April 1862… a pivotal month of the war

Today marks the 155th anniversary of the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter, generally called the “start” of the American Civil War.  I don’t know what to call the 155th other than just “155th.”  Likewise, I have no smart name for the 151st anniversaries of the surrender at Appomattox (last Saturday) or Lincoln’s assassination (coming Thursday).  Having just experienced the sesquicentennial years, I trust we are all aware that April 1861 and April 1865 serve as convenient bookends of the Civil War.  And thus we see a number of good, scholarly works aimed to explain the events from those months. That is, in my opinion, a focus well spent.  Yet, there is a lot of “in between” laying between those two Aprils which is also due focus.

One “in between” that has always struck my fancy is April 1862.  Just a lot of moving parts in that spring month.  Consider –

  • April 4- Major-General George McClellan lead the Army of the Potomac up the Peninsula toward Confederate defenses at Yorktown.
  • April 6 – General Albert Sidney Johnston’s army struck Major-General U.S. Grant’s force camped around Pittsburg Landing.
  • April 7- Major-General John Pope landed a force at Watson’s Landing, on the Tennessee shore below New Madrid, Missouri, and behind Island No. 10.
  • April 10 – Federal batteries directed by (then) Captain Quincy Gillmore opened fire on Fort Pulaski.
  • April 12 – James Andrews hijacked the locomotive General at Big Shanty, Georgia.
  • April 17 – Major-General Nathaniel Banks occupied New Market, Virginia, with Major-General Thomas Jackson’s command falling back to the vicinity of Harrisonburg.
  • April 18 – Federal fleet under Commodore David Farragut began bombardment of Forts Jackson and St. Philip downstream from New Orleans. Days later the fleet would run past those forts.
  • April 26 – After a month long siege, Confederates surrendered Fort Macon on the North Carolina coast.

Those being, mostly, start or end points of longer campaigns or operations.  The conclusions seen were:

  • A prolonged siege at Yorktown.
  • Over 23,000 casualties and a major Confederate reverse at Shiloh.
  • Some 7,000 Confederates captured at Island No. 10 and the Mississippi laid open south nearly (Fort Pillow) to Memphis.
  • New Orleans lost to the Confederacy – both as a port and manufacturing center.
  • Savannah mostly closed as a port.
  • The coast of North Carolina, save Wilmington, under Federal control.  As were large portions of the Shenandoah Valley, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

I added the Great Locomotive Chase entry as it had some impact on the Confederate logistic system at the time.

Furthermore, in a era without the benefit (or handicap) of the 24-hour news cycle, the timing of that raid reminds us how these events were connected in time. Imagine the newspaper headlines each morning, as the events unfolded.  In learning about the war, we approached the initial study by chapters… nicely defined chapters covering specific campaigns.

But unfortunately a format that failed to give us that appreciation for how those events were experienced – real time.  Those of us who waded into the sesquicentennial gained much from “real time, 150 years after the fact” following.  And I do hope that added to the perspective of many.  However I think in general that historians have not done enough to demonstrate the connection between these events and how such factored into the course of the war.  Nor have us students done enough to bring out those connections in our studies.  Thus several logical, time-line groupings of events have not received due attention.  There were several pivotal weeks and months in which the course of the war turned.

April 1862 was one of them.  The war entered its first mature campaign season… from the plains of Kansas to the Atlantic Ocean (and beyond).  And given the victories cited above, April 1862 might have been a turning point sending the Confederacy to an early end.  As a “western theater guy” I am fond of saying the Confederates lost the war at Shiloh on the night of April 6, 1862 and the Federals won the war atop Missionary Ridge on November 24, 1863.  Easterners will disagree, but the fact is defeat at Shiloh broke the back of the Confederate army in the west.  Shiloh set-up Vicksburg.  Vicksburg set-up Chattanooga and that Missionary Ridge thing.  Missionary Ridge set-up Atlanta.  And from Atlanta, Savannah, Charleston, Columbia, and Fayetteville … and set-up Appomattox. The long way around, to be sure.  But that’s how my “western-centered” perspective views it… feel free to disagree.

Yet from the opposite side of the coin, April 1862 was also an important set-up for the Confederacy. Consider the closures… or results… from some of those Federal actions:

  • The Army of the Potomac invested Yorktown, not taking that place until the first days of May.
  • Major-General Henry Halleck took direct control of the advance toward Corinth, Mississippi, concentrating forces across the western theater for a slow pursuit.  The Crossroads of the Confederacy would not be in Federal hands until the end of May.
  • Major-General Samuel Curtiss, due to logistic constraints and in spite of a victory at Pea Ridge in March, fell back into Missouri.

This turn of events, again happening concurrently, gave openings and created angles which the Confederates could exploit. One of those, of course, being Jackson’s Valley Campaign.  That campaign, and actions on other fronts, setup six months in which the Confederacy would reach its zenith… and take the war onto northern soil.

Maybe April 1862 was not the turning point it could have been.  And maybe it was not the most important thirty days of the Civil War.  But I submit it was a pivotal month in the course of the war.

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January 21, 1865: “We have never had more than four days’ forage ahead”: Limited supplies of fodder hinder Federal operations

On January 21, 1865, Major-General William T. Sherman sent a status to Lieutenant-General Ulysses S. Grant.  You can read the full text of the letter, along with other correspondence from Sherman, in today’s entry on “Sherman’s Blog” (A good blog to follow, by the way). Likely you have read or heard part of that letter, as near the end Sherman assured Grant he did not want promotion to Lieutenant-General, as “It would be mischievous, for there are enough rascals who would try to sow differences between us, whereas you and I are now in perfect understanding.”

There is, however, another portion of that letter which I think should get more attention, particularly from the perspective of a military historian.  Opening his letter, having summed up the preliminary movements taken to that date, Sherman explained some of the logistical problems and the effect of recent rains.  But he went on to bring up another constraint that hindered execution of his plans – fodder for the horses:

Our supplies have come daily, that is, we have never had four days’ forage ahead, but I will depend on enough coming to get me out to the neighborhood of Barnwell, were we will find some.

We can’t argue with Sherman’s calculations. Barnwell was about 90 miles from Savannah, and thus around four days’ march… give or take.

Having marched through Georgia and, shall we say, leaned on the citizens of that state for fodder (and horses), while in Savannah Sherman’s armies depended upon the supply system.  As pointed out earlier, there was a bottleneck in the logistics trail leading to Savannah.  But that was only part of this fodder problem.  Indeed the problem was much larger than just Sherman’s force going into South Carolina.

On January 8, Major-General Henry Halleck made light of the problem in a letter to Grant.  Responding to an inquiry by Grant to form a reserve of 20,000 to 30,000 horses for the spring campaign, Halleck took the liberty to explain some of the problems facing the army in regard to both horses and horse-feed:

Your letter of the 6th in regard to the cavalry horses has been shown to Mr. Dana, and he agrees with me that action should be postponed till the Secretary of War and General Meigs return. I fear that there, will be very serious difficulties in foraging the animals we now have to supply from the North and East. The crop of hay is very short; in some places not one-third of the usual mowings. Our official reports state that nearly all the hay along the railroad lines has already been cleaned out. Farmers were obliged to send their produce to market early, in order to raise money to pay heavy local taxes for bounties to volunteers; many have also sold their teams. The rivers and canals are closed by ice, and the country roads in New York and the New England States have been very bad. Many of the railroads have more than they can do with passengers and private freight. All these causes combined have affected, and will, during the winter, still more seriously affect, our supply of forage. Without the greatest care and energy we shall not be able to feed the animals we have on hand. You complain of a want of forage on the James. We are much of the time here on half rations. Sherman’s army at Savannah complained, although we sent much more forage there than you directed. In fine, there is a scarcity of forage everywhere at the North. Private gentlemen and omnibus and city railroad companies say that they can scarcely procure enough in market for their private animals. Under these circumstances due precaution should be taken not to purchase cavalry horses till they are absolutely required, otherwise large numbers will actually starve or be of little or no use. In respect to the West and Southwest, the difficulty of foraging is not so great, and purchases can be continued, at least for a time. ….

Halleck went on to discuss particulars in regard to horses sent to Tennessee and Major-General George Thomas’ command.  In particular the “loss in killed, starved, and broken down has probably been not less than 10,000…” over the period between October 1 and December 31, 1864.  Yes, another chilling measure of the toll on horses and mules as the war drug along.

We see two, somewhat converging, issues in Halleck’s letter.  Both of which were shared by Sherman in Savannah.  The winter of 1864 where general inactivity allowed the Federals to get their animals healthy or replace those that were not.  But the winter of 1865 was different.  The Federals needed horse flesh to keep the pressure on the Confederates.  But working against that was an inconvenient bad season for forage.  The army’s needs were straining every available source in the east.  Though, as Halleck pointed out, the situation was not as desperate in the western theater.

The solution?  For Sherman at least, relief was to press the problem upon the state of South Carolina.  The Federals wouldn’t have to purchase or ship the fodder that lay beyond Barnwell, South Carolina.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 46, Part II, Serial 96, page 68; Volume 47, Part II, Serial 99, pages 103-4.)

Where was Grant’s Headquarters during his stay in Culpeper?

One could make the case that, on this day 150 years ago, the edifice which Lieutenant-General U.S. Grant called
his headquarters was the most important building on the North American continent… for at least a moment in time.  From that house in Culpeper Court House, Grant controlled a massive army, spread from the Atlantic to the Pacific, stepping forward onto a series of major and minor campaigns.  Every order to that army emanated from that dwelling in Culpeper.  And those orders would eventually lay the path to events of April 1865.

With that said, and the significance established, let us ask where was the building which Grant used as a headquarters?

There is public interpretation that I know of in Culpeper today marking this important site.  Over the years, historians have offered several candidates, to include most recently “small, cigar smoke-filled tent in Culpeper, Va.”  Others have mentioned the home of William Wallach (and incorrectly identified the owner as William Williams), known as “Montrose.”  But the most persistent identification is the Rixey home, on Main Street, as that site.  The house was once owned by Confederate General William “Extra Billy” Smith.  Thus adding a somewhat interesting twist.  Even my friend, Clark “Bud” Hall identified the Rixey Home in his excellent Blue & Gray magazine article (Issue 46, Volume VIII, which is very hard to come by now days!).

But, over the years, Bud has determined that identification is in error.  Grant’s headquarters was in fact at the John Barbour house, on Davis Street, just a short walk from the railroad station.  Bud has graciously allowed me to share the fruits of his research here.  You will find attached to this post Bud’s narrative justifying the identification of the headquarters site: Grant’s Culpeper Headquarters.

Separate, but accompanying this document, are several illustrations which I will provide here (I’ve altered two of these for better display on the web):

First, “In this 1864 map/sketch, note “1st Corps Headquarters” at the west end of Davis Street (bottom of map; north is to the left). This is the Barbour house, to become Grant’s HQ on March 26.” (I’ve added a blue arrow pointing to the Barbour House.)

CulpeperStreet1864_mod

Second, “Wartime image of West Davis Street, with A.P. Hill home to left and ‘second’ courthouse just beyond, on the northeastern corner of Davis and Main Streets. The Barbour house is in the trees to the left of the wagons.”:

CP-Davis

Third, “Barbour house, view is to west, with ‘new’ Culpeper Courthouse (1870) in view. Barbour house was torn down in 1908.”

usg HQ

Fourth, “1878, ‘Gray’s New Map of Culpeper.’ Note the Barbour house, 120 West Davis, on the north side of Davis Street, just west of Main Street.”  (I’ve added a red arrow pointing to the house.)

CulpeperGray1878_Mod

Fifth, “The Barbour house stood on the east side of the clearing, near where the Confederate Monument stands today. It is today surrounded by Culpeper County offices.”

Barbour House Site

And lastly, Bud offered this Timothy O’Sullivan photograph of Culpeper:

Landscape

This view, looking at Culpeper as it looked during the war, allows reference to many other buildings mentioned in Bud’s article.  He added:

… as you look at the courthouse –far left steeple, northeast corner of Main and Davis–the Barbour house is in the trees to the left (west) of the courthouse. You can just make out the roof of the house. The steeple in the center (no longer there) is the Baptist Church at Davis and East Streets. St Stephen’s Church is the steeple to the right. The Waverley Hotel is the building to the far right, just east of the tracks, and across from the depot.

Two things I’d ask of you readers.  First, consider what was going on at the Barbour house at this time 150 years ago.

Secondly, I am certain a Civil War Trails or other form of public interpretation can be secured for a relatively meager fee.  And I think you would agree, that’s a spot which needs to be marked!

Wainwright’s Diary, May 3, 1864: “we only wait the hour of midnight in order to start”

This morning, I am making preparations to begin my trip to the Wilderness for the 150th anniversary events.  Remembering those events, let me share what is effectively the last Winter Encampment diary entry by Colonel Charles S. Wainwright.  He, too, was getting ready for a trip into the Wilderness:

May 3, Tuesday.  Everything is packed, and we only wait the hour of midnight in order to start. Orders have been coming in thick and fast all day; an army is bad as a woman starting on a journey, so much to be done at the last moment….

It seems notwithstanding General Meade’s appeal to their honour, there are a number of men inclined to be fractious under the idea that their term of service is already out; he now sends notice that all such be shot without trial if they do not step out to the music….

I found yesterday that General Warren, I suppose by order, was building several redoubts on the heights south of the town, and rode around to see them, thinking that I might be called upon to have something to do with them, especially as the General asked me to examine whether the parapets were too high for light guns. I thought to meet him there but did not.  I, however, came across General Wadsworth. The old gentleman was talkative as usual, and said that he did not know very much about engineering, though he did claim to be otherwise pretty well up in military matters.  I agreed with him perfectly as to his ignorance of engineering, and thought he would be wiser not to attempt to use terms belonging thereto….

This afternoon General Warren had his division commanders and myself at his quarters, shewed us his orders, and explained tomorrow’s move.  This Fifth Corps leads off, followed by the Sixth; we are to cross at Germanna Ford again and go as far as the Old Wilderness Tavern tomorrow.  The Second Corps, all the heavy trains, and also the Reserve crosses at Ely’s Ford and goes to Chancellorsville; the Ninth Corps does not move until the next day.  We are to try and get around Lee, between him and Richmond, and so force him to fight on our own ground.  My batteries, with two forage waggons each, start at midnight, pass through Stevensburg, and then follow in rear of the First and Third Divisions. The ammunition and all the rest of the waggons, together with half of the ambulances, move off to Chancellorsville and we are warned that we shall not see them again for five days.  The night is soft but cloudy, with some signs of rain; now the roads are capital. Our general officers, that I have talked with, are very sanguine; Grant is said to be perfectly confident.  God grant that their expectations be more realized.

When I reached Warren’s quarters Wadsworth only was there.  He insisted on having my opinion as to which way we were to move, whether around Lee’s right or left; and when I told him I had no opinion, having nothing to found one on, declared I must be a regular, I was so non-committal.  Would that it were characteristic of all regulars never to give an opinion on subjects they knew nothing about; and if the people at home, newspaper editors and correspondents, and also the politicians at Washington, would take a leaf out of the same book, it would save the country millions of money, and many a poor fellow in our army his life.  During the interview I could see that Warren paid especial deference to Griffin, whom he evidently fears. I do not wonder much at it except that Griffin has no influence; but then, he is such an inveterate hater, and so ugly in his persecutions.  I was gratified at being summoned with the division commanders….

If you are visiting the Wilderness battlefield today, I encourage you to take the short drive up Virginia Highway 3 to Stevensburg, and all the way into Culpeper if you can.  150 years ago tomorrow – very early tomorrow morning – was the first of many marches made by the Army of the Potomac during the Overland Campaign.

Culpeper Co Jan 5 08 092

(Citations from Charles S. Wainwright, A Diary of Battle: The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865, edited by Allan Nevins, New York: Da Capo Press, 1998, page 347-8.)

Wainwright’s Diary, May 1, 1864: “The army was never in better condition”

For Colonel Charles S. Wainwright and the rest of the Army of the Potomac 150 years ago, the waiting for the word was the preoccupation of the day:

Culpeper Court House, May 1, Monday.  We are still here but expecting orders hourly almost …. Things here look so very near a move that the chances are decidedly against our being in our present quarters for a regular Thursday entry in here this week.  Our sick were all sent off yesterday.  Burnside’s division of negroes has relieved the half of this corps on the railroad so that it will be here tomorrow.  The rest of Burnside’s command is near Rappahannock Station.  One division they say has not joined him yet.  So near as I can make out, Grant will start from here with about 125,000 men, including all Burnside’s corps and the cavalry.  One-third of the number are green troops, but there are only a few new regiments, and the army was never in better condition, take it altogether. The number stated, I am confident, is not over 5,000 out either way, as I have excellent means of knowing.  It is enough anyway; quite as many as Grant and Meade together can take care of, and properly used ought to be sure to use up Lee.  The weather continues very fine. The roads and all the country are just in the very best condition. Everyone here is in good spirits and those at home full of expectation.

The roads were fine.  The weather was fine.  But there was little to do but wait.

Several movies have depicted, at least briefly, the anxieties felt by soldiers during the “wait” for major operations.  For the World War II subjects, two such noteworthy films doing so, which I would guess most readers are familiar, are The Longest Day and A Bridge too Far.  In the latter movie, there is a scene where Sean Connery, playing Major-General Roy Urquhart, plays a round of golf the morning before his division jumped into Arnhem. That behavior reminds me, in my personal experience, of a commander who would practice fly-casting during the “waits.”  Anything to ease the anxiety and allow mental focus.  Keep in mind, as you consider the “wait,” these men were not just waiting for a train to arrive.  They were waiting for commencement of an activity in which many would perish or receive grievous wounds.  Hard to sit still with such as that hanging on the next order.

But an important difference between Wainwright of 1864 and Urquhart of 1944 lay in how much they knew of the operation.  Wainwright scarcely knew what road his batteries would march upon. While he could predict heavy fighting, he didn’t know where or when.  As one frequent contributor to this blog has remarked, Grant knew how to keep a secret!

Another important part of Wainwright’s observation on this day 150 years ago is the reference to Brigadier-General Edward Ferrero’s Fourth Division, Ninth Corps.  At the time Wainwright wrote the entry, Ferrero was quartered around Manassas, and relieving the Fifth Corps of responsibilities north of the Rappahannock along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad.  Within days, those USCT regiments would move further south, then pick up the line of march to Germanna Ford.

I’ve written at length about the USCT (and 54th Massachusetts) present at Morris Island in the summer of 1863.  And I have always felt the deployment of those troops at that time provided the first “shock” to the Confederate leadership in regards to the “sable arm.”  But with the opening of the Overland Campaign, the presence of USCT on the line of march going south served a message to both Federal and Confederate.  There on the roads leading through Culpeper, over the Rapidan, and into the Wilderness were the very physical representation of the main purpose of the Civil War.  Emancipated men carrying arms into the fight.

(Citation from Charles S. Wainwright, A Diary of Battle: The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865, edited by Allan Nevins, New York: Da Capo Press, 1998, page 345.)

Wainwright’s Diary, April 24, 1864: “With the warm days have come clouds of rumours”

With April coming to a close, Colonel Charles Wainwright began his diary on this day in 1864 with a notation about pleasant weather, yet predicting storms rising from the south:

April 24, Sunday. Spring is upon us now, almost at a jump. The last three days have been fit for June; fires are abandoned and replaced by open doors and windows. Today the air is heavy with the moisture of a strong south wind, betokening rain.

But he went on to point out gathering clouds… not not the type hanging in the sky…

With the warm days have come clouds of rumours as to the spring campaign and all that is to be done. The newspapers are full of dark hints, principally meant to make the public believe that the editors and correspondents know more than other people; which is all bosh. Every officer returning from Washington brings down his pockets full; quartermasters, having more transportation than anyone else, bring the most and the biggest.  But among them all I have yet to see the man bold enough to attempt predicting what the first move of this army will be. One report says that Burnside’s corps has left Annapolis, in steamers for somewhere; another that Baldy Smith, of whom Grant is said to have the very highest opinion, is getting up a strong army on the Peninsula. Common sense would say that these two were to make one command, to advance on Richmond from the James while we looked after Lee here; but then common sense has always been the rarest of the military qualities at Washington, and one cannot well imagine Burnside and Smith acting together after all the trouble that had at the time of and after the “mud march.”….

As of that April, Grant’s objectives were set, but not communicated down the ranks. We, with the luxury of 150 years distance, know Grant was to focus on the Confederate forces in the field and hold Richmond as a secondary objective.

The burr under Wainwright’s saddle remained – wagons… or as he put it “waggons.”

I have figured out our transportation allowance, which is about as absurd as it well can be.  I often wonder whether General Meade himself apportions the waggons or whether it is done by Ingalls; also, whether whoever draws up these orders has a special spite against artillery horses, or is utterly ignorant.  The order allows one waggon to each battery for baggage, mess furniture, desks and the like, and three waggons for subsistence, and forage.  Ten days’ small stores and one day’s meat for 140 men, about the average of my batteries, will with its forage take up one waggon (Captain Cruttenden says more), which leaves us two waggons to carry ten days’ forage for 120 horses, or 6,000 pounds per waggon, beside the forage for its own teams!  Five days’ forage is all we can possibly manage, and then the loads will be very heavy at the start.  As for loading five days’ more on my artillery carriages, I can’t and won’t do it.  Such absurdities as this take away all my pleasure and pride in my command.  I wrote it all out for Hunt and sent it up to him.  He replies in a most characteristic note, beginning: “The Jews of old were required to make brick without straw; anybody could do that if not responsible for the quality of the bricks delivered. You lose one waggon and are required to increase the forage carried from seven days to ten.  Now that beats the Jews.”  Hunt is evidently discouraged, and beginning to give up all hope of our ever getting what is right….

In Ingalls defense, there was a lot to the logistic and transportation system which escaped Wainwright’s notice. Sending meat to the front “on the hoof,” for instance, would greatly reduce the need for rolling stock.  For greatest efficiency, military logistics must be arranged at the highest practical level.  Simply determining the needs of one battery, then multiplying that times the number of batteries in the army would introduce many inefficient allocations.  And those, multiplied across the army, would translate to burdensome trains and other impediments to movement.  And in the spring of 1864, the army needed no additional impediments.

However, as Wainwright argued with vigor, logistic efficiency does not always bring “freedom from want” in the ranks.

(Citations from Charles S. Wainwright, A Diary of Battle: The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865, edited by Allan Nevins, New York: Da Capo Press, 1998, page 342-4.)

150 years ago: Grant rejects any further offensive against Charleston

On April 21, 1864, Rear-Admiral John Dahlgren passed a summary report to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Wells.  As Dahlgren had at other occasions since September of the previous year, the commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron offered operational options to employ the forces then outside Charleston, South Carolina (and note that Dahlgren was in Washington at the time, and not with the fleet off South Carolina):

Sir: As the demands of the public service elsewhere will prevent the detail of more iron-clads for service at Charleston, which will necessarily postpone any serious attack on the interior defenses of the harbor, I directed combined operations to would suggest that be the occupation of Long Island, with the view of an attack on the works of Sullivan’s Island, to be prosecuted as far as the force ashore and afloat may permit. If Sullivan’s Island can be occupied, it would enable the iron-clads to maintain position in the harbor permanently, and in the end to drive the rebels from Charleston.

And for emphasis, Dahlgren’s suggestion to operate against Sullivan’s Island was not a new proposal.  Dahlgren had pressed for such since the fall of Morris Island.  But nothing so concrete as to commit a plan to paper.

As with other similar suggestions, Wells referred the matter over to the Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, for comment.  In those earlier events, Stanton had turned to Major General Henry Halleck for a response.  And Halleck had, like Dahlgren, remained non-committal.  And neither Halleck or Dahlgren would leave any remark which the opposite branch of service might interpret as a reluctance to support further operations.

But this was April 1864.  Stanton did not turn to Halleck, but rather to Lieutenant-General U.S. Grant.  For his response, on April 24, Grant requested direct input from Major-General Quincy Gillmore, who was at that time preparing to leave Charleston.

General: Herewith I send you copy of letter from Admiral Dahlgren to the Secretary of the Navy, and from the latter to the military authorities, recommending certain movements near Charleston, S.C. The letters explain themselves. Please read them and send me your views on the proposed movements. Not knowing the situation of affairs about Charleston, and particularly since the withdrawal of so many of your forces, I can give no specific directions. I would state, however, that it will be of great advantage to us if the force at Charleston can be safely employed in keeping up a demonstration that will force the enemy to keep large numbers there to watch their movements.

While giving some consideration to resuming some operations against Charleston, Grant’s mind seemed fixed.  Charleston was not on his list of objectives.  There was no room offered for Gillmore to even suggest more troops. In Grant’s view, any operations would remain limited to demonstrations.  And, reading between the lines, the reason for Gillmore’s input was to qualify, and quantify, the response back to the Navy.

Grant was not in favor of non-specific plans against elusive goals.  Nor was Grant willing to curtail or compromise his larger scheme of operations for the chance to settle a score at Charleston.  The cradle of secession was no longer a top objective.

For what it was worth, Halleck offered his opinion on the matter:

If the iron-clads and the large number of troops off Charleston for the last year could not take and hold Sullivan’s Island, how can they expect to do it with forces diminished more than one-half? Moreover, if taken, it would simply result in the loss from active service of 5,000 troops to garrison it, without any influence upon the coming campaign. It will require 60,000 men three months to take Charleston. The capture of Sullivan’s Island would not have much influence upon the siege of that place, as it can be conducted with greater advantage from other points. I am satisfied that Admiral Dahlgren’s letter was intended simply as an excuse in advance for the inability of the iron-clads to accomplish anything against Charleston.

Give Halleck credit, as he appeared to best characterize the nature of Dahlgren’s original letter starting this chain. With no ironclad reinforcements, Dahlgren was not ready to “damn the torpedoes.”

But at this point, I have to ask why Halleck had not expressed this view five months earlier?

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 66, pages 64, 67-8.)