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Army of the Tennessee
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Armies - Union
Army of the Tennessee
The Army of the Tennessee began as the "District of Cairo, Department of Missouri" and was commanded by Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant. It was divided into 3 divisions, the 1st under John A. McClernand, the 2nd under Charles F. Smith and the 3rd under Lew Wallace. Smith seized Paducah, Kentucky on September 6, 1861, two days after Leonidas Polk seized Columbus, Kentucky.
Grant was anxious about preserving his command of the northern Mississippi, so when John C. Fremont ordered him to demonstrate to support troops in central Missouri, Grant took Belmont, Missouri, opposite Polk's position in Columbus, from Gideon Pillow on November 7, 1861. The Confederates responded by moving Frank Cheatham across the Mississippi River to block Grant from his boats, but after a brief struggle Grant broke the weak line and returned to his starting point.
Belmont was hailed in the northern press as a victory, but there was a problem. Fremont had been removed command and Henry Halleck, Grant's new commander, didn't like to take chances. When Halleck first met Grant in January, 1862, Grant noticed the chilly reception, but Grant had bigger plans on his mind. The Confederates had build Fort Henry in a relatively weak position made weaker by a flood of the Tennessee River. When Grant proposed an attack against the fort Halleck denied it mostly because he (Halleck) had not come up with the idea. That's when President Abraham Lincoln stepped in, telling all his commanders to begin a general advance before February 22, 1862.
Apparently, Lincoln's communication did not have much of an affect on Halleck, but one from George McClellan telling of P. G. T. Beauregard's move West did. Halleck resurrected Grant's plan, approved it and sent him to the Kentucky-Tennessee border. To keep Leonidas Polk worried in Columbus, Grant made a feint towards the town on his way to Fort Henry. With an overpowering force of 15,000 men and the Western Flotilla on the Cumberland River the Army of West Tennessee faced a garrison of slightly more than 3,000 men under Lloyd Tighman, whom Grant had chased out of Paducah. First, Charles Ferguson Smith took Fort Heiman, on the west bank of the Tennessee, then the Western Flotilla began its bombardment of Fort Henry. Tilgman realized the hopelessness of the situation and evacuated most of his men but was forced to leave his weapons. In taking the fort Grant had control of the Tennessee River to the Mississippi border and turned Leonidas Polk's position in Columbus.
From here, Grant moved, with Halleck's permission, to Fort Donelson. Sidney Johnston, commander of the Confederate Army of the West, had close to half his force within the walls of Donelson and Grant's success here would be a major accomplishment for the general who was learning his lessons on the job. Grant had already decided the route to victory in the west was down the Tennessee River and not the Mississippi and that the best time to attack was before the Rebels were ready.
Fort Donelson, 10.5 miles east of Fort Henry was a prize Grant wanted.
During the Battle of Atlanta General John "Blackjack" Logan was put in temporary command of the Army of the Tennessee. He is later superseded by O. O. Howard.
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Army of the Tennessee was last changed on - January 11, 2008
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