Gen. O. O. Howard (between 1855 and 1865)

After McPherson’s death, Major General John A. Logan was given temporary command, from July 22 to July 27, 1864, as the army continued to fight the Atlanta Campaign. He was replaced by Major General Oliver O. Howard, who led the army from July 27, 1864, to May 19, 1865.

Howard was born in 1830 in Leeds, Maine, and graduated from Bowdoin College in 1850, after which he enrolled at West Point, from which he graduated with the Class of 1854. Commissioned a second lieutenant, he was assigned as an artillerist, and then returned to West Point as a mathematics instructor. With the outbreak of the Civil War, he was appointed colonel of the 3rd Maine Volunteers in June of 1861. By the time of the First Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861, Virginia; Union defeat), he was a brigade commander, and, in September 1861, a brigadier general of volunteers.

Howard served under George B. McClellan in the Peninsula Campaign (March–July 1862, Virginia; Confederate victory), fighting at Fair Oaks (May 31–June 1, 1862, Virginia; Union defeat), where he lost his right arm. Later returning to combat, Howard fought at South Mountain (September 14, 1862, Maryland; Union victory) and at Antietam (September 17, Maryland; Union strategic victory). In November 1862 he was promoted to major general of volunteers and divisional commander. He led II Corps of the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11–15, 1862, Virginia; Union defeat) and on April 2, 1863, was assigned command of XI Corps.

At the Battle of Chancellorsville (April 30–May 6, 1863; Union defeat), Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson routed XI Corps, but Howard redeemed himself amply at Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863; Union victory), when his corps performed with such distinction as to merit the special thanks of Congress.

In September 1863 Howard transferred to the Army of the Cumberland, where he won distinction in the Chattanooga Campaign (September 21–November 25, 1863, Tennessee; Union victory) at the Battle of Lookout Mountain (November 24–25, Tennessee; Union victory). In command of IV Corps, Army of the Tennessee (April 2, 1864), he served under William Tecumseh Sherman in the Atlanta Campaign (May 7–September 2, 1864, Georgia; Union victory) and was elevated to command of the Army of the Tennessee on July 27, 1864. He led the army at the Battles of Ezra Church (July 28, 1864, Georgia; Union victory) and Jonesborough (August 31–September 1, 1864, Georgia; Union victory) and in Sherman’s March to the Sea (November 15–December 21, 1864, Georgia; Union victory) and his Carolinas Campaign (February–March 21, 1865, South and North Carolina; Union victory). In December 1864 Howard was promoted to brigadier general of regulars and in March 1865 brevetted to major general.

Following the war, Howard was appointed commissioner of the Freedman’s Bureau, the agency charged with assisting freed slaves, serving in this capacity from May 1865 through June 1872. In 1867 he founded (and later became president of) Howard University in Washington, DC. The institution remains the most prestigious historically black university in the nation.

During the 1870s Howard was closely involved in Indian affairs and also served as military commander of the Department of the Columbia. In this capacity he unsuccessfully negotiated with a faction of the Nez Percé for their removal from lands desired by the government and led a military campaign against the faction and its leader, Chief Joseph the Younger. During 1878 Howard campaigned against the Bannock Indians, who were raiding in the Northwest. In January 1881 Howard was named superintendent of the US Military Academy at West Point, serving until September 1882, when he was appointed commander of the Department of the Platte (1882–86) and then the Division of the East (March 1886–November 1894). Belatedly, in 1893, Howard was honored with the Medal of Honor for action at the Battle of Fair Oaks during the Civil War. He retired the following year and founded Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee in 1895. He then returned to New England to write military history and an autobiography. Howard died on October 26, 1909.

The Army of the Tennessee ended its existence on August 1, 1865, with Major General John A. Logan returned to command beginning on May 19 of that year. He had been born in 1826 in rural Murphysboro, Illinois, and was largely self-educated before volunteering for service in the US Army as a second lieutenant in the US-Mexican War (1846–48). After the war he entered the University of Louisville (Kentucky), graduating with a law degree in 1851, and in 1858 he was elected Democratic congressman from Illinois. He resigned his seat in 1861 to join the Union Army as a private in a Michigan regiment. After fighting in the First Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861, Virginia; Union defeat), he returned to Illinois to form the 31st Illinois Regiment and was appointed its colonel in September.

Colonel Logan served under Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant (then commanding the District of Southeast Missouri) at the Battle of Belmont (November 7, 1861, Missouri; Union victory) and in the assaults on Fort Henry (February 6, 1862, Tennessee and Kentucky; Union victory) and Fort Donelson (February 11–16, 1862, Tennessee; Union victory). Promoted to brigadier general in March 1862, Logan fought in the Vicksburg Campaign during January–July 4, 1863, commanding a division in General James B. McPherson’s XVII Corps, Army of the Tennessee. In November 1863 Logan was promoted to major general and given command of XV Corps in that army. When McPherson was killed during the Atlanta Campaign (May 7–September 2, 1864, Georgia; Union victory), Logan assumed temporary command of the army on July 22, but was relieved on July 27 by Major General William T. Sherman, who lacked confidence in his experience, claiming in particular that he paid insufficient attention to logistics. Sherman returned him to corps command and turned over the Army of the Tennessee to O. O. Howard.

After the war Logan was reelected to the House of Representatives (now as a Republican) and served from 1867 to 1871. He was then elected to the Senate and played a key role in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.



On November 6, 1861, Grant transported 3,114 troops of the District of Southeast Missouri by steamboats from Cairo, Illinois, intending to attack Columbus, Kentucky. On the next morning, he was told that Confederate troops had crossed the Mississippi River from Columbus to Belmont, Missouri. Grant responded by landing his troops on the Missouri shore and advanced on Belmont. The battle began at nine o’clock on the morning of November 7, and before the end of the day, Grant had driven Gideon Pillow’s Confederate forces out of their encampment in the town. Although routed, the Confederates were reinforced from Columbus, on the Kentucky side of the Mississippi River. Pillow counterattacked Grant, forcing his withdrawal to Cairo, Illinois. Strategically inconclusive, the battle did result in nearly twice as many Confederate casualties as Union losses: 966 Confederate killed, wounded, or captured versus 498 Union casualties.


During February 4–5, Grant landed troops on the east bank of the Tennessee River and on the high ground on the Kentucky bank. His objective was to capture Fort Henry on the Tennessee River. His troops on the Kentucky bank blocked any attempt Fort Henry’s Confederate garrison might make to withdraw in that direction, and Grant prepared an assault force on the west bank, where the fort stood. Once the troops were in place, Union navy flag officer Andrew H. Foote began bombarding the fort from his flotilla of seven gunboats on February 6. Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman, commanding the Confederate garrison, knew he could not long withstand the amphibious assault. While his artillery fired back against the gunboats, he removed the remainder of his garrison to Fort Donelson, ten miles away. This done, Tilghman returned to Fort Henry and surrendered. Casualties numbered forty for the Union and seventy-nine for the Confederate army.


With Fort Henry taken, the way was clear for an assault on Fort Donelson, the other Confederate river strongpoint, this one on the Cumberland. Grant advanced against the fort and began a siege on February 11. The Confederate garrison responded with an all-out counterattack intended to break the siege lines. This failed, and on February 16 Confederate Brigadier General Simon Bolivar Buckner asked Grant for terms. The Union commander replied that the only acceptable terms were unconditional surrender—and thus he earned the wartime sobriquet of “Unconditional Surrender” Grant.

The Confederate loss of Forts Henry and Donelson not only opened up the Mississippi, Cumberland, and Tennessee Rivers to Union traffic in this region, but ensured that Kentucky would not join the Confederacy. The Union suffered 2,331 casualties, killed or wounded, and the Confederate army lost 15,067 men, most of them becoming POWs.


The bloodiest battle in which the Army of the Tennessee engaged during the war, Shiloh pitted Grant and Major General Don Carlos Buell (commanding the Army of the Ohio) against the Confederate Army of Mississippi, under General Albert Sidney Johnston. Combined, the two Union armies fielded 65,085 men in this battle. The Confederate Army of the Mississippi mustered 44,968.

With Forts Henry and Donelson lost, General Johnston fell back, ceding to Grant Kentucky and a large part of western and Middle Tennessee. Intending to mount a counterattack, Johnston used Corinth, Mississippi, as a staging area. He was determined to make a preemptive attack on the Army of the Tennessee before it could link up with the Army of the Ohio. He retrenched his position, and Grant, at this point with some 40,000 men available in the Army of the Tennessee, prepared to attack along the Tennessee River, toward Pittsburg Landing. Major General Halleck, however, ordered him to await the arrival of the Army of the Ohio at Pittsburg Landing. Grant complied but declined to fortify his position as he waited. On April 6 Johnston made a surprise attack, nearly routing the Army of the Tennessee.

Union forces dug into a battle line at a sunken road. As Confederates made attack after attack against this position, only to be repulsed each time, they dubbed it the “Hornet’s Nest.” Finally, when infantry failed them, the Confederates unleashed their artillery, causing many Union casualties. Albert S. Johnston, however, fell mortally wounded in the combat, and General P. G. T. Beauregard assumed command. The Union troops withdrew closer to Pittsburg Landing and established a new battle line there, which was now reinforced by Buell’s Army of the Ohio. Fighting was extremely fierce, continuing even through part of the night. Come morning, Beauregard, unaware that Buell had reinforced Grant, counterattacked. Outnumbered and surprised, Beauregard ultimately withdrew from the field. The Union suffered 13,047, the Confederates, 10,699, killed, wounded, or captured.


From April 29 to May 30, 1862, Major General Halleck led the three armies he controlled—Army of the Tennessee, Army of the Ohio, and Army of the Mississippi—in a siege against Corinth, a Mississippi town known as the “Crossroads of the Confederacy” because of the key rail junction there. Thanks to Halleck’s excessive caution, the operation was unduly prolonged, but the city nevertheless finally fell to the Union on May 30.


William S. Rosecrans’s Army of the Mississippi defeated Sterling Price’s Army of the West at Iuka, Mississippi, on September 19, after which Price withdrew and linked up with Major General Earl Van Dorn’s Army of West Tennessee. The combined force attacked what was now Union-held Corinth. Although the Confederates were repulsed, they withdrew intact.


Perhaps the most ambitious role the Army of the Tennessee played was in the Vicksburg Campaign, in which the army invested the Confederacy’s “Gibraltar of the West” beginning on May 18, 1863, forcing Vicksburg’s surrender on July 4. The Confederate Army of Mississippi, under Lieutenant General John Pemberton, bottled up in Vicksburg and was neutralized, and the fortress city fell, yielding control of the Mississippi River to the Union.


The western end of the Western Theater having been largely secured by the capture of Vicksburg, the Army of the Tennessee spearheaded the Chattanooga Campaign, the objective of which was to relieve the Army of the Cumberland, most of which was being held under siege in Chattanooga by General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee. Grant (commanding the Military Division of the Mississippi) established a line of supply to the besieged army (celebrated as the “cracker line”) and awaited the arrival of Sherman and the Army of the Tennessee. That came in November, and during November 23–24 Union forces took Orchard Knob and Lookout Mountain. On November 25 “Fighting Joe” Hooker waged the Battle of Missionary Ridge, routing the Confederates, liberating the Army of the Cumberland, and seizing Chattanooga, the so-called Gateway to the Lower South. From here Sherman would mount his 1864 Atlanta Campaign.


Before the drive to Atlanta could commence, however, Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee fought the Battle of Meridian (February 14–20, 1864, Mississippi; Union victory), taking this important railroad hub. The Atlanta Campaign then got under way on May 7, 1864, and was not concluded until September 2. Now commanding the Military Division of the Mississippi, Sherman had control of the Army of the Tennessee, the Army of the Cumberland, and the Army of the Ohio, all three of which were involved in the campaign against the Confederate Army of Tennessee, first under Joseph E. Johnston and then under John Bell Hood.


On November 15, 1864, Sherman and the Army of the Tennessee and the Army of Georgia divided into two columns and commenced a march from Atlanta southeast to Savannah, Georgia, with the purpose of demonstrating the vulnerability of the South and the incapacity of the Confederate government and Confederate military to protect its citizens. The 62,000 men Sherman led on the march tore a broad swath of destruction across the state, taking particular care to destroy railroad track and equipment. The march culminated in the capture of Savannah on December 21.


In January 1865 Sherman led the Army of the Tennessee and the Army of Georgia, now joined by the Army of the Ohio, in a campaign against the Confederate Army of Tennessee, which was once again commanded by Joseph E. Johnston. The campaign, led to Johnston’s surrender on April 26, 1865—and, effectively, the end of the Civil War.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *