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8-08-2015, 23:29

Western Operations

THE ATTENTION of both Washington and Richmond was centered largely on northern Virginia, and what might happen around the two capitals. But in this war, ironically, what happened farther away turned out to be of more lasting importance to the war's direction. By late 1861 or early 1862, the general battle lines had been drawn. Missouri and Kentucky had both basically been held for the Union, and Tennessee had essentially been lost to it. The "frontier," then, between the two belligerents ran up the Potomac, across the mountains, and then dipped south through the western reaches of Virginia—this the disputed area that would in 1863 become the state of West Virginia—and from there along the southern border of Kentucky to the Mississippi River. Of course, since the Union expected to restore its authority over all the national territory, it did not acknowledge that this was a frontier, and since the Confederacy intended to claim Kentucky and possibly even Missouri as its own, it too treated the border as nonexistent. A peculiarity of war, and especially of civil war, is that men are forced to define their views in ways that often may not conform to reality. By the end of 1861 both North and South had developed a command structure for the western theater. Unfortunately, neither of them had solved the problem very well; the South never would solve it, and the Union would only after a long period of trial, error, and the eventual success that changed the strategic geography of the area. In November, when the Federal command was shuffled around, the War Department established a new series of departments, restructuring for war the administrative framework of the pre-war period. Such de- partments became the basic territorial organization of the war forces of both sides, and they were the support system that kept the operational armies in the field. In the Union there were actually sixty different departments, with their boundaries redrawn and overlapping at different times. Many of them, of course, such as the Department of Oregon, had little to do with the war in a direct way. Those along the "frontier" between the two countries were, however, the focus of events. In this western theater, General David Hunter commanded the Department of Kansas, in which relatively few regular operations were carried out. Far more important, indeed crucial, was the next one east, the Department of Missouri, commanded by Henry Wager Halleck. Halleck was an odd fish, with a high-domed forehead and slightly poppy eyes. He had written several books on both law and military science, had married well and made a fortune. His classmates at West Point had nicknamed him "Old Brains," and he had taught at the Academy while he was still an undergraduate. He resigned from the Army in 1854, but at the start of the war Winfield Scott recommended to Lincoln that he be reappointed, which he was, and given the rank of major general in the regular army. At that time he was ranked only by Scott, McClellan, and John C. Fremont, the man he relieved of command in Missouri. A list of those four senior commanders might well suggest why the Union took so long to win the war. In Missouri, Halleck soon brought some order to the chaos Fremont left behind him, but he did have one glaring gap in his experience: he had never commanded troops in the field. He did, however, have a field commander of some promise, if at that point little more: Ulysses S. Grant. Halleck's department was joined on the east by the Department of the Ohio; the division between the two of them was just east of the twin Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, and this fact would be of some significance as operations developed. The Department of the Ohio, which included most of Kentucky, had been commanded by William T. Sherman, he who had done well at First Bull Run; but Sherman had come close to a nervous breakdown while there, largely because he was one of the few men who had sufficient sense to realize how terrible the war was likely to be. He was relieved in November by Brigadier General Don Carlos Buell, a man whose flamboyant name belied a prosaic personality. Though this all sounded reasonably efficient, in fact it was not, for Halleck and Buell, as department commanders, were equal in status, though not in rank, and each took his orders direct from Wash- ington. Any cooperation between them was going to be largely fortuitous. The Confederacy was better off in command terms. Davis and his cabinet acknowledged the importance of the western theater, and even recognized the necessity for some unity of command there. The solution to the problem was, in Davis's eyes, Albert Sidney Johnston. Johnston was in fact thought to be the best soldier in the Confederacy. He had the usual West Point background, with the added distinction of having once been secretary of war for the Republic of Texas. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was in the regular army, in command of the Department of the Pacific. He resigned his commission when Texas seceded and made a hazardous journey back east. Immediately upon Johnston's arrival, Davis appointed him a full general of the regular army of the Confederacy, and gave him the whole of Confederate Department No. 2 to command. That in effect was all of the territory from Arkansas to the Appalachian Mountains, so the Confederates had at least a unified command with which to face their enemies. Unfortunately, that was about all they did have. Under his subordinate commanders, Leonidas Polk in the west and William J. Hardee in the east, Johnston had only about 43,000 men. Halleck and Buell outnumbered him at least two to one, and perhaps three to one, depending upon what soldiers in their departments were counted. The Union not only had lots of men, it had lots of plans, and the one worked against the other. Lincoln wanted Buell to advance into east Tennessee, to relieve the Unionist civilians there. Buell got only as far as Mill Springs, where one of his division commanders, George H. Thomas, the earlier-mentioned Virginian who stayed north, won a handy little battle. But Buell went no farther, because he did not want to advance into east Tennessee; he wanted to advance southwest toward Nashville. And that was what he eventually did, though he forgot to coordinate with Halleck about doing so. And since Buell was going off on his own, Halleck did the same, and he gave permission to Ulysses Grant to move south, up the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. Grant moved out on February 2, about 20,000 strong, supported by the gunboat squadron of Commodore Andrew H. Foote. Where they cross the Tennessee-Kentucky line, the two rivers are only about eleven miles apart. Each was defended by an earthwork, Fort Henry on the Tennessee and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland, but neither fort was really defensible, as both had been located and built in response to the politics of secession rather than with an eye to military operations. When Grant's gunboats arrived, in advance of his infantry slogging through the February mud, the Confederates abandoned Fort Henry and the garrison escaped overland to Fort Donelson. Thus with hardly a shot fired, Grant had breached the center of the Confederate defense position. He soon sent some of his gunboats ranging upriver, burning railroad bridges and generally making a nuisance of themselves in north-central Tennessee. Meanwhile, he sent Foote's other boats back to the mouth of the Tennessee River, and then up the Cumberland, and after a week of soaking rain, he marched his army, now up to 25,000, east against Fort Donelson. Here Confederate Commander General John B. Floyd proposed to make a stand with his 15,000 men. The fort stood on a commanding height and was a much better proposition than Fort Henry had been. The Rebels beat off a premature attack by Foote's gunboats, wounding the Union naval officer, and looked to be in decent condition when Grant got his troops up and invested the landward side of the fort on the night of February 14—15. On the 15 th Grant went off to confer with Foote. Meanwhile, Floyd launched a breakout attack, and actually succeeded in punching a hole in the Union line. Then he lost his nerve and recalled his troops to their own positions. Then, in a complete funk, he turned over command to Simon Bolivar Buckner while he himself, attended by Gideon Pillow, escaped from the post. Both Floyd and Pillow feared they might well be shot as traitors. The next morning, the trapped Buckner asked for terms, and Grant responded with the first of the concise phrases that would contribute to his fame: "No terms can be offered except immediate and unconditional surrender." Buckner grumbled at this lack of chivalry, and surrendered, along with 11,500 troops. It was the most signal Northern victory so far in the war. A week later, in his parallel but independent advance, Buell occupied Nashville. Between them, Grant and Buell had broken the Confederate defense of the west in two. With Federal gunboats ranging as far up the Tennessee as Muscle Shoals in northern Alabama, and with thousands of Confederate prisoners on their way north, the Richmond government at last awoke to mortal peril. It ordered 15,000 reinforcements up from the Gulf Coast, from Mobile and from New Orleans, with Braxton Bragg to command them. It could not spare troops from the east, but it sent another hero, General Beauregard, to aid Albert Sidney Johnston. A little bit of selfserving here: Beauregard had quarreled with everyone in the east, and they were glad to be rid of him. But Johnston was equally glad to have him, so much so that he placed him in command of his western front, located at Jackson, Mississippi, while he himself retained a smaller number of men facing Buell south of Nashville. The Southerners put together a plan. Over the next month they concentrated their forces. Johnston moved south as far as Huntsville, Alabama, and then west to Jackson, forced into this roundabout concentration by Federal control of the Tennessee River. Meanwhile the energetic Beauregard called in troops from everywhere, even from Polk, isolated up in western Kentucky. By the end of March, they had 40,000 men ready to march against Grant's advance. Henry Halleck considered himself a great scholar, but apparently he had never read Napoleon's famous remark, "Ask me for anything but time." While the Confederates mustered their isolated and endangered forces, Halleck shuffled about. The victories at Henry and Donelson redounded greatly to his credit, in spite of the little he himself had to do with them. Now he was somewhat at a loss as to what he should do next, so he undertook a campaign against Washington, on the general line of "why I should be given supreme command in the west." He temporarily relieved Grant from field command, then eventually put him back there. Finally he ordered his army forward, and the Federals advanced south almost a hundred miles across the whole width of Tennessee, aiming toward Eastport, Mississippi, where the Tennessee River cuts the northeast corner of that state before bending into Alabama. Early in March, Halleck won his fight to command Buell, and was given authority over the 50,000 troops at Nashville. Halleck immediately sent off long letters telling Buell what he wanted him to do, and Buell responded with equally long letters explaining why he could not possibly do it. Finally Buell lurched into motion, and got as far south as Columbia, Tennessee, a march of thirty-some miles that took him thirteen days to make. Here he was held up by a burned bridge over the Duck River, flooded but still not one of America's major waterways, for another ten days. Finally he got across and headed for a juncture with Grant, camped with six divisions, 35,000 men, on the west bank of the Tennessee at a little speck on the map called Pittsburg Landing. This was a place of potentially great opportunity. From here the Federals could cut the rail line leading west to Memphis and east across the northern part of the Gulf states to Chattanooga; they could operate against Memphis itself, or they could strike south into Mississippi, for Corinth and Tupelo and points south. Grant and Buell together would have 85,000 men, and would constitute a formidable and very dangerous force. Of that fact Sidney Johnston was as well aware as anyone, but it was Beauregard who convinced him to act before it was realized. His troops had moved and concentrated faster than the Federals, and he now planned to move north with his 40,000 and destroy Grant's army before Buell finally joined it. He disposed his men in four corps, under Generals Polk, Bragg, Hardee, and John C. Breckinridge, the Kentuckian who had been Buchanan's vice president but who had gone south when Kentucky remained in the Union. Johnston, with Beauregard acting as second-in-command, put his men on the road and started stealthily moving north. The stealth soon gave way to cursing and shouting and shoving, as thousands of Confederates tried to move along the few clogged dirt trails and rutted tracks through the thinly populated territory northeast of Corinth. Brigades ran into each other at crossroads, or overtook each other, or were shoved aside as wagon trains and guns tried to get the right of way. Confederate staff work was in its infancy here, and it took three days to move the fifteen miles into contact. By then Beauregard had had second thoughts; surely, he reasoned, the Federals now knew all about this threat, and they must be preparing a trap. Maybe the Confederates should not attack after all. Johnston demurred; by late afternoon of April 5 he had his troops in line, where he had wanted them at dawn two days earlier. There was little sign of Federal activity. They would let the men get some food and a bit of sleep, and in the morning see what might happen. On the other side, all was blissful ignorance. Grant had five of his six divisions nicely camped in a triangular position next to the Tennessee; his sixth division, under Lewis Wallace, was about five miles downstream, guarding his communications back north. Grant himself had gone off to Savannah, Tennessee, even further downstream, where he was meeting the first of Buell's advance, finally coming into at least supporting distance. The five divisions at Pittsburg Landing were spread along the rolling countryside, W.H.L. Wallace, Stephen Hurlbut, and John A. McClernand in the northern part of the field, and the divisions of Benjamin Prentiss and William T. Sherman to the south. Sherman, over his nervous exhaustion as a departmental commander, was now back in a divisional command, and in early April he was indeed not quite as nervous as he should have been. In this he echoed his commander, for Grant expected that an attack, in the unlikely event it came at all, would be from the northwest. He had no patrols out, Heaven alone knew what his cavalry was doing, and on the eve of battle Grant was reporting to Halleck that he really anticipated nothing at all in the way of trouble. Of this notion he was about to be very cruelly disabused. The Confederates had finally sorted themselves out, and for the Union army the dawn was going to come like thunder. Sunday morning, April 6: In the Union lines the troops were up early on a bright sunny day. Soldiering was not such a bad life, really, not for the boys who were used to splitting logs or hoeing turnips, and who got up before the sun anyway. There was the smell of coffee and of bacon frying and the boys teased and joshed each other with the kind of banter soldiers have used since Julius Caesar, and still do: "He's in for life, boy. . . . He found a home in the army. . . . Why, sure, the army gave him his first pair of shoes. ..." Then there was some popping of musketry to the south, probably the pickets clearing their pieces after the night's dampness. Just because your company had no pickets out did not mean another company did not. Someone else caught the duty, for that was the way the army worked. Some fellow who rode around on a horse was responsible for putting all that together. The popping became more insistent. General Prentiss had indeed sent out a patrol, and at about daybreak they bumped into skirmishers in front of Hardee's line. A nasty little fight developed, and four more companies of Federals came out, then a whole brigade. The fighting spread along the southern end of the Union position, as more and more troops stood to arms, hastily abandoning their morning routine. By eight o'clock the fighting was general, and Sherman and Prentiss were both in trouble. The Confederate plan had been to hit hard on the Union left, its own right, and drive the Federals away from the Tennessee River, back up against several swamps and creeks that formed the inner boundaries of the battlefield. But their dispositions did not lead to this, and the assaulting forces instead spread out more or less evenly along the line, and got all intermingled as they deployed. The corps commanders rode here and there, grabbing brigades and regiments as they came to hand, and feeding them into the line wherever they could. By mid-morning the Confederates were roughly aligned—from west to east, Hardee, Polk, Bragg, and Breckinridge—and they were pushing hard. But the Union side was not the utter shambles that has sometimes been suggested. Both Sherman and Prentiss had had just enough time to get their troops formed before the attack struck, and they fell back slowly and stubbornly. Both called for help from the divisions farther to the rear, and as Sherman's left gave way, it was replaced by troops from McClernand's division. Prentiss was forced back by the weight of the Rebels, but Hurlbut's men came up in support and took over part of the line on either side of what came to be called "the Hornet's Nest." Grant himself, downstream, heard the roll of gunfire and came hurrying back to the battlefield to find his subordinates handling themselves well. He set up a straggler line to catch the strays, sent word to Buell's troops to hurry their march, and looked to securing his flanks. He wanted to stabilize his line, but by late in the morning he had failed to do so. The Confederates continued pushing, and one after another, the Federal units fell back. Prentiss in the center was ordered to hold at all costs, an order he interpreted literally. In the Hornet's Nest he drew up what was left of his division along a little slightly depressed lane, subsequently called "The Sunken Road," in imitation of Waterloo. Here his division stood until it withered away. A mere hundred yards in front of it, the Confederates massed their guns and opened a deadly fire on the Union lines. By midday the battle had more or less stalled. Grant was still in serious trouble; everywhere along his line he had been driven back, and in his rear area, and under the bluff overlooking Pittsburg Landing, literally thousands of men had sought shelter, some wounded, some panicked, some crazy, some simply lost and bewildered. There, it looked as if the army were totally defeated, and men fed upon each other's fears. But the rear of a battlefield always looks that way. What counted more was those increasingly thin blue lines facing the Rebels, and their ability and willingness to hold on through the storm. For though the Confederates had carried the ground all along the line, they had nowhere succeeded in making a clean break in it. They had driven the Union soldiers from their tents and their breakfasts, Rebels grabbing coffee and hardtack on the run, but now they were exhausted from three days of marching and short rations, and fear and noise and confusion worked on them as well as their enemies. The attacker may have whatever exhilaration the initiative grants him, but he needs it more than the defender does; the attacker has to get up and go forward, while the defender merely has to manage to stay where he is. By early afternoon the battle was up in the air, a question of who could last longer, or who could find some reserves. Prentiss was still holding to his sunken road, with Hurlbut on his left and W.H.L. Wallace on his right. His determined stand had attracted increasing attention from the Confederates, but this had come at the expense of the rest of the field, and they had let themselves get sucked into concentrating here, against the toughest nut of the Union line. Eleven times the Confederates charged against his position, and still could not break it, though they slowly isolated it from the rest of the Federals. The situation did not improve. Shortly after noon, Albert Sidney Johnston had been wounded in the leg, a little matter that he refused to bother with. He led one of the charges against Prentiss personally. By mid-afternoon he was dead; the little wound had been a severed artery, and Johnston's boot was full of blood and he himself falling out of the saddle, dying, before anyone paid any attention to it. Beauregard assumed command of the army, and kept on pushing, but there was a fatal flaw in this now: he had no more reserves to finish off his victory. He finally pushed Prentiss's supports away, left and right, and at the end of the afternoon the troops in the Hornet's Nest, what was left of them, out of ammunition and cut off, surrendered. But it was too late by then to exploit any more than this. Night fell over the most terrible battlefield yet seen on the American continent. In many places the exhausted soldiers slept on their arms, and in the darkness it was difficult to tell the dead from the sleeping. Little parties wandered over the field, tracing the path they had fought, and looking for friends and comrades. East of the Hornet's Nest was a little peach orchard, and the dead and wounded lay thick with the broken blossoms around them. Just beyond that was a small shallow pond, and it reflected red in the torchlight, tinged with the blood of the wounded who had crawled there for a drink of muddy water, and died on the verge of the pond. A slow, soaking rain began in the night. The Confederates were all but used up. They had been on the very knife-edge of victory, and unable to carry it off. Or unwilling: as darkness fell, Beauregard canceled a last effort because he believed Grant could not be reinforced during the night, and could be finished off at leisure come morning. He was wrong. During the night Union gunboats kept up a slow but annoying fire from the river, randomly throwing shells at the Confederate lines. And even worse, back at Pittsburg Landing boat after boat crossed over from the eastern shore, bringing the first of Buell's troops. Grant's own sixth division, that under Lew Wallace, arrived at last. By morning, the Federals had four new divisions, 20,000 fresh men, with which to take up the contest. Beauregard had none. He expected some reinforcements under General Earl Van Dorn, but they did not appear. Still, he believed he yet held the initiative. He slept the night in Sherman's captured tent, after sending off a grandiloquent message to Richmond announcing a great victory, and saying that he would complete it the next day. The next morning, when Beauregard went to claim his victory, he found the fickle prize had flown. The Union gunboats were still there harassing his flank, the Union gun-line was still to his front, the Union divisions he had so roughly handled yesterday were still there—and 20,000 new troops of Buell's army were there as well. Indeed, Buell's troops began their own advance on the Union left soon after daybreak, and drove slowly but steadily ahead, pausing as they went to allow new formations to filter into the line. Then Sherman's division, over on the other flank, took it up, and by mid-morning the battle was general, with the Federals pushing hard and the Rebels holding on for dear life. The fighting was every bit as bitter as it had been the day before, and regiments and whole brigades withered away. Patrick Cleburne's brigade of Hardee's corps started April 6 at a ration strength of 2,750; it mustered 900 on the morning of the 7th, and at night had 58 men present for duty. The fighting swelled up and whirled around Shiloh Church, a little crossroads about five miles from Pittsburg Landing, and the Confederate lines bent farther and farther back. By noon Beauregard knew he was done, and it was time to save his army. It took him a couple more hours to accept the decision fully, but about mid-afternoon he issued orders for a retreat. Slowly the army drew off southward, its retreat covered by Breckinridge's reserve corps. Once they recovered their original position, the Union troops lost their drive. Both sides were utterly exhausted, and as the Rebels pulled off, the Federals more or less collapsed on their lines. Neither of these armies had been involved in a great, full-scale battle before, and the psychic shock was enormous. Men staggered around, or sat and stared vacantly, or shivered uncontrollably. They could hardly believe what they had been through. The evidence before them was visible enough: trees stripped of their leaves and limbs, ground torn up by shot and shell, bodies everywhere, and parts of bodies, and trails of blood, dead men and animals all over the place, an absolute charnel house spread over square miles. As an initiation to war, Shiloh was about as terrible as one could get, the casualties almost fourteen thousand on the Union side, and nearly eleven thousand on the Confederate. Grant claimed a victory, as indeed it was, though dearly bought, and Beauregard was forced to explain why what he had said was a victory turned out to be a defeat, which he found very hard to do. With the Confederate field army in the west so badly depleted, Halleck now had a glorious opportunity to do extensive damage. Not only was he in the Confederate heartland, but there was good news from the Gulf Coast as well. A mere two and a half weeks after Shiloh, New Orleans fell to Federal forces. The Crescent City of the South was a prize of immense strategic and commercial importance; even in 1861 it was a major city, with a population of 170,000, handling the commerce of the whole Mississippi Valley, busy, cosmopolitan, flamboyant, dangerous, and unhealthy. The Confederate government knew that this was a key city, but had relied on nature and existing works to protect it. The natural defenses consisted of the Mississippi River itself, a hundred miles below the city consisting of bayous, swamps, currents and twisting and constantly changing channels, all very unpleasant country for either men or ships. The fortifications consisted of a few works around the city, and more importantly, two permanent forts on the river down near its mouth, Jackson on the west side and St. Philip on the east, slightly above it. These had been improved with chains on barges, and hulks sunk in the fairway, and with their eighty guns, were thought to be impassable. The forts had about eight hundred men in them, and Confederate commander General Mansfield Lovell had several hundred more militia in position around New Orleans itself. He repeatedly asked Richmond for more support, but Richmond had other things to worry about. Lovell of course was not the only one aware of New Orleans' importance. On the Union side, Commodore David Porter decided as early as the fall of 1861 that the city could be taken. It took him a while to convince anyone else of this. Porter was an active and energetic officer, but he suffered from being a little too political: Gideon Welles said he was "given to Cliquism." Nevertheless, Porter managed to sell his idea to Welles, and gradually the mission took shape. The Navy would do most of the work, which was fortunate, for the troops detailed for the expedition, largely from New England, were put under the command of Benjamin F. Butler. Late in 1861, there was some snooping around the passes at the mouths of the river, and a heavy Confederate ram, the Manassas, had beaten up some Union seagoing vessels that got caught in narrow waters. In December the Federals landed on Ship Island, and Butler used it as a staging point for his troops. This could be interpreted in several ways, and Lovell chose to think it portended expeditions against the Gulf Coast, but not against him. Meanwhile the Federal navy gathered its strength for a major passage of arms. Porter himself took command of a fleet of about twenty mortar boats, clumsy things each armed with a huge thirteen-inch mortar, designed to lob shells into the forts and blow them up. The "real" naval vessels were commanded by Porter's adopted older brother, Rear Admiral David G. Farragut. A veteran of the War of 1812 and a Virginian who had gone north, Farragut was initially distrusted by the Lincoln Republicans, but rescued from obscurity by Welles and put in command of the Western Gulf Squadron. Now, with his flag flying in the new steam sloop Hartford, and twenty-some other oceangoing vessels under his command, Farragut was going to get his chance to demonstrate both his skill and his loyalty. Farragut hoped to make a dash up the river, adding surprise to his other advantages, but nature worked against him. The sandbars across the mouths of the Mississippi gave it a depth of only fifteen feet, and Farragut's deepwater ships drew from sixteen up to twenty-three. It took him a month to work his ships over the bars and into deeper water at Head of Passes, which he finally did by April 8. By now Lovell knew he was in trouble, but he could not convince his superiors of that; after all, the day before the Federal ships cleared the bars, many of Lovell's troops, or potential reinforcements, were fighting for their lives up at Shiloh. The next obstacle to the Union advance was the two forts some miles up the river. Farragut and Porter opened up a bombardment of them by the mortar boats, but after a week this had had little effect. During that time, however, some of the smaller, more maneuverable Federal ships had broken the chain that the Rebels had stretched across the river, and had marked or even removed some of the sunken hulks blocking the passage. Farragut decided to force his way past. He was also faced with the possibility of attack by Confederate rams, which were still being completed, and he knew that the longer he waited, the greater the eventual danger. On the evening of April 23 Farragut went round his fleet, seeing that all his orders were understood and preparations made: topgallant masts stepped down, sandbags piled as extra armor, splinter nets hung, all those things in fact which turned a ship from a thing of grace and beauty into an ugly but useful fighting instrument. At two in the morning he hoisted the signal to advance, two red lanterns in the Hartfords mizzen rigging, and off they went. It looked far more perilous than it turned out to be. The ships blasted away at the two forts in succession; the forts fired back into the flamefilled night. In line ahead the ships steadily plowed up the channel, brushing aside the remains of barges, chains, and other devices the Confederates had hoped would halt their progress. The work was close enough that the gunboat Pensacola drew up abreast of Fort St. Philip, and Yankee sailors and Rebel gunners could yell curses at each other while they sponged and loaded their guns. A Rebel tug pushed a fire raft against Hartford's side, but the sailors sank it by dropping cannonballs on it, and then sank the tug as well. A Rebel ram hit the steam sloop Mississippi, and the two, tangled together, went careening off across the river, then the ship got clear, fired more broadsides at Fort Jackson, and proceeded on upstream. It took a couple of hours for the entire action to be concluded, but for each individual ship, there was no more than a few minutes' hard work. All were hit, a couple were stopped by obstructions or rudder damage, but none was lost. With that, New Orleans was doomed. Farragut spent a day patching up his fleet and getting the hundred-odd miles up the river, and he anchored off the city on the afternoon of the 25th. The city itself was chaos. The Confederates had set fire to anything they thought might be useful to the enemy, including thousands of bales of cotton stored and waiting for blockade runners, and the mob, always volatile in New Orleans, had run amok, rampaging through the streets and, as mobs usually do, taking out its frustrations by looting stores and getting drunk. While harridans stood on the river levees shouting insults at the Federal ships, the unfinished Confederate ironclad Mississippi came drifting downstream, a mass of flames, the city's last hope gone up in smoke. Farragut sent a party of Marines ashore, and after some confusion and a great deal of abuse and bluster, they succeeded in hoisting the United States flag on the city hall. Downstream the two forts still presented a threat, but Butler got his troops ashore, and they cut the roads and lines of retreat, and on the 28th, the forts surrendered. Butler then got his troops up to New Orleans, which he finally occupied and garrisoned on the first of May. Thus at the end of the disastrous month of April, the western Confederacy was in serious danger of being cut in half. Halleck had moved to Pittsburg Landing, where he concentrated a hundred thousand men. One of Halleck's other subordinates, General John Pope, succeeded in taking a Confederate fortress at Island No. 10 on the Mississippi, freeing further stretches of it, and the naval forces ranged here and there, interdicting supplies and making a nuisance of themselves. Staring disaster in the face, few Confederates could see how they might persevere. The Union appeared triumphant. Then it all fell apart. Halleck spent a month reorganizing his army. He divided it into three wings, under Generals Thomas, Buell, and Pope. He made Grant his second-in-command, and gave him absolutely nothing to do. This became one of the low points of Grant's Civil War career, and he went off to drink and nurse his spirits. Thoroughly imbued with the spirit of eighteenth-century depot-style warfare, Halleck ignored the little army Beauregard could dispose against him, and began a ponderous advance on Corinth; it took him a month to make twenty miles. When he finally got there, instead of taking bold action, he divided his army up in packets and sent it hither and yon, with little positive effect. The troops from New Orleans did no better. Farragut and Porter took their ships up to Baton Rouge, and then beyond, the sailors nervous all the way, fending off logs, running on sandbars, and generally feeling like fish out of salt water, but at least they did something. The soldiers, by contrast, dithered about, and let golden opportunities slip by. Butler got involved in a famous argument in New Orleans. His soldiers were constantly insulted by the female population of the city, so he issued what came to be known as the "woman order." In it he announced that any woman who insulted Federal troops would be held liable, and treated as if she were a prostitute soliciting trade. A howl of protest was heard all over the South, and there were calls for a price to be put on Butler's head. And not just the South; the London Times, which had printed the news of New Orleans' fall with mourning borders, waxed indignant at this slur upon the flower of Southern womanhood. Butler, a controversialist with the best of them, replied that the order was actually taken almost verbatim from the laws of the city of London. None of which did any good; Southern chivalry was outraged, and Butler seemed the archetype of the boorish Yankee. Which indeed he was. Leading citizens of the city spread the rumor that at dinner in their houses, Butler pocketed their silver spoons, and his own troops laughingly took to calling him "Spoons" Butler. He was actually a pretty good military administrator, which was what New Orleans needed. He was also a terrible field commander, which was not what the Union needed on the Mississippi. So the golden days slipped away, while Butler and New Orleans sniped at each other. And while they did that, Halleck stood looking at his maps, dividers in hand, and mused upon the great campaigns of the past. And Grant sat in enforced idleness, feeling miserable. And the Union corps commanders wrote letters to friends in the government at Washington: "How I Would Do It Better" by An Aspiring General. But little matter. General George Brinton McClellan had a plan; he, and he alone, would win the war and save the country.

 

 

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