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Army of the Tennessee or Army of West Tennessee?

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Hello everybody, I realize that at the Shiloh national battlefield itself the markers refer to Grant's army as the Army of the Tennessee and likewise in almost all that has been written about the battle in the 154 years since refers to it as the Army of the Tennessee. However I've seen correspondence in the Official Records from March or April 1862 that refers to Grant's army as the Army of West Tennessee, because Grant was in command of the Department of West Tennessee. The book Shiloh: A Battlefield Guide by Mark Grimsley and Steven Woodworth is the only written work about the battle that I've found that actually makes mention of the "Army of the Tennessee" not officially being the name of Grant's army yet, saying that several months later it was officially renamed that. That at the time of the Battle of Shiloh it wasn't yet called that. Is that correct? At that time of the Battle of Shiloh it was officially called the Army of West Tennessee, and that the folks at the Shiloh battlefield (and historical authors) have simply been using the MUCH more familiar name of Grant's army that it was known by for most of the war rather than risking confusing people by calling it an unfamiliar name? Was it that at the time maybe the rank and file were unofficially calling it the "Army of the Tennessee" since it was carrying out an expedition on the Tennessee River, and that months later the name was officially changed? 


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The practice during the war was that the north named their army's after a river, i.e. The Army of the Tennessee. The south named theirs after an area, i.e. The Army of Tennessee. I'm not sure when it became an official policy. It did tend to confuse me in my youth. What the H E double toothpicks was the 16th WI doing in The Army of the Tennessee? Sounded like a Reb army to me.



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I'll begin my reply with the following:

http://cdm.sos.mo.gov/cdm/singleitem/collection/mack/id/5341/rec/1   (See header at top of letter...)

As we know, Henry Halleck became Commander of the Department of the Mississippi on March 11th 1862, so logically his Army (once he took command in the field) would be called "Army of the Mississippi."  However, this was complicated by the fact General John Pope had labelled his army the Army of the Mississippi in February 1862, before Halleck's area of responsibility was increased in size, to absorb Buell (and his Army of the Ohio); Grant (and his District of West Tennessee); Curtis (Army of the Southwest) and John Pope. I have reviewed the correspondence from Grant (from January 1862 until April 10th 1862) and uncovered an interesting progression:

  • Jan 12 letter to Captain Hatch from BGen Grant, HQ, District of Cairo [Papers US Grant Vol 4 p.44]
  • Feb 10 letter from Grant from "Fort Henry, Headquarters, District of Cairo"  [Papers USG vol 4 p. 181]
  • Feb 14 letter from Grant from "near Fort Donelson, HQ, District of Cairo"    [Papers USG vol 4p. 207]
  • [around this time, Grant wrote to subordinates as "BGen Grant, Headquarters, Army in the field"]  (pages 205-220)
  • Feb 17 letter from BGen Grant, Headquarters, District of West Tennessee   [Papers vol 4 p. 230]
  • Mar 5  letter from MGen Grant, Headquarters, District of West Tennessee   [Papers vol 4 p. 322]
  • Mar 17 letter from MGen Grant, Headquarters, Savannah, District of West Tennessee  [Papers vol 4 p. 382]
  • Apr 6  letter from MGen Grant, Commanding to MGen Buell, from Savannah  [Papers vol 5 p. 17]
  • Apr 7  letter from Grant to Halleck, from Pittsburg, Tennessee  [Papers US Grant vol 5 p. 19]
  • Apr 10  letter from Grant to Buell, from Pittsburg, Headquarters, District of West Tennessee  [Papers vol 5 p. 38]

The point of the above exercise: US Grant fought the battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson while commanding the District of Cairo; and he fought the Battle of Shiloh while in command of the District of West Tennessee. And shortly after Henry Halleck arrived (April 11) the force assembled at Pittsburg Landing became the Army of the Mississippi.

From the letters I've seen, individual men-in-ranks referred to themselves as "care of 12th Iowa, Pittsburg Landing" or "44th Indiana of General Hurlbuts Division" ...none (from April 1862) refer to themselves as "Army of the Tennessee."

Up through the end of September 1862, Grant's correspondence still referred to him as "Headquarters, District of West Tennessee."

  • Oct 3  letter from MGen Grant, Headquarters, Department of West Tennessee  [Papers of USG vol 6 p. 107]
  • Oct 19  letter from Grant to Rosecrans, from Headquarters, Department of the West Tennessee  [Papers vol 6 p. 159]
  • Oct 25  letter from Grant to Col. Kelton "from Jackson, Tenn, Headquarters, Department of the Tennessee"  [Papers vol 6 p. 188] 

I believe it is safe to assume the term "Army of the Tennessee" followed from this impromptu creation of "Department of the Tennessee" by MGen Grant (seemingly by "forgetting" the word "West" or letter "W" from the title of his department.) As to when men-in-ranks began to referring to themselves as belonging to the Army of the Tennessee... there was probably an "identity crisis" when Buell's troops showed up at Pittsburg Landing, and announced proudly their membership of the Army of the Ohio. Then John Pope's army showed up: the Army of the Mississippi... 

What did the men under Grant consider as their affiliation (beyond regiment identity)? 

  • Sherman's Division...
  • Wallace's Division...
  • Grant's Army?

Once the identity "Army of the Tennessee" was adopted (and following great success of that Army at Vicksburg), it would appear folks wanted to know "where that Army came from?"  And you can't very well say "General Grant just made it up, while sitting at his desk one day."  So, a "history" was created, after-the-fact... the Army of the Tennessee earned its stripes at Shiloh. (Some have even attempted to claim the Battle of Fort Donelson as an "Army of the Tennessee" victory.)

That's my take on the matter


http://digital.library.msstate.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/USG_volume/id/17403/rec/4   (Papers volume 4)

http://digital.library.msstate.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/USG_volume/id/17896/rec/1   (Papers volume 5)

http://digital.library.msstate.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/USG_volume/id/14868/rec/24  (Papers volume 6)



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So would you say that it would be more accurate to refer to Grant's army that fought at Shiloh as the Army of West Tennessee? It seems it was not officially the Army of the Tennessee yet, like you said that was something applied after the fact. 

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I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner. I just checked in Dyer's Compendium of the War of the Rebellion to see if it lists an "Army of West Tennessee" or not and if so, when the dates were for its being in existence. So I looked and on page 479  


it says that the District and Army of West Tennessee were organized 17 February 1862, and merged into the Dept. of the Tennessee 16 October 1862.    

It also says on pg. 486 that the Department and Army of the Tennessee were created on 16 October 1862. It also lists U.S. Grant as being in command of the Army of West Tennessee from 17 Feb. through 16 Oct. '62 and being in command of the Army of the Tennessee starting 16 Oct. '62 when it was officially created. So it would appear then that it was officially called the Army of West Tennessee at the time of the Battle of Shiloh. Like you said, because that's an unfamiliar name to most people, even most Civil War people, it seems most likely that the more familiar name was applied after the fact for the sake of less confusion for the layman I suppose. 

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While searching the Papers of U.S. Grant volume 5 for information IRT something else, I ran across what may be the first official use of the term:  "Army of the Tennessee."  On April 17th 1862 at Pittsburg Landing, Captain Nathaniel H. McLean (Asst. Adj. General to Henry Halleck, who arrived at that place late in the day of April 11th) issued Special Field Orders No.12 in which Don Carlos Buell was indicated as in command of the Army of the Ohio, and U.S. Grant was indicated as in command of the Army of the Tennessee [to be found middle of page 49 of that resource; read the entire "notes reference" for clarification, which continues to page 50.]



Reference:  http://digital.library.msstate.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/USG_volume/id/17896/rec/20  Papers of US Grant volume 5 available online through courtesy of Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library, in cooperation with Mississippi State University.



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