April 30, 1862 (Wednesday)
Union General Henry Halleck, commanding the Department of the Mississippi, had taken a steamer from his headquarters in St. Louis to the battlefield at Shiloh, where the Army of the Tennessee and Army of the Ohio, commanded by Generals Grant and Buell, respectively, had been victorious. In the span since the battle, both armies had been joined by the also victorious Army of the Mississippi, under General Pope. Together, they totaled over 100,000 men.
Upon his arrival on April 10th, Halleck immediately set his mind to not only reorganizing and revitalizing the three armies, but also combining. Finally, on April 28th, he released his Special Field Orders, No. 31. The three armies would become corps of one large army. General Grant’s Army would become the First Corps and Halleck’s right wing. Buell’s force would make up the center, while Pope’s would hold the left.
The order also urged discipline, the distribution of ammunition and limiting wagons to thirteen per regiment. As the sick lists were growing larger, Halleck also ordered that before each meal, the food be inspected by a company officer. In fact, of the five paragraphs contained in Special Field Orders, No. 31, the one concerning food was the largest.1
It was the first paragraph, however, that was of primary importance, and on this date, it was expounded upon. In two days, Grant went from command of the right wing to Halleck’s second-in-command. General George Thomas’ Division was moved from the Army of the Ohio to the Army of the Tennessee. Thomas replaced Grant as wing commander. Sort of.
The role as Halleck’s second-in-command was only temporary during the coming move upon the Rebels at Corinth. Grant would still retain command of the Army of the Tennessee.2
While the changes would be enacted the following day, General Buell was already feeling slighted as Thomas’ Division had been part of his command. The move left him with only three divisions, while Thomas, formerly Buell’s subordinate, now commanding the right wing, had five. “You must excuse me for saying that,” wrote Buell to Halleck upon reading the new orders, “as it seems to me, you have saved the feelings of others very much to my injury.”3
Though Buell might protest, the change is most remembered as a slight to Grant, though at first, it didn’t seem so. Grant had been promoted from commander of a third of the army to second-in-command of the entire army. Halleck thought it best that, with the new position, Grant move his headquarters closer to his own (Halleck’s). This led Grant to believe that the promotion would have real battlefield uses.4 Grant’s only gripe thus far was that neither Buell nor Pope had sent the reports from their commands through him, but rather sent them straight to Halleck. In consequence, Grant refused to send in any reports at all. Halleck said that he understood, but really just wanted to get all of the reports off to Washington before moving the entire army south. Grant capitulated and the drama was, so far, averted.
Moving south was, of course, the goal. Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard and roughly 40,000 troops were hunkered down in Corinth, Mississippi, two day’s march away. Since the Battle of Shiloh, the roads south had been improved and reconnoitered. Though parts of the army, mainly Pope’s forces, had moved out, the main body would move in two days.5
Farragut Puts an End to His Drama
While drama was averted near Shiloh, it was amping itself up in New Orleans. The Mayor had refused to take down the Louisiana state flag, and so Flag Officer David Farragut threatened to bombard the city. In turn, the Mayor reasoned that if he could easily destroy a city, he could more easily take down a flag. Also, he accused Farragut of wanting to murder the city’s women and children.
Having had about enough of this Mayor fellow, Farragut cut him off. Of the accusation, Farragut replied that the Mayor thought it “proper to construe into a determination on my part to murder your women and children, and made your letter so offensive that it will terminate our intercourse.” In short, Farragut was finished.
General Benjamin Butler had returned to his men, stationed near the recently-surrendered Forts Jackson and St. Philip, and would soon be bringing them to New Orleans. When Butler arrived, Farragut planned to “turn over the charge of the city to him and assume my naval duties.”6
There was also another bit of drama that Farragut needed to clear up. When he threatened to bombard the city, the foreign consuls of at least nine different countries, including England, France, and Spain, protested, telling him that it wouldn’t look so good on the world stage if he bombarded a city that had no military to defend it.
The consuls accused Farragut of threatening to bombard the city without cause. Farragut replied that he had expressed no such idea. He was merely trying to protect his men. Also, he “would not permit any flag opposed to my Government to fly in the city while I had the power to prevent it.”
The previous day, he had sent 250 marines with two pieces of artillery into New Orleans to remove the offending flag from City Hall, while running up a United States flag over the Custom House. “It is with great pleasure,” Farragut assured the consuls, “that I anticipate no further difficulty or inconvenience to your families from my acts.”
The drama was abated, insisted Farragut. All he wanted was for the state flag of Louisiana to be hauled down. “The authorities confessed their inability to do it, and I did it for them.”7
*Here’s a little quiz. The story behind Grant’s portrait is a fun one. Can you tell us what it is? The only prize is one pat on the back, which you will have to administer to yourself, if and only if, you get the correct answer. It’s not much, but it’s better than a slap on the belly with a wet trout.
- Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 10, Part 2, p138-139. [↩]
- Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 10, Part 2, p144. [↩]
- Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 10, Part 2, p143. [↩]
- Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 52, Part 1, p245. [↩]
- Personal Memoirs by Ulysses S. Grant, C.L. Webster & Co., 1885. There are several dates given by authors for the start of Halleck’s move south. While it started earlier, the full army wasn’t on the move until May 2nd that things really got moving. Most authors just haze over it, picking up again sometime during the march. [↩]
- Official Naval Records, Series 1, Vol. 18, p236. [↩]
- Official Naval Records, Series 1, Vol. 18, p240-241. [↩]