Army of West Tennessee (February 23, 1862 - October 16, 1862)

Updated: May 14, 2014

The District of West Tennessee was organized on February 14, 1862 and commanded by Ulysses S. Grant. By April, 1862, Ulysses S. Grant was referring to the nearly fifty thousand soldiers under his command at various times as the Army of West Tennessee and the Army of the Tennessee.

On November 9, 1861, the War Department issued General Orders No. 97, which divided the Western Department into the Department of New Mexico, the Department of the Ohio, the Department of Western Virginia, and the Department of the Missouri. The directive appointed Major General Henry Halleck as commander of the latter. On January 30, 1862, Halleck approved a proposal by his subordinate, Brigadier-General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the District of Southeast Missouri. Grant's plan to attack Fort Henry, on the Tennessee River just south of the Tennessee-Kentucky border, was successful. On February 6, Confederate Brigadier-General Lloyd Tilghman surrendered the fort. Ten days later, Grant's soldiers forced General Simon B. Buckner to surrender nearby Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River.

On February 14, 1862, while Grant was investing Fort Donelson, Halleck issued General Orders No. 37 (Department of the Missouri) promoting Grant to command of the newly-created District of West Tennessee. Grant assumed his new command on February 17, one day after the fall of Fort Donelson. Just a few weeks later, President Abraham Lincoln issued War Order Number 3 on March 11, 1862, which consolidated three western departments, including the Department of the Missouri, into the Department of the Mississippi, also commanded by Halleck.

Following the reorganization, Brigadier-General Charles F. Smith briefly commanded the District of West Tennessee from March 11 to March 17, 1862. During that period, Smith began concentrating Union troops near Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, on the Tennessee River. On March 17, Halleck replaced Smith with Grant, perhaps due to pressure from President Abraham Lincoln.

By early April, Grant's force of nearly fifty thousand men was encamped along the western side of the Tennessee River, near Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee. By then, he was referring to his command at various times as the Army of West Tennessee and the Army of the Tennessee. On the morning of April 6, 1862, Confederate forces launched a surprise attack on the Union soldiers encamped at Pittsburg Landing, while Grant was approximately ten miles downriver at Savannah, Tennessee, nursing a swollen ankle that had him on crutches. In the ensuing confusion, many of the Federal troops fled in panic. Others were able to form lines of battle and mount some resistance, but the Union soldiers were gradually driven back to a defensive position behind Shiloh Church. As the Rebels pressed their advance, Federal soldiers made a stand at a position, since popularized as the "Hornet's Nest," near a road now known as the "Sunken Road." Although many of the men were eventually killed or captured, their seven-hour stand bought valuable time for Grant to rejoin his troops, to reorganize his soldiers, and to establish a stable defensive line. On the next day, reinforced by Major General Don Carlos Buell's Army of the Ohio, Grant launched a counterattack that drove the Rebels from the field.

Although the Union forces won the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862), inflammatory articles in the Northern press severely criticized Grant for being surprised by Johnston's attack. Rumors circulated that Grant was drunk, as Federal soldiers were bayoneted in their tents as they slept. In the aftermath, Halleck consolidated his armies and assumed personal command, relegating Grant to his second-in-command.

In late April and May, Halleck moved his forces south and invested the city of Corinth, Mississippi. On May 29, 1862, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard evacuated the strategically important rail center, leaving it in Union hands. The men of the Army of West Tennessee (more commonly referred to as the Army of the Tennessee by that time) were held in reserve during the Siege of Corinth.

On July 11, 1862, President Lincoln telegraphed Halleck that he was being promoted to General-in-Chief of the Union Army, effective July 23. Before departing, Halleck dismantled the grand army he had used to capture Corinth. Halleck dispatched Major General Don Carlos Buell's Army of the Ohio to Nashville, Tennessee, where it operated as a separate command. Grant, still nominally in charge of the District of West Tennessee and its forces, became the de-facto department commander, because no one was assigned to the position, and Grant made his reports directly to Halleck. During that period, Grant detached the 2nd and 6th Divisions of the Army of West Tennessee to join the Army of the Mississippi at the Battle of Corinth II (October 3–4, 1862).

On October 16, 1862, the War Department issued General Orders No. 159, ending any ambiguity regarding Grant's official position. The order created the Department of the Tennessee and named Grant as departmental commander. The Army of West Tennessee ceased to exist, and its soldiers were merged into the Army of the Tennessee. On October 24, 1862, the War Department issued General Orders No. 168, designating the troops in Grant's new department as the 13th Army Corps.

Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiments that served with the Army of West Tennessee:

10th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry (3 years)
22nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry (3 years)
39th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
42nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
43rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
46th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
48th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
53rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
54th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
56th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
57th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
58th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
63rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
68th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
70th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
71st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
72nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
76th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
77th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
78th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
80th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
81st Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
83rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
96th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
114th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
120th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Ohio Volunteer Cavalry Regiments that served with the Army of West Tennessee:

5th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry

Ohio Volunteer Artillery Regiments that served with the Army of West Tennessee:

3rd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery
4th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery
5th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery
7th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery
8th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery
10th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery
11th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery
13th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery
14th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery
15th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery
17th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery

Cite this Entry

MLA Style

"Army of West Tennessee," Ohio Civil War Central, 2019, Ohio Civil War Central. 15 Dec 2019 <http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=1316>

APA Style

"Army of West Tennessee." (2019) In Ohio Civil War Central, Retrieved December 15, 2019, from Ohio Civil War Central: http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=1316

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