From Fort Henry to Corinth

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If it is added to AbeBooks by one of our member booksellers, we will notify you! Publisher: Forgotten Books , It confirmed that Lincoln and McClellan believed the bulk of the Southern population was apparently misguided and, if given the opportunity by the Federal army, would break from its supposedly weak loyalty to the secessionist politicians. Moreover, the Union would have to organize and position itself in such a way as to convince the governing aristocratic class that resistance to its forces was futile.

Thus, to attract those Southerners who resisted secession back into the Union, Federal armies could not afford to be driven out of regions once occupied. They would have to remain in control of large territories for long periods of time if they were to be successful in enticing significant portions of the Southern populations into the Union. In the meantime, the army would impose a lenient policy designed to protect the civil liberties of noncombatants and hopefully not drive them to openly support the rebellion.

Any departure from this conception, McClellan feared, would result in a much-strengthened Confederacy and change the character of Union war aims. By attempting to create an atmosphere for a more harmonious peace, military success became more difficult to achieve. Still, it was the experience of instituting a policy of conciliation that forced the Union to subsequently depart from it. Until political leaders came to believe that this dimension of military and political strategy needed modifying, Federal commanders would exercise considerable independence in managing affairs.

Given the overwhelming size and chaos of departments, Lincoln thought it wise to allow commanders independence. The president himself added to the decentralized system of decision making by routinely avoiding to commit himself to any definite doctrine, which allowed generals and politicians alike considerable latitude in pursuing any policy they deemed most effective. This had huge ramifications, particularly in the sensitive Border States in the Upper South. Even before McClellan assumed the duties of general in chief, Federal commanders such as Fremont had attempted to invoke martial law and free slaves.

In no other place and at no other time during the conflict did these issues play such a crucial role in how commanders conducted campaigns.

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It was necessary for the Federal government to proceed with caution against secessionists, thus placing much of the early responsibility for leadership in the war to the states. An overaggressive policy would prove disastrous, and thus commanders were kept on a tight leash when it came to slavery, civilian property, and constitutional rights.

From Fort Henry to Corinth

Union armies were to be seen as extending the guarantees of republican government with every mile they marched into the South. One of the most important features of the war in the West for both armies was not only the relationship between civilian and military authorities but also how that relationship affected campaigns and vice-verse. While Johnston and Davis contemplated the best defensive strategy for maintaining a line that stretched some three hundred miles with fewer than seventy thousand troops, Lincoln, McClellan, Halleck, and Buell considered the best offensive strategy for occupying regions while fighting a limited war.

Therefore, in republican fashion, the formation of the Confederacy represented evidence that individual rights had lost its prominence in shaping national political policy. The Confederacy represented a more conservative form of republicanism, and disunion, many secessionists believed, was an attempt to preserve the fruits of the founding fathers. Thus, the need for government authorities to compose a war plan seemed entwined with why the Southern states left the Union and how they might go about preserving their independence.

Arriving at a unified military plan beyond the obvious need for defense was perplexing in a region that sought to protect the rights of states. Though it was important to win battles on Union soil, it was more important to maintain the integrity of the Southern nation in order to attract and sustain formal international recognition. The rural nature of the South gave reason to believe that residents felt passionately about their land and could easily envision their farms and homes destroyed, their town squares filled with armies, and their communities turned upside down by a war they feared would be fought on their soil.

Residents understood the diametrically opposed feelings of both North and South on the subject of slavery. They watched with some misgivings the increasing bitterness of the controversy from the time it first arose. When the fighting commenced, citizens in the region displayed a natural hesitancy to take sides, and for good reason.

When the issue was defined in terms of union or disunion, states cast their lot with the North, since the generation-old economic allegiances with Union states had helped shape political allegiances. Because of the geographic location, its residents had tended to be nationalistic and the controversy over slavery had been subordinated to other concerns.


Illinoisan Charles W. Commanders unfamiliar with the terrain, both geographic and political, were going to have to rely on experience as much as established military theory as their guide, even when these conflicted. Although Columbus, Kentucky, had high bluffs along the Mississippi, an army could still threaten the city if other streams afforded alternative invasion routes. Anyone looking at a map was sure to figure out that the Cumberland River or the Tennessee River afforded such avenues.

An invading army, however, would have to hold and move beyond Paducah at the confluence of the Tennessee and the Ohio. This could be done by overland march, though not as easily.

As these campaigns unfolded, heartlanders along the rivers would soon experience war. The presence of Union soldiers significantly affected the economic and social lives of Southerners whether they were loyal to the Union or not. As the region came under increasing Federal occupation, Southern civilians would have to reshape and reconstitute their economic and social relationships.

In many respects, the war in the Upper South threatened the same communal ties that had been such an identifiable strength of borderland residents. In his December message to Congress, the president warned legislators that his policy for suppressing the insurrection was crafted to avoid it becoming a violent and remorseless revolutionary struggle. He argued that tremendous changes would accompany a destructive war. Unless the conflict was restricted to a struggle of armies and not societies, the fruits of victory would be difficult to digest.

Still, an impatient and unforgiving public grew increasingly tired of inactivity. Consequently, the Republican majority, frustrated by mounting expenses and the failure of Union armies to advance, decided to take charge in hopes of bringing the conflict to an end. They also hoped to abandon the dominant Union policy of conciliation and targeted confiscation and the abolition of slavery as primary wartime goals, pressuring Lincoln to embrace these aims. The Northern press picked up on this pressure and change of attitude.

As conservative Democrats, neither George McClellan, Henry Halleck, nor Don Carlos Buell considered these measures desirable aims because either would turn a limited insurrection into an outright revolution.

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Like Lincoln, they resisted making war against the Southern populace because it seemed unnecessary. In fact, they came to believe that doing so would excessively burden their military campaigns. This they hoped would also sway masters to reaffirm loyalty to the Union and keep the army from settling debates over the peculiar institution. As the Federal army and navy penetrated the Confederacy, commanders recognized the burden that the war placed on slave labor; the longer the Northern army occupied Southern soil, the more it disrupted the slave-master relationship, which in turn disrupted the Confederate war effort.

Over time, however, civil and military leaders would have to reach a compromise solution if for no other reason than to protect runaways and to pacify radicals. Though the Union was waging what amounted to three wars against the Confederacy—one each in Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri—its high command had yet to attempt any significant coordinating movement. McClellan had done nothing with the Army of the Potomac, and Buell and Halleck appeared to be too busy preparing their armies to actually use them.

Republicans came to believe that the immobility resulted from the lack of coordination between military authorities in any of those states and their insensitivity toward political urgency. Politicians eager to suppress the rebellion urged the president to get the obstinate generals in the West to move by launching offensive campaigns, particularly in regions where there was significant Union sentiment. Lincoln, however, was apprehensive about performing the role of the military commander; that is, his role as commander in chief.

From Fort Henry to Corinth (Campaigns of the Civil War (Book Sales))

Meanwhile, Halleck and Buell remained preoccupied with the organizational and administrative aspects of their departments. In addition, both commanders were frustrated by the large numbers of fugitive slaves appearing almost daily in their camps. Halleck also had to deal with overcoming the corruption in his department left over from John C.

Fremont and an emotionally distraught William T. Consequently, in both western departments there were more internal difficulties to conquer than enemy forces in the field. From a map it was clear that the most significant avenue open to Federal forces was along the rivers that traversed the Confederate heartland. The general in chief argued that the relief of East Tennessee offered not only political significance and protection to Southern Unionists but also the opportunity to cut the vital Virginia and Tennessee Railroad.

The two generals had shaped a strategy before Buell left for Louisville that emphasized a move through Cumberland Gap and down to Knoxville. After surveying the possible routes, however, Buell considered Nashville a better base than the Ohio River city from which to launch a truly powerful offensive into East Tennessee.

The state capitol was closer to the region and afforded rail service from Louisville, the supply base for the Army of the Ohio. Still, Halleck had given considerable thought to the military situation. The western rivers offered the only feasible allseason routes for penetrating the Confederacy at least as far south as northern Alabama. In many ways Halleck and Buell were alike, which surprisingly made cooperating with one another quite difficult. They were both self-absorbed, professionally oriented, and viewed the war through a series of diagrams and maps.


In addition to these concerns, Buell and Halleck shared a like perspective when it came to civil-military relations: military considerations always subordinated political considerations. The editor of the NewYork Herald did an entire article on those responsible for planning the invasion via the rivers.

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Indeed, farmers and merchants who had utilized the waterways for trading had known this for decades. Buell had written to McClellan of his idea for a water-borne invasion shortly after arriving in Louisville. William D. Charles F. Smith and Capt.