Loreta’s Civil War: Things were looking exceedingly gloomy

Her ambitions for a massive Confederate counterattack crushed, Velazquez decides to resign from her post as a Union spy and regroup her hopes, ideas, and plans.

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart shared edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

Part 45: Her ambitions for a massive Confederate counterattack crushed, Velazquez decides to resign from her post as a Union spy and regroup her hopes, ideas, and plans.

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Had it been possible for me to have destroyed the arsenal without loss of life, I would most assuredly have done it but the circumstances being what they were, it has been a great satisfaction to me ever since that I did not attempt anything of the kind, just as it has been a satisfaction to me that I did not kill Gen. Grant when I had an opportunity to do so on the night after the first day’s fight at Shiloh. I doubt, however, whether there would have been a great many men, either Confederates or Federals, who would have been so considerate in similar situations, especially if the deed could have been performed without risk to themselves. I am confident that I could have fired the Indianapolis arsenal without serious danger of being detected, but I do not suppose anyone will think the worse of me that I did not do it.

The great number of letters I received from nearly every quarter within a very brief period excited curiosity and remark. After my first few visits to the post office the clerk began to take notice of me, and he would say something nearly every time I called for my mail about the extent of my correspondence. What he said was in a joking sort of a way, and under some circumstances I should have thought nothing of it but not knowing, from day to day, what might happen, it caused me some uneasiness to attract this kind of attention, both for my own sake and for the sake of my correspondents. I very well knew that did the Federal authorities suspect me the least of being a Confederate agent, there would be no hesitation whatever about opening my letters, and if some of them had been opened, there would have been fine revelations … of the most important secret Confederate operations. …

For these, as well as other reasons, I was anxious to leave Indianapolis at as early a day as I possibly could but was unable to move for lack of orders and also for lack of cash. My funds, in fact, were running very low, so low as to give me considerable uneasiness lest I should be unable to meet my expenses, and I anxiously awaited a remittance, which, as is apt to be the case with remittances that are anxiously awaited, was a long time in coming. Finally, I received information that a money package had been forwarded to me by express but on applying at the office for it I was told that it could not be delivered unless I was identified.

This was a perplexing predicament but I had gotten myself out of worse ones and thought that I would be able to find a way to obtain possession of the precious package. Returning to the hotel, therefore, I selected an envelope from one of my letters, and writing a letter to myself, as if from my brother, stating that such and such a package had been forwarded to me, I took it to the manager of the packing department at the arsenal and requested him to go with me to the express office for the purpose of identifying me. He did this without hesitation but was considerably astonished to see me receive such a large amount of money and said, “Why, your brother must be a very rich man!”

“Oh, no, he is not rich, but he has been thinking of investing some of his spare cash in real estate for some time, and I told him of a good thing in corner lots, which I urged him to try and do something with.”

As an explanation of my money package this was a trifle thin, but it was sufficient for the purpose, especially as it was no concern of his whether I had rich relations or not.

Within a day or two I received orders by telegraph to proceed to Cairo, which I did forthwith, and found, on reaching that place, letters of instruction which directed me to go to St. Louis and to stop at the Planters’ House for the purpose of seeing if I could not find out something about projected Federal movements from the officers who were making it their headquarters.

From the tenor of my instructions I judged that I would not be able to do much by going to the table as a guest, which would also have been inconvenient, as it would have necessitated my providing myself with a large amount of different kind of clothing from that which I was then wearing. I was figuring as a widow woman in greatly reduced circumstances, and, so far as baggage was concerned, was, as the soldiers would say, in light marching order. It occurred to me, therefore, that the best plan to pursue was to try and obtain a situation at the Planters’ House as a chambermaid. On reaching St. Louis, instead of going to the hotel, I took lodgings at a private house for a few days, until I could mature my plans.

On applying for employment as a chambermaid, I was told that there was no vacancy and that there was not likely to be any, and I saw very plainly, from the manner of the individual with whom I conversed on the subject, that he had no intention whatever of giving me a situation.

This rather nonplussed me, and I was unable to determine what device to adopt next. Some of the information which I was requested to obtain was very important, and I had been urged to use every effort to get it. I did not like to give the thing up without having exhausted all my resources. I accordingly tried in a number of ways to find out what I wanted to know but was entirely unsuccessful. All that I succeeded in discovering of any consequence was some knowledge of the personal habits of the officers who were lodged at the Planters’ House, and of the times when they were least likely to be in their rooms. My only chance, therefore, seemed to be to gain access to their quarters when they were out, and to the accomplishment of this I put my wits to work.

When applying for employment in the hotel, I struck up a sort of acquaintance with one of the chambermaids, of whom I made a variety of inquiries as to the nature of the duties and of my chances of getting a situation. This woman had seemed disposed to be quite friendly, and I, therefore, concluded to cultivate her acquaintance. I was not long in becoming intimate with her, and, as I made her a number of little presents, and otherwise displayed a marked liking for her, she speedily took a great fancy to me.

Having, as I thought, secured her friendship, I called upon her one evening and invited her to go out with me. She consented to do this, and we went up to her room together for her to arrange her toilet. While she was dressing I slipped her pass key in my pocket. This being secured, the next thing was to find an opportunity to use it.

When we returned I had no great difficulty in inducing her to extend an invitation for me to stop all night. We accordingly slept together. In the morning she got up, dressed herself, and then, missing her key, began an industrious search for it, I all the time pretending to be asleep. Unable to find it, she went out, and I heard her ask one of the other girls to lend her a key, saying that she had lost hers.

So soon as she was well out of the way, I got up and dressed myself, and when I thought that the officers, whose rooms I wished to visit, were likely to be away … I slipped down stairs to execute my dangerous errand.

Luckily, I met no one and contrived to get into three rooms, where I read a number of dispatches and orders, one or two of which were of some importance but did not succeed in discovering what I was chiefly in search of. I, however, mastered the contents of such papers as I could lay my hands on, for I was bound to have something to show for my labor, even if I did not get all I wanted.

On coming out of the third room, I came very near being caught by a bell boy, who turned into the corridor just as I had finished locking the door. Putting on a sort of bewildered look, as if I had lost myself, I said, in an innocent sort of a way, “Which is the servant’s staircase? I think I must have got into the wrong hall.”

The boy was not particularly bright, and, giving the required direction, I made off as fast as I could, not a little satisfied at having escaped so easily. On the stairway I met the chambermaid, who was bringing me up a cup of coffee. This I drank and then bade her good-by, glad of an opportunity to get away without attracting more attention.

On reaching my lodgings I wrote out the substance of the information I had obtained and forwarded it to the proper agent, with a statement to the effect that it seemed impossible for me to learn anything more. In reply to this note I received a dispatch by telegraph, directing me to go to Hannibal, where I would find a package awaiting me, which I was to deliver according to directions which would be enclosed.

I took the boat for Hannibal, and on reaching that place found Maj. T., of the Confederate army rather anxiously looking for me, as he had received information that orders would be sent him from New York in an enclosure directed to me. Obtaining my package from the express office, it was found to contain a dispatch from Richmond, with orders for the major to treat with the Indians and to aid in the endeavors that were being made to excite them to acts of hostility against the Federal government all along the frontier, from the British Provinces to Mexico.

The delivery of this dispatch to Maj. T. was the last transaction of the western trip which I made under the auspices of Col. Baker. Not more than a day or two afterwards I learned of the failure of the attempt to release the Johnson’s Island prisoners and consequently of the grand scheme, the success of which I had been laboring so hard to promote.

I did not know who was to blame for this failure, but I felt that if all the rest had done their duty as efficiently as I had done mine, success would have crowned our efforts. I, therefore, resolved to return East and to dissolve all connection with my late co-workers, and with more than half a mind to have nothing more to do with such schemes, or schemes of any kind that would require confederates, in the future. I was beyond measure indignant when I learned, as I did before I reached Philadelphia, that the whole thing had fallen through, owing to the blundering cowardice and treachery of one individual. I did not pretend to restrain my wrath, but the agent whom I met at Philadelphia, after I had become cooled off a little, persuaded me that there was no use in getting discouraged by this misadventure, bad as it was, and that there was still plenty of important work for the Confederacy to be done.

I, however, was so decidedly unwilling to engage in any similar enterprise, at least just then, that it was proposed that I should attempt something in the blockade-running line. By doing this, it was represented, I could not only aid the cause but could make a handsome profit for myself if I managed rightly, as my commissions alone would amount to considerable. The proposition made to me looked feasible, and, allowing myself to be persuaded, I wrote a letter to Col. Baker, resigning from the secret service under the plea that I had obtained other employment of a more remunerative and more congenial character.

I really had not the courage to face Baker again after the trick I had played upon him, having no idea what he might know, or might not know, about my connection with the projected raid which had been so effectually nipped in the bud by the arrest of the men in Sandusky who were endeavoring to seize the gunboat Michigan. From the tenor of the letter which he sent me in reply, however, I judged that he neither knew nor suspected anything against me, and I concluded that I would finally have occasion to make use of him again, as I could not tell what work I might have to do before the war was over.

I had proven myself so efficient in managing matters that required to be managed with skill, boldness, and discretion during the time I had been co-operating with the Confederate agents at the North, and especially during my late Western trip, that my associates were more than ever anxious to avail themselves of my services. They fully appreciated my feelings over the failure of the Johnson’s Island raid, after I had performed the part assigned me so successfully, but they contended that I would not be acting an heroic part to forsake the fortunes of the Confederacy just at this juncture, when, although things were looking exceedingly gloomy, there was a chance that success might yet be achieved if all the friends of the Cause would stick together and labor with even more than their old energy to achieve success in the face of every opposition.

Book gems of 2016, Part 5

This week … a brief look at some of the best works on slavery and the U.S. Civil War era

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Summer is upon us, and the season of leisure is the perfect time for new stories, characters, ideas, and adventures. Throughout the next few weeks, Stillness of Heart continues its occasional series of critical recommendations, from Civil War battle histories to memoirs, and from intellectual histories to photobooks almost as beautiful as the natural world they celebrate.

Read Part 1 of this 2016 series here and subsequent essays in this series here.

This week … a brief look at some of the best works on slavery and the U.S. Civil War era

Emily West’s Enslaved Women in America: From Colonial Times to Emancipation (Rowman & Littlefield, 168 pp., $35) offers a stunning symphony of long-lost voices struggling to survive, caring for and protecting their children, and fighting to keep their communities intact. Few if any other scholars have studied slave women as deeply and broadly as West, and hopefully her work will become required reading in history and women’s studies courses throughout a nation and society that still owes them so much.

Patrick H. Breen’s The Land Shall Be Deluged in Blood: A New History of the Nat Turner Revolt (Oxford University Press, 304 pp., $23.96) recounts the fascinating story of the 1831 slave rebellion in Southhampton County, Virginia. He then analyzes whites’ reaction to the rebellion, which in some ways is even more complicated and unexpected. As mobs exacted brutal vengeance on the slave populations — guilty or not — slaveowners found themselves protecting their slaves from their own white neighbors. Breen examines the manufactured narratives the slaveholders provided to the lynch mobs and deepens our understanding of the precarious stability of the antebellum slaveholding societies.

Mark K. Christ’s Civil War Arkansas, 1863: The Battle for a State (University of Oklahoma Press, 336 pp., $19.95) offers a fascinating analysis of the campaigns for control of the strategically valuable Arkansas River Valley, which were (and still are) overshadowed by U.S. Grant’s brilliant Vicksburg operations unfolding at the same time. His work challenges scholars, students, and enthusiasts to look beyond traditional war histories and theaters and envision a far more complicated war and wartime era.

For a personal account of how the Civil War ripped apart Arkansas communities, spend some time with Torn by War: The Civil War Journal of Mary Adelia Byers, edited by Samuel R. Phillips (University of Oklahoma Press, 248 pp., $19.95). Union military forces occupied her hometown of Batesville. She witnessed unprecedented suffering. The war overturned her understanding of her place in her state and in her nation. Byers takes her place alongside Southern diarists like Mary Chesnut and Kate Stone as an important witness to the wrenching changes the war brought to the South.

Another fascinating primary source is Vicki Adams Tongate’s Another Year Finds Me in Texas: The Civil War Diary of Lucy Pier Stevens (University of Texas Press, 367 pp., $29.95). Stevens, from Ohio, found herself trapped in Texas when the war broke out. Fortunately, she channeled her concerns, observations, sense of humor, and wide-ranging interests into a diary, which is an incredible encapsulation of wartime Texas from an outsider’s perspective. It’s a Unionist memoir with an extra twist, touching on gender identities, social changes, and even political loyalties, specifically when, like Stone, Stevens grew fond of Texans.

Lone Star Unionism, Dissent, and Resistance: Other Sides of Civil War Tejas, edited by Jesus F. de la Teja (University of Oklahoma Press, 296 pp., $29.95), brings the necessary complexity to the story of Texas in the Civil War, shattering the assumption that the Confederate state was filled with Confederate loyalists. The essay anthology explores how Unionist Texans, slaves, German immigrants, Tejanos, women, and political leaders waged their own wars of independence or resistance throughout its societies and communities during and after the war.

John W. Robinson’s Los Angeles in Civil War Days, 1860-1865 (University of Oklahoma Press, 204 pp., $19.95) paints a portrait of a place starkly different from what we know today. The small California town stood in the long shadow of San Francisco, and war brought economic and social strife to the area. Robinson explores how it became a microcosm of the struggle between pro-Union and pro-secessionist forces, a battleground between different races and cultures fighting for dominance, and the site of sickness, drought, and riots.

Stephen D. Engle’s Gathering to Save a Nation: Lincoln and the Union’s War Governors (University of North Carolina Press, 624 pp., $49.95) highlights a rarely-explored perspective of the Civil War. Governors of the loyal states gathered troops for the Union armies, marshaled public support for the war effort, and calculated political support for the Lincoln administration. Engle’s work is part biography anthology, part political analysis, and part homefront history. Engle enriches all three aspects of Civil War literature and highlights relationships that were far more crucial to Union victory than historians previously understood.

Louise L. Stevenson’s Lincoln in the Atlantic World (Cambridge University Press, 283 pp., $79.99) is a valuable addition to the growing scholarship on the Civil War in a global context. Personally, it is one of the literature’s most exciting, challenging, and fascinating conversations. Stevenson considers the African and European influences on Lincoln’s growth into a “global republican,” a champion of democratic republics in a predatory world of empires and kingdoms, and the supreme warrior in that global struggle who faced the challenge of civil war and saved the future of democracy.

Laura F. Edwards’s A Legal History of the Civil War and Reconstruction: A Nation of Rights (Cambridge University Press, 226 pp., $64) reminds us that the Civil War’s greatest effect was on American law and on the redefinition of citizenship, with all the rights that came with it. But Edwards is also careful to remind us that initial improvements did not lead to ultimate success or justice. The incredible accomplishments of the war and the Reconstruction Era required sustained commitment from subsequent generations for the benefits of those triumphs to take hold. Her history is a cautionary tale for modern citizens who not only take for granted today’s freedoms but also forget how brittle those rights can be when not actively sustained and protected.

Life and Limb: Perspectives on the American Civil War, edited by David Seed, Stephen C. Kenny, and Chris Williams (Oxford University Press, 240 pp., $29.95), offers vital insight into medicine in the Civil War, one of the era’s saddest subjects. For the men and women who participated as doctors, nurses, and caretakers, the war’s truest victories were found in their patients’ and loved ones’ survival and recovery. The essays explore the evolution of medical knowledge, the way writers coped with their experiences, the way the war shaped fiction, and accounts from the patients themselves. Nothing should be more important than to highlight the primal and complete suffering any war of any era unleashes on the human experience.

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Book gems of 2016
An occasional series
Jan. 3: Antiquity, Civil War, World War II, and space
June 22: Presidents and the political world
June 29: Texas and Texas history
July 6: Latin America
July 13: Slavery and the Civil War era
July 20: World War I and II, science, culture, and literature

Some of 2015’s best Civil War books … so far

Publishers in 2015 offer excellent work that both casual and serious readers of the Civil War should know about.

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Biographies, campaign studies, general histories, and analyses form the core of any season’s mountain of Civil War scholarship, but publishers in 2015 offer excellent work that both casual and serious readers of the Civil War should know about. The rich bounty is likely — in part, at least — a result of the sesquicentennial sunshine that bathed the Civil War academic field for the last five years. Here are a few highlights.

No publishing season is stronger than when Gary W. Gallagher contributes one of his essay anthologies on a military campaign. Late September will see Cold Harbor to the Crater: The End of the Overland Campaign (University of North Carolina Press, 360 pp., $35), edited by Gallagher and Caroline E. Janney. The title suggests their overall argument, which marks the end of the pointless Battle of the Crater as the true conclusion of the brutal three-month-long confrontation between Lee and Grant in 1864. Only then, the historians argue, did siege warfare become the Union’s primary tool for the final strangulation of the Confederacy’s most important army and capital city. As with each of the entries in the Military Campaigns of the Civil War series, contributors examine military strategies and tactics, focus on particular participants, and consider how home-front politics and civilian expectations affected and were affected by Confederate military strategy.

J. Matthew Gallman offers a fascinating intellectual and cultural history with Defining Duty in the Civil War: Personal Choice, Popular Culture, and the Union Home Front (University of North Carolina Press, 336 pp., $45), in which he considers how Northerners perceived their obligations of duty and citizenship as their nation endured civil war. He explores how novels and songs, poems and news stories, editorials and cartoons all contributed citizens’ understanding of where they fit in the home-front tapestry and how they could each contribute to the war effort. Race, class, and gender all played key roles in that psychological and political dynamic, and Gallman’s work skillfully weaves together those elements into a fresh historical analysis.

Bradley R. Clampitt’s The Civil War and Reconstruction in Indian Territory (University of Nebraska Press, 200 pp., $25) promises a fascinating examination of the dynamics of war, political power, the collapse of slavery, and racial re-ordering within the context of Native America. Clampitt assembles a bouquet of essays by stellar scholars to explore the antebellum, wartime, and postwar tensions between tribes and nations, their calculated loyalties to North or South, and questions over the future of former slaves and indigenous participants in the war. Any understanding of the historical scope and effect of the Civil War’s overall political and social consequences is incomplete without an intelligent incorporation of Indian experiences and memories. Clampitt’s collection, scheduled for a December release, is certainly a work to anticipate and savor.

Pair that perspective with The World the Civil War Made (University of North Carolina Press, 392 pp. $29.95), an essay anthology edited by Gregory P. Downs and Kate Masur. More than a dozen stellar historians consider how postwar policies and consequences rippled throughout specific political and social dynamics in U.S. territories, in the U.S. Southwest, and across the world. The work’s great strength is its embrace of multiple national and international stories unfolding simultaneously, affecting and affected by each other, all contributing to a vibrant array of societies grappling with new notions of liberty and republicanism in a post-slavery world.

Terry Alford contributes a long-overdue re-assessment of John Wilkes Booth with Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth (Oxford University Press, 416 pp., $29.95). Alford’s Booth carried multiple psychological burdens throughout his life. He endured the pressure of measuring up to his successful thespian father and brothers. His inherent gifts as an actor/performer quickly shoved his life under a burning and blinding spotlight of celebrity. His fury over the Confederacy’s defeat warped his identity from an actor into a self-proclaimed citizen-soldier defending Southern honor and survival, with a deadly determination to seize a starring role on the Civil War’s bloodstained stage. These pressures combined to turn Booth into the madman who concocted multiple harebrained plots to destabilize the Lincoln administration. Booth doomed the post-war prospects of racial peace and progress with a single gunshot, and he catapulted Andrew Johnson, one of the worst presidents in U.S. history, into the center of political power just when Lincoln’s political genius was most needed.

Mark Smith presents a fascinating examination of the sights, sounds, and scents of war with The Smell of Battle, the Taste of Siege: A Sensory History of the Civil War (Oxford University Press, 216 pp., $22.36). Basing his exploration on descriptions he found in letters and other primary sources, he attempts to reconstruct what it felt like to be submerged in a Confederate submarine, what it tasted like to live in a city under Union siege, and what it sounded like to hear Confederate shells pound Fort Sumter into submission. Too few historical works explore their subjects from such an elemental and creative perspective. Smith offers details that belong in every lecture, speech, and conversation about the Civil War.

James M. McPherson offers a book-length response to the deceptively simple question, “why does the Civil War matter?” His recent work, The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters (Oxford University Press, 224 pp., $27.95), is more relevant than ever. If nothing else, the violent first half of 2015 offered stark and violent case studies to bolster his arguments. There was certainly no better example than recent debates over the Confederate flag, its multifaceted significance throughout the U.S., and the reasons for and against its presence amidst the everyday imagery of American life and culture.

Public and political bitterness over the intractability and enduring power of institutional racism, the historical understanding and explanation of the reasons for the Civil War, the long journey of civil rights through the nineteenth, twentieth, and now twenty-first centuries, debates over the power of federal and state governments — all are titanic, central, and deeply painful issues that the Civil War confronted like no other event in U.S. history. Every citizen’s pursuit of happiness intersects with or passes over or under each of these issues, among many others, and a better understanding of the war affords all of us better maneuverability past the heated rhetoric, better capacity to comprehend how those issues shape our societies, and better appreciation of our history’s overall vital importance to our American life.

Also:

I recently received wonderful news from the Society of Civil War Historians. According to their press release, the Society and the Watson-Brown Foundation honored Shauna Devine, assistant history professor at the University of Western Ontario, with the Tom Watson Brown Book Award for 2015 for her excellent 2014 book Learning from the Wounded: The Civil War and the Rise of American Medical Science (University of North Carolina Press, 2014, 384 pp., $39.95). The book explored how the war enabled U.S. physicians to improve their medical expertise, share their hard-won knowledge in new ways, and link their experiences with the larger international medical community. It was crucial to my recent work as a research assistant as I broadened and deepened my understanding of Civil War medical history. Highly recommended.

Read more about Devine’s honor here.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: God spare us

The rumors finally reach Tyler: Lee may have surrendered to Grant. The Stone family refuses to believe it.

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From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

The rumors finally reach Tyler: Lee may have surrendered to Grant. The Stone family refuses to believe it.

Stone is especially detailed in this entry, perhaps burying herself in mundane moments to drive back the looming and crushing reality of Confederate defeat.

April 23, 1865

Tyler, Texas

Such terrible news if true, but we cannot believe it. We know that we have met with fearful reverses this year. All our coast cities are conquered: gallant old Charleston has fallen, Wilmington and Mobile have passed out of our hands, and Richmond … has been taken. But all that is nothing compared to the awful report from the Yankee papers that Gen. Lee, our strong arm of defense, has capitulated with 40,000 men without firing a gun, that most of our best generals were taken at the same time, and that what remains of that noble army is only a disorganized mob of despairing men. All this is too dreadful to believe. God spare us from this crushing blow and save our dying country!

All refuse to believe such disaster, and the home life flows on as usual. Two dramatic performances by the natives, the amiable Capt. Johnson saying he did not wish the refugees even to attend. Mrs. Gary is vice-president, and I am secretary of the society. The gentlemen come in the evening and the ladies call in the day, but over every pleasure sweeps the shadow of the evil news. It may be true. It may be true. Mollie Moore, Lt, Holmes, and I rode out to the armory to see the soldiers drill. Met Col. and Mrs. Hill, all sympathizing with Capt. Polys, who fell down while pulling the bell rope and broke his leg in two places.

Just finished three embroidered cravats for Johnny. Friday Mamma and I finished a beautiful fawn-colored barege trimmed with black lace. It looks real stylish. My old white dress has been dyed by Lucy. She has become quite an adept at dyeing things.

The rain came down in torrents Thursday but in the afternoon ceased and I rode up to school for Sister. Came through boggy roads and rushing streams at sundown. Found Lt. Holmes waiting to go with me to Mrs. Carson’s to tea, to stay there until 8:30, and then to drive over to Dr. Moore’s, Mollie’s father’s, to attend a private rehearsal. We had a pleasant time there until twelve, then the drive home, adieux to Lt. Holmes, and then the blessed oblivion of sleep. Went up to return Eliza Roberts’ call late in the afternoon.

Lt. Holmes caught up with me and came home and spent the evening. Busy sewing Tuesday until Lt. Holmes was announced, then had to spend the balance of the day amusing him. After he bowed himself away, I went over to see Mollie Moore and chatter nonsense. …

Had delicious white cake at Mrs. Lawrence’s. All the members of the troupe wanted Mamma for president of the society, but she would not hear of it. Mrs. Swain, a perfect incapable, was called to the chair. Capt. Buck has brought me a book nicely commenced for my official records, and Lt. Holmes is to see they are kept according to rule. Must send it around for members to sign.

Mamma has been much disturbed on the subject of details for Mr. Smith, but Lt. Dupre arranged the detail as he passed through Marshall. She hopes to have no further trouble on that score. …

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Peace blessed peace

Stone senses the end of the war is coming soon. She predicts the war will end no sooner than October 1865.

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From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

Stone senses the end of the war is coming soon. She predicts the war will end no sooner than October 1865.

Feb. 13, 1865

Tyler, Texas

Great Peace rumors are afloat, and Gen. Lee has certainly given Grant’s army a good drubbing. If he could only have annihilated them, we could sing. … God grant our dear boys may be unhurt. Dame Rumor is furloughing every fifth man in the Virginia Army who lives on this side of the Mississippi, and there is so much good news that the multitudes are jubilant. The more hopeful predict peace by July, but I think it will not come before October is painting the woods in autumn hues. What a lovely season it will be to journey home with peace blessed peace quieting all the land and nothing to molest or make us afraid. How joyfully will we take up our line of march for dear old Louisiana. What a merry cavalcade we shall be.

How the shriek of that steam whistle startled me, transporting me for the minute to the bank of the far rolling Mississippi.

Mrs. Bruce must think we are agents for renting houses. A letter from her introducing Capt. Pritchard, and one from him asking us as a great favor to rent a house for his family, who are on the way and will be here in about two weeks. Will wait until Mamma gets back, and then we will go on another house-hunting expedition. It is rather a trying job as the owners of the houses wish us to be responsible for the rent, and in this case we do not even know the people. These wily Texans want to bind one with all kinds of written documents, unintelligible but terrible in my eyes. I would not sign one for anything. Mamma attends to all that. …

Yesterday Little Sister fell off the gallery striking her head on a rock pile, making several deep gashes, and today it pains too much for her to attend school, though she took her music lesson. Little Sally has improved so much. She is a pretty curly-headed little thing with golden hair and blue eyes and is a great pet with us all. But she can never take Beverly’s place in our hearts — the perfect little child only lent to earth to show mortals how fair are the angels in Heaven. …

Halleck: The magnificent mediocrity

To understand and appreciate the Northern achievements in the Civil War, one must understand and appreciate Henry Wager Halleck.

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To understand and appreciate the Northern achievements in the Civil War, one must understand and appreciate Henry Wager Halleck. A profile by Fernando Ortiz Jr.

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Henry Wager Halleck was born on Jan 16, 1815, in Westernville, N.Y. He died in 1872, a week before his 57th birthday, in Louisville, Ky. Halleck built by 1861 a glittering military career as an engineer and a scholar of military science, and he built equally successful legal and business careers in California. He played a key role in building the California state government and preserving early California history. He served as a major general of the California state militia. He turned down offers to serve California as governor, state supreme court justice, or U.S. senator. He built a personal estate worth almost $500,000, an enormous amount for the time.1

In 1861, Winfield Scott, the U.S. Army’s top commander, looked forward to Halleck’s return to uniform as Northern mobilization intensified. Scott planned to make Halleck his successor as general-in-chief of Union land forces. Halleck’s arrival in Washington was delayed, inspiring an impatient President Abraham Lincoln to name Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan instead. Halleck commanded in the Western Theater until Lincoln dropped McClellan in July 1862 and elevated Halleck to supreme command. Halleck had left California only nine months before. When U.S. Grant’s victories earned him a promotion to general-in-chief, Halleck remained at the top, graciously stepping aside and retaining the necessary administrative duties as Grant personally faced Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in the field.2

If the Civil War never happened, or if Halleck declined to return to regular army service when war broke out, perhaps he would have been remembered only as a quiet intellectual and honored veteran who worked hard to make a positive mark on the frontier of his growing nation. But war did break out, and Halleck did return to military service. He brilliantly administered the greatest war machine his country had ever seen, but that is often lost in the glowing coronas of glory Grant and William T. Sherman rightfully enjoy. Ironically, as generations of historians and Americans review Civil War commanders’ legacies, too many sneer at Halleck and highlight his humanizing faults, and they ignore the titanic accomplishments even Grant and Sherman singled out and celebrated.

I. LIFE

Halleck, a difficult and often petty man, spent his life quietly bringing order to chaos in every profession he touched, contributed to the intellectual foundation upon which the U.S. Army was built, and played a key role in achieving the triumphs for which history celebrates Grant, Sherman, and Lincoln. To understand and appreciate the Northern achievements in the Civil War, one must understand and appreciate Henry Wager Halleck.

Halleck, the oldest of fourteen children, grew up on the family farm outside Westernville. Halleck never enjoyed a close relationship with his mother, who was preoccupied with pregnancies and small children, nor with his father, a demanding taskmaster and local politician. Halleck yearned for a better education, and after a disagreement with his father in 1831, he ran away from the farm. Halleck turned to his maternal grandfather and uncle for help, who took him in and guided him through school and on to higher education.3

Halleck entered Union College near Albany, N.Y., in 1834. Entrance exams placed him as a junior. He studied hard and worked fast, absorbing courses in math, rhetoric, Italian, French, Greek, and “two semesters of Cicero.” By the summer of 1835, Halleck earned a place in Phi Beta Kappa and ranked sixth in a class of 59. He was 21 years old, armed with a solid education, and, thanks to his uncle’s connections, en route to an appointment at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.4

At West Point, Halleck excelled in both behavior and academics, but he made few friends. Halleck focused his interests on his books, and engineering professor Dennis Hart Mahan ignited those interests into passions. French military thinking influenced Mahan’s dual course on military engineering and strategy, and his belief that history’s lessons influenced military science left a deep impression on Halleck. The cadet also absorbed Mahan’s assertion that untrained civilians were not naturally capable of properly commanding military units. Only military professionals were capable of command. In later years, Halleck would not only turn that belief into a fundamental principle — he would wield it as an effective weapon against political generals who had no idea he was about to detonate their Civil War careers.5

Mahan viewed the Napoleonic wars, one Halleck biographer wrote, “through the eyes of Baron Henri Jomini, Swiss military historian and interpreter.” Jomini emphasized a scientific, rational execution of military principles — “to make war less barbarous he created rules that emphasized movement [along lines of operation].” Mahan convinced Halleck to embrace the possibility of mathematical rationality in civilized warfare, to rely on fortifications and entrenchments, to begin any campaign by establishing a base of operations with interior lines of communications that ideally separated enemy forces, and to strive for strategic and tactical concentration of U.S. forces. Jomini believed in uniting forces before they together attacked a specific point on the battlefield, as opposed to one force attacking before it united with other forces. The offensive should only be taken when capturing a specific place. Points on battlefields mattered more than enemy forces. Jomini’s rules “would never change no matter who the commanders were or what the battlefield conditions were.” The principles envisioned a stiffly rational conflict without excessive bloodshed, more like a titanic dance over contested landscapes, governed by logical and sensible uniformed gentlemen, respectfully and honorably confronting each other in a carefully moderated moment of militaristic tension. It all amounted to a reassuring and logical philosophy Halleck would never forget.6

Halleck’s hard work at West Point paid off. As his third year ended, he was asked to give the annual Fourth of July speech to the cadets, a singular honor for special students. He was also asked to help students prepare for their entry exams. But the honor that truly thrilled him came in December 1838, six months before graduation: He was named assistant professor of chemistry. The position excused him from most cadet duties, boosted his cadet salary, came with a bigger room in the barracks, and added “more glitter” to his uniform. Halleck’s pride probably glowed even brighter as he recalled that when Mahan was a star West Point student, he received the same faculty position.

In July 1839, Halleck graduated from West Point, ranking third in his class. He was commissioned in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As his classmates dispersed to enjoy their furloughs before their first assignments, the Army ordered Halleck to remain on the West Point faculty. He was appointed assistant professor of engineering and assigned to work with Mahan. He taught until early April 1840, when he left West Point for service on the Engineer Board in Washington D.C. Halleck’s pleasant but sedentary desk job assisting the Corps administrators introduced him to national politicians and to the highest ranking commanders, including Scott.7

In mid-1841, Halleck was sent to New York Harbor and ordered to improve Fort Wood on Bedlow’s Island. He spent most of the next two years improving the fort’s fortifications, infrastructure, and weaponry. It was a big and important assignment. The fort “was key to the [harbor’s] defense.” But Bedlow’s Island was far from the glittering parties and circles of friends Halleck allowed himself to enjoy in Washington, D.C. Isolated, lonely, and often battling incessant illness, he turned inward, embracing the comforts only scholarship provided him. He wrote technical articles for journals, explored in a small book the best military uses of asphalt, and composed a small mountain of reports for his superiors.8

The one report that stood out from the rest was “Report on the Means of National Defence,” which Congress published in 1843. Halleck argued to Congress that the nation should prepare for the next war, even in peace, and that it should remain prepared for war. In the long term, he argued, consistent readiness would cost less than a massive, disruptive, and inefficient mobilization once war broke out. He argued for improved military training for state militias and for many more fortifications along the border with Canada and down the Atlantic seaboard. One Halleck biographer concluded, “That work brought national attention to this young army officer only five years out of West Point.”9

Halleck’s reputation as a scholar was secure, but, like any true scholar, the more he learned, the more he realized how much was still left to learn. In late 1843, he secured permission to visit France, and he left New York on Nov. 24, 1843, determined to properly appreciate the French military methods Mahan had taught him to emulate. He studied French barrack designs, visited French military schools, and toured the Paris defense structure. He savored his time in France, and he reported that his health improved. But time constraints limited his study of French fortifications, particularly the line along the French-German border. He sailed back to the U.S., forwarded his findings to his superiors, and returned to his dull duties on Bedlow’s Island.10

Halleck endured almost two more years of dreary but competent performance. But his work was not forgotten. The Lowell Institute in Boston invited him to join their roster of leading scholars who lectured to ordinary citizens seeking to expand their intellectual horizons, and in December 1845 a delighted Halleck began a month-long leave of absence to participate. Previous guests spoke about geology, biology, American history, and Christianity. The Institute chose Halleck to speak about military science, and his twelve lectures to large crowds were well received.11

His Lowell lecture series was collected, re-edited, and included in Elements of Military Art and Science. The book was essentially a compilation of his lectures, his “Means of National Defence,” and previously published articles. Halleck explained that militia officers were the book’s primary audience. He organized it to serve as a complex manual for new militia officers (who, he previously wrote, had to be better prepared for future conflicts) and as historical analysis of Jomini’s military theories that built on what Mahan instilled in West Point students. The book brought together the various threads in Halleck’s mind, the themes of his conversations with Mahan, and a look ahead at what Halleck imagined U.S. soldiers and their leaders needed to know to effectively fight the wars of the future.12

Throughout the next 18 years, he moved from New York to California, helped administer the territory gained in the Mexican-American War, left the military on Aug 1, 1854, married Alexander Hamilton’s granddaughter, had a son, wrote several more books, and began a new life as a real estate lawyer and railroad executive. By 1861, Halleck was a widely respected founding father of the state of California and an established legal and military scholar who declined an offer to teach at Harvard. Scott convinced him to return to regular military service. Halleck held an honorable place in the ranks of the old pre-1861 army, rightfully remembered and celebrated as a scholar and engineer. But as he traveled east across a dividing nation, he had no idea how central he would be to the painful and bloody transformation of the old army (and its most important leaders) into one of the largest and most powerful military forces on earth.13

His controversial command and administrative performances clouded his legacy right up to his death in 1872. Through the early decades of the 21st century, only rarely did those clouds break.

II. LEGACY

Halleck’s significance to the U.S. military can be measured by asking a few simple questions. What was his significance to military thought before the Civil War? What was his significance to the overall Northern war effort? What was his significance to Grant and Lincoln, the supreme leaders of that effort?

Halleck definitely contributed to the body of knowledge new soldiers drew upon to learn their business. Begin with Elements. Halleck asserted that “patriotic war” was morally good. He insisted military schools were key to a national military force, for only military professionals — not militia, not citizen soldiers, not politicians — could properly fight a war. Halleck argued that fortifications were key to battlefield success. Since only military engineers were capable of building proper fortifications, he argued, those engineers were key to any military force and, by extension, key to any battlefield success. Halleck, as he interpreted what he learned from Jomini, was no fan of splitting a force to launch a flank attack on the enemy. He understood it may be necessary, but it was not his first option. Keep your force together and focused on a particular weak point when you go on the offensive, he explained to readers, without endangering your line of communications or your line back to base. If your force is in enemy country, he warned, keep your force concentrated and prepared for a surprise attack.14

A young military man reading Halleck’s book found a combination of Jomini’s insistence on concentration of force and Mahan’s devotion to fortifications, sweetened with Halleck’s assurance that a war for nation was justifiable to a Christian moral code, and refashioned so a U.S. audience found it relevant. Halleck’s Elements was an essential reader for the military professional he cherished, and it served as a major building block for the professional’s intellectual evolution.

The timing of the book’s publication was perfect: In 1846 the Mexican-American War broke out, and Halleck’s orders sent him to participate in the California campaign. The sea journey from the East Coast to the West Coast took seven months (Lt. William T. Sherman was one of the other officers on board), and Halleck spent much of that time translating Jomini’s Life of Napoleon. The four volumes would not be published until 1864.15

Certainly, Halleck’s and Mahan’s interpretation of Jominian lessons was not seen as key to every military situation. In 1842, Sherman fought Seminole Indians in Florida, and he compared what Mahan had taught him about “conventional nineteenth-century military tactics … between two rival professional armies” to what the Indians, who attacked soldiers and civilians alike, taught him about a society’s total commitment to war at all costs. Young soldiers like Sherman may have respected the messages and advice in a book like Elements, but fresh memories of brutal combat with Indians on the frontier or with enemy soldiers in Mexico may have eclipsed Halleck’s sterile dictums. Modern war in the industrial age, these recent experiences may have warned, would not always play by Jomini’s, Mahan’s, or Halleck’s carefully refined rules. It was much more simple, and much more complicated, than what Halleck’s printed words promised.16

Halleck’s impact on antebellum military thought was notable but limited. His Elements was prominent in the canon of required reading for students of military science and West Point cadets. During the Civil War, President Lincoln borrowed books on military science, including Halleck’s Elements, from the Library of Congress. The new president was determined to teach himself how to understand and manage a modern war. But when seen in the overall context of what U.S. soldiers experienced between 1846 and 1861 – the Mexican-American War, the frontier battles with Native Americans, and the dull constabulary service they provided to settlers in the West – Halleck’s intellectual contribution becomes but one bright irrelevant glimmer in a star-filled sky.17

Halleck the lawyer, the engineer, the businessman, and the intellectual certainly had a significant impact on the Northern war effort, especially during the Civil War’s chaotic first year. In subsequent years, he would also have a fundamental impact on the leaders of that war effort.

Halleck did not succeed Winfield Scott as general-in-chief in 1861. Instead, the new supreme commander, McClellan, asked Halleck to assume command of the new Department of the Missouri, where Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont’s poor administration left a critical region in chaos and riddled with corruption. Fremont worsened the political situation when he emancipated slaves of pro-Southern families. Halleck assumed command in November 1861. “Missouri,” one Halleck biographer asserted, “was a task made to order for a man of Halleck’s disposition and ability.” Halleck swept out the corruption, simplified the command structure, cracked down on Confederate sympathizers and displays, and taxed secessionists to fund efforts to care for war refugees. When pro-secessionist women in St. Louis wore red and white flowers to express their devotion to the Confederacy, Halleck instructed the city’s prostitutes to wear the same flowers and then had a newspaper write about the sex workers’ new adornments. The secessionists’ flowers instantly disappeared. Halleck’s new authority refused any challenge.18

As he brought the department under control, Halleck planned his offensive operations. He reviewed the Confederate line of operations on a map and elected to penetrate its center, which lay along the Tennessee River. But he refused to consider “offensive operations in Kentucky or Tennessee before Missouri was secure” and his forces were concentrated. Grant, a junior commander in Halleck’s department, twice asked Halleck for permission to attack Confederate Fort Henry before Halleck cautiously agreed.19

Halleck’s caution may not have reflected hesitancy about attacking, but rather hesitancy about Grant, who still endured the consequences of his antebellum reputation as a drunk. Halleck also held in his mind unforgiving standards of appearance, action, and performance for a military professional, and Grant met none of his exacting measures. Halleck also didn’t want to move any of his pieces until he felt every element was perfectly arranged, but Lincoln was unwilling to wait any longer for results.20

Fortunately, Grant’s attack on Fort Henry succeeded, and he was aggressive enough to move on to Fort Donelson. Nashville fell to Don Carlos Buell, Halleck’s colleague in the theater, and then three victories in Missouri, Arkansas, and on the Mississippi River proved the Union’s momentum in the region. Halleck was never on the front lines of any of these battles, but the victories could not have been realized without his talent for logistics, coordination, and pre-planning. Halleck set the targets and provided the daggers. Commanders like Grant and John Pope possessed the will to plunge them into the heart of the western Confederacy.21

In mid-February 1862, Halleck appropriately recommended Grant, among others, for promotion to major general, though he still did not trust him. He preferred to replace Grant with Charles F. Smith, a former West Point commandant of cadets and hero of the Mexican-American War who also met Halleck’s standards of excellence. Halleck was annoyed with Grant over late reports and reports of Union looting at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. Inefficiency, administrative disorganization, and poor supervision of troops were mortal sins in Halleck’s moral code. McClellan authorized Halleck to replace the popular Grant if absolutely necessary. As he prepared his next operation down the Tennessee River, Halleck ordered Grant to relinquish field command to Smith, stay at Fort Henry, and assist with preparations for an offensive move on Corinth, Miss., a vital Confederate supply hub.22

On March 11, 1862, Lincoln relieved the incompetent McClellan as general-in-chief, relegating him solely to field command of the Army of the Potomac. Lincoln created the huge Department of the Mississippi and placed Halleck in overall command. By the end of March, Grant had resumed field command of one piece of Halleck’s grand army preparing to descend on Corinth. “When all was ready,” one Halleck biographer wrote, “Halleck could take over and lead that army to its ultimate victory over the Confederates.”23

But the Confederates had other ideas. On April 6, as Grant waited for Buell’s troops to join his at Pittsburg Landing, about 25 miles northeast of Corinth, Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston attacked Union troops near Shiloh Church. Johnston was killed on the first day. Buell’s troops finally arrived, and Grant’s reinforced army counterattacked on April 7, driving the rebels from the field. They retreated back to Corinth.24

The battle’s unprecedented bloodshed shocked the nation, and Grant was publicly criticized. One analyst of the battle argues that Halleck rose to defend Grant against doubts in Washington and against critics in public. To Halleck’s overall plan, the Battle of Shiloh was merely a savage interruption to his plans as his huge army continued to assemble around Pittsburg Landing. On April 30, 1862, Halleck issued Special Field Order No. 35, “designating Grant as second in command of Halleck’s huge army.”25 Halleck organized the army into three wings and assumed personal field command.

Historians who criticize Halleck see Grant’s appointment as meaningless, as an insult, or as a signal that Halleck lost any scintilla of confidence in Grant. At least one analyst of the decision, however, argues that Halleck used his political acumen to adeptly protect Grant — keeping him in the command structure with a temporary position without exposing him to more criticism as a field commander of Union soldiers. Once the furor over Shiloh cooled, Grant would be eased back into field command.26

Halleck proved that he wanted Grant back in the field soon. His three-wing army was ready, and in early May the massive force began to move. The campaign, one Halleck biographer noted, “was planned and executed with one idea in mind – to capture Corinth.” Halleck referred to his own Jominian rules in Elements to determine what kind of operation this would be. He did not possess overwhelming forces. The enemy did not threaten his line of communications or supplies en route. The benefits of victory did not exceed the consequences of defeat. This would be a conquest and investment of a place, not an army. Flooding rains destroyed road and bridge networks, the terrain slowed progress, and Lincoln added to Halleck’s caution by warning him to avoid a defeat. Halleck threw up fortifications at every pause in the advance. By the end of May, he had surrounded Corinth and squeezed the Confederates out. As a result, Memphis and Fort Pillow fell like ripened fruit into Union hands.27

Halleck had imperfectly and slowly transformed the situation in the Western Theater with natural and learned talents. What began with his immersion in Fremont’s Missouri chaos ended with his promotion to supreme commander of the Union armies. Halleck set general strategic objectives. He ensured the operations were properly supplied with men and materiel. He directed and, when necessary, protected his star general, Grant. He took a personal hand in directing the capture of a key western city with a systematic operation that did not require dramatic maneuvering, intense combat, or, most importantly, heavy casualties.

But Halleck’s significance to the war effort would not end there. As Halleck headed east to assume the command Scott believed Halleck deserved, Old Brains began a new phase of significance. He would not only help manage the complex Northern war machine. He would also play new roles in Washington politics, militarily advise and politically protect President Lincoln, and become an indispensable alter ego to Grant once the subordinate and the superior commanders saw their roles reversed.

III. GENERAL IN CHIEF

Since McClellan’s demotion, Lincoln had functioned as his own general-in-chief, aided by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and the War Board, an advisory commission that helped coordinate military operations. Lincoln had learned the art of war quickly, and, when paired with his stellar political instincts, his understanding made him “a good judge of generals, their abilities, and their plans.” But learning the art didn’t mean he didn’t need a commander at the top. John Pope, Winfield Scott, and Stanton all agreed Halleck would be the perfect choice. On July 11, 1862, Halleck was promoted to general-in-chief.28

What were his duties, he wondered. Did he return to the field and look over army commanders’ shoulders? Did he stay in Washington and fight the war from behind a desk? Did he have authority over politically-appointed generals, or all land commanders? No one had formally defined the role. Scott had never served in a wartime situation. McClellan had been both supreme and army commander. Halleck was moving into unknown territory, and, characteristically, he moved cautiously.

There was one aspect of his command that he saw clearly: “the fumbling organization and incoherent system of the Eastern command.” From Halleck’s perspective, he had applied Jominian rules to the situation in the Western Theater, and the end result, as expected, was military success. Eastern commanders had not, and they saw only failure. “Once again,” a Halleck biographer concluded, “Halleck was expected to bring order to chaos.”29

Aside from redesigning Eastern Theater strategy, Halleck helped translate civilian objectives into military instructions, streamlined the administration and logistical management of the land operations, and condensed countless field reports into efficient and informative briefings for Lincoln and his Cabinet.

Lincoln also learned to benefit from the thick anti-Halleck animosity in the Washington air, and that was often Halleck’s greatest contribution to Lincoln. When Lincoln had to fire a political general or take some other politically dangerous action, he had Halleck issue the order. Lincoln would claim military necessity, and any firestorm of condemnation would consume Halleck, or critics would simply restrain themselves out of patriotic loyalty. McClellan’s and Pope’s armies are an example. McClellan was a War Democrat. Pope embraced the Radical Republicans. At one point, Lincoln wanted to move troops from McClellan’s army to Pope’s army. But if Lincoln called for the transfer, Democrats would criticize him for moving troops to a political ally. But if he had Halleck order it, no one could argue military necessity. It was a cruelly effective arrangement. Halleck would quietly endure the abuse. But Halleck also quickly learned how to use Lincoln. Halleck took advantage of his proximity to the president whenever he wanted to promote goals or proposals from West Point-trained generals over political generals.30

Most importantly, Halleck learned to relax his belief that any political objectives were not as important as military objectives. When Tennessee Gov. Andrew Johnson wanted military forces to save loyal citizens from Confederate domination in 1863, Halleck directed Grant to their defense and officially justified the operation by declaring that the region possessed agricultural products that could aid the enemy. When an incompetent political general secured administration support to build an army and launch an 1862 expedition down the Mississippi River Valley, Lincoln couldn’t touch him, but Halleck quietly ensured all the regiments produced for the army were immediately sent to Grant for use in the Vicksburg campaign instead. The political general was left with nothing. When Lincoln worried about the French puppet government in Mexico in 1864, Halleck diverted an army under Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks towards Texas to remind Mexico of U.S. military power.31

So, despite Halleck’s lack of aggressive spirit or desire to take the strategic initiative, the general-in-chief proved his invaluable worth to Lincoln in many other ways. What began with indirect assistance to Lincoln when the president pulled Elements from a Library of Congress bookshelf, right up to March 11, 1864, Halleck’s last day as general-in-chief, the odd marriage of unique talent produced an effective political and military mechanism that brought stability to the top echelon of command and to the management of the Northern war machine.

If Halleck was the oil that kept that machine running smoothly, Grant was the fire that generated the energy that pulsated throughout the Union armies for the last 13 months of the war. After Union victory at Chattanooga, Lincoln was ready to make one last change to the supreme command: U.S. Grant was promoted to lieutenant general and named general-in-chief.

One Halleck biographer wrote that Halleck saw himself as only a subordinate, “a follower not a leader. This was a deeply felt sentiment, long present in his character, but made conspicuous under the stress of war.” The command arrangement was explained in General Orders No. 98, issued on March 12, 1864: Halleck was formally relieved as general-in-chief and named Army chief of staff, Union army headquarters would be split between Grant on the front and Washington, D.C., Sherman assumed Grant’s command of the armies in the West, and James B. McPherson succeeded Sherman as commander of the Army of the Tennessee. Halleck had the perfect job: he could “administer without [the expectation of] commanding.” Halleck put it better than anyone else: “It will be my business to advise and theirs to decide.”32

Halleck’s contribution to Grant’s command was his last significant contribution to the Union war. He deserves credit for stepping aside without drama and offering himself to his former subordinate with devotion, loyalty, and professional commitment. He took the weight of administrative command off Grant’s shoulders. He followed Grant’s penetration of Virginia, ensuring every phase of the campaign was met with more than enough supplies and reinforcements. He monitored and supplied all land forces in the western and southern departments. He kept Grant briefed on the status of other armies Grant had ordered to coordinate with his attacks on Lee. He also acted as Grant’s eyes and ears in Washington political circles, feeding him intelligence and public opinion. Beyond administrative and coordinating responsibilities, he had no heavy moral burden. He had no direct command of field forces, but he was armed with the authority of both Lincoln and Grant. His logical mind absorbed the waves of requests, reports, and requisitions, recalculated them, and transmitted back into the world the necessary supplies, information, and instructions. Chief of staff was probably one the best military jobs Halleck ever had.

IV. CONCLUSION

The last year of the Civil War transformed the U.S. military as much as it transformed one of its most famous thinkers. As the war ground on in 1864, as Sherman burned his way through Georgia and the Carolinas, and as Grant sent Philip Sheridan to incinerate the Shenandoah Valley, Halleck abandoned the Jominian caution and Mahanian entrenchments of earlier years. Grant’s savage Overland Campaign had little to do with Jomini. Sherman’s necessary brutality to bring Georgia to her knees had little to do with Mahan. “The war experience,” one Halleck biographer wrote, “had finally made Halleck into an aggressive warrior, willing to support the use of every means at the nation’s disposal to bring the conflict to a successful conclusion.”33

Halleck served Grant and Lincoln faithfully until the end of the war. Halleck was one of the many at Lincoln’s bedside after the president was fatally shot. Grant returned to Washington, and Halleck was reassigned to the Military Division of the James. He tried to restore a semblance of order to a devastated Richmond. The historian in Halleck ensured the Confederate archives were preserved and sent to Washington for analysis and cataloging. He was later assigned to the Military Division of the Pacific, headquartered in San Francisco, and to the Military Division of the South, headquartered in Louisville, Ky., where he died in 1872. He was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, N.Y.


1. Stephen E. Ambrose, Halleck: Lincoln’s Chief of Staff (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990), 4; David J. Eicher, and John H. Eicher. Civil War High Commands (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), 274; John F. Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies: A Life of General Henry W. Halleck (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2004), 6, 17; Ambrose, the Eichers, and Halleck’s Brooklyn cemetery gravestone (which I visited in October 2011) all say Halleck was born in 1815. Marszalek, relying on family archives and Halleck’s Union College record, says Halleck was born in 1814. On this point, Ambrose mostly relied on histories of upstate New York and on books exploring the roots of the Halleck family. The Eichers relied on Ambrose. For this casual profile, I elected to rely on the gravestone.
2. Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies, 106-107.
3. Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies, 7-8.
4. Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies,11, 13-15.
5. Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies, 19-20, 22-23.
6. Ambrose, Halleck, 5-6; Archer Jones, “Jomini and the Strategy of the American Civil War, A Reinterpretation.” Military Affairs vol. 34, no. 4 (December 1970), 127; Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies, 43.
7. Ambrose, Halleck, 6; Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones, How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1991), 54; Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies, 23-32; Ambrose, Hattaway, and Jones wrote that Halleck taught French. They made no mention of chemistry or engineering.
8. Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies, 33-34. The book on asphalt was Bitumen: Its Varieties, Properties, and Uses (Washington, D.C.: Peter Force, 1841). Marszalek wrote that Halleck suffered from influenza and streptococcus pneumonia, the first of many illnesses and allergies Halleck endured throughout his life. His ill health may have affected not only his performance in civilian and military arenas but also how observers perceived his personality and performance.
9. Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies, 34-35.
10. Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies, 36-38.
11. Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies, 40-42.
12. Henry W. Halleck, Elements of Military Art and Science (New York: D. Appleton, 1862). His book mentioned Jomini at least 30 times. It is accessible here: http://tinyurl.com/6twlkx2
13. John Y. Simon, Grant and Halleck: Contrasts in Command (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1996), 7. Simon pointed out that Grant resigned his commission as a captain the day before.
14. Halleck, Elements, 23. Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies, 44-45.
15. Simon, Grant and Halleck,, 9.
16. Marszalek, Sherman: A Soldier’s Passion for Order (New York: The Free Press, 1993), 39; James L. Morrison Jr., “Educating the Civil War Generals: West Point, 1833-1861.” Military Affairs vol. 38, no. 3 (October 1974), 109; James B. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 332. McPherson writes, “Many Jominian ‘principles’ were common sense ideas hardly original with Jomini. … There is little evidence that Jomini’s writings influenced Civil War strategy in a direct or tangible way; the most successful strategist of the war, Grant, confessed to having never read Jomini.”
17. David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (London: Jonathan Cape, 1995), 329.
18. Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies, 109-111.
19. Simon, Grant and Halleck, 14.
20. Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies, 116-117.
21. Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies, 117.
22. Simon, Grant and Halleck,18-19. Simon posed some important questions but did not dare answer them: “Something about Grant brought out the worst in Halleck. Did he resent Grant’s success, his age, his lack of prior military accomplishment – perhaps all three? Did he foresee that eventually Grant might become his superior? Did this consummate military administrator, believing that victories were won at the desk rather than in the field, resent those honored for battlefield achievements?”
23. Ambrose, Halleck, 43. Smith had an accident jumping into a boat. He endured a subsequent infection and died on April 25.
24. Hattaway and Jones, How the North Won,168-169.
25. Carl R. Schenker, Jr., “Ulysses in His Tent: Halleck, Grant, Sherman, and the ‘Turning Point of the War.’ ” Civil War History vol. 56, no. 2 (June 2010), 175.
26. Hattaway and Jones, How the North Won, 170; William S. McFeely, Grant (New York: W.W. Norton, 1981), 116. Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies, 123; Schenker, “Ulysses in His Tent,” 175. Hattaway and Jones wrote that “Grant found the result [of the appointment] frustrating.” McFeely called the appointment “meaningless.” Marszalek wrote that Halleck “put Grant on the shelf.” But Schenker wrote that Halleck’s reactions “are hardly those to be expected from a commander who was jealous of his subordinate; nor did Halleck pounce on a subordinate whose forces had suffered many thousands of casualties. … Halleck gave every sign that he intended to partner with Grant in a more traditional fashion.”
27. Ambrose, Halleck, 46-50, 54; Simon, Grant and Halleck, 20. Simon called the Corinth campaign a “fiasco.”
28. Hattaway and Jones, How the North Won, 95. Ambrose, Halleck, 60-61.
29. Ambrose, Halleck, 64-65.
30. Ambrose, “Lincoln and Halleck: A Study in Personal Relations.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society vol. 52, no. 1 (Spring 1959), 209-213.
31. Ambrose, “Lincoln and Halleck,” 216-222.
32. Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies, 196-198.
33. Marszalek, Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies, 218.

*****

BOOKS CONSULTED FOR THIS ESSAY

Ambrose, Stephen E. Halleck: Lincoln’s Chief of Staff. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990.

—. “Lincoln and Halleck: A Study in Personal Relations.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 52, no. 1 (Spring 1959): 208-224. JSTOR (accessed June 11, 2012).

Bastian, Beverly E. “‘I Heartily Regret That I Ever Touched a Title in California’: Henry Wager Halleck, the Californios, and the Clash of Legal Cultures.” California History 72, no. 4 (Winter, 1993/1994): 310-323. JSTOR (accessed June 11, 2012).

Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. London: Jonathan Cape, 1995.

Dossman, Steven Nathaniel. Campaign for Corinth: Blood in Mississippi. Abilene: McWhiney Foundation Press, 2006.

Eicher, David J, and John H. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001.

Glatthaar, Joseph T. Partners in Command: The Relationships Between Leaders in the Civil War. New York: The Free Press, 1994.

Grant, U.S. Grant: Memoirs and Selected Letters. New York: Library of America, 1990.

Halleck, Henry W. A Collection of Mining Laws of Spain and Mexico. San Francisco: O’Meara & Painter, 1859. http://tinyurl.com/bsw6yq6 (accessed June 11, 2012).

—. Elements of Military Art and Science. New York: 1862. http://tinyurl.com/6twlkx2 (accessed June 11, 2012).

Hattaway, Herman, and Archer Jones. How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1991.

Jomini, Antoine-Henri. Life of Napoleon. Vol. 3. Translated by Henry W. Halleck. New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1864. http://tinyurl.com/6twlkx2 (accessed June 11, 2012).

Jones, Archer. “Jomini and the Strategy of the American Civil War, A Reinterpretation.” Military Affairs 34, no. 4 (December 1970): 127-131. Periodicals Archive Online (accessed June 11, 2012).

McFeely, William S. Grant. New York: W.W. Norton, 1981.

McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

—. Tried By War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief. New York: Penguin Press, 2008.

Macartney, Clarence Edward Noble. Lincoln and His Generals. Philadelphia: Dorrance and Co., 1925.

Marszalek, John F. Sherman: A Soldier’s Passion for Order. New York: The Free Press, 1993.

—. Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies: A Life of General Henry W. Halleck. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2004.

Morrison Jr., James L. “Educating the Civil War Generals: West Point, 1833-1861.” Military Affairs 38, no. 3 (October 1974): 108-111. Periodicals Archive Online (accessed June 11, 2012).

Schenker Jr., Carl R. “Ulysses in His Tent: Halleck, Grant, Sherman, and the ‘Turning Point of the War.’” Civil War History 56, no. 2 (June 2010): 175-221. ProQuest.com (accessed June 11, 2012).

Sherman, William T. Memoirs of W.T. Sherman. New York: Library of America, 1990.

Simon, John Y. Grant and Halleck: Contrasts in Command. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1996.

Spencer, James, ed. Civil War Generals: Categorical Listings and a Biographical Dictionary. New York: Greenwood, 1986.

Suhr, Robert Collins. “Old Brains’ Barren Triumph.” America’s Civil War. 14, no. 2 (May 2001): 42-49. ProQuest.com (accessed June 11, 2012).

Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964.

Waugh, John C. Lincoln and McClellan: The Troubled Partnership Between a President and His General. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

Woodworth, Steven E. Grant’s Lieutenants: From Cairo to Vicksburg. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001.

—. Grant’s Lieutenants: From Chattanooga to Appomattox. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2008.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Those terrible battles

The horror of the Overland Campaign hangs over the Stone household but she holds out hope Lee will outsmart Grant in the end.

KS54

From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

The horror of the Overland Campaign hangs over the Stone household but she holds out hope Lee will outsmart Grant in the end.

Again Stone impresses with her ability to illustrate everyday life and mores in so few detailed sentences. Note how the Stones and their friends are now regularly visiting Union prisoners at the nearby Confederate camp.

June 19, 1864

Tyler, Texas

A letter from My Brother but dated three months ago. He writes very sadly and thinks he will not see us again until the war is over. He was safe on the fourth of May, but it was on the fifth that those terrible battles commenced. We see from the papers that his corps was engaged every day. The fate of Richmond still trembles in the balance. Lee’s army has fallen back within the fortifications, and Grant is beginning to burrow as they did at Vicksburg. The most thrilling report is that Beauregard has captured Butler and 9,000 men. May it only be true. …

We have quite a trip in contemplation. Mamma is thinking of going to Monroe [La.] on business and taking me and one of the boys on for a pleasure jaunt. Which one of the boys depends on Mrs. Savage, who thinks of joining us with Emily. In that event Mamma will leave Jimmy at home as affairs are getting too interesting with Jimmy and Emily. He is too susceptible, and Mrs. Savage is too much of a matchmaker for Jimmy to be hourly exposed to such fascination for the next two weeks. Emily is a designing, forward girl, exceedingly so for her age. Jimmy is making every preparation to go with us and join the army at Monroe and will be horribly disappointed if Mamma refuses her consent.

Our usual refugee visitors. Yesterday evening returning from a ride, Jimmy and I were called in by Mrs. Carson, who begged us to stay to supper, at which we enjoyed delightful venison, killed by Jimmy Carson, and some of Mrs. Carson’s new style marmalade excellent. Read the papers to Mrs. Carson and rode home in the most glorious moonlight.

Mamma is very sad since receiving My Brother’s letter. She is very anxious about him. We have a nice set of real chessmen, made by one of the prisoners. We loaned them some days ago to the hospital in response to a polite note asking for them. The boys often go there. They have taken a great fancy to Mr. Griffin, a wounded boy. He must be a nice young fellow. Mamma and Mrs. Carson and some of the other ladies go quite frequently.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: To kill and destroy

As a Tyler mob hangs suspected jayhawkers, disease ravages the Union prisoners of war, and an unsympathetic Stone refuses to help them. She hears rumors of a great battle in Virginia between the “Invincible Lee” and his new adversary, Ulysses S. Grant.

KS59

From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

As a Tyler mob hangs suspected jayhawkers, disease ravages the Union prisoners of war, and an unsympathetic Stone refuses to help them. She hears rumors of a great battle in Virginia between the “Invincible Lee” and his new adversary, Ulysses S. Grant.

May 18, 1864

Tyler, Texas

There was a terrible tragedy enacted here today. Three men, noted Jayhawkers, were taken out of jail and just out of town were hanged by mob law. It is horrible and makes one shudder to think of it, though it is said they richly deserved their fate. The leader of the gang was the sheriff of the county, and the two who suffered with him were his sons-in-law. They were not from this county.

Three Yankees died today at the hospital, which is not strange as they are so dreadfully crowded and have the roughest fare. But we cannot help them. They should have stayed in their own bountiful country instead of coming down here to kill and destroy. Our good news continues. Steele and Banks are still falling back. A great battle is rumored in Virginia, Grant’s first fight in his “On to Richmond.” He is opposed by the Invincible Lee, and so we are satisfied we won the victory. But it makes us anxious for My Brother.

Hutch Bowman was here for two or three days and has gone on to his command. He and Joe are together. Hutch is dreadfully tanned, looks a regular Texan, a slow, good boy but a great romp. We see Mrs. Savage, Julia, and Mrs. Carson every day. Julia is crazy to get back to Camden. As we prophesied, she does not like it here. But I would let the Major come for me. I would not go to him even in times of war.

For the last few days no stages have come in, and how we do miss the mails, one of Tyler’s chief attractions. Jimmy Stone has stopped going to school and studies English at home. He is eager to get off to the army. Uncle Johnny, Kate, and the baby are all improving and look less like shadows and more like human beings.

Civil War infographical coolness

Check out this cool infographic from the Civil War Trust. Some may argue over the numbers but the endeavor and creativity at the heart of it are commendable.

Check out this cool infographic from the Civil War Trust. Some may argue over the numbers but the endeavor and creativity at the heart of it are commendable.

Click on the graphic itself to see a bigger version.


Civil War Trust - Battles of the Civil War

Brought to you by The Civil War Trust