Bad News in the West
As we rocket toward June, 2012 I would like to point out just how bad things were for the Confederacy 150 years ago..especially in the western theater. I do so not to explore the vast details of the military operation in the first handful of months in 1862, but to ponder with great interest the tenacity of the Confederate population. Despite some of the worst possible news they held firmly to their cause.
So here is the bad news roll call for 1862:
February – Forts Henry and Donelson fall to Union forces through a combined US Army and Navy operation. Nashville, a major Confederate industrial center, also falls to Union forces
April – Confederates suffer crushing loss at Shiloh, Albert Sidney Johnson, a man to whom people looked for military victories, is dead. PGT Beauregard relieves himself of command due to illness, US navy captures New Orleans
May – Corinth, a vital rail center in Mississippi, falls to Union forces.
June – Memphis, a major port city on the Mississippi River, falls to Union forces.
So…the Confederate losses piled up pretty high in the West in the first half of 1862. Two of the biggest cities in the South – gone. The upper and lower reaches of the Mississippi River – gone. Vital shipping, communication, rail, and industrial centers – gone. The two highest ranking Confederates in the West – dead or incapacitated. Jefferson Davis was at something of a loss for what to do, and the situation was not looking so great in the East either for much of 1862…Joseph E. Johnston slowly retreating toward Richmond, with George B. McClellan cautiously following. The only bright spot for the Confederacy at this point was Stonewall’s aggressive maneuvers in the Shenandoah Valley. Of course, we know that militarily, events would soon change dramatically with the ascension of Robert E. Lee in the East and the battles of late June. But we’ll have to wait for another post for that. Until then, if anyone is attending sesquicentennial events in the western theater – please send a full report.