150 Years Ago This Week: Grant is replaced

By the end of February, 1862, Federal troops had occupied Nashville, the first Confederate state capital to be taken by the Union Army. They remained in control of Nashville for the rest of the war; Gov. Isham Harris had established the state capital at Memphis. In New Mexico, the Confederate Army of New Mexico under Gen. Sibley continued its march north towards Albuquerque after the victory at Valverde. Federal troops under Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks occupied Harper’s Ferry, and President Lincoln appointed Andrew Johnson as Military Governor of Tennessee, to be confirmed by the Congress.

March 1862 began vastly different from the previous March. The outlook for the Confederacy was bleak. Federal armies were poised in northern Virginia near Washington; on the peninsula at Fort Monroe, threatening Richmond; in eastern North Carolina; at Port Royal, S.C.; in northwestern Arkansas; on the Mississippi, Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers. There was also the Atlantic coast blockade. Northerners were also far from optimistic. Dissatisfaction with the war was especially high among those who desired peace, conquest of the South, and abolition of slavery. It was becoming clear to both sides that the war would continue for a long time.

President Davis declared martial law in Richmond on Saturday, March 1, and authorities arrested former Virginia congressman John Minor Botts, an avowed neutral, and other pro-Union sympathizers accused of operating against the South. The next day, the Federals occupied Columbus, Ky., when Confederates under Maj. Gen. Leonidas Polk withdrew their garrison. In New Mexico Territory, Gen. Sibley’s army forced the Federals to abandon Albuquerque. Some minor fighting occurred at Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River as Confederate batteries were reinforced by men and arms from Columbus, Ky.

New Madrid, Mo., near Island No. 10, came under siege by Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. John Pope on March 3. Confederate troops evacuated Amelia Island, Florida, and there was skirmishing at Cubero and Comanche Pass in New Mexico. President Lincoln submitted to the Congress a long list of officers for appointment to major and brigadier generals. In Tennessee, Brig. Gen. Charles. F. Smith was appointed by Gen. Halleck to command Federal troops in a major expedition on the Tennessee River. Gen. Halleck did not believe that newly promoted Maj. Gen. Grant reported properly, and accused him of other misconduct after taking Fort Donelson. Other generals in Washington tended to agree with Halleck, so Gen. Smith was appointed to supercede Gen. Grant. Gen. Smith had been a military instructor at West Point and taught the future Gen. Grant and Gen. William T. Sherman during their cadet days.

On Tuesday, March 4, Confederate forces under Gen. Sibley in New Mexico entered Santa Fe after the Federals there retreated to Fort Union, to the northeast. In Tennessee, Gen. Grant was ordered to remain at Fort Henry while his troops under Gen. Smith advanced to the north. In Washington, the Congress confirmed Andrew Johnson as Military Governor of Tennessee with the rank of brigadier general. In place of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Maj. Gen. John C. Pemberton was assigned to command the Confederate military department of South Carolina, Georgia and East Florida. In Virginia, President Davis was having difficulties with Gen. Joseph Johnston over reenlistment of troops and furloughs.

In the Shenandoah Valley, on March 5, Federal troops under Gen. Banks advanced to the south from Harpers Ferry towards Winchester and Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s command. Fighting took place at Bunker Hill, just north of Winchester. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard assumed command of the Confederate Army of Mississippi while Gen. Albert S. Johnson’s Confederate troops moved west from Murfreesboro, Tenn., towards Corinth, Miss. In northwest Arkansas, Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn’s Confederates joined those commanded by Maj. Gen. Sterling Price to oppose the vastly superior Federal forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Samuel Curtis; a major engagement was soon to be fought there.

Arthur Candenquist
About Arthur Candenquist 194 Articles
A long-time historian, researcher, lecturer and author, Arthur Candenquist serves as secretary-treasurer of the Rappahannock County Sesquicentennial Committee. He can be reached at AC9725@cs.com.