Grant was able to follow-up the naval victory at Fort Henry with an attack against Fort Donelson on Feb. 12, 1862. If victory was to be won here, it would be up to Grant’s infantry. By the time he reached Fort Donelson his force had grown to nearly 25,000 men.
Grant had an additional advantage in that the defending Confederate force was led by two political appointees Generals Pillow and Floyd. Neither of them had ever led men in battle. After their performance at Fort Donelson, neither would ever be allowed to do so again.
Fort Donelson had been better positioned and build by Confederate engineers than Fort Henry and it had better armament. Defended by well over 15,000 men, it would be be as easily captured wither. Never-the-less, Grant intended to move against the fort as soon as his troops were in position.
On Feb., 14th, Captain Foote sailed his fleet of ironclads and timberlands vessels withing 350 yards of the fort. Moving on swift water his ships suffered such serious damage from the defender’s guns that he had to withdraw all of his ships. In fact, Foot’s ship, the st. Louis, was hit, too. The ship’s pilot was killed and Foote was fatally wounded.
Meanwhile, Grant’s force began to dig in, surrounding the fort.
Before he could complete these arrangements, however, CSA General Floyd orderd an attack against the weakest part of Grant’s position. This attack was designed to forge an escape route away from Donelson and a path toward Nashville. After what has been described an fierce fighting, the Confederates were successful. But, instead of taking advantage of the opening, thus saving his army, CSA General Pillow ordered a withdrawal to the safety of the defenses of the fort.
Grant then moved quickly to close the opening in his lines and ordered a general attack of his own. As a result, the original lines were re-established. Where-upon, Generals Floyd and Pillow decided to flee. Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest refused to surrender and escaped instead with his cavalry to Nashville. General Buckner was left to surrender Fort Donelson and with it, an entire Confederate army of over 15,000 men.
When Buckner asked for terms, Grant replied, “No terms except unconditional surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.”
General Buchner surrended Fort Donelson and with it over 15,000 soldiers. From this point on, Gen Ulysses S. Grant was referred to in the Northern press as ‘Unconditional Surrender Grant’.
Once he approved the joint naval and land operation against two Tennessee River fortifications, Fort Henry and Fort Donelson twelve miles away, General Halleck gave the project his full support. He even transferred 5,000 soldiers to Grant from General Buell’s army.
The stakes were high. At stake for the Confederates was their entire position in the state of Kentucky, control of Nashville, Tennessee and the fort which dominated the Mississippi River at Columbus, Kentucky. Also, at risk was the Confederate control of the Memphis & Charleston railroad in western Tennessee.
In preparation for the attacks, Grant had difficulty finding adequate river transportation for his approximate 15,000 man force. Divided into two divisions, he could only move one at a time into position for his move against Fort Henry. That problem and bad roads & streams swollen by spring floods slowed him down, too. So, naval Captain Andrew Foote, began the attack against fort Henry without infantry support on the 6th of February, 1862.
Foote’s ironclads led the attack firing directly into Fort Henry. The Timberland boats under his command followed in line to lob mortar shells into the fort, as well. In short order, the fort’s building and tents were ablaze and only four of it’s eleven guns remained in operation. But, the Confederates gave as good as they got, damaging several of the Federal boats.
Never-the-less, anticipating the expected arrival of Grant’s force of 15,000 men, the Confederate Commander, General Tilghman, ordered the white flag of surrender raised. Then, he directed his troops to leave for Fort Donelson twelve miles away.
Several of Foote’s boats were damaged in the fight and would not be available for the attack on Fort Donelson. The capture of Fort Henry had been a naval victory. But the subsequent assault on Fort Donelson would be up to the Federal infantry.
After the Union’s disastrous defeat at Bull Run, Virginia in July 1861, Lincoln appointed an Ohio militia leader, General George McClellan to reorganize the Union’s shattered army. Thereafter, McClellan seemed loath to take direction from his superiors. Writing to his wife, he described Lincoln as a baboon. He related to her “… the Prsdt is an idiot, the old General (Scott) in his dotage – they cannot or will not see the true state of affairs.”
That opinion prompted McClellan to ignore Lincoln’s repeated suggestions and even Lincoln’s pleas for the general to do something with the Union’s new Army of the Potomac.
The situation in the West wasn’t much better. When Lincoln urged General Halleck, commander of the Western Department headquartered in St. Lewis, to begin military operations, he was told that orders from Gen. McClellan were needed; more excuses for delay.
For the Confederate States of America to win its independence, it was essential that they maintain control of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Toward that end, forts were established on tributary rivers like, the Tennessee and Cumberland on the Upper Mississippi and at New Orleans and Vicksburg on the Lower Mississippi. To wrest control of the Mississippi from the Confederate government, the Union had to capture such strong points.
Ulysses s. Grand, was a political appointee of the Illinois governor. Grant commanded state militia stationed in Cairo, Illinois on the Upper Mississippi. In January 1862, he suggested to his military superior, General Halleck, that he be allowed to attack Fort Henry guarding the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson, ten miles overland, guarding the Cumberland River. Halleck refused to approve Grant’s proposal. It wasn’t that Halleck did not feel the project had merit. Rather, he just did not want to approve any venture under Grant’s command.
Halleck did not like Grant. His animosity went back to their military service in California. There, Halleck knew Grant as a man who could not hold his liquor; a man who was forced to resign his army commission or face a court martial for being intoxicated on duty.
But, the Grant of 1861, was a much different man. He was now a sober man and a determined one, too.Without orders, he sent some of his men east to occupy the undefended town of Paducah, which town commanded a key position on the Ohio River. He also enlisted the support of naval Captain Foote for a joint naval/army operation against forts Henry and Donelson. He and Foote proposed the joint attack to Halleck again on January 28, 1862.
Halleck knew the strategic importance of the two forts. And, Grant and Foot’s proposal came at a time when Lincoln was putting pressure on Halleck to begin some sort of offensive operation in the West early in February. So, this time, Halleck approved the joint proposal to attack the two river forts.
The approval came precisely at the same time that the new specially designed military river craft were delivered to Halleck’s command. In January 1862, Foot took delivery of seven City Class ironclads. Designed by Sam Pook to manage the river shallows, they were built by James Eads. He employed thousands of men in round the clock work at several sites. These boats were heavily armored and well-armed. Awarded a contract in the summer of 1861, he promised delivery by year’s end; and he delivered.
The Confederate government never had anything on the western waters to match them.
In 1861, the Confederate government’s goal was to maintain its independence. And, once their military forces in Charleston, South Carolina were ordered to fire on Fort Sumter, they, in effect, declared their intention to use armed force to obtain that goal.
Upon the loss of Fort Sumter, the President of the United States asked for 75,000 volunteer troops in order to force the states in secession back into the Union. A war was thus initiated between the two governments. How did the Confederate government intend to win that conflict and thus achieve their goal of independence?
Jefferson Davis decided the best strategy was to adopt a defensive posture. This was called a ‘cordon defense’ and it involved defending all the borders of the new nation while not taking offensive action against the North. The Confederate victory at Bull Run in July 1861 left the Federal capital of Washington City virtually undefended. But, Davis resisted the advice of his victorious Bull Run general, P.T. Beauregard and refused permission to advance against the undefended Federal capital.
Almost immediately, Davis ordered the Barrier Islands of South Carolina and Georgia to be abandoned because it was decided they could not be successfully defended.
To the north, the Confederate claim that the Ohio river was their northern-most border was successfully challenged by Federal forces. The western CSA command, under Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston had his command headquarters in Bowling Green, Kentucky Early in 1862 however, the loss of Fort Donelson, TE to Grant and his Union troops, forced General Johnston to withdraw entirely from Kentucky. Thus, that state was lost to the Confederacy as was an entire army of between 15,,000 and 18,000 men captured at Fort Donelson.
The loss of Fort Donelson had other consequences, too. Nashville, Tennessee, the capital of that state was also lost to the South. The dominating fort at Columbia, Kentucky had to be abandoned to the Federals, too. Thus, the defensive line had to be moved considerably south of the Ohio River.
The federal strategy of re-capturing control of the Mississippi River was being successfully carried out on the lower Mississippi, too when admiral Farragut captured New Orleans in April of 1862. He then followed this by taking by Baton Rouge and Natchez that same spring. Memphis on the northern Mississippi River would soon follow. When Vicksburg fell in July of 1863, the Confederacy was split in two and the ‘cordon defense’ strategy was in shambles.
By then, the only hope for the Confederate government to achieve their independence was for Lincoln to loose the November election of 1864 to the nominee of the Democrat Party. That party’s platform promised to end the war by negotiating a peace with the Confederate government.
At the outbreak of war, President Lincoln insisted that the war policy of the United States government was to restore the Union.
“If I could restore the Union without freeing one slave, I would do it.”
General Winfield Scott was Lincoln’s chief military advisor. Lincoln asked the general to recommend a strategy to accomplish his policy of restoring the Union.
Scott’s recommendation had several elements, all designed to accomplish the policy of restoring the Union as quickly as possible while causing the least destruction and loss of lives.
1. Blockade all the ports of the Confederate States of America thus”
a. Preventing the export of goods
b. Preventing the importation of civilian goods and war material.
2. Recapture control of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, thus:
a. Splitting the Confederate States of America virtually ihn half.
b. Regaining control of tributaries of the Mississippi, New Orleans, and other important river ports on that river.
c. Answering the demand made by leaders in the Midwest.
3. Raise and train an army of 300,000 men for a war lasting two to three years. By the time this army was ready, the achievement of #1 & #2 above would render the CSA too seriously weakened to offer much resistance. Then, Southern Unionists would lead their states back into the Union without major blood-letting by either side.
In derision, the Northern press called Scott’s plan, the ‘Anaconda’. Instead of supporting it, they trumpeted the widely held belief espoused by Secretary of State Seward, that one or two battles would settle the issue and result in the collapse of the CSA and thus the re-uniting of the United States as it was in November of 1860.
So, the battle-cry, ‘On to Richmond’ was trumpeted throughout the North. Toward that end, Lincoln hoped jhis ninety-day volunteers would be enough to end the war quickly.
General Edward McDowell warned Lincoln and his cabinet that the expanded Union army was not ready for combats. Never-the-less, McDowell was ordered to march his men south to meet the equally inexperienced Confederate army under the command of General Pierre Beauregard, the hero of Fort Sumter.
The two forced met in Virginia on July 20, 1861. The battle was fought on a plateau along a creek called Bull Run. The Federals were on the verge of victory. Then, General Joe Johnston (CSA) arrived on the battlefield just in time to surprise the Federals, turn the tide in favor of the Confederates and start a general rout of Lincoln’s young army.
Angry over the surprising loss, public opinion in the North forced Lincoln to move quickly. He announced that an Ohio general of militia would be given the responsibility of rebuilding the Union army so recently shattered at the battle of Bull Run.
That Ohio general, George McClellan had become somewhat of a hero in the North. Under his leadership his Ohio militia army had helped the people of northwest Virginia break away from Virginia and form the state of West Virginia.
So, it was to General George McClellan that Lincoln gave the responsibility of rebuilding the Union army in the East. By the end of 1861, McClellan’s influence had proved to be so great that he was was able to replace his mentor, Gen. Winfield Scott, and thus take over command of all Federal forces. He wrote his wife that he had been given so much power that he believed he could become a dictator if he chose to do so.
He did not. But, he resisted all of Lincoln’s efforts to make him use his newly organized Army of the Potomac. He kept insisting that his army was too small and not sufficiently trained to move into battle. So, for the remainder of 1861, he managed to avoid Lincoln’s wish for him to use the new army and therefore to avoid engaging the Confederate armies in either the East or the West.
By January 1862, both President Lincoln and his new Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton were out of patience with General McClellan in the East and General Halleck in the West. So, Lincoln issued Executive Order #1 requiringGenral Halleck to initiate offensive operations in the West by February, 1862.
Thus it was that Halleck ordered General Grant and naval Captain Foote to attack and capture Forts Henry and Donelson. They did so successfully. So began the Union’s war in the West to regain control of the Mississippi River and its tributaries.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in April of 1861: “The attack on fort Sumter crystallized the North into a unit…”
So, the Confederate Secretary of State Robert Toombs was correct about the effect of the bombardment. He had advised President Davis, not to authorize an attack on Fort Sumter , “…it is unnecessary. It puts us in the wrong. It is fatal.”
The South did not need to attack the fort when it did. The Union commander there, Major
Anderson told the Confederate military commander in Charleston, General Beauregard, that he would run out of food by April 15. Then, he would have to surrender the fort at noon on that date if not resupplied.
Waiting was not acceptable to President Davis and his cabinet. Beauregard was ordered to ask for the surrender one more time. If refused, he was directed to take the fort by force. Major Anderson refused. So, bombardment on the fort began on April 12, 11861 atr four-thirty in the morning.
Had Confederate leaders been willing to suffer the shame of the Yankees holding Fort Sumter longer, they could have better prepared themselves for the expected conflict with the Union.
By waiting, they could have expedited the export of their cotton to the factories of Europe and the North without having to contend with the Union’s blockade. This export would have given them money to import weapons and military supplies needed to defend their independence.
In addition, by waiting, they could have forced the Union to be the aggressor. Instead, President Davis caused a war which, as predicted by the Confederate Secretary of State Robert Toombs, caused a firestorm of anger in the North against the South. The rash act of President Davis caused a war to begin with the North for which the Confederate States of America was woefully unprepared to fight.
At the very time the attack on Fort Sumter was ordered, the South had no army or navy. It had no steel making facility or factory to make armaments or gunpowder. Its population in 1860, was 9,103,332 pf which 3,523,110 were slaves, compared to 22,339,991 citizens in the Free states of the North. In 1861, there were 128,300 industrial firms in the United States Of this number only 18,206 factories were located in the South producing less than 10% of the total industrial output of the country. In addition, the Union had 22,085 miles of railroad track compared to 8,541 miles of track in the South; and these of various gauges.
At the beginning of the conflict, the South had 1,140,000 men between the fighting ages of 15 and 40 years old. The North had over 4,010,000 men in this same age range. Also, Lincoln chose to increase the number of fighting men available to him by recruiting 180,000 Negros as well.
By any measure, the Confederate States of America were unprepared to begin a war with the North.
Both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis received advice from men in and out of their administrations during the secession spring of 1861. Both leaders were told that peace was preferable to war.
In the North, Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Post, the newspaper with the largest circulation in the United States, urged Lincoln to let the South go their own way. General Taylor, Lincoln chief military adviser, also urged the president to wish the Confederate States of America well and let them go.
Republican leaders in the mid-west however, wanted Lincoln to recover control over the Mississippi River and New Orleans; by whatever means necessary. But, northern manufacturers, shippers and bankers believed war was not good for business. They wanted a peaceful solution to the secession crises, not war.
Lincoln’s Secretary of State Seward wanted a peaceful solution to the secession crises, too. Toward that end, he met with representatives of the Confederate States in Washington City after Lincoln’s inauguration. Seward assured them that property still held by the Union within the boarders of the CSA, would be relinquished peacefully.
But, Seward did not accurately represent Lincoln’s views on the matter. In fact, Lincoln had already made it very clear in his inaugural address that he held a view contrary to Seward’s. Lincoln said that he did not intend to relinquish control over any Federal property claimed by the Confederate States of America.
In the South, some members of the President Davis cabinet cautioned him that moving aggressively to take Federal property (like Fort Sumter) was not a wise move. His Secretary of State Robert Tombs reminded him that many in the North wanted Lincoln to maintain the peace at all costs. He also predicted that any attack on federal property by the Confederate government would unite those people (even Democrats) behind Lincoln’s hard -line policy. Thus Lincoln would have the excuse he needed for a war against the Confederate States of America.
Into this crises came the issue of the tariff.
In March of 1861, the federal tariff again became part of the national discussion. From the earliest days of the Union, Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party had support a revenue tariff only. On the other hand, Hamilton’s Federalist Party, later the Whigs, later the Republicans, supported a protective tariff.
In the late 1820s, a very high protective tariff was passed into law to embarrass President John Quincy Adams. In opposition, the state of South Carolina threatened not to enforce the new tariff, and possibly secede instead. This ‘Nullification’ issue as it was called was settled by a Congressional compromise. So, by 1846, a tariff structure satisfactory to both the industrial North and the agricultural South was in place. In 1857, despite a recession in the North, representatives of the new Republican Party along with Northern & Southern Democrats in the Congress agreed to lower tariffs in response to a treasury surplus and a desire to stimulate trade.
In 1860, Republican congressmen and a few Northern Democrats supported the idea of higher tariffs to protect various industries in the North, particularly steel in Pennsylvania and the textile industry of New England.
The emergence of the Republican Party in the North saw increased pressure to pass a protective across the board, (for all imported goods). During the 36th Congress (May 1860), the Republican majority in the House of Representatives passed a sharply increased tariff called, the Morill Tariff. This bill was pass on May 10, 1860 by a vote of 105 – 64. the vote largely followed sectional lines.
The bill was sent to the Senate where it was bottled up in the Democrat controlled Finance Committee. Later, the votes to stop the implementation of the Morrill Tariff were lost after 14 Senators from the Deep South who opposed the measure, left the Senate when their states seceded from the Union.
As soon as the Morill Tariff was passed it was sent to President Buchanan. He signed it into law on March 5, 1861 the day before Lincoln took the oath of office. On March 11, 1861 the Confederate Congress responded with a revenue tariff bill instituting which was a much lower tariff system for the Confederate States of America.
The scene was set for a tariff war. How did this effect efforts for peace?
Abraham Lincoln took office on March 6, 1861. By this time, seven states that had been a part of the United States on election day in 1860, had left the union. Also, by the end of February, representatives of those seven states met and had formed a separate union called the Confederate States of America. They had written their own constitution, selected their own president. elected their own congress and established their own judiciary.
In his inaugural address, Lincoln refused to recognize secession or the formation of the Confederate States of America. On the contrary, he insisted that he would enforce the laws of the United States in all the states as they existed in November of 1860. He warned that to have sized federal property was illegal and an act of rebellion.
Despite the fact that the Constitution of the United States did not address secession, he insisted that its prohibition was implied. Therefore, he insisted, secession was rebellion. And, thus, it was his constitutional duty as president to suppress it, by force if necessary.
During March of 1861, the question of the control of some Federal property became the focal point of the issue. One such piece of property was a harbor fort (Fort Sumter) located in the port of Charleston, South Carolina. Another such fort (Fort Pickins) was located in the Panhandle of Florida. Confederate commissioners met with the US Secretary of State Seward in March and April to negotiate the transfer of those facilities to the CSA.
Lincoln asked his cabinet members to advise him on this issue. All but one of his appointees urged him to turn the forts over to the Confederate government. Lincoln asked his military adviser, General Winfield Scott for his opinion.
Scott told him that Fort Sumter could not be held and therefore should be turned over to the Confederates.. He believed the alternative was war. In his opinion, a war with the Confederate States would take several years and a quarter of a million men under arms to win. And, he predicted, that to win the Federal government must invade and occupy the South as well. and, possible worse, in winning the conflict, enmity between the two sections would be lasting and destructive to the future of the country. He therefore suggested that President Lincoln wish the Confederate States well and allow them to go in peace.
Lincoln rejected his peace proposal.
Northern financial leaders wanted peace, too. War was bad for business they said. Leaders of the Democratic Party opposed the use of force as well.
Horace Greeley, owner and editor of the largest newspaper in the United states, the New York Post, urged the new president to let the secessionist states go in peace. “if the Cotton States shall become satisfied that they can do better out of the Union than in it, we insist on letting them go.”
Leaders in the Boarder States of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee & Arkansas remained in the Union. They were willing to allow the Lincoln administration a chance to govern. Thus, they did not join the other slaves states of the Confederate States of America; but awaited Lincoln’s response to the crisis.
Lincoln pledged in his inaugural address that he would not be the one to start a war. So, why did it begin?
In February of 1861, representatives of the seven seceding states met in Montgomery, Alabama to form a new nation called the Confederate States of America. With that action, the Mississippi river, its tributaries and the second busiest port in the United States, New Orleans, passed under the control of a foreign nation.
The Chicago Tribune editorialized that the people of the Mid-West would never negotiate with the Confederate States of America for free navigation of the Mississippi River.
“It is their right and they will assert it to the extremity of blotting Louisiana out of the map.”
Mid-westerners were assured by Southern politicians that no impediment to their commerce would be established on the Mississippi or at any river port. This was of special concern since in 1860, New Orleans was second only to New York as the most active port in the United States. To address this concern, the Louisiana Secession delegates pledged free access to all river traffic at New Orleans. And further, the Confederate Congress meeting in Montgomery Alabama promised the same free access for river traffic on the entire Mississippi River and its tributaries.
But, despite such assurances, Mid-western governors continued to be concerned about the unhindered use of the Mississippi, free access to the port of New Orleans and to the river ports of Memphis, Natchez and Vicksburg. An additional concern was raised.
Of additional concern was the issue of future generations. Despite current assurances could future generations of Confederate leaders be trusted no honor these pledges and not tax or otherwise restrict river traffic?
In March 1861, these governors told the new president .Abraham Lincoln, that they thought the issue was worth going to war over, even if he did not. For his part, Lincoln feared that if his administration did not aggressively address their concern, the mid-western governors would feel compelled to negotiate some sort of treaty with the Confederate States on their own; or even possibly form their own union separate from the United States.
In early 1861, William Sherman wrote his wife that: despite assurances of free trade: “Collisions are sure to follow secession, and the states lying on the upper Rivers will never consent to the mouth being in possession of a hostile state.”
What would the Lincoln administration do?