1. Education

January 9, 1863 - Union forces led by Maj. Gen. John McClernand (right) begin the Battle of Arkansas Post.  Born in 1812, McClernand rose to be prominent force in Illinois' Democratic Party.  Serving in Congress when the Civil War began, he immediately began working to raise a brigade of volunteers for the Union Army.  Recognizing the need for support from War Democrats, Pres. Abraham Lincoln appointed McClernand a brigadier general in May 1861.  Assigned to the Western Theater, he first saw combat as part of Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's army at the Battle of Belmont that November.  Remaining with Grant, McClernand took part in the fighting at Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, and Shiloh in the spring of 1862.  A bombastic commander who was prone to political scheming, he greatly annoyed the pragmatic Grant.  Taking leave that fall, McClernand lobbied Lincoln for an independent command.  This was granted and he was permitted to raise men for an expedition against Vicksburg, MS.  Quickly causing problems, McClernand moved down the Mississippi and allowed himself to be distracted into attacking Arkansas Post in early 1863.  Though a victory, the effort angered Grant as it diverted attention from Vicksburg.  Ordered to subordinate himself to Grant, McClernand ultimately received command of XIII Corps in the Army of the Tennessee.  Taking part in Grant's Vicksburg Campaign in late spring 1863, he performed erratically and was openly resentful of his commander.  With the beginning of the Siege of Vicksburg in late May, McClernand issued a controversial congratulatory message to his men which was published in Northern newspapers.  A violation of War Department Policy and Grant's orders, he was relieved on June 19.  The following year, McClernand used his political influence to return to XIII Corps which was then stationed in the Department of the Gulf.  Remaining until November, he resigned due to health reasons.

Civil War - Western Theater:

Photograph Courtesy of the Library of Congress

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