The wrong "side of the river" argument, which Buell stressed in B&L,
has several weaknesses when used against Grant, not the least of
which is that both Buell and Halleck were aware of Smith establishing
a tete-du-pont at Pittsburg by about March 14, and neither voiced an
objection. In fact the plan was that this was to be the point of
concentration for the move upon Corinth.
Taking a step back...
The Mid-March objective was to land forces that would move south and
destroy the railroads in the vicinity of Cornith or the Bear Creek
Bridge, without bringing on a general engagement. The flooded nature
along the river at that time greatly limited the choices of landing
sites. Pittsburg is described as the best choice, having "high and
dry" camping for the entire army, a landing still useable in high
water, and direct roads to Corinth.
After a few Federal attempts to move on the railroads, it was
discovered that the rebels were present in force. Any forward
movement would require a general engagment. Federal plans to isolate
Polk's forces from AS Johnston's through destruction of the railroads
had been thwarted.
At this point Halleck (3/17) orders Buell to Savannah to join up with
NASHVILLE, TENN., March 17, 1862.
I have information, which seems reliable, that Beauregard moved last
Thursday from Corinth and Jackson to some other point not named--
probably Savannah--to operate against Smith, in anticipation of his
crossing. A part of the force was to strike the river below Savannah,
to cut off transportation. The force moving toward Savannah is said
to number 26,000.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
Saint Louis, March 17, 1862.
General D.C. BUELL,
I fully understand these movements. Move on, as ordered to-day, to re-
enforce Smith. Savannah is now the strategic point. Don't fail to
carry out my instructions. I know that I am right.
H. W. HALLECK,
Also on the 17th, Grant arrived at Savannah:
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF WEST TENNESSEE,
Savannah, Tenn., March 17, 1862.
Capt. N. H. McLEAN,
Saint Louis, Mo.:
I have the honor of reporting my arrival but a few minutes since at
this place. Just as I arrived a report was received from General
Sherman, which I herewith inclose. (+) A man employed by General
Smith as scout also came in, reporting the enemy very strong from
Chickasaw to Corinth. Their number was estimated at 150,000, about
one-third of them being at Corinth. General Johnston, with his force,
is said to be with them. The number is of course very much
exaggerated, and Johnston being there was very much against my
This country is so overflowed that but few roads can be traveled, and
all are most impassable for artillery. A few dry days, however, would
remedy this, and it is certainly time to look for a change of
weather. I shall order all the forces here, except McClernand's
division, to Pittsburg, and send back steamers as rapidly as possible.
It is with great difficulty that quartermasters at Paducah and Cairo
can be impressed with the magnitude of our wants in coal and forage.
We are now short in both these articles. Corn can be procured here
for a few days, but not for a long period. I would respectfully
suggest to the general commanding the importance of having funds in
the hands of the quartermaster to pay the people for such supplies as
we get from them.
All the troops of my command, except those left to garrison Forts
Henry and Donelson, two regiments at Clarksville yet to arrive, and
McClernand's division, will be at Pittsburg. The accompanying report
of General Sherman, with the above statement, shows the present
distribution of my forces. The Fifty-second Illinois, Col. T. W.
Sweeny commanding, has just arrived.
It is at this point Grant becomes responsible for the troop
dispositions, which were:
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF WEST TENNESSEE,
Savannah, March 18, 1862.
Maj. Gen H. W. HALLECK,
Saint Louis, Mo.:
Your dispatch of the 16th is just received and replied to by
telegraph from Fort Henry. I arrived here last evening, and found
that Generals Sherman and Hurlbut's divisions were at Pittsburg,
partially debarked; General Wallace at Crump's Landing, 6 miles
below, same side of the river; General McClernand's division at this
place, encamped, and General Smith's, with unattached regiments, on
board transports, also here. I immediately ordered all troops, except
McClernand's command, to Pittsburg, and to debark there at once and
discharge the steamers, to report at Paducah for further orders.
All your instructions will be carried out to the best of my ability.
There is no doubt a large force is being concentrated at Corinth and
on the line of the railroad......I shall go to-morrow to Crump's
Landing and Pittsburg, and if I think any change of position for any
of the troops needed I will make the change. Having full faith,
however, in the judgment of General Smith, who located the present
points of debarkation, I do not expect any change will be made....
Given this situation, what argument does Grant make to Halleck for
pulling back to the north/east side of River? ie, what reason is
there to retreat? Conversely, if being at Pittsburg is against
military principles why does Halleck not order a retreat?
In the meantime, Grant is aware that Buell's forces have reached
Columbia on 3/19 (about 60 miles from Savannah). Buell estimates 4-5
days to repair the bridges so Grant estimates his arrival on the
Tennessee at about 3/28. I think this point somewhat mitigates
criticisms for the failure to entrench. Grant expected to be in
motion by the end of March, and preparing for that move was given a
higher priority than building defenses. However, Grant is
responsible for prevailing attitude among the Federals that "no
battle would be fought closer than Corinth." This attitude is the
reason for the Federals inablity to "read the tea leaves" and see an
approaching Rebel army on 4/4 or 4/5. It is almost inexplicable that
that by the evening of 4/5 the Federal divisions were not all in
battle line awaiting Johnston's onslaught. IMHO, this more than
anything else is the reason for the Federal debacle of 4/6, and is
more the responsiblity of Grant than any of the other issues raised.