January 5, 1863: Maj. Gen. John McClernand of the U.S. Army is an Illinois politician-general who, for the last several months, beginning in the summer, has been engaged in recruiting new troops, mostly from his home state, to make an army that would be his to command alone. He has procured the consent of Pres. Lincoln to do this. Neither Lincoln nor McClernand bother to confirm or coordinate this with Sec. of War Stanton or General-in-Chief Halleck---nor with Gen. Grant, who commands the department in which McClernand wishes to operate, along the Mississippi River. As McClernand raises the troops, they are trained and sent down to Cairo, the main port for troops headed downriver, and then on to Memphis, which has become a major Union base since its capture by Federal naval forces back in June 1862. Ulysses S. Grant expresses his concern about this development to Halleck and Stanton, who both tell him that, of course, any troops operating in his department are under his command. So, several weeks previous, under Grant’s command, Gen. Sherman (who commands at Memphis) takes his own corps and all of the troops earmarked for McClernand, and heads downriver to the Yazoo River to attempt the assault on Vicksburg (since Grant’s overland attempt through the state of Mississippi ended up aborted). After Sherman is rebuffed at Chickasaw Bluffs, McClernand arrives at the new Federal base at Miliken’s Bend, Louisiana, near the mouth of the Yazoo, and insists on resuming command over his “army.” Since he outranks Sherman, he may do this. On Sherman’s suggestion, McClernand decides to take his corps and Sherman’s---about 32,000 men---upriver to the mouth of the Arkansas River, and move against Fort Hindman at Arkansas Post, which had a garrison of only 5,500 Confederates. The problem: he decides not to inform Grant or get his permission until the operation is well underway. McClernand, more than anything else, wants a military victory with himself in command. Although he commanded a division under Grant during the Shiloh Campaign, the two men dislike each other and Grant considers McClernand a glory-hunting hack.
|Mississippi Valley, Jan. 5, 1863, showing the locations of the various armies and posts|
---The British steamer Antona, carrying a cargo of Enfield rifles (badly needed by Southern armies), new brass cannons with carriages and equipage, black powder, medicines, shoes, and other accouterments, is captured today just out of Mobile Bay by the USS Pochahontas.
---Confederate artilleryman George Michael Neese, serving with Chew’s Battery in the Shenandoah Mountains, writes in his journal about the curious sense of health and well-being that often accompanies the most trying hardships in the field:
January 5 — Last night we slept on the frozen ground. Service such as we have been doing for the last few days and nights is enough to kill the healthiest Indian in creation, but, strange to say, I have never felt better in my whole life.
This cold, crisp, frosty mountain air is invigorating and makes the blood leap through the veins like young spring floods, carrying health, strength, and vigor to every muscle and fiber in the human machinery and causes the inner man to call loudly for commissary supplies oftener than once in thirty-six hours [the last time he ate]. Whoop! I feel like going vigorously into action on a twenty pounder chicken pie and put myself on the outside of it, then whip my weight in wild cats.