Jump to content
Shiloh Discussion Group

Recommended Posts

Despite the mammoth Federal success at Fort Donelson, the war did not come to an end (though some acted as if it had.) General U.S. Grant looked to push the next objective, which appeared to be Nashville. And he requested guidance from St. Louis.

In meantime, Clarksville (about fifty miles up the Cumberland River, in the direction of Nashville) was deemed a suitable target: a reconnaissance conducted by  U.S. Navy gunboats Conestoga and Cairo on February 18th discovered that Confederate Clarksville was practically a ghost town; the Rebels and most of the citizens had fled. So, General C.F. Smith was dispatched with a suitable force pulled from his Second Division and occupied Clarksville on about February 23rd. Early the next day, U.S. Grant, in company with Surgeon Brinton, , BGen McClernand, Captain Taylor (of Taylor's Battery), Colonel Lauman and Colonel WHL Wallace, departed Fort Donelson aboard steamer W.H.B. for an inspection of Union-occupied Clarksville.

But, it does not appear that an inspection took place at Clarksville that day: General Grant caught wind that General William Nelson's Division (which was known to have been promised to assist Grant at Fort Donelson) had arrived at Paducah; reported to General Sherman; and departed Paducah aboard a small fleet on February 23rd, bound for the Cumberland River. The seven steamers, under gunboat escort, continued to the ordered destination of Clarksville (arrival recorded as 8 a.m. February 24th) and General Nelson met with General Smith. At about noon (in accordance with orders relayed from General Grant to General Nelson) General Nelson returned to his steamer, Diana, and in company with six other steamers (led by USS Carondelet) the force proceeded up the Cumberland (with U.S. Grant aboard steamer W.H.B, in company with USS Cairo, well in advance of the fleet.)

Bull Nelson arrived at the "open city" of Nashville on February 25th, stepped ashore... and became the first Federal General Officer to enter Nashville following Rebel occupation; (General Buell was just across the river at Edgefield: today's East Nashville); and U.S. Grant appears to have waited aboard the W.H.B., at least, for a little while. Nelson made contact with Buell; and Grant escorted his party from Fort Donelson into Union-occupied Nashville for two days of what can best be described as relaxation and diversion. On February 27th, U.S. Grant met with Don Carlos Buell aboard the W.H.B. and exchanged pleasantries; and then Grant and his party departed Nashville, and arrived back at Fort Donelson late on 28 FEB 1862.




References:  OR 7 pages 661, 662- 3, 668, 670- 1, 674.

OR (Navy) vol.22, pages 315, 587, 616, 617, 625.

Memoirs of U.S. Grant page 318.

Adam Badeau's Military Career of U.S. Grant, pages 58 - 9.

Diary of Jacob Ammen for dates February 23, 24 and 25 (found in OR 7 page 659 - 660.

Hoppin's Life of Andrew Hull Foote, pages 230 - 236.

Memoirs of Surgeon John Brinton, page 139.

Life of General WHL Wallace, pages 166 (Letter of 20 FEB 1862) and page 171 (Letter of 28 FEB 1862).




  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

"There is a screw loose in that command."

It is not for me to judge to whom Henry Halleck was referring when he wrote the above pointed comment on February 24th 1862; but, little could General Halleck have suspected that Ulysses Grant, that very day, was in process of finalizing plans to make his way to Nashville, "to meet with General Buell."

Taking advantage of a welcome, unexpected sighting of General William Nelson's transports steaming up the Cumberland, General Grant made use of the opportunity to: 1) direct that convoy to Clarksville, the limit of its current orders; 2) to "return" the redundant Bull Nelson to Buell at Nashville. Ulysses Grant merely went along -- with an entourage -- "to watch and enjoy the show." [By reviewing the exchange of telegrams from 16 - 27 February 1862, to be found in OR 7 pages 626 - 648 and 661 - 671, a sense of the level of confusion then evident, IRT the "safe, yet expeditious" occupation of Nashville is revealed... and it is prostrating.]

In answer, U.S. Grant took matters into his own hands. Nelson's fleet, under escort of USS Carondelet, arrived at Nashville in the morning of Tuesday, February 25th. Bull Nelson immediately stepped ashore, becoming the first Federal General Officer to return to Union-occupied Nashville... stealing the glory by three hours from D.C. Buell, who had organized a formal hand-over with the Mayor, to take place at 11 a.m. Meanwhile, Grant (aboard the powerful towboat, W.H.B.), escorted to Nashville by USS Cairo, appears to have waited until the following day, Wednesday, to begin venturing out and sight-seeing. Previewing scenes of three years later (when President Lincoln made his visit to an abandoned Richmond) Grant's party strolled the streets; stopped in to visit with Mrs. Polk (widow of former-President Polk); and visited hospitals in search of Union POWs captured at Fort Donelson. Then, having given General Buell time enough to hear the rumors "of another general in town," U.S. Grant dropped by on Thursday to visit with Buell, but found him out. Later, General Buell appeared -- with his own entourage -- at Grant's boat, the W.H.B. and the meeting was held. Afterwards, Grant left Nashville, and arrived back at Fort Donelson late on Friday, February 28th.

Remarkably, letters were written during this time away by Grant and his party; but none indicate on the letterhead anyplace other than "Fort Donelson." In addition, General Grant took a newsman along: Franc Bangs Wilkie, of the Chicago Tribune. Wilkie also did not reveal the trip to Nashville, until long after the event... which seems to indicate the loyalty generated, and power of persuasion inherent to General U.S. Grant.

Always more to the story...



References:  OR 7 (pages as sited)

http://www.artcirclelibrary.info/Reference/civilwar/1862-02.pdf  artcirclelibrary for March 1862 (see pages 67 - 73)

Forts Henry and Donelson, by B. F. Cooling (1987) pages 246 - 7.

Pen and Powder, by Franc Bangs Wilkie (1888) pages 133 - 141.

Letters of WHL Wallace, dates of 20 Feb and 28 Feb 1862.




  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 months later...

Grant's Greatest Strength

From study of U.S. Grant's military history in the West during the Civil War, what becomes apparent is the General's aggression, drive and determination to take the fight to the enemy. Belmont -- initially flagged as a "demonstration in vicinity of Fort Columbus" -- was converted by Grant into a highly successful raid. Fort Henry was such an obvious target that newspaper reporters, all during the month of January, were conjecturing when that Confederate fort would be attacked. And Fort Donelson was merely the logical next step, after the capture of Fort Henry.

Following the capture of Fort Donelson, the logical next step was "occupation of Nashville"  (a major source of supply for the Rebel Army.) But, General Grant saw unedifying vacillation on the part of his Federal counterparts (Buell and Halleck, in particular), and took measures into his own hands to press for Nashville's occupation. First, Grant suggested to Major General Halleck that Nashville be taken. Then, finding no obvious plan in work, Grant suggested he could take Nashville. Finally, Grant determined that Nashville's occupation was needlessly being delayed; and took measures to "fix that problem"

  • U.S. Grant told Halleck that he was going to Nashville (and added the proviso, "Unless you specifically prohibit my going.")
  • He looked for an opportunity... and found it: the arrival of Nelson's Division, sent to assist in capture of Fort Donelson (and now, technically, Nelson's Division was a part of Grant's Army)
  • Nelson's Division, in convoy aboard seven transports steaming up the Cumberland River, was deemed by Grant as superfluous; and labelled by Grant as "no longer needed." Therefore, General Grant thought it best to "return to sender" Nelson's force, by re-directing the flotilla a little further up the Cumberland, with new destination: Nashville.

When Brigadier General William Nelson stepped ashore on February 25th he was the first Union general officer to enter the former Confederate capital of Tennessee. He technically belonged to Grant, who was in process of "returning him to the Army of the Ohio." (Which is why there is confusion to this day IRT who occupied Nashville?)

To sum up, General Grant's greatest strength was his ability to "see opportunity, and exploit opportunity." (Drive, determination, aggression, persistence... were merely character traits used as tools by Grant to develop opportunity.)

My take on U.S. Grant



Reference: Badeau's Military History of U.S. Grant (1867) pages 56 -61.


  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

"You may have Knocked, but I was not at Home"

The following Telegram, dated 25 FEB 1862 was sent from St. Louis by Major General Henry Halleck, to Flag-officer Andrew Foote (not at home at Cairo):

"The possession of Nashville by General Buell renders it necessary to countermand the instructions sent to Foote and Sherman yesterday morning, dated 23rd. Grant will send no more forces to Clarksville; General Smith's division will come to Fort Henry, or to a point higher on the Tennessee River; transports will be collected at Paducah and above; all the mortar boats to be immediately brought back to Cairo; two gunboats to be left at Clarksville, to precede Nelson's division up the river to Nashville -- having done this, they will return to Cairo; two gunboats to be left in the Tennessee River with General Grant; the latter will immediately have small garrisons detailed for Forts Donelson and Henry, and all other forces made ready for the field." -- H. W. Halleck, Major-General.

[Above telegram found in Life of Andrew Hull Foote by James Mason Hoppin (1874) page 238.]

These are the gems contained in the above telegram (not received immediately by Foote because he was aboard USS Cincinnati on the Mississippi River):

  • "The possession of Nashville by General Buell" -- after much delay, due to uncertainty of the strength of Albert Sidney Johnston's force, evacuated from Bowling Green, Buell carefully and cautiously approached Nashville from the north, stopping at Edgefield, and arranged formal surrender of City of Nashville with the Mayor (that surrender to take place later on February 25th.) Meanwhile, Brigadier General Nelson had arrived aboard a steamer -- unbeknownst to Buell or Halleck -- and stepped ashore at Nashville before Buell;
  • "Countermand the instructions sent to Foote and Sherman yesterday" -- telegram dated 23 FEB received at Cairo while Foote was aboard USS Cincinnati, conducting a surveillance of Fort Columbus (so that telegram not received, either); and Sherman, at Paducah, received instructions to "send Nelson's division direct to Clarksville and do not have it stop at Fort Donelson." Sherman passed the instructions to General Nelson, who got his transports underway, in company with USS Carondelet, up the Cumberland River, bound for the limit of his orders: Clarksville;
  • "Grant will send no more forces to Clarksville" -- beginning on, or just after 19 FEB, Brigadier General C.F. Smith and elements of his Second Division had occupied Clarksville. On 24 FEB U.S. Grant had loaded several of his "Heroes" of Fort Donelson aboard powerful towboat -- W.H.B. -- supposedly with intention of conducting an inspection of the Federal troops at Clarksville... but that inspection never occurred. And just a few days later, General Smith and several regiments assigned to Clarksville steamed to Nashville (after Grant met with Buell, and convinced him of the "need" to have sufficient forces on hand...)
  • "General Smith's division will come to Fort Henry" -- eventually... via visit to Nashville;
  • "Transports will be collected at Paducah" -- Halleck is making arrangements for the move up the Tennessee River; while Grant has made arrangements for a move up the Cumberland River (effective 24 FEB, the day before Halleck's telegram was sent)
  • "All the mortar boats to immediately be returned to Cairo" -- Foote would have snorted when he finally got to read this telegram, because mortars are what he had wanted since January -- before Fort Henry -- and these powerful weapons (perfect for besieging fortifications perched on bluffs) had arrived at Fort Donelson two days after Buckner surrendered. Foote had contacted Halleck, attempted to delay the Fort Donelson operation until the mortars (expected any day) arrived... but Halleck ordered the Operation to proceed, regardless. Afterwards, Foote expressed bitterness and disappointment to his closest associates, believing "mortars at Fort Donelson" would have done the job (without subjecting his gunboats to an unnecessary pounding -- see Life of Foote, pages 235 - 240 and especially 229 - 231)
  • "Two gunboats to precede Nelson's division up the river to Nashville" -- Halleck predicts the future... unintentionally
  • "Two gunboats to be left in the Tennessee River with General Grant" -- foreshadows assignment of USS Tyler and USS Lexington
  • "General Grant will immediately have small garrisons detailed for Forts Donelson and Henry, and all other forces made ready for the field" -- had U.S. Grant received this information a few days prior to 25 FEB, there is little doubt the Tennessee River Expedition would have launched sooner -- and possibly with different outcome. But, because Grant felt the Federal occupation of Nashville was being "unnecessarily delayed," he took it upon himself (with no other orders) to make the Occupation of Nashville happen... which embarrassed Buell (and set the stage for continued poor coordination in lead-up to Shiloh) and led to Halleck removing Grant from field command for a couple of weeks (with the piecemeal and ad hoc nature of the Tennessee River cum Corinth cum Battle of Shiloh experience, the result.)

Sometimes a brief telegram can say a lot






Link to post
Share on other sites


[Cincinnati Daily Press of 17 FEB 1862 from Library of Congress, Chronicling America, announcing Capture of Fort Donelson.]

Following on the Victory over Fort Henry, with the Surrender of Fort Donelson only ten days later, the anticipation in the North was high:


[Daily Ohio Statesman of Columbus, Ohio 19 FEB 1862 page 3 col.4 "Rebels admit if we take Nashville, the Cause in Tennessee is lost."]

With newspaper pronouncements, such as above, there was greater value given to Nashville and her occupation than appropriate (even though Nashville was producing 400 pounds of gunpowder every day, and significant supplies of lead was mined, just away to the east.) Nashville's occupation by Northern commanders was viewed as a "prize just waiting to be collected" (with the lucky recipient of that prize accorded laurels and everlasting mention in History Books.) Northern newspapers promoted the Federal occupation of Nashville, and wondered at the delay... eventually jumping the gun on the actual event:


[Daily Ohio Statesman of 26 FEB page 3 col.2 announcing, "Nashville was taken February 24th... by Buell's forces."]

Brigadier General Buell was across the Cumberland River from Nashville on February 24th. And Nelson's Division was on its way aboard transports up the river (to arrive Nashville just before 9 a.m. on February 25th.)

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85038121/1862-02-27/ed-1/seq-3/#date1=1862&sort=date&rows=20&words=Tennessee&searchType=basic&sequence=0&index=0&state=Ohio&date2=1862&proxtext=Tennessee&y=0&x=0&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=19  Gallipolis Journal of Ohio for 27 FEB page 3. Col.3 announcing, "All the fortified points in Tennessee -- Columbus, Nashville, Memphis -- to be given up." And an adjoining article announces, "Clarksville is occupied!"

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84028645/1862-02-27/ed-1/seq-3/#date1=1862&sort=date&rows=20&words=Tennessee+TENNESSEE&searchType=basic&sequence=0&index=7&state=Ohio&date2=1862&proxtext=Tennessee&y=0&x=0&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=19  Daily Ohio Statesman for 27 FEB page 3 Col.2 reports, "General McClellan has received confirmation that Nashville was taken by Buell's Army on February 25th."

image.png   [Cleveland Morning Leader of 3 MAR 1862 page 3 Col.8]

Because of Buell's capture of Nashville, he was promoted to Major General... (which is why it was inconvenient for U.S. Grant, or forces belonging to Grant to arrive at Nashville, first.)


References from Library of Congress, Chronicling America.


  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

image.png  ;  [Chicago Tribune of 28 FEB 1862, page 2 col.4 via Chronicling America.]

Thought the study of Grant's February 1862 visit to Nashville was complete, but one aspect of the sojourn remained unresolved: "Why did General Grant take along the commander of the First Division, John A. McClernand?"

By the time of the Surrender of Fort Donelson, the relationship between Grant and McClernand was well and truly on the skids. General Grant did not appreciate McClernand's self-serving after-battle reports (and may have suspected he was sending letters containing "who-knows-what" to President Lincoln.) And, although General McClernand redeemed himself at Fort Donelson (after Grant held him partially responsible for the near-success of the Confederate breakout attempt), the rally of McClernand's Division would not have been needed if McClernand's Division had properly anchored its right (where McArthur was incorrectly positioned) in the first instance.

So, why take McClernand to Nashville?

The above newspaper article, written by Chicago Tribune reporter, Franc Bangs Wilkie, explains, "McClernand had ties to influential political leaders at Clarksville -- in particular, Cave Johnson." Perhaps U.S. Grant felt that John McClernand could be of use, politically, in smoothing the way for Federal occupation of Nashville (by renewing acquaintance with old Democratic Party comrades.)

Or, perhaps it was simply a case of, "Keep your friends close; and keep your enemies closer."


N.B.  Along with Franc Bangs Wilkie, Henri Villard (reporter for the Associated Press) travelled to Nashville in company with Bull Nelson; and Whitelaw Reid may have made the voyage, as well (still looking for evidence.) Of interest, Stephen Hurlbut was left at Fort Donelson as "Acting Commander of Post," and John Rawlins remained behind at Fort Donelson as "Acting on General Grant's behalf." 

[The steamer "B" was usually called "WHB" although the towboat's name was W. H. Brown.]

Whitelaw Reid just missed accompanying General Grant to Nashville (but likely went with General C.F. Smith from Clarksville to Nashville, return, at the end of February 1862 -- see SDG "Whitelaw Reid" in Quiz Questions.)





Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

What about Colonel Webster?

Acting in senior capacity on General Grant's staff, it was assumed that Joseph D. Webster, who had assisted in occupation of Clarksville, had accompanied Grant and the senior commanders to Nashville aboard WHB... but such was not the case (as evidenced by following article dated 25 FEB 1862 from Cairo):

image.png  Plymouth (Indiana) Weekly Democrat for 27 FEB 1862, page 2 (at chroniclingamerica.loc.gov)


Link to post
Share on other sites

One more curiosity about Grant's trip to Nashville...

As we all know, U. S. Grant was promoted to Major General on account of his Victory at Fort Donelson: President Lincoln recommended Grant for promotion, with the higher rank to be effective Date of the Surrender (16 February 1862). Of course, Grant had no way of knowing the President's actions, and so continued to sign his correspondence as "Brigadier General Grant" for over a week after Fort Donelson fell.

Of interest: the very first use by Grant of his new rank was on a memo left for "General Buell" at Nashville on 27 February 1862. Grant had attempted to meet Buell in Nashville, and left the memo at Buell's HQ and then returned to his flagship, the W.H.B. That memo was signed "U. S. Grant, Major General Commanding."

[See Papers of US Grant volume 4 pages 293 - 4.]



Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 months later...

Grant penned his stiffly worded letter to Buell and signed it, “Major-General, commanding” from the “Headquarters District of West Tennessee, Nashville,” as if that city were in his jurisdiction and not in his respondent’s departmental command. Oddly, Grant reverted to “Brigadier-General” when signing subsequent orders.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites


Would it not seem odd, that an officer would gain significant promotion... and not tell anyone? Keep that promotion to himself; not release a "Special Orders" informing the men in his command; but instead, save that news for a specific instance... when it would have ultimate impact: to impress another officer (who until very recently was the ranking Brigadier General of the two.) How would that other officer, formerly superior (even at West Point) now find "the tables turned," confronted by the recipient of "such GREAT NEWS."

I have yet to find Brigadier General Buell's direct response (although subsequent reactions to that "great news, shared," abound.)

Personality conflict, writ large...


N.B.  In terms of Chess (check.) And in terms of Poker (dominate.)



  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Another bit of information to consider... the Chicago Daily Tribune of 21 FEB 1862 published on its front page, column 3 (bottom) the news that "U.S. Grant has been promoted to Major General." The next day, General Grant wrote his wife, Julia, indicating awareness of this good news (and also inidicated he'd been informed by Elihu Washburne of the pending promotion.) However, in the military, promotion was not official until the War Department forwarded notice of that promotion (usually through orders addressed to the man's commanding officer.) That commanding officer then informed the promoted officer -- who had to agree to accept the promotion -- and the new rank (and increased pay) took effect.

It appears that when Grant visited Nashville, he knew the promotion was coming (but Halleck had not officially told him, yet.) Therefore, Grant played one of his many "odd jokes," this time at Brigadier General Buell's expense, by lording over him as newly minted Major General. (Doubtless, Grant reverted to BGen back at Fort Donelson, while awaiting word of the official promotion through proper channels.)

N.B.  Grant "jumped the gun" IRT promotion in August 1861, when he confronted Brigadier General Benjamin Prentiss in Missouri, claiming to be "the senior Brigadier General from Illinois" -- with effective date of rank 17 May 1861. General Prentiss refused to believe Grant's claim (especially since Prentiss had been promoted to BGen on 8 May 1861) and Colonel Grant returned to St. Louis to seek clarification. As it turned out, Washburne had informed Grant of the pending promotion (Grant claimed he read about it in a St. Louis newspaper) ..but the promotion did not take effect until a few days after the confrontation with Prentiss (and as it turned out, BGen John Pope was senior Brigadier, with Grant second; but all Brigadier Generals from Illinois -- effective that July/ August sitting of Congress -- had their effective date of rank adjusted to 17  May... including Benjamin Prentiss.) No one bothered to tell Prentiss that he was a Brigadier General (because he'd been operating as a Brigadier since May 8th.) But Grant knew the score, and used his new-found information to advantage, when Grant and Prentiss next met, in early September. This time, Prentiss returned to St. Louis... under arrest.

References:  https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84031490/1862-02-21/ed-1/seq-1/  Chicago Daily Tribune of 21 FEB 1862

Papers of US Grant, vol.4 page 271 (Letter to Julia Grant of 22 FEB 1862.



  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 9 months later...
  • 5 months later...

As mentioned previously, there are NO communications sent from ANYONE that accompanied "Major General" Grant aboard towboat W.H.B to Nashville at the end of February 1862 that indicates "Nashville" as the location from whence it was sent or written. WHL Wallace sent a Letter to his wife, Ann, that made mention of that visit (but the heading on the letter dated 28 FEB 1862 indicates Fort Donelson as the place from which it was sent.)

Particularly noteworthy: ALL communications from General Grant. During the period 20 - 28 FEB 1862, despite being at Fort Donelson, Clarksville or Nashville, ALL of his communications are addressed from Fort Donelson. But during this time, his Flagship was the steamer W.H.B. Therefore, it is not really stretching the truth to send communications from Headquarters, District of West Tennessee, Fort Donelson (when those Letters, memos and orders were sent from his floating HQ somewhere on the Cumberland River.) Case in point: Grant's Letter of 24 FEB 1862 to wife, Julia. General Grant reports in the letter "that he has just returned from Clarksville," and that "today, a division of General Buell's army reported to me for orders." This could only be Nelson's Division of the Army of the Ohio; but that unit was specifically ordered NOT to stop at Fort Donelson but to proceed direct to Clarksville. Therefore, General Grant must have met Nelson's flotilla of steamers as it approached Clarksville... and then took advantage of the opportunity provided to "return Nelson's Division personally to General Buell."

But, the issue of General Grant's Letter of 24 FEB 1862 to Julia continued to be troubling: HOW was it sent? Especially, since it appears Grant did not return to Fort Donelson; but instead remained at Clarksville, then proceeded direct to Nashville... [And no mail could be sent at that time from Clarksville or Nashville to the United States.]

Colonel Joseph Webster's trip to Cairo (where he arrived February 25th) appears to provide the answer. It is my belief that General Grant sent his letter to Julia away with Colonel Webster aboard USS Conestoga, who then put it into the U.S. Mail at Cairo, so that it arrived in a timely fashion. [See above post of 11 July 2018.]

[Grant wrote another letter to Julia, dated 26 FEB 1862. It is my belief that this was sent from Fort Donelson upon General Grant's return from Nashville. During Grant's time away from Fort Donelson, 24 - 28 FEB 1862 a number of orders and communications were issued under authority of General Grant, but signed by AAG Rawlins.]


Papers of US Grant vol.4 pages 281 - 294.

Papers of US Grant vol.4 page 296 (US Grant admits to George Cullum at Cairo on 28 FEB 1862 that he has "just returned from Nashville.")



Link to post
Share on other sites

Ozzy et al.,

Although there was talk of Grant abusing alcohol on the trip to Nashville, I haven't seen any specific evidence for it. Have you?

Boynton in the NY Sun of 1/23/87 wrote that, "There are living witnesses of the excesses of that river trip to Nashville, but Gen. Grant was brought out of it, first by Gen. Rawlins's discretion, and next and mainly, by the forebearance of Gen. Halleck, who deemed it best to withhold from the people the knowledge of this affair, and give the officer who had won such a notable victory another trial. . . . There is no more glaring instance of ingratitude in our history than the attacks of the friends of Gen. Grant upon Gen. Halleck for his action in connection with this affair on the Cumberland."


E.D. Kittoe wrote to J.H. Wilson [LoC - Wilson Papers  7/15/85] that Rev. Knowlton told Kittoe he had read the letter from Halleck to Grant, "written in the most friendly Spirit [sic], and reminded Grant of his former drunken habits causing his resignation from the US Army, and told him that now (i.e. at the time of the Nashville fiasco) the country was looking to him for great things and that if he would give him his pledge to abstain from drink that there would be no further action in his case, but that he would be reinstated in command, Mr[?] Knowlton read the pledge Grant sent to Gen[sic] Halleck and says it is a remarkable paper evidently written in a maudlin condition. Of course I know but little of this matter ....

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites


There are many interesting aspects to U.S. Grant's late February 1862 trip to Nashville: he had flagged several days previous his intention to go (unless specifically prohibited); he took his Flagship, the powerful towboat W.H.B; the opportunity to visit Nashville presented unexpectedly (with the arrival of Nelson's Division aboard a flotilla just downriver from Clarksville.) General Grant had departed Fort Donelson, intent on visiting General C.F. Smith at Clarksville and conducting troop and facilities inspections, but the opportunity to continue on to Nashville was too good to pass up. And one of Grant's positive traits of success: the ability to look for and find opportunity... and EXPLOIT opportunity.

It is difficult to find a comprehensive list of the officers who rode in company with General Grant (expecting a brief visit to Clarksville; but who subsequently carried on to Nashville) but these are the known members of the Army: Colonel WHL Wallace, BGen John McClernand, Captain Ezra Taylor, Colonel Jacob Lauman, and Surgeon John Brinton. Staff and orderlies likely accompanied General Grant and General McClernand.

Colonel Joseph Webster appears to have travelled from Fort Donelson to Clarksville (but went aboard USS Conestoga at Clarksville, bound for Cairo.) Grant makes mention in his Letter to Julia of 24 FEB 1862 that he “just had time to post the letter before the boat departed” and I believe the departure of Colonel Webster aboard Conestoga was the event he referenced. (In addition, I suspect that Colonel Webster was tasked with stopping at Fort Donelson, and informing AAG John Rawlins of General Grant's intention to visit Nashville: Captain Rawlins issued several orders during Grant's absence that smack of “make it appear that Grant is still at Fort Donelson.”) In any event, Colonel Webster is known to have arrived at Cairo 24 or 25 FEB.

With Rawlins NOT in company with Grant; and with Halleck's spy, LtCol James McPherson NOT in company with Grant, the opportunity to “Celebrate Fort Donelson” presented... during the voyage of W.H.B, primarily (I doubt if General Grant would have allowed himself to be seen in public in Nashville, suffering the effects of celebration. Which may explain why no one reported on that “party.”) As for reporters: Whitelaw Reid arrived at Fort Donelson after Grant departed for Clarksville, so missed the boat. And a close read of Franc Bangs Wilkie indicates he arrived in Nashville from the north, and witnessed Nelson's arrival and Grant's arrival in Nashville.

Would be interesting to find verification of the whereabouts of known drinkers (and Grant staff members) William Rowley, Clark Lagow and W.S. Hillyer.

What did Grant do at Nashville? He “lorded it over” Brigadier General Don Carlos Buell the fact that HE was MAJOR General Grant. And he made it appear that Nashville was in his (Grant's) area of responsibility. And he took advantage of Buell's hesitancy to occupy Nashville (Buell believed forces belonging to Albert Sidney Johnston might return and complicate Union occupation of Nashville); and Grant persuaded Buell to “request” the additional force available at Clarksville commanded by C.F. Smith. (When Grant returned downriver, he paused at Clarksville and sent a force under General Smith to Nashville.)

[The above shenanigans perpetrated by Grant on Buell resulted in Buell having NO desire to join Grant at Savannah any earlier than he absolutely had to.]

Although I suspect U.S. Grant enjoyed an alcohol-fueled party on the trip to Nashville, and the circumstances were “right” for that to occur, and I have searched many years for evidence... as yet, I have found no evidence. It remains as suspicion, only.

Just an attempt to find truth...




Link to post
Share on other sites


Upon investigation it is apparent three journalists were in theatre with General Grant (Whitelaw Reid at Fort Donelson; Henri Villard with Brigadier General Nelson; and Franc Bangs Wilkie who arrived at Nashville just prior to General Nelson) and NONE of these were in company with General Grant during his voyage aboard W.H.B. bound for Nashville... so newspaper reports of the day were all hear-say and extrapolation.

However, ONE man went in company with General Grant on the voyage from Fort Donelson (when it was believed the W.H.B. was going only as far as Clarksville): Brigadier General John McClernand. Of the travellers aboard the W.H.B, McClernand was the odd man out, a former-friend of Grant who found himself out of favor due to disloyalty... PERSONAL disloyalty exhibited before witnesses against Ulysses S. Grant (during a Council of War that occurred just after the capture of Fort Henry.) John McClernand appears to have been taken along on the trip to Clarksville because 1) he had friendly political connections with powerful men based at Clarksville, and could smooth capitulation to Union occupation, and 2) McClernand WITH Grant was McClernand NOT at Fort Donelson (where as senior ranking officer, he might have become Acting-commander in Grant's absence.)

The above is noteworthy, because on page 81 (Note at bottom of page) of Henry Coppee's Grant and his Campaigns (1866) is revealed, "Some malignant person revealed Grant's trip to Nashville to Halleck and to Washington..."   https://archive.org/details/granthiscampaign01lccopp/page/81/mode/1up/search/Nashville

TWO Letters out there, somewhere, that may hold clues to Grant's celebration after Victory at Fort Donelson...



Link to post
Share on other sites


I think that McClernand gets a bum rap, and the charge of disloyalty, at least during this period seems seriously misplaced. Apart from offering detailed suggestions for the move on Fort Donelson (whether desire or not), what evidence exists that he was disloyal?

On the 10th, McClernand wrote to Washburne: "Having entire confidence in Gen Grants representation I take great pleasure in concurring in his recommendation."

The Papers of US Grant relate that, after the trip to Nashville: "a letter to USG was prepared at hd. qrs., 1st Div., Pine Landing, Tenn. 'We have heard with deep regret of your having been deposed from your authority as Commander in the field of the forces in this district. Whether, in fact, this be true, we do not pretend to say; much less to make it occasion for censure or reflection upon any. On the contrary, we disclaim not only the feeling but the purpose to do so. Our object is far different—it is simply and singly to perform an act which justice to ourselves as well as to you, equally, requires. Not to perform it would prove ourselves wanting in the sympathy and generosity which become fellow soldiers, who have fought and suffered together. This is our explanation and apology for this hasty note. Reverting to the past, we cannot forbear the expression of our thanks for the uniform urbanity and kindness you have extended to us. Nor in the sterner realities of war are we wanting in reason for awarding you our gratitude and respect. As our Commander at Belmont and Forts Henry and Donelson, besides in numerous mere skirmishes, you were successful. Under your lead the flag of the Union has been carried from the interior further towards the seaboard than by any other hands. You have slain more of the enemy, taken more prisoners and trophies, lost more men in battle and regained more territory to the Union than any other leader. If we have born a part in achieving these results we are proud of it, and are, therefore, naturally concerned in what may darken or disparage them. We place this spontaneous tribute at your disposal for such use as you may think proper to make of it.' LS, DNA, RG 94, Generals' Papers and Books, Ulysses S. Grant. This letter was signed by McClernand, Col. William H. L. Wallace, Col. Leonard F. Ross, and eight officers of McClernand's staff."

A few days later, McClernand wrote Grant: "'Allow me to congratulate you upon your reported restoration to the functions, incident to your rank and command. I hope soon to see you with us.'"


  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites


Excellent points, and I accept your stated concerns... The implication was made that John McClernand may have been the man who informed on particulars of General Grant's trip to Nashville as result of current lack of other possibilities (and Henry Coppee's statement that information “from someone” was sent to St. Louis and to Washington.) At the moment, McClernand's involvement is merely supposition. But, what makes John McClernand a suspect?

  • He was a former friend of Ulysses S. Grant, in 1861 likely both men were of the same political party; and assuming McClernand's earlier commission as Colonel of Volunteers, Colonel McClernand was senior to Colonel Grant until both gained promotion to Brigadier General (at which time BGen Grant became senior to BGen McClernand.)

  • John McClernand was known to correspond regularly with President Lincoln (so the line of communication with Washington pre-existed.)

  • U.S. Grant appeared to mentor the neophyte General McClernand in “the ways of the Army” while both were assigned to Cairo Illinois after August 1861: Grant left McClernand in acting command of the post during absences; and McClernand was assigned senior positions during the raid on Belmont, and the Operation against Fort Henry. [It is my belief that Grant was attempting to develop the same relationship with McClernand that he later successfully cultivated with William T. Sherman.]

  • The Fort Henry operation did not flow as planned: heavy rain turned roads into slippery slop and the Navy was able to rush forward and subjugate the fort before McClernand's men were in position to offer assistance. In particular, there was no timely pursuit of fleeing Rebels (and McClernand refused to take the blame for this lack of timely pursuit, instead calling attention to General Grant's failure to order an earlier start time for marching infantry involved in the Fort Henry operation.) In Grant's world, one did not question the decisions of the commanding general... especially NOT in public.

  • Following Fort Henry, General Grant called a Council of War during which BGen McClernand presented an elaborate proposal on how the operation against Fort Donelson should be conducted. [Some say this public show-boating mortified Grant; Lew Wallace suggests that “the notorious unpleasantness that developed between Grant and McClernand was initiated with McClernand's reading of that paper.”]

  • Ignoring the published orders, BGen McClernand surreptitiously moved his Division further to the east by several miles, and then commenced his march towards Fort Donelson several hours earlier than ordered [and then admitted he did so in his Fort Donelson report.]

  • The Confederate breakout attempted at Fort Donelson was largely due to opportunity: it was found that the right end of McClernand's line was not properly anchored. [John McArthur occupied that position, on the orders of General Grant. And Grant assigned blame for the faulty siting of McArthur/ responsibility for the breakout (and near defeat of the Union plan at Fort Donelson) to McArthur and McClernand. Following the Surrender of Buckner on 16 FEB, McArthur and McClernand were both ordered to remain outside the captured fort (while pride of place, inside, went to Smith's Second Division) and McClernand's men were tasked with all the onerous fatigue duties to be performed (to such an extent that BGen McClernand wrote a Letter of Complaint to Grant on 17 FEB 1862).]




SDG topic “We meet again”

SDG topic “Grant and McClernand” posts of 16 July and 20 July 2018.

Lew Wallace Autobiography page 377 (and note at bottom of page).

SDG topic “McArthur (part two)”

OR 7 pages 170 – 186 Fort Donelson reports (McClernand's) and the CSA breakout.

OR 7 page 625 “General Field Orders No.13: the Second Division is to occupy Fort Donelson for comfort and security; the First Division is to be positioned outside the south end by General McClernand.”

OR 7 page 633 “General Orders No.4 of 18 FEB 1862: All the outer guard will be performed by the First and Second Divisions, and Colonel McArthur will remain attached to the Second Division for orders. The First Division is responsible for placing guards on all roads and passes into the entrenchments from above Dover to out along the road west to Fort Henry.”

Papers of US Grant vol.4 page 242 details McClernand's Letter of Complaint of 17FEB and Grant's response of 18 FEB 1862.

Papers of US Grant vol.4 page 243 note at bottom: McClernand on 18 FEB suggests to Grant “the use of “captured Black men” to conduct fatigue duties (and thus replace the use of men [of his Division] in execution of those duties.)”

Adam Badeau's Military History of U.S. Grant vol.1 page 43 details the role of McArthur and McClernand in the Confederate breakout attempt of 15 FEB 1862. [The passage is written in such a way that one assumes McArthur was placed in his position by McClernand; but Grant had sited McArthur (without attached artillery support) late on 14 FEB, after dark, and McArthur had no way of surveying his position, or its proximity to swampy ground, until daylight. In Papers of US Grant vol.4 page 213 Note 3 Captain W. S. Hillyer on 15 FEB directs McClernand “to extend your line to the river,” but McClernand did not have sufficient troops. So McArthur's Brigade was taken from Smith's Second Division (by Grant, who had authority to do so) and sent south to McClernand... but too late in the day to be correctly deployed. And the breakout attempt occurred just a few hours later ...and then someone had to get the blame for McArthur's poor siting, which permitted the breakout to be attempted.

OR 7 page 218 Pugh's report of “McArthur's Brigade was moved into position on the extreme right of our forces too late to form any correct idea of the ground.”

OR 7 page 215 McArthur's Fort Donelson report: “We were under arms awaiting orders on 14 FEB until 5 pm, when we were ordered to occupy ground on the extreme right of our lines. Arrived at our new position a little after dark (about 7 pm) having been hotly shelled by the enemy's batteries on the way. Encamped for the night without instructions, and, as I regret to add, without knowledge of the nature of the ground in front and on our right.”

To conclude: Sometimes it is not REALITY that matters, but the PERCEPTION of reality. As regards Grant and McClernand, I believe Grant perceived McClernand as a rival, a glory hound, a gifted (but unscrupulous) politician able to shunt blame elsewhere, and a dangerous spy against Grant for President Lincoln. Whether or not John McClernand sent the unfriendly reports detailing Grant's visit to Nashville, General Grant likely believed McClernand was responsible: EVERYONE else that rode in company with General Grant aboard the W.H.B. was a man Grant could trust. [Following the return from Nashville, and continuing through the occupation of Pittsburg Landing, the friction between Grant and McClernand only increased...]



Link to post
Share on other sites


Glad you found this topic of interest. It had always puzzled me why "Grant's trip to Nashville" was merely touched on by a number of sources; and no two sources presented that trip (and its after-effects) in the same way. As result of the Nashville visit, an enmity was initiated between Ulysses Grant and Don Carlos Buell that festered during the month of March (and likely contributed to Buell's slow stroll to Savannah Tennessee.) Grant became better acquainted with WHL Wallace during the trip aboard W.H.B. and Wallace had been the officer who called on reinforcements from Lew Wallace. A Mexican War veteran, WHL Wallace had guided Lew Wallace with excellent suggestion of where to establish his line to repel the attempted breakout of 15 FEB (and the Confederate advance was rolled back from that position.) Jacob Lauman had revealed himself as a War Fighter at Belmont (where he was seriously wounded in the leg.) Arriving at Fort Donelson just a day or two previous to the breakout, Jacob Lauman was put in command of the brigade (with Tuttle's 2nd Iowa at its head) that General C.F. Smith led to glory. Smith, Tuttle, Lauman and McPherson all rode in advance of that charge, which broached the Outer Works of Fort Donelson afternoon of February 15th and directly led to Rebel capitulation next day. Jacob Lauman cemented his position as Action Officer on behalf of General Grant (as did WHL Wallace and his staff officer, Israel Rumsey) and all had essential roles in the lead-up to Day One at Battle of Shiloh.

Ezra Taylor continued to fight his battery at Fort Donelson, advancing first to support Lew Wallace after much of McClernand's division had been pushed back. In the lead-up to Battle of Shiloh, Ezra Taylor was promoted to Major and installed as Chief of Artillery of Sherman's Fifth Division.

LtCol James McPherson developed a severe throat condition and was evacuated to Hospital in St. Louis following the Confederate Surrender of 16 FEB 1862. Upon release from Hospital at beginning of March, LtCol McPherson (a staff officer belonging to Halleck) was assigned to BGen C.F. Smith, commander of the Tennessee River Expedition.

Major John H. Brinton was a favorite Surgeon of Ulysses Grant; and the man could be relied upon for discretion. He performed necessary assignments for General Grant (including travelling to St. Louis during the build-up at Pittsburg Landing to personally request from MGen Henry Halleck required medicines and sufficient number of floating hospitals -- all of which was achieved.) After Battle of Shiloh, Surgeon Brinton was removed from Grant's Staff and found himself in Washington at the end of the war (where he established the Army Medical Museum, with purpose of improving medical care on the battlefield.)

Agate (also known as Cincinnati news reporter Whitelaw Reid) wanted to align himself with a "fighting General" and rushed to Fort Donelson... but arrived too late. The Confederates surrendered, and Grant's forces occupied Clarksville; and it appears Reporter Reid got to Fort Donelson just after the W.H.B. departed, with General Grant aboard, bound for Clarksville, and then Nashville. But it appears Reid attempted to follow Grant, and took the next available steamer to Clarksville... only to miss Grant again. From reports that later appeared in Cincinnati and Chicago newspapers, it is likely Whitelaw Reid rode in company with General C.F. Smith to Nashville at the end of February. And he finally met U.S. Grant upon return to Fort Donelson (but was not over-awed.) At this time, it is believed Agate accompanied Grant or Smith up the Tennessee River; and it is known that Whitelaw Reid was at Pittsburg Landing and Crump's Landing by the 16th of March. Making frequent reports from the field, and staying with Lew Wallace at Crump's and LtCol Barton Kyle (71st Ohio of Stuart's Brigade) at Pittsburg Campground, Agate was at Crump's Landing on the morning of 6 APR 1862 and could hear the sound of battle emanating from the direction of Pittsburg Landing... so stole a ride aboard the steamer, Tigress, when Grant stopped briefly to speak with Lew Wallace. Because Whitelaw Reid left his horse behind at Crump's he was reliant on stragglers -- and his previous visits to the Pittsburg Campground -- to generate copy that burst onto the wires April 9th ...22000 words that generated such a public outcry that many called for General Grant to be removed from command.

John McClernand is likely to have accompanied Grant to Clarksville to meet with Cave Johnson and other important residents and smooth the way for Union occupation of that Cumberland river port. When the flotilla bearing Bull Nelson arrived near Clarksville, General Grant was faced with a dilemma: leave McClernand at Clarksville; return him to Fort Donelson; or bring him along to Nashville. It was decided to take BGen McClernand along to Nashville.

Following the visit to Nashville, "word got out" about that visit, with details only members of the party aboard W.H.B. would know. And Grant may have suspected John McClernand of leaking information. And that suspicion (true or not) would further sour the already tainted relationship between the two officers. Ulysses Grant put in place an elaborate Shell Game at Pittsburg Landing (involving the injured C.F. Smith, W.T. Sherman, William McMichael, and John Rawlins) to deny recently-promoted Major General McClernand (promotion with effect from 21 March 1862) enjoyment of lawful seniority. And subsequent "absence" of an Acting-commander on Sunday morning 6 April 1862, with MGen Grant at Savannah; MGen Smith sick-in-bed at Savannah; and BGen Sherman "acting commander of Pittsburg campground in Smith's absence" (and McClernand specifically NOT recognized as Acting-commander) ...almost resulted in fatal consequences for the Union. [Similar to what occurred at Fort Donelson during Grant's absence to visit Flag-Officer Foote.]

In addition, while reviewing the Papers of US Grant recently, in Volume 4 pages 212 - 213 is a Letter dated 15 FEB 1862 from Grant to General G. W. Cullum at Cairo that could ONLY have been written prior to General Grant having knowledge of that morning's breakout attempt. Near the end of the letter Grant admits: "Colonel Webster is now making a reconnaissance with a view of sending a force above the town of Dover to occupy the river bank." [This indicates what Grant intended McArthur's brigade to accomplish.]

At the bottom of page 213 Note 3 is to be found a Direction from Captain W.S. Hillyer (Grant's Staff) to BGen McClernand dated 15 FEB 1862 (and obviously sent before knowledge of the breakout attempt): "You will if practicable push on a portion of your column to the river, otherwise remain in statu quo til further orders -- maintaining your present position. You will direct that each regimental quartermaster proceed to our transports on the river and draw rations..."  

Unintended consequences have potential to be disastrous.


Edited by Ozzy
Whitelaw Reid with General C.F. Smith.
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...