Henry Halleck and His Growing German Problem; Grant Steps Off

February 2, 1862 (Sunday)

General Henry Halleck had more to worry about than sending General Grant to attack Confederate Fort Henry. Ever since the removal of General John C. Fremont, in early November, things seemed to be going better for most of the army. Not only was Grant about to pounce upon the fort, but General Samuel Curtis and his Army of the Southwest were about to move on the Rebels under Sterling Price near Springfield. The once-steady stream of disgruntled Missouri citizens flowing to Price’s army had been more or less cut off by General Pope in the central part of the state. It’s true, things were looking up for the Department of Missouri.

Except when it came to the Germans. Since Fremont had been removed, many seemed to believe that, through protest, they could get Fremont back in command. “The German troops are on the brink of mutiny,” wrote Halleck, in an early January letter to Frank Blair, Jr. He claimed that secret meetings had been held and high ranking officers were implicated. Halleck was prepared for anything, for any explosion. “I am prepared for it, and will put it down,” he assured Blair. “All I ask of my Washington friends is to keep cool, and let me work out my plans.”1

President Lincoln, however, was not as certain of Halleck as Halleck was. About three weeks later, Lincoln found Gustave Koerner, a German emigrant who was one of the founders of the Republican Party. Lincoln was certain that Koerner could solve the German problem and sent him to Halleck in St. Louis. “The Germans are true and patriotic,” wrote Lincoln to Halleck, they just needed a German general (which is what Lincoln wished to make of Koerner).2

In his January 21st reply to Lincoln, Halleck took on a lawyerly air, explaining that he (Halleck) already had Koerner in mind, but that the highest rank that could legally be given was that of Colonel. He then went on to define the two causes of the German problem.

First, they wanted money. The payment department in Missouri was out of money and the Germans simply didn’t understand that. Halleck, on the other hand, knew exactly why it was strapped for cash. “The truth is that Congress is so busy discussing the eternal nigger question that they fail to make any appropriations, and the financial departments are dead broke,” confided Halleck to General Curtis.

The second cause of the Germans’ discontent was meddling politicians inside and outside of the army who were agitating the troops “in order to serve particular ends.” He again told Lincoln that “all these difficulties are being satisfactorily arranged.” In fact, Halleck was “confident that in a few weeks, if the Government does not interfere, I can reduce these disaffected elements to order and discipline.”3

Halleck was no fan of politicians messing with military affairs. Just a few days before, on January 30, he cautioned Grant against “political influences” when organizing his army. 4 And so it was no surprise when Halleck next wrote to General George B. McClellan rather than to Lincoln about the Germans.

Complaining of “anonymous attacks on the Government at Washington” by German newspapers, he caught McClellan up on the secret meetings to overthrow his command. There had been such a meeting barely a week prior attended by officers who had left their regiments on the march from Rolla to Springfield “and came here [St. Louis] to stir up mutiny and insurrection.”

Halleck had heard that the “German and Abolition press throughout the country” were trying to use General Franz Sigel, commanding a brigade under General Carter, to attack him, break him down in order to force Washington to reinstate Fremont. General Halleck was clearly unhappy about Gustav Koerner being made a General by Lincoln and wrote openly to McClellan about it, telling him “the President should make no appointment of these foreign officers without consulting you.”

In closing, Halleck, knowing that his words could be easily misconstrued, reminded McClellan that the letter was “intended to be entirely confidential.”5


Grant Steps Off; Halleck Still Doesn’t Need Buell’s Help

Of course, Halleck didn’t just have the Germans to worry about, either. February 2nd was the date that General Grant had given for when he and his army (soon to be called the Army of the Tennessee), would board steamers on the Tennessee River and sail from Cairo, Illinois to Fort Henry.

Commanding the naval forces was Flag Officer Andrew Foote, who had spent the past several days getting everything in order. By noon of this date, his small fleet was at Paducah, Kentucky.

Grant had decided to leave eight regiments behind at Cairo, just in case the rumors of General P.G.T. Beauregard coming to the west turned out to be true. Halleck, however, had a less conservative idea. “Make your force as large as possible,” he wired to Grant, “I will send more regiments from here in a few days.”6

One problem that General Halleck no longer had was General Don Carlos Buell. At one time, Buell was a problem. Buell was to advance into Eastern Tennessee and Halleck was to create a diversion. Halleck waited and waited for Buell to set a date, but the message never came. A diversion was made, but Buell’s troops in Kentucky moved not an inch. But by this time, Halleck seemed not to care at all about whatever it was that Buell was doing.

Buell had even offered to help Halleck in his advance, but Halleck had replied that “co-operation at present not essential.” Halleck reasoned that Buell’s help was not needed as it was “only proposed to take and occupy Fort Henry and Dover [Donelson], and, if possible, cut the railroad from Columbus to Bowling Green.”

Halleck wanted Buell to keep him informed of his plan, and even promised “to assist you as much as possible.” It was now Buell who would be kept in a holding pattern. “If we take Fort Henry and concentrate all available forces there,” wrote Halleck, “[Confederate] troops must be withdrawn either from Bowling Green or Columbus to protect the railroads.” Buell commanded the troops opposite Bowling Green, while Halleck led those opposite Columbus. “If the former, you can advance,” allowed Halleck, “if the latter, we can take New Madrid and cut off the [Mississippi] river communication with Columbus.”7

By this time, Grant was off, on his way to Paducah, where he was to meet up with Foote and General McClernand’s infantry. There were not enough vessels to carry all of Grant’s troops in one trip, so they had to be divided up, with McClernand’s moving first and General C.F. Smith following in his wake.

  1. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 8, p490. []
  2. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 8, p826. []
  3. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 8, p827-828. []
  4. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 7, p572. []
  5. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 8, p828-829. []
  6. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 7, p579. []
  7. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 7, p578. []
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Henry Halleck and His Growing German Problem; Grant Steps Off by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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