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Western Theater of the American Civil War

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Title: Western Theater of the American Civil War  
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Subject: Eastern Theater of the American Civil War, American Civil War, Battle of Shiloh, Mississippi in the American Civil War, Lower Seaboard Theater of the American Civil War
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Western Theater of the American Civil War

Western Theater Overview (1861–1865)

This article presents an overview of major military and naval operations in the Western Theater of the American Civil War.

Theater of operations

The Western Theater was an area defined by both geography and the sequence of campaigning. It originally represented the area east of the the Carolinas. For operations west of the Mississippi River see Trans-Mississippi Theater of the American Civil War.

The West was by some measures the most important theater of the war. The Confederacy was forced to defend with limited resources an enormous land mass, which was subject to Union thrusts along multiple avenues of approach, including major rivers that led directly to the agricultural heartland of the South. Capture of the Mississippi River was one of the key tenets of Union General Winfield Scott's Anaconda Plan.[1]

The Virginia front was by far the more prestigious theater. ... Yet the war's outcome was decided not there but in the vast expanse that stretched west from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi and beyond. Here, in the West, the truly decisive battles were fought.

Stephen E. Woodworth, Jefferson Davis and His Generals[2]

Stonewall Jackson. Because of this, the progress that Union forces made in defeating Confederate armies in the West and overtaking Confederate territory went nearly unnoticed.[3]

Military historian Thomas, Sherman, and Sheridan) came from this theater, consistently outclassing most of their Confederate opponents (with the possible exception of cavalry commander Nathan Bedford Forrest).[4]

The campaign classification established by the United States National Park Service[5] is more fine-grained than the one used in this article. Some minor NPS campaigns have been omitted and some have been combined into larger categories. Only a few of the 117 battles the NPS classifies for this theater are described. Boxed text in the right margin show the NPS campaigns associated with each section.

Principal commanders of the Western Theater

Early operations (June 1861 – January 1862)

From Belmont (November 1861) to Shiloh (April 1862).

The focus early in the war was on two critical states: [6]

Western Theater Campaigns designated by the National Park Service

On the Confederate side, General Albert Sidney Johnston commanded all forces from Arkansas to the Cumberland Gap. He was faced with the problem of defending a broad front with numerically inferior forces, but he had an excellent system of lateral communications, permitting him to move troops rapidly where they were needed, and he had two able subordinates, Polk and Maj. Gen. William J. Hardee. Johnston also gained political support from secessionists in central and western counties of Kentucky via a new Confederate capital at Bowling Green, set up by the Russellville Convention. The alternative government was recognized by the Confederate government, which admitted Kentucky into the Confederacy in December 1861. Using the rail system resources of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, Polk was able to quickly fortify and equip the Confederate base at Columbus.[7]

The Union military command in the West, however, suffered from a lack of unified command, organized by November into three separate departments: the Tennessee River by attacking the Confederate camp at Belmont to divert attention from Buell's intended advance, which did not occur. On February 1, 1862, after repeated requests by Grant, Halleck authorized Grant to move against Fort Henry on the Tennessee.[8]

Tennessee, Cumberland, and Mississippi Rivers (February–June 1862)

Grant moved swiftly, starting his troops up the Tennessee River toward Fort Henry on river transports on February 2. His operations in the campaign were well coordinated with United States Navy Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote. The fort was poorly situated on a floodplain and virtually indefensible against gunboats, with many of its guns under water. Because of the previous neutrality of Kentucky, the Confederates could not build river defenses at a more strategic location inside the state, so they settled for a site just inside the border of Tennessee. Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilghman withdrew almost all of his garrison on February 5, moving them across country 11 miles (18 km) to the east to Fort Donelson. With a reduced crew manning the cannons, Tilghman fought an artillery duel with the Union squadron for nearly three hours before he determined that further resistance was useless. The Tennessee River was then open for future Union operations into the South.[9]

Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland River, was more defensible than Henry, and Navy assaults on the fort were ineffective. Grant's army marched cross-country in pursuit of Tilghman's men and attempted immediate assaults on the fort from the rear, but they were unsuccessful. On February 15, the Confederate forces under Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd attempted to escape and launched a surprise assault against the Union right flank (commanded by Brig. Gen. John A. McClernand), driving McClernand's division back but not creating the opening they needed to slip away. Grant recovered from this temporary reversal and assaulted the weakened Confederate right. Trapped in the fort and the town of Dover, Tennessee, Confederate Brig. Gen. Simon B. Buckner surrendered his command of 11,500 men and many needed guns and supplies to Grant's demand for "unconditional surrender". The combined victories at Henry and Donelson were the first significant Union victories in the war, and two major rivers became available for invasions into Tennessee.[10]

Johnston's forward defense was broken. As Grant had anticipated, Polk's position at Columbus was untenable, and he withdrew soon after Donelson fell. Grant had also cut the Memphis and Ohio Railroad that previously had allowed Confederate forces to move laterally in support of each other. General P.G.T. Beauregard had arrived from the East to report to Johnston in February, and he commanded all Confederate forces between the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers, which effectively divided the unity of command so that Johnston controlled only a small force at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Beauregard planned to concentrate his forces in the vicinity of Corinth, Mississippi, and prepare for an offensive. Johnston moved his force to concentrate with Beauregard's by late March.[11]

The preparations for the Union campaign did not proceed smoothly, and Halleck seemed more concerned with his standing in relation to General-in-Chief Missouri River to Knoxville, Tennessee, thus achieving the needed unity of command, and Halleck ordered Buell to join Grant's forces at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River.[12]

On April 6, the combined Confederate forces under Beauregard and Johnston surprised Grant's unprepared Army of West Tennessee with a massive dawn assault at Pittsburg Landing in the Battle of Shiloh. In the first day of the battle, the Confederate onslaught drove Grant back against the Tennessee but could not defeat him. Johnston was mortally wounded leading an infantry charge that day; he was considered by Jefferson Davis to be the most effective general in the Confederacy at that time. On the second day, April 7, Grant received reinforcements from Buell and launched a counterattack that drove back the Confederates. Grant failed to pursue the retreating enemy and received enormous criticism for this and for the great loss of life—more casualties (almost 24,000) than all previous American battles combined.[13]

Union control of the Mississippi River began to tighten. On April 7, while the Confederates were retreating from Shiloh, Union Maj. Gen. John Pope defeated Beauregard's isolated force at Island Number 10, opening the river almost as far south as Memphis. On May 18, Admiral David Farragut captured New Orleans, the South's most significant seaport. Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler occupied the city with a strong military government that caused considerable resentment among the civilian population.[14]

Although Beauregard had little concentrated strength available to oppose a southward movement by Halleck, the Union general showed insufficient drive to take advantage of the situation. He waited until he assembled a large army, combining the forces of Buell's Army of the Ohio, Grant's Army of West Tennessee, and Pope's Army of the Mississippi, to converge at Pittsburg Landing. He moved slowly in the direction of the critical rail junction at Corinth, taking four weeks to cover the twenty miles (32 km) from Shiloh, stopping nightly to entrench. By May 3, Halleck was within ten miles of the city but took another three weeks to advance eight miles closer to Corinth, by which time Halleck was ready to start a massive bombardment of the Confederate defenses. At this time, Beauregard decided not to make a costly defensive stand and withdrew without hostilities during the night of May 29.[15]

Grant did not command directly in the Corinth campaign. Halleck had reorganized his army, giving Grant the powerless position of second-in-command and shuffling divisions from the three armies into three "wings". When Halleck moved east to replace McClellan as general-in-chief, Grant resumed his field command, now named the District of West Tennessee. But before he left, Halleck dispersed his forces, sending Buell towards Chattanooga, Sherman to Memphis, one division to Arkansas, and Rosecrans to hold a covering position around Corinth. Part of Halleck's reason for this was that Lincoln desired to capture eastern Tennessee and protect the Unionists in the region.[16]

Kentucky, Tennessee, and northern Mississippi (June 1862 – January 1863)

From Corinth (May 1862) to Perryville (October 1862).

While Halleck accomplished little following Corinth, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg succeeded Beauregard (on June 27, for health reasons) in command of his 56,000 troops of the Army of Tennessee, in Tupelo, Mississippi, due south of Corinth. But he determined that an advance directly north from Tupelo was not practical. He left Maj. Gens. Sterling Price and Earl Van Dorn to distract Grant and shifted 35,000 men by rail through Mobile, Alabama, to Chattanooga. Even though he did not leave Tupelo until July 21, he was able to reach Chattanooga before Buell could. Bragg's general plan was to invade Kentucky in a joint operation with Maj. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, cut Buell's lines of communications, defeat him, and then turn back to defeat Grant.[17]

Kirby Smith left Knoxville on August 14, forced the Union to evacuate Cumberland Gap, defeated a small Union force at the Battle of Richmond (Kentucky), and reached Lexington on August 30. Bragg departed Chattanooga just before Smith reached Lexington, while Buell moved north from Nashville to Bowling Green. But Bragg moved quickly and by September 14 had interposed his army on Buell's supply lines from Louisville. Bragg was reluctant to develop this situation because he was outnumbered by Buell; if he had been able to combine with Kirby Smith, he would have been numerically equal, but Smith's command was separate, and Smith believed that Bragg could capture Louisville without his assistance.[18]

Buell, under pressure from the government to take aggressive action, was almost relieved of duty (only the personal reluctance of George H. Thomas to assume command from his superior at the start of a campaign prevented it). As he approached Perryville, Kentucky, he began to concentrate his army in the face of Confederate forces there. Bragg was not initially present with his army, having decided to attend the inauguration ceremony of a Confederate governor of Kentucky in Frankfort. On October 8, fighting began at Perryville over possession of water sources, and as the fighting escalated, Bragg's Army of Mississippi achieved some tactical success in an assault against a single corps of Buell's Army of the Ohio. That evening Bragg realized that he was facing Buell's entire army and ordered a retreat to Harrodsburg, where he was joined by Kirby Smith's Army of Kentucky on October 10. Despite having a strong combined force, Bragg made no attempt to regain the initiative. Buell was equally passive. Bragg retreated through the Cumberland Gap and returned to Murfreesboro by way of Chattanooga.[19]

While Buell was facing Bragg's threat in Kentucky, Confederate operations in northern Mississippi were aimed at preventing Buell's reinforcement by Grant, who was preparing for his upcoming Vicksburg campaign. Halleck had departed for Washington, and Grant was left without interference as commander of the District of West Tennessee. On September 14, Maj. Gen. Sterling Price moved his Confederate Army of the West to Iuka, 20 miles (32 km) east of Corinth. He intended to link up with Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn's Army of West Tennessee and operate against Grant. But Grant sent forces under Maj. Gens. William S. Rosecrans and Edward Ord to attack Price's force at Iuka. Rosecrans won a minor victory at the Battle of Iuka (September 19), but poor coordination of forces and an acoustic shadow allowed Price to escape from the intended Union double envelopment.[20]

Price and Van Dorn decided to unite their forces and attack the concentration of Union troops at Corinth and then advance into West or Middle Tennessee. In the Second Battle of Corinth (October 3–4), they attacked the fortified Union troops but were repulsed with serious losses. Retreating to the northwest, they escaped pursuit by Rosecrans's exhausted army, but their objectives of threatening Middle Tennessee and supporting Bragg were foiled.[21]

As winter set in, the Union government replaced Buell with Rosecrans. After a period of resupplying and training his army in Nashville, Rosecrans moved against Bragg at Murfreesboro just after Christmas. In the Battle of Stones River, Bragg surprised Rosecrans with a powerful assault on December 31, pushing the Union forces back to a small perimeter against the Tennessee River. But on January 2, 1863, further attempts to assault Rosecrans were beaten back decisively and Bragg withdrew his army southeast to Tullahoma. In proportion to the size of the armies, the casualties at Stones River (about 12,000 on each side) made it the bloodiest battle of the war. At the end of the campaign, Bragg's threat against Kentucky had been defeated, and he effectively yielded control of Middle Tennessee.[22]

Vicksburg Campaigns (December 1862 – July 1863)

Operations against Vicksburg and Grant's Bayou Operations.

Abraham Lincoln believed that the river fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, was a key to winning the war. Vicksburg and Port Hudson were the last remaining strongholds that prevented full Union control of the Mississippi River. Situated on high bluffs overlooking a sharp bend in the river and called the "Gibraltar of the Mississippi", Vicksburg was nearly invulnerable to naval assault. Admiral David Farragut had found this directly in his failed operations of May 1862.[23]

The overall plan to capture Vicksburg was for Ulysses S. Grant to move south from Memphis and Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks to move north from Baton Rouge. Banks's advance was slow to develop and bogged down at Port Hudson, offering little assistance to Grant.[24]

First campaign

Grant's first campaign was a two-pronged movement. William T. Sherman sailed down the Mississippi River with 32,000 men while Grant was to move in parallel through Mississippi by railroad with 40,000. Grant advanced 80 miles (130 km), but his supply lines were cut by Confederate cavalry under Earl Van Dorn at Holly Springs, forcing him to fall back. Sherman reached the Yazoo River just north of the city of Vicksburg, but without support from Grant's half of the mission, he was repulsed in bloody assaults against Chickasaw Bayou in late December.[25]

Political considerations then intruded. Illinois politician and Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand obtained permission from Lincoln to recruit an army in southern Illinois and command it on a river-born expedition aimed at Vicksburg. He was able to get Sherman's corps assigned to him, but it departed Memphis before McClernand could arrive. When Sherman returned from the Yazoo, McClernand asserted control. He inexplicably detoured from his primary objective by capturing Arkansas Post on the Arkansas River, but before he could resume his main advance, Grant had reasserted control, and McClernand became a corps commander in Grant's army. For the rest of the winter, Grant attempted five separate projects to reach the city by moving through or reengineering, rivers, canals, and bayous to the north of Vicksburg. All five were unsuccessful; Grant explained afterward that he had expected these setbacks and was simply attempting to keep his army busy and motivated, but many historians believe he really hoped that some would succeed and that they were too ambitious.[26]

Second campaign

Grant's operations against Vicksburg.

The second campaign, beginning in the spring of 1863, was successful and is considered Grant's greatest achievement of the war (and a classic campaign of military history). He knew that he could not attack through Mississippi from the northwest because of the vulnerability of his supply line; river-born approaches had failed repeatedly. So after movement became possible on dirt roads that were finally drying from the winter rains, Grant moved the bulk of his army down the western bank of the Mississippi. On April 16, U.S. Navy gunboats and troop transports managed at great risk to slip past the Vicksburg defensive guns and were able to ferry Grant's army across the river to land south of Vicksburg at Bruinsburg. Grant employed two strategic diversions to mask his intentions: a feint by Sherman north of Vicksburg and a daring cavalry raid through central Mississippi by Colonel Benjamin Grierson, known as Grierson's Raid. The former was inconclusive, but the latter was a success. Grierson was able to draw out significant Confederate forces, dispersing them around the state.[27]

Grant faced two Confederate armies in his campaign: the Vicksburg garrison, commanded by Maj. Gen. John C. Pemberton, and forces in Jackson, commanded by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, the overall theater commander. Rather than simply heading directly north to the city, Grant chose to cut the line of communications (and reinforcement) between the two Confederate armies. His army headed swiftly northeast toward Jackson. Meanwhile, Grant brought with him a limited supply line. The conventional history of the campaign indicates that he cut loose from all of his supplies, perplexing Pemberton, who attempted to interdict his nonexistent lines at Raymond on May 12. In reality, Grant relied on the local economy to provide him only foodstuffs for men and animals, but there was a constant stream of wagons carrying ammunition, coffee, hardtack, salt, and other supplies for his army.[28]

Sherman's corps captured Jackson on May 14. The entire army then turned west to confront Pemberton in front of Vicksburg. The decisive battle was at Champion Hill, the effective last stand for Pemberton before he withdrew into his entrenchments around the city. Grant's army assaulted the Confederate works twice at great cost at the start of the Siege of Vicksburg but then settled in for a lengthy siege.[29]

The soldiers and civilians in Vicksburg suffered greatly from Union bombardment and impending starvation. They clung to hope that General Johnston would arrive with reinforcements, but Johnston was both cut off and too cautious. On July 4, Pemberton surrendered his army and the city to Grant. In conjunction with the defeat of Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg the previous day, Vicksburg is widely considered one of the turning points of the war. By July 8, after Banks captured Port Hudson, the entire Mississippi River was in Union hands, and the Confederacy was split in two.[30]

Tullahoma, Chickamauga, and Chattanooga (June–December 1863)

From Vicksburg (December 1862 – July 1863) to Chickamauga (September 1863).

After his victory at Stones River, Rosecrans occupied Murfreesboro for almost six months while Bragg rested in Tullahoma, establishing a long defensive line that was intended to block Union advances against the strategic city of Chattanooga in his rear. In April, Union cavalry under Col. Tullahoma Campaign, and drove Bragg from Middle Tennessee.[31]

During this period, Brig. Gen. Columbus, Ohio, and returned to the South.[32]

Tullahoma Campaign.

After delaying for several weeks in Tullahoma, Rosecrans planned to flush Bragg out of Chattanooga by crossing the Tennessee River, heading south, and interdicting the Confederate supply lines from Georgia. He began operations on August 18 and used a two-week [33]

Back in Vicksburg, Grant was resting his army and planning for a campaign that would capture Mobile and push east. But when news of the dire straits of Rosecrans's Army of the Cumberland reached Washington, Grant was ordered to rescue them. On October 17, he was given command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, controlling all of the armies in the Western Theater. He replaced Rosecrans with Thomas and traveled to Chattanooga, where he approved a plan to open a new supply line (the "Cracker Line"), allowing supplies and reinforcements to reach the city. Soon the troops were joined by 40,000 more, from the Army of the Tennessee under Sherman and from the Army of the Potomac under Joseph Hooker. While the Union army expanded, the Confederate army contracted; Bragg dispatched Longstreet's corps to Knoxville to hold off an advance by Burnside.[34]

Battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, Chattanooga Campaign.

The Atlanta and the heart of the Confederacy. Bragg, whose personal friendship with Confederate President Jefferson Davis saved his command following his defeats at Perryville and Stones River, was finally relieved of duty and replaced by General Joseph E. Johnston.[35]

Atlanta Campaign (May–September 1864)

Map of the Atlanta Campaign.

In March 1864, Grant was promoted to Meade, Butler, and Sigel) launched in the direction of Richmond and in the Shenandoah Valley; capture Mobile with an army under Nathaniel Banks; and destroy Johnston's army while driving toward Atlanta. Most of the initiatives failed: Butler became bogged down in the Bermuda Hundred Campaign; Sigel was quickly defeated in the valley; Banks became occupied in the ill-fated Red River Campaign; Meade and Grant experienced many setbacks and much bloodshed in the Overland Campaign before finally settling down to a siege of Petersburg. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign was more successful.[36]

At the start of the campaign, Sherman's Military Division of the Mississippi consisted of three armies: Army of the Cumberland. Opposing him was the Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by Joseph E. Johnston. Sherman outnumbered Johnston 98,000 to 50,000, but his ranks were depleted by many furloughed soldiers, and Johnston received 15,000 reinforcements from Alabama in April.[37]

The campaign opened with several battles in May and June 1864 as Sherman pressed Johnston southeast through mountainous terrain. Sherman avoided frontal assaults against most of Johnston's positions, instead maneuvering in flanking marches around the Confederate defenses. When Sherman flanked the defensive lines (almost exclusively around Johnston's left flank), Johnston would retreat to another prepared position. The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (June 27) was a notable exception, in which Sherman attempted a frontal assault, against the advice of his subordinates, and suffered significant losses, losing 7,000 men versus 700 for Johnston. Both armies took advantage of the railroads as supply lines, with Johnston shortening his supply lines as he drew closer to Atlanta, and Sherman lengthening his own. However, Davis was becoming frustrated with Johnston, who he viewed was needlessly losing territory and was refusing to counterattack or even discuss his plans with Davis.[38]

Just before the Battle of Peachtree Creek (July 20) in the outskirts of Atlanta, Jefferson Davis lost patience with Johnston's strategy and, fearing that Johnston would give up Atlanta without a battle, replaced him with the more aggressive Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood. Over the next six weeks, Hood would repeatedly attempt to attack a portion of Sherman's force which seemed isolated from the main body; each attack failed, often with heavy casualties for the Confederate army. Sherman eventually cut Hood's supply lines from the south. Knowing that he was trapped, Hood evacuated Atlanta on the night of September 1, burning military supplies and installations, causing a great conflagration in the city.[39]

Coincident with Sherman's triumph in Atlanta, Admiral David Farragut won the decisive naval Battle of Mobile Bay on August 24. Steaming past the forts guarding the mouth of the bay, Farragut engaged and forced the surrender of the Confederate fleet defending the city, capturing Admiral Franklin Buchanan. The city itself, long a desired target of Grant's, would remain in Confederate hands until 1865, but the last seaport east of the Mississippi on the Gulf Coast was closed, further tightening the Union blockade. The capture of Atlanta and Mobile Bay together boosted Northern morale and made an enormous contribution to the re-election of Abraham Lincoln.[40]

Franklin-Nashville Campaign (September–December 1864)

Franklin-Nashville Campaign.

While Sherman rested his army in preparation for offensive operations to the east, Hood embarked on a campaign to defeat Sherman by interfering with his lines of communications from Chattanooga. He drove west through Alabama and turned north toward Tennessee, hoping that Sherman would follow him and do battle. This was partially effective because his movements, and raids by Nathan Bedford Forrest, were causing considerable consternation to Sherman. However, the Union general did not fully engage. He sent Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas with portions of the [41]

Thomas's forces were divided: half were with him in Nashville and the other half with John M. Schofield, moving in pursuit from Atlanta, with other troops due to arrive from the Red River Campaign. Hood hoped to defeat Schofield before he could join forces with Thomas and before the reinforcements from Louisiana arrived. He had the chance at the Battle of Spring Hill in Tennessee (November 29, 1864), but the Union troops were able to slip through the trap, due to the Confederate failure to cut the Columbia-to-Franklin turnpike in the Union rear. At the Battle of Franklin the following day, Hood launched repeated massive frontal assaults against strong entrenchments and suffered severe casualties.[42] David J. Eicher wrote that Hood mortally wounded his army at Franklin but killed it at the Battle of Nashville (December 15–16).[43] At Nashville, facing the combined force of Schofield and Thomas, he dug in a few miles south of the city and waited, hoping that Thomas would wreck his army on the Confederate fortifications. After a two-week preparation period in winter weather, during which he received great pressure from Grant and the Union government to attack, Thomas unleashed an overwhelming assault that sent Hood and his survivors in retreat to Franklin and then to Mississippi, never to recover as a fighting force. By his own request, Hood was relieved of command of the Army of Tennessee and Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor was appointed temporary commander of the army.[44]

Sherman's March to the Sea (November–December 1864)

Sherman's March to the Sea.

Sherman's Savannah Campaign is more popularly known as the March to the Sea. He and Grant believed that the Civil War would end only if the Confederacy's strategic, economic, and psychological capacity for warfare were decisively broken. Sherman therefore applied the principles of scorched earth, ordering his troops to burn crops, kill livestock, consume supplies, and destroy civilian infrastructure along their path. This policy is one of the key tenets of a strategy of total war.[45]

Sherman's army left Atlanta on November 15, 1864, and was conducted in two columns separated by about 60 miles (100 km), the right under Maj. Gen. William J. Hardee. Following lengthy artillery bombardments, Hardee abandoned the city and Sherman entered on December 22, 1864. He telegraphed to President Lincoln, "I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the City of Savannah ...."[46]

Carolinas Campaign and the end of the war (February–April 1865)

Carolinas Campaign.

After Sherman captured Savannah, he was ordered by Grant to embark his army on ships to reinforce the Union armies in Virginia, where Grant was bogged down in the South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union, for the effect it would have on Southern morale.[47]

Sherman's plan was to bypass the minor Confederate troop concentrations at Columbia. He faced the smaller and battered Army of Tennessee, again under the command of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. On February 17, Columbia surrendered to Sherman. Fires began in the city, and most of the central city was destroyed. The burning of Columbia has engendered controversy ever since, with some claiming the fires were accidental, others a deliberate act of vengeance. On that same day, the Confederates evacuated Charleston. On February 18, Sherman's forces destroyed virtually anything of military value in Columbia. The last significant Confederate seaport, Wilmington, surrendered on February 22.[48]

When Confederate President Jefferson Davis and general-in-chief Robert E. Lee felt that Beauregard could not properly handle the Union threat, they appointed Johnston to command the Confederate forces in the Carolinas, including the remnants of the Army of Tennessee. Concentrating his forces, which he named the Army of the South, Johnston attacked at the Battle of Bentonville (March 19–21), where he unsuccessfully attempted to defeat one wing of Sherman's army (under Henry W. Slocum) before it could reach Goldsboro or reunite with the other wing under Oliver O. Howard. While the initial Confederate attack overwhelmed the first Union line, Slocum was able to rally enough men to resist Johnston until Howard arrived at the battlefield overnight. Johnston remained on the battlefield for two more days, hoping for another Confederate victory similar to the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, then retreated back to Raleigh, pursued by Sherman.[49]

On April 11, Johnston received word that General [50]

There were other battles during this time: Maj. Gen. [51]

In mid-March, Maj. Gen. Edward R. S. Canby, commanding the Military Division of West Mississippi, landed near the entrance of Mobile Bay and advanced along the eastern shore to Spanish Fort, where the Union forces started a siege on March 27. On April 1, Union forces command by Frederick Steele arrived from an overland route from Pensacola and started besieging Fort Blakely. On April 8, Union forces opened an artillery bombardment on Spanish fort with ninety field pieces, followed by an infantry attack which overwhelmed the Confederate defenders. Canby then moved against Fort Blakely the next day, overrunning that fort as well. These battles forced the Confederate commander of Mobile, Maj. Gen. Dabney H. Maury, to evacuate the city.[52]

When he received word of Lee's and Johnston's surrenders, Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor, commander of the Confederate [53]

Major land battles

The costliest land battles in the western theater, measured by casualties (killed, wounded, captured, and missing), were:[54]

Battle State Date

Strength Commander Casualties
Battle of Chickamauga Georgia September 19–20, 1863 60,000 65,000 William S. Rosecrans Braxton Bragg 16,170 18,454 34,624
Battle of Stones River Tennessee December 31, 1862 – January 2, 1863 41,400 35,000 William S. Rosecrans Braxton Bragg 12,906 11,739 24,645
Battle of Shiloh Tennessee April 6–7, 1862 66,812 44,699 Ulysses S. Grant Albert Sidney Johnston 13,047 10,699 23,746
Siege of Port Hudson Louisiana May 22 – July 9, 1863 35,000 7,500 Nathaniel P. Banks Franklin Gardner 10,000 7,500 17,500
Battle of Missionary Ridge Tennessee November 25, 1863 56,359 44,010 Ulysses S. Grant Braxton Bragg 5,824 6,667 12,491
Battle of Atlanta Georgia July 22, 1864 34,863 40,438 William T. Sherman John Bell Hood 3,641 8,499 12,140
Battle of Nashville Tennessee December 15–16, 1864 55,000 30,000 George H. Thomas John Bell Hood 3,061 6,000 9,061
Battle of Franklin Tennessee November 30, 1864 27,000 27,000 John M. Schofield John Bell Hood 2,326 6,252 8,578
Battle of Perryville Kentucky October 8, 1862 22,000 16,000 Don Carlos Buell Braxton Bragg 4,276 3,401 7,677
2nd Battle of Corinth Mississippi October 3–4, 1862 23,000 22,000 William S. Rosecrans Earl Van Dorn 2,520 4,233 6,753
Battle of Peachtree Creek Georgia July 20, 1864 21,655 20,250 George H. Thomas John Bell Hood 1,710 4,796 6,506
Battle of Champion Hill Mississippi May 16, 1863 32,000 22,000 Ulysses S. Grant John C. Pemberton 2,457 3,840 6,297
Battle of Richmond, Kentucky Kentucky August 29–30, 1862 6,500 6,850 William "Bull" Nelson Edmund K. Smith 5,353 451 5,804

See also


  1. ^ Woodworth, pp. 21–22.
  2. ^ Woodworth, Jefferson Davis, pp. xi-xii.
  3. ^ Woodworth, pp. 18–19.
  4. ^ Fuller (1956), pp. 49–81.
  5. ^ U.S. National Park Service, Civil War Battle Studies by Campaign
  6. ^ Foote, vol. 1, pp. 86–89.
  7. ^ Mulligan, William H., "Interpreting the Civil War at Columbus-Belmont State Park and Sacramento, Kentucky: Two Case Studies", paper presented at "International, Multicultural, Interdisciplinary: Public History Policy and Practice", the 20th Annual Conference of the National Council on Public History, April 16–19, 1998, Austin, Texas.
  8. ^ Foote, vol. 1, pp. 144–52, 178–79.
  9. ^ Cunningham, pp. 44–45, 48–50.
  10. ^ Cunningham, pp. 57–66.
  11. ^ Cunningham, pp. 83, 94–95.
  12. ^ Cunningham, pp. 72–73, 88–89.
  13. ^ Kennedy, pp. 48–52.
  14. ^ Kennedy, pp. 56–59.
  15. ^ Cunningham, pp. 384–95.
  16. ^ Cozzens (1997), pp. 32, 35–36.
  17. ^ Noe, pp. 22, 26–27, 30.
  18. ^ Noe, pp. 37–39, 72.
  19. ^ Noe, pp. 313, 336–38.
  20. ^ Cozzens (1997), pp. 43, 86–114.
  21. ^ Cozzens (1997), pp. 135–37, 315–17.
  22. ^ Kennedy, pp. 151–54.
  23. ^ Groom, p. 132.
  24. ^ Kennedy, pp. 157, 181.
  25. ^ Foote, vol. 2, pp. 70–71, 75–77.
  26. ^ Foote, vol. 2, pp. 64, 133–38.
  27. ^ Groom, pp. 281–87.
  28. ^ Foote, vol. 2, pp. 358–59, 384–86.
  29. ^ Groom, pp. 311–14, 323–25, 342–45.
  30. ^ Foote, vol. 2, pp. 606–14
  31. ^ Foote, vol. 2, pp. 102, 184–86, 670–75.
  32. ^ Foote, vol. 2, pp. 678–83.
  33. ^ Foote, vol. 2, pp. 687–88, 715–48.
  34. ^ Cozzens (1994), pp. 7, 61–65.
  35. ^ Cozzens (1994), pp. 173–90, 205–43, 273–95, 397.
  36. ^ Castel, pp. 63, 66.
  37. ^ Castel, pp. 78–79, 83–87, 127.
  38. ^ Castel, pp. 303–304, 319–20.
  39. ^ Castel, pp. 360–61, 522–24.
  40. ^ Castel, p. 543; Kennedy, p. 374–76.
  41. ^ Sword, pp. 46–51, 59–62.
  42. ^ Sword, pp. 81, 152–55, 261–63.
  43. ^ Eicher, p. 774.
  44. ^ Sword, pp. 290–93, 386, 430–33.
  45. ^ Foote, vol. 3, pp. 614, 622–23.
  46. ^ Foote, vol. 3, pp. 642–54, 711–14.
  47. ^ Hughes, pp. 1–3.
  48. ^ Hughes, pp. 2–3, 21.
  49. ^ Hughes, pp. 21–24,89–91, 168.
  50. ^ Trudeau, pp. 213, 237–42.
  51. ^ Trudeau, pp. 12, 159–68, 252–59.
  52. ^ Trudeau, pp. 6–8, 176–84.
  53. ^ Trudeau, pp. 259–62, 293–94.
  54. ^ All strengths and casualties are cited in the named articles. The Siege of Vicksburg (37,532 total casualties), the Battle of Fort Donelson (16,537), and the Battle of Island Number Ten (7,108) have been omitted from this list because the casualty figures include very high percentages of Confederate soldiers surrendered.


  • Castel, Albert. Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign of 1864. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1992. ISBN 0-7006-0562-2.
  • Cozzens, Peter. The Darkest Days of the War: The Battles of Iuka and Corinth. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997. ISBN 0-8078-2320-1.
  • Cozzens, Peter. The Shipwreck of Their Hopes: The Battles for Chattanooga. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994. ISBN 0-252-01922-9.
  • Cunningham, O. Edward. Shiloh and the Western Campaign of 1862, edited by Gary D. Joiner and Timothy B. Smith. New York: Savas Beatie, 2007. ISBN 978-1-932714-27-2.
  • Eicher, David J. The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. ISBN 0-684-84944-5.
  • Esposito, Vincent J. West Point Atlas of American Wars. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1959. OCLC 5890637. The collection of maps (without explanatory text) is available online at the West Point website.
  • Foote, Shelby. The Civil War: A Narrative. Vol. 2, Fredericksburg to Meridian. New York: Random House, 1958. ISBN 0-394-49517-9.
  • Foote, Shelby. The Civil War: A Narrative. Vol. 3, Red River to Appomattox. New York: Random House, 1974. ISBN 0-394-74913-8.
  • Fuller, Maj. Gen. J. F. C. The Generalship of Ulysses S. Grant. New York: Da Capo Press, 1929. ISBN 0-306-80450-6.
  • Fuller, Maj. Gen. J. F. C. A Military History of the Western World. Vol. 3, From the Seven Days Battle, 1862, to the Battle of Leyte Gulf, 1944. New York: Minerva Press, 1956. OCLC 741433623.
  • Groom, Winston. Vicksburg 1863. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. ISBN 978-0-307-26425-1.
  • Hattaway, Herman, and Archer Jones. How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983. ISBN 0-252-00918-5.
  • Hughes, Nathaniel Cheairs, Jr. Bentonville: The Final Battle of Sherman & Johnston. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996. ISBN 0-8078-2281-7
  • Kennedy, Frances H., ed. The Civil War Battlefield Guide. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1998. ISBN 0-395-74012-6.
  • Noe, Kenneth W. Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001. ISBN 0-8131-2209-0.
  • Sword, Wiley. The Confederacy's Last Hurrah: Spring Hill, Franklin, & Nashville. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1992. ISBN 0-7006-0650-5.
  • Trudeau, Noah Andre. Out of the Storm: The End of the Civil War, April–June 1865. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1994. ISBN 0-316-85328-3.
  • Woodworth, Steven E. Jefferson Davis and His Generals: The Failure of Confederate Command in the West. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1990. ISBN 0-7006-0461-8.
  • National Park Service battle descriptions of the Western Theater

Further reading

  • Bush, Bryan S. The Civil War Battles of the Western Theatre. Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Co., 1998. ISBN 1-56311-434-8.
  • Cozzens, Peter. No Better Place to Die: The Battle of Stones River. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990. ISBN 0-252-06229-9.
  • Cozzens, Peter. This Terrible Sound: The Battle of Chickamauga. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992. ISBN 0-252-01703-X.
  • Grant, Ulysses S. Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant. 2 vols. Charles L. Webster & Company, 1885–86. ISBN 0-914427-67-9.
  • Jones, Evan C., and Wiley Sword, eds. Gateway to the Confederacy: New Perspectives on the Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns, 1862–1863. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-8071-5509-7.
  • Sherman, William T. Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman. 2nd ed. New York: Library of America, 1990. ISBN 0-940450-65-8. First published 1889 by D. Appleton & Co.
  • Welcher, Frank J. The Union Army, 1861–1865 Organization and Operations. Vol. 2, The Western Theater. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993. ISBN 0-253-36454-X.
  • Woodworth, Steven E. Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861–1865. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. ISBN 0-375-41218-2.

External links

  • National Park Service Civil War at a Glance
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