The Civil War by Shelby Foote – V1.Chapter 3: The Thing Gets Under Way

As I’m reading Shelby Foote’s incredible The Civil War: A Narrative, these are my notes on the points I may have forgotten from before or new pieces I’ve learned. Any and all comments appreciated.

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Volume One: Chapter 3

  1. The West: Grant, Fort Henry
  2. Donelson – The Loss of Kentucky
  3. Gloom; Manassas Evacuation
  4. McC moves to the penisula

First Army/Navy cooperation occurs on a river?

  • From page 183: “In the lead were four ironclad gunboats, unlike any ever seen before on this or any river.”
  • From page 184: “The turtle-back steamers were not a navy project, the admirals left such harebrained notions to the army. For the most part, even the sailors aboard the boats were soldiers…Once the fleet was launched and manned, however, the navy saw its potential and was willing to furnish captains for its quarterdecks. Having made the offer, which was quickly accepted, the admirals did not hold back, but sent some of their most promising officers westward for service on the rivers.”

Initial victories by U.S. Grant (Hiram!)

  •  Grant takes Fort Henry and Fort Donelsom (with the help of navel river bombardment the first time, and with little bloodshed the second time)
  • The Confederate armies retreat out of Kentucky
  • From page 196: “The congressional appointment had identified him as Ulysses Simpson Grant, when in fact his given name was Hiram Ulysses, but rather than try to untangle the yards off red tape that stood in the way of correction – besides the risk of being nicknamed “Hug” – he let his true name go and took a new one: U. S. Grant.”

understanding Lincoln

  • Having just seen the movie Lincoln, this passage parallels the portrayal of the President as a man who has loyalties only to the cause of saving the Union and putting an end to slavery.
  • From page 247-248: “That was something else he never understood: Lincoln himself. Some might praise him for being flexible, while others called him slippery, when in truth they were both two words for just one thing. To  argue the point was to insist on a distinction that did not exist. Lincoln was out to win the war; and that was alone was out to do, for the president would keep his word to any man only so long as keeping it would help to win the war. If keeping it meant otherwise, he broke it. He kept no promise, anyhow, any longer than the conditions I under which it was given obtained. And if any one thing was clear in this time when treason had become a household word, it was that the conditions of three months ago no longer obtained. McCellan would have to go forward or go down.”
  • At this point, Lincoln unilaterally put forth General War Order No. 1, stating that a forward movement would be launched on February 22, much to McCellan’s chagrin.


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