Stanton: The Life and Times of Lincoln's Secretary of War

By Benjamin P. Thomas; Harold M. Hyman | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XIV
TRAMPLED BY THE HOOF OF WAR

WITH Bragg's army driven off, the energetic Grant renewed his proposal to attack Mobile and then to use that city as a base to bring the remainder of Mississippi and part of Alabama and Georgia under Union control. He argued that the winter weather would enable him to hold his present line in eastern Tennessee with a minimum of troops, and that only by sending large numbers of men from northern Virginia could the Confederates hope to check his advance. If they did this, then the Army of the Potomac could crush a weakened Lee. The plan was the only one that could be carried out during the winter, and it might end the rebellion by spring.

At the White House, Halleck insisted that any weakening of Grant's forces in Tennessee would enable Longstreet to take Knoxville, Cumberland Gap, or some other strategic point. Stanton and Dana, advocating immediate approval of Grant's idea, felt that any Confederate pressure in the West could be overmatched if the Army of the Potomac in the East moved on Lee. But none of them, they acknowledged, trusted Meade to move in; he seemed to Stanton to be always "on the back track . . . without a fight." They thought of Sherman or William F. Smith to succeed Meade.

Lincoln hesitated, mindful of the possible resentment of the Army of the Potomac toward another interference from Washington, yet, as Garfield confided to Rosecrans, the President and Stanton were "immensely disgusted with the late operations of the Army of the Potomac." Finally Lincoln shelved Grant's plan because of lack of confidence in Meade and hesitancy in removing him, and the Union armies

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