Difference between revisions of "American Civil War: 1862"

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*Time-Life Books ''The Civil War'', vol. 5 (''Forward to Richmond''), Time Inc, New York (1983)
*Time-Life Books ''The Civil War'', vol. 5 (''Forward to Richmond''), Time Inc, New York (1983)
*Time-Life Books ''The Civil War'', vol. 8 (''Lee Takes Command''), Time Inc, New York (1984)
*Time-Life Books ''The Civil War'', vol. 8 (''Lee Takes Command''), Time Inc, New York (1984)
*Time-Life Books ''The Civil War'', vol. 9 (''The Coastal War''), Time Inc, New York (1984)
*Bowman, John S. (editor), ''The Civil War Almanac'' World Almanac Publications, New York (1985)
*Bowman, John S. (editor), ''The Civil War Almanac'' World Almanac Publications, New York (1985)

Revision as of 07:28, 7 August 2007

The Civil War

1861 - 1865

Begun April 12, 1861
Ended April 9, 1865
Casualties 970,000
Total dead 620,000
United States of America
President Abraham Lincoln
Secretary of War Simon Cameron, Edwin M. Stanton
Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles
Secretary of State William Seward
Confederate States of America
President Jefferson Davis
Secretary of War Leroy Pope Walker, Judah P. Benjamin, George W. Randolph, James Seddon, John C. Breckinridge
Secretary of the Navy Stephan Mallory
Secretary of State Robert Toombs, Robert M.T. Hunter, Judah P. Benjamin

The first year of the American Civil War began with green troops on both sides expecting easy victories and a quick end of the war; many young men enlisted with romantic dreams of glory. 1862 had barely begun when those dreams would be forever shattered by the carnage of a fierce battle at a site in Tennessee whose name meant "peace", and would barely end after the single bloodiest day in American history.

The recalcitrant general

Major General George B. McClellan, United States Army.

By the time winter fell in 1861, Major General George B. McClellan had taken a demoralized force around Washington and transformed it into the superbly trained and equipped Army of the Potomac, numbering some 100,000 men. But by the first week of January 1862, it was becoming clearer that for all of McClellan's acts of creating a superior army, there was little, if any, immediate intent to use the army for what it was created to do. At a cabinet meeting with several of McClellan's division commanders present (McClellan was ill with possible typhus for much of January), Lincoln hinted that "if General McClellan does not want to use the Army, I would like to borrow it, provided I could see how it could be made to do something." In the west, Generals Don Carlos Buell in Kentucky, and Henry Halleck in Missouri also didn't make too many moves; although it was winter, Lincoln still expected them to make some sort of advance against the enemy. "Delay is ruining us," he said to them by wire, "and it is indispensable for me to have something definite." (TL 5, pp. 62-68)

While McClellan was laid up ill, Secretary of War Simon Cameron was on his way out: he had presided over a department involved in corruption and favoritism at the top, and soldiers getting bad uniforms, bad guns, and bad meat at the bottom. Added to that was the fact McClellan, for all intents and purposes, was unwilling to bring the fight to the enemy. Stepping into Cameron's place was a bombastic bundle of energy, Edwin McMasters Stanton, who would have Brigadier General Charles Stone arrested on his first day at work for the debacle at Ball's Bluff, and before January was out he made it clear that the corruption was over with, and McClellan would use the chain of command like any common soldier; the back door henceforth was closed. "The champagne and oysters on the Potomac must be stopped," he roared. "I will force this man McClellan to fight." (TL 5, pp. 70-71)

The arrest of Stone only made McClellan more cautious, instead of Stanton's hope that it would spur the general into action. His lack of fighting spirit would cause Lincoln to remark "McClellan is a great engineer, but he has a special talent for a stationary engine" (TL 8, pg 23).

Strange-looking warships

On May 8, 1861, Confederate Navy Secretary Stephan Mallory submitted his plans for building ironclads to the Committee on Naval Affairs, stating it would be costly, but the advantages of the Union Navy being overwhelmed by the sheer power implied in ironclads would be worth the price. By the end of the month the plans were approved, and the first ship selected for refitting was the salvaged hulk of USS Merrimac, scuttled the previous month when the Union abandoned Norfolk. She was placed in drydock, and over the next several months the hull was razed to the gun deck, the engine overhauled, and heavy-timber casemate was built over the hull and and a dozens guns, then roofed over with sheet iron four inches thick. As a final weapon, a cast iron ram weighing 1,500 pounds was fitted to the bow (TL 3, pp. 48-49). The Confederacy would christen her CSS Virginia.

At about the same time the Merrimac was being overhauled, a naval committee was convened in Washington in August 1861, with Union Navy Secretary Gideon Welles presiding, and the discussion was also about ironclads. Of seventeen submitted plans, two were accepted, but without much enthusiasm for either: a large, sea-going broadside frigate named New Ironsides, and a smaller gunboat named Galena, designed by Cornelius Bushnell of New Haven, Connecticut (TL 3, pg. 51).

That same night Bushnell had taken his plans for Galena to a friend named John Ericsson, a Swedish inventor and engineer, who told him the plans were sound. Ericsson then went to a cupboard and pulled a model of his own and showed it to Bushnell, a strange-looking flat vessel with a single, two-gun turret. Convinced of this vessel's superiority, Bushnell took Ericsson before the board, who bickered back and forth until President Lincoln looked it over. "All I have to say'" he said' "is what the girl said when she put her foot in the stocking: 'It strikes me there's something in it!'" After a detailed explanation of his ship's qualities (and after some deception on Bushnell's part after the plans were initially rejected), Ericsson's plans were approved; in just over one hundred days, Ericsson's Monitor would be launched (TL 3, pp. 51-52).

Eastern Theater

Hampton Roads

the Monitor and the Merrimac at Hampton Roads, March 9, 1862.

The Battle of Hampton Roads began on March 8, when the former USS Merrimac steamed out of Norfolk as the ironclad CSS Virginia and made her heading straight for the Union warships on blockade duty. Virginia's first victim was the 24-gun sloop USS Cumberland, at anchor off Newport News, which she easily dispatched by ramming an immense hole in her side, while Cumberland's own guns fired shots that glanced off her iron skin. As water awashed over Cumberland's gun deck, Virginia turned about and headed for the nearby USS Congress, which was compelled to surrender within minutes after an escape attempt ended with Congress heeled over on a sandbar, her 50 guns useless. While Virginia's commander, Captain Franklin Buchanan, sent boats out to receive the ship's surrender, soldiers on shore opened fire, wounding Buchanan in the thigh; he would subsequently order red-hot shell fired into the Congress, setting her ablaze. After abandoning an attempt at sinking USS Minnesota, which had also run aground, Virginia retired for the night in Norfolk, intending to finish the work in the morning.

When morning arrived, Virginia steamed into the channel for the Minnesota, when lookouts on the ironclad peered through their glasses and saw the strange sight of a bizarre-looking ship steaming out from behind the big frigate. The Union ironclad USS Monitor had arrived during the night, and during the next four hours both ironclads battered each other to a stalemate, neither side gaining an advantage over the other, and both would retire from the contest, never to fight each other again. Virginia would be destroyed in May to prevent her from falling into Union hands when Norfolk was taken back, and Monitor would sink in a gale off Cape Hatteras in December. But the battle itself would have far-reaching effects world-wide, for it demonstrated that the day of the wooden warship was over.

The Peninsular Campaign

Following the neutralization of the threat the Virginia had caused, McClellan disembarked supplies and 100,000 troops at Fort Monroe on April 4 and began his march up the peninsula, with the aim of capturing the Confederate capitol of Richmond. Facing him are about 17,000 men under General Joseph E. Johnston, who continues to shift his forces for delaying tactics in Richmond’s defense. McClellan continues to move north, having an engagement at the Warwick River before occupying Yorktown and Falmouth by April 18, and helped in repulsing Confederates by a river flotilla which included USS Monitor (Bowman, pg. 93).

But he is slow in going. Part of the delay at Yorktown was McClellan’s wanting of a count of the enemy in the field; after hearing of an “endless march” of Confederates, he decided they must outnumber his own. “The Warwick River grows worse the more you look at it,” he wired Lincoln. “It seams clear that I shall have the whole force of the enemy on my hands, probably not less than 100,000 men, and possibly more.” He didn’t know that the “endless march” was staged by Confederate Major General John B. Magruder, who had just a few hundred men march in a circle, with a small view for the Federals convinced the men numbered in the thousands. McClellan’s delays only made Lincoln more impatient. “It is indispensable that you strike a blow,” he wired back to his general (TL 5, pp. 99-102). In the end, it was Johnston who withdrew from Yorktown, knowing he couldn’t compete with McClellan’s superior force, but also knowing McClellan’s way of fighting. “No one but McClellan could have hesitated to attack” he would say later (TL 5, pg. 107). McClellan would also be stymied by Confederate defenses at Centerville; on finally getting the nerve to figure out why such well-armed fortifications appeared not to have troops, he discovered that they were armed with “Quaker guns” – painted logs (TL 5, pg. 85).

By the first week of May there are serious clashes between Confederates and Federals. Some 1,500 men are lost in battles between Yorktown and Williamsburg; by the 15th, Johnston’s troops have moved back across the Chickahominy River as the Union forces move closer to Richmond, with more fighting breaking out at Drewry’s Bluff on the banks of the James; a naval force with the ironclads Monitor and Galena lends support, but is forced back from effective Confederate fire at Fort Darling (Bowman, pg. 98).

Jackson's Valley Campaign

In the meantime, troops that McClellan expected to take the war to the enemy in the Shenandoah Valley have problems of their own. An effort to take the valley (and with it the South’s breadbasket) by Union forces results in five battles from March to June 1862, covering more than 650 miles: Kernstown (March 23); Front Royal (May 23); Winchester (May 25); Cross Keys (June 8); and Port Republic (June 9). These brilliant actions, led by General Stonewall Jackson, pinned down the much larger Union forces, preventing them from coordinating with McClellan (Jackson’s campaign may have saved Richmond from capture), and posed a continual threat to Washington. Jackson and his First Division, the legendary “Foot Cavalry”, were catapulted to fame.

Fair Oaks / Seven Pines

The Union army had by May straddled both sides of the Chickahominy, and over 105,000 men were poised to threaten Richmond. Two corps were on the southern side of the river, and Johnston took advantage of their isolation from the other three by attacking them on May 31. According to the Confederate plan, Generals Magruder and A.P. Hill were to lead their divisions against the forces on the north side of the river to prevent them from reenforcing the remainder, which would be attacked by the main body led by Longstreet, who would converge on the enemy from three sides.

But the Union army had advance warning of the attack, courtesy of Professor Thaddeus Lowe and his Balloon Corps [1]. By deploying observation balloons at Gaines Farm and Mechanicsville But McClellan disbelieved Lowes' reports that Confederates were massing against his III Corps under Brigadier General Samuel P. Heintzelman's position, and thought the Confederate movements were a feint. Lowe sent an urgent message advising McClellan to send reinforcements to Heintzelman.

In beginning his attack, Longstreet went on the wrong road and moved south when he should have gone east; this caused a delay in the advance of his columns, preventing his getting into position until after 1 pm. By then, Major General D.H. Hill's forces had begun their attack alone against IV Corps under Brigadier General Erasmus D. Keyes, who withstood the attack until Hill was reinforced by Longstreet, and Keyes was driven back. Before IV Corps could be routed, Major General Edwin V. Sumner arrived with II Corps and stabilized the position. Both sides would fight fiercely with heavy casualties, but each made little headway against the other. It would resume the next day with the same results, and both sides would withdraw, each claiming victory. During the engagement General Johnston was seriously wounded, and he had to pass command over to Major General G.W. Smith. But the Federal advance on Richmond was halted.

The Seven Days

The three weeks following Seven Pines saw a reorganization of the Army of Northern Virginia and an improvement of their defensive lines, under the watchful eye of its new commander, General Robert E. Lee. Lee also awaited reinforcements from the Shenandoah Valley, as Stonewall Jackson had finished his campaign there and was moving south.

Not waiting for Lee to take the offensive again was McClellan, who had increased his cavalry patrols in anticipation of Jackson's arrival, and had moved his siege guns near Old Tavern, a small town to the north of where he planned his actual attack at Oak Grove.

Oak Grove

The Seven Days battles began with the Battle of Oak Grove on June 25, when McClellan advanced his lines with the objective of bringing Richmond within range of his siege guns. III Corps attacked across the headwaters of White Oak Swamp, but were beaten back by Major General Benjamin Huger's Confederates. Three miles to the rear, McClellan had telegraphed to call off the attack, but when he had arrived on the front lines he ordered another attack over the same ground. Union troops gained only 600 yards by sunset, at a cost of more than a thousand casualties for both sides.


The second battle took place on June 26. Having a plan involving an attack by Jackson's corps, Lee's plan went bad when Jackson didn't show up on time; A.P. Hill threw his division, reinforced by one of D.H. Hill's brigades, into a series of assaults against the Union V Corps led by Brigadier General Fitz John Porter, who was behind Beaver Dam Creek; all of Hill's assaults were driven back with heavy casualties. Jackson's divisions, having traversed many miles from the Shenandoah valley by foot and train, were four hours late and too exhausted to join in the battle; they would merely pitch camp for the night. However, Jackson's presence would force Porter to fall back by the next morning to Boatswain Creek, nearby Gaines' Mill.

Gaines' Mill

On June 27, Lee renewed his assault on Porter's corps, who had strengthened his defensive line throughout the night, and held fast through the afternoon, inflicting heavy casualties on the Confederates. At sunset, Lee mounted a coordinated assault that broke through Porter's defenses, resulting in defeat and withdrawal of the Federals toward the Chicahominy River. McClellan was forced to abandon his attempts at taking Richmond, and has thus begun his retreat toward the James.

Garnett's and Golding's Farms

While Gaines' Mill raged north of the Chickahominy, Magruder led a reconnaissance that developed into a minor attack against the Union line at Garnett's Farm south of the river. The Confederates attacked again on the morning of June 28 at Golding's Farm, but were easily repulsed.

Savage's Station

As the main body of the Union Army of the Potomac began its withdrawal toward the James River, Magruder pursued along the railroad and the Williamsburg Road and struck Sumner's II Corps (in the rear) with three brigades near Savage's Station on June 29, while Jackson's divisions had been stalled north of the Chickahominy. Union forces continued their withdrawal across White Oak Swamp, abandoning supplies and a field hospital with more than 2,500 wounded soldiers.

White Oak Swamp and Glendale

On June 30, a newly-placed rearguard (IV Corps) under Major General William B. Franklin stopped Jackson's divisions at the White Oak Bridge, resulting in an exchange of artillery, while a larger battle raged two miles away at Glendale. Because of Franklin's resistance, Jackson was prevented from joining the assault on the Union Army.

The Confederate divisions of Longstreet, Huger, and A.P. Hill converged on the retreating Union Army near Glendale. Longstreet's and Hill's attacks penetrated Union defenses near Willis Church, routing Brigadier General George A. McCall's division. Union Brigadier Generals Joseph Hooker and Philip Kearny would counter attack, sealing the break in the lines and saving their line of retreat. Confederate Major General Theophilus H. Holmes would make a half-hearted, and weak, attempt to turn the Union left flank at Turkey Bridge, but Federal gunboats on the James would drive him back.

Malvern Hill

The final battle of the Seven Days was fought on July 1, as Lee launched a series of assaults on Malvern Hill, where the Federals had fallen back during the night and strengthened their defenses considerably. This time, Lee was forced to withdraw, as the Confederates sustained more than 5,300 casualties without gaining any ground. Despite his victory, McClellan continued his retreat to Harrison's Landing on the James, where all of his forces would be taken across under the protection of his gunboats. His Peninsular Campaign was over.

Second Battle of Bull Run

At about the same time, the scattered Federal forces in Northern Virginia were organized into the Army of Virginia under the command of Major General John Pope, who arrived with a reputation freshly won in the war's western theater. Gambling that McClellan would cause no further trouble around Richmond, Lee sent Stonewall Jackson's corps northward to deal with Pope, clashing indecisively at Cedar Mountain on August 9. Meanwhile, learning that the Army of the Potomac was withdrawing by water to join Pope, Lee marched with Lieutenant General James Longstreet's corps to bolster Jackson. Pope successfully foiled Lee's attempts to gain a tactical advantage on the Rapidan by withdrawing his army to the north bank of the Rappahannock River. Lee knew that if he was to defeat Pope he would have to strike before McClellan's army arrived in Northern Virginia. On August 25 Lee boldly started Jackson's wing on a march of over 50 miles, around the Union right flank to strike at Pope's rear. Two days later, Jackson's veterans seized Pope's supply depot at Manassas Junction.

Stung by the attack on his supply base, Pope abandoned the line of the Rappahannock and headed toward Manassas to fight Jackson. At the same time, Lee was moving northward with Longstreet's corps to reunite his army. On the afternoon of August 28, to prevent the Federal commander's efforts to concentrate at Centreville and to bring Pope to battle, Jackson order his troops to attack a Union column as it marched past on the Warrenton Turnpike. This savage fight at Brawner's Farm lasted until dark.

Convinced that Jackson was isolated, Pope ordered his columns to converge on Groveton. He was sure that he could destroy Jackson before Lee and Longstreet could intervene.

On the 29th Pope's army found Jackson's men posted along an unfinished railroad grade, north of the turnpike. All afternoon, in a series of uncoordinated attacks, Pope hurled his men against the Confederate position. In several places the Yankees momentarily breached Jackson's line, but each time were forced back.

During the afternoon, Longstreet's troops arrived on the battlefield and, unknown to Pope, deployed on Jackson's right, overlapping the exposed Union left. Lee urged Longstreet to attack, but "Old Pete" demurred. "The time was just not right," he said.

Just before noon on August 30 Pope ordered his army forward in pursuit of an enemy he thought was retreating. The pursuit however, was short-lived. Pope found that Lee had gone nowhere. Amazingly, Pope ordered yet another attack against Jackson's line. Fitz-John Porter's corps, along with part of McDowell's, struck Starke's division at the unfinished railroad's "Deep Cut." The southerners held firm, and Porter's column was hurled back in a bloody repulse. Seeing the Union lines in disarray, Longstreet pushed his massive columns forward and staggered the Union left. Pope's army was faced with annihilation; only a heroic stand by northern troops, first on Chinn Ridge and then once again on Henry Hill, bought time for Pope's hardpressed Union forces. Finally under cover of darkness the defeated Union army withdrew across the Bull Run toward the defenses of Washington. Lee's bold and brillant Second Manassas campaign opened the way for the south's first invasion fo the north, and a bid for foreign intervention. 9,420 of Lee's men were killed or wounded, while Pope lost 14,449.

Western Theater

Fort Henry

Sitting on the Tennessee River was Fort Henry, some twelve miles from the Cumberland River and Fort Donelson, and a linchpin in the defensive line held by Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston. Both forts guarded rich agricultural land and mineral deposits, as well as guarding the passage to the city of Nashville, Tennessee. Hoping to regain control of the rivers there as well as driving a wedge in the Confederate lines, Union General Henry Halleck sent Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant and Commodore Andrew Foote on an endeavour to capture both forts. Seven woodclad gunboats gave support to a force of some 15,000 men as they journeyed along the Tennessee to Fort Henry, where they faced a Confederate force of 2,500 massed in a weak defensive line. The Union victory was largly the result of the gunboat bombardment; Grant's force had arrived too late to take part in the action. Casualties were small; the Union lost 11 killed and 31 wounded, while Southern losses stood at 5 killed, 11 wounded, and 78 taken prisoner. Tilghman ended up surrendering to the gunboats; his remaining men retreated to Fort Donelson, and prepared improving the defenses there.

Fort Donelson

Rear Admiral Andrew H. Foote's Union gunboat fleet arrived from Fort Henry on February 14, consisting of the ironclads St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Corondolet, and the timberclad gunboats Conestoga and Tyler, and began exchanging what they called "iron valentines" with the Southern batteries. During this one and one-half hour duel Foote was wounded, and the Confederates inflicted such extensive damage upon the gunboats (the hills the batteries were on provided the Confederates with the opportunity to hit the gunboats' angled sides more directly) that they were forced to retreat, eliciting cheers from Johnny Reb.

Rejoicing as well, albiet soberly, were the Confederate generals at Fort Donelson: John Floyd, Gideon Pillow, Simon B. Buckner and Bushrod Johnson. They were aware that Grant was receiving reinforcements daily and had extended his right flank almost to Lick Creek to complete his encirclement of the Southerners. If Confederate forces in the area did not move fast, they would face a seige and be starved into submission. Accordingly, they massed their troops against the Union right, hoping to clear a route to Nashville and safety. The battle on February 15 raged all morning, the Union Army grudgingly retreating step by step. Just as it seemed the way was clear, the Southern troops were ordered to return to their entrenchments—a result of confusion and indecision among the Confederate commanders. Grant immediately launched a vigorous counterattack, retaking most of the lost ground and gaining new positions as well.

Floyd then turned to his executive officer, Pillow, and turned over command of Fort Donelson to him. Pillow, in turn, turned over command to Buckner and slipped away to Nashville with about 2,000 men. In disgust, Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest declared he wasn't about to surrender his command, and thereupon took his cavalry across swollen Lick Creek. That morning, February 16, Buckner, perhaps recalling his generosity towards Grant when the latter was in dire finacial need, asked Grant for terms of surrender. What he received in reply was certainly not what he expected:

Sir: Yours of this date proposing Armistice, and appointment of Commissioners, to settle terms of Capitulation is just received. No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.
I am Sir: very respectfully
Your obt. sevt.
U.S. Grant
Brig. Gen.

Buckner surrendered soon after, his complaint of Grant's "ungenerous and unchivalrous terms" notwithstanding. Included in the surrender was close to 15,000 men and 48 guns, and the provisions and ammunition to maintain both. Buckner spent several months north as a prisoner of war until exchanged in August; Grant even repayed the loan Buckner gave him years before.

After the fall of Fort Donelson, the South was forced to give up southern Kentucky and much of Middle and West Tennessee. The Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, and railroads in the area, became vital Federal supply lines. Nashville was soon to be developed into a huge supply depot for the Union army in the west. The heartland of the Confederacy was opened, and the Union got a new hero in U.S. Grant, whose name was changed in newspapers to "Unconditional Surrender Grant"; the same papers would also state that Grant had cooly directed the battle with a cigar clamped clamped between his teeth, which caused admirers of the general to send him so many cigars that he gave up his pipe.


Forced to abandon Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, General Albert Sidney Johnston, supreme Confederate commander in the West, moved to protect his rail communications by concentrating his scattered forces around the small town of Corinth in northeast Mississippi—strategic crossroads of the Memphis & Charleston and the Mobile & Ohio.

In March, Major General Henry W. Halleck, commanding U.S. forces in the West, advanced the armies under Grant and Don Carlos Buell southward to sever the Southern railroads. Grant ascended the Tennessee River by steamboat, disembarking his Army of the Tennessee at Pittsburg Landing, 22 miles northeast of Corinth. There he established a base of operations on a plateau west of the river, with his forward camps posted two miles inland around a log church called the Shiloh Meeting House. Halleck had specifically instructed Grant not to engage the Confederates until he had been reinforced by Buell's Army of the Ohio, then marching overland from Nashville. Once combined, the two armies would advance on Corinth and permanently break western Confederate railroad communications.

General Johnston, aware of Federal designs on Corinth, planned to smash Grant's army at Pittsburg Landing before Buell arrived. He placed his troops in motion on April 3, but heavy rain and difficulties encountered by marching large columns of men, artillery, and heavy wagons over muddy roads, delayed the attack. By nightfall, April 5, his Army of the Mississippi, nearly 44,000 men present for duty, was finally deployed for battle four miles southwest of Pittsburg Landing.

At daybreak, Sunday, April 6, the Confederates stormed out of the woods and assailed the forward Federal camps around Shiloh Church. Grant and his nearly 40,000 men present for duty were equally surprised by the onslaught. The Federals soon rallied, however, and bitter fighting consumed Shiloh Hill. Throughout the morning, Confederate brigades slowly gained ground, forcing Grant's troops to give way, grudgingly, to fight a succession of defensive stands at Shiloh Church, the Peach Orchard, Water Oaks Pond, and within an impenetrable oak thicket battle survivors named the Hornets' Nest.

Despite having achieved surprise, Johnston's troops soon became as disorganized as the Federals. The Southern attack lost coordination as corps, divisions, and brigades became entangled. Then, at mid-afternoon, as he supervised an assault on the Union left, Johnston was struck in the right leg by a stray bullet; he directed operations over the next half-hour before his weakness made him realize that the bullet severed an artery. Johnston's death from blood loss left General P.G.T. Beauregard in command of the Confederate army. Grant's battered divisions retired to a strong position extending west from Pittsburg Landing where massed artillery and rugged ravines protected their front and flanks. Fighting ended at nightfall, and Grant was left alone in his tent, emotionally drained.

Beauregard, unaware Buell had arrived with reinforcements during the night, planned to finish off Grant the next day. At dawn, April 7, however, it was Grant who attacked. Throughout the day, the combined Union armies, numbering over 54,500 men, hammered Beauregard's depleted ranks, now mustering barely 34,000 troops. Despite mounting desperate counterattacks, the exhausted Confederates could not stem the increasingly stronger Federal tide. Forced back to Shiloh Church, Beauregard skillfully withdrew his outnumbered command and returned to Corinth. The battered Federals did not press the pursuit, and the battle of Shiloh was over. It had cost both sides a combined total of 23,746 men killed, wounded, or missing—more casualties than America had suffered in all previous wars—and ultimate control of Corinth’s railroad junction remained in doubt.

Shiloh was a Hebrew word that ironically meant "peace." Said one veteran later, "No soldier who took part in the two day’s engagement at Shiloh ever spoiled for a fight again. We wanted a square, stand-up fight [and] got all we wanted of it."


Halleck, recognizing Corinth’s military value, considered its capture more important than the destruction of Confederate armies. Reinforced by another army under Major General John Pope, he cautiously advanced southward from Tennessee and, by late May, entrenched his three armies within cannon range of Confederate fortifications defending the strategic crossroads. Despite being reinforced by Major General Earl Van Dorn’s Trans-Mississippi Army, Beauregard withdrew south to Tupelo, abandoning the most viable line of east-west rail communications in the western Confederacy.

Federal efforts to recover the Mississippi Valley stalled in the late summer of 1862, and Confederate leaders launched counteroffensives in every theater. Armies led by Major Generals Braxton Bragg and Edmund Kirby Smith invaded Kentucky, while troops under Van Dorn boldly attacked the heavily fortified Union garrison at Corinth, linchpin of Federal control in northern Mississippi. In one of the more bitterly contested battles of the war, Van Dorn was decisively repulsed, following two days of carnage (October 3-4) that claimed nearly 7,000 more Confederate and Union casualties.

Although overshadowed by the failure of Robert E. Lee's Confederate invasion in Maryland, Van Dorn's defeat, coupled with Bragg's retreat from Kentucky after the battle of Perryville (October 8), caused discouragement in Richmond and relief in Washington. More significantly, Van Dorn's defeat at Corinth—the last Confederate offensive in Mississippi—seriously weakened the only mobile Southern army defending the Mississippi Valley. This permitted Ulysses S. Grant to launch a relentless nine-month campaign to secure the final nail for control of the Mississppi River: Vicksburg.

Trans-Mississippi Theater

Halleck knew that the Missouri State Guard was a symbol of open defiance to Federal authority in Missouri and that its continued presence in the state might still encourage secession. On December 25, 1861, he placed Brigadier General Samuel Ryan Curtis in command of all the Union forces in the state, with orders were to destroy the Missouri State Guard at its winter quarters in Springfield or to drive it from the state.

Curtis' Army of the Southwest began its campaign on February 10, 1862. The army marched quickly over the rough, frozen roads, and caught the Missouri State Guard, and its commander, Major General Sterling Price, by surprise. Price abandoned Springfield on February 13, and retreated south into Arkansas. The two armies fought a series of skirmishes along the way and on February 17, one week after beginning its campaign, Curtis triumphantly telegraphed Halleck, "The flag of our Union again floats in Arkansas." As the Federals crossed the border into Arkansas, a brass band played "Yankee Doodle" and "The Arkansas Traveler".

Aware of Union movements was Van Dorn, who had been appointed overall commander of the Trans-Mississippi District to quell a simmering conflict between competing generals Price and Benjamin McCulloch of Texas. Van Dorn's Army of the West totaled approximately 16,000 men, including 800 Cherokee Indian troops, as well as contingents from the Missouri State Guard, Confederate cavalry, and infantry and artillery from Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri. Van Dorn intended to destroy Curtis and reopen the gateway into Missouri.

Pea Ridge

On March 4, 1862, Van Dorn, not wishing to engage Curtis directly, split his army into two divisions under Price and McCulloch and ordered them to march north along the Bentonville Detour; his intention was to flank Curtis and cut off his lines of communication. To make speed, Van Dorn left his supply trains behind, and in the midst of a freezing storm, the Confederates succeeded in making a forced, three-day march, falling into position hungry and tired.

McCulloch arrived late, causing Van Dorn to split his army in two: McColloch would circle Pea Ridge to the west, then turn east to meet Price at Elkhorn Tavern, which would be taken by Van Dorn and Price.

McCulloch's troops swung to the west around Pea Ridge as planned, but they met Federal troops the village of Leetown, and a fierce fight took place. McCulloch and a cavalry commander named Colonel James McIntosh were killed in action soon after the clash began, and McIntosh's commander Colonel Louis Hébert was captured. The Confederate command structure was thus shattered, rendering an organized, effective attack useless.

Encountering Federals at Elkhorn Tavern, Van Dorn ordered an attack, and succeeded in driving back the Federals by nightfall, as well as securing the Telegraph and Huntsville Roads and cutting Curtis's lines of communication. Van Dorn would discover McColloch's fate from the survivors who made their way to the tavern.

Curtis meanwhile had massed his artillery during the night, and on the morning of March 8 launched a counterattack. The massed artillery, combined with cavalry and infantry attacks, weakened the Confederate lines, and by noon Van Dorn, already low on ammunition, realized his critical mistake: he had left his supply trains, with ammunition, miles away. With no hope of re-supplying his men, Van Dorn, although he had outnumbered Curtis almost two-to-one, withdrew from the battle.

New Orleans

The Mississippi had to be opened, Lincoln realized as early as the begining of the war, and opening it was a central part of Winfield Scott's "Anaconda Plan". Rear Admiral David D. Porter suggested a plan calling for a flotilla of warships steam up the Mississippi, bypass any forts there, and take New Orleans, while an Army unit would bring up the rear, occupying the forts and the town.

Major General Benjamin F. Butler was a Democrat from Massachusetts who was once a powerful member in Congress who quickly won over the Republicans with a request for a commission as the war began. He was chosen to lead the Army side of the New Orleans operation, in part because as soon as he received his commission he was a thorn in the side of Lincoln, McClellan, and many others. "All would be relieved were this restless officer sent to Ship Island or the far southwest'" said Gideon Welles dryly, "where his energy, activity and impulsive force might be employed in desultory aquatic and shore duty in concert with the Navy"

Command of the New Orleans operation fell to the Navy, and Rear Admiral Porter suggested fellow sailor David Glasgow Farragut, a vigorous, 60-year old captain with a penchant for doing handstands to celebrate his birthday. When the war opened, he had packed his bags and took his Southern wife north from Norfolk to Hastings-On-Hudson, near New York City. But desk jobs were his lot, due to the Southern connections, and even now it was not known exactly where his loyalties lay.

Porter met Farrgut in Brooklyn, and the two chatted amiably about family and life, before the topic changed to the war. Porter then mentioned several fellow officers who "went South".

"Those damned fellows will catch it yet!" Farragut remarked with mixed disgust and anger. Encouraged, Porter then asked directly, "Would you accept a command such as no officer in our navy ever held to go and fight those fellows?"

Farragut then realized that Porter's visit was serious. "I cannot fight against Norfolk!" he said. Then Porter announced that Farragut was not the man for the job, "For Norfolk will be the very place attacked first, and that den of traitors must be wiped out." Farragut accepted anyway, setting aside sentiment for loyalty. "I will take that command," he shouted at Porter, "only don't you triffle with me!" On December 21, he was in Washington, learning to his delight that his orders were to take New Orleans instead. But first his flotilla had to get past Forts Jackson and St. Phillip on the Mississppi, which were guarded by a Confederate fleet of eleven ships, of which three were ironclads: Manassas, Louisiana, and the unfinished Mississippi.

Farragut based his operations from Ship Island, Mississippi, and on April 8, he assembled 24 of his vessels and Porter's 19 mortar schooners near the Head of the Passes. Starting on the 16th and continuing for seven days, the mortar schooners bombarded Fort Jackson but failed to silence its guns. Some of Farragut’s gunboats opened a way through the obstruction on the night of the 22nd. Early on the morning of the 24th, Farragut sent his ships north to pass the forts and head for New Orleans. Although the Rebels attempted to stop the Union ships in various ways, including the unsuccessful ramming of Farragut's flagship Brooklyn by the little ironclad Manassas, most of the force successfully passed the forts and continued on to New Orleans where Farragut accepted the city’s surrender. With the passage of the forts, nothing could stop the Union forces: the fall of New Orleans was inevitable and anti-climatic. Cut off and surrounded, the garrisons of the two forts surrendered on the 28th.

Farragut anchored his ship in front of New Orleans at noon, April 25; an armed emmissary would walk through a mob to demand the city's surrender. When Butler's soldiers arrived a short time later, one of the first acts they did was to go to Jefferson Square, and on the pedesal of Andrew Jackson, the hero of New Orleans in the War of 1812, they carved a Jacksonian slogan which went out of style in the South: "The Union Must and Shall Be Preserved".

Butler would gain infamy of sorts with his occupation of the city. He was called "Spoons" for his habit of pilfering silver from well-to-do families; once, he had seized $800,000 that was held by the Dutch consul. But his most egregious act was to issue "General Order No. 28" on May 15, 1862, in which the women, if they continued to insult his troops, would be treated as "woman of the town plying her avocation", which meant they would be jailed as prostitutes. (TL 9, pp 58-73)

The Bloodiest Day

Battle of Fredericksburg


  • Time-Life Books The Civil War, vol. 3 (The Blockade), Time Inc, New York (1983)
  • Time-Life Books The Civil War, vol. 4 (The Road to Shiloh), Time Inc, New York (1983)
  • Time-Life Books The Civil War, vol. 5 (Forward to Richmond), Time Inc, New York (1983)
  • Time-Life Books The Civil War, vol. 8 (Lee Takes Command), Time Inc, New York (1984)
  • Time-Life Books The Civil War, vol. 9 (The Coastal War), Time Inc, New York (1984)
  • Bowman, John S. (editor), The Civil War Almanac World Almanac Publications, New York (1985)


The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion