Uncivil War

Guest Column

By Don White
Contributing Columnist

Nothing could have prepared America - North or South - for what the year 1862 would bring. Both sides were busy building large armies that would face each other on battlefields across the country. (Most battles were fought in southern states.)

At Shiloh, a small hamlet in Tennessee east of Memphis and north of Corinth, Miss., the armies of Gens. Albert S. Johnston and Ulysses S. Grant met on Sunday morning, April 6. When the fighting ended on April 7 it ended the bloodiest battle that had ever been fought on U.S. soil, with more than 24,000 people killed, wounded and missing.

The battle was a terrible loss for the South, as early in the afternoon on the first day Johnston was shot in the right leg and died from loss of blood. For the north, Grant had his back to the river at Pittsburg Landing when fighting ended on the first day. Many in the north said Grant was drunk and only won the battle because Buell's army arrived in time. Grant was not drunk, but the arrival of Buell's army certainly played a huge part in the victory. But I don't believe Grant would have retreated even if Buell's army had not come up in time.

By early March, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln had had enough of Gen. George McClellan as general-in-chief and relieved him from those duties. (Lincoln and Stanton would now attempt to handle this job.)

The general would still command the Army of the Potomac with more than 100,000 troops at his disposal. The army began moving via the Virginia Peninsula. Lincoln was concerned for the safety of the capital, so he made sure there were enough troops to protect the city.

All of this strategy and troop movements were leading up to Jackson's Shenandoah Valley Campaign and McClellan's Peninsula Campaign and the Seven Days' Battles. The wounding of Gen. Joseph Johnston on May 31 during the fighting at Seven Pines resulted in the promotion of Gen. Robert E. Lee to command of the army. At one point the Union army had pushed to within six miles of the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va.

Soon after his appointment, Lee had his troops building earthworks around Richmond. Soldiers and citizens alike dubbed him "The King of Spades." Things changed as Lee led the army through the Seven Days' Battles and drove the Union Army away from the capital. This change in command would do more than anything to prolong the war.

After the first of the Seven Days' battle, McClellan telegraphed Secretary Stanton and said, in part, "I have seen too many dead and wounded comrades to feel otherwise than that the government has not sustained this army. . . . If I save this army now, I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or any person in Washington." (Lincoln and Stanton did not see these words until much later as the telegraphic supervisor thought they were treasonous and deleted them from the message.)

Although McClellan scored a victory at Malvern Hill, the last battle of the Seven Days', he would not follow up his success unless and until he received 100,000 more troops. Needless to say he did not get them, as Lincoln had none to send.

The success of Jackson's Shenandoah Valley Campaign prevented Washington from sending re-enforcements to Mc- Clellan. After Jackson defeated Banks in a series of battles, Lincoln sent Gens. Fremont and Shields to trap and defeat Jackson. Of course, this did not happen, as Fremont was defeated on June 8 at Cross Keys, and on June 9 Shield's command was defeated at the Battle of Port Republic. (James Shields was the only man to challenge Abraham Lincoln to a duel; the duel was never fought.)

A general out west by the name of John Pope had earned fame that brought him to Lincoln's attention. He was called east and given command of the newly formed Army of Virginia. These were troops taken from the commands of McDowell, Banks and Sigel. With his new assignment Pope had command of all the troops in the east except those of McClellan.

Lincoln and Stanton realized that they could not continue to function dually as generalin- chief of all armies. Lincoln called Gen. Henry Halleck from the west to fill that position.

"Old Brains," as he was called, held this post until Grant replaced him in March of 1864.

At that time Halleck was demoted to chief-of-staff.

Fighting took place in some places that we all remember and others in remote areas that are little known or written about. In the east: Second Bull Run/Second Manassa, Aug. 29 to 30; Antietam/ Sharpsburg, Sept. 17 (the bloodiest single day in the Civil War with over 26,000 killed wounded and missing); and Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, were the main ones. In the west: The fall of New Orleans to Commodore Farragut's Fleet, April 25; Perryville, Oct. 8; and Stones River/Murfreesborough, Dec. 29 to 30.

Throughout the year, as battles were won and lost, generals rose and fell - more in the north than the south - Lincoln tried to find someone who could fight and win. When Gen. Fremont refused to serve under Pope, he was relieved of his duties and soon after resigned. After the Second Battle of Bull Run, General Pope was gone, as was Gen. McDowell and Gen. Porter, the latter who was later placed under arrest. He was found guilty and dismissed fromthe service. After Antietam, McClellan rode off into the sunset only to resurface to run against Lincoln in the 1864 presidential election. On election day McClellan, resigned his commission, and soon after he lost the election left for an extended stay in Europe.

Buell was relieved of command soon after the Battle of Perryville.

Next week: Part II

Don White is the author of "Facts, Quotes and Anecdotes of the Civil War: A Perpetual Calendar of Civil War Times and Events." He lives in Palos Hills.