ON DECEMBER 9, 1862, Major General Ulysses S. Grant, with headquarters at Oxford, Mississippi, had advanced in the previous five weeks from his base in Tennessee halfway toward Vicksburg. He planned to establish a major supply base at Grenada for a continued advance down the Mississippi Central Railroad to Jackson, while Major General William T. Sherman embarked at Memphis for a direct assault on Vicksburg. Later that month, Confederate cavalry raids destroyed the U. S. base at Holly Springs and cut supply and communication lines; then Sherman's expedition met a bloody repulse at Chickasaw Bayou. In response to the raids, Grant withdrew most of his troops from northern Mississippi and went to Memphis. Reconsidering later his abandonment of the overland campaign against Vicksburg, Grant concluded that if he had then known the demoralized condition of his opponents and the abundance of supplies in Mississippi, he would have continued to advance despite the raids.
If December, 1862, had been a bad month for Grant, it was even worse for Major General Ambrose E. Burnside and the Army of the Potomac, disastrously repulsed at Fredericksburg. At the end of the month in middle Tennessee the battle of Murfreesboro or Stone's River brought the Army of the Cumberland under Major General William S. Rosecrans heavy casualties and no conclusive results. Stung by Democratic resurgence in the fall elections of 1862, the administration desperately needed to turn the tide of war. New government policy implemented by the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, and beginning efforts to recruit Negro troops divided public opinion through the North, and the controversy extended into Grant's army.