Oh, But That He Was Ours!
Robert E. Lee and the Redemption of
Few Americans, whether unionist or secessionist in their sympathies, realized at the time that the two months of May and June, 1862 would change the course of the Civil War from an imminent Federal victory to the beginning of a Northern crisis that would come close to providing the Confederate States of America with its independence before Halloween. During those two crucial months, just as two enormous Union armies were on the verge of securing their primary objectives, the tide of the war would alter to push one army ever further from its target while the other force would quickly discover that the capture of its objective was at best, a hollow prize.
While George McClellan's Army of the Potomac had been inching its way up the Virginia Peninsula to threaten Richmond, his western counterpart, Henry Wager Halleck, had been moving at an equally glacial pace toward the important Mississippi rail center at Corinth. After the battle of Shiloh, Halleck had taken field command of Grant's Army of the Tennessee, Buell's Army of the Cumberland, and John Pope's Army of the Mississippi and ordered this concentrated mass of 15 divisions and 120,000 men toward Corinth. Pierre Beauregard had withdrawn the survivors of the attack on Pittsburg Landing back to that rail hub and then tried to formulate a response to the Union advance. The Creole had plenty of time to think as Halleck was approaching at a rate of less than one mile a day, with a daily extravaganza of entrenchment building to avoid another surprise like Shiloh. Halleck must have employed intelligence agents with the same counting abilities as McClellan's men, because he was convinced that the Rebel garrison of Corinth was slightly over 200,000 men which, when combined with the 200,000 Rebels that McClellan insisted were around Richmond meant that these two generals thought they were encountering