Army of Central Kentucky

The Army of Central Kentucky was a military organization within Department No. 2 (the Western Department of the Confederate States of America). Originally called the Army Corps of Central Kentucky, it was created in the fall of 1861 as a subsection of Department No. 2, and continued in existence until the end of March 1862 when it was absorbed and merged into the Army of Mississippi, which was then re-organized as the Army of Tennessee on November 20, 1862.

The Department No. 2 (Western Department) was created on June 25, 1861, under the command of Maj. Gen. Leonidas Polk, and had military jurisdiction and control over parts of Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. On September 2, 1861, the Department was expanded to include all of Arkansas and military operations in the state of Missouri, and then on September 10 the area was expanded again to include all of Arkansas, Tennessee, more of Mississippi, and all military operations in Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and any Indian territories rallying to the Confederate cause west of Arkansas and Missouri.

Command under Brigadier General Simon B. Buckner
Brig. Gen. Buckner assumed command of all forces in central Kentucky during September 1861 after having first served as a major general and commander of the Kentucky Militia. The forces were organized into two divisions with a reserve force. Later a third division under Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd was added. After Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston took command, Buckner continued to command a division of the Army of Central Kentucky at Bowling Green and Fort Donelson, where he surrendered. After being exchanged in August 1862, Buckner was promoted to major general and commanded a division with these same forces in the Army of Mississippi under the leadership of Gen. Braxton Bragg.

Command under General Albert S. Johnston
Gen. Johnston was in command of the Army of Central Kentucky from October 28, 1861, until March 29, 1862, with the exception of a two-week temporary command by Hardee in December. The area of operation for this army was designated as the part of Tennessee north of the Cumberland River and that part of Kentucky west of where the Cumberland River entered Tennessee to the east. On December 26, 1861, part of the Army of the Kanawha was added. On March 29, 1862, the army at about 23,000 men strong was merged into the Army of the Mississippi in preparation for the Battle of Shiloh.

Command under Major General William J. Hardee
Maj. Gen. Hardee took temporary command of the army from December 4 to December 18, 1861.

Engagements:

Battle of Belmont

The Battle of Belmont was fought on November 7, 1861 in Mississippi County, Missouri. It was the first combat test in the American Civil War for Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, the future Union Army general in chief and eventual U.S. president, who was fighting Major General Leonidas Polk. Grant's troops in this battle were the "nucleus" of what would become the Union Army of the Tennessee.

On November 6, Grant moved by riverboat from Cairo, Illinois, to attack the Confederacy's small outpost near Belmont, Missouri across the Mississippi River from the Confederate stronghold at Columbus, Kentucky. He landed his men on the Missouri side and marched to Belmont. Grant's troops overran the surprised Confederate camp and destroyed it. However, the scattered Confederate forces quickly reorganized and were reinforced from Columbus. They counterattacked, supported by heavy artillery fire from across the river. Grant retreated to his riverboats and took his men to Paducah, Kentucky. The battle was relatively unimportant, but with little happening elsewhere at the time, it received considerable attention in the press, with southerners praising it and northerners lamenting the Union defeat.


Battle of Fort Henry

The Battle of Fort Henry was fought on February 6, 1862, in Donelson, Stewart County, Tennessee, during the American Civil War. It was the first important victory for the Union and Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in the Western Theater.

On February 4 and 5, Grant landed two divisions just north of Fort Henry on the Tennessee River. (The troops serving under Grant were the nucleus of the Union's successful Army of the Tennessee, although that name was not yet in use.[3]) Grant's plan was to advance upon the fort on February 6 while it was being simultaneously attacked by Union gunboats commanded by Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote. A combination of accurate and effective naval gunfire, heavy rain, and the poor siting of the fort, nearly inundated by rising river waters, caused its commander, Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilghman, to surrender to Foote before the Union Army arrived.

The surrender of Fort Henry opened the Tennessee River to Union traffic south of the Alabama border. In the days following the fort's surrender, from February 6 through February 12, Union raids used ironclad boats to destroy Confederate shipping and railroad bridges along the river. On February 12, Grant's army proceeded overland 12 miles (19 km) to engage with Confederate troops in the Battle of Fort Donelson.


Battle of Fort Donelson

The Battle of Fort Donelson was fought from February 11–16, 1862, in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. The Union capture of the Confederate fort near the Tennessee–Kentucky border opened the Cumberland River, an important avenue for the invasion of the South. The Union's success also elevated Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant from an obscure and largely unproven leader to the rank of major general, and earned him the nickname of "Unconditional Surrender" Grant.

Grant moved his army (later to become the Union's Army of the Tennessee[4]) 12 miles (19 km) overland to Fort Donelson, from February 11 to 13, and conducted several small probing attacks. On February 14, Union gunboats under Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote attempted to reduce the fort with gunfire, but were forced to withdraw after sustaining heavy damage from the fort's water batteries.

On February 15, with the fort surrounded, the Confederates, commanded by Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd, launched a surprise attack, led by his second-in-command, Brig. Gen. Gideon Johnson Pillow, against the right flank of Grant's army. The intention was to open an escape route for retreat to Nashville, Tennessee. Grant was away from the battlefield at the start of the attack, but arrived to rally his men and counterattack. Pillow's attack succeeded in opening the route, but Floyd lost his nerve and ordered his men back to the fort. The following morning, Floyd and Pillow escaped with a small detachment of troops, relinquishing command to Brig. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, who accepted Grant's demand of unconditional surrender later that day. The battle resulted in virtually all of Kentucky as well as much of Tennessee, including Nashville, falling under Union control.

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