Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Midlist Writer blog, where he talks about writing, adventure travel, caving, and everything else he gets up to. He also reproduces all the posts from Civil War Horror, so drop on by!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ulysses S. Grant proves his worth in Missouri

Ulysses S. Grant was one of the greatest generals of the Civil War. While he's most famous for his campaigns in the East, he actually got his start in Missouri. On this day 150 years ago, he fought his first battle at Belmont, Missouri.

Grant has steamed down the Mississippi River from Cairo, Illinois, with 3,150 men under orders to make a demonstration against Columbus, Kentucky. Instead he decided to attack General Pillow's Confederate camp at Belmont, directly across the river in Missouri.

Pillow had about 2,700 men at Belmont and another 2,000 or so across the river at Columbus. A determined Union attack and a shortage of ammunition on the rebel side soon gave the field to Grant. His men plundered their camp. Grant, flushed with victory and still pretty green, allowed his men to descend into disorder and Confederate troops from Columbus crossed the river and cut off his retreat. Grant had to fight his way back to the steamboats, leaving some of his plunder more than a hundred of his men behind.

Both sides claimed victory. The rebels said they were left in possession of the field, which is true. The Union pointed out that they defeated both forces sent against them, which is also true. Whatever way you slice it, the real victor was Grant himself. While other Union generals stayed in camp training their troops and begging Lincoln for more supplies and men, Grant went out and sought the enemy. That got him noticed. A few more stunts like that and his career was made.

For more on the battle, there's a long description here. The Civil War Daily Gazette has also done a good coverage of the preparations for the battle and the battle itself. If you're interested in the Civil War (and why else would you be reading this?) I heartily recommend the Civil War Daily Gazette. I read it every day. Just don't forget to come back here for more detailed coverage of the Trans-Mississippi Theater and the Civil War in Missouri!

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

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