Battle of Belmont

Location: Belmont, MO
Dates: November 7, 1861
Union Commander:  Ulysses S. Grant,
                                Brigadier General
Confederate Commander: 
Gideon J. Pillow, Brigadier General

Battle Summary:
Ulysses S. Grant was promoted to brigadier general on August 7, 1861.  His first assignment would be to command the garrison at Cairo, IL - at the junction of the Mississippi, and Ohio Rivers.

With the incursion, of CS Major General Leonidas Polk's Confederate army, into Kentucky, Grant would quickly have an opportunity to prove himself.  Polk had built a substantial fort, at Columbus, KY.  Considered by many, to be the "Gibraltar of the West," the fort commanded the Mississippi River, below the Ohio River.  Polk, had under his command, 17,000 Confederate troops, and close to 150 heavy guns.

U.S. Grant, holding garrisons at Cape Girardeau, Cairo and Paducah, set his sights on Columbus, KY.  Aware that CS Brigadier General Meriwether "Jeff" Thompson, was on the run, in the "boot heel" area, of Missouri, Grant formulated his strategy.  He would send two columns, of troops, from Cairo, and Paducah, to demonstrate against Columbus, while he would command the main attack force, of 3,000 troops, going downriver to the Belmont area - to stop Thompson.

On November 7, US Grant's troops disembarked at Hunter Farm, marching back east, to the Confederate encampment at Belmont.  With his troops, in the woods, he prepared to attack, Camp Johnston, where CS Brigadier General Gideon Pillow, had reinforcements arrayed against him.  Grant would move through a cornfield, to attack Pillow, with the Confederates countering with a terrific bayonet charge.  Pillow's position was not tenable, and the entire Rebel line would collapse.

Excited, with their win, the Federal troops quickly went to work, looting the camp.  Leonidas Polk, observing the collapse of Camp Johnston, dispatched two infantry regiments, under the command of CS Brigadier General Frank Cheatham.  These troops would arrive, from Columbus, uniting with the disorganized remnants of Pillow's troops.  With the infantry united, on the Missouri side, Polk unleashed the river guns in Columbus.  Federal troops quickly were caught in a crossfire - the big guns of Columbus, and a flank attack by Cheatham.  Briefly surrounded, the Union line collapsed, before Grant could bring some order and fight his way out.  The troops would march back to Hunter Farm, all the while being pursued by the Confederates, and escape aboard the USS Tyler gunboat.  U.S. Grant would be the last soldier to embark on the gunboat.

Campaign: Grant's Campaign of the Confluence of the Ohio & Mississippi Rivers 1861

Outcome: U.S. Victory

Troop Strengths
Union: 3,000
Confederate: 5,000

Casualties (estimated):
Union: 607 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)
Confederate: 641 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)

Battle Aftermath:
Belmont was U.S. Grant's first battle as a general officer.  While technically not a complete victory, it did prove Grant thrived under pressure.  After returning to Cairo, Grant set his eyes on another target - the forts on the Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers.  Learning that Fort Henry was lightly defended, Grant finally received his commander, Henry W. Halleck's permission to attack Fort Henry.  Fort Henry would be captured, by Grant, on February 6, 1862, with Fort Donelson falling on February 16, 1862.  These were stunning Union victories that launched launched Grant into celebrity status.

With the fall of Forts Henry, and Donelson, theater commander, CS General Albert Sidney Johnston, would determine his position, in Kentucky, was untenable.  Johnston would retreat from Kentucky, and Tennessee, consolidating his army near Corinth, MS.  With this retreat, Nashville, and Memphis, would remain in Union possession for the remainder of the war.
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