Wednesday, April 16, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Wednesday, April 16, 1862

Old Brains” Takes Charge

Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck—“Old Brains”—arrived at Pittsburg Landing (“Shiloh”) last Friday to take personal command of all forces there. Yesterday, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant wrote Julia that although Halleck is “in command of the whole, Buell & myself [are] commanding our separate armies” (the Army of the Tennessee and the Army of the Ohio, respectively). Wrong.

In fact, Halleck and President Lincoln are working out a plan to punish Grant for his lack of preparedness at Shiloh by relegating him to a meaningless, powerless position as Halleck’s “second-in-command.” For how long is unknown. When Halleck begins his ponderous advance on Corinth, Mississippi, within a few days, Grant will discover Halleck’s orders to Grant’s army are bypassing him, leaving him with little to do.

Until the Federal force begins its advance, however, Halleck keeps busy trying to shape up the troops at Pittsburg Landing. He writes his wife that “this army is undisciplined and very much disorganized, the officers being incapable of maintaining order.” Halleck (who has never commanded anything larger than a platoon before) is bringing a regular army mentality to the reality of volunteer soldiers, who require a different kind of leadership.

In a clumsy attempt to win their respect, he occupies an ordinary soldier’s tent instead of something more comfortable. Then a barrage of directives flow out from the tent, ordering more drilling and less carousing. In a few days, however, this army will begin moving once again and the soldiers will experience a new kind of frustration under Halleck’s leadership.

Although Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s right hand is “temporarily disabled” by inflammation caused by a buckshot wound during the battle of Shiloh, he is anxious to spread the word about how he has redeemed himself. Despite his sore hand, he manages to get off a short letter his brother, Sen. John Sherman, in Washington.

After weeks of suffering shame for his emotional collapse under pressure in Kentucky, Cump wants his brother to know how well he performed during the battle of Shiloh. He includes a copy made of the laudatory letter, recommending promotion, that Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck wrote about him, saying he “contributed largely to the glorious victory of the 7th”.

Sherman brims with new-found confidence. He admits his division of the Army of the Tennessee is made up largely of new troops, some of whom performed badly during the battle of Shiloh, “but I hope by patience to make it as good as any other division of the army.” He concludes, “I believe our hardest fighting is yet to be done, but I have absolute faith in Gels. Halleck, Buell, and Grant.”

ELSEWHERE IN THE CIVIL WAR: President Lincoln signs an act releasing all slaves in the District of Columbia, in return for compensation to owners of sums not to exceed $300. In McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign is stalled in front of Yorktown, Virginia, as the cautious commander of the Army of the Potomac awaits reinforcements and siege guns. In northern Alabama, Ormsby Mitchel’s division of Buell’s Army of the Ohio captures Tuscumbia, after taking Decatur yesterday and Huntsville last Friday. In Richmond, a worried President Jefferson Davis approves the drafting every white male between 18 and 35 for 3 years’ service. No exceptions were designated, although a number will be approved in a few days.

IT’S COMING SOONER THAN YOU THINK: April 12, 2011—scarcely 3 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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