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CHAP. VI. It is exceedingly discouraging. As everywhere
else, nothing can be done."
Nevertheless, something was being done; very little at the moment, it is true, but enough to form the beginning of momentous results. On the same day on which Halleck had written the discouraging letter commented upon by the President, he had also transmitted to Grant, at Cairo, the direction: “I wish you to make a demonstration in force on Mayfield and in the direction of Murray.” The object was, as he further explained, to prevent reënforcements being sent to Buckner at Bowling Green. He was to threaten Camp Beauregard and Murray, to create the impression that not only was Dover (Fort Donelson) to be attacked, but that a great army to be gathered in the West was to sweep down towards Nashville, his own column being merely an advance-guard. Flag-officer Foote was to assist by a gunboat demonstration. “Be very
careful, however,” added Halleck, “to avoid a Halleok to battle; we are not ready for that; but cut off Jan, 6, 1862. detached parties, and give your men a little exPP. 583, 534. perience in skirmishing.”
If this order had gone to an unwilling or negligent officer, he could have found in his surrounding conditions abundant excuse for evasion and non-compliance. There was at Cairo, as at every other army post, large or small, lack of officers, of organization, of arms, of equipments, of transportation, of that multitude of things considered necessary to the efficiency of moving troops. But in the West the sudden increase of armies brought to command, and to direction and management, a large proportion of civilians, lacking methodical instruction and
experience, which was without question a serious CHAP. VI. defect, but which left them free to invent and adopt whatever expedients circumstances might suggest, or which rendered them satisfied and willing to enter upon undertakings amid a want of preparation and means, which better information might have led them to think indispensable.
The detailed reports and orders of the expedition we are describing clearly indicate these latter characteristics. We learn from them that the weather was bad, the roads heavy, quartermaster's department and transportation deficient, and gunboats without adequate crews. Yet nowhere does it appear that these things were treated as impediments. Halleck's instructions, dated January 6, were received by Grant on the morning of the 8th, and his answer was, that immediate preparations were being made for carrying them out, and that Flagofficer Andrew H. Foote would coöperate with three gunboats. “The continuous rains for the last week or more," says Grant, “ bave rendered the roads extremely bad, and will necessarily make our movement slow. This, however, will operate worse upon the enemy, if he should come out to meet us, than upon us." The movement began on the even- PP. 687, 638. ing of January 9, and its main delay occurred through Halleck's orders. It was fully resumed on the 12th. Brigadier-General John A. McClernand, with five thousand men, marched southward, generally parallel to the Mississippi River, to Mayfield, midway between Fort Henry and Columbus, and pushed a reconnaissance close up to the latter place. Brigadier-General C. F. Smith, starting from Paducah, marched a strong column southward,
Grant to Halleck, Jan. 8, 1862.
CHAP. VI. generally parallel to the Tennessee River, to Callo
way near Fort Henry. Foote and Grant, with three to Kelton, gunboats, two of them now ironclads, ascended 1862. W.R. the Tennessee to Fort Henry, drew the fire of the pp. 661, 652. fort, and threw several shells into the works.
We need not describe the routes, the precautions, the marching and countermarching to mystify the enemy. While the rebels were yet expecting a further advance, the several detachments were already well on their return. "The expedition,” says Grant, “if it had no other effect, served as a fine reconnaissance.” But it had more positive results. Fort Henry and Columbus were thoroughly alarmed, and drew in their outposts, while the Union forces learned from inspection that the route offered a feasible line of march to attack and invest Columbus, and demonstrated the inherent weakness and vulnerability of Fort Henry. This, be it remembered, was done with raw forces and without preparation, but with officers and men responding alike promptly to every order and executing their task more than cheerfully, even eagerly, with such means as were at hand when the order came. “The reconnaissance thus made,” reports McClernand, “completed a march of one hundred and forty miles by the cavalry and seventy-five miles by the infantry over icy or miry roads, during a most inclement season." He further reports that the circumstances of the case “prevented me from taking, on leaving Cairo, the five days' supply of rations and forage directed by the commanding officer
of this district; hence the necessity of an early 1862. W.R. resort to other sources of supply. None other pre
sented but to quarter upon the enemy or to pur
chase from loyal citizens. I accordingly resorted CHAP. VI. to both expedients as I had opportunity." Lincoln's prompting did not end with merely having produced this reconnaissance. The President's patience was well-nigh exhausted; and while his uneasiness drove him to no act of rashness, it caused him to repeat his admonitions and suggestions. In addition to his telegrams and letters to the Western commanders between December 31 and January 6, he wrote to both on January 13 to point out how advantage might be taken of the military condition as it then existed. Halleck had emphasized the danger of moving on exterior lines " and insisted that it was merely repeating the error committed at Bull Run, and would as inevitably lead to disaster. Lincoln in his letter showed that the defeat at Bull Run did not result from movement on exterior lines, but from failure to use exterior lines with judgment and concert; and he further illustrated how the Western armies might now, by judicious coöperation, secure important military results.
MY DEAR SIR: Your dispatch of yesterday is received, in which you say:
I have received your letter and General McClellan's, and will at once devote all my efforts to your views and his.” In the midst of my many cares, I have not seen nor asked to see General McClellan's letter to you. For my own views, I have not offered, and do not now offer, them as orders, and while I am glad to have them respectfully considered, I would blame you to follow them contrary to your own clear judgment, unless I should put them in the form of orders. As to General McClellan's views, you understand your duty in regard to them better than I do. With this preliminary I state my general idea of this war to be that we have the greater numbers, and the enemy has the greater facility of con
CHAP. VI. centrating forces upon points of collision; that we must
fail unless we can find some way of making our advantage an overmatch for his; and that this can only be done by menacing him with superior forces at different points at the same time, so that we can safely attack one or both if he makes no change; and if he weakens one to strengthen the other, forbear to attack the strengthened one, but seize and hold the weakened one, gaining so much. To illustrate: Suppose last summer, when Winchester ran away to reënforce Manassas, we had forborne to attack Manassas, but had seized and held Winchester. I mention this to il. lustrate and not to criticize. I did not lose confidence in McDowell, and I think less harshly of Patterson than some others seem to. In application of the general rule I am suggesting, every particular case will have its modifying circumstances, among which the most constantly present and most difficult to meet will be the want of perfect knowledge of the enemy's movements. This had its part in the Bull Run case; but worse in that case was the expiration of the terms of the three months' men. Applying the principle to your case, my idea is that Halleck shall menace Columbus and“down river" generally, while you menace Bowling Green and East Tennessee. If the enemy shall concentrate at Bowling Green do not retire from his front, yet do not fight him there either, but seize Columbus and East Tennessee, one or both, left exposed
by the concentration at Bowling Green. It is a matter Buell, of no small anxiety to me, and one which I am sure you 1862, W. R. will not overlook, that the East Tennessee line is so long pp. 928, 929. and over so bad a road.
This letter was addressed to Buell, but a copy of it was also sent to Halleck.
Buell made no reply, but Halleck sent an indirect answer, a week later, in a long letter to General McClellan under date of January 20. The communication is not a model of correspondence, when we remember that it emanated from a trained writer upon military science. It is long and somewhat rambling; it finds fault with politics and politicians in war, in evident igno