Battle of Belmont
Location: Belmont, MO
Dates: November 7, 1861
Ulysses S. Grant,
Gideon J. Pillow, Brigadier General
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.
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.
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
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.
Grant's Campaign of the Confluence of the Ohio & Mississippi Rivers 1861
Outcome: U.S. Victory
Union: 607 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)
Confederate: 641 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)
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.
the fall of Forts Henry, and Donelson, theater commander, CS General
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.