Thursday, April 3, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Wednesday, April 3, 1862

Johnston’s Move Against Grant Begins

Early this morning, the 45,000-man Confederate Army of Mississippi begins moving, as ordered yesterday by its commander, Maj. Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston. The Confederates are supposed to approach Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Union forces camped at Pittsburg Landing, 22 miles away, and get in position to attack the next day.

With drums beating and trumpets sounding, the Confederates were roused from their camps at 4 a.m., but confusion and inexperience keeps pushing the departure time back from 6 a.m. It is mid-afternoon before the gray columns began moving out of Corinth, Mississippi.

Once moving, there are still more delays. General Johnston had allowed his second-in-command, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, to organize the line of march. Beauregard put together a plan that is so complicated that the inexperienced soldiers keep getting mixed up or held back as columns run into each other.

Hooting and firing off guns, the green Confederate soldiers make enough racket to wake the dead—but not the Federals, most of whom remain blissfully unaware of the looming danger. It’s not the fault of the ordinary soldiers, some of whom are sensing trouble, but of their top commanders, most of all, Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman and Grant.

It begins to rain. Tired and frustrated, scarcely half-way to their destination, the Confederates halt for the night and try to make themselves comfortable. General Beauregard begins to worry that the element of surprise has been lost.

In one of the most stunningly bad examples of military preparedness in the war, there seems to be almost nothing the Confederates can do to alert Grant’s army. There is a battle coming, and there will be grave failures on both sides. However, one side’s will make more difference than the other’s.

ELSEWHERE IN THE CIVIL WAR: President Lincoln has discovered that McClellan, now on his Peninsula Campaign, had left fewer troops to defend Washington than he had promised. The President tells Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to hold back one of the army corps that had been originally intended for McClellan. Lincoln also directs that General McClellan to “commence his forward movement from his new base at once.” Lincoln keeps getting hard lessons in McClellan’s insistence in conducting warfare more as he pleases than as he is directed.

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.

Your suggestions, comments, and questions about this blog are always welcome. Address the author:

For more information about the author and his newest book, please go to

No comments: