How America Fought Its Wars: Military Strategy from the American Revolution to the Civil War

By Victor Brooks; Robert Hohwald | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 26
A Long and Strong Flood

The Confederate Counter-Offensive of 1862

Independence Day of 1862 was a particularly unsatisfying celebration for most citizens of the Northern states. The Union cause had raised two magnificent armies that were so large and so well equipped that Marlborough and Wellington would have envied their commanders. And yet, on this patriotic festival, these two armies of almost a quarter million men were doing precisely nothing to end the rebellion. A few weeks before this 4th of July, it had seemed that the Confederacy was a doomed experiment that would simply shatter into pieces if the Rebel armies were defeated once or twice more. However, ironically, just a few weeks after this holiday, the tide of battle would change so dramatically that most Southerners, many Northerners, and not a few influential Europeans, were convinced that the war was indeed virtually over, but with independence for the South virtually assured. From Mississippi to Virginia the Northern engine of war was losing momentum and several energetic Southerners were perfectly prepared to fill this void of power.

The western army of the Union had accomplished its initial objective of capturing Corinth, but its cautious commander, Henry W. Halleck, had promptly thrown away even the hollow victory he had secured by dismantling an army that could have marched anywhere it cared to in the heart of the secessionist republic. Don Carlos Buell was ordered to march toward Chattanooga with four divisions, but the need to almost literally rebuild the whole railroad line for several hundred miles promised to make this advance an excruciatingly slow campaign. William T. Sherman was sent west with three divisions to garrison Memphis and repair that region's railroads with an eye to restoring the cotton trade from that city. John McClernand was given two divisions and sent to Jackson, Tennessee to repair the railroad lines back to the North, while Halleck would remain with the rest of the army and supervise railroad repairs in Mississippi. Thus an

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