abilities, which is something he lacked at the beginning of the war.

The move Grant wanted to make today against Grand Gulf will have to wait until tomorrow. He only hopes that this delay has not given the Confederates time to repulse their attack. But in typical Grant fashion, he has still made moves and tried to take advantage of the delay as best he can. He understands that public and political perception is very important right now.

C.S.A. Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson sends another battle report to General Robert E. Lee, this time regarding the second Battle of Manassas (known as Bull Run in North) from last August. He once again praises the support of C.S.A. Major General and cavalry officer J.E.B. Stuart for his action on the field. His fondness for Stuart is very obvious; it’s a huge compliment coming from someone who does not often give such high praise so freely. Jackson closes with the following:

For these great and signal victories our sincere and humble thanks are due unto Almighty God. We should in all things acknowledge the hand of Him who reigns in heaven and rules among the armies of men. In view of the arduous labors and great privations the troops were called to endure and the isolated and perilous position which the command occupied while engaged with greatly-superior numbers of the enemy we can but express the grateful conviction of our mind that God was with us and gave to us the victory, and unto His holy name be the praise.

150 Years Ago: Saturday, December 27, 1862

America continues to be the one theme that occupies the world’s tongue and thought. The Rappahannock has been crossed in the face of the whole Confederate army; and by the time these pages reach the reader a battle will probably have been fought upon which great issues may hang. If the Confederates are the winners it will go far to establish, as an unquestionable fact, their military superiority, and to inspirit them, in spite of all difficulties, to new exertions and struggles. But if they are beaten their position will be a most dangerous one. General Sumner has also, and on an earlier day, crossed the river some miles further down, and from that point was almost within a day’s march of Petersburg and its railway, which is connected with all the railways of North and South Carolina, and must be the chief line for bringing supplies to Lee’s army. Sumner, therefore, in the event of a Federal victory at Fredericksburg, would be ready to make a flank attack on the retreating army; and that most dangerous measure under the circumstances could only be evaded by the Confederates retreating by a different and circuitous line to Richmond, so that the Federals would probably be able to reach the Confederate capital first. Much, then, depends upon the battle at Fredericksburg, which we are told by telegrams arriving at the moment we write had actually begun.

The Alabama threatens to become a source of trouble between our own and the American Governments. If the responsible advisers of the Crown say the English law of enlistment has been violated by the building and fitting out of such a vessel in our country, it will be of course our duty to offer amends. But if no law has been violated the Americans must learn to be less susceptible, to annoyance, and direct their energies rather to the capture of the offending vessel than to angry abuse of us. Meantime we cannot but own the Americans are doing a very handsome act in contributing so largely to the wants of our operatives.

– – The London Times

The final Emancipation Proclamation is to be issued in a few days and many are nervous that U.S. President Abraham Lincoln may change his mind. He spends the day meeting with various members of Congress and clergymen on the issue, one of them Dr. Bryan Sunderland, who tells the President that “We are full of faith and prayer that you will make clean sweep for the Right.” Lincoln leans forward in his chair towards the clergyman and says “Doctor, it’s very hard sometimes to know what is right! You pray often and honestly, but so do those across the lines. They pray and all their preachers pray honestly. You and I don’t think them justified in praying for their objects, but they pray earnestly, no doubt! If you and I had our own way, Doctor, we will settle this war without bloodshed, but Providence permits blood to be shed. It’s hard to tell what Providence wants of us. Sometimes, we, ourselves, are more humane that the Divine Mercy seems to us to be.

John A. McClernandSource: Library of Congress

John A. McClernand
Source: Library of Congress

U.S. Major General William T. Sherman’s troops move their way through the swamps and bayous as they make their way towards Vicksburg. They are engaged in small skirmishes against Confederate pickets as Lieutenant General John Pemberton rushes troops in from the north to defend the strategic Confederate city. Sherman is waiting to receive additional assistance from Major General John McClernand, though he lacks respect for the man and is not looking forward to working with him. McClernand has proven himself to care more about using his political connections to advance his rank than to actually earn his promotions. Very few men respect or trust him; and they probably shouldn’t, as he is one of the key people responsible for spreading the word to politicians and the press that U.S. Major General Ulysses S. Grant is a drunk. Of course, if Grant is forced to step down because of this, McClernand naturally assumes he will obtain Grant’s position of Commander of the Western army. He has already been working closely with Illinois Governor Richard Yates to gain control over the Vicksburg campaign and authority to execute his own plan that goes against what Grant already has in motion. He knows that capturing Vicksburg will be a huge win for the Union; if his plan is the successful one, he will gain the credit and fame. But for now, Grant’s orders – backed by Washington – put him under Sherman’s control.

In Tennessee, U.S. Major General William Rosecrans continues his march towards Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where C.S.A. General Braxton Bragg and his army of over 20,000 are stationed in defense of the city.

150 Years Ago: Tuesday, December 16, 1862

U.S. Corporal Elisha Hunt Rhodes with the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers writes about his retreat out of Fredericksburg, as he is part of the last group to cross before the pontoon boats are disassembled, loaded on wagons and sent to storage for the next time they need to be put to use:

Barnard House, after the battle of FredericksburgSource: Library of Congress

Barnard House, after the battle of Fredericksburg
Source: Library of Congress

This morning at one o’clock our Brigade was formed in line to protect the rear of the Left Grand Division as it recrossed the Rappahannock River. We waited until all the troops had reached the Falmouth side and then our Brigade silently moved over the bridge. As soon as we reached the north side the bridge was broken up and the pontoons taken back from the river banks. We were the first to cross the river and the last ones to recross. The 10th Mass. Vols. was the last Regimental organization to cross the river, but a Bridge Guards detailed from the 2nd R.I. Vols. and under the command of Capt. Samuel B.M. Read was the last troop to recross. The Rebels were on the south bank as soon as we left it. The Army has met with a severe loss, and I fear little has been gained. The 4th, 7th and 12th R.I. Regiments were in the main battle in the rear of the city and their losses we hear are heavy. May God help the poor afflicted friends at home. I am tired, O so tired, and can hardly keep awake. We have had very little sleep since we first crossed the river. My heart is filled with sorrow for our dead, but I am grateful that my life has been spared. Mr. A.N. Barnard owns a place near where we crossed. He calls it Mansfield. His brother owns the place below which is called Smithfield. Barnard’s house was shattered by shot and shell, one shot passing through a plate glass mirror. Barnard left in great haste and left his pistols and a purse paying on a table. His books were all scattered about the yard and fine china was used by the men to hold their pork. He has already dug a cellar and intended to build a new house soon. The bricks were piled up in his yard and served as a cover for Rebel skirmishers who fired upon us as we crossed the bridge. We captured one officer and several Rebel soldiers from behind his bricks.

In Washington it is politics as usual, as Congress quickly tries to place blame on anyone they can for the disastrous loss at Fredericksburg. A caucus of Republican Senators vote 13-11 in support of a resolution calling for the resignation of Secretary of State William Seward. Though Seward initially had a great dislike for the man who bested him for for the Republican candidate for President back in 1860, President Abraham Lincoln and Seward have become close personal friends. Private conferences between the two are almost a daily occurrence, and the way Seward comes & goes from the White House is seen with an easy familiarity of a household intimate. It is not at all uncommon for Lincoln to walk over to the State Department or Seward’s house (just down the street from the White House), day or night, with or without a private secretary carrying papers.

This close relationship has made many Republicans uncomfortable and Seward has increasingly become the target of jealousy and enmity from other members of the Cabinet – especially from Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase – and many members of Congress. Seward is often blamed for any bad decision made by the President or any military reverse in the field, even if no evidence supports their claims. They can’t get rid of a sitting President, but they feel they can get rid of a Cabinet member even though historically Congress has stayed out of Cabinet affairs.

After Lincoln learns of the caucus meeting, he meets with his old friend Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning about the situation, asking him what the men wanted. Browning replies “I hardly know Mr. President, but they are exceedingly violent towards the administration, and what we did yesterday was the gentlest thing that could be done. We had to do that or worse.

Lincoln responds that “They wish to get rid of me, and I am sometimes half disposed to gratify them.

Senator Browning replies that “Some of them do wish to get rid of you, but the fortunes of the Country are bound up with your fortunes, and you stand firmly at your post and hold the helm with a steady hand – To relinquish it now would bring upon us certain and inevitable ruin.

We are now on the brink of destruction. It appears to me the Almighty is against us, and I can hardly see a ray of hope,” states Lincoln.

Browning answers “Be firm and we will yet save the Country. Do not be drive from your post. You ought to have crushed the ultra, impracticable men last summer. You could then have done it, and escaped these troubles. But we will not talk of the past. Let us be hopeful and take care of the future Mr. Seward appears now to be the especial object of their hostility. Still I believe he has managed our foreign affairs as any one could have done. Yet they are very bitter upon him, and some of them very bitter upon you.

The President, filled with the stress of the last few days, ends the conversation asking “Why will men believe a lie, an absurd lie, that could not impose upon a child, and cling to it and repeat it in defiance of all evidence to the contrary. Since I heard last of the proceedings of the caucus I have been more distressed than by any event of my life.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis is dealing with his own issues. He took a train west to Tennessee to meet with his Western Commanding General Joseph E. Johnston to discuss strategy and to review troop positions and conditions. Davis and Johnston are in constant disagreement; Johnston believes that getting full control back of Tennessee is key, while Davis believes that the Mississippi River is the only thing that matters.

It’s a confusing situation as there are three Confederate armies in the West: The Army of the Tennessee led by General Braxton Bragg (30,000 troops), the Trans-Mississippi Army led by Lieutenant General Theophilus Holmes (under 10,000 troops), and the Army of the Mississippi under Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton who is in charge of protecting Vicksburg (12,000 troops) and the state of Mississippi (21,000 troops). While Holmes and Pemberton are relatively close to each other, Bragg is far removed. To make matters more complex, Johnston has no control over anything west of the Mississippi River, which means he has no authority over Holmes and his men, who are currently in western Arkansas, and cannot order them to support Pemberton or Bragg without the orders coming directly from Richmond.

Instead of moving Holmes men to support Pemberton, Davis repeatedly tells Johnston to move men from Bragg’s army to enforce Pemberton. Johnston thinks this is absurd and doesn’t give the order, so Davis does it for him. Bragg agrees with Johnston that this is an incorrect move, but they are helpless against the President’s orders. Bragg sends 9,000 of his men to join Pemberton in an effort to protect Vicksburg from U.S. Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s army of 60,000, not including his 30,000 U.S. troops in nearby Memphis under Major General William T. Sherman and John McClernand. Even with the additional troops, Pemberton’s forces are still half of what Grant has at his disposal.

Davis and Johnston will now make their way towards Vicksburg to meet with Pemberton; the trip will take these two men who can’t stand each other three long days to get there.

U.S. Brigadier General John G. Foster posts his infantry along the riverbank along with several batteries of artillery on the hill overlooking Whitehall, North Carolina. As they begin their attack against the Confederates on the other side of the river, Foster’s troops suffer heavy casualties from their own artillery when projectiles fall short of their intended targets. A large number of sawlogs along the riverbank protect the Confederates as well as a gunboat that is being constructed; the boat receives very little damage.

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: Wednesday, February 12, 1862

C.S.A. Major General Thomas J. Jackson provides an update to General Joseph E. Johnston, who is in charge of operations in Northern Virginia. Jackson informs Johnston that since the Confederates pulled out of Romney, Virginia (TCWP note: Present-day Romney is located in West Virginia), Union troops have since returned to retake possession. The Union is also moving approximately 3,000 troops 26 miles south to Moorefield. But the most important news is regarding re-enlistments, as the Confederacy is in desperate need to not only recruit, but to retain who they have. Jackson has provided those who re-list with an incentive: an authorized furlough. So far the results are encouraging.

The Alton Military Prison has only been in operation for three days but it’s already facing overcrowding issues. Chas C. Smith, U.S. Captain of the 13th Infantry, sends a letter to U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Sidney Burbank letting him know that he received yet another shipment of prisoners last night. They have rented buildings adjacent to the prison for storage and the quartermaster’s department, and the resident surgeon is looking for a suitable building for a hospital but has yet to find one. So far there has been no trouble with any of the prisoners, but soon there will not be room for the 13th Infantry to have quarters within the prison walls.

Under U.S. Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant’s instructions, most of the Union troops depart Fort Henry this morning and proceed about five miles utilizing Dover and Ridge Roads. Along the route troops are met by C.S.A. Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest, who is utilizing his cavalry to screen their movements. When Forrest observes a change of direction made by McClernand’s division after an initial encounter, he makes a quick decision to move his cavalry to Indian Creek, where they will wait to intercept them.

Three of Forrest’s squadrons dismount and wait for the large Union force to arrive. Once they do, Forrest orders a charge. The Union cavalry are given orders to move out of the way before the charge, leaving the 8th Illinois to take on Forrest and his men. The infantry opens a terrific fire at short range against the charging Confederate cavalry. A Union Battery arrives shortly after the firing begins and assists in breaking up the attack. Forrest withdraws his men behind the shelter of the Fort for the evening.

The USS Carondelet is the first Union gunboat to arrive up the river. They promptly fire numerous shells into Fort Donelson to test the strength of its defenses. There are no casualties or damage from the act. They pull out of range and await their orders for tomorrow.

Grant finally arrives at nightfall, where he sets up headquarters at Widow Crisp’s house. This puts him near the left side of the front of the line and a mile from the Cumberland River.

Over 740 miles away in Washington City, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln has spent most of his 53rd birthday at the bedside of 11-year-old son Willie. Willie has been very ill for over ten days now and is growing weaker and more shadow-like each day that passes. He is not allowed to see other children and is too ill to get out of bed, so the President and his wife Mary have been spending most of their time at Willie’s bedside. They comfort and sooth their child, read him stories and remind him that Tad and his favorite pony that he always insisted on riding every day are waiting for him to get better. The White House staff, including dressmaker Elizabeth Keckley, also take turns keeping Willie company so he is never left alone. Willie is a favorite among the White House staff; he’s intelligent and vivacious, but has a kind and tender heart. To see him in this state is almost too much for them to bear, but all they can do is pray for him to get better.

150 Years Ago: Saturday, February 1, 1862

General Henry Halleck, the fourth most senior ranking general in the Union army, has been overseeing the Department of Missouri and the western theater of operations since November 1861. Currently stationed in St. Louis, Halleck has been involved in severe infighting between military leaders and politicians over what then next moves should be and when they should take place. But five days ago President Abraham Lincoln issued an order that requires all armies to begin offensive operations by February 22; the significance of the date is the birthday of the first President, George Washington. Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant, under Halleck’s command, had been repeatedly pushing him for permission to head southeast to attempt to capture Fort Henry on the Tennessee River. Strategically a win would allow the Union army to advance to the Tennessee capital of Nashville, but more importantly it would open the river into northern Alabama, thus providing another means of moving men & supplies, and in turn cutting off these resources from the Confederacy.

Panoramic view looking south from Cairo, Illinois, showing parts of Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. (Source: Library of Congress)

Two days ago Halleck approved of Grant’s plan. Today Halleck makes small, final attempts to give Grant what little resources he can provide towards the effort. Halleck denies Grant’s request for additional horses and wagons and gives him a couple of additional regiments to add to his 15,000 troops, though Halleck feels he will need triple that amount if he is to succeed on to Nashville. The dirt roads have turned to mud and are mostly unusable, so steamers will be used to transport troops and supplies. This is all Halleck has to give – or is willing to give – to Grant. But Halleck does promote one of his Additional Aide-de-Camp’s, Ohioan James Birdseye McPherson, to Lieutenant-Colonel and Chief Engineer, and transfers him to Grant’s command immediately.

In Cairo, Illinois, Grant makes final preparations and sends instructions to his two division commanders, Brigadier Generals John A. McClernand & C. F. Smith, to pack light and leave behind only a small amount of men to defend Cairo & Paducah, Kentucky. Though Halleck worries about Grant’s numbers, he does not appear concerned. A few days earlier he happily wrote his sister Mary that “I have now a larger force than General (Winfield) Scott ever commanded prior to our present difficulties.” They will move out tomorrow evening.

In Washington City, General George B. McClellan is at home, balancing his responsibilities as Commanding General of the U.S. Army along with rest after coming down with typhoid fever in December. Lincoln is pressuring him to move his forces, not only with the “February 22” deadline, but with an additional supplementary order for the Army of the Potomac to attack the Confederates at Manassas Junction and Centreville, Virginia. McClellan is furious. He not only disagrees with the President’s proposal, but it’s winter time; the roads are nothing but mud and his health has still not fully recovered.  He can’t possibly be expected to move men, wagons, horses & supplies under these conditions. McClellan had presented his own “Urbanna plan” back in November, but it was high level and lacked the details needed to garner support. He sets to work on responding to Lincoln’s supplemental request by writing a 22-page letter objecting to the order. He will once again promote his Urbanna plan, but this time he will provide actual details.

The U.S. capital is overrun with soldiers in camps and visitors from the North who are stranded in the city due to heavy rains, making travel almost impossible. There is also another unique group of individuals coming into the city: fugitive slaves. Because of its distance to the Confederate border, the city was a primary destination. Lincoln instructs Ward Hill Lamon, his personal friend and U.S. marshal for Washington City, to refrain from arresting or committing fugitive slaves.

The Confederate States of America has been in existence for almost a full year, but it’s fiscal year ends today. It enters the second year of the war without debt or impaired credit; expenditures total $170 million. They enter the second year with over $100 million in reserve.

In Southampton, England, Confederate Commissioners James Mason & John Slidell arrive on the Royal Mail Company’s steamship, the La Plata. The British position on the American Civil War has been one of neutrality. There is some willingness to recognize the Confederate government, but Britain has found it difficult to fully support a government that, from the outside, appears to be fighting for the right to own slaves. Britain had abolished slavery in all its territories in 1833, and Queen Victoria’s recently deceased husband Prince Albert had been the President of the Society for the Extinction of Slavery.

Nevertheless, Mason & Slidell had boarded the British vessel Trent in November with the mission to meet with British and French leaders to press for diplomatic recognition of the Confederate States of America. The U.S.S. San Jacinto intercepted the vessel on November 8 while in international waters and, under instructions from the Department of the Navy, searched the vessel and apprehended the two men as contraband of war. What followed was outrage from not only Britain but other powerful countries such as France and Russia. Initial celebration over the capture in the U.S. was quickly followed by calls by many – including former President James Buchanan – to release the prisoners to avoid war with outside powers. Britain even built up its military forces in Canada and made preparations for war. It wasn’t until December that the diplomatic discussions had begun in earnest. It was U.S. Secretary of State William Seward who eventually proposed to Lincoln & the cabinet to release the prisoners, and it was accepted without dissent. Lincoln would later tell Seward that he found he was unable to draft a convincing rebuttal to Seward’s proposal. The two Confederates have now reached their destination; now the hard work begins as they work to convince the British and European powers to not only recognize their fight for independence, but to provide financial and military assistance.

Last November Julia Ward Howe and her husband, both whom are members of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, had been in Washington City at the request of President Lincoln. When they visited one of the camps, they heard several versions of “John Brown’s Body,” a popular song amongst the soldiers. One of the clergyman thought the words were severe and urged Julia to use her poetry skills to rewrite the lyrics. She awoke at the Willard Hotel with the new words clearly in her mind, and put those thoughts to paper in the dark of night. She had submitted the new lyrics to the Atlantic Monthly in her hometown of Boston; today they are published. She is paid $4 for the submission, and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” will quickly become the new anthem of the Union.

"Battle Hymn of the Republic" (Source: Library of Congress)


Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.”

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
While God is marching on.

Daily Civil War Calendar

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