Clashes in the west are less well known than the major battles of the eastern campaign. Federal forces in the West were more successful, due in part to the more effective leadership of Ulyses S. Grant and William T. Sherman. Fighting in 1861 were relatively limited as the two sides began to amass and train their armies. The only major battle in 1861 was Bull Run in the east. There were important engagements such as at Fort Doneldson where Grant became known as Unconditional Surrender Grant. More importantly it helped hold the wetern border states in the Federal Union. The war began in earnest in 1862. The battle at Shiloh was the first of the great killing fields of the war. Shiloh was a nominal Federal victory, but the public was agast at the scale of the losses. Shiloh also had important consequences on how the War was to be fought. Finally with the fall of Vicksburg (1863) the Mississippi was secured and the Confederacy cut off from needed suplies west of the river.
Federal forces in the West were more successful, due in part to the more effective leadership of Ulyses S. Grant and William T. Sherman. Disaterously for the South, perhaps its greatest military mind was killed at Shiloh (1862). This waas a major factor in the dissapoinbting military performance of the Confederacy in the West.
The war in the West is not as well covered as the much better known eastern campaign wth the major battles fought out by the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia. But without the Federal Victories in the West, the eventual Federal victory in the East would no have been possible. The West At the time can be confusing. The United States as a result of the Mexican War now streached all the way west to California. Exceot for the Red River campaign in Arkansas, however, there were no large engagements west of the Mississipi.
Clashes in the west are less well known than the major battles of the eastern campaign. Fighting in 1861 were relatively limited as the two sides began to amass and train their armies. The only major battle fought in 1861 was Bull Run in the East. Most of the early action was in the West, the West at the time meaning west of the Aplacahins. nd here the big prize was the Mississippi River. The Civil War would prove to be a masive conflict fought on the canvas of a huge new nation. Ironically, the War would be decided in the East in battles fought between abnd ariund the two capitals, Richmond and Washington. The two cities were only 100 miles apart.
Grant sought to win control of the Mississippi Valley, a key Union objective. Grant took Fort Henry and attacked Fort Donelson. When the Confederate commander asked for terms, Grant replied, "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I plan to move immediately move upon your works." The Confederates under West Point classmate Simon Bolivar Buckner surrendered (February 16). Grant's initials and the Fort Donoldson action gave him the nickname "Unconditional Surender" Grant. This was the first major Union victory. As a result, Grant was the first northern hero which apparently grated upon McClellan. President Lincoln frustrated with slow-moving commanders in the East immediately promoted Grant to major general of volunteers. Grant from an early point in the War was both competent and confident. One historain attributes this to the fact that Grant found early in his military career that they enemy was every bit as fearful as he was. [Bunting] While relatively small in civil ar termns, Gran'ts victory at Fort Dionodson helped hold the wetern border states in the Federal Union. The Union victory at Fort Donelson was jubilently received in the North and stunned the South. It kled in quick secession to the fall of Clarksville and Nashville. Grant and his troops had created a pathway intyo the heart of the South. Niot only were the border states secured, but the Condederacy was faced with defending its territory on another front.
The war began in earnest in 1862. The battle at Shiloh was the first of the great killing fields of the war. Almost all Americans, north and south, were sure it was going to be a short war. There had been only one majoe battle in 1861--Bull Run (Manasas) just south of Washingto, D.C. After the Winter hiatus this was about to change, but the general attitude was that the War would be over by Christmas. Then shocking news came over the telegraph wires about a major engagement being Fought in the back country of southern Tennesse (april 6). This was about remote as you could get. A place ironically called Shiloa (Pittsburgh Landing). Few had ever heard of it and among those tgat had, no ever thought it would be the site of an important battle. And as reports from the battlefield came filtering in, one aspect became all too clear. The caualties were horendous. One historian writes, As he ran back through the brigade camps, McGuire reported that the Confederates 'were sweeping the ground with cannister; the musket fire was awful. The striking of the shot on the ground threw up little clouds of dust, and the falling of men all around impressed me with the desire to get out of there. The hair commenced to rise on the back of my neck. I felt sure that a cannon ball was close behind me, giving me chase. I never ran that fast before, and never will again. It was a marvel that any of us came out alive.' Thus, the collapse of the Prentiss' line was complete." [Groom] There were an incredible combined casualties of 24,000 out of the 110,000 combatants. The deadliest day was the first day when the Confederates attacked Grant's encampment. He an Sherman with timely reinforecements counter attacked the next day an managed to sakvage a narrow victory. Shiloh was a nominal Federal victory, but the public was agast at the scale of the losses. It almost cost Grant his acreer had Lincoln not intervened, but more importantly than any other single battle, it suddenly became clear to most Amerivans that the War would not be short. And Shiloh was a battke fought out in a virtually meaningless locale. Many wondered what would happen in battles for important posutions and cities. After Shiloh Americans finally knew what civil war meant. Shiloh also had important consequences on how the War was to be fought. Sherman more than most commanders at the time grasped the meaning that the War would be a long brutal contest and not the quick engagement that had been widely expected on both sises. Sherman conceived the idea of attacking the Condederacy's economy and morale. Conderate Commander Nathan Bedford Forrest was also at Shiloh. He concluded that the South's only chance was audacity and ruthlessness, characteristics of his command and after the War a factor in his leadership of the Ku Klux Klan. [Hanson] It was at Shiloh that Johnny Clem, the "Drummer Boy of Shiloh" became known to the country.
Thanks to Grant, Missouri, Kansas and Kentucky were firmly in Federal hands. That does not mean that the Wat moved completely south. There were large numbers of Confederate supporters in all three states. And as a result a low-level, but merciless guerilla war was fought in Misdoiri and Kansas, a contuinuation pf pre-War Bleeding Kansas.
Grant after brilliant manuevering isolated a Confederate command in Vicksburg (May 1863). Threats of Confederate relief columns was a constant concern to Grant. A 47-day seige followed. Disagrements with Gen. John Mc Clerrnand, a politically connected officer in Illinois. By this point the Federal Army by seuizing major cities and deploying gunboats domjinated the Mississippi River. Vickesburg was the sole renmaining point along the River where the Confederacy could bring supplies and reinforcenents accross. Seizing Vucksburg woukd cut the Confederacy in two. The Westerbn states of Arkansas and Texas had supplies badly beeded by the Confederate armies est of the River. But with Vicksburg in Federal hands, there was no way to get those supplies east. Vickesburg gabe the Federals total commnd of the Mississippi for the rest of the war. [Ballard] The desperate situation in Vickesburg much have influenced Lee's mindset at Gettysburg and the desperate dcision to send Pickett's Division at the Federal center. Finally with the fall of Vicksburg (July 1863) the Mississippi was secured and the Confederacy cut off from needed suplies west of the river. Vicksburg was Grant's masrer stroke. With his victories leading up to Vickesburg and the succes there, Grant would earn command of the Federal armies and the showdown with Lee in the East.
Federal General William Rosecrans after the successful Tullahoma Campaign, renewed his attacks to force the Confederates out of Chattanooga, a rail junction of considerable importance and the doorway to Georgia and the prise of Atlanta. Rosecrans split his three army corps and drove toward Chattanooga by three different routes. Rosecrans managed to consolidated his forces which for a time were dangerously scattered throughout eastern Tennessee and northern Georgia (early September). Confederate General Braxton Bragg was forced to evacuate Chattanooga cutoff there and surrounded. Rosecrans pursued Bragg and there was a skirmish at Davis’ Cross Roads. Bragg had not yet given up on Chattanooga. He did not have a large enough force to defeat Rosecrans's entire army, but he sought to do battle with a part of it in an effort to defeat the Federals in detail. Bragg then stopped his retreat and turned on the Federal XXI Corps (September 17). The resulting engagement was the first major battle fought in Georgia. Bragg encountered Federal cavalry and mounted infantry armed with Spencer repeating rifles (September 18). Heavy fighting commenced (September 19). The Confederates pounded, but did not break the Federal line. Bragg continued his attacks (September 19). He struck the Federal left. Rosecrans received an erroneous report that a gap was opening in his line. In moving troops to fill the supposed gap, he created a very real gap. Confederate James Longstreet seeing the gap open, ordered a major advance into that gap. The impact was to drive one-third of the Federal forces including Rosecrans himself from the field. Gen. George H. Thomas took over command of the remaining Federal forces. He consolidated the Federal forces on Horseshoe Ridge and Snodgrass Hill. Bragg launched assaults on these positions, but they held until after dark averting a disaster. Many men of the 22nd Michigan were captured in the fighting. Drummer boy Johnny Clem managed to escape after shooting a Confederate officer who tried to capture him. The battle was a rare Confederate victory in the West despite loosing more men than the Federals. The Confederates, however, by this stage of the War could not afford many such victories. Thomas then led his men from the field back toward Chattanooga leaving Chickamauga to the Confederates. Thomas made his name at Chickamauga, his dogged defense of the Union left averted a military disaster and earned him the title of "The Rock of Chickamauga". Rosecrans retired to Chattanooga and was soon after reassigned to less important area. Bragg advanced in Chattanooga and occupied the commanding heights over the city--Look Out Mountain and Seminary Ridge. Chicjamagua was, however, a costly victory for the Confederates. Caualties totaled over 18,000, more than the 16,000 casualties suffered by the Federals.
Cinfederate Gen. Braxton Bragg after the victory at Chickamauga laid siege to the Feferal Army under Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans which had retreated to Chattanooga (September-October 1863). Chattanooga has been called 'the “Gateway to the Lower South'. It was thus a city of huge stategic importanhce. Chickmugua would prove to be the Confedereacy's last important battefield victory of any significance . Bragg managed to cut Federal supply lines. Prsident Liicoln gave Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant command of the Western armies with orders to save the situation in Chatanooga (October 17). Chatanoga was Grant's final campaign in the West before he was given supreme command of the Federal forces. It was also the last campaign he fought with Sherman. He quickly moved to relieve the Federal forces cut off at Chattanooga. He replaced Rosecrans who had lost his confidence with Maj. Gen. George Thomas. The Federals reopened supply lines and men and material flowed into the besieged city. Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman arrived with four divisions (mid-November). The strengthened Federal force began offensive operations. Union forces advanced out of Chatranoga and captured Orchard Knob and Lookout Mountain (November 23-24), Then to the surprise of the Fedral commanders, Union soldiers attacked and seized what seemed like an impregnable defensive position on Missionary Ridge (November 25). One of the Confederacy’s two major armies was uncerimoniously routed in what came to be called the Battle Above the Clouds. Despite the entrenched Confederate poitions, casualties were only avout athird of Chicksmaugua. The Federals thus not only held Chatanoga, but held it securely. They turned Chatanooga into a huge the supply and logistics base for Sherman’s 1864 North Georgia Campaign aimed at seizing Atlanta. The two camps suspended offensive operation as winter set in. Federal supplies poured into Chtanoga as Shermab planed his campaign south to seize Atlanta. The battles around Chatanooga were not just one more in an endless series of engagements. Bragg's victory at Chickamagua could have saved the Confederacy. Without Chtanooga, Sherman could not have seized Atlanta. And mny hidtorians believce thast the fall of Atlanta was what convinced many Northern voters that the War was nearing completuin and should be fought out to final victory. The decisive Federal victories on Orchard Knob, Missionry Ridge, and finally Lookout Mountain was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.
Ballard, Michael B. Grant at Vicksburg: The General abnd the Seige (2013), 240p..
Bunting, Josiah. Ulysses S. Grant (Times), 2004), 180p.
Groom, Winston. Shiloh: The First Great and Terrible Battle of the Civil War (2012).
Hanson, Victor Davis. Ripples of Battle: How Wars of the Past Still Determine How We live and How We Think (Doubleday, 2003), 278p.
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