Saturday, March 15, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Saturday, March 15, 1862

Storm Clouds Building

Storm clouds are building in western Tennessee. General William Tecumseh Sherman’s division of the Tennessee River expedition, on steamboats escorted by two gunboats, has probed as far south as Eastport, Mississippi.Their objective was to tear up the track of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, an important transportation link for the Confederacy. Streams swollen by heavy rain defeated the effort; several men drowned and artillery had to be dragged back through the bayous, with water washing over the guns.

Now Sherman backtracks downriver to Savannah, where Gen. Charles F. Smith (shortly to be replaced by General Grant) had made his headquarters. Smith tells Sherman to disembark his division, and that of Gen. Stephen Hurlbut, at Pittsburg Landing, a few miles back upriver at a place called Pittsburg Landing. Sherman and Hurlbut are to position their forces “well back,” so as to leave room for still more Union divisions to come. The forces to assemble here will become known as the Army of the Tennessee.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, now commander of all western forces, orders Brig. Gen. Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio to move out of Nashville and head southwest to support the forces assembling at Pittsburg Landing.

Back at Fort Donelson, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant is busily issuing orders preparatory to resuming command of the Tennessee Rive r expedition. At Corinth, Mississippi, a railroad junction about 22 miles south of Pittsburg Landing, Confederate troops are massing to block any further invasion of the South.

And so the stage will be set for the battle called Shiloh, a name that will stand for one of the bloodiest encounters of the war.

IT’S COMING SOONER THAN YOU THINK: April 12, 2011—less than 3½ years from now!—will be the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1861, April 12 was the day Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

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