Civil War

The War in the West

That the "war was won in the West" has become axiomatic. There the rivers, conveniently flowing either north (the Cumberland and the Tennessee) or south (the Mississippi), invited Union penetration, as they did not in Virginia. In Feb., 1862, the Union gunboats of Andrew H. Foote forced the Confederates to retire from their post Fort Henry on the Tennessee to their stronghold on the Cumberland, Fort Donelson. There, on Feb. 16, 1862, Grant, commanding the Army of the Tennessee, won the first great Union victory of the war, and Nashville promptly fell without a struggle.

Farther down the Tennessee, Grant was lucky to escape defeat in a bloody contest (Apr. 6–7) with Albert S. Johnston and Beauregard (see Shiloh, battle of). Minor Union successes at Iuka (Sept. 19) and Corinth (Oct. 3–4) followed, while the counterinvasion by the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Braxton Bragg was stopped by Don Carlos Buell at Perryville, Ky. (Oct. 8, 1862). William S. Rosecrans, Buell's successor, then stalked Bragg through Tennessee, fought him to a standoff at Murfreesboro (Dec. 21, 1862–Jan. 2, 1863), and finally, by outmaneuvering him, forced the Confederate general to withdraw S of Chattanooga.

Union gunboats had cleared the upper Mississippi (see Island No. 10; Fort Pillow), leading to the fall of Memphis on June 6, 1862. Grant's Vicksburg campaign, at first stalled by the raids of Confederate cavalrymen Nathan B. Forrest and Earl Van Dorn, was pressed to a victorious end in a brilliant movement in which the navy, represented by David D. Porter, also had a hand. The Union now controlled the whole Mississippi, and the trans-Mississippi West was severed from the rest of the Confederacy. The fighting in that area (see Pea Ridge; Arkansas Post) had held Missouri for the Union and led to the partial conquest of Arkansas, but after the fall of Vicksburg, the war there, with the exception of the unsuccessful Union Red River expedition of Nathaniel P. Banks and a last desperate Confederate raid into Missouri by Sterling Price (both in 1864), was largely confined to guerrilla activity.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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