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03/5/12

The War of the Generals

This entry is part 1 of 10 in the series The Western Theater Part Two

The War of the Generals

After the capture of Fort Donelson, Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck continued his campaign of undermining Brig. Gen. Ulysses Grant, unbeknownst to Grant this was a war of the generals. Halleck was not a particularly good military general but in the field of bureaucratic infighting, he was a polished warrior.

Halleck had attempted to diminish Grant’s stature in the eyes of Washington from the very beginning. He constantly badgered Grant on every detail of his planning. It seemed that Grant could do nothing right.

At the head of the Department of Missouri, Halleck wanted as much of the credit for Grant’s victories as he could garner. After the victory at Fort General Henry HalleckDonelson, Halleck recommended that Don Carlos Buell, Grant and John Pope be promoted to the rank of major general of volunteers and that he himself be given the overall command in the West. General-in-chief George B. McClellan. “I ask this in return for Forts Henry and Donelson”, wrote Halleck.

By adding Buell and Pope, who had done absolutely nothing, Halleck sought to diminish Grant’s achievements. Halleck sought to expand his sphere of command by absorbing Buell’s Department of the Ohio into his own. Fort Donelson only fell to Grant because Halleck’s orders to halt the advance was intercepted by a Confederate-synpathizer in the Cairo telegraph office.

Halleck also persisted in setting up a reasonable alternative to Grant by continuing to ask for Charles F. Smith’s promotion to major-general. Smith, indeed, deserved promotion but Halleck’s only desired it to diminish Grant. McClellan turned down all of Halleck’s requests except for Grant’s promotion which President Lincoln immediately sent to the Senate who approved it without delay. Smith was promoted at a decent interval after Grant.

It seems that Ulysses Grant was not very aware of Halleck’s attempts to sideline him. He continued to plan for further advances after Fort Donelson.  After the capture of the fort, the Confederates had evacuated Columbus, Kentucky on the Mississippi and the Tennessee River towns of Clarksville and Nashville.

Grant continued to keep Halleck informed of his activities. On February 19th, he informed Halleck’s chief of staff that he was sending General Smith to occupy Clarksville. He also suggested a further advance to Nashville which was there for the taking. On the 20th, Grant accompanied by General John McClernand and other staff officers sailed down to Clarksville and toured the town. General Smith and part of his division set out for the same destination on the 21st.

By now, Grant’s Army of the Tennessee number 27,000 men. He reorganized his growing force into four division with the addition of the Fourth Division under the command of Brig. Gen. Stephen Hurlbut. The new division commander was an Illinois lawyer who had been born in South Carolina to New England parents. He was a partisan politician who had been elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1859 and again in 1861.

Hurlbut was another bureaucratic infighter who had been favored by Halleck for his administrative skills. Halleck had recommended him to Grant General Ulysses Grantwho gave him the Fourth Division. He was not well liked by his troops and there was some question about his character.

With the contemplated movement to Nashville, Grant was beginning to encroach into the department of Brig. Gen. Don Carlos Buell. Buell was a general who was very much like Halleck. While Halleck fretted over the possibility of a Confederate attack on Cairo, Buell became decidedly nervous when his troops came within a three day march of the enemy.

Nashville was in Buell’s department and despite constant prodding from McClellan and Halleck, he was not about to be rushed. The constant bickering between Buell and Halleck was becoming a problem for the Union fortunes in the Western Theater.

When Grant thought that he needed reinforcement, Halleck asked for the use of a division for the Fort Donelson campaign. In typical Buell fashion, the division of Brig. Gen. William Nelson a week after the Confederates had surrendered. Grant dispatched them back to Buell by way of Nashville.

When Buell arrived in the city on February 25th, Nelson and his troops were already there, sent by steamboat from Fort Donelson. Buell was quite upset and complained to Smith at Clarksville that with Nelson in possession of the city, he would now have to hold the south bank at Nashville. He opined that the enemy was about to attack at any time, which was purely delusional. Buell ordered Smith, who was technically in his department, to report to him in Nashville with his entire force.

General Don Carlos BuellGrant chose this moment to visit Nashville. When he stopped in Clarksville, Smith showed him Buell’s order. Grant agreed that it was nonsensical but told Smith to obey it anyway. Arriving in Nashville, Grant toured the city and happened to meet Buell as he was leaving. According to a member of Grant’s staff, Buell was an angry man. When Grant told Buell of his intelligence that the Confederates were actually heading south as fast as possible, Buell said it was not so.

On March 2nd, Halleck ordered Grant to move his army to the southern Tennessee border. It was at this point that Halleck attempted to relieve Grant. He accused him, in a telegram to McClellan, of not communicating with headquarters. He also suggested that the army was demoralized after the victory at Fort Donelson, a charge that was patently false.

McClellan responded that Halleck had his permission to relieve the victorious Grant at his discretion. Halleck immediately ordered Grant to turn over command of the army to Smith and remain at Fort Henry. The most successful general in the Union Army had been relieved for being just that. Halleck followed this up with a series of condescending dispatches, lecturing Grant on the importance of “order and system” in the army. Grant was thunderstruck by Halleck’s actions and followed his commands to the letter.

Henry Halleck had won this battle of the bureaucratic war. However, on the evening of March 12th, Smith suffered a freak accident while boarding a rowboat. Within two weeks of his relief Grant was back in command. He had sent Halleck a response to all of his accusations, explaining his action.

Then Grant did something that Halleck never thought that he would do, he forwarded copies to Congressman Elihu Washburne. Washburne was Grant’s patron and also a friend of Lincoln’s. Washburne went to Lincoln who instructed the adjutant general of the army to demand a full report from Halleck. Providentially for Halleck, McClellan had been relived of command and Halleck had been promoted to replace him.

Halleck, in order to begin his new job on the right foot, restored Grant to command and left for Washington. A truce had been declared in the war of the generals. Grant hurried upriver and arrived at Savannah, Tennessee on March 17th to find Smith in poor health. His injured shin had become inflamed and shortly after Grant’s arrival took to his bed. Smith died on April 25, 1862 from his injury, a deep loss for the Army of Tennessee and Ulysses Grant.

 

 

 

 

03/6/12

The Army of the Ohio in Kentucky

This entry is part 2 of 10 in the series The Western Theater Part Two


The second Union Army that was active in the war in the Western Theater was the Army of the Ohio. This army was to retain the designation until it was changed to the Army of the Cumberland when Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans assumed command, relieving Buell after the Battle of Perryville. At that time Rosecrans renamed it the Army of the Cumberland.

General Don Carlos BuellIn November 1861, Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell was given command of the Department of the Ohio. This administrative department had been created on May 3, 1861 by combining all Federal troops in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. The first commander of the department was Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan who led the army in the several battles in western Virginia. It was through these victories that West Virginia became a state.

After McClellan’s promotion to command the Army of the Potomac, Brig. Gen. Ormsby Mitchel led the department from September to November 1861, when Buell assumed command. Under Mitchel, Union troops pushed south from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Huntsville, Alabama but were turned back.

Mitchel also directed Union agent James J. Andrews to steal a train in Georgia and disrupt the Confederate railroad systems in concert with the initial attack on Chattanooga. Andrews and his raiders were captured after their daring attempt. They were tried in Chattanooga and eight men, including Andrews, were executed by the Confederate government in Atlanta.

After Buell assumed command of the department, he designated the troops as the Army of the Ohio in November 1861. The Department of the Ohio was eventually merged with the Department of the Mississippi in March 1862.

The Army of the Ohio saw its initial action at the Battle of Middle Creek on January 10, 1862. The engagement which took place in Floyd County in Eastern Kentucky involved brigades from both armies. A Confederate force commanded by Brig. Gen. Humphrey Marshall had moved into the area in order to recruit troops. Marshall had located his headquarters in Paintsville, Kentucky. By early January, he had recruited raised a force of Mill Springs Union attacksabout 2,000 men.

Buell directed Col. James Garfield (the future President) to take command of the 18th Brigade and move south on Paintsville. He forced the Confederates to abandon the town and move further south to Prestonburg. Garfield’s brigade followed the Confederates but were slowed by the swampy terrain. They arrived the Forks of Middle Creek on the 9th and at 4:00 AM on the 1oth, they commenced their attack on the Confederates.

After skirmishing with some cavalry, the battle began in earnest at about noon. The fighting lasted for several hours until Union reinforcements discouraged the Confederates who then retired to the south. On January 24th, Marshall was ordered to return Virginia and Garfield eventually returned to Paintsville. Union casualties totaled 27 while the Confederates sustained 65 total casualties.

The Union Army of the Ohio followed up their successful engagement at Middle Creek by moving to secure their position in Eastern Kentucky. The Confederate Army of Mississippi, which was commanded by General Albert Sidney Johnston, was stretched from Arkansas to the Cumberland Gap in Kentucky.

His right flank in Kentucky consisted of about 4,000 men under Brig. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner in Bowling Green, and about 4,000 in the Military District of East Tennessee under Maj. Gen. George B. Crittenden. This last force had the responsibility of guarding the Cumberland Gap, the path in pro-Unionist East Tennessee. Crittenden had assigned his 1st Brigade under the command of Brig. Gen. Felix Zollicoffer to this duty.

The inexperienced Zollicoffer had placed his force on the less defensible north bank of the Cumberland River. Although ordered to moved to the bluffs on the south bank, he did not have sufficient boats to accomplish this without stringing his force out. He had a fear that the Union troops would catch him in mid-crossing.

General George ThomasUnion Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas had been ordered to march south with his division and break up Crittenden’s force. On January 17th, Thomas arrived at Logan’s Crossroads with three brigades where he halted to await his fourth brigade. Crittenden had arrived on the scene and realizing the situation, devised a plan to strike the enemy before they could concentrate their complete force.

The weather was miserable with rain creating considerable problems. The muddy roads and the over-flowing streams created serious movement problems for both sides. Thomas’ fourth brigade under Brig. Gen. Albin F. Schoepf were separated by the rain-swollen Fishing Creek. Many of the Confederate troops carried antique flintlocks that were almost useless in the rain. The Confederates had lost the element of surprise due to the slowness of their movements.

The initial Confederate attack, led by Zollicoffer, pushed back the Union defenders. The fighting took place in the woods and with the dense gunsmoke, confusion reigned supreme, In the confused fighting Zollicoffer approached the wrong lines and was shot dead. With the loss of their commander the Confederate center momentarily retreated but Crittenden rallied his men and they moved forward again, reinforced with a second brigade.

At this point, Thomas arrived on the field and ordered the 9th Ohio to advance while the 2nd Minnesota maintained a base of fire on the front line. The fighting was so close that Col. Robert L. McCook, commander of the 3rd Brigade, said that the “enemy and the Second Minnesota were poking their guns through the same fence.” Once the 9th Ohio turned the Confederate line, the battle was decided.

The Confederates were routed and fled back to Mill Springs. They frantically crossed to the south side of the Cumberland, abandoning twelve artillery pieces, 150 wagons, more than 1,000 horses and mules, and all of their dead and wounded. The retreat continued until the troops reached Battle of Mill SpringsChestnut Mound, Tennessee, (near Carthage), about 50 miles due east of Nashville.

The Union force suffered 39 killed and 2007 wounded, while the Confederates sustained 125 killed and 404 wounded or missing. Crittenden had been accused of drunkenness during the battle. His army was disbanded and he was reassigned as a corps commander under Buckner. Two months later, he was relieved of command and arrested for drunkenness. He eventually resigned as an officer after a court of inquiry and served on a staff without rank.

The Army of the Ohio had broken the Confederate defensive line in Eastern Kentucky. Coupled with the twin victories at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson had dealt several serious blows to Confederate fortunes in Kentucky and Northern Tennessee. Buell’s army eventually moved south to assist the Army of the Tennessee on the second day at Shiloh.

 

 

 

03/7/12

The Battle of Shiloh-Background

This entry is part 3 of 10 in the series The Western Theater Part Two

The Battle of Shiloh-Background

The Battle of Shiloh, often referred to as Pittsburg Landing, was to set the stage for Union successes in the Western Theater. After the losses of Fort Henry, Fort Donelson and the clearing of eastern Kentucky by the Army of the Ohio, the Confederate Army of Mississippi, under the command of General Albert Sidney Johnston, withdrew into western Tennessee, northern Mississippi and Alabama.

The Army of the Tennessee once more under the command of Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, moved south to fill the vacuum. They were followed by the Army of the Ohio, under Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, which followed them to provide support.

General Albert Sidney JohnstonGeneral Johnston had the distinction of having held the rank of general in three different armies: Texas, the United States and the Confederate States. Born in Kentucky, Johnston lived most of his early life in Texas. He graduated from West Point in 1826, 8 out of 41 cadets. Resigning his commission in 1834, he returned to Texas after his wife died of tuberculosis.

In Texas, Johnston farmed but in 1836 joined the Texas Army of Independence. By January 1837, he was promoted to brigadier general. After an unsuccessful duel with another general, he resigned from the army but the second president of Texas named him Secretary of War in December 1838. Johnston resigned in 1840 but rejoined the Texas Army during the Mexican War.

After the war, Johnston stayed in the United States Army until the start of the Civil War when he resigned once again. He was appointed the second highest ranking Confederate general (after the little-known Samuel Cooper) as commander of the Western Department.

Johnston raised the Army of Mississippi to defend the western region of the Confederacy. His command stretched from the Mississippi River to the Allegheny Mountains. Before the Battle of Shiloh, General P.G.T. Beauregard was sent west to assist Johnston.Johnston had concentrated his army of 44,700 men to the south of the Union camps at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River.

Johnston’s Army of Mississippi was formed into four corps. The First Corps under Maj. Gen. Leonidas Polk, had two divisions under Brig. Gen. Charles Clark and Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Cheatham. The Second Corps under Maj. Gen. Braxton Bragg, had two divisions under Brig. Gens. Daniel Ruggles and Jones M. Withers.

The Third Corps under Maj. Gen. William J. Hardee, had three brigades under Brig. Gens. Thomas C. HindmanPatrick Cleburne, and Sterling A. M. Wood. The Fourth Corps under Brig. Gen. John C. Breckinridge, was his reserve force, with three brigades under Cols. Robert Trabue and Winfield S. Statham, and Brig. Gen.John S. Bowen, and attached cavalry.

Grant’s Army of the Tennessee had 48,894 men in six divisions, led by Maj. Gens. John A. McClernand and Lew Wallace, and Brig. Gens. W. H. L. General Ulysses GrantWallace (replacing Charles Ferguson Smith, disabled by a leg injury),Stephen A. HurlbutWilliam T. Sherman, and Benjamin M. Prentiss. The divisions were camped on the western side of the Tennessee River. Grant had developed a lack of concern for the enemy’s plans. He was more concerned with his own plans.

His army was spread out in bivouac style, many around the small log church named Shiloh (the Hebrew word that means “place of peace”). They spent their time for Buell’s Army of the Ohio, with drills for his many raw troops, without entrenchments or other awareness of defensive measures.

Sherman, for example, believed that Johnston’s Confederates were in the Corinth, Mississippi area, right up until the time that they almost overwhelmed his division.

On the eve of battle, April 5, the first of Buell’s divisions, under the command of Brig. Gen. William “Bull” Nelson, reached Savannah, Tennessee.  Grant instructed him to encamp there rather than cross the river immediately. The rest of Buell’s army was still marching toward Savannah.

Only portions of four of his divisions, totaling 17,918 men, would reach the area in time to have any role in the battle, almost entirely on the second day. The other three divisions were led by Brig. Gens. Alexander M. McCookThomas L. Crittenden, and Thomas J. Wood, but Wood’s division appeared too late even to be of much service on the second day.

The Confederate troops had very little combat experience and many were poorly armed with antique weapons, including shotguns, hunting rifles, pistols, flintlock muskets, and even a few pikes. However, two of their regiments did have Enfield rifles.

At least half of Grant’s army, 32 out of 62 infantry regiments, were combat veterans of the fight at Fort Donelson. At least half of his artillery batteries and almost all of his cavalry had similar experience. This experience would be very important in the first hours of the Battle of Shiloh when the Confederates caught them by surprise.

 

 

 

 

 

03/8/12

The Battle of Shiloh-The Morning of Day One

This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series The Western Theater Part Two

The Battle of Shiloh-

The Morning of Day One

April 6, 1862 began as any other day for the Union Army at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. By the end of the two-day Battle of Shiloh, many on both sides would be referring to it as “Bloody Shiloh”. Over 100,000 men in both armies would be engage in ferocious combat with the resulting casualties, second only to the Battle of Antietam.

The Union Army, about 36,000 strong on the immediate line, was spread in an arc south of the landing. Starting on the extreme right or west of the line was the 5th Division of Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. To the left of Sherman was the new 6th Division of Brig. Gen. Benjamin M. Prentiss. This division was not at full-strength or experienced and fresh regiments were joining it on an almost daily basis.

Battle of Shiloh, April 6, morningTo Prentiss’ left was the 4th Division of Fourth Division of Brig. Gen. Stephen A. Hurlbut. To his left was the 2nd Division of Brig. Gen. W.H.L. Wallace. Wallace had been promoted on April 3rd as a replacement for Maj. Gen. Charles F. Smith who was suffering from his inflamed leg injury.

Maj. Gen. Ulysses Grant had stationed his headquarters to the north in Savannah, Tennessee in order make contact with Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell and his Army of the Ohio which was expected any day. He placed Sherman in command of the Pittsburg Landing encampment but when Maj. Gen. John McClernand and his 1st Division arrived, he would need to move to the area himself, not trusting McClernand.

Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace’s 3rd Division was about five miles north of the main Union positions. This distance would become critical for the reinforcement of the embattled army late on the first day. McClernand’s Division arrived in the area in early April and served as a reserve behind the main line.

The Confederate forces had been sending out scouting patrols for several days leading up to the battle. There had been a number of clashes between the two armies in early April. Yet, General Sherman, for one, did not believe that the Confederates where anywhere near the Union lines. He, like many of the other commanders, believed that the enemy was camped around Corinth, Mississippi.

The Confederate Army was organized in four large corps with a total strength of almost 45,000 men. Due to the wooded terrain south of the Union lines, they were able to bring their attacking units up close to the Union positions.

The rough terrain surrounding Pittsburg Landing was not conducive to the rapid movement of troops. It was broken up by small creeks and ravines. Because of the terrain there was a large gap between Sherman’s and Prentiss’ divisions that the Confederates were able to exploit to their advantage. The rainy weather had muddied up the roads which would create problems for Grant when he tried to quickly bring up reinforcements.

At 6:00 AM on April 6th, Albert Sidney Johnston’s army deployed for battle. They were concentrated on the Corinth road facing the western end General Albert Sidney Johnstonof the Union line which was manned by Sherman’s Division. Johnston planned his attack with  Leonidas Polk on the the left, Braxton Bragg in the center, William J. Hardee the right, John C. Breckinridge in reserve, according to a dispatch that he sent to President Jefferson Davis. In actuality, Polk ended up in the center between Hardee and Bragg.

Johnston and his second-in-command had different concepts of the battle. Johnston’s plan was to crush the left wing of the Union Army and deny them access to the river. Beauregard’s plan, on the other hand, was simply to attack in three waves and push the Union Army straight eastward into the Tennessee River. With Johnston leading from the front, Beauregard was actually in control of the flow of men and supplies.

The initial Confederate attack was overwhelming. The corps of Hardee and Bragg began the assault with their divisions in one line, almost 3 miles wide. As these units advanced, they became intermingled and difficult to control. Corps commanders attacked in line without reserves. Artillery could not be concentrated to effect a breakthrough.

At about 7:30 AM, Beauregard ordered Polk and Breckinridge’s corps into battle, to the left and right of Bragg. This diluted the effectiveness of the Southern attack. The attack became a full frontal assault and despite inflicting severe casualties on the Union forces, the Confederates were never able to effect a breakthrough of the Union lines.

The ferocity of the Confederate assault shocked the Union commanders and their troops. In the opening minutes of the attack, Sherman’s division was nearly flanked and Sherman was wounded in the hand. This seemed to shake Sherman out of his delusions and he immediately responded by rallying his troop. The fighting devolved into a slugfest with each side giving as good as they got.

Over the course of the morning, the Union line gradually gave ground but were able to fend of several flanking attacks. Some of the experienced troops fled to the supposed safety of Pittsburg Landing. Meanwhile, Grant had heard the firing and hurried south to the scene.

General William T. ShermanBefore he left Savannah, he ordered Brig. Gen. William “Bull” Nelson of the Army of the Ohio to move his division south down the east side of the river and prepare to be transported to Pittsburg Landing. Nelson had arrived the night before.

Sherman seemed to be everywhere, rallying his troops and directing a stubborn defense. He was wounded a second time and had at least three horses shot out from under him. Gradually, he concentrated his men behind the Shiloh Church. Many historians believe that the fight at Shiloh made Sherman into one of the premier generals of the war.

Grant arrived on the scene at about 8:30 AM. Two days before, he had been injured when his horse slipped in the mud and fell on him. He was hampered by the crutches that he needed to move around. Grant met with Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace at Crump’s Landing and ordered him to move his division south to reinforce the Union lines. Wallace was to take all day to move due to a combination of poor directions and poor road conditions.

By noon, the Confederates had made steady progress, rolling up one Union formation after another. At least 5,000 men had fed to Pittsburg Landing and the reinforcing divisions were hours away. The situation was grim for the Union and things would be grimmer in the afternoon.

 

 

 

03/9/12

The Battle of Shiloh-The Afternoon of Day One

This entry is part 5 of 10 in the series The Western Theater Part Two

The Battle of Shiloh-

The Afternoon of Day One

The Battle of Shiloh was characterized by stubborn fighting on both sides of the lines. The Confederate attackers continued to press the Union defenders back to Pittsburg Landing throughout the morning. The Union defense on the left end of their line was anchored at a position that later became known as the Hornet’s Nest along a road now popularly called the Sunken Road.

Troops from Prentiss’ and W.H.L. Wallace’s Divisions had rallied at this location and fortified it. The fighting here had begun at about 9:30 AM and was to continue for at least 7 hours. During this time, the Union forces to either side of the position were gradually forced back and the Hornet’s Nest became a salient. Historians estimate that the number of separate charges ranged from 8 to 14.

Battle of Shiloh, April 6, afternoonBy the early afternoon, the Union line had gradually gone from and east-west orientation to a north-south one with a hook at the most southern end. The troops within the salient were poorly coordinated. Individual commanders chose to withdraw their units without consulting with other commanders.

During the fighting Brig. Gen. W.H.L Wallace was shot in the back of the head with the bullet exiting through his eye. Wallace fell mortally wounded and was discovered several hours later by his men. He died three days later in his wife’s arms.  Unbeknownst to him, she had arrived earlier in the day by steamboat. His wounding increased the chaos in the Hornet’s Nest.

The Confederates brought up artillery batteries that numbered from 50 to 62, depending on the source. With them, they blasted the salient at point-blank range. After a seven hour fight, Prentiss’s troops were almost completely surrounded and he surrendered the position and his remaining men, between 2,200 and 2,400. Their stubborn defense allowed Grant to assemble sufficient forces to stop the Confederate advance.

About a half hour before the surrender at the Hornet’s Nest, the Confederate Army was to suffer a devastating loss. General Albert Sidney Johnson was shot in the left leg while leading his troops in an attack against the Union position at the Peach Orchard. Deeming it insignificant, he sent his surgeon away to care for other Confederate wounded.

He bled to death within an hour and deprived the Confederacy of one of its most effective generals in the opinion of Jefferson Davis. With his death, Beauregard became the commander of all Confederate forces on the field. His position in the rear, where Johnston had placed him, gave him only a vague idea of the situation at the front.

Grant had spent the entire morning and into the afternoon assembling sufficient infantry and artillery on the high ground at Pittsburg Landing. His position included an arc of at least 50 guns and two timberclads, the USS Lexington and the USS Tyler. The two naval vessels were to play a key role throughout the late afternoon and the night.

By the afternoon at least 5,000 troops had collected in what was once the Union rear. The rest of the Union Army had withdrawn to new defensive Gen Johnston with Arkansas troopspositions approximately 3 miles wide in an arc around Pittsburg Landing. Sherman continued to hold the extreme right with McClernand to his left. The remnants of Hurlbut’s, Prentiss’ and Wallace’s divisions were in the line from the center to the river. One of Nelson’s brigades had been ferried across the river and were inserted at the left end of the line.

By 6:00 PM, Beauregard called off any further attacks after a tw0-brigade assault against the  Union line was repulsed. The Confederate plan had failed. Instead of pushing the Yankees into the river, they had forced Grant’s men into a defensible position that was ready to be reinforced.

Sherman encountered Grant under a tree, sheltering himself from the pouring rain. He was smoking one of his cigars while considering his losses and planning for the next day. Sherman remarked, “Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?” Grant looked up. “Yes,” he replied, followed by a puff. “Yes. Lick ’em tomorrow, though.”

03/10/12

The Battle of Shiloh-The Second Day

This entry is part 6 of 10 in the series The Western Theater Part Two

The Battle of Shiloh-

The Second Day

The first day at the Battle of Shiloh had been a bloody affair. Although the Confederates were on the offensive for the entire day, they did not succeed in their stated goal of pushing the Union Army into the Tennessee River.

By the end of the day, they had suffered serious losses, including their commanding general, Albert Sidney Johnston, who had bled to death from what seemed to be a minor leg wound. They had suffered at least 8,500 casualties in the day’s hard fighting.

Confederate commanders reported no more than 20,000 men in their formations, due to straggling and desertion, Battle of Shiloh, April 7although Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell would insist after the war that it was closer to 28,000 effectives.

By the morning of April 7th, the Union Army on the west side of the river numbered about 45,000 troops. Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace and his division had finally arrived on the battle line at about 6:30 or 7:00 PM on April 6th and Grant positioned them at the extreme right of the wide Union Line.

Next to Wallace was Brig. Gen. William T. Sherman’s battered division. On his left was the 1st Division of Maj. Gen. John McClernand, then the remnants of Prentiss’, W.H.L. Wallace’s and Hurlbut’s divisions.

Buell’s Army of Army had been moving across the river all night. By the morning, all or a portion of three divisions were positioned on the west side of the river at the left of the battle line. Buell’s three divisions were commanded by Brig. Gens. William “Bull” Nelson, Alexander McCook and Thomas Crittenden.

Facing them were the four battered Confederate corps that had begun the battle with so much verve. In the early morning hours, they had little unit cohesion above the brigade level with many of the units commingled.

The Confederates had withdrawn back to the south into the former camps of Prentiss’ and Sherman’s divisions. It took Beauregard some hours to get his army sorted out and reorganized. His main goal was to get his troops resupplied and rested in order to continue the attack.

Beauregard’s plan was to continue to push the Union force back into the river. He had no idea that he was now outnumbered, by some accounts at about 2 to 1. He was quite surprised when the Union forces began a massive General P.G.T. Beauregardcounterattack at dawn.

Grant and Buell began their seperate attacks with very little army-level coordination. There was, however, division-level coordination. The Union counterattack began on the extreme right with the Lew Wallace’s Division starting at about 7:00 AM.

General Beauregard spent some hours attempting to stabilize his front line. By about 10:00 PM, he seemed to have his battle line organized in a reasonable fashion.

From the left to the right, his four corps were positioned with Maj. Gens. Braxton Bragg, Leonidas Polk, Brig. Gen. John C. Breckenridge and Maj. Gen. William Hardee across the front.  General P.G.T. Beauregard continued to position his headquarters in the vicinity of the Shiloh Church.

Grant ordered his entire line to attack across a broad front. Buell sent his divisions forward, down the Corinth and Hamburg-Savannah Roads. The attack was led by Nelson’s Division, followed closely by Crittenden’s and McCook’s divisions.

Crittenden’s Division recaptured the Hornet’s Nest by late morning. But Breckenridge was able to halt both Crittenden and Nelson with determined counterattacks.

On the Union right, the advance was progressing steadily with Bragg and Polk’s troops being pushed back. The fighting in this area was quite heavy with Sherman writing later in his report of the battle that it was “the severest musketry fire I ever heard.”

Battle of ShilohBy noon, the Confederate line had been pushed back some distance and was parallel to the Hamburg-Purdy Road. In early afternoon, Beauregard launched a series of counterattacks from the Shiloh Church area, trying to remain in control of the Corinth Road. The Union right was temporarily driven back by these assaults at Water Oaks Pond.

Crittenden, reinforced by Col. James M. Tuttle, seized the road junction of the Hamburg-Purdy and East Corinth Roads, driving the Confederates into Prentiss’s old camps. Nelson resumed his attack and seized the heights overlooking Locust Grove Branch by late afternoon. Beauregard’s final counterattack was flanked and repulsed when Grant moved Col. James C. Veatch‘s brigade forward.

Beauregard realized that he had lost the initiative and began to withdraw his battered command south, back to Corinth, Mississippi. He used Breckenridge’s 5,000-man corps as a covering force and positioned his batteries at the church and on the ridge south of Shiloh Branch.

The Confederates were able to stall the Union advance until about 5:00 PM when they were able to make an orderly withdrawal back to their bases at Corinth. The Union troops were too exhausted to make any kind of pursuit. That would remain for another day.

Buell was to later criticize Grant for not ordering a forceful pursuit of the defeated Confederates. Grant cited the Battle of Shiloh (2)exhaustion of his troops. Part of Grant’s reluctance could have been the unusual command relationship he had with Buell. Although Grant was the senior officer and technically was in command of both armies, Buell made it quite clear throughout the two days that he was acting independently.

It now remained to count to cost of this momentous two-day battle, the most costly in American history up to this time. The Union forces suffered some 13,047 total losses with 1,754 killed, 8,408 wounded and  2,885 captured/missing. The Confederates suffered 10,699 total losses with 1,728 killed, 8,012 wounded and 959 captured/missing.

In the North, Grant was vilified when the losses were reported. Some newspapers reported that he had been drunk on April 6th. Many claimed that Buell had taken command and saved the day for the Union Army. There were calls for his removal. However, the only vote that counted was that of President Lincoln’s. When pushed to remove Grant, he said, “I can’t spare this man; he fights.”

Once again, Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck tried to derail Grant’s career by relegating him to the meaningless position as his second-in-command.  In late April and May the Union armies, under Halleck’s personal command, advanced slowly toward Corinth and captured it, while an amphibious force on the Mississippi River destroyed the Confederate River Defense Fleet and captured Memphis. Halleck was promoted to be general in chief of all the Union armies, and with his departure for the East, Grant was restored to command.

 

 

03/11/12

Operations by the Army of the Mississippi

This entry is part 7 of 10 in the series The Western Theater Part Two

Operations by the

Army of the Mississippi

Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, the Union commander of the Department of the Missouri, created the Army of the Mississippi and placed Brig. Gen. John Pope in command. Pope was a Kentucky native who had graduated from West Point in 1842. He had served in the Mexican War and in a variety of posts after the War.

General John PopePope had been appointed brigadier general of volunteers in June of 1861 and sent to Illinois to recruit troops. He held several positions in Missouri under both Halleck and his predecessor, Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont. Pope had a knack of publicizing his achievements, however minor they may have been.

Pope came to the attention of Halleck, who placed him in command of the Army of the Mississippi (and the District of the Mississippi, Department of the Missouri) on February 23, 1862. He was given 25,000 men, divided into five divisions, and was ordered to clear the Mississippi River of Confederates to the south of Columbus, Kentucky.

After Grant’s successful operations against Forts Henry and Donelson, the Confederates withdrew their strong forces from their Mississippi River-fortress at Columbus, Kentucky. General P.G.T. Beauregard concentrated these troops at Island No. 10, about 60 miles  to the south.

Pope began his operations by marching overland through Missouri. His forces occupied the river town of Point Pleasant, Missouri, south of New Madrid. Point Pleasant was directly west of Island No. 10. The Union army them marched north to New Madrid and positioned their siege guns on the river town on March 3, 1862.

After an unsuccessful attempt to break the siege, Confederate Brig. Gen. John P. McCown withdrew his troops south to Island No. 10 on March 13th, leaving the greater portion of his equipment and supplies to the Union besiegers. This included his heavy artillery.

On the 14th, Pope’s forces entered the abandoned New Madrid fortifications. Two days later, the Union Navy gunboats Island No. 10and mortar rafts came down to attack Island No. 10 from the river.

Island No. 10 was a glorified sandbar in the Mississippi. It was about one mile long, 450 yards wide and 10 feet above the low water mark. The island is on the New Madrid Bend. The only approach to the island on dry land was on a levee from Tiptonville, Tennessee to the south. Otherwise, the area is surrounded by marshes, lakes, swamps and streams. On the Missouri side, the river bank was about 30 feet above the low water mater, not high enough for the advantage of plunging fire.

The Confederates had realized the importance of control of the Mississippi River early in the war. They had sent Captain Asa B. Gray to the area in August 1861. Gray began to position batteries on the river to command the bend. The area commander, Maj. Gen. Leonidas Polk, gave these operations a low priority. He was more interested in creating a massive fortification up river at Columbus, Kentucky.

After the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson and the subsequent withdrawal from Columbus, the area assumed a greater importance in the Confederate’s defensive plans. McCown was able to transform the defensive positions into a formidable  obstacle for any enemy fleet trying to pass.

By the middle of March, five batteries containing 24 guns had been built on the shore above the island; 19 guns were in five batteries on the island itself; and the floating battery CSS New Orleans, with nine guns, was moored at the west end of the island.In addition, two forts had been set up at New Madrid: Fort Thompson to the west, with 14 guns, and Fort Bankhead with 7 guns to the east, where St. John’s Bayou met the Mississippi.

Bombardment and capture of Island No. 10The Confederate Navy, under the command of Flag Officer George N. Hollins, had 6 gunboats on the river between Fort Pillow and Island No. 10. These were all unarmored warships. An attempt to bring the armored ram CSS Manassas upriver from New Orleans was unsuccessful when she ran aground in the shallow water and was damaged.

The Union naval forces were under the command of Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote included armored and unarmored warships plus 14 mortar barges. They arrived in the area on March 14th.

Meanwhile, Pope had sent one of his divisions under the command of Colonel Joseph B. Plummer to occupy Point Pleasant. Once the Union siege guns were positioned on March 12th, the river was closed to unarmored enemy vessels.

After the withdrawal from New Madrid, McCown was promoted to major general and replaced by Brig. Gen. William W. Mackall.

The two Union commanders were at odds over the conduct of the siege. Pope wanted the navy to rush the Confederate positions while Foote was concerned that this would cause unnecessary damage to his gunboats. For the first two weeks of the siege, Foote’s ships kept up a steady bombardment of the Confederate defensive positions, mostly at long range from the mortars.

The mortar bombardment caused very little damage so a change in tactics was needed. Since Foote would not allow hisUSS Carondelet ships to be run past the forts, someone on Pope’s staff suggested that a canal might be cut to bypass the batteries. This part of the operation took two weeks and was to prove to be the undoing of the Confederate defense of Island No. 10.

Although the canal wasn’t deep enough for use by the gunboats, it allowed Pope to move his troops into position by transports. However, Pope insisted that he needed support from the gunboats. Eventually, the USS Carondelet and the USS Pittsburgh passed the Confederate batteries to support Pope’s assault.

On April 7, Pope was able to cross the river without any interference from the Confederate Navy. The Union gunboats destroyed the Confederate batteries at Watson’s Landing, Pope’s intended pointy of attack. The Union troops landed without opposition.

Mackall, realizing that his position was untenable, decided to withdraw south to Tiptonville, Tennessee. However, Pope’s spies detected this movement and the Union army reached Tiptonville before the Confederates, cutting off their escape route. Mackall was forced to surrender. While tis was happening, the demoralized garrison of Island No. 10 surrendered to Foote’s naval forces.

There was some dispute over the number of Confederates that were captured. Several hundred were believed to have escaped through the marshes but the vast majority surrendered. Pope claimed that 273 officers and 6,750 men surrendered. Incomplete Confederate records indicate that about 5,350 men were present. Historians belive that the number captured was less than 4,500.

From the fall of New Madrid to the surrender at Tiptonville, the Union army and navy had lost only 7 men killed from all causes, 4 missing, and 14 wounded. During the entire campaign, losses in the Army of the Mississippi were reported as 8 killed, 21 wounded, and 3 missing. Confederate losses in killed and wounded were not reported, but seem to have been similarly low.

These operations along the Mississippi River very little attention, particularly in light of the bloody battle at Shiloh which took place at the same time. However, the cooperative operations at Fort Henry, Fort Donelson and Island No. 10 ushered in a new tactic in naval warfare.

The use of steamships diminished the importance of fixed fortifications as the war went on. Admiral David Farragut was to demonstrate the new tactics at New Orleans, Port Hudson, Mobile Bay and Vicksburg.

 

03/13/12

The Battle of Iuka

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series The Western Theater Part Two

The Battle of Iuka

The small town of Iuka, Mississippi is often called the ‘Gateway to Mississippi’ because it is in the extreme northeast county of the state. After the Union capture of Corinth, Maj. Gen. Halleck had distributed his large army in a number locations. Maj. Gen. Ulysses Grant had continued with this practice after Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck was promoted to General-in-chief and departed for Washington, D.C.

The greatest number of troops were stationed in Corinth, Mississippi. Here he had located two divisions of the Army of the Tennessee and two divisions of the Army of the Mississippi, which were now under Grant’s command. This four-division wing of the army was under the command of Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans.

General William RosecransGrant had a division under the command of Brig. Gen. Edward Ord stationed at Jackson, Tennessee. Maj. Gens. William T. Sherman’s and Stephen Hurlbut’s divisions were stationed at Memphis, Tennessee. Grant had dispatched two of his divisions to reinforce Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio.

Buell was pursuing General Braxton Bragg, who had replaced General P.G.T. Beauregard. Bragg had conceived a brilliant plan that he set in motion during the late summer. Buell was moving toward Chattanooga very slowly. Bragg decided to move most of his army to that city by rail and arrive there ahead of Buell. He then planned to head north from Chattanooga to threaten Middle Tennessee and even the Kentucky Bluegrass region, if the opportunity presented itself.

Bragg left two forces in Mississippi. Maj. Gen. Sterling Price commanded 16,000 men in Northern Mississippi and Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn led a similar number in the Vicksburg area. Vicksburg was the only remaining Confederate bastion on the Mississippi. Bragg’s desire was that these two forces would hold the state in his absence and keep Grant from reinforcing Buell. For good measure, they might possibly be able to move into Middle Tennessee to support Bragg’s advance.

By early September, Bragg was in Kentucky and the local Union authorities believed that he posed a threat to Louisville and Cincinnati. This forced Buell to give up any idea of taking Chattanooga and pursue Bragg. The Confederate commander sent word to his two subordinates in Mississippi to begin operations in the state.

The two generals refused to cooperate with each other but eventually Price began to move toward the Union outpost at Iuka, Mississippi. The town was 22 miles east of the main Union base at Corinth and near where the Memphis & Charleston Railroad crossed the Tennessee River.

As soon as Grant received the information that Price’s force was on the move, he ordered Rosecrans to pull in all of his outposts that were guardingGeneral Sterling Price the rail line east of Corinth. This would prevent the Confederates from capturing them while at the same time strengthening Corinth. By September 13th, only the outpost at Iuka remained in position.

Part of a brigade under Colonel Robert C. Murphy of the 8th Wisconsin was in command of the outpost. With his own regiment were the 5th Minnesota and the 2nd Illinois Cavalry. Confederate cavalry attacked Murphy’s pickets at about 10:00 AM on the 13th. The Confederates had cut the telegraph lines, so Murphy sent word to Rosecrans by courier. The enemy had also destroyed the railroad to Corinth, so Murphy’s force along with his stockpile of supplies were isolated.

The following morning Murphy burned the supplies and began to march to Corinth. His force was accompanied by an estimated 2,000 former slaves. The Confederates dashed into the abandoned town and saved the greater portion of the supplies. When Rosecrans found out about this, he relieved Murphy and replaced him with Col. Joseph A. Mower of the 11th Missouri.

Grant ordered Rosecrans to send a brigade to probe the Confederate lines around Iuka. Rosecrans selected Mower’s, which turned around and retraced their steps from the previous day. After discovering that the Confederates were in Iuka with a large force, they withdrew a short distance and camped for the night. Learning Price’s strength from a deserter, Mower ordered his men to build up their campfires to fool the enemy. At about 10:00 PM, they slipped away undetected.

Grant planned to combine Rosecrans 9,000-man force with an additional 8,000-man force under Brig. Gen. Edward Ord. They would proceed to Iuka and bring Price to battle. Rosecrans presented his own plan to Grant. He suggested that his force would approach the town from the southwest  while Ord’s column would approach from the northwest. Since Rosecrans was more familiar with the area, Grant deferred to him.

Battle of IukaDeparting on the 18th after a 24-hour rain, Rosecrans force quickly fell behind schedule. Grant adjusted the plan accordingly, postponing Ord’s attack until Rosecrans’ estimated time of arrival on the morning of the 19th. However, Rosecrans’ force continued to lag behind the new schedule. He estimated his arrival time at 2:00 PM. Grant cautioned Ord not to commence his attack until he heard Rosecrans’ guns.

Ord waited the greater part of the day while Rosecrans approached Iuka. The original plan called for his two divisions to approach using two different roads from the south. Rosecrans decided to put his entire force on just one road which left the second road unguarded and open.

At around 1:00 PM, Rosecrans’ cavalry encountered Confederate skirmishers and drove them back a mile or two. At that point the cavalry commander reported that he could not push them back any farther since they were protected in various structures. Infantry came up and did the job with the advance continuing.

At about 4:30 PM, the Union skirmishers emerged from the dense thickets and were met by the main Confederate battle line which blasted them with heavy fire. Despite Rosecrans’ order to press forward, the Union skirmishers halted in position. When the division commander, Maj. Gen. Charles Hamilton, came forward and saw the Confederate main battle line, he ordered his men to form a line of battle.

The fighting commenced in earnest between the two armies. On the Union side, the infantry was supported by the 11th Ohio Battery which became a target for the Confederates. The battery defended itself with loads of double canister, causing terrible casualties. The fighting was hand-to-hand at points along the line. Forty-six of the fifty-four gunners and three of the four officers became casualties.

The fighting continued for 1 1/2 hours until darkness halted it. In that time, the 3,100 Confederates faced 2,800 Federals. The Confederate Battle of Iuka Imagecasualties totaled 525, while the Union suffered 790 in this location.

Throughout the battle, neither Grant nor Ord heard any of the sounds of the battle due to weather conditions that suppressed the sounds. Ord’s men maintained pressure on the enemy skirmishers but never attacked.

After Grant received Rosecrans’ dispatch, detailing the events of the battle, he instructed Ord to attack at daybreak. But by then the Confederates were gone, leaving the field to the Union Army. They had escaped using the road that Rosecrans had left unblocked. Grant was quite displeased by Rosecrans’ decision. He ordered him to pursue the Confederates but once Grant left his column, Rosecrans called off the pursuit.

In total, the Confederates sustained a total of 1,516 total, with 263 killed, 692 wounded and 561 captured/missing. The Union Army suffered 790 total, with 144 killed, 598 wounded and 40 captured/missing.

 

 

 

 

03/14/12

The Battle of Corinth

This entry is part 9 of 10 in the series The Western Theater Part Two

The Battle of Corinth

Maj. Gen. Ulysses had made Corinth the linchpin of his defense in Northern Mississippi and Western Tennessee. With Buell demanding more reinforcements, Grant was sending a steady stream of troops to the Army of the Ohio. This forced him onto the defensive and saw him bring more outlying troops to Corinth. Grant’s headquarters were in Jackson, Tennessee, where he could communicate with Corinth, Memphis and several other of his outposts.

Iuka Corinth Campaign, September 29 to October 3, 1862Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Sterling Price had joined forces with Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn, with Van Dorn in overall command. The Confederate field army now totaled 22,000 men. At the end of September 1862, Van Dorn led his army north into Tennessee, positioning himself 25 miles west of Corinth. The Confederates were now in a position to threaten a number of Grant’s posts.

By October 1st, Grant realized that Van Dorn’s target was the strategic rail crossing at Corinth, Mississippi. Van Dorn had turned toward the key location and approached it from the northwest, cutting it off from the most direct source of reinforcements.

Around Corinth, Grant had four divisions under the overall command of Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans. They were those of Brig. Gen. David S. Stanley, Brig. Gen. Charles S. Hamilton, Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Davies and Brig. Gen. Thomas J. McKean. He also had a cavalry division under the command of Col. John K. Mizner. His forces totaled around 23,000 men.

The Confederate Army of West Tennessee, led by Van Dorn, was organized with Maj. Gen. Sterling Price commanding a corps of two divisions and a third division under the command of Maj. Gen. Mansfield Lovell. Price’s Corps had a total of 7 infantry brigades, while Lovell’s Division had 3 infantry brigades, one infantry battalion and one cavalry brigade. Van Dorn’s Army totaled about 22,000 men.

Grant planned to trap Van Dorn’s Army outside Corinth. He directed Brig. Gen. James McPherson to take an ad hoc brigade of 1,500 men from General Earl Van DornJackson to Corinth. He also ordered Maj. Gen. Stephen Hurlbut, in command of 5,400 men, to march southward from Bolivar, Tennessee on the west bank of the Hatchie River and threaten the Confederate rear. Grant believed that his plan would cause the destruction of Van Dorn’s Army.

Grant’s plan had one flaw. The commander of the largest component of the Union forces was William Rosecrans. He was fearful that the Confederates’ movement was just a feint and that they would slip by the Union forces and move into Middle Tennessee. He procrastinated in concentrating his forces at Corinth, waiting until the 2nd before giving them their orders. On that evening, he only had two brigades of McKean’s Division in the town. Van Dorn’s force was about 11 miles north at Chewalla, Tennessee.

Rosecrans’ plan was to position three of his divisions in an arc that ran from northwest to northeast, between 2 and 2 1/2 miles outside Corinth. McKean’s Division would be on the left, Davies’ in the center and Hamilton’s on the right. The troops were along a line of the old Confederate breastworks that had been built in May. If necessary, they would make a fighting withdrawal to positions only a few hundred yards outside of the town.

At 7:30 AM the Confederates began to pressure a Union brigade between Corinth and Chewalla, about 7 miles north of the town. This brigade was commanded by Colonel John M. Oliver. These veterans had been at the Hornet’s Nest at Shiloh under Brig. Gen. Benjamin Prentiss and were cool under fire. They skirmished with the enemy and withdrew into the breastworks as planned. Here, they were joined by Colonel John McArthur’s Brigade.

Battle of Corinth, October 3, 1862By 10:00 AM, most of Thomas Davies’ Division had taken their positions in the breastworks at the center of the Union line. Davies’ men had seen much action over the last several months and their strength had been reduced to about 3,000, half as many as McKean had. There were large gaps between the two divisions and also internally between regiments.

When the Confederates attacked, the Union troops made a game fight of it but the results were a foregone conclusion. Nevertheless, they were able to prolong the fight throughout the day, inflicting heavy casualties on the Confederates. Finally, the Union units were flanked and were forced to retreat. There was no panic among the troops and the Union regiments retained their cohesion. As the retreated, they reformed their units at several places along the way.

Meanwhile, on the right Charles Hamilton’s Division remained unengaged throughout the day. Rosecrans was a poor battlefield communicator and the message that he sent to Hamilton to flank the Confederates was not understandable. By the time Rosecrans sent a cogent message, it was too late in the day and Hamilton was too slow to get into action.

That evening, the Union troops withdrew to the inner line of defense. Many of the officers and men expected Rosecrans to order a complete retreat from Corinth. He had sent a midday dispatch that blamed the poor performance of his army on the two initial brigades on the field.

The problem was really Rosecrans. He had only half of his troops because of his own orders. His orders were confusing and unrealistic. He expected his men to hold ground that they couldn’t possibly hold. The commanding general had stayed in Corinth throughout the first day’s fighting.

Davies’ reported to Rosecrans that all three of his brigadiers were down and that his division had taken significant casualties. Rosecrans, at first, Battle of Corinth, October 4, 1862assigned them to the reserve but several hours later, the exhausted troops were ordered into the inner defense line. The shuffling of troops went on until nearly 4:00 AM.

The Union line had two salients, Batteries Robinett and Powell, that were vulnerable to attack from all sides. In the center of the line there was a 500-yard gap. Davies’ remaining 2,200 men were stretched over too wide a front and were too thin.

The Confederates opened the morning with a pre-dawn bombardment from their 14 guns that lasted for more than an hour. The Union gunners waited until daylight and responded with a more accurate artillery attack. Thirty minutes later the Confederate batteries were silenced and forced to withdraw. Several of the pieces were captured by Birge’s Sharpshooters, who after shooting their gun crews, dashed out and dragged them back to the Union line. A brass James rifle was captured by the skirmishers of the 63rd Ohio.

Throughout a good part of the morning, most of the fighting was between skirmishers. At about 10:00 AM, the Confederates launched a massive assault against the depleted Union center. Rosecrans had sent significant numbers of skirmishers far in front and this forced the artillery to hold their fire until it was too late.

Despite withering fire from the Union lines, the Confederates strength in numbers overwhelmed the Union Brigade, which broke and scattered to the rear. The Confederates opened a huge hole in the line, overrunning Battery Powell and one of Hamilton’s brigades in the process. After the enemy turned the guns on them, Davies’ second brigade retreated into the town with the Southerners in pursuit. Davies’ men retained their unit cohesion and fought the Confederates house by house and street by street.

Attack on Battery RobinettRosecrans had lost his composure, riding to and fro, cursing at his troops and calling them cowards and shirkers. He gave orders to set fire to his army’s supplies. His men ignored him and continued to maintain their composure.

The Confederates had expended a great deal of energy and they were near the end of their endurance. They had sustained serious casualties during the charge and the fighting in Corinth had disorganized their formations. The Union troops on either flank set up a deadly cross-fire that cost them more men. Davies’ men counterattacked drove back the Confederate troops. By about 1:00 PM, the Confederates at the center withdrew.

Meanwhile, at the Union center-left the Confederate division of Brig. Gen. Dabney Maury frontally assaulted Battery Robinett and the supporting troops of Brig. Gen. David Stanley. The Confederate battle line had to struggle through the thick abatis while they were under heavy artillery fire. At 100 yards, the entire Union line rose and fired a devastating volley, slaughtering the front line of the attackers.

The second line of Confederates continued to advance. Both sides suffered appalling casualties as they fired volleys at point-blank range. As the Union line wavered, General Stanley led 11th Missouri in a bayonet charge that broke the Confederate attack and sent them reeling back to their lines.

As the Confederates retreated from their repulse at Battery Robinett, the battle of Corinth was over. Confederate casualties during the two-day battle added up to 4,233 (473 killed, 1,997 wounded, 1,763 captured/missing). Union losses were 2,520 (355 killed, 1,841 wounded, 324 missing).

Rosecrans failed to pursue Van Dorn’s retreating column so it was to be left to Ord and Hurlbut to attempt to trap Van Dorn at the following Battle of Hatchie’s Bridge on October 5, 1862.

 

 

 

 

 

 

03/15/12

The Battle of Hatchie’s Bridge

This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series The Western Theater Part Two

The Battle of Hatchie’s Bridge

The final engagement of the Iuka-Corinth Campaign was the Battle of Hatchie’s Bridge on October 5, 1862. It took place at Davis’ Bridge over the Hatchie River.

After the Battle of Corinth, Grant had anticipated that Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans would order his victorious Union troops to pursue the defeated Confederate Army of West Tennessee. However, Rosecrans spent the entire afternoon of October 4th resupplying and resting his men. Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn moved his force away from the battle field to the west and safety.

General Earl Van DornWith the exception of capturing stragglers, Rosecrans troops stayed in place. Meanwhile Maj. Gen. Stephen Hurlbut drove his men hard all day. They rose at 3:00 AM and marched some 23 miles on the 4th. By nightfall they were less than 7 miles from the Davis’ Bridge.

On the morning of the 5th, Hurlbut’s force met up with a force under Maj. Gen. Edward Ord, who took command of the combined forces due to seniority. At that point the Union force included two brigades of infantry and a provisional division.

The Union column advanced against the ineffective resistance of Van Dorn’s cavalry skirmishers for several miles. The terrain was very rough, broken and heavily wooded. The Union attackers emerged from the woods on top of the 40-foot bluffs overlooking the river. They were about 600 yards from the bridge. At this point, Ord assumed command.

Van Dorn had sent a brigade of infantry and a battery of artillery to assist the cavalry. His objective was to keep the escape route open until his supply wagons and his troops could cross the bridge. The infantry was badly depleted from the hard fight at Corinth and had not eaten or rested for some time. They were spread at on the river bottom when the Union attackers arrived.

The Confederate artillery began to fire and the Union guns responded. A spectacular artillery duel took place over the river for an hour. One Illinois soldier wrote, “…The air was filled with their awful thunderbolts, hurled at each other, and the shock was grand and awful beyond the power of pen to describe.”

At about 10:00 AM, the Union infantry brigade moved forward in a line of battle, trailed by the artillery batteries. The Confederate defenders put General Edward Ordup a weak resistance and after a brief fight either surrendered or fled. Some jumped into the river and attempted to swim to safety. Some made it and some drowned. The Confederate 4-gun battery was captured.

Ord who was unknown to most of the troops misunderstood a maneuver of one of the regiments and when he began to yell at its colonel, his troops leveled their guns on him. He withdrew unscathed but shortly after was wounded by the enemy. But not before he managed to get his command into quite a mess.

Ord, who was unfamiliar with the terrain, ordered his force of less than 6,000 across the bridge where Van Dorn’s Army outnumbered his by a three-to-one ratio. The area to the left of the bridge where he ordered them to go did not have sufficient room for the regiments to maneuver. The troops were crowded and quickly became disorganized. Out in the open they became a target for several Confederate artillery batteries positioned on high ground a few hundred yards east of the river.

Shortly after the commander of the lead brigade, Brigadier General James C. Veatch, went down with a wound, Ord himself took a bullet wound in the leg. Fortunately, Hurlbat arrived at about the same time, about 11:00 AM, and resumed command of the Union troops. He immediately straightened out the mess that Ord had caused and organized his regiments in proper order.

This took some time to accomplish and while it took place, the troops on the right side of the bridge, nonchalantly lay behind a rail fence, despite being under continual enemy fire. Once everything was in readiness, the troops rose, fixed bayonets and began to advance. Again, Confederate resistance was feeble and quickly collapsed. Within a half hour, they took the Confederate artillery position.

General Stephen HurlbutThe battle settled down to a stalemate. Hurlbut brought up his artillery and a second artillery duel ensued. The Confederates attempted several infantry assaults but they were repulsed. By 3:30 PM, they had enough and they retreated to the south, denied the use of the bridge.

Hurlbut realized that without Rosecrans troops, he would endanger his smaller force by pursuing Van Dorn. Rosecrans had not begun to pursue the enemy until the morning of the 5th. He was encumbered by wagons and artillery and according to one Illinois soldier the march “was oppressively slow.”

Despite a dispatch from Grant urging him on, Rosecrans camped for the night after 8 miles, still 13 miles from the bridge. Brig. Gen. James McPherson, with his brigade, managed to skirmish with Van Dorn’s rear guard but stopped well short of the river.

Without pressure from Rosecrans, Van Dorn managed to march 6 miles south and cross the river at Crum’s Mill. He then proceeded to prepared defenses at Holly Springs, Mississippi. On October 7th, Grant ordered his troops to break off pursuit of the Confederates and return to Corinth.

The Union forces sustained about 500 total casualties while the Confederates had a total of 400.