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Grant's Secret Service

The Intelligence War from Belmont to Appomattox

William B. Feis

Publication Year: 2002

William B. Feis offers us the first scholarly examination of the use of military intelligence under Ulysses S. Grant’s command during the Civil War. Feis makes the new and provocative argument that Grant’s use of the Army of the Potomac’s Bureau of Military Information played a significant role in Lee’s defeat. Feis’s work articulately rebuts accusations by Grant’s detractors that his battlefield successes involved little more than the bludgeoning of an undermanned and outgunned opponent.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

List of Illustrations

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p. ix-ix

List of Maps

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

Many people helped make this book possible, and though they deserve much credit and gratitude for their patience and advice, I willingly shoulder the blame for all errors. First, my deepest gratitude goes to my two graduate advisors at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and The Ohio State University. Dr. Peter Maslowski was a model of scholarly professionalism ...

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Introduction: "He Don't Care a Damn for What the Enemy Does Out of His Sight"

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pp. 1-10

"There are no more important duties which an officer may be called upon to perform," asserted West Point professor Dennis Hart Mahan, "than those of collecting and arranging the information upon which either the general or daily operations of a campaign must be based." With this passage, the foremost military thinker in America before the Civil ...

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1. "My Means of Information Are Certainly Better Than . . . Most"

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pp. 11-26

As Col. Ulysses S. Grant led the Twenty-first Illinois into northern Missouri in the summer of 1861, the responsibilities of command pressed hard upon him. That an entire regiment depended upon him to make the right decisions had a chilling effect. He recalled later that the "sensations" he experienced while marching into the war zone "were anything...

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2. "I Always Try to Keep Myself Posted"

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pp. 27-52

Upon learning that Confederate forces had invaded Kentucky on September 4, Grant penned a quick message to Western Department headquarters. "Troops . . . can be spared from here," he wrote, "to take possession of Columbus heights." Once this was accomplished, he predicted, "New Madrid will fall within five days." 1 But success hinged upon avoiding delay, ...

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3. "You Will Soon Hear if My Presentiment is Realized"

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pp. 53-76

Time only magnified the importance of the Belmont campaign in Grant's mind. The expedition, he wrote, was "a greater success than . . . first thought." 1 Though many disagreed with this assessment, perhaps Grant spoke more of the intangible benefits that resulted from his first fight. From his perspective it had emboldened Union forces while striking ...

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4. "There Will Be No Fight at Pittsburg Landing"

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pp. 77-106

Just as Grant sat down for breakfast on April 6, the unmistakable roar of gunfire shattered the quiet morning air. Forgetting his hunger, he boarded a steamboat and hastened toward Pittsburg Landing, site of the main Union encampment along the Tennessee River. As he steamed upriver, the firing became heavier and Grant grew more anxious. Was this ...

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5. "With All the Vigilance I Can Bring to Bear I Cannot Determine the Objects of the Enemy"

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pp. 107-138

For several weeks after Shiloh, both sides tended their wounded, buried the dead, and prepared for the next bout. Henry W. Halleck arrived at Pittsburg Landing and took charge of the upcoming offensive against Corinth. As punishment for the recent near-disaster, Grant watched from the sidelines as Halleck directed the next campaign. Fearing another ...

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6. "I Have Reliable Information from the Entire Interior of the South"

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pp. 139-174

Following the Holly Springs and Chickasaw Bluffs disasters, Grant determined the Mississippi River would be the axis of advance for his next attempt at Vicksburg. This avenue promised to reduce reliance upon overland logistical lines that presented easy targets for mounted raiders who, as Van Dorn demonstrated, were difficult to track in hostile territory. ...

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7. "What Force the Enemy Have . . . I Have No Means of Judging Accurately"

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pp. 175-190

After the fall of Vicksburg, Grant looked ahead to new challenges and toward ending the rebellion as quickly as possible. After solidifying the Union hold on the Mississippi Valley, Grant looked southeast toward Mobile, Alabama, as his next objective. Planning for that campaign ended abruptly, however, as events in Tennessee demanded his attention. ...

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8. "That Gives Just the Information I Wanted"

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pp. 191-218

Echoing the sentiments of many in the North, on March 23, 1864, John A. Rawlins expressed hope that "our former success in the West will be with us here." The next day he accompanied Grant from Washington to his new headquarters at Culpeper Court House, Virginia, to plan the 1864 campaign. As general in chief, Grant could have remained in the West ...

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9. "Is It Not Certain That Early Has Returned?"

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pp. 219-250

In the late afternoon of July 3, 1864, Grant received an alarming dispatch from Chief of Staff Henry Halleck claiming that a Confederate corps under Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early was marching down the Shenandoah Valley toward the Potomac River, perhaps with the goal of threatening Washington. "Early's Corps is now here," Grant responded calmly, assuring "Old ...

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10. "He Could Not Send Off Any Large Body without My Knowing It"

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pp. 251-264

Although the Shenandoah Valley had become a key concern for Grant after crossing the James River, his most pressing problem remained the siege of Richmond and Petersburg. He had vowed to "fight it out" all summer, but the coming elections and the perception in the North that the recent campaign had failed made him anxious to defeat Lee. Before ...

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Epilogue: "The Difference in War Is Full Twenty Five Per Cent"

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pp. 265-268

Reflecting upon Grant's triumphs during the war, William Tecumseh Sherman hinted that his friend's success stemmed in part from his disdain for military intelligence. "He don't care a damn for what the enemy does out of his sight he proclaimed.1 Given Grant's ill-informed status before Fort Donelson, Shiloh, the Wilderness, and during Jubal Early's ...


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pp. 269-308


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pp. 309-320


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pp. 321-330

E-ISBN-13: 9780803202498
E-ISBN-10: 0803202490

Page Count: 330
Illustrations: Illus., Maps
Publication Year: 2002