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It pains me to suggest this -- after all, I had relatives fighting at the Battle of Shiloh -- but...


What if Shiloh wasn't the main event we assume it to be?  Could it be, that the concentration of Union Forces in vicinity of Pittsburg Landing, initiated by intent to 'cut the Memphis & Charleston Railroad' had evolved... into a diversion ?


Consider these points:

  • the 'slowness' of Buell to complete his march from Nashville;
  • the 'abundantly clear directive,' overriding everything else: Do not bring on an engagement;
  • the almost criminal neglect of intelligence/reconnaissance/area surveillance by the on-scene Union Commander;
  • the focus, by that same Commander, on minutia... (a Purge; pursuing and punishing minor infractions with vigor);
  • the reluctance to send desperately sick soldiers 'out of area,'  (despite no medicines and insufficient facilities), merely to 'keep the number of troops present' at a maximum [my belief].

So, if the Siege of Corinth (and its build-up) wasn't the main game, what was?


Opening the Mississippi River to Federal control, and thereby cutting the Confederacy in two.


By late March 1862, Halleck found himself in a fortuitous position:

  • the Rebels were fleeing towards Corinth from every direction, seemingly in response to the Federal build-up at Pittsburg [eventually that 'flight' had structure and purpose];
  • the Gibraltar of the West -- Fort Columbus -- had been simply abandoned;
  • Curtis' Army of the Southwest had secured Halleck's base in Missouri by driving the main Confederate threat south, into Arkansas (Battle of Pea Ridge, March 6-7);
  • Halleck's Department had been expanded to include Buell's Army of the Cumberland and Mitchel's Army of the Ohio (aka 3rd Division);
  • Flag-Officer Foote had finally received his armored barges -- all sixteen of them -- carrying 13-inch mortars that fired 215 pound shells;
  • and Halleck was given the services of John Steiner, flying the 'Eagle.'

In order to open the Mississippi south from now-Union Columbus, Kentucky, Halleck's force (commanded by General John Pope, in conjunction with Flag-Officer Andrew Foote) had to reduce, in order:

  • New Madrid    (done March 14)
  • Island Number 10
  • Fort Pillow
  • Fort Randolph
  • Fort Harris...

...leaving Memphis, a site important for manufacturing Confederate gunboats and torpedoes; and a key Southern distribution center -- open to attack.


By 'encouraging' Confederate forces to consolidate at Corinth, those forces were not available to fight Pope and Foote as they pushed south. And, once a significant portion of the work was done (perhaps the reduction of Island No. 10), Halleck could move his headquarters to Pittsburg Landing, put in place the pontoon bridge that arrived there April 5th, join Buell's Army to Grant's, take the build-up of forces off the back burner, and march on Corinth. And accomplish 'that final engagement that crushed out the Rebellion.'


Of course, Albert Sidney Johnston's move in early April wasn't part of the plan...



Just a thought




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I believe you are giving Halleck too much credit for thinking and planning.  None of the options you mention have ever been suggested by anybody else.  Halleck never displayed the thinking necessary for carrying out these plans you suggest.  It just was not in him to do this.  If he attempted any of these plans, the result would have been Halleck blaming a high officer for a movement that did not go as Halleck wanted.  He would treat any leader as he did Grant after Ft Henry/Ft Donelson.  In short, Halleck lacked the ability to organize, ability to plan, knowledge of the supporting arms of the army (artillery, supplies), patience with the officers and men and a lack of intelligence gathering.  Halleck found his place as a non-combat leader of the Army of the Potomac in 1864.  Here, he did a good job.  Grant thought so also. 

Your thoughts and questions were appreciated as it should have started a discussion but alas.

Try again


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Thank you for your excellent response...


But, I beg to differ:  'Old Brains' was best known for thinking and planning; and for telling his subordinates only that information of which they needed to be aware, at that particular point in time.


After all, General Halleck, as Commander of the Department of the Mississippi, was not just attempting to pull the strings as 'puppet-master' at Pittsburg Landing:

  • he was liaising with the Navy, for the conduct of joint operations
  • he was liaising with contractors for procurement of arms and ammunition (and commissary supplies)
  • he was attempting to keep his Base secure (Missouri in general; St. Louis in particular)
  • he was attempting to open up the Mississippi River to Federal control
  • he was attempting to cut the Memphis & Charleston Railroad
  • and he was subordinate to General McClellan... whose wishes he had to 'acknowledge' while carrying out his (Halleck's) program.

There was a lot more on Halleck's plate than most folks appreciate. And, after the Fall of Memphis on June 6th, he was called to Washington to become General-in-Chief of all U.S. Armies... in recognition of his accomplishments to date.







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I believe that it might be informative to present...



Timeline of Mississippi River Ops


  • March 3          General Pope completes his march and arrays his force against New Madrid
  • March 6/7       Victory at Pea Ridge (by Samuel Curtis) secures Missouri as Base of operations for MGen Halleck
  • March 11        Halleck is given command of expanded 'Department of the Mississippi' (now including Buell and Mitchel)
  • March 12        Halleck and Flag-Officer Foote discuss Mississippi River operations
  • March 15        Foote's Flotilla of gunboats, mortar boats (Maynadier) and troop transports (Buford) depart for Island No. 10
  • March 21        MGen Benjamin Butler (Commanding 'Department of the Gulf') arrives on Ship Island, Mississippi
  • March 25        F/O Foote makes use of balloon, Eagle, (pilot John Steiner; observers Maynadier and Buford) to direct naval gunfire
  • April 7/8          Island No. 10 falls; Confederate defenders surrender
  • April 14           Bombardment of Fort Pillow begins
  • April 16           Farragut's Task Force (screw steamers, Mortar sloops (Porter) and transports (Butler) departs Ship Island
  • April 18           Bombardment of Forts Jackson and St. Philip begins
  • April 24           Under cover of fire from Mortar sloops, Farragut runs his screw steamers past Forts Jackson and St. Philip
  • April 26           Farragut demands the Surrender of New Orleans
  • April 27           The U.S. Flag is raised over the Mint at New Orleans
  • April 28           The New York Times reports:  'New Orleans is Ours!' 

Information above is provided in order to relate was was happening beyond Pittsburg Landing in March/April 1862. (In addition, McClellan's Invasion Force left Alexandria, Virginia on March 17, 1862, bound for the Peninsula.)







References:  http://archive.org/details/lifeandrewhullf00hoppgoog     Life of Andrew Hull Foote


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_T._A._Ward_(1861)     (role of the Mortar sloops)


http://www.blogto.com/city/2013/10/that_time_a_giant_gas_balloon_dazzled_toronto/     John Steiner and Eagle 


http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/civil-war-ballooning/civil-war-ballooning.html?referrer=https://www.google.com.au/     (Naval use of balloon)



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George Patton once famously remarked 'that he would defeat Erwin Rommel in North Africa because he was intimate with Rommel's tank tactics, having read and studied Rommel's book.'


Henry Halleck also wrote a book... of which we are all aware, but who has actually read it?


Elements of Military Art and Science, published in New York by Appleton & Company in 1846, is over 400 pages of Halleck's thoughts and recommendations on all aspects of the military art, embracing building and use of fortifications; use and roles of the infantry, cavalry, artillery, engineers and staff; the primary goal of 'concentration of force'  ...which ties into Strategy: the art of directing massed forces against decisive points. And explains that strategy regards 'the theatre of war' rather than 'the field of battle.'


Logistics is another obvious strength of Halleck's: he exhibits vast knowledge IRT moving and supplying armies.


And the section on Tactics contains an unexpected gem, IRT deception:  'if an attacker can conceal his true intent, and deceive the defender respecting the true point of attack, success will be more certain and decisive.'


Halleck sums up by stating that:  'War is here to stay. He who wants peace must be martially prepared and exercise vigilance.'


However, much as I enjoyed reading this book, I do not recommend that you imitate me... because Henry Halleck updated the 1846 edition (Second edition published in 1860), and added 45 pages of observations and notes, derived from the War with Mexico and the Crimean War... and explains how those conflicts 'adjusted' his thinking. Forty-five pages may not sound a lot, but it is evident that Halleck's own experience in the War with Mexico caused a re-evaluation. For example: concentration. This is still advocated as a major goal, but Halleck's experience with Kearny's Army in California taught him that all forces in the field do not have to be able to support (concentrate) each other: Kearny relied on the U.S. Navy (an external force) when support was required. [Application later at Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Island Number 10.]


Tactics is defined as 'the art of bringing troops into action' ...or, 'of moving troops into the presence of the enemy (into his view [think Pittsburg Landing] or into reach of his artillery.)


On page 410, Halleck emphasizes the importance of 'securing your Base.' {Think Curtis at Pea Ridge.}


And Halleck despairs of Modern War: the European art of war was so much more straight-forward and interesting, and usually involved massed displays and intricate movements, accomplished in open fields.  Mexico did not resemble Europe: the number of troops engaged against each other was smaller; the terrain fought over was cut by deep ravines, and in the shadow of steep hills. Because of these un-European constraints, there were few opportunities for commanders to display their skills at intricate military maneuvers.


The Crimean War mostly taught the lesson of steam-powered ships and Paixhan guns: the balance had tilted away from masonry forts towards ships and their weapons. But Henry Halleck concluded that in order to win a 'Modern War,' the United States had to improve the discipline of its Army; and further enhance engineering skills.


http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo1.ark:/13960/t6vx0xx8n;view=2up;seq=6;size=175     (Halleck's 1860 edition at hathitrust.org)




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