The Eastern Theater: Graveyard of Generals (Part Two)


George B. McClellan in 1861-The Eastern Theater: Graveyard of Generals (Part Two)After Irvin McDowell’s defeat in the First Battle of Manassas, the Lincoln government took several actions. The most important decision in the near-long term was the recall and promotion of Maj. Gen. George McClellan to command the newly forming Army of the Potomac in the Eastern Theater.

McClellan had been trumpeted by the newspaper for several small victories over the Confederates at the Battle of Philippi (which came to be known as the ‘Philippi Races’ after the Confederates fled) and the Battle of Rich Mountain. His opponent at the latter was General Robert E. Lee who had such a lackluster performance that he was relieved of command and transferred to the North Carolina coast to supervise the building of fortifications.

McClellan was the most successful failure as a general ever to serve in the Eastern Theater. He was a superb organizer and trained the new Army of the Potomac its peak yet he was a timid field commander. He was one of a number of generals who believed in conciliation with the Confederates. McClellan had been a Democrat before the war and did not hold the abolitionist of say Maj. Gen. David Hunter who was known as ‘Black Dave’ for his views on abolition.

George McClellan’s other major contribution to the Union war effort was his supervision of the building of Washington’s defenses. When they were  complete the nation’s capital was the most heavily defended city in the world. He created defenses for Washington that were almost impregnable, consisting of 48 forts and strong points, with 480 guns manned by 7,200 artillerists.

McClellan was finally prodded into action in early March 1862. He was relieved of his position as general-in-chief in order to devote his full attentions to the coming Peninsula campaign. Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and a War Board of officers assumed command of the Union armies for the next four months.

McClellan’s huge army landed at the tip of the Virginia Peninsula and immediately spent built up resources for a siege at Yorktown. Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston ordered his forces to withdraw as soon as it became apparent that they would be overwhelmed by the Union Army. The entire month of May was spent in the same fashion with the Confederates grudgingly retreating up the Peninsula.

The two forces finally came to a halt along the Chickahominy River and fought the  Battle of Seven Pines (also known as the Battle of Fair Oaks), fought on May 31 – June 1, 1862. Although the battle was inconclusive two important strategic effects resulted; both were in favor of the Confederacy. General Johnston was severely wounded and replaced by the more aggressive Robert E. Lee.

Second, General McClellan chose to abandon his offensive operations to lay siege and await reinforcements he had requested from President Lincoln; as a consequence, he never regained his strategic momentum. The two armies fought seven battles in seven days from June 25th to July 1st.

The cost to both sides was high. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia suffered almost 20,000 casualties out of a total of over 90,000 soldiers during the Seven Days, McClellan almost 16,000 out of 105,445. The Army of the Potomac’s offensive strength had been blunted by the Confederates and he withdrew to Harrison’s Landing on the James River. Northern morale was crushed while the South reveled in Lee’s successes.

The Union government appointed John Pope to command the newly formed Army of Virginia. Pope had achieved some success in the Western Theater, and Lincoln sought a more aggressive general than McClellan. Pope’s force numbered some 50,000 men amid three corps. Pope’s mission had two objectives: protect Washington and the Shenandoah Valley, and draw Confederate forces away from McClellan by moving in the direction of Gordonsville.

Lee’s Northern Virginia campaign was a triumph with the Army of Northern Virginia defeating the Army of Virginia at the Second Battle of Manassas from August 28th to August 30th. Despite the three corps that had been transferred from McClellan’s Army of the Potomac Pope’s army was crushed by the Confederates. Unlike the First Battle of Manassas, the Union army retreated in somewhat good order.

At the Battle of Chantilly the Union army suffered a grievous loss when two of its generals, Isaac Stevens and Philip Kearny, were killed during the fighting. Pope ordered his army to retreat back to the Washington defenses. Pope was relieved of command on September 13th and his army was merged with McClellan’s Army of the Potomac.  He spent the remainder of the war in the Department of the Northwest in Minnesota.

Brigadier General Alpheus S. Williams, who served briefly under Pope, held the general in particularly low esteem. In a letter to his daughter, he wrote:

“All this is the sequence of Gen. Pope’s high sounding manifestoes. His pompous orders . . . greatly disgusted his army from the first. When a general boasts that he will look only on the backs of his enemies, that he takes no care for lines of retreat or bases of supplies; when, in short, from a snug hotel in Washington he issues after-dinner orders to gratify public taste and his own self-esteem, anyone may confidently look for results such as have followed the bungling management of his last campaign….I dare not trust myself to speak of this commander as I feel and believe. Suffice it to say (for your eye alone) that more insolence, superciliousness, ignorance, and pretentiousness were never combined in one man. It can with truth be said of him that he had not a friend in his command from the smallest drummer boy to the highest general officer. All hated him.”

McClellan was once more perceived as the savior of the nation but Lincoln’s cabinet thought differently. A majority of them signed a petition declaring to the president “our deliberate opinion that, at this time, it is not safe to entrust to Major General McClellan the command of any Army of the United States.”

The president admitted that it was like “curing the bite with the hair of the dog.” But Lincoln told his secretary, John Hay, “We must use what tools we have. There is no man in the Army who can man these fortifications and lick these troops of ours into shape half as well as he. If he can’t fight himself, he excels in making others ready to fight.”

McClellan was immediately thrust into a crisis when Lee moved from Manassas across the Potomac into Maryland. Lee’s goal was to penetrate the major Northern states of Maryland and Pennsylvania and cut off the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad line that supplied Washington. He also needed to supply his army and knew the farms of the North had been untouched by war, unlike those in Virginia.

McClellan organized a pursuit of the smaller Confederate army. Then, he experienced an incredible stroke of luck when Union soldiers discovered Lee’s orders to the commanders of his army. General Order Number 191 indicated that Lee had divided his army, making it possible to be defeated in detail. McClellan waited 18 hours before deciding to take advantage of this intelligence, a delay that almost squandered his opportunity.

On September 14th McClellan’s forces defeated the Confederates at the Battle of South Mountain and pushed through to confront Lee along Antietam Creek. Meanwhile, Lee frantically moved to concentrate his army. The two armies met on September 17th east of Sharpsburg, Maryland in the Battle of Antietam.

The two armies fought the bloodiest single-day engagement of the war along the banks of the creek and in the surrounding farm fields. After twelve hours of inconclusive combat during which over 23,000 casualties were sustained by both armies, the Confederates disengaged and retreated back to Virginia.

McClellan’s performance was criticized on a number of fronts. During the battle, he never took control of his forces. Rather he allowed the field commanders to proceed according to the pre-battle plan. He never sent in his reserves, some say that Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter cautioned him that they were the last reserves of the army. Finally, with Lee’s Army in retreat he did not order any pursuit.

On November 25, 1862, Fitz John Porter was arrested and court-martialed for his actions at Second Bull Run. By this time, McClellan had been relieved by Lincoln and could not provide political cover for his protégé. Porter’s association with the disgraced McClellan and his open criticism of Pope were significant reasons for his conviction at court-martial. Porter was found guilty on January 10, 1863, of disobedience and misconduct, and he was dismissed from the Army on January 21, 1863.

George McClellan was relieved by Abraham Lincoln on November 7th. From September 17 to October 26, despite repeated entreaties from the War Department and the president himself, McClellan declined to pursue Lee across the Potomac, citing shortages of equipment and the fear of overextending his forces.

General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck wrote in his official report, “The long inactivity of so large an army in the face of a defeated foe, and during the most favorable season for rapid movements and a vigorous campaign, was a matter of great disappointment and regret.” He never held another position during the war.

 




The Eastern Theater: Graveyard of Generals (Part One)


Union Generals-The Eastern Theater: Graveyard of Generals (Part One)The Eastern Theater was the graveyard of generals for the Union Army. Initially, it was simply a matter of inexperience with large formations of troops by the field commanders. None of them had ever commanded more than a regiment of 600 to 1,000 men while they now commanded tens of thousands. After the Battle of Seven Pines the gravedigger became Robert E. Lee with Stonewall Jackson and James Longstreet as the principal pallbearers.

The first Union commander of a major Union army was Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell who commanded the Army of Northeastern Virginia. McDowell was an inexperienced officer whose command consisted of 90-day enlistees with even less experience. He was pressured by the Washington politicians and major newspapers who had coined the phrase “On to Richmond.”

With an army of 35,000 men he initially outnumbered the 20,000 Confederates under Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard at Manassas. The second major Confederate force of 12,000 men under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston in the Shenandoah Valley, was to be held in place by Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson with 18,000 men menacing Harpers Ferry, preventing the two Confederate armies from combining against McDowell.

McDowell’s major mistake was to put in place a complex battle plan that his inexperienced field commanders were incapable of executing. Initially, the Union forces had the advantage but Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson stout defense coupled with the timely reinforcements from the Valley turned the tide in the Confederates’ favor. McDowell’s retreat turned into a rout.

McDowell was superseded by Maj. Gen. George McClellan who was summoned to Washington and given command of the newly-formed Army of the Potomac. McDowell was initially given command of a division and later a corps. He would later serve under the equally unsuccessful John Pope at the Second Battle of Manassas. McDowell was shelved for two years after that battle and was eventually given command of the Department of the Pacific.

Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson was the next Confederate general to wreak havoc among the Union high command in the Shenandoah Valley in 1862. Jackson had acquired his famous nickname at the First Battle of Manassas when he held of repeated Union attacks on his lines. In the Valley, he would whip a much larger Union force in a lightning campaign that is still studied at West Point.

After an initial tactical defeat against Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks at the First Battle of Kernstown (March 23, 1862), Jackson turned his force and defeated elements of the Union Mountain Departments of Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky of Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont‘s army in the Battle of McDowell on May 8th.

Both Banks and Frémont were ‘political’ generals. Banks had been the Democratic Governor of Massachusetts while Frémont was a prominent Republican having been their first Presidential candidate.

Jackson joined forces with Maj. Gen. Richard S. Ewell and captured the Federal garrison at Front Royal on May 23, causing Banks to retreat to the north. On May 25, in the First Battle of Winchester, Jackson defeated Banks and pursued him until the Union Army crossed the Potomac River into Maryland.

Bringing in Union reinforcements from eastern Virginia, Brig. Gen. James Shields recaptured Front Royal and planned to link up with Frémont in Strasburg. Jackson was now threatened by three small Union armies. Withdrawing up the Valley from Winchester, Jackson was pursued by Frémont and Shields. On June 8, Ewell defeated Frémont in the Battle of Cross Keys and on the following day, crossed the North River to join forces with Jackson to defeat Shields in the Battle of Port Republic, bringing the campaign to a close.

Jackson had defeated the larger forces of three Union generals. After the subsequent Battle of Cedar Mountain, Banks was criticized for his numerous tactical errors before and during the battle, including poor placement of troops, inadequate reconnaissance, and failing to commit reserve resources when he had a chance to break the Confederate line. He was removed from command an assigned to organize a force of thirty thousand new recruits, drawn from New York and New England.

When the Army of Virginia was created June 26, to include General Frémont’s corps, with John Pope in command, Frémont declined to serve on the grounds that he was senior to Pope and for personal reasons. He then went to New York where he remained throughout the war, expecting a command, but none was given to him.

Brig. Gen. James Shields was yet another ‘political general’. Although he was the only general who defeated Jackson in the campaign, his career did not benefit from his victory. The day after Kernstown, he was promoted to major general, but the promotion was withdrawn, reconsidered, and then finally rejected. His overall performance in the rest of the Valley Campaign was poor enough that he resigned his commission, and his departure was not resisted by the War Department.

 




The Dakota War of 1862


Siege of New Ulm, MinnesotaWhile the battles between the Union and Confederate armies raged across the continent, conflict with the native American tribes also continued. One such episode was the Dakota War of 1862.

The expansion of the United States across the West to the Pacific Ocean continued apace. New lands were settled. States and territories were organized. Immigrants continued to flood into the United States from Europe. All of this created friction with the native American tribes scattered across the vast expanse of the American Prairie.

The United States and Dakota leaders negotiated the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux on July 23, 1851, and Treaty of Mendota on August 5, 1851, by which the Dakota were forced to cede large tracts of land in Minnesota Territory to the U.S. In exchange for money and goods, the Dakota were forced to agree to live on a 20-mile wide Indian reservation centered on a 150 mile stretch of the upper Minnesota River.

However, the United States Senate deleted Article 3 of each treaty during the ratification process. Much of the promised compensation never arrived, was lost, or was effectively stolen due to corruption in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Also, annuity payments guaranteed to the Dakota often were provided directly to traders instead (to pay off debts which the Dakota incurred with the traders).

When Minnesota was admitted to the Union on May 11, 1858, the Dakota lost their reservation along the Minnesota River, and rights to the quarry at Pipestone, Minnesota, was also taken from them. Their lands were divided for settlement into townships and plots. With the introduction of farming into the area, hunting and fishing suffered. Meanwhile, the  Federal preoccupation with the American Civil War had led to late or failed payments to the Dakota.

By August 1862, tensions had risen to the breaking point. When the Dakota asked Indian agent Andrew Jackson Myrick, to sell them food on credit.Chief Little Crow His response was said to be, “[S]o far as I am concerned, let them eat grass.” After the fighting broke out, Myrick was later found dead with grass stuffed in his mouth.

Almost immediately, fighting broke out. On August 18, 1862, Little Crow, the Dakota chief, led a group that attacked the Lower Sioux (or Redwood) Agency. Minnesota militia forces and B Company of the 5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment sent to quell the uprising were defeated at the Battle of Redwood Ferry.

Twenty-four soldiers, including the party’s commander (Captain John Marsh), were killed in the battle. Throughout the day, Dakota war parties swept the Minnesota River Valley and near vicinity, killing many settlers. Numerous settlements including the Townships of Milford, Leavenworth and Sacred Heart, were surrounded and burned and their populations nearly exterminated.

After their initial success, the Dakota continued to attack isolated settlements along the Minnesota River. The military defended Fort Ridgely along the river but in doing so their limited forces were unable to defend these isolated settlements. The Dakota raided farms and small settlements throughout south central Minnesota and what was then eastern Dakota Territory.

Minnesota militia counterattacks resulted in a major defeat at the Battle of Birch Coulee on September 2, 1862. The battle began when the Dakota attacked a detachment of 150 American soldiers at Birch Coulee, 16 miles from Fort Ridgely. The detachment had been sent out to find survivors, bury American dead and report on the location of Dakota fighters.

A three-hour firefight began with an early morning assault where thirteen soldiers were killed and 47 were wounded, while only two Dakota were killed. A column of 240 soldiers from Fort Ridgely relieved the detachment at Birch Coulee the same afternoon.

Eventually President Lincoln dispatched Maj. Gen. John Pope with troops from the 3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment and 4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The 9th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment and 10th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which were still being constituted, had troops dispatched to the front as soon as Companies were formed.

Pope had been relieved of command in the East after his disastrous defeat at the Second Battle of Manassas (also known as Bull Run) at the end of August. He was assisted by Col. Henry Hastings Sibley (the previous governor).

Dakota HangingsOnce the larger relief force was constituted, the final large-scale fighting took place at the Battle of Wood Lake on September 23, 1862. According to the official report of Lt. Col. William R. Marshall of the 7th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, elements of the 7th Minnesota and the 6th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment (and a six-pounder cannon) were deployed equally in dugouts and in a skirmish line. After brief fighting, the forces in the skirmish line charged against the Dakota (then in a ravine) and defeated them overwhelmingly.

In December, 303 Dakota were put on trial for a variety of offenses, the most serious being rape and murder. Many of the trials lasted less than five minutes. The defendants were neither represented nor were the proceedings explained to them. Lincoln reviewed each transcript personally and eventually 38 were executed by hanging on December 26, 1862, in Mankato, Minnesota. It remains the largest mass execution in American history.

Some 77 soldiers and between 450 to 800 settlers were killed. Some 150 Dakota died in the fighting while a further 38 were executed. The convicted Dakota who were not executed were interned at Camp McClellan in Davenport, Iowa, where they were held in prison for almost four years. By the time of their release, one third of the prisoners had died of disease. The survivors were sent with their families to Nebraska. Their families had already been expelled from Minnesota.

 

 




Operations by the Army of the Mississippi


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.

 




Ulysses S. Grant


Ulysses S. Grant

From the beginning of the war Abraham Lincoln had searched for a military commander in the East. He was looking for a fighting general, one who had the ability to lead the Federal forces to victory in the East and end the war. It take him until March 1864 to find one: Ulysses S. Grant.

At first he appointed Irvin McDowell. McDowell was a professional soldier of no great ability. He led the Federal army to a crushing defeat at the First Bull Run (Manassas).

General George McClellanLincoln then replaced him with George B. McClellan who had served in western Virginia at the beginning of the war. He was a dashing, charismatic leader who forged the Army of the Potomac from the shattered fragments of McDowell’s army. However, McClellan was a perfectionist who did not wish to take his creation into battle under less than ideal conditions.

After a great deal of pressure McClellan embarked on a campaign to take Richmond. He embarked his massive force, moved them by water to Yorktown and marched them up the narrow Virginia Peninsula. After a number of battles, first against Joseph Johnston and then when he was wounded, against Robert E. Lee, McClellan forces where back where they began at Harrison’s Landing.

Rather than sacking McClellan Lincoln took the indirect approach and appointed a western general John Pope who was given the command of the Army of Virginia. Pope immediately blundered into a Confederate trap and was crushed at Second Bull Run. The Confederates then invaded Maryland.

Lincoln swallowed his pride and asked McClellan to resume complete command of the Army.  At Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland the Army of the Potomac fought what was to be the bloodiest one-day battle in American history. At Antietam McClellan was exposed as a timidBloody Lane at Antietam commander. Failing to use his overwhelmingly superior forces in a coordinated attack, he fed his forces into the battle piecemeal. The Confederates were able to blunt all of his assaults. He then compounded his mistakes and allowed the battered enemy to withdraw back to Virginia. Lincoln replaced McClellan for the final time.

He was replaced by Ambrose Burnside who in December 1862 tried to force the Confederate lines at Fredericksburg on the Rappahannock River. Showing his inability to improvise in the field Burnside persisted in frontal assaults on the main Confederate positions resulting in horrendous casualties. Burnside was replaced by debonair, self-promoting “Fighting Joe” Hooker.

Hooker proclaimed that his headquarters would be in the saddle. One newspaper said that Hooker had his headquarters in his hindquarters. At Chancellorsville Hooker was completely out-maneuvered and defeated by Robert E. Lee with a Confederate army half his army’s size. Lincoln was in complete despair saying: “My God! What will the country say?”

Hooker was replaced by George Gordon Meade in late June 1863 when Lee again led his Army of Northern Virginia on an invasion of the north. At Gettysburg Meade led the Federal army to victory in a three-day defensive battle. Like McClellan at Antietam, Meade failed to follow up his victory and the Confederates returned to the safety of Virginia to rest and refit. Lincoln again despaired for the Union.

That November Meade took his army on a half-hearted offensive that tried to force the Confederate entrenchments at Mine Run. The Army of the Potomac limped back to their encampments with nothing to show for it. Meade was not to answer Lincoln’s need for a fighting general.

Through all of the inept, timid commanders in the East one general in the West stood out as a commander who understood the need to destroy the General Ulysses S. Grantenemy’s army utterly: Ulysses S. Grant. Grant was a West Point graduate who had served with some distinction in the Mexican War. After that war he had drifted into civilian life in St. Louis and Galena, Illinois where he worked at his father’s tannery.

At the onset of the war Grant recruited a company of volunteers and led them to Springfield. In the capitol he accepted a position from the governor to train troops. He was good at it but was anxious for a field command. At the end of August 1861 he was given the command of the District of Cairo. He was commanded to make an attack against Confederate forces at Belmont, Kentucky. In an amphibious assault he led 3,100 union troops against Fort Belmont on November 7, 1861. He initially held the fort but was forced to retreat by overwhelming force.

Grant then decided to work his way down the Mississippi River and capture Confederate water fortresses. The lightly manned Fort Henry fell on February 6, 1862. Fort Donelson was a different story. In cooperation with the Navy, his 25,000 man force took this fort ten days later. At Fort Donelson Grant coined what was to be his signature surrender demand:  “No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender.” Lincoln promoted Grant to major general of volunteers.

By April the Federal army, known as the Army of the Tennessee, had increased to nearly 50,000 men. At Shiloh, Tennessee they fought a costly battle with Confederate forces number nearly 45,000. On the first day of the battle the Federal army was pushed back to the landing but on the second day Grant ordered a counterattack that defeated the Confederate force. The Confederate commander, Albert Sidney Johnston, was killed. Some 23,700 were killed or wounded at Shiloh making it the costliest battle of the war to date.

Grant was demoted by Henry Halleck to second-in-command of a combined 120,000 man army. It took the persuasions of his friend William T. Sherman to stop him from resigning his commission. Eventually, this massive force was broken up and Grant returned to his command of the Army of the Tennessee.

By December 1862 Grant was resolved to take the Confederate fortress city of Vicksburg on the Mississippi. At first he attempted an overland campaign that became stalled by Confederate cavalry attacks. After a series of unsuccessful river and bayou battles Grant changed his strategy andThe Mississippi River Squadron running the Confederate Blockade at Vicksburg moved his troops down the west side of the Mississippi. He then crossed over to the east side and attempted to take the city by storm. When that was unsuccessful he settled down for a seven week siege. Confederate commander John C. Pemberton surrendered on July 4, 1863.

With the fall of Vicksburg the Mississippi River was completely controlled by the Federal Army and Navy. The Confederacy was now cut in two. Lincoln gave Grant command of the entire Federal war front in the West with the exception of Louisiana.

Grant then commanded his combined armies in a series of battles in and around Chattanooga, Tennessee. These resulted in the eventual defeat of Confederate forces in this region. The decisive 1863 Chattanooga battle opened Georgia and the heartland of the Confederacy to Union invasion by Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman.

Grant was promoted to Lieutenant-General, only the third man to hold that rank; George Washington and Winfield Scott being the other two. He was given complete command of all Federal armies in the field. Grant traveled to Washington to meet with Lincoln and plan the next moves in the war. After realizing that eventual victory would need to come from the East he decided to make his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac.

In short order the country would come to learn more about the man that Lincoln had given the entire Federal army to. When some complainers spoke to Lincoln about rumors of Grant’s drinking, he exclaimed: “I can’t spare the man, he fights”.  Over the next year Grant’s armies would batter the Confederate forces on all fronts into utter defeat.