Siege of Vicksburg–13, 15, & 17 Corps, Commanded by Gen. U.S. Grant, assisted by the Navy under Admiral Porter–Surrender, July 4, 1863, by Kurz and Allison

For some three years, the Army of the Tennessee took the lead in most of the Union’s western campaigns—in Tennessee and at Vicksburg, before going on to the Atlanta Campaign and then to the Carolinas, the final campaign of the Civil War. Except for the Army of the Potomac, no force was more important to the Union war effort. It was the first army Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, successively, commanded. Its victories were major Union breakthroughs and turning points in the war.


Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant commanded predecessor units to the Department and Army of the Tennessee—the District of Southeast Missouri, District of Cairo, and District of West Tennessee—from September 1, 1861, to October 16, 1862. With Grant commanding, the Department of the Tennessee was created on the latter date, encompassing Cairo, Illinois (at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers), Forts Henry and Donelson, northern Mississippi, and those parts of Tennessee and Kentucky west of the Tennessee River. At first all troops in the new military department were lumped into a single corps, the XIII. It quickly became apparent, however, that the XIII Corps was the size of an army and therefore required more commanders and more flexibility. It was therefore divided into four corps—XIII, XV, XVI, and XVII—and designated the Army of the Tennessee on December 18, 1862, with Grant commanding both the department and the army. By April 30, 1863, the new army was a huge force of about 150,000 men—although its constituents were frequently attached to other armies as needed and so it was rarely fielded at anything approaching its maximum strength.


Grant, the army’s first commanding officer, led the organization from its creation as an army, October 16, 1862, to October 24, 1863, when Major General William Tecumseh Sherman took over. During Grant’s command, the Battles of Belmont, Forts Henry and Donelson, and Shiloh were fought, as were the Siege and Battle of Corinth and the Vicksburg Campaign and Siege.

When Grant was born in 1822, at Point Pleasant, Ohio, it was as Hiram Ulysses Grant, a farmer’s son. Enrolled at West Point in 1839, he learned that he was listed on the rolls as “Ulysses Simpson Grant.” The first was a name he sometimes went by, and the second was his mother’s maiden name. If that’s who the army wanted him to be, he had no objections, and he was Ulysses Simpson Grant from that day forward.

A mediocre cadet, Grant graduated in 1843, twenty-first of out of a class of thirty-nine. In September 1845 Second Lieutenant Grant was attached to Zachary Taylor’s command on the Texas-Mexico border, awaiting the outbreak of war. He fought with distinction during the US-Mexican War (1846–48) at Palo Alto (May 8, 1846), Resaca de la Palma (May 9), and Monterrey (September 21–24). When Winfield Scott replaced Taylor in March 1847, Grant, transferred to his command, fought at the capture of Veracruz (March 9–29, 1847) and in the battles of Cerro Gordo (April 18), Churubusco (August 20), and Molino del Rey (September 8). In the latter battle he earned a brevet promotion to first lieutenant for gallantry. He distinguished himself further at Chapultepec (September 13), for which he was brevetted captain. On September 16 he was formally commissioned first lieutenant.

After the war Grant was posted variously in New York, Michigan, California, and Oregon during 1848–54. Promoted to captain (August 1853), he grew impatient with the army’s glacial system of advancement and resigned—only to discover that he had little talent for anything other than soldiering. In 1860 he moved to Galena, Illinois, where he joined his father and brothers in the family tannery, and he was working in the business as a clerk when the Civil War began in April 1861. Grant was chosen to train the Galena militia company and then worked in the state adjutant general’s office until June 1861, when he was appointed colonel of the 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry regiment. In August he was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers and took command of the District of Southeast Missouri, headquartered at Cairo.

Acting on his own initiative, Grant seized Paducah, Kentucky, on September 6, 1861, but, despite winning the Battle of Belmont (November 7, 1861, Missouri), had insufficient numbers to hold it and was forced to withdraw. The aggressive Grant found himself repeatedly at odds with his overly cautious superior, Major General Henry Wager Halleck. At length he nevertheless managed to persuade Halleck to allow him to move against Fort Henry on the Tennessee River, which he captured on February 6, 1862. This was followed by the Battle of Fort Donelson (February 11–16, 1862, Tennessee; Union victory). With these wins, Union forces seized the initiative in the Western Theater. When the commander of the Confederate garrison at Donelson presented his surrender terms, Grant replied that nothing less than unconditional surrender was acceptable. This gave him yet another name, and “Ulysses Simpson” became “Unconditional Surrender” Grant. Halleck, far from unconditionally satisfied with Grant’s victories, temporarily relieved him of command for insubordination—only to restore him late in March.

In a lapse of judgment, Grant allowed himself to be surprised at the Battle of Shiloh (April 6–7, 1862), but recovered and drove the Confederates back, albeit with heavy losses. This prompted Halleck to take direct command of western forces until he was elevated to general-in-chief of all Union armies, and Grant was returned to absolute command of the Army of the Tennessee. Under Halleck the army had fought the Siege of Corinth (April 29–May 30, 1862, Mississippi; Union victory), which positioned Grant to conduct the long siege against heavily fortified Vicksburg, key to the Mississippi River.

From December 1862 through March 1863, Grant tried various tactics to lay effective siege against the fortress town. After all of them failed, he marched his forces south of Vicksburg and, under covering fire furnished by Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter’s gunboats, led the Army of the Tennessee back to the east bank of the Mississippi during April 30–May 1. He took Grand Gulf, Mississippi, just below Vicksburg, on May 3, then captured Jackson on May 14. This split the armies of Confederate generals John C. Pemberton and Joseph E. Johnston. Defeating Pemberton at the Battle of Champion’s Hill (May 16, 1863), Grant at last laid siege to Vicksburg itself, which did not fall to him until July 4, 1863. With the Union victory at Gettysburg, which came on the day before, Vicksburg was a turning point of the Civil War and a triumph for the Army of the Tennessee.

Grant was promoted to major general in the regular army and was assigned command of the Military Division of the Mississippi on October 4, with command of the Army of the Tennessee transferred to Major General William T. Sherman on October 24. The first task Grant assigned to Division of the Mississippi forces was to break the Confederate siege of the Union’s Army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga. This was accomplished in two battles, Lookout Mountain (November 24, 1863) and Missionary Ridge (November 25, 1863), the second of which involved the Army of the Tennessee (Sherman) as well as the Army of the Cumberland (now commanded by Major General George H. Thomas).

The performance of Grant and his two principal army commanders moved President Lincoln to promote Grant to lieutenant general on March 3, 1864, and give him command of all Union armies. Grant now focused on the Eastern Theater and, using the Army of the Potomac (commanded by Major General George Meade) as his primary weapon, conducted the Overland Campaign (May 4–June 24, 1864), which culminated in the campaigns and battles that led to the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. With the flagship army of the Confederacy lost, the war itself came to an end before the close of the following month.

Grant’s prosecution of the war’s endgame was extremely costly, but the victory it produced was decisive. After the war Grant returned to Washington, where he was put in charge of the massive military demobilization and the army’s role in postwar Reconstruction. In recognition of his services to the nation, he was promoted to the newly created rank of general of the army in July 1866. He served briefly as interim secretary of war under President Andrew Johnson during 1867–68, but his insistence on measures to protect the army of occupation in the South caused a permanent rift with Johnson, who, as a Tennessean, was sympathetic to the South. Grant then embraced the strong—often punitive—Reconstruction policies of the radical wing of the Republican Party and easily achieved the Republican nomination for president in 1868. He was elected to two terms, 1869–1877, both plagued by corruption and scandal, though none of it traceable to him. He unsuccessfully sought nomination to a third term in 1880, suffered ruinous financial reversals, and completed his masterful Personal Memoirs just days before his death, from throat cancer, on July 23, 1885. The proceeds of the tremendously successful book made Julia Dent Grant a wealthy widow.

Under the command of Major General William Tecumseh Sherman, which spanned October 24, 1863, to March 26, 1864, the Army of the Tennessee fought in the Chattanooga Campaign, including at the Battle of Missionary Ridge and the Battle of Meridian.

He was born in 1820, in Lancaster, Ohio, the son of an Ohio Supreme Court judge. After graduating from West Point in 1840, Sherman was commissioned in the artillery and saw action in the Second Seminole War (1835–42), gaining promotion to first lieutenant (November 1841). At the outbreak of the US-Mexican War (1846–48), Sherman was assigned to the staff of Brigadier General Stephen Watts Kearny, but was disappointed that he saw no combat, serving most of the war as an administrative officer in California until that territory joined the Union in 1848. Sherman became a commissary captain in September 1850 but, feeling profound dissatisfaction with what amounted to a desk career, resigned his commission and embarked on thoroughly unsuccessful careers in banking and in law during 1853–58. In 1859 he was appointed superintendent of the newly established Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy, a position he relished—but resigned in January 1861, when it became clear that the country was about to fight a civil war.

After a brief interval as president of the St. Louis Railroad streetcar company, Sherman was commissioned colonel of the 13th US Infantry on May 14, 1861—a regiment yet to be raised by the time he assumed command of a volunteer brigade at the First Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861; Union defeat). In August Sherman was promoted to brigadier general of US Volunteers and subsequently commanded the Department of the Cumberland in Louisville, Kentucky. Overcome by deep pessimism, he suffered a nervous collapse and asked to be relieved of command. By the end of the year, he returned to service under Henry W. Halleck in the Department of the Missouri (in March 1862 enlarged into the Department of the Mississippi). After Sherman successfully supported operations against Fort Donelson (February 11–16, 1862), Grant assigned him to command the 5th Division in the Army of West Tennessee. The fighting retreat Sherman led at the Battle of Shiloh (April 6–7, 1862) was instrumental both in averting a Union rout and in making Grant’s counterattack on April 7 a success. Twice wounded, Sherman showed himself heroic and steadfast under fire. He was promoted to major general of volunteers on May 1, 1862.

Sherman fought under Grant at the Siege of Corinth and the Second Battle of Corinth (April 29–May 30, 1862, and October 3–4, 1862, respectively) and during the Vicksburg Campaign (March 29–July 4, 1863). He was transferred to command of XV Corps, Army of the Mississippi, and successfully took Arkansas Post (January 9–11, 1863), after which he transferred with XV Corps to the Army of the Tennessee and resumed his support of Grant’s siege of Vicksburg. Sherman and his corps were instrumental in Grant’s capture of Jackson, Mississippi (May 14, 1863).

Promoted to brigadier general in the regular army in July, Sherman rushed to the relief of William Rosecrans and the Army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga (September 21–November 25, 1863), succeeding Grant as commander of the Army of the Tennessee on October 24, 1863. Leading that army, he played a strong supporting role in coordinating with the Army of the Cumberland (command of which George H. Thomas had assumed from Rosecrans) and commanded the Union left at Chattanooga in the Battle of Lookout Mountain (November 24, 1863) and the Battle of Missionary Ridge (November 25, 1863).

During February 14–20, 1864, Sherman led the Army of the Tennessee in the Meridian Campaign, which culminated in the capture—and heavy destruction—of that Mississippi town, a railroad hub and the site of a Confederate arsenal, POW camp, and hospital. The following month, after Grant was elevated to Union general-in-chief, Sherman took his place as commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi, with control of the Armies of the Tennessee, the Cumberland, and the Ohio. He consolidated these forces—more than 100,000 men at this point—in a spectacular drive toward Atlanta, which he coordinated with Grant’s advance (using the Army of the Potomac) on Richmond. Sherman marched 100 miles in seventy-four days, pushing the Confederate Army of Tennessee (then commanded by Joseph E. Johnston) before him, fighting battles across Georgia at Rocky Face Ridge (May 7–13; Union victory), Resaca (May 13–15; inconclusive), New Hope Church (May 25–26; Union defeat), and Dallas (May 26–June 1; Union victory), always closing inexorably on Atlanta. Although he suffered a sharp defeat at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (June 27), he beat John Bell Hood (now in command of the Confederate Army of Tennessee) at the Battles of Peachtree Creek (July 20), Atlanta (July 22), Ezra Church (July 28), Dalton (August 14–15), and Jonesborough (August 31–September 1). On September 2 Sherman and his armies occupied Atlanta.

From Atlanta—which he left ablaze—Sherman set out on his March to the Sea (November 15–December 21, 1864) with the Army of the Tennessee and the newly constituted Army of Georgia (consisting of the XIV and XX Corps of the Army of the Cumberland). The march culminated in the occupation of Savannah, Georgia (December 21, 1864). From here Sherman led the Armies of the Tennessee, the Ohio, and Georgia on the Carolinas Campaign, which culminated in the capture and burning of Columbia, South Carolina (February 17), the Battle of Bentonville (March 19–21, 1865, North Carolina; Union victory), the capture of Raleigh, North Carolina (April 13), and Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender to Sherman on April 26, near Durham Station, North Carolina. With this, the last substantial Confederate force (the so-called Army of the South) had been defeated.

Sherman was appointed commander of the Division of the Missouri in June 1865 and was promoted to lieutenant general of regulars in July 1866. From his headquarters in Chicago, he directed much of the strategy and policy during the Indian Wars—although he participated on the field in no battles. In November 1869 he became commanding general of the army and was promoted to general. He held this largely ceremonial post until his retirement in 1884. Sherman died on February 14, 1891.

Major General James B. McPherson assumed command of the Army of the Tennessee on March 26, 1864, and led it through half of the Atlanta Campaign (May 7–September 2, 1864), until he was killed in action on July 22 of that year. McPherson was born in 1828 and graduated from West Point in 1853, a class that included both the future Union general Philip Sheridan and the future Confederate commander of the army defending Atlanta, John Bell Hood. Commissioned into the Corps of Engineers, McPherson was involved in such civil engineering projects as improving New York Harbor, building Fort Delaware, and building the fortifications on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay.

At the start of the Civil War, McPherson briefly served on the staff of Major General Henry Halleck before being transferred to the District of Cairo as chief engineer during Brigadier General Grant’s assaults on Forts Henry (February 6, 1862, Tennessee and Kentucky; Union victory) and Donelson (February 11–16, Tennessee; Union victory). McPherson fought at the Battle of Shiloh (April 6–7) and, promoted to brigadier general on August 19, 1862, fought at the Second Battle of Corinth (October 3–4), emerging with a promotion to major general of volunteers, effective October 8, 1862. Given command of XVII Corps in the Army of the Tennessee under Ulysses S. Grant, he served in the Vicksburg Campaign (March 29–July 4, 1863) and was promoted to brigadier general in the regular army on August 1, 1863. He took command of the Army of the Tennessee on March 26, 1864, after Sherman was elevated to command all armies in the West.

Under McPherson, the Army of the Tennessee was the right wing of Sherman’s combined forces in the Atlanta Campaign. At the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge (May 7–13, 1864), McPherson’s move to flank Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee failed because he was blocked by a much smaller Confederate force. He met another defeat at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (June 27, 1864).

On July 22, 1864, the Confederate Army of Tennessee, now under James Bell Hood, launched a sharp attack against Union forces and nearly captured McPherson, who was shot by skirmishers when he attempted to get away.



General Sherman at war’s end with Generals Howard, Logan, Hazen, Davis, Slocum, and Mower; Howard and Logan were the last two commanders of the Army of the Tennessee.

After McPherson’s death, Major General John A. Logan was given temporary command, from July 22 to July 27, 1864, as the army continued to fight the Atlanta Campaign. He was replaced by Major General Oliver O. Howard, who led the army from July 27, 1864, to May 19, 1865.

Howard was born in 1830 in Leeds, Maine, and graduated from Bowdoin College in 1850, after which he enrolled at West Point, from which he graduated with the Class of 1854. Commissioned a second lieutenant, he was assigned as an artillerist, and then returned to West Point as a mathematics instructor. With the outbreak of the Civil War, he was appointed colonel of the 3rd Maine Volunteers in June of 1861. By the time of the First Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861, Virginia; Union defeat), he was a brigade commander, and, in September 1861, a brigadier general of volunteers.

Howard served under George B. McClellan in the Peninsula Campaign (March–July 1862, Virginia; Confederate victory), fighting at Fair Oaks (May 31–June 1, 1862, Virginia; Union defeat), where he lost his right arm. Later returning to combat, Howard fought at South Mountain (September 14, 1862, Maryland; Union victory) and at Antietam (September 17, Maryland; Union strategic victory). In November 1862 he was promoted to major general of volunteers and divisional commander. He led II Corps of the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11–15, 1862, Virginia; Union defeat) and on April 2, 1863, was assigned command of XI Corps.

At the Battle of Chancellorsville (April 30–May 6, 1863; Union defeat), Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson routed XI Corps, but Howard redeemed himself amply at Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863; Union victory), when his corps performed with such distinction as to merit the special thanks of Congress.

In September 1863 Howard transferred to the Army of the Cumberland, where he won distinction in the Chattanooga Campaign (September 21–November 25, 1863, Tennessee; Union victory) at the Battle of Lookout Mountain (November 24–25, Tennessee; Union victory). In command of IV Corps, Army of the Tennessee (April 2, 1864), he served under William Tecumseh Sherman in the Atlanta Campaign (May 7–September 2, 1864, Georgia; Union victory) and was elevated to command of the Army of the Tennessee on July 27, 1864. He led the army at the Battles of Ezra Church (July 28, 1864, Georgia; Union victory) and Jonesborough (August 31–September 1, 1864, Georgia; Union victory) and in Sherman’s March to the Sea (November 15–December 21, 1864, Georgia; Union victory) and his Carolinas Campaign (February–March 21, 1865, South and North Carolina; Union victory). In December 1864 Howard was promoted to brigadier general of regulars and in March 1865 brevetted to major general.

Following the war, Howard was appointed commissioner of the Freedman’s Bureau, the agency charged with assisting freed slaves, serving in this capacity from May 1865 through June 1872. In 1867 he founded (and later became president of) Howard University in Washington, DC. The institution remains the most prestigious historically black university in the nation.

During the 1870s Howard was closely involved in Indian affairs and also served as military commander of the Department of the Columbia. In this capacity he unsuccessfully negotiated with a faction of the Nez Percé for their removal from lands desired by the government and led a military campaign against the faction and its leader, Chief Joseph the Younger. During 1878 Howard campaigned against the Bannock Indians, who were raiding in the Northwest. In January 1881 Howard was named superintendent of the US Military Academy at West Point, serving until September 1882, when he was appointed commander of the Department of the Platte (1882–86) and then the Division of the East (March 1886–November 1894). Belatedly, in 1893, Howard was honored with the Medal of Honor for action at the Battle of Fair Oaks during the Civil War. He retired the following year and founded Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee in 1895. He then returned to New England to write military history and an autobiography. Howard died on October 26, 1909.

The Army of the Tennessee ended its existence on August 1, 1865, with Major General John A. Logan returned to command beginning on May 19 of that year. He had been born in 1826 in rural Murphysboro, Illinois, and was largely self-educated before volunteering for service in the US Army as a second lieutenant in the US-Mexican War (1846–48). After the war he entered the University of Louisville (Kentucky), graduating with a law degree in 1851, and in 1858 he was elected Democratic congressman from Illinois. He resigned his seat in 1861 to join the Union Army as a private in a Michigan regiment. After fighting in the First Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861, Virginia; Union defeat), he returned to Illinois to form the 31st Illinois Regiment and was appointed its colonel in September.

Colonel Logan served under Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant (then commanding the District of Southeast Missouri) at the Battle of Belmont (November 7, 1861, Missouri; Union victory) and in the assaults on Fort Henry (February 6, 1862, Tennessee and Kentucky; Union victory) and Fort Donelson (February 11–16, 1862, Tennessee; Union victory). Promoted to brigadier general in March 1862, Logan fought in the Vicksburg Campaign during January–July 4, 1863, commanding a division in General James B. McPherson’s XVII Corps, Army of the Tennessee. In November 1863 Logan was promoted to major general and given command of XV Corps in that army. When McPherson was killed during the Atlanta Campaign (May 7–September 2, 1864, Georgia; Union victory), Logan assumed temporary command of the army on July 22, but was relieved on July 27 by Major General William T. Sherman, who lacked confidence in his experience, claiming in particular that he paid insufficient attention to logistics. Sherman returned him to corps command and turned over the Army of the Tennessee to O. O. Howard.

After the war Logan was reelected to the House of Representatives (now as a Republican) and served from 1867 to 1871. He was then elected to the Senate and played a key role in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.


At its height the Army of the Tennessee mustered as many as 150,000 men, although Major General Sherman, as commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi (effectively, commander of the Western Theater), frequently detached divisions and corps from the army and attached them to others.



On November 6, 1861, Grant transported 3,114 troops of the District of Southeast Missouri by steamboats from Cairo, Illinois, intending to attack Columbus, Kentucky. On the next morning, he was told that Confederate troops had crossed the Mississippi River from Columbus to Belmont, Missouri. Grant responded by landing his troops on the Missouri shore and advanced on Belmont. The battle began at nine o’clock on the morning of November 7, and before the end of the day, Grant had driven Gideon Pillow’s Confederate forces out of their encampment in the town. Although routed, the Confederates were reinforced from Columbus, on the Kentucky side of the Mississippi River. Pillow counterattacked Grant, forcing his withdrawal to Cairo, Illinois. Strategically inconclusive, the battle did result in nearly twice as many Confederate casualties as Union losses: 966 Confederate killed, wounded, or captured versus 498 Union casualties.


During February 4–5, Grant landed troops on the east bank of the Tennessee River and on the high ground on the Kentucky bank. His objective was to capture Fort Henry on the Tennessee River. His troops on the Kentucky bank blocked any attempt Fort Henry’s Confederate garrison might make to withdraw in that direction, and Grant prepared an assault force on the west bank, where the fort stood. Once the troops were in place, Union navy flag officer Andrew H. Foote began bombarding the fort from his flotilla of seven gunboats on February 6. Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman, commanding the Confederate garrison, knew he could not long withstand the amphibious assault. While his artillery fired back against the gunboats, he removed the remainder of his garrison to Fort Donelson, ten miles away. This done, Tilghman returned to Fort Henry and surrendered. Casualties numbered forty for the Union and seventy-nine for the Confederate army.


With Fort Henry taken, the way was clear for an assault on Fort Donelson, the other Confederate river strongpoint, this one on the Cumberland. Grant advanced against the fort and began a siege on February 11. The Confederate garrison responded with an all-out counterattack intended to break the siege lines. This failed, and on February 16 Confederate Brigadier General Simon Bolivar Buckner asked Grant for terms. The Union commander replied that the only acceptable terms were unconditional surrender—and thus he earned the wartime sobriquet of “Unconditional Surrender” Grant.

The Confederate loss of Forts Henry and Donelson not only opened up the Mississippi, Cumberland, and Tennessee Rivers to Union traffic in this region, but ensured that Kentucky would not join the Confederacy. The Union suffered 2,331 casualties, killed or wounded, and the Confederate army lost 15,067 men, most of them becoming POWs.


The bloodiest battle in which the Army of the Tennessee engaged during the war, Shiloh pitted Grant and Major General Don Carlos Buell (commanding the Army of the Ohio) against the Confederate Army of Mississippi, under General Albert Sidney Johnston. Combined, the two Union armies fielded 65,085 men in this battle. The Confederate Army of the Mississippi mustered 44,968.

With Forts Henry and Donelson lost, General Johnston fell back, ceding to Grant Kentucky and a large part of western and Middle Tennessee. Intending to mount a counterattack, Johnston used Corinth, Mississippi, as a staging area. He was determined to make a preemptive attack on the Army of the Tennessee before it could link up with the Army of the Ohio. He retrenched his position, and Grant, at this point with some 40,000 men available in the Army of the Tennessee, prepared to attack along the Tennessee River, toward Pittsburg Landing. Major General Halleck, however, ordered him to await the arrival of the Army of the Ohio at Pittsburg Landing. Grant complied but declined to fortify his position as he waited. On April 6 Johnston made a surprise attack, nearly routing the Army of the Tennessee.

Union forces dug into a battle line at a sunken road. As Confederates made attack after attack against this position, only to be repulsed each time, they dubbed it the “Hornet’s Nest.” Finally, when infantry failed them, the Confederates unleashed their artillery, causing many Union casualties. Albert S. Johnston, however, fell mortally wounded in the combat, and General P. G. T. Beauregard assumed command. The Union troops withdrew closer to Pittsburg Landing and established a new battle line there, which was now reinforced by Buell’s Army of the Ohio. Fighting was extremely fierce, continuing even through part of the night. Come morning, Beauregard, unaware that Buell had reinforced Grant, counterattacked. Outnumbered and surprised, Beauregard ultimately withdrew from the field. The Union suffered 13,047, the Confederates, 10,699, killed, wounded, or captured.


From April 29 to May 30, 1862, Major General Halleck led the three armies he controlled—Army of the Tennessee, Army of the Ohio, and Army of the Mississippi—in a siege against Corinth, a Mississippi town known as the “Crossroads of the Confederacy” because of the key rail junction there. Thanks to Halleck’s excessive caution, the operation was unduly prolonged, but the city nevertheless finally fell to the Union on May 30.


William S. Rosecrans’s Army of the Mississippi defeated Sterling Price’s Army of the West at Iuka, Mississippi, on September 19, after which Price withdrew and linked up with Major General Earl Van Dorn’s Army of West Tennessee. The combined force attacked what was now Union-held Corinth. Although the Confederates were repulsed, they withdrew intact.


Perhaps the most ambitious role the Army of the Tennessee played was in the Vicksburg Campaign, in which the army invested the Confederacy’s “Gibraltar of the West” beginning on May 18, 1863, forcing Vicksburg’s surrender on July 4. The Confederate Army of Mississippi, under Lieutenant General John Pemberton, bottled up in Vicksburg and was neutralized, and the fortress city fell, yielding control of the Mississippi River to the Union.


The western end of the Western Theater having been largely secured by the capture of Vicksburg, the Army of the Tennessee spearheaded the Chattanooga Campaign, the objective of which was to relieve the Army of the Cumberland, most of which was being held under siege in Chattanooga by General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee. Grant (commanding the Military Division of the Mississippi) established a line of supply to the besieged army (celebrated as the “cracker line”) and awaited the arrival of Sherman and the Army of the Tennessee. That came in November, and during November 23–24 Union forces took Orchard Knob and Lookout Mountain. On November 25 “Fighting Joe” Hooker waged the Battle of Missionary Ridge, routing the Confederates, liberating the Army of the Cumberland, and seizing Chattanooga, the so-called Gateway to the Lower South. From here Sherman would mount his 1864 Atlanta Campaign.


Before the drive to Atlanta could commence, however, Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee fought the Battle of Meridian (February 14–20, 1864, Mississippi; Union victory), taking this important railroad hub. The Atlanta Campaign then got under way on May 7, 1864, and was not concluded until September 2. Now commanding the Military Division of the Mississippi, Sherman had control of the Army of the Tennessee, the Army of the Cumberland, and the Army of the Ohio, all three of which were involved in the campaign against the Confederate Army of Tennessee, first under Joseph E. Johnston and then under John Bell Hood.


On November 15, 1864, Sherman and the Army of the Tennessee and the Army of Georgia divided into two columns and commenced a march from Atlanta southeast to Savannah, Georgia, with the purpose of demonstrating the vulnerability of the South and the incapacity of the Confederate government and Confederate military to protect its citizens. The 62,000 men Sherman led on the march tore a broad swath of destruction across the state, taking particular care to destroy railroad track and equipment. The march culminated in the capture of Savannah on December 21.


In January 1865 Sherman led the Army of the Tennessee and the Army of Georgia, now joined by the Army of the Ohio, in a campaign against the Confederate Army of Tennessee, which was once again commanded by Joseph E. Johnston. The campaign, led to Johnston’s surrender on April 26, 1865—and, effectively, the end of the Civil War.


Swedish UN troops during Congo Crisis

On 30 June 1960, the Belgian Congo, which had emerged out of the Scramble for Africa as the Congo Free State of King Leopold II, became independent as the Republic of the Congo. The country was ill-prepared for independence; political parties had only been allowed during the second half of the 1950s, and not until after riots in 1958 and 1959 did the Belgians begin to modernize their colonial structures in preparation for the coming change. The June date for independence was fixed at a meeting in Brussels in February 1960. The Belgians had created six provincial governments with competencies equal to those of the central government, an arrangement which naturally encouraged an immediate power struggle between the provinces and the center, once the Belgians had gone. In elections that May, one month before independence, Patrice Lumumba and his party, the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC)/National Congolese Movement, won the most seats and on 30 May, Lumumba was made prime minister, while Joseph Kasavubu, a politically more moderate rival, became president. They had to rule a vast and unwieldy country with extremely difficult communications, a range of differing ethnic groups, and virtually no trained personnel.

Collapse into Violence

Within days of independence there were riots and then a mutiny by the Force Publique (armed forces) for better pay and conditions. A breakdown of law and order followed, leading to an exodus of Europeans. The problems the new country faced—a left–right struggle at the center, ambitious provincial leaders, a breakdown of law and order, and desperately few people with any kind of training—ensured that breakdown would lead to civil war. The immense mineral wealth of the Congo was another factor of great political importance since a number of western nations—the former colonial power, Belgium, with large-scale investments, the United States, and Great Britain—were simply not prepared to see this wealth lost to them or destroyed. They had, in consequence, compelling motives for intervention. Almost at once, a power struggle developed between Prime Minister Lumumba, who was accused of “selling” the country to the Soviets, and Moise Tshombe, the leading politician of Katanga (now Shaba) Province where the bulk of the country’s minerals were located, who was right-wing in his politics and had close ties with western business interests. The Congo was also to be the first black African country into whose affairs (originally quite legitimately through the United Nations) the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) would intervene: up to that time it had been largely a stranger to African politics. This meant that the Congo crisis became inextricably bound up with the Cold War. On 11 July, Tshombe announced that Katanga Province was seceding from the Congo; the following day, Lumumba appealed to the United Nations to help restore order and prevent the secession. Belgian troops, whose presence was deeply resented, had remained in the Congo after 30 June and their attempts to restore order made matters worse.

The United Nations

Under its secretary-general, Dag Hammarskjöld, the United Nations responded swiftly and sent a mixed force of Swedish and African troops to the Congo to keep the peace. The attempted secession of Katanga was followed by another would-be secession, this time by Kasai Province. As the UN force discovered, the task of maintaining order was formidable: the Congo, Africa’s third largest country, covered 2,345,095 square kilometers and consisted of more than 200 ethnic groups. Government forces managed to get control of Kasai Province quickly enough, but were insufficient to subjugate the rebellious Katanga Province. The Belgians, in fact, assisted Tshombe’s secession. Belgium had huge stakes in Katanga’s mineral wealth; it recruited mercenaries to safeguard Tshombe and the mines, while Tshombe himself was an adroit politician. Meanwhile, a power struggle developed between Lumumba and Kasavubu and in September Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba. The military commander, Lt. Col. Joseph Désiré Mobutu, then carried out his first coup and created a College of Commissioners to rule the country. Lumumba fell into the hands of the Commissioners and then was taken to Katanga where he was tortured before being murdered. The United Nations failed to intervene on his behalf and was widely blamed for allowing his murder, a black mark against the organization that remained for a considerable time. On 2 August 1961, Kasavubu appointed a new government with Cyrille Adoula as prime minister, and Antoine Gizenga, a Lumumbist, as his deputy. A new crisis arose in September 1961 when Dag Hammarskjöld, on a flight from Ndola in Northern Rhodesia to Katanga in order to negotiate with Tshombe, was killed in a crash that has never been adequately explained. At the end of 1962, UN forces finally moved against Katanga and brought its secession to an end on 15 January 1963. Tshombe went into exile.

Civil War

Events from independence to January 1963, when Katanga’s secession was brought to an end, were as much a United Nations effort to restore order as they were a civil war. But after the restoration of central government control, there followed a general deterioration in law and order. First came the Mulele rebellion in Kwilu Province, one of the country’s richest regions. Pierre Mulele had served briefly in Lumumba’s government. Early in 1964, his followers killed about 150 officials and his rebel army of not more than 4,000 became a major threat to the country’s stability. Meanwhile, in March 1964, about 400 members of the Katanga Gendarmerie crossed into Angola where Tshombe’s white mercenaries gave them military training. In June 1964, the last UN troops left the Congo and in the wake of their departure a new round of violence erupted. In July, Kasavubu invited Tshombe back from exile to replace Adoula as prime minister; Tshombe then raised a force of mercenaries to put down the Mulele rebellion in Kwilu and the northeast, on the Uganda border.

By that time, the eastern rebels had come to control about 500,000 square kilometers of territory. The Congolese Army, on the other hand, had virtually disintegrated. On 5 August, the rebels, who had named themselves the Popular Army of Liberation, captured Stanleyville (later Kisangani), the Congo’s third town. They allied themselves with the National Liberation Committee, consisting of left-wing exiles and Lumumbists. However, in pitched fighting between the Congolese Army and the rebels on 19 August, some 300 rebels were killed, including Mulele. The United States now intervened; Tshombe had sought its support early in August, and it now sent a number of air force transport planes and 50 paratroop guards, which it put at the disposal of the U.S. Ambassador. Tshombe appealed for African troops to help him fight the rebels and claimed that the rebellion had been stirred up by the People’s Republic of China. This was at least a possibility, as the Chinese, operating from their Burundi embassy, saw the chance of increasing their influence in the region. On 7 September the rebels, who still held Stanleyville, announced the formation of a government under a former Lumumbist, Christopher Gbeng. Meanwhile, Tshombe’s agents were recruiting South African and Rhodesian mercenaries at $280 a month. Tshombe’s agents worked hard to secure Organization of African Unity (OAU) backing for his position, but when the heads of state meeting took place in Cairo that October, he was refused permission to participate. In fact, Tshombe was dependent upon Belgian support and between 400 and 500 mercenaries led by the notorious Mike Hoare. Some of these mercenaries were then training the Congolese army to retake Stanleyville. On 24 November 1964, the United States used its transport planes to fly in 600 Belgian paratroopers to retake Stanleyville, where the rebels were holding 1,200 Europeans hostage. A number of these Europeans lost their lives in this operation while the remainder were either rescued or turned up later. The Congolese army, led by mercenaries, followed the Belgian paratroopers into Stanleyville.

Kasavubu, who saw Tshombe developing into a dangerous rival, now dismissed Tshombe whose Confédération Nationale des Associations Congolaises (CONACO)/Council of National Alliance of the Congo appeared to be winning the elections that were held that month. By the end of the month, the rebellion became increasingly disoriented. Even so, it was still dangerous, with forces consisting of the Simbas, including a number of ex-soldiers, and the Jeunesse, young untrained Mulelists who could be fanatical. The rebellion continued into March 1965, but by then the rejuvenated Congolese National Army, led by mercenaries, was winning the war. This army was a law to itself and carried out widespread terror tactics and slaughter among the civilian population. The mercenaries, who by then were being paid $560 a month, were responsible for a growing catalog of brutalities, which included torturing prisoners before killing them.

The Aftermath

On 24 November 1965, General (as he had since become) Mobutu took power, suspending President Kasavubu and his prime minister, Evariste Kimba, who had replaced Tshombe. Mobutu assumed all executive functions and was set to rule the country until his overthrow in 1997, 32 years later. It is impossible to be precise about the nature of the Congo Crisis, as it was called at the time; there were so many interventions—by the United Nations, the Belgians, the United States, big business interests, mercenaries—that it is difficult to say whether it was really a civil war or something else. How much were the attempted secessions of both Katanga and Kwilu foreign inspired? The crucial question about the crisis, which must remain unanswered is: what would have happened in the Congo had there been no interventions from outside?

Estimates of December 1964 suggested that the rebels had killed about 20,000 Congolese and that 5,000 of these had been killed in Stanleyville. The Congolese Army is reputed to have killed many thousands, often in reprisals, though no figures have been produced. The mercenaries killed people in the villages through which they passed and often did so out of wanton cruelty. Certain European deaths came to 175, less than the figure of 250 originally estimated for Stanleyville, when the Belgian paratroopers retook the town in 1964; many more Europeans were wounded. Possibly 300 Europeans died altogether from beginning to end of the crisis, and their deaths attracted most international media attention. A total figure of 30,000 deaths has been suggested, though the real casualties may have been much higher. Destruction to property and the general collapse of order did enormous long-term damage to the Congo. The interventions of the West were self-serving, having more to do with the preservation of western interests in the country’s mineral wealth than any desire to ensure peace. The mercenaries, whose behavior was barbaric, did the white cause in Africa great harm. Apologists for the mercenaries would argue that they were responding to equal barbarism perpetrated by the Congolese rebels whose brutalities against Congolese government officials were often appalling. The end result of this brutal civil war and collapse of order, which for a time made the name Congo synonymous with breakdown in Africa, was to be 32 years of dictatorship and what later came to be called state kleptocracy under Mobutu.

Lee’s Last Command II

The pride of the Army of Northern Virginia was forced to the humiliation of a flight, dignified by the name of a “retreat,” through the bleak farm country to the west of Petersburg. The twenty-seven thousand of all arms — wagoneers, doctors, hangers-on — were overhauled at the courthouse town of Appomattox County. There was nothing at Appomattox to defend. It was simply a place-name in the cheerless countryside where the walking skeletons could go no farther.

Before the army of Northern Virginia was officially dissolved on the 10th of April, 1865, in the months of “the long agony” while the Confederacy was disintegrating around the Richmond-Petersburg stronghold, there were thousands of soldiers with Lee who never believed they could be defeated with Uncle Robert. At first there was the hope of the November elections, which gradually faded with the collapse of other fronts. Then, beyond all reason, the men hoped because General Lee was there as the image of invincibility.

When did he know, beyond all outside unreasonable hope, that their second war for independence was doomed? By his own words, he regarded a siege as numbering the days of his own army. But during the summer, while the Federal forces gained no decisions on other fronts and Jubal Early threatened Washington with his small army, Grant’s grinding operations hacked away so slowly that obviously the enemy could achieve nothing definite against him before November. As an approaching finality is difficult for anyone to accept while it is still distant, and as Lee was by instinct a warrior, it is unlikely that he looked ultimate defeat squarely in the face when his army was first immobilized. Though he had said it would be a question of time, with the shape Grant’s army was then in, it could seem possible that time might run out on the enemy before it did on the Confederacy.

Because nothing he said or wrote in his most personal letters, during the remainder of 1864, indicated any change in Lee’s attitude, it would be impossible to select any given date when he recognized that all hope was gone for the Confederacy, when he accepted beyond reprieve the death of the cause for which he had sacrificed everything.

In terms of events, September 30th would be as close as any to the date when nothing remained to support the most desperate hope. By then General Lee had absorbed the news of the surrounding disasters — the fall of Atlanta at the other end of the line and the loss of the Shenandoah Valley at home. And on that day he observed the collapse of his own veteran troops in performing the simplest operation merely to maintain the siege.

When large-scale assault had passed from the Army of the Potomac in June, after the men were rested and the drooping morale rose, Grant began a monotonous pendulum movement of limited attacks south of Petersburg at the railroad to Wilmington and north of the James at the Richmond fortifications. This whittling away at Lee’s men was a focus of attrition directly on the manpower of Lee’s army in the deadliest wearing down of Lee’s ability to maintain a force in the field. In one of these grim mathematical exchanges of replaceable Federal soldiers falling to bring down an irreplaceable Confederate, on September 29th a surprise attack took Fort Harrison, a pivotal link in the chain of fortifications east of Richmond.

These works were manned principally by artillerists on the stationary guns, mostly men unfit for strenuous campaigning, and life on the bluffs near the James River had been relatively easy for these garrison troops. The men tended little vegetable gardens and their camps, cooler and fresher than the trenches, sometimes served as refitting stations for worn-out units, low in numbers and suffering absentees from sickness. While reconditioning, the regulars were available to assist the garrisons in repelling attack.

At the time of the pre-dawn surprise attack on Fort Harrison, only the skeletal brigades of Johnson’s Tennesseans and Gregg’s Texans were north of the James, neither in the fort. The garrison troops in the earthen works, lulled by the quiet tenor of their days, were overwhelmed almost before they knew what was happening, and Johnson’s and Gregg’s veterans were hard put to it to prevent the Federal force from extending the breach and wrecking Lee’s great system of fortifications.

Because of the critical location of the break, on the next day Lee rode personally back to the north side of the river, once more in front of the capital. With him he brought the other survivors of Field’s division, Hoke’s division and some of Pickett’s regiments. As carefully as he planned the masterpiece of Chancellorsville with Stonewall Jackson, the commanding general prepared an attack for retaking Fort Harrison with black-bearded young Hoke and burly, one-legged Charlie Field.

The assault opened on a flat-landed field of a size where General Lee could survey every detail of the waste of valiant life in uncoordinated, futile movements. Field attacked too soon and Hoke waited for the time of the order. Field’s brigadiers acted without concert and their units were cut up separately. As his men fell back in disorder, Hoke’s division advanced to receive alone the concentrated fire of the enemy. Then these brigades retired, considerably shaken.

At the first confused repulse, General Lee could not accept the finality of this breakdown in command in a rudimentary action of such limited scope. One of the soldiers who passed near to him wrote, “I had always thought General Lee was a cold and unemotional man, but he showed lots of feeling and excitement on that occasion.” Then the soldier described the General “imploring the men to make one more effort to take the position for him.”

The men were moved to make the effort, but only the spirit was willing and that briefly. The soldiers were too experienced to advance into concentrated fire, from an enemy behind works, under leaders whose lack of capacity made useless the sacrifice of life. Almost by common consent, the veterans of Lee’s greatest campaigns broke backward and made their way to safety in unapologetic disorder.

The General did not try to rally them again. When he turned Traveler to the river bridge, leading to what was becoming the fort of Petersburg, that may have been the hour when the certainty of the Confederacy’s inevitable defeat came over him. It could scarcely have come later.

On that last day of September, five months after the gathering of all his generals on Clark’s Mountain, the Army of Northern Virginia revealed itself to be little more than an image in the memories of men. The generals of the last pageantry in the spring were dead or scattered on the pleasantly warm day of early autumn.

Broken Ewell remained in the token position of commanding the Department of Richmond. Longstreet, with a partially paralyzed arm from his wound, returned to the mundane assignment of commanding a permanent line outside Richmond north of the James River. The division of Charles Field, the man whom Longstreet had so bitterly opposed, were the only troops of the old First Corps north of the James. The other division in the command was that of Robert Hoke, the disappointment as a major general. Ewell, with the department, and Longstreet, with the line of works, were to last to the end, though poor Dick Ewell was to suffer the final indignity of being captured on the retreat to Appomattox, where he commanded some local defense troops from Richmond and a “battalion” of sailors.

Pickett’s division had enjoyed its last moment of glory in driving Butler’s troops out of the Bermuda Hundred lines. George Pickett became a shadowy figure in the last months, continuing in his baffling withdrawal from Lee’s regard. In time the division, crowded with conscripts, would be pulled out of line and held as a reserve unit.

Dick Anderson, Longstreet’s successor on the First Corps, fell steadily away from his one great hour at Spotsylvania. Defeatism settled on him earlier and more obviously than most, and gradually his “corps” was reduced to the hodgepodge division of Bushrod Johnson, formed at Petersburg in the May battles against Butler.

The Second Corps had mostly disintegrated in the Valley. Jubal Early, contemned and forgotten, was left there with a token force without any of the young division commanders who had flashed so brilliantly in the campaign against Grant. Robert Rodes and Dodson Ramseur were killed, young Ramseur with a letter in his pocket announcing the birth of a new son. John B. Gordon was brought back to Lee’s forces around Petersburg.

Only the Third Corps sustained its entity all the way, despite the increasing absences of A. P. Hill. His lovely wife and two young daughters took a residence in Petersburg, and the physically failing general spent much time at home. Toward the end, when the possibility of evacuating Richmond was discussed, Hill said he would not want to survive the fall of the city, and it would almost look as if Little Powell made sure he did not. When the break came in the lines on Sunday morning, April 2nd, A. P. Hill hurried back from a sick leave to make a personal reconnaissance into the wooded no man’s land beyond the heavy fortifications. He was accompanied only by his favorite courier, Sergeant Tucker. They encountered a couple of Federal stragglers and Hill rode toward them, calling to the men to surrender. They fired on him, and life was gone from the wasted body when Hill, toppled from the saddle, struck the damp earth.

Lee choked up when Tucker brought him the news, and his careworn face reflected the stab of sorrow. Then, controlling himself, the General said, “He is at rest now, and we who are left are the ones to suffer.”

In the cavalry, little was required of the reconnaissance for which Jeb Stuart had been famous, and Wade Hampton performed well enough those thankless chores of fighting the enemy off the railroads. Long before the end, the Weldon Railroad was severed beyond repair, and supplies came only by trickles to the island of defense. In 1865, Hampton took Calbraith Butler’s cavalry back to South Carolina, to try to put heart into the hopeless delaying action against Sherman. The highly respected South Carolina grandee was not close to Lee personally, and no one ever took the place in his affections of “my poor Stuart,” as Lee called him, nor of the “great and good Jackson.”

The nearest intimate was John B. Gordon, the patriot soldier who had attracted Lee at the beginning of the campaign. Bringing high gifts of intelligence, devotion and tireless energy to his inspiring physical presence, the Georgian nonetheless reflected the change from the panoplied gathering in May when he, a brigadier at the beginning of the campaign, became the closest companion of the commanding general. Yet so relatively simple were the technical demands in defending fortified positions that Gordon could become the army’s first non-professional corps commander. Like Hampton in the cavalry, he brought to his duties the stout heart which represented the essential element of leadership needed in the trenches.

The ever-lengthening lines, the digging of which exhausted more and more men, were manned by the various units who had defended Petersburg, interspersed with the units whose pride was sustained by the place-names on their battle flags. Except for the marchings out and back forced on Hill’s fading men, the once mobile army acted as a garrison force covering some thirty-odd miles of expanding front. Lee’s army had finally been claimed by the system.

As the days ticked away the life of Lee’s army, the commander in chief was at last undisturbed in his departments. No one importuned him for concentration of forces, no decisions need be made of where to shift troops. His defensive policy had ultimately achieved a totally static defense. Only time, not sudden actions, could change his charts.

Fittingly, one of Davis’s last arrangements was to resolve Beauregard’s second-in-command status by placing him in command of yet another department. This time Old Bory was given the official authority for the area in which driven, goaded John Hood took his Army of Tennessee. Beauregard’s ambitions would not again delude him into trying to recapture glory in one of Davis’s fantasy departments. He accepted the assignment outwardly with good grace, remained blandly detached from involvement with the details of the foredoomed disasters and, playing out his role of the French marshal, settled for the future with his reputation as it then existed.

Lee was at last in sole command of the Richmond area north and south of the James River, now that it was too late to do more than exercise the techniques of a professional soldier in defending a hopeless position until the surviving force was sufficiently weakened for the enemy to storm the walls. He had written to the commander in chief, “I think it is his [Grant’s] purpose to compel the evacuation of our present position by cutting off supplies, and that he will not renew the attempt to drive us away by force. … It behooves us to do everything in our power to thwart his new plan of reducing us to starvation.”

To the end, General Lee anticipated his immediate antagonist. On July 24th he wrote his son Custis his estimate of Grant: “His talent and strategy consists in accumulating overwhelming numbers.” To meet this policy he could only continue to offer suggestions. Davis paid not the slightest heed to anything the General suggested, but Lee wrote letters as carefully composed as those in the earlier years.

He could not have hoped that any action would be taken this late in the day. Back in October of 1862 Lee wrote his wife a strangely ignored letter on the perils to the Confederacy caused by vanity of the spirit. Referring to the “hand of God” in their affairs, he wrote, “If our people would recognize it, and cease from their vain self-boasting and adulation, how strong would be my belief in final success.” Obviously, he could expect no change of spirit in people with the tide running out in 1864.

In dutifully writing suggestions of measures that might be taken, he avoided the one subject which grew in his mind as the last military expedient. This was the abandonment of Richmond, a desperate measure surely enough, but one he preferred to prolonging the ordeal of starvation. Since he knew the President’s answer beforehand, General Lee evidently found it pointless to try any more diplomatic maneuvers.

To his own army, his own front, he brought the best he had each day. Like a great artist, he could only bring everything there was in him. Nothing was withheld, unused or wasted, however futile he might have believed the end. For to recognize the hopelessness of a cause was not for Lee to act on the acceptance of defeat. Realistic evaluation was a proper function of the mind, not of the heart.

To Lee, as a deeply religious man, resignation to an event before it happened would be to anticipate the will of God. In Lee’s concept of man’s relation to life, this would have been inconceivable, a violation of the duty clearly revealed by each new sun.

A military community was dependent upon him for its existence, for the support of its morale and its honor. Small though the sum of the units in comparison with the enemy’s might, more than fifty thousand men of all arms comprised the force from Richmond’s fortifications to the lines southwest of Petersburg. Daily the spirits of some men failed, and they stole away from their former comrades. Some went directly into the enemy’s lines for food, others home to obtain food and provide safety for their families. Daily too the bodies of men proved unequal to the strain, and those who did not die were invalided out of the army. Yet to the end, to all ends, the spirit and the flesh of others would endure as long as he led.

Lee knew that. As his own children, these men had been placed in his care and they gave him the same implicit trust. Yet as a parent who knows he cannot provide food for children whose eyes turn to him in hunger, Lee must have suffered from the inwardly held knowledge that he could not provide these trusting men with what they expected.

He did not want to tell them to surrender; he never wanted that. But, as in his unrevealed preference for abandoning Richmond and breaking out into the open, it would have been his preference to bring the slow agony to a quick end. On this, he wrote an extremely revealing passage.

In his saddlebags, General Lee kept loose sheets of paper, on which he wrote from time to time, without date, various maxims, proverbs and Psalms, selections from standard authors, and occasionally some reflection of his own. These were written in his own clear, strong hand, slanting to the right, with “f’s” heavily shaded in the downward stroke. On one sheet of paper, he wrote this:

The warmest instincts of every man’s soul declare the glory of the soldier’s death. It is more appropriate to the Christian than to the Greek to sing:

Glorious his fate, and envied is his lot, Who for his country fights and for it dies.”

To this the General added another line, as if on further reflection on the subject. “There is a true glory and a true honor: the glory of duty done, the honor of the integrity of principle.”

This was all left to the man whose vaulting aspirations had carried him to the top of his profession and whom General Winfield Scott called “the very best soldier I ever saw in the field.”

Western Allies Concede Berlin 1945

The US Office of Strategic Services (OSS, precursor of the CIA), while cautioning against excessive alarmism, took the threat seriously enough to urge a revision of operational planning. British Major General Kenneth W. D. Strong, Eisenhower’s chief of intelligence, summarised in a report: ‘The redoubt may not be there, but we have to take steps to pre vent it being there.’

Thus, on 28 March, with these concerns and pressures mounting, Eisenhower made a command decision which was to become one of the most closely “examined and controversial military decisions of the war. After first sending an unprecedented ‘Personal Message to Marshal Stalin’ in which he outlined his operational plans and requested information on the Soviet forces’ plans, the Supreme Commander draft ed a cable to his immediate superior, US Chief of Staff General of the Army George C. Marshall, and immediately after that, one in response to Field Marshal Montgomery. In them, Eisenhower made his new orders clear. Montgomery’s 21st Army Group was to link up with Bradley’s 12th east of the Ruhr, at ,which point the major role would become Bradley’s. Operational control of the US 9th Army under Lieutenant General William H. ‘Simpson would be taken over from Montgomery by Bradley, and the expanded 12th Army Group would be expected to mop up the Ruhr, ‘and with the minimum delay will deliver his main thrust on the axis Erfurt-Leipzig Dresden to join hands with the Russians’ near Dresden, roughly 160km (100 miles) south of Berlin, thus effectively dividing Germany in half, and preventing any further German military or political withdrawal to the south. Montgomery, in the meantime, was ordered to advance to the Elbe, at which point command of the 9th might revert back to him, and hold there. In a defence of his plan several days later, Eisenhower explained:

‘Berlin itself is no longer a particularly important objective. Its usefulness to the German has been largely destroyed and even his government is preparing to move to another area. What is now important is to gather up our forces for a single drive, and this will more quickly bring about the fall of Berlin, the relief of Norway and the acquisition of the shipping and the Swedish ports than will the scattering around of our effort.’

The decision set off a furious debate between Washington, London, and the modest former techni cal college in Rheims that was serving as the SCAF’s headquarters. Churchill, in particular, was incensed that Eisenhower had violated protocol and the chain of command by approaching Stalin directly, that his plan would relegate the British ‘to an almost static role in the North’, leaving the Americans to garner all the glory, and above all that he was underestimating the continued importance of Berlin which, in Churchill’s view, could both prolong the war and seriously complicate an Allied post-war settlement if the Soviets were allowed to take the city unassisted. In a personal cable to Eisenhower, the vexed Prime Minister put his point as strongly as he could:

‘If the enemy’s position should weaken, as you evidently expect … why should we not cross the Elbe and advance as far eastward as possible? This has an important political bearing, as the Russian army … seems certain to enter Vienna and overrun Austria. If we deliberately leave Berlin to them, even if it should be in our grasp, the double event may strengthen their conviction, already apparent, that they have done everything. Further, I do not consider that Berlin has lost its military and certainly not its political significance. The fall of Berlin would have a profound psychological effect on German resistance in every part of the Reich. While Berlin holds out, great masses of Germans will feel it their duty to go down fighting. The idea that the capture of Dresden and the juncture with the Russians there would be a superior gain does not commend itself to me … Whilst Berlin remains under the German flag, it cannot in my opin ion fail to be the most decisive point in Germany.’

Churchill was not alone; much of the British Chiefs of Staff agreed, and so did Field Marshal Montgomery, who sent a cable of protest. Eisenhower’s relationship with Montgomery had always been rather strained, but now the normally diplomatic Supreme Commander was rapidly becoming exasperated by the reaction to his decision. In an interview years later, Eisenhower described his irritation: ‘Montgomery was becoming so personal in his efforts to make sure that the Americans – and me, in particular – got no credit, that, in fact, we hardly had anything to do with the war, that I finally stopped talking to him.’ There was a general sense at SHAEF that ‘Monty’ was too concerned with personal glory. The British Deputy Chief of Staff at SHAEF, Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Morgan, wrote: ‘At that moment, Monty was the last person Ike would have chosen for a drive on Berlin – Monty would have needed at least six months to prepare.’ His anger rising, Eisenhower responded to Montgomery’s protest with firmness:

‘1 must adhere to my decision about Ninth Army passing to Bradley’s command … As I have already told you, it appears from this distance that an American formation will again pass to you at a later stage for operations beyond the Elbe. You will note that in none of this do 1mention Berlin. That place has become, as far as I am concerned, nothing but a geo graphical location, and 1have never been interested in these. My purpose is to destroy the enemy’s forces.’ To Churchill, he had already bluntly stated, ‘Berlin is no longer a major military objective.’ Although the dispute continued for some days, the US Combined Chiefs of Staff gave Eisenhower their unqualified support on 31 March, discounting the British leader ship’s second-guessing of Eisenhower’s judgement: ‘The battle of Germany is now at the point where the Commander in the Field is the best judge of the measures which offer the earliest prospect of destroying the German armies or their power to resist … General Eisenhower should continue to be free to communicate with the Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Army … The single objective should be quick and complete victory.’

The decision had been made, but the British remained unhappy. Churchill’s concerns increased when he saw Stalin’s reply to Eisenhower’s cable. On 1 April, the Soviet leader had conferred with his two top field commanders, Marshals Zhukov and Konev, and the seven-member State Defence Committee. Before discussing the concrete plans for the capture of Berlin, Stalin wanted to air his concern that the soyuznichki (little allies), despite their Yalta promises, intended to seize Berlin ahead of the Red Army. He showed them reports from unnamed sources which cited the divisions over the issue in the Anglo-American camp. They claimed further that two Allied airborne divisions were being prepared for an assault on Berlin, and that Montgomery was developing plans to enable his 21st Army Group to race across northern Germany to take Berlin. These reports were, of course, strictly speaking, true, and the Soviet leaders were justifiably wary of Allied, and particularly British, intentions. But the Soviets also had other reasons for wanting to get to Berlin. The Russians and other peoples of the Soviet Union had suffered grievously at the hands of the Germans, and the lust for revenge was understandably strong. The Soviet PoWs liberated by the Red Army frequently told horror stories about the way they had been treated. Units of the Fourth Guards Rifle Corps from Colonel General Vassily Chuikov’s Eighth Guards Army, among the first to reach the Oder south of Kustrin on 1 February, stumbled upon a Gestapo prison at Sonnenburg whose 700 inmates had been executed by the fleeing Germans.

Stalin gave Zhukov and Konev 48 hours to develop plans for the conquest of Berlin, which he indicated he wanted to commence in mid-April, and then crafted his response to Eisenhower. He expressed his agreement with the SCAF’s proposal for cutting the German forces in two through a meeting of the eastern and western Allies around Dresden-Leipzig. Churchill’s suspicions were raised particularly by the portion of the cable which indicated that ‘the main blow of the Soviet Forces’ would be directed to the Dresden-Leipzig area, rather than towards Berlin. ‘Berlin has lost its former strategic importance,’ Stalin explained. ‘The Soviet High Command therefore plans to allot [only] secondary forces in the direction of Berlin.’ The timing for the Soviet offensive, he informed Eisenhower, would be ‘approximately the second half of May’. Churchill was given to doubt the intentions of the Soviets, but even if what Stalin had written were true, he explained in another telegram to Eisenhower, ‘I am all the more impressed with the importance of entering Berlin which may well be open to us by the reply from Moscow to you … [it is] highly important that we should shake hands with the Russians as far to the east as possible.’ A few days later Eisenhower sent a small sop to the British, conceding that if Germany were to suddenly collapse, then the western Allies would rush forward to Berlin. ‘Naturally if I can get a chance to take Berlin cheaply, I shall do so,’ he added.

So began an undeclared race to the German capital. As Marshals Konev and Zhukov were developing their plans for Berlin’s conquest, the Allied troops in the West, unaware of the decision at the top levels which reduced Berlin’s strategic importance, continued to battle their way forward. General Bradley’s 12th Army Group, now with the US Ninth Army numbering nearly one million men, completed the encirclement of the Ruhr on 2 April, trapping Field Marshal Walter Model’s Army Group B, with 325,000 men. Leaving a part of the Ninth and the First to clean up the Ruhr pocket, the rest of Bradley’s Group drove through central Germany, heading toward the Elbe and Leipzig-Dresden. Eisenhower’s instructions to Bradley ordered him to exploit any opportunity to The commander of just about every other unit in the Group had his own ideas. The Second Armored ‘Hell on Wheels’ Division, the ‘Rag-Tag Circus’ of the 83rd Infantry Division, the Fifth Armored ‘Victory’ Division, the British Seventh Armoured ‘Desert Rats’ Division: all wanted the kill for themselves. The competition was so fierce that it sometimes resulted in furious arguments between the various commanders and their subordinates. When units of the 83rd Infantry and the Second Armored Divisions reached the Weser river at the same time on 5 April, a bitter row erupted over which one would cross it first. The two commanders finally reached a compromise: they would cross simultaneously, their units sandwiched together. But the commander of the ‘Hell on Wheels’ division, Major General Isaac White, was still incensed. ‘No damned infantry division is going to beat my outfit to the Elbe!’

Their anticipation was heightened by the speed of the Allied troops’ advance, and by the relatively light resistance. Not that the advance was without risk; some of the engagements were as ferocious as any thing these soldiers had encountered since Normandy. But the resistance was very uneven. Some areas surrendered with hardly a fight. Civilian authorities in particular hoped to avoid the destruction of attempts to resist the inevitable capitulation. Other units, especially the SS, put up a tenacious struggle, exacting stiff Allied casualties. The city of Detmold in the Teutoburger Woods, for example, was the scene of some prolonged and very bloody combat before the American infantry units succeeded in pacifying it; to their chagrin they had discovered that Detmold was the home of a large SS training centre. But for much of the campaign, the Allied advance met only very sporadic, unorganised, and dispirited resistance. For most troops of the German 12th Army, which bore the brunt of this central Allied thrust, the war was next to over, and they were only too happy to have the opportunity to surrender to the British and Americans rather than to the Soviets. Captain Ben Rose of the US 113th Mechanized Cavalry Group recalled how during their drive to the east, he witnessed some German officers, in full dress uniform, jogging alongside the column, ‘trying to get someone to notice them long enough to surrender their side arms’. The GIs, however, anxious to keep their momentum, simply waved the Germans to the rear.

The airborne units, too, though increasingly fearful that they would miss the action and be relegated to police duty – or worse, ‘saved’ for a drop on Tokyo – had their own plans for Berlin. On 25 March, the commanders of the US 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions and the British First Airborne Corps were briefed on a secret contingency operation for a drop on Berlin. The timing was uncertain, dependent on the speed of the ground forces’ advance, but the 101st’s Operations Chief, Colonel Harry Kinnard, thought that they could be in Berlin within five hours of receiving the green light. No one expected it to be easy; initial plans called for 1500 transport planes, 20,000 paratroopers, 3000 support fighters, and more than 1000 gliders. The plans for a hostile drop were never put into operation.

Allies Drift Apart I

An American soldier who found himself in London on 8 May 1945 wrote home that he was ‘glad to be here to help the English people to celebrate the Victory that all of us have fought so hard for. The English people, in themselves, sacrificed as much as any people in the world. The people back home will never realize how much this Victory has meant to the English.’ While American life had also been transformed by the war, for the British people victory in Europe meant a final end to the danger and fear of the front line. Yet as they were soon to discover, victory against Nazi Germany had been bought at a heavy price. One American officer mused that it would see the end of British strength:

One gets the feeling these people [the British] are done when Germany is defeated. The forces they commit to the Pacific will not much exceed what they had in Singapore, etc. in peacetime. Certainly their factories are re-converting already, resorts are crowded and little attention is paid to the Government’s half-hearted reminders of Japan . . . if our peace depends on a strong Britain, and I sincerely believe it does, then we must get her industry going again and give her first shot at the tremendous markets a ravaged continent will offer. There is little doubt that she’s a bankrupt nation too.

In fact, his predictions of a minimal British effort towards the defeat of Japan were inaccurate. The British Fourteenth Army fought a spectacular campaign against the Japanese in Burma, while a powerful Pacific Fleet was dispatched to work with the US Navy in the final assault on Japan. However, although this force was one of the biggest ever assembled by the Royal Navy, it was dwarfed by the might of the US Navy in the Pacific. It was all too obvious that Britain had ceded its position as the world’s greatest naval power to its ally. The dispatch of the Pacific Fleet was a clear sign by the British government that it wanted to make an important contribution in the Pacific, but Admiral King had no desire to share his war with any incomer. Concern grew within the British government that the American people had no knowledge or interest in the final British effort during the war.

While the Allies were preparing for a final assault on the Japanese home islands in the spring of 1946, the war came to an unexpected end. On 6 August 1945, General Wilson in Washington wrote urgently to Brooke in London that ‘we have just got news that the first TA bomb was dropped on Japan this morning’. TA, or Tube Alloys, was the Allied code name for the atomic bomb. Wilson then provided a report of the effect of the bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The explosion of a second atomic device over Nagasaki convinced the Japanese emperor that the war must be ended. Japan surrendered on 14 August 1945.

In common with the experience of every previous coalition and alliance throughout history, once the danger and emergency of war had passed, the ties that bound the Anglo-American alliance began to fray. The end of the war against Japan saw the rapid dismantling of almost all of the organisational structures that had made the alliance function so effectively. Surprising as it may seem, there had never been a formal treaty signed between Britain and the United States to regularise the vast and unprecedented cooperation that had developed during the war. Anglo-American collaboration ultimately depended upon informal agreements made between the Prime Minister and the President. However, Roosevelt had died before the war in Europe ended, and Churchill’s Conservative Party lost the July 1945 general election to Clement Attlee’s Labour Party. Since so much had depended upon the personal relationship between these two men, there was no legal barrier to prevent the new American president, Harry C. Truman, and his administration from taking a very different view of many of the most vital wartime agreements.

These ranged from the secrets of the atomic project to Lend-Lease, which by 1945 was largely keeping Britain’s economy afloat. British industry had been turned over to war production for the past six years and exports had fallen to one third of their pre-war scale: Britain faced an enormous post-war trade deficit. The reconversion of British industry would take great effort and capital investment, but while Roosevelt had given commitments of American help towards this process at the Quebec conference in 1944, these offers of aid had not been forthcoming. With the end of hostilities, the United States ended Lend-Lease abruptly in September 1945, which caught Britain completely unprepared. Millions of dollars’ worth of military equipment and supplies were suddenly halted in transit, but most seriously of all, without shipments of food, the British government could not, in the short term, feed its people.

The British had hoped that the agreements reached at Quebec would be honoured, which would have seen American aid continued while Britain reconverted her industry. Ultimately, the new Labour government had to send a delegation to Washington in the autumn of 1945 to negotiate a loan from the United States in order to stave off the bankruptcy that had been threatening since at least 1941. The terms of the loan, and the pressure exerted upon Britain to accept American proposals for free trade, dismayed the British. The United States was now treating Britain as an economic competitor and forcing her to accept proposals she had resisted during the war.

In this very different atmosphere, the nature of British and American military cooperation was also bound to alter. Even before the end of the war, the British Chiefs of Staff had made a plea to their American counterparts that the machinery of the Combined Chiefs of Staff should be retained. In a memorandum submitted during the Terminal Conference held in Berlin from 17 July to 2 August 1945, the British chiefs argued that it would be a ‘retrograde step to allow this machinery to fall into disuse merely because Germany and Japan have been defeated and there are no supreme allied commanders to receive the instructions of the Combined Chiefs of Staff’, considering that ‘the world, all too unfortunately, is likely to remain in a troubled state for many years to come. Major problems will constantly arise affecting both American and British interests.’ They argued that a method of mutually exchanging information and developing uniformity in weapon design and training would also be beneficial. The reply from the US Chiefs of Staff was short and to the point: ‘The political relationship of the United States with other nations in the period following this war is not yet sufficiently defined to permit the United States Chiefs of Staff to discuss at this date the post-war relationships between the respective military staffs.’

The Combined Chiefs of Staff had always been much more than a useful device to share information or develop common weapons procurement. It had been the key mechanism by which the United States and Britain fused their strategy in order to win the war. The heated arguments over Allied strategy that developed within the Combined Chiefs of Staff had not been a weakness but a strength, since it ensured that, ultimately, both governments abided by the decisions reached in open conference. However, its operation had depended upon an unprecedented level of openness between the two governments and their armed forces, which had been enabled by the clear and overriding common interest of defeating Germany and Japan. The establishment of the Combined Chiefs of Staff had also represented a tacit agreement by both sides of rough equality. Yet while in the crisis of 1941 and 1942 both sides were willing to accept this fiction, it no longer reflected the relative power of the two governments in 1943, let alone 1945. Just as importantly, the operation of the Combined Chiefs of Staff had represented an exclusive relationship between Britain and the United States. Even during the war, important allies such as Canada and China had clamoured for representation on its committees and in its decision-making. American post-war interests were likely to be more expansive than an exclusive relationship with the fading British Empire would allow. It was not surprising, then, that the US Chiefs of Staff refused to be unequally yoked with an impoverished and weakened Britain in peacetime when the United States was now unquestionably the most powerful nation on earth. The American Century had well and truly begun, and measures adopted in the emergency period of the war in a very different political and military context were not going to be allowed to determine American policy in the future.

The demobilisation of the American Army in Europe proceeded apace in 1945 and 1946, and inevitably, much of the lower-level cooperation between the two armies withered away almost as quickly as it had been established. In one striking example, in April 1945, a somewhat bored American liaison officer at the British School of Infantry recommended that his post be discontinued. Similarly, in Washington, the British Army Staff had rapidly shrunk to three peacetime branches with a very limited staff by the end of 1946.

Yet there remained a recognition amongst many of the officers and men that the unique relationship that had developed during the war should be remembered and maintained in some form. General Miles ‘Bimbo’ Dempsey, the commander of the British Second Army, which had fought alongside the US Ninth Army for many months in 1944–5, wrote to General Bill Simpson at the end of the war that he counted himself ‘as very fortunate to have met you in this war. Now that it is over, we must not let our friendship die. It was born on the battlefield. I hope you realise how much we of Second Army admire your splendid Ninth – and your great achievements.’

The impulse to maintain the relationship that had developed between the two armies was widely felt. Yet the majority of the schemes to continue these bonds, which included a scholarship programme and a fellowship organisation, were relatively shortlived. The one permanent and tangible connection was formed by the establishment of the Kermit Roosevelt lectures, which enabled the exchange of military addresses by British and American officers. General Albert C. Wedemeyer, the man who had crafted the 1941 Victory Program and sat in on some of the Combined Chiefs of Staff’s most heated meetings, was selected as the first American Kermit Roosevelt lecturer in 1947. In his lecture, Wedemeyer emphasised the importance of the relationship between the United States and Britain:

We have fought side by side against aggressor nations in two world wars, and have been victorious. But the relationship between our countries is more than a war-time alliance of convenience or necessity. We have mutual interests inherent in our common origins and strongly reinforced by marked similarities in our political and economic structures.

There was more than a little irony in the fact that Wedemeyer, one of the arch-Anglophobes of the War Department in 1941, was now a confirmed advocate of Anglo-American cooperation. While his experience during the war may have modified his views, the real reason for his change of heart was the emergence of a new threat. As he explained:

In the world today there are two divergent groups which appear to be creating situations incapable of peaceful resolution. Soviet Russia and her satellites comprise one group, Anglo-American peoples and their adherents represent the other. A state of moral belligerency exists. In a political, economic and psychological sense, we are virtually at war with the Soviet Russian group.

By 1947, the outlines of the Cold War, which would dominate international relations for a further 40 years, were already apparent. It was this new and unwelcome situation which ensured that Anglo-American military cooperation, which had come to an abrupt end in 1945–6, would continue and deepen in the conditions of new global confrontation between East and West.

Wedemeyer’s final thoughts on the Second World War were sobering. He explained that, ultimately:

Our strategy was defective in that it was incomplete. We failed to relate or to integrate the military factor in strategy with political and economic considerations. Military victory was achieved, but today we find that the national aims for which we fought are jeopardized by the very conditions of victory. We liberated most of Europe from one totalitarian system only to let it fall under the aegis of another.

In fact, this perceived inability to transform military victory into a lasting political settlement was neither new nor unique to the Second World War. To this day it remains one of the great questions surrounding the use of force. Wedemeyer’s views of the threat from the Soviet Union in 1947 also shaped his opinion on many of the strategic decisions taken during the Second World War under very different circumstances. One of the most controversial subjects throughout the Cold War remained Eisenhower’s decision not to drive on Berlin. In 1945, his decision had been arrived at through clear military logic, yet even two years later it appeared shortsighted due to the new conditions of the confrontation with the Soviet Union.

Allies Drift Apart II

Roosevelt and Churchill drafted the Atlantic Charter in August 1941.

Yet while the relationship between the two armies continued in new directions during the Cold War and beyond, the memory of the cooperation during the Second World War was soon shaped by the burgeoning public interest in memoirs and histories of that conflict. Unfortunately, in the conditions of the Cold War, the importance and contribution of the Red Army to the defeat of Hitler’s Germany came to be overlooked or ignored. This was as much due to the fact that it had been very difficult to gain accurate information about the Red Army’s campaigns during the war as it was impossible afterwards. It was not until the 1970s and 1980s that any real information began to be available in the West about the vast scale of the war in the East. This meant that the focus of the books about the war was almost exclusively Anglo-American, and they generally focussed upon personalities rather than broader issues. This trend was set early with the publication in 1946 of Ralph Ingersoll’s Top Secret, and Harry Butcher’s My Three Years with Eisenhower. Ingersoll’s book was inaccurate, sensational and highly critical of both Eisenhower and the British, and thus sold very well. Butcher, however, possessed a distinct sales advantage in that he had worked directly for Eisenhower and had kept Eisenhower’s headquarters diary for much of the war. His book gave a glimpse into the higher counsels – and the disagreements – of the war, which was not what Eisenhower had intended. While Eisenhower later argued that he had had nothing to do with the production of the book, it is clear that he did read the manuscript, and even insisted that a passage concerning Churchill was rewritten before publication. He cautioned Butcher to reconsider any mention of foreign officials, including General de Gaulle and Field Marshal Montgomery, ‘where the promotion of bad feeling would be to defeat the very purposes that I strove so hard to advance during the war’.

While Ingersoll’s book could be dismissed as a piece of sensational journalism, Eisenhower was much exercised by the publication of Butcher’s, which became an instant best-seller. He went so far as to write to Brooke to tell him that he had been upset by these ‘so-called “war histories”’, which were as concerned with selling their stories as with accuracy. A recent headline had claimed that ‘Eisenhower nearly sacked Montgomery’, and Eisenhower stressed that he had not collaborated with Butcher and that he did not want ‘either to lose personal friends through no fault of my own, or to appear in the light belittling the war effort of the British Fighting Forces or of the individuals composing them’. In his reply, which was probably the warmest letter he sent to Eisenhower, Brooke reassured him:

You need have no fear, no number of Captain Butchers, or of so called ‘war histories’ could ever begin to affect the opinions we all formed of you during the war. We know only too well that your main objective has always been to promote a practical basis of co-operation between all Commands, regardless of nationalities. We also know that the successes you achieved could never have been realised without the wonderful qualities you showed in this respect.

You can therefore rest fully assured that your old friends on the Chiefs of Staff Committee completely understand the facts, and will do all in their power to remove any misunderstandings with reference to this matter that they may come across.

Yet in many respects, the damage had been done. Montgomery had been greatly annoyed by Butcher’s account and the attention-grabbing headlines in the press. In a letter to Eisenhower, he declared that this exposure of Allied disagreements was all ‘a terrible pity. And the repercussion is bound to be that some British author will retaliate by getting at you.’ What he did not inform Eisenhower of was that he had given Alan Moorehead, an Australian journalist, access to his papers. Moorehead’s biography of Montgomery was published later that year.

These early war books, for all their inaccuracies, were popular, sold well and were a gift for newspaper editors looking for lurid headlines. Millions of men and women had served in the Allied armies and there was a ready market for books about the recent conflict. With their focus on personalities, controversies and disagreements, these publications, which were often serialised in newspapers, exposed to an eager reading public glimpses of the war that had been unknown at the time. Eisenhower bemoaned this fact in a letter to Montgomery in 1946 when he wrote that:

It seems too much to hope that so-called military writers will ever come to understand that the great story of the Allied operation in Europe lies in the essential unity that was achieved; committed to the theory that only in clashes and quarrels is there any interest for the public, they magnify every difference of opinion into a worldshaking battle.

Controversy did indeed sell, and these early books set a pattern that continued for many decades. The first few books of 1946 soon turned into a flood, as many people began to write memoirs and histories of the war. These included Freddie de Guingand whose reasonably balanced Operation Victory was one of the first memoirs written by a wartime chief of staff; and Kay Summersby, whose Eisenhower Was My Boss angered Eisenhower. Summersby had been Eisenhower’s driver and secretary, and, it was rumoured, his lover.

It was partly in response to the flood of books, and partly due to the fact that any book he wrote would earn a substantial sum of money, that Eisenhower penned his own memoir, Crusade in Europe, which was published in 1948. While Basil Liddell Hart, the British military writer, considered it the ‘most fair-minded book that any great soldier of any country has written about either of the last two wars’, it reopened the arguments concerning command and strategy in 1944 and clearly angered Montgomery. When a hostile review was published in the Sunday Times, Ismay moved to ensure that favourable reviews were printed in other newspapers.

Further books, most notably Bradley’s memoir, A Soldier’s Story, published in 1951, brought another storm of headlines and wounded feelings on both sides of the Atlantic. Bradley justified his decisions during the war and did not refrain from making observations about Montgomery and the British.

It was in response to the new Soviet threat that the United States and Britain began to synchronise their military efforts once again. A series of diplomatic initiatives coalesced in 1949 with the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, which was established as a collective defensive security body to prevent Soviet encroachment in Europe. It has been argued that the United States’ ratification of this treaty marked a revolution in US foreign affairs – for the first time, America entered into a permanent ‘entangling’ alliance. In 1950, Eisenhower was appointed as the first Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO. His deputy was none other than Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, who had been working as the military chairman of the Western Union Defence for the previous three years. Eisenhower’s prestige and experience, combined with Montgomery’s influence, undoubtedly set NATO’s military alliance on a firm path in a period when the Soviet challenge seemed very real indeed.

Eisenhower went on to become President of the United States, while Montgomery went into retirement to write his memoirs, the publication of which, in 1958, set in train a number of controversies with former British as well as American generals. Montgomery’s memoirs certainly painted Eisenhower in a poor light while justifying his own actions and decisions. Unfortunately, with the publication of his memoirs, and his continued criticisms that a soldier should never dabble in politics, the rift between Montgomery and Eisenhower became permanent. The claims and counter-claims that had characterised the publication of each man’s memoirs built up a confusing and overlapping series of arguments about what had actually happened during the campaigns of 1944–5. These controversies also had the effect of placing in the spotlight the personalities and relationship of Eisenhower and Montgomery almost to the exclusion of every other issue. Ultimately, the debates surrounding the two men as commanders during the Second World War came to represent a multitude of opinions and views about Britain and America in the very changed conditions of the 1950s and 1960s.

Of course, the controversy over command and strategy in 1944 was only one of many debates between the Allies during the war. While it was of great personal importance to the protagonists – and indeed to their many supporters – the inordinate focus upon this issue came to dominate but also obscure the reality of what had happened during the war. Through their service in the founding years of NATO, but more particularly through the battle of the memoirs, the persons and, later, the memories of, Eisenhower and Montgomery became archetypes for the relationship between the United States and Britain in a strikingly similar fashion to the way that Braddock and Washington were remembered in the eighteenth century. Over the ensuing decades, the memory of the Anglo-American alliance of the Second World War was distorted by an increasing wave of nostalgia, particularly in a Britain that had lost its power, but also by an increasing focus on the personal rivalries of the commanders.

The Anglo-American alliance had always been more than the sum of its parts and far greater than the relations between a few men. It had been born in the great emergency of 1940–2, and the spectre of seemingly imminent defeat had been a spur to cooperation in a bewildering range of fields. Its strength had rested on both the breadth and depth of that cooperation, ranging from an unprecedented sharing of scientific and technical information to British and American soldiers eating the same rations and firing the same ammunition. Much of the success of the alliance had actually been based on innovation far from the battle fronts. In this wider context, the actions and collaboration of the two armies was only one part of a much wider whole, which encompassed navies, air forces, industries, transport, governments and people of both countries.

Equally, the relationship between the two armies in the Second World War was actually deeply rooted in a distant past. Neither army was a stranger to the other in 1941, but the long absence of meaningful contact during the interwar years certainly made the resumption of contact more awkward than might have been the case. Neither understood the other nor saw clearly how the war should be prosecuted together. Once the United States joined the war, the cooperation between the armies developed at breakneck speed and soon took unforeseen forms. The early reports and debates from military attachés in London and Egypt, as well as the US Observer Mission, helped to establish contact and develop meaningful avenues of collaboration. The British Tank Mission ultimately not only primed the pump of American tank production but also helped to ensure that both armies had a viable combat tank in 1942–3. Thus the American observer missions and the British Army Staff in the United States had acted as enablers for an unprecedented level of cooperation, just as the Combined Chiefs of Staff had enabled the Allies to thrash out in heated argument the agreed strategy for a global war.

Even on the battle fronts, the personal rivalries and disagreements between generals were only ever part of a wider and more detailed picture. The relationship between the two armies was never perfect. Prejudices, rivalries and political and military differences remained between the two forces to the end of the conflict, but this should not obscure the very real cooperation that was achieved. The campaigns in North Africa, Tunisia and Italy were hard fought – and sometimes desperate – battles in their own right but also served as vital testing grounds to enable the final amphibious assault on the shores of France. Ultimately, while the campaigns in Normandy and north-west Europe saw the culmination of the Anglo-American alliance under very different circumstances to those of 1941, and sparked controversies that continue to this day, they were highly successful military operations that resulted in the achievement of the alliance’s ultimate political objectives. Eisenhower’s Victory Order of the Day on 8 May 1945 counselled against ‘the profitless quarrels in which other men will inevitably engage as to what country, what service, won the European war’. While the majority of the fighting in Europe undoubtedly took place on the Eastern Front, it is not too much to say that without the industrial, economic and military contribution of the Anglo-American alliance, Nazi Germany could not have been defeated.

The secret of the Anglo-American success was not the fact that the two allies often held competing national interests, or approached strategic questions from different directions. In these circumstances, and given the enormous stakes, it was not surprising that there were heated arguments and disagreements and that these played out at every level of the respective governments and armies. Equally, the record of the war proved that there was no monopoly of effective strategy-making or thought on either side of the Atlantic. Indeed, what have often been considered to be British or American strategic perspectives were in fact multi-faceted, with politicians, officials and officers from both sides taking different positions on what were complicated, intractable and dynamic problems. It was the collective nature of Allied planning and the unified execution fusing the power of the two armies together that made Anglo-American strategy effective.

Perhaps it is, after all, human nature to focus on argument and disagreement rather than cooperation. Yet it seems regrettable that in remembering the relationship between the British and American armies in the Second World War, Eisenhower’s firm vision of honesty, frankness and wholehearted cooperation between the two nations and armies in spite of their differences tends to be overshadowed by arguments about personalities. Just as importantly, as the events of the Second World War receded into the past, the success of the Anglo-American alliance came to be taken for granted, as if the campaigns that had begun in North Africa were simply part of the inevitable triumphant march of the democracies towards victory. Eisenhower summed up his views in a letter to his confidante, Pug Ismay:

While it is true that during the war we had the compelling motive of a common fear to stick together, the fact is that we had present in early 1942 and during most of that year, all of the ingredients for a profound pessimism and for mutual recrimination. In spite of the black outlook we buckled down and did the job. Extremists on both sides of the water can indulge in all the backbiting and name-calling that they please – they can never get away from the historical truth that the United States and the British Empire, working together, did a job that looked almost impossible at the time it was undertaken.

For too many years, this pre-eminent fact has been obscured by the emphasis placed upon the command controversies. Collaboration, not conflict, was the touchstone of this alliance. Even in the face of rivalry and suspicion, the American and British armies combined their efforts and won the hard-fought battles of the Second World War together.