Tuesday, September 17, 2013

September 17, 1863: Halleck perceives the threat to Rosecrans


On this day 150 years ago, Union Major General Henry W. Halleck wrote to Major General Ulysses S. Grant with his appreciation of the events unfolding on the border of Tennessee and Georgia. Rosecrans informed Grant that the Confederacy was concentrating its forces against Rosecran's army in southeastern Tennessee, including 16,000 men paroled by Grant at Vicksburg.  These men had not been exchanged, but the Confederacy was desperate and the decision was made to recall them to duty, claiming some technical flaw in the terms of their parole.

WASHINGTON, D. C., September 17, 1863.

Major-General GRANT,

Vicksburg, Miss.:

GENERAL: You will perceive from my telegrams to Generals Sherman and Hurlbut (in your absence) that I wish all available troops on the Mississippi sent to Tuscumbia or farther up the Tennessee River to cover General Rosecrans' right and secure his communications.

It was early apparent that while you and General Banks were operating west of the Mississippi, the enemy would concentrate his available forces on General Meade or General Rosecrans. It was believed from all the information we could obtain that Lee's army was to be greatly re-enforced. It now appears that all of Johnston's forces and at least three large divisions of Lee's army have joined Bragg. Probably the advance of Burnside and Rosecrans into East Tennessee and the danger of the rebel arsenals at Atlanta have changed their plans. At any rate Rosecrans is now the main object of their attack, and he must be strengthened by all the means in our power. Burnside is joining him with all the available troops in Kentucky, and I wish you to afford him all possible aid. Vicksburg and other places on the river cannot require large garrisons under present circumstances.

The rebel Government has announced that some 16,000 of the prisoners paroled by you at Vicksburg are released from their paroles and will return to duty. None of them have been exchanged. It is also understood that they intend to put in the ranks against Rosecrans, without exchange, all the prisoners paroled by you and General Banks. Such outrageous conduct must cause very serious difficulties. After violating the cartel in every possible way, they now violate the plainest laws of war and principles of humanity. We must, nevertheless, prepare for this, and I think we may expect all their paroled prisoners that they can collect will be put in the field against us without exchange. It is understood that the orders issued to them state that they have been exchanged. This is utterly false; not one of them has been exchanged.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. W. HALLECK,

General-in-Chief.

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