Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart

By Felicity Allen | Go to book overview
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XIV
Commander in Chief

Gen. Robert E. Lee had been poring over the Virginia war maps for a full year. He could visualize the position of his whole army beyond Richmond—Ewell centered just north at Gordonsville with a reserve; to the east, a brigade watching Fredericksburg; Jackson northwest in the Shenandoah Valley. His new command also included North Carolina, where Wilmington, guarded by Fort Fisher, was a major entry for Southern blockade-runners. 1

The president's view had to take in the strategic picture in the whole Confederate States. It was not encouraging. Beauregard had just given up Corinth, Mississippi, to the huge besieging army under Halleck. He slipped quietly south to Tupelo, saving his army, but losing Fort Pillow and Memphis. With Island No. 10 having already surrendered, this gave the Federals control of the river down to Vicksburg. Between there and New Orleans, they already held all but a hundred miles. It also gave them most of Tennessee, though Chattanooga and Knoxville on the eastern edge still secured the vital rail line through the mountains to Virginia. Beauregard's move had lost an equally vital linkof “the Memphis & Charleston” from northeast Alabama to the Mississippi River (and with it Huntsville, the Clays' home). 2

The Trans-Mississippi was quiescent. On the Gulf Coast, Federals in New Orleans always threatened Mobile and had caused evacuation of Pensacola. To the east, Charleston and Savannah were secure, thanks to Lee's fortifying of the year before. He had arrived just as the Union navy, nibbling away at the coast, was biting off a significant chunk between the two cities. Fort Pulaski near Savannah had fallen, and Commodore Samuel F. DuPont's fleet had taken the fine harbor of Port Royal as a base for the blockading Union squadron. Capt. Percival Drayton had helped to wrest their boyhood home, Hilton Head Island,

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