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In the summer of 1861, four slave states had still not seceded. If even two or three joined the Confederacy, the Union would be in big trouble. Lincoln was determined to keep all four in (Maryland, Kentucky, Delaware, and Missouri). We will look at these developments, along with the The War in the West, April 1861 – April 1862, where many famous Civil War figures emerge, such as Ulysses S. Grant.


Maps For This Episode


Episode Overview: The Border States

  • Border State Intro
      1. In the summer of 1861, four slave states had still not seceded
      2. If even two or three joined the Confederacy, the Union would be in big trouble.
      3. Lincoln was determined to keep all four in.
  • Delaware
      1. Had very few slaves and never seriously considered seceding.
      2. Economically tied to PA more than the rest of the South.
  • Maryland
    1. Was the most critical border state because it surrounded Washington DC on three sides.
    2. Most Marylanders were pro-Union, but there was a large and vocal pro-Confederate minority.
    3. Maryland men fought in both armies.  (9000 Union, 30,000 Confederate)
    4. Lincoln had pro-Confederate sympathizers jailed and prevented anti-Union men from voting.  He also suspended the writ of habeas corpus.
    5. By the end of 1861, Maryland was firmly in the Union.
  • Kentucky
      1. Greatly divided, with many people supporting the Union and many supporting the Confederacy.
      2. Had strong cultural ties to both North and South.
      3. Had people fight for both sides (75,000 Union, 35,000 Conf).
      4. Proclaimed neutrality at first. Lincoln was careful not to send any troops into the state at first. Lincoln: “I would like to have God on my side, but I MUST have Kentucky.”
      5. In June 1861, Unionists won 9 of 10 congressional seats.
      6. In September, a Confederate force occupied Columbus, KY.  The state legislature soon proclaimed allegiance to the Union.  (There was, however, a rump “Confederate” government).
  • Missouri
    1. a, b, and c for KY were also true of Missouri. (90,000 to Union Army, 30,000 to Confederate, 3000 guerrillas)
    2. The state was racked by much irregular warfare.  It had its own “mini-civil war” throughout most of the war. 
    3. After a couple of setbacks (Wilson’s Creek, Lexington and others), Union forces gradually pushed the majority of Confederate forces out.  In March of 1862, at the Battle of Pea Ridge, a Union army routed his Confederate opponents and ensured continued Union control of Missouri.
    4. As in KY, there was a rump “Confederate” government.

The War in the West, April 1861 – April 1862

  • The Union situation in the West
      1. Mental map of KY and TN
      2. Henry Halleck was put in charge of all Union forces in the “Far West”, from the Cumberland River west.  Halleck was a brilliant, scholarly general who had been a professor at West Point, but he was very much a “desk general.Halleck was ordered to pacify Missouri and gain control of as much of the Mississippi as possible.
      3. Don Carlos Buell commanded all Union forces from East Tennessee west to the Cumberland.  He was a lifelong staff officer.
      4. Lincoln wanted Buell to liberate East Tennessee and cut the railroad connections between VA and TN.
  • The Confederate situation in the West
      1. Albert Sidney Johnston, a former US and Texas army officer, was in charge of all Confederate forces west of the Appalachians.  He was the senior Confederate officer. Davis: “If Sidney Johnston is not a general, then we have no general.”
      2. Johnston’s theater was most vulnerable in four places: the Mississippi River, the Tennessee River, the Cumberland River, and the Louisville-Nashville Railroad.
      3. Trying to protect Tennessee, Johnson arranged his forces along a large arc (shape of a smile).  One end (the was anchored at Columbus, KY on the Mississippi. There he had 12,000 troops under Leonidas Polk.
      4. The right flank was anchored at Bowling Green, KY.
      5. In between were two forts, Ft. Henry on the Tennessee River, and Ft. Donelson on the Cumberland.
      6. There were two other armies, one in Arkansas under Earl Van Dorn, and the other at Cumberland Gap under Felix Zollicoffer.
    1. Advantages and Disadvantages
      1. Johnston had a great railroad along which he could move his forces.  But his position in the middle was relatively weak.
      2. The Federals had more forces and the rivers along which they could move (plus the Louisville-Nashville Railroad).
  • Fts. Henry and Donelson
    1. Mental Map
    2. Halleck wanted to capture Nashville, the important city in Tennessee. If he did so, Johnston would probably have to pull back into southern Tennessee.
    3. In January 1862, Buell sent an army under General George Thomas to Mill Springs, where Thomas defeated Gen. Zollicoffer, killing him and forcing the rebels to retreat from eastern KY.
    4. Halleck then sent 15,000 men under a general named Ulysses S. Grant toward Forts Henry and Donelson.  They marched along the Tennessee River. Accompanying Grant’s forces was a flotilla under Flag Officer Andrew Foote.
    5. On February 6, with the assistance of the flotilla, Grant’s forces captured Ft. Henry.
    6. Grant went south, cut a major railroad, and marched east toward Ft. Donelson.  The fleet had to go back down the Tennessee, enter the Cumberland, and move down it to Donelson.
    7. Johnston retreated from Bowling Green, sending some of his army to Ft. Donelson and some to Nashville.
    8. Grant surrounded the fort while the flotilla bombarded it.  The fort’s commander, Simon Bolivar Buckner, contacted Grant and asked for terms of surrender.
    9. Grant: “No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.”  Buckner surrendered the fort on February 16. 12,000 Confederate soldiers became prisoners and many supplies were captured.
    10. Grant became a hero throughout the North.  Nashville soon fell to Union troops (first Confederate state capital to do so).
    11. Johnston retreated his entire army to western Tennessee and northern Mississippi and Alabama. Shortly thereafter Halleck inexplicably placed Grant under virtual arrest at Fort Henry while Grant’s army moved south up the Tennessee River to Pittsburg Landing  Halleck seems to have been jealous of Grant’s success.  Plus there were rumors (almost certainly false) that Grant had been drinking on the first day of the battle…that was allegedly why Grant was surprised when the Confederates attacked.

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"History of the Civil War in 10 Battles, Part 3: Border States and the War in the West" History on the Net
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April 12, 2024 <https://www.historyonthenet.com/history-civil-war-10-battles-part-3-border-states-war-west>
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