ADVANCE PLACEMENT
AMERICAN HISTORY

SHILOH TO CHATTANOOGA

*Review eastern battles:  1st Manassas, where railroads were first used, the Peninsular Campaign, including the Seven Days, when McClellan could well have taken Richmond, the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, in which Jackson held off Union forces three times his number or more, 2nd Manassas, where another Confederate victory convinced Lee to invade Maryland, where he fought at Sharpsburg and withdrew, Fredericksburg, where the South won a great victory, Chancellorsville, another Southern victory won at great cost, and Gettysburg, the largest battle in North America, ever.

*Review the Anaconda Plan.  The blockade is beginning to work and Beauregard is losing his hair dye.  The North must now take the Mississippi, meaning the entire Mississippi Valley, including the Cumberland and the Tennessee.

*As part of the plan to take the Mississippi River (and the Upper South in general), U.S. Grant attacks Fort Henry on the Tennessee River on 6 February, 1862, and ten days later takes Fort Donelson on the Cumberland with the help of Union gunboats sailing off the Ohio River onto its Confederate tributaries.  The Confederate commander had once lent money to Grant when he resigned from the Army for getting in trouble for being a drunk, and he expected some mercy now.  Grant, however, demands unconditional surrender and gets it from everyone but Forrest’s cavalry at Ft. Donelson.

*Not only did this protect the Ohio River, but it let the Union take Nashville.  Lincoln appointed as military governor the most prominent Southern member of Congress to remain loyal to the Union, Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, a former governor, congressman, state legislator, and mayor of Greeneville.

*From Fort Donelson, Grant marched toward the Mississippi leading the Army of the Tennessee.  Along the way, he ran into a major Confederate Army, the Army of Tennessee, commanded by Albert Sidney Johnston.  On 6 April, 1862, Johnston’s army surprised Grant’s men, in some cases overrunning camps where men were cooking breakfast—the hungry Confederates stopped to eat their bacon.

*Forces Engaged: Army of the Tennessee and Army of the Ohio (65,085) [US]; Army of the Mississippi (44,968) [CS]

*Mst of the Yankees ran, but Prentiss’s division held out valiantly for most of the day in a sunken road that came to be called the Hornet’s Nest, for the buzzing of bullets overhead.  Eventually, after being pounded by artillery, they were all killed or captured.
 
*Grant’s men were pushed all the way to the edge of the Tennessee River.  However, during the fighting, Johnston was killed, bleeding to death from a wound in the leg.  His surgeon could have saved him if he had not been sent off to tend to Yankee prisoners.  Johnston was (for the moment) replaced by Beauregard, who did not win the battle.

*During the night, Grant was reinforced by General Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio.  They fought back the next day, and the fighting was intense and bloody.  By the end of the 7th, more men had died in this single battle than in all previous American wars put together.

Estimated Casualties: 23,746 total (US 13,047; CS 10,699)

*Despite winning the battle, some of Lincoln’s advisors wanted Grant relieved of command because of the shock at the terrible death toll.  Lincoln refused, saying he needed a man who would fight.

*From this difficult victory, the Union Army captured Memphis and then went to attack Vicksburg.  This was an important fortified city on the Mississippi.  Until the Union controlled the city, they could not control the Mississippi River.  Grant would try to attack Vicksburg from several angles, repeatedly without success.  This would occupy him for the next 14 months.

*Beauregard had health problems, and also did not get along with Davis, so he was replaced by Davis’s friend, Braxton Bragg, who had served with him (and performed brilliantly) at Buena Vista.

*Bragg had many detractors.  A significant number of his officers (especially his second-in-command, General Leonidas K. Polk, Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana) thought him incompetent, a tyrannical martinet, and possibly insane, and sometimes would not follow orders.  His men did not, on the whole, love him, and he has been largely regarded as a poor general, and occasionally blamed for the South’s entire loss of the War.  This may not be entirely fair—some of his men and officers (and interested civilians) felt that he did the best he could with what he had, for attention, and more importantly, men and materiel, were mostly concentrated in the Eastern theatre.  He was, by all accounts, good at administration and at organising his army, but he was not good at getting along with other people, especially those he disliked, and as the 5th highest ranking general in the entire CSA, he had to be able to deal with such, nor was he typically a good leader in the field.

*In the fall of 1862, as Lee marched into Maryland, Bragg marched into Kentucky and performed moderately well, but like Lee was fought to a draw at Perryville and ended up retreating to Murfreesboro, where (in a battle also called Stones River) on 31 December 1862 to 2 January 1863 General William Rosecrans with 44,000 men beat Bragg’s 37,000, forcing him to retreat to Chatanooga.  Casualties: 23,515 total (US 13,249; CS 10,266)

*This victory boosted the morale of Grant’s Army of the Tennessee, which had repeatedly failed to approach Vicksburg, let alone capture it.  Seven attempts to do so failed, partly due to the Confederate defence and partly to the swampy terrain that surrounded it, making it hard for he Union to approach the city, which guarded the Mississippi.  Many men died of disease in the horrendous environment.

*Finally, on 18 May 1863, after a daring amphibious landing near the city and hard fighting to get close, Grant began to besiege Vicksburg (under the command of John Pemberton), shelling the town constantly.  The people would live in improvised bomb shelters, and eventually be reduced to eating horses to survive.  They expected to be relieved by Joe Johnston, but he never arrived to save them.  On 4 July, after a month and a half under siege, the city surrendered on the same day Lee began his retreat from Gettysburg.  The Mississippi belonged to the Union again.  These victories combined cause many people to consider this either the turning point of the War (although some view Sharpsburg as the true turning point).

*Lee sent Longstreet west to help Bragg, but, like many generals, Longstreet did not get along with his new commander.  Nonetheless, they worked well together when the US Army approached Chattanooga and attacked Bragg.  The Confederate army withdrew, but not too far, and Rosecrans pursued to a little creek called the Chickamauga.

*On 18 September, Bragg attacked.  Rosecrans held at first, but on 19 September, he was told there was a gap in his line.  He sent men to fill it, but in doing so opened up a new gap in his line.  Longstreet’s division commander Hood rushed into the breech, disrupting the Federal Army so that most fled, although Hood was shot in the right leg and it was amputated.  A few soldiers under General Thomas (the Rock of Chickamauga) held on to defend their fleeing comrades, and finally pulled out (and back to Chattanooga) on 20 September, partly under the direction of James Garfield, Rosecrans’ chief of staff (Rosecrans had already left the field).  It claimed an estimated 34,624 casualties (16,170 for the Union; 18,454 for the Confederates).  Bragg’s army eventually pursued the Union back to Chattanooga and surrounded the town, but, had they moved more swiftly and decisively, they might have taken the town and captured the army, or even destroyed the army as it retreated.  Instead, Bragg did not pursue his enemies until they were safe in Chattanooga and it was too late.  Longstreet, Forrest, Polk, Hardee, and other generals called for Bragg’s removal, but Davis would not assent to that.

*To get rid of Longstreet, who was plotting against him, and to divert Federal troops from the relief of Chattanooga, Bragg sent Longstreet to attack Knoxville, presently held by Burnside.  In the battle of Fort Sanders (29 November), Longstreet’s men, trying to sneak up to the fort in the night, tripped on telegraph wire strung for that purpose, fell in a moat around the fort, and eventually retreated in shame.

*A portion of General Burnside's Union army passed through Johnson City during the latter part of the war, and engaged a detachment of the enemy near Watauga, five miles east of the city--then known as "Carter's Depot."  It is said that firing of the cannon could be heard all the way to Henry Johnson's Depot.  He took Jonesborough in September to seize the supple of salt, for which Lincoln cursed the entire town.

*In October, Grant was given overall command of the Western armies, and he went to Chattanooga.  He replaced Rosecrans with Thomas, and began to attack the Confederates on 23 November.  On 24 November the Union took Lookout Mountain, and on the 25th, Missionary Ridge.  The Confederates would retreat from the Chatannooga area into Georgia.  Combined with Longstreet’s loss at Fort Sanders, this gave Tennessee to the Union.

*On 27 December 1863, Bragg would be (reluctantly) replaced by Joseph Johnston.  His job would be to prevent Grant from pushing into Georgia.  Grant would be promoted to Lieutenant-General and overall commander of the US Armies and brought back East in March, 1864, and Sherman would replace him in the West.

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This page last updated 3 December, 2003.