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Civil War Encyclopedia >> People - Union Military
Henry Wages Halleck
Whether Abraham Lincoln knew it or not, Henry Halleck was not the bold fighter who won at Fort Donelson and Shiloh, but it didn't take Lincoln long to realize that it was Grant who was successful, not Halleck
Henry Halleck was an intellectual soldier who had a serious problem with his subordinate Grant. Unlike many of the men in the Army, Grant and Halleck barely knew each other. One of Halleck's problems with Grant may have been the accurate reports of his heavy drinking while stationed on the West Coast in the mid-1850's. Additional charges of drinking, although never proven, probably also adversely affected this relationship. Halleck also considered Grant's actions at Belmont
Henry Wages Halleck was born in 1815, eldest son of an upstate New York farmer. After attending Union College the future General-in-Chief, U. S. Army was accepted at West Point, finishing 4th in a class of 57. At the start of the Mexican War Lieutenant Halleck journeyed around Tierra del Fuego to California, where he eventually became secretary of state. in July, 1861 he received a commission as major general in the United States Army and he left San Francisco on October 10, 1861 and returned to Washington as Winfield Scott's hand-picked successor for General-in-Chief.
George McClellan, however, ousted Scott before Halleck arrived and Halleck was ordered to St. Louis, Missouri to clean up the corruption left by General John C. Fremont. Fremont was relieved of command on November 5th and Halleck arrived on November 9th to find out that Grant had taken (and withdrew from) Belmont, Missouri on November 7. While Grant got accolades for his aggressive performance at Belmont, Halleck considered the action impetuous.
When Grant showed up at Halleck's St. Louis headquarters with a plan to combine Army and Naval forces and take Fort Heiman and Fort Henry on the Tennessee River, Halleck balked. With McClellan's inaction in the east, Lincoln turned west for news and Halleck cautiously approved Grant's plan. Once Fort Henry was taken Grant issued a stern message to Halleck about advancing to Fort Donelson and went about the business of taking the larger garrison. Halleck was pleased that he was technically doing it without orders, giving Grant's commander a way out.
On March 3rd Halleck wired McClellan about the despair in Grant's troops, asking if he could appoint Charles Smith as commander of the Army of West Tennessee because Grant "...left his command without my authority and went to Nashville." McClellan, plainly supporting Halleck, wrote back "Do not hesitate to arrest him (Grant) at once if the good of the service requires it, and place C. F. Smith in command." With these orders Halleck assumed the role of Grant's protector, at least in communications with Grant.
Unfortunately, Grant was learning Halleck's game. He responded to Halleck in writing and sent a copy to Congressman Washburne, his sponsor. Washburne took Grant's case to Edwin Stanton and Abraham Lincoln. They supported Grant, so Halleck would have to wait, but not very long.
The following month Grant was blindsided at Shiloh. Halleck appealed to a friend, A. K. McClure, who denounced Grant as incompetent and a drunk. Lincoln responded to these charges succinctly, saying "I cannot spare this man (Grant); he fights."
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Henry Halleck was last changed on - October 23, 2007
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