Frederick Trevor Hill

For nearly two months after Grant assumed command no important move was attempted by either the Union or the Confederate forces except in Mississippi. Both sides realized that a desperate struggle was impending and each needed all the time it could gain to prepare for the coming fray.

The command of the local company was, of course, offered to Grant as soon as it was formed, but he declined, believing himself qualified for somewhat higher rank than a captaincy of volunteers. Nevertheless, he did all he could to prepare the recruits for active service in the field and when they were ordered to Springfield, the capital of Illinois, he journeyed there to see them properly mustered into the service of the state.

While Grant was thus striving to reenter the army, Lee was having a struggle of a very different sort. Summoned from his distant post in Texas, where only an occasional rumble of the coming tempest reached his ears, he suddenly found himself in the center of the storm which threatened to wreck the Republic.

The six-weeks' campaign in Virginia had been quite sufficient to check all enthusiasm for Grant, but the fact that he was no longer a popular hero did not trouble him at all. Indeed, he displayed the same indifference to the storm of angry criticism that he had shown for the salvos of applause. He had made no claims or boasts before he took the field and he returned no answers to the accusations and complaints after his apparent failures.

It was to no very agreeable task that Lee was assigned at the outset of his command. The forces of the Confederacy were even less prepared to take the field than those of the United States, and for three months Lee was hard at work organizing and equipping the army for effective service.

The right man to conduct the Shenandoah campaign was already in the Army of the Potomac, but it was not until about a week after the failure of the Petersburg mine that circumstances enabled Grant to place General Philip Sheridan in charge of that important task.

Up to this time the war in the West had been largely an affair of skirmishes. A body of Union troops would find itself confronting a Confederate force, one of the two commanders would attack and a fight would follow; or the Confederates would march into a town and their opponents would attempt to drive them out of it, not because it was of any particular value, but because the other side held it. "See-a-head-and-hit-it" strategy governed the day and no plan worthy of the name had been adopted for conducting the war on scientific principles.

It would be impossible to imagine a more hopeless situation than that which had confronted Lee for many months.

Grant did not waste any time in rejoicing over his success. The capture of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson was an important achievement but it was only one step toward the control of the Mississippi River, which was the main object of the campaign. The next step in that direction was toward Corinth a strategically important point in Mississippi, and he immediately concentrated his attention upon getting the army in position to attack that stronghold.

While Lee's messenger was making his way toward the Union lines, Grant was riding rapidly to the front where his forces had foiled the Confederate cavalry. For more than a week he had been constantly in the saddle, moving from one point on his lines to another and begrudging even the time for food and sleep in his efforts to hasten the pursuit.

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