Grant as­sumes com­mand

MARCH 1864

Rappahannock News - - NEWS • HISTORY - ARTHUR CANDENQUIS­T [email protected]

On the last day of Fe­bru­ary, 1864, Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln ap­proved the con­gres­sional act re­viv­ing the grade of lieu­tenant gen­eral in the army — the high­est rank since Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton. It was clear that Congress and the pres­i­dent had Maj. Gen. Ulysses Grant in mind for the pro­mo­tion. Re­tired Gen. Win­field Scott was a lieu­tenant gen­eral by brevet only.

On March 1, while Maj. Gen. Kilpatrick and Col. Ul­rich Dahlgren were con­duct­ing their raid on Richmond, the pres­i­dent nom­i­nated Gen. Grant for the newly cre­ated army rank. The Se­nate con­firmed the nom­i­na­tion on March 2, the day Col. Dahlgren was killed and the in­crim­i­nat­ing documents found on his body. The next day, Gen. Grant was or­dered to Wash­ing­ton to re­ceive his com­mis­sion.

On Fri­day, March 4, the Se­nate con­firmed Andrew John­son as Mil­i­tary Gover­nor of Ten­nessee, and in New Or­leans, Gov. Michael Hahn took of­fice of the pro-Union ad­min­is­tra­tion of Louisiana. In Wash­ing­ton, Adm. John Dahlgren called at the White House to learn the fate of his son, Ul­rich, whose death near Richmond was not yet known.

The Con­fed­er­ate govern­ment or­dered ev­ery ves­sel to al­lot half of its cargo ca­pac­ity to govern­ment ship­ments on March 5. This was done to min­i­mize pri­vate profit from block­ade run­ning and to as­sist in ob­tain­ing badly needed sup­plies. Con­fed­er­ate Maj. Gen. John C. Breck­in­ridge, for­mer vice pres­i­dent un­der James Buchanan, as­sumed com­mand of the Depart­ment of Western Vir­ginia; the Con­fed­er­acy did not rec­og­nize the ad­mis­sion of West Vir­ginia to the Union the pre­vi­ous June.

On March 7, anx­ious over the mil­i­tary sit­u­a­tion in the West, Pres­i­dent Jef­fer­son Davis wrote Lt. Gen. James Longstreet in east Ten­nessee: “It is need­less to point out to you the value of a suc­cess­ful move­ment into Ten­nessee and Ken­tucky, and the im­por­tance — I may say ne­ces­sity — of our tak­ing the ini­tia­tive.”

Pres­i­dent Lin­coln wrote con­gress­man John Creswell of Mary­land the same day that, while he pre­ferred grad­ual eman­ci­pa­tion in Mary­land, he would not ob­ject to im­me­di­ate eman­ci­pa­tion of the slaves there. The pres­i­dent also des­ig­nated the start­ing point of the new Union Pa­cific Rail­road on the western boundary of Iowa.

On March 8, at a re­cep­tion at the Ex­ec­u­tive Man­sion, Pres­i­dent Lin­coln walked up to a di­sheveled-look­ing man in uni­form. “Gen­eral Grant, is it?” the pres­i­dent asked. “Yes, it is,” was the gen­eral’s re­ply. The two men met for the first time. Later, in the East Room crowded with people, the short-statured Gen. Grant stood on a crim­son-colored sofa so the people could see him, and the room echoed with cheers and ap­plause.

The fol­low­ing day, at a Cab­i­net meet­ing, Gen. Grant for­mally re­ceived his com­mis­sion as lieu­tenant gen­eral and an­nounced that, as gen­eral-in-chief of the Ar­mies of the United States, he would serve along­side Maj. Gen. Ge­orge Meade, com­man­der of the Army of the Po­tomac, in the East­ern theatre of war. Gen. Grant left on March 10 and went to Brandy Sta­tion in Culpeper County — Gen. Meade’s head­quar­ters.

On March 11, Gen. Grant re­turned to Wash­ing­ton and went that evening to Nashville to con­fer there with Maj. Gen. Wil­liam Sher­man, now com­man­der of the Union ar­mies in the West. On March 12, the Union mil­i­tary com­mand was re­aligned. Maj. Gen. Henry Hal­leck was re­lieved at his own re­quest as Gen­eral in Chief, and as­sumed the post of Chief of Staff.

To Gen. Sher­man was as­signed the Mil­i­tary Di­vi­sion of the Mis­sis­sippi, com­mand­ing the De­part­ments of the Ohio, the Cum­ber­land, the Ten­nessee and the Arkansas. Maj. Gen. John B. McPher­son was as­signed com­mand of the Depart­ment and the Army of the Ten­nessee.

On the Mis­sis­sippi River, Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks moved his army on gun­boats up the Red River into the heart of Louisiana to start the Red River Cam­paign. His chief op­po­nent was Gen. Ed­mund Kirby Smith, com­mand­ing 30,000 Con­fed­er­ate troops.


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