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BORN: 1815 in Westernville, NY.
DIED: 1872 in Louisville, KY.
CAMPAIGNS: First Bull Run, Peninsula, Fredericksburg, Chancelorsville, Gettysburg, Wilderness to Appomattox.
Henry Wagner Halleck was born in Westernville, New York, on January 16, 1815. He graduated from West Point in 1839, with a great aptitude for military theory. Halleck later taught at West Point, and became an expert on fortifications, and fought in Mexico. A lawyer and writer, as well as a soldier and teacher; he wrote books on legal and military issues. Halleck served as secretary of state of California, and was the leading attorney in San Francisco during the gold rush, When the Civil War began, Halleck returned from California to accept a commission as major general in the Union Army, to date from August 19, 1861. That autumn, he commanded the Department of the Missouri, earning the nickname "Old Brains." His effectiveness in training the troops contributed to the field success of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis and Maj. Don Carlos Buell. When Halleck himself led troops on the field; at Corinth, Mississippi in May of 1862; he performed poorly, and was overly cautious. President Lincoln named Halleck his general-in-chief in July of 1862. In that position, Halleck excelled as an administrator, but was not skilled in field affairs or personal interactions. When Gen. Grant was appointed supreme commander of all Union armies, Halleck was moved to the new position of chief of staff. He held this post until the end of the war. After the Confederate surrender, Halleck was in command of the Military Division of the James. He was later assigned to the Division of the Pacific, then to the Division of the South. Halleck died on January 9, 1872, in Louisville, Kentucky.

Henry W. Halleck

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Henry W. Halleck, (born Jan. 16, 1815, Westernville, N.Y., U.S.—died Jan. 9, 1872, Louisville, Ky.), Union officer during the American Civil War who, despite his administrative skill as general in chief (1862–64), failed to achieve an overall battle strategy for Union forces.

A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. (1839), Halleck was commissioned in the engineers and sent in 1844 to visit the principal military establishments of Europe. After his return to the United States, he delivered a course of lectures on the science of war, published in 1846 as Elements of Military Art and Science, which was widely used as a textbook by volunteer officers during the Civil War. When the Mexican War broke out (1846), he served with the U.S. expedition to the Pacific Coast and became California’s secretary of state under the military government in 1849 he helped frame the state constitution. Five years later he resigned his commission and took up the practice of law.

When war erupted between the states (1861), Halleck returned to the army as a major general and was charged with the supreme command of the Western theatre. There he was instrumental in bringing order out of chaos in the hurried formations of large volunteer armies, but the military successes of the spring of 1862 were due mainly to the military skill of such subordinate generals as Ulysses S. Grant and John Pope. In July, however, with some misgivings President Lincoln called Halleck to Washington as his military adviser and general in chief of the armies. Held responsible for subsequent reverses of Union generals in Virginia and frequently at odds with his subordinates and with the secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton, he was replaced by Grant in March 1864. He then served as chief of staff until the end of the war.

Henry W. Halleck

Henry Wager Halleck was born January 16, 1815, on the family farm in Oneida County, New York. Finding that he despised farm work, Henry ran away from home at a young age and was raised primarily by his uncle, who set him on the path to a military education. At West Point, Halleck was a favorite student of esteemed theorist Dennis Hart Mahan, and graduated third in the class of 1839. As a second lieutenant in the prestigious Army Corps of Engineers, a young Halleck helped improve the defenses of New York harbor and traveled to France to learn about European fortifications. Upon his return, Halleck delivered a series of lectures in Boston which were collected and published in 1846 as Elements of Military Art & Science. His work, which was well received in the community, is considered to be one of the first instances of American military professionalism and earned him the nickname “Old Brains.”

When the Mexican War broke out, Halleck set sail for California. En route, he translated Jomini’s Vie Politique et Militaire de Napoleon into English, further enhancing his reputation as a military scholar of conspicuous ability. By the time of the Civil War, almost every major commander on either side had read it. While he did see combat while out West – at Mazatlán, in 1847 – Halleck was mostly engaged in administrative functions during the war. He became secretary of state of newly-annexed California, helped draft the state’s constitution, and established a law firm in San Francisco. Halleck married Elizabeth Hamilton – Alexander Hamilton’s granddaughter – in 1854 and resigned from the army to devote himself full-time to his lucrative legal activities. Halleck, Peachy and Billings was one of the most prominent law partnerships in the state, and Halleck further added to his personal fortune through land speculation and a stint as president of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad. He was also a major general of California militia.

When civil war broke out in 1861, Halleck unhesitatingly offered his services to the cause of the Union, and Abraham Lincoln promptly made him a full major general. At the war’s outset he was ranked only by Winfield Scott, George McClellan and John C. Frémont. In November, Halleck was sent to St. Louis to replace Frémont, who had been nothing short of a disaster in command of the Department of the Missouri. Halleck quickly put his considerable administrative talents to work, and within a few months restored a measure of order to a region defined up to that point by chaos. A series of important Union victories in his department followed: Pea Ridge, Island No. 10, Fort Donelson and Shiloh. Even though he had not led the troops personally, his organizational work had helped and Halleck, rightly or wrongly, received much of the credit.

When Old Brains himself took the field, however, his ponderous and methodical style found him wanting. He allowed Confederate forces under Beauregard to pull out of Corinth, Mississippi, unmolested, for which he was widely criticized in the press. Nevertheless, in July 1862 Lincoln appointed Halleck General-in-Chief of all Union forces, perhaps recognizing that his administrative skills could be utilized just as well in Washington. Halleck succeeded as an organizer, but failed utterly as a strategist. His time as General-in-Chief was defined by his inability to get along with or have his orders followed by nominally subordinate commanders. McClellan characterized Halleck as “the most hopelessly stupid of all men in high position” (though, to be fair, McClellan also called Lincoln “the original gorilla” and predicted that Robert E. Lee was “likely to be timid & irresolute in action”). Halleck’s superiors were not happy with him either. Gideon Welles wrote that he “originates nothing, anticipates nothing… takes no responsibility, plans nothing, suggests nothing, is good for nothing.” Lincoln determined that he was “little more than a first rate clerk.”

In the spring of 1864, Lincoln demoted Halleck to chief of staff, placing Grant in command of all Union forces. Halleck served out the rest of the war discharging many of the same duties as before, ensuring that Northern armies were properly equipped, fed and reinforced, which he did exceedingly well. After Appomattox and the cessation of hostilities, Halleck was transferred back to San Francisco to command the Military Division of the Pacific. In 1869, he was reassigned to the Division of the South, headquartered at Louisville, Kentucky, where he died in 1872. He is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. History has not been kind to Halleck, who soured his relationships with other leaders of the time and whose military promise, which he displayed so brilliantly on paper, never came to fruition in the field.


Major General Henry Wagner Halleck

Halleck, Henry W., major-general, was born at Westernville, Oneida, county, N. Y., Jan. 16, 1815. After a common-school education, received at Hudson academy, and a partial course at Union college, he entered the United States military academy July 1, 1835, graduating four years later third in a class of thirty-one. On July 1, 1839, he was appointed second lieutenant in the engineer corps of the army, and from his marked ability and skill as an instructor, while still a cadet, was retained as assistant professor of engineering at the academy until June 28, 1840. During the next year he acted as assistant to the board of engineers at Washington, D. C., and was thence transferred to assist in the construction of the fortifications in New York harbor. Here he remained several years, with the exception of time spent in 1845 on a tour of inspection of public works in Europe, receiving while absent a promotion to first lieutenant. At the outbreak of the war with Mexico, he was sent to California as engineer of military operations for the Pacific coast, and after a seven-months, voyage in the transport Lexington, reached Monterey, Cal., which he partially fortified as a port of refuge for the Pacific fleet, and a base for incursions into California by land. In his military capacity he accompanied several expeditions in that of Col. Burton into Lower California, he acted as chief of staff to that officer, and took part in the skirmishes of Palos Prietos and Urias,
Nov. 19-20, 1847 with a few volunteers made a forced march to San Antonio, March 16, 1848, surprising a large Mexican garrison and nearly capturing the governor, and was engaged at Todos Santos on March 30. He was also aid-de-camp to Com. Shubrick in naval operations on the coast, among which was the
capture of Mazatlan (of which for a time he was lieutenant-governor), and for "gallant and meritorious services," received the commission of captain by brevet, to date from May 1, 1847. As secretary under the military governments of Gens. Mason and Riley, he displayed "great energy, high administrative qualities, excellent judgment and admirable adaptability to his varied and onerous duties," and as a member of the convention, called to meet at Monterey, Sept. 1, 1849, to
frame a constitution for the state of California, he was substantially the author of that instrument. On Dec. 21, 1852, he was appointed inspector and engineer of lighthouses from April 11, 1853, was a member of the board of engineers for fortifications of the Pacific coast, receiving the promotion of captain of engineers on July 1 and retained all these positions until Aug. 1, 1854, when he resigned from the army to become the head of the most prominent law firm in San Francisco, with large interests and much valuable property in the state, with whose development and prosperity his name was identified. In 1860-61 he was major-general of the militia of California, and at the outbreak of the Civil war tendered his services to the government, and was appointed major-general of recommendation of Gen. Scott, his commission dating Aug. 19, 1861 regulars at the urgent. On Nov. 18 he took command of the Department of Missouri, with headquarters at St. Louis,
where his vigorous rule soon established order. After the victory at Shiloh Halleck took the field, having, March 11, 1862, succeeded to the command of the Department of the Mississippi, and the siege of Corinth took place under his personal direction. After the evacuation by the enemy, and in the midst of the fortification of Corinth against his return from the south, Halleck was visited by two assistant secretaries of war and one U. S. senator, to urge his acceptance of the office of general-in-chief, which had been tendered him, but which he declined until events in the Peninsular campaign forced his acceptance of the honor on July
From Washington, on Oct. 28, he wrote the letter which constitutes "the only official explanation of the final removal of McClellan from command, Nov. 7." After Gen. Grant became lieutenant-general of the army, Halleck remained at Washington as chief of staff March 12, 1864, to April 19, 1865 and from April 22 to July 1 of the latter year was in command of the military division of the James with headquarters at Richmond. On Aug. 30 he took command of the division of the Pacific, from which he was relieved by Gen. George H. Thomas, and on March 16, 1869, was transferred to that of the South, with headquarters at Louisville, Ky. Gen. Halleck died at Louisville, Jan. 9, 1872. - Source: The Union Army, vol. 8

This picture of President Lincoln on his deathbed was found in the Hallock family album of Amy Luciano. It is an engraving by C.A. Asp of Washington, DC. The engraving has been praised for its realism. Supposedly it is a rare find, because it wasn't popular at the time, probably due to that same realism.
NOTE: Henry would be the one standing fifth from the left

On the web page "News of Abraham Lincoln's Death," the following quote lists those at the bedside of President Lincoln during his last moments:
Surrounding the death bed of the President were Secretaries Stanton, Welles, Usher, Attorney-General Speed, Postmaster-General Dennison, M.B. Field, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Judge Otto, Assistant Secretary of the Interior Gen. Halleck, Gen. Meigs, Senator Sumner, R.F. Andrews, of New-York Gen. Todd, of Dacotah John Hay, Private Secretary Gov. Oglesby, of Illinois Gen Farnsworth, Mr. and Miss Kenney, Miss Harris, Capt. Robert Lincoln, son of the President, and Doctors E.W. Abbott, R.K. Stone, C.D. Gatch, Neal Hall, and Mr. Lieberman. Secretary McCulloch remained with the President until about 5 o'clock, and Chief Justice Chase, after several hours' attendance during the night, returned early this morning.

Halleck, Henry Wager
The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans: Volume V page 42
HALLECK, Henry Wager, soldier, was born in Westernville, N.Y., Jan. 16, 1815. He was a descendant of Peter Halleck (or Hallock) of Long Island, 1640, and of Henry Wager, an early settler of central New York. He matriculated at Union college, and was graduated at the U.S. military academy in 1839, third in a class of thirty-one. He was appointed 2d lieutenant in the engineer corps and was retained at the academy as assistant professor of engineering and on July 28, 1840, was transferred to the board of engineers, Washington, D.C., as assistant. He was engaged on the fortifications in New York harbor, 1840-17, and during the period visited Europe on a tour of inspection of public works. He was promoted 1st lieutenant in 1845 and in 1847 was ordered to California as engineer for the western coast. He sailed on the transport Lexington, landed at Monterey, Cal., which he made a military base by fortifying the port, and which also became the rendezvous of the Pacific squadron. He accompanied several expeditions was chief of staff to Colonel Burton, and took part in various skirmishes in Lower California in November, 1847 commanded the volunteers who marched to San Antonio, and on March 16, 1848, surprised the Mexican garrison and engaged in a skirmish at Todos Santos, March 30 and aided Commodore Shubrick. U.S.N., in the capture of Mazatlan, of which place he was for a time lieutenant-governor. He was brevetted captain to date from May 1, 1847, for "gallant and meritorious services" in these engagements. He was military secretary to military governors Mason and Riley and was commended for "great energy, high admimstrative qualities, excellent judgment and admirable adaptability to his varied and onerous duties." He was a member of the convention that met at Monterey, Sept. 1, 1849, to frame a constitution for California, wrote the instrument, and refused to represent the state in the U.S. senate, preferring to continue his service in the army as aide-de-camp on the staff of General Riley. He was inspector and engineer of lighthouses, 1852-53 a member of the board of engineers for fortifications on the Pacific coast. 1853-54 was promoted captain of engineers, July 1, 1853, and resigned from the army, Aug. 1, 1854, to become bead of a law firm of San Francisco, with large landed interests in the state. He was director-general of the New Almaden quicksilver mines, 1850-61 president of the Pacific & Atlantic railroad from San José to San Francisco, 1855-61 major-general of the state militia, 1860-61, and early in 1861 was appointed at the urgent recommendation of General Scott, major-general in the U.S. army, his commission dating from Aug. 19, 1861. He was commander of the department of Missouri, which embraced western Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas, with headquarters at St. Louis. He brought to this position a military training and experience that in three months placed the Federal army in possession of all the territory under his control, save southern Missouri and western Kentucky, and then, with the aid of the gunboat flotilla of Admiral Foote and the army of General Grant, be began the military operations that resulted in the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson the possession of Bowling Green, Columbus and Nashville of New Madrid, Columbus and Island No. 10 on the Mississippi, and of the whole of Missouri and northern Arkansas, establishing the Federal army on a line extending from Chattanooga to Memphis. The departments of Kansas and Ohio were placed in his department, March 11, 1862, and the whole became known as the department of the Mississippi, which included the territory between the Alleghany and Rocky mountains. After the battle of Shiloh, General Halleck personally took the field and moved against Corinth, which had been fortified by the Confederate army, and on reaching the place May 30, it fell into his bands without an assault, the enemy having evacuated the place. He directed the pursuit of the fleeing Confederates, General Pope following up the direct retreat, while Sherman marched to Memphis, already captured by the gunboats before his arrival, and Buell marched against Chattanooga. He held the fortifications at Corinth, repaired railroad communications, and prepared to operate against Vicksburg, when on July 23 be accepted the appointment, made by President Lincoln, as general-in-chief of the armies of the United States with headquarters at Washington, D.C. He at once ordered the withdrawal of McClellan's army from the Peninsula and his letter to that commander under date of Oct. 28, 1863, was the only official explanation of the removal of McClellan from the command of the army of the Potomac, Nov. 7. 1863. When General Grant was made lieutenant general March 12, 1864, by special act of congress creating the rank for him, General [p.42] Halleck was made his chief-of-staff, and continued in Washington until April 19, 1865, when he was transferred to Richmond, Va., as commander of the military division of the James. His orders to the officers in command of the forces operating in North Carolina against the army of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, "to pay no regard to any truce or orders of General Sherman respecting hostilities" and "to push onward regardless of orders from any one except General Grant and cut off Johnston's retreat," caused a breach in the long existing friendship between the two commanders. On Aug. 80, 1865, he was transferred to the command of the division of the Pacific and on being relieved by Gert. George H. Thomas was transferred to the division of the south, with headquarters at Louisville, Ky. March 16, 1869. He was elected professor of engineering in the Lawrence scientific school, Harvard university, in 1848, but declined the appointment. Union college conferred on him the honorary degree of A.M. in 1843, and that of LL.D. in 1862. He delivered before the Lowell institute, Boston, Mass., in the winter of 1845-46, twelve lectures on the science of war, which were published as" Elements of Military Art and Science" (1846, 2d ed. 1861), and this work became the manual for volunteer officers of the civil war. During his seven months' voyage to California around the horn, he translated Baron Jomini's "Vie Politique et Militaire de Napoleon" which he published in 1864. He also published: A Collection of Mining Laws of Spain and Mexico (1859) a translation of DeFooz on the Law of Mines with Introductory Remarks (1860) and International Law on Rules regulating the Intercourse of States in Peace and War (1861), condensed and adapted to use in schools and colleges (1866). He died at Louisville, Ky., Jan. 9, 1872.

Elizabeth Hamilton, wife of General Henry Wagner Halleck,
was the daughter of Col John Church Hamilton, and granddaughter of Alexander Hamilton.

COL. JOHN CHURCH HAMILTON, lawyer, born in Philadelphia, Aug. 22, 1792, while his father was Secretary of the Treasury, died in Long Branch, N.J., July 25, 1882. He was one of the six sons of Alexander Hamilton, soldier and statesman. His mother was a daughter of Gen. Philip Schuyler. While the death of Alexander Hamilton, in consequence of the historic duel with Aaron Burr, left the family in straitened circumstances, the subject of this memoir was, nevertheless, able to graduate in 1809 from Columbia College. He was admitted to the bar, and engaged [p.296] in the practice of his profession. During the War of 1812, he served as an aid on the staff of General Harrison, with the title of Colonel. Originally a Whig, he joined the Republican party before the Civil War, and admired and supported General Grant, and at one time he ran for Congress. Marriage placed ample means at his command, and Colonel Hamilton then gave himself up to study and literary pursuits. In 1834-40, he published the "Memoirs of Alexander Hamilton," in which he brought the life of his father down to the tragedy which ended it, but, with a delicacy of sentiment characteristic of him, made no mention of that event. His "Works of Alexander Hamilton," in two volumes, appeared in 1851. In 1850-58, he published a "History of the Republic, as traced in the Writings of Alexander Hamilton," in seven volumes. He was married Dec. 20, 1814, to Miss Maria Eliza Van den Heuvel, daughter of Baron John Cornelius Van den Heuvel, once Governor of Dulde, Guiana, and a leading merchant of his day, who lived at the corner of Barclay street and Broadway and owned a handsome estate at Bloomingdale. Mrs. Hamilton died in 1872. Nine children survived their father: Alexander Hamilton, of Tarrytown Gen. Schuyler Hamilton, of Jamaica, N.Y. Judge Charles A. Hamilton, of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin William Gaston Hamilton, civil engineer and vice president of The Mexican Telegraph Co. Elizabeth, who first married Major General Henry W. Halleck, and after his death Major General George W. Cullum Mary E. wife of Judge Charles A. Peabody and Charlotte A., Adelaide and Alice W. Hamilton.

BILLINGS, Frederick, lawyer, was born at Royalton, Vt., Sept. 27, 1823 son of Oel and Sophia (Wetherbe) Billings. When he was quite young his parents removed to Woodstock. He attended the Kimball union academy and was graduated from the University of Vermont in the class of 1844. From 1846 to 1848 he served as secretary of civil and military affairs to Governor Eaten. He was admitted to the bar in 1848, and soon after accompanied a brother-in-law to San Francisco. While they were in New York, waiting for a steamer to the Isthmus of Panama, news came of the discovery of gold in California, and young Billings was the first lawyer to display his sign in the embryo city of San Francisco. On his passage out Mr. Billings met Archibald C. Peachy, a young lawyer from Virginia, and soon after their arrival in San Francisco they formed a partnership as Peachy & Billings. Later Lieut. Henry Wager Halleck was taken into the partnership, and also Trenor W. Park of Vermont, and for many years Halleck, Peachy, Billings & Park were the leading law firm of San Francisco. Mr. Billings at the outbreak of the war did signal service in preventing the secession of the state, and the legislature of [p.295] California, by resolution, requested President Johnson to give him a cabinet position.

Herringshaw's Encyclopedia of American Biography of the Nineteenth Century.
page 439


Halleck was born on a farm in Westernville, Oneida County, New York, third child of 14 of Joseph Halleck, a lieutenant who served in the War of 1812, and Catherine Wager Halleck. Young Henry detested the thought of an agricultural life and ran away from home at an early age to be raised by an uncle, David Wager of Utica. [1] He attended Hudson Academy and Union College, then the United States Military Academy. He became a favorite of military theorist Dennis Hart Mahan and was allowed to teach classes while still a cadet. [2] He graduated in 1839, third in his class of 31 cadets, as a second lieutenant of engineers. [3] After spending a few years improving the defenses of New York Harbor, he wrote a report for the United States Senate on seacoast defenses, Report on the Means of National Defence, which pleased General Winfield Scott, who rewarded Halleck with a trip to Europe in 1844 to study European fortifications and the French military. [4] Returning home a first lieutenant, Halleck gave a series of twelve lectures at the Lowell Institute in Boston that were subsequently published in 1846 as Elements of Military Art and Science. [5] His work, one of the first expressions of American military professionalism, was well received by his colleagues and was considered one of the definitive tactical treatises used by officers in the coming Civil War. His scholarly pursuits earned him the (later derogatory) nickname "Old Brains." [2]

During the Mexican–American War, Halleck was assigned to duty in California. During his seven-month journey on the transport USS Lexington around Cape Horn, assigned as aide-de-camp to Commodore William Shubrick, he translated Henri Jomini's Vie politique et militaire de Napoleon, which further enhanced his reputation for scholarship. He spent several months in California constructing fortifications, then was first exposed to combat on November 11, 1847, during Shubrick's capture of the port of Mazatlán Lt. Halleck served as lieutenant governor of the occupied city. He was awarded a brevet promotion to captain in 1847 for his "gallant and meritorious service" in California and Mexico. (He would later be appointed captain in the regular army on July 1, 1853.) [3] He was transferred north to serve under General Bennet Riley, the governor general of the California Territory. Halleck was soon appointed military secretary of state, a position which made him the governor's representative at the 1849 convention in Monterey where the California state constitution was written. Halleck became one of the principal authors of the document. The California State Military Museum writes that Halleck "was [at the convention] and in a lone measure its brains because he had given more studious thought to the subject than any other, and General Riley had instructed him to help frame the new constitution." He was nominated during the convention to be one of two men to represent the new state in the United States Senate, but received only enough votes for third place. During his political activities, he found time to join a law firm in San Francisco, Halleck, Peachy & Billings, which became so successful that he resigned his commission in 1854. The following year, he married Elizabeth Hamilton, granddaughter of Alexander Hamilton and sister of Union general Schuyler Hamilton. Their only child, Henry Wager Halleck, Jr., was born in 1856, and died in 1882. [5]

Halleck became a wealthy man as a lawyer and land speculator, and a noted collector of "Californiana." He obtained thousands of pages of official documents on the Spanish missions and colonization of California, which were copied and are now maintained by the Bancroft Library of the University of California, the originals having been destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. He built the Montgomery Block, San Francisco's first fireproof building, home to lawyers, businessmen, and later, the city's Bohemian writers and newspapers. He was a director of the Almaden Quicksilver (Mercury) Company in San Jose, president of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, a builder in Monterey, and owner of the 30,000 acre (120 km 2 ) Rancho Nicasio in Marin County. But he remained involved in military affairs and by early 1861 he was a major general of the California Militia. [5]

Western Theater Edit

As the Civil War began, Halleck was nominally a Democrat and was sympathetic to the South, but he had a strong belief in the value of the Union. [2] His reputation as a military scholar and an urgent recommendation from Winfield Scott earned him the rank of major general in the regular army, effective August 19, 1861, making him the fourth most senior general (after Scott, George B. McClellan, and John C. Frémont). [6] He was assigned to command the Department of the Missouri, replacing Frémont in St. Louis on November 9, and his talent for administration quickly sorted out the chaos of fraud and disorder left by his predecessor. [2] He set to work on the "twin goals of expanding his command and making sure that no blame of any sort fell on him." [7]

Historian Kendall Gott described Halleck as a department commander: [8]

Although he had impressive credentials, Henry Halleck was not an easy man to work for. The nature of his job and his personality often provoked antagonism, hatred, and contempt. Halleck's strengths were organizing, coordinating, planning, and managing. He could also advise and suggest, and he sometimes ordered subordinates where and when to make a move, but he never was comfortable doing it himself. Halleck seldom worked openly, and as a department commander, he was always at headquarters, separated and aloof from the men. His decisions were the result of neither snap judgments nor friendly discussion, but calculated thinking. He was also prone to violent hatred and never cultivated close relationships. Overall, he generated no love, confidence, or respect.

Halleck established an uncomfortable relationship with the man who would become his most successful subordinate and future commander, Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. The pugnacious Grant had just completed the minor, but bloody, Battle of Belmont and had ambitious plans for amphibious operations on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. Halleck, by nature a cautious general, but also judging that Grant's reputation for alcoholism in the prewar period made him unreliable, rejected Grant's plans. However, under pressure from President Lincoln to take offensive action, Halleck reconsidered and Grant conducted operations with naval and land forces against Forts Henry and Donelson in February 1862, capturing both, along with 14,000 Confederates. [9]

Grant had delivered the first significant Union victory of the war. Halleck obtained a promotion for him to major general of volunteers, along with some other generals in his department, and used the victory as an opportunity to request overall command in the Western Theater, which he currently shared with Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, but which was not granted. He briefly relieved Grant of field command of a newly ordered expedition up the Tennessee River after Grant met Buell in Nashville, citing rumors of renewed alcoholism, but soon restored Grant to field command (pressure by Lincoln and the War Department may have been a factor in this about-face). Explaining the reinstatement to Grant, Halleck portrayed it as his effort to correct an injustice, not revealing to Grant that the injustice had originated with him. [10] When Grant wrote to Halleck suggesting "I must have enemies between you and myself," Halleck replied, "You are mistaken. There is no enemy between you and me." [11]

Halleck's department performed well in early 1862, driving the Confederates from the state of Missouri and advancing into Arkansas. They held all of West Tennessee and half of Middle Tennessee. Grant, not yet aware of the political maneuvering behind his back, regarded Halleck as "one of the greatest men of the age" and Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman described him as the "directing genius" of the events that had given the Union cause such a "tremendous lift" in the previous months. [12] This performance can be attributed to Halleck's strategy, administrative skills, and his good management of resources, and to the excellent execution by his subordinates—Grant, Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis at Pea Ridge, and Maj. Gen. John Pope at Island Number 10. Military historians disagree about Halleck's personal role in providing these victories. Some offer him the credit based on his overall command of the department others, particularly those viewing his career through the lens of later events, believe that his subordinates were the primary factor. [13]

On March 11, 1862, Halleck's command was enlarged to include Ohio and Kansas, along with Buell's Army of the Ohio, and was renamed the Department of the Mississippi. [14] Grant's Army of the Tennessee was attacked on April 6 at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, in the Battle of Shiloh. With reinforcements from Buell, on April 7 Grant managed to repulse the Confederate Army under Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard, but at high cost in casualties. Pursuant to an earlier plan, Halleck arrived to take personal command of his massive army in the field for the first time. Grant was under public attack over the slaughter at Shiloh, and Halleck replaced Grant as a wing commander and assigned him instead to serve as second-in-command of the entire 100,000 man force, a job which Grant complained was a censure and akin to an arrest. [15] Halleck proceeded to conduct operations against Beauregard's army in Corinth, Mississippi, called the siege of Corinth because Halleck's army, twice the size of Beauregard's, moved so cautiously and stopped daily to erect elaborate field fortifications Beauregard eventually abandoned Corinth without a fight. [16]

General in chief Edit

In the aftermath of the failed Peninsula Campaign in Virginia, President Lincoln summoned Halleck to the East to become General-in-Chief of all the Union armies, as of July 23, 1862. [3] Lincoln hoped that Halleck could prod his subordinate generals into taking more coordinated, aggressive actions across all of the theaters of war, but he was quickly disappointed, and was quoted as regarding him as "little more than a first rate clerk." [2] [6] Grant replaced Halleck in command of most forces in the West, but Buell's Army of the Ohio was separated and Buell reported directly to Halleck, as a peer of Grant. Halleck began transferring divisions from Grant to Buell by September, four divisions had moved, leaving Grant with 46,000 men. [17]

In Washington, Halleck continued to excel at administrative issues and facilitated the training, equipping, and deployment of thousands of Union soldiers over vast areas. He was unsuccessful, however, as a commander of the field armies or as a grand strategist. His cold, abrasive personality alienated his subordinates one observer described him as a "cold, calculating owl." Historian Steven E. Woodworth wrote, "Beneath the ponderous dome of his high forehead, the General would gaze goggle-eyed at those who spoke to him, reflecting long before answering and simultaneously rubbing both elbows all the while, leading one observer to quip that "the great intelligence he was reputed to possess must be located in his elbows." This disposition also made him unpopular with the Union press corps, who criticized him frequently. [18]

Halleck, more a bureaucrat than a soldier, was able to impose little discipline or direction on his field commanders. Strong personalities such as George B. McClellan, John Pope, and Ambrose Burnside routinely ignored his advice and instructions. A telling example of his lack of control was during the Northern Virginia Campaign of 1862, when Halleck was unable to motivate McClellan to reinforce Pope in a timely manner, contributing to the Union defeat at the Second Battle of Bull Run. It was from this incident that Halleck fell from grace. Abraham Lincoln said that he had given Halleck full power and responsibility as general in chief. "He ran it on that basis till Pope's defeat but ever since that event he has shrunk from responsibility whenever it was possible." [19]

In Halleck's defense, his subordinate commanders in the Eastern Theater, whom he did not select, were reluctant to move against General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. Many of his generals in the West, other than Grant, also lacked aggressiveness. And despite Lincoln's pledge to give the general in chief full control, both he and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton micromanaged many aspects of the military strategy of the nation. Halleck wrote to Sherman, "I am simply a military advisor of the Secretary of War and the President, and must obey and carry out what they decide upon, whether I concur in their decisions or not. As a good soldier I obey the orders of my superiors. If I disagree with them I say so, but when they decide, is my duty faithfully to carry out their decision." [20]

Chief of staff Edit

On March 12, 1864, after Ulysses S. Grant, Halleck's former subordinate in the West, was promoted to lieutenant general and general in chief, Halleck was relegated to chief of staff, responsible for the administration of the vast U.S. armies. Grant and the War Department took special care to let Halleck down gently. Their orders stated that Halleck had been relieved as general in chief "at his own request." [21]

Now that there was an aggressive general in the field, Halleck's administrative capabilities complemented Grant nicely and they worked well together. Throughout the arduous Overland Campaign and Richmond-Petersburg Campaign of 1864, Halleck saw to it that Grant was properly supplied, equipped, and reinforced on a scale that wore down the Confederates. He agreed with Grant and Sherman on the implementation of a hard war toward the Southern economy and endorsed both Sherman's March to the Sea and Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan's destruction of the Shenandoah Valley. However, the 1864 Red River Campaign, a doomed attempt to occupy Eastern Texas, had been advocated by Halleck, over the objections of Nathaniel P. Banks, who commanded the operation. When the campaign failed, Halleck claimed to Grant that it had been Banks' idea in the first place, not his - an example of Halleck's habit of deflecting blame.

Still, his contributions to military theory are credited with encouraging a new spirit of professionalism in the army. [22]

After Grant forced Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House, Halleck was assigned to command the Military Division of the James, headquartered at Richmond. He was present at Lincoln's death and a pall-bearer at Lincoln's funeral. He lost his friendship with General William T. Sherman when he quarreled with him over Sherman's tendency to be lenient toward former Confederates. In August 1865 he was transferred to the Division of the Pacific in California, essentially in military exile. [23] While holding this command he accompanied photographer Eadweard Muybridge to the newly purchased Russian America. [24] He and Senator Charles Sumner are credited with applying the name "Alaska" to that region. [25] In March 1869, he was assigned to command the Military Division of the South, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. [23]

Henry Halleck became ill in early 1872 and his condition was diagnosed as edema caused by liver disease. He died at his post in Louisville. He is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery, in Brooklyn, New York, and is commemorated by a street named for him in San Francisco and a statue in Golden Gate Park. He left no memoirs for posterity and apparently destroyed his private correspondence and memoranda. His estate at his death showed a net value of $474,773.16 ($10,256,419.07 in 2020 dollars). His widow, Elizabeth, married Col. George Washington Cullum in 1875. Cullum had served as Halleck's chief of staff in the Western Theater and then on his staff in Washington. [5]

Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies: A Life of Henry W. Halleck (Book Review)

Civil War enthusiasts rarely get excited about General Henry Wager Halleck, even though he was, for a time, the supreme commander of the Federal armies. The belief persists that he was an aloof and demanding intellectual, happier behind a desk than on a horse. As John F. Marszalek’s splendid full-length biography Commander of All Lincoln’s Armies: A Life of Henry W. Halleck demonstrates, this popular view of Halleck is not far from the truth.’

Halleck was dubbed “Old Brains” by the troops after the Corinth campaign, but he was renowned for his intellect long before the Civil War. In his teens and early 20s, Halleck, who had escaped from farm life in Westernville, N.Y., reveled in the life of the mind. Indeed, understanding the intellectual development of Halleck is a key to comprehending his actions as a general-in-chief. After attending Union College for a year and meeting its rigorous standards, Halleck was appointed to West Point as a 20-year-old plebe.

At West Point, Halleck met professor Dennis Hart Mahan, who believed excellence in generalship was derived through the rigorous study of military history, particularly the career of Napoleon Bonaparte. Halleck adopted the same view. Mahan also tended to be demanding and humorless, traits Halleck increasingly imitated.

After a distinguished career as a cadet and then as an assistant professor, Halleck joined the Corps of Engineers. He put together a study of the defense of the United States that was so brilliant it was published at the expense of Congress. On his own initiative, Marszalek tells us, Halleck also traveled to France, where he saw the latest in French military fortifications and engineering. By the start of the Mexican War, Halleck was one of the most renowned officers in the Army.

Halleck’s career as an officer would take him to California, where he left the Army and became a successful lawyer. He also had a hand in the writing of California’s state constitution. His total disdain for sloppiness and his love of bureaucratic order would mark his career as a Civil War general. This explains Halleck’s antipathy for Ulysses S. Grant, as well as his own brilliance as an administrator. In 1862, after impressive service in the Western theater, he was called to Washington, where his subordinates had won him the command of all Union armies (1862-64). Halleck did not rise to the occasion by designing winning strategies for the war instead, the hallmarks of Halleck’s tenure were caution and attention to bureaucratic detail.

To close the volume, Marszalek details Halleck’s postwar military assignments, including the supervision of war-torn Richmond and the state of Virginia, and a return to California to head the military district there. The light shed on these little-known aspects of Halleck’s career is a valuable contribution. One of the hazards of writing a biography is that it is all too easy to fall in love with your subject. Marszalek skirted that danger and has delivered a very balanced and entertaining modern biography of the Union general.

From Farm Boy to West Point

Born on a farm in Westernville, New York, Halleck ran away from home due to his intense dislike of farmwork. His maternal grandfather subsequently adopted him and paid for his education. After studying at the Hudson Academy, Halleck was elected to Phi Beta Kappa at Union College. In 1839, he graduated from West Point Military Academy, where he also taught as an undergraduate. He performed engineering consulting on the fortifications of New York Harbor and later traveled to France where he conducted similar tasks. After publishing A Report on the Means of National Defence, Halleck was invited to present a series of lectures at the Lowell Institute of Boston. The lectures were the basis of his popular Elements of Military Art and Science. While traveling by boat to California at the onset of the Mexican-American War, he translated Henri Jomini's Vie Politique et Militaire de Napolean, which he published in 1864.

Halleck's military tenure in California was marked by many successes, including serving as secretary of state of the military government of the territory, as well as serving as lieutenant governor of the Mexican city of Mazatlan. His engineering expertise led him to be named captain of engineers, and he served as a military inspector and engineer of California's fortifications and lighthouses. He resigned from the army in 1854 and established the law offices of Halleck, Peachy & Billings, which became the most prominent legal firm in California. He also contributed significantly to the constitution of the state. He turned down a seat on the state's supreme court as well as an opportunity to serve as a United States senator, choosing instead to reap a vast financial fortune as a lawyer, writer of books on legal issues, and mine owner. He married a granddaughter of Alexander Hamilton, which also made him the brother-in-law of Major General Schuyler Hamilton.

Henry halleck

Henry Halleck was born in Westernville, New York, on 16 January 1815. He was educated at Hudson Academy, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Union College. He then graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1839 and was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers. Halleck delivered a series of lectures which were eventually published under the title &hellip

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Union occupation: The siege and battle

By the end of May, the 120,000-man Union force occupied a semi-circle around the north and east portions of Corinth. Dug into entrenchments and with heavy artillery ready to blast Corinth’s defenders, Union soldiers under General Henry W. Halleck were confident of victory. The Confederate army, under General P.G.T. Beauregard, knew they could not withstand the Union assault. In an elaborate game of trickery and deception, they retreated rather than surrender (as many Confederate armies did after a siege), leaving the town and its citizens to the enemy on May 30, 1862. Despite an earlier order for all citizens to evacuate, many did not and they came under Union occupation.

The Confederates were not willing to allow the enemy to keep Corinth and her railroads, however. After a summer of relative inactivity, the Southerners, now under General Earl Van Dorn, attacked the city in October 1862, hoping to drive General William S. Rosecrans’ Union soldiers out of town and retake the lost railroads. In a bloody battle on October 3-4, 1862, fighting raged all around Corinth to the north and west, and at times right into the very heart of downtown. Confederates penetrated several forts along the periphery of the town, including Battery Powell and Battery Robinett, and broke through the center all the way into downtown, where fighting raged around the railroad crossing and the nearby Tishomingo Hotel. Union soldiers retook their positions in a counterattack and drove off the Confederates, but at the cost of thousands of dead and wounded on each side. The buildings and citizens of Corinth, those who remained, were once again inundated with dead and wounded soldiers.

Once the fighting ended, there were no more Confederate attempts to recapture the town. The Union military then used Corinth and her railroads in relative safety for much of the remainder of the war, shuttling troops from theater to theater. During this time, a large garrison held the town, and it also became a major supply center for the area.

Local slaves, either freed by the Union army or escapees to Union lines, were gathered in a “contraband camp,” actually a small city in itself just east of Corinth. Many freedmen at the camp were formed into the 55th Regiment Infantry, United States Colored Troops. Commanded by white officers, the regiment served the remainder of the war at various locations, mostly doing garrison and guard duty.

Henry Wager Halleck

Henry Wager Halleck was born in Westernville, Oneida County, New York, on 16 January 1815 was educated at Hudson Academy, received the bachelor of arts degree from Union College, and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1839 was commissioned in engineers and assigned to work on New York harbor fortifications visited Europe and wrote a report on French fortifications that was published by the Congress as an official document, 1844 delivered a series of twelve lectures before the Lowell Institute of Boston, published in 1846 under the title Elements of Military Art and Science while en route by sea to Mexican War service in California, translated Henri Jomini?s Vie politique et militaire de Napol?on, 1846 participated in military operations in Mexico and Lower California and held staff positions, including that of secretary of state of California, in the military government under Generals Richard B. Mason and Bennet Riley, 1847?1849 was brevetted captain for gallant conduct and meritorious service, May 1847 was aide to General Riley, 1850, and a member of an engineer board for Pacific Coast fortifications, 1853?1854 resigned from the Army to pursue private interests, August 1854 married Elizabeth Hamilton, 1855 entered the practice of law as head of the firm of Halleck, Peachy and Billings, 1853?1854 was president of the Pacific and Atlantic Railroad, 1855, and director of the New Almaden Quicksilver Mine, 1853?1861 was major general of California militia, 1860?1861 published treatises on mining and international law was reappointed major general in the Regular Army, August 1861 commanded the Department of the Missouri, 1861?1862, and the Department of the Mississippi, 1862 commanded the Union forces in the Corinth operations was commanding general of the United States Army, 23 July 1862?9 March 1864 was an influential champion of discipline published his Jomini translation in four volumes was reassigned as chief of staff of the Army, 12 March 1864?19 April 1865 commanded the Division of the James, April?July 1865 commanded the Division of the Pacific, 1865?1869 commanded the Division of the South, 1869?1872 died at his headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, on 9 January 1872.

Watch the video: Henry Halleck. Wikipedia audio article (January 2022).