- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
"Clear, concise descriptions of the military operations on both sides, the interaction of the Confederate and Union leadership, and the emerging politics and societal issues are interwoven in a thought-provoking manner, documented by a rich mixture of primary and secondary sources and bibliographical essay."—Joan Schmutzler, Ohioana Quarterly
— Joan Schmutzler
"Engle ably crafts important secondary works and selected primary sources into a well-written synthesis. . . . A concise, readable, and useful synthesis that fulfills both his purpose and that of the 'Great Campaign' series. The book serves as a fine introduction to the early 'struggle for the heartland.'"—John Fowler, Journal of Southern History
— John Fowler
"Fresh interpretations and a skillful blending of social, political, and military considerations make this study of the action in Tennessee, Kentucky, northern Mississippi, and northern Alabama in the early stages of the war worth a look."—Christopher M. Paine, West Virginia History
— Christopher M. Paine
"The University of Nebraska series features professional historians who eschew the traditional narrow tactical study, and instead examine the military operations within a wider political and social context. The books are synthetic works that use the most recent scholarship in providing a comprehensive overview of the campaigns."—Mark Bradley, Civil War History
— Mark Bradley
"It was one of the weaknesses of the Confederacy in the West," wrote Allan Nevins in his seminal work The War for the Union, "that the two rivers, the Tennessee and Cumberland, reached inland from the North toward its center.... A mere glance at the map would seem to reveal that the Tennessee-Cumberland river system offered the North a heaven-sent opportunity to thrust a harpoon into the very bowels of the Confederacy."
Referring to the rivers' strategic importance during the Civil War was hardly news to Kentuckians and Tennesseans, who had known for generations of their tremendous unifying social significance in forging economic relationships between people with vast differences. These Middle Americans could never have imagined that anything about these rivers would have created weaknesses, particularly since they were the reason for prosperous interior cities such as Nashville. Then again, they could not have imagined a Civil War that turned what was otherwise a lifeline for so many into something that threatened the region's security. Though Northerners and Southerners were late to fully appreciate the significance of the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers as strategic channels, by late 1861 it had become clear that these waterways held the key to winning theearly war in the West. For the Confederacy, to hold them was to maintain control of the vital artery of economic, and now military, traffic, to lose them meant changes of profound and irreparable economic and social significance.
Although not many generations had passed since opening the land west of the Appalachians for settlement, the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers and their tributaries had been instrumental in developing ties among otherwise isolated and fragmented populations. Though they traversed a physically diverse landscape, the rivers provided a means by which to forge commercial relationships between people and places that shaped a political culture of divergent ideological interests into a regional unity. The fundamental economic characteristic of this western culture was its relative self-sufficiency, typical of hearty and industrious farmers and reflective of Jeffersonian principles based on the acquisition of land. Although roads and turnpikes offered a means to reach markets at great distances, when it came to transporting grain or livestock, these routes proved slow, difficult to traverse, and expensive. The prohibitive costs of hauling agricultural goods overland to markets outside the region made the rivers vital to agricultural self-sufficiency, particularly among interior communities. These communities were economically linked through local networks of rural market exchanges, and the rivers played a major role in fostering these connections. Shared market experiences cultivated a sense of common social and political interests as well.
The Cumberland and Tennessee both descended out of the Great Smoky Mountains and flowed west through the Kentucky, Tennessee, and northern Alabama and Mississippi landscapes before heading north, ultimately emptying into the Ohio River. Long before railroads pushed into the region, keelboats, flatboats, and later steamboats had provided the means to tap into the Upper South interior, connecting people and goods to the downriver markets at Chattanooga, Nashville, Decatur, and Florence. Northbound riverboats carried Southern prosperity in the form of staples and commodities from the upper Cumberland and Tennessee Valleys downstream past Nashville, Clarksville, and Florence. Southbound steamboats loaded with produce from Northern farms navigated upstream year round to Nashville and Florence, carrying goods from Cincinnati, Louisville, and St. Louis. Although shipping became the chief means of transporting goods in the region, river passage could be difficult as sandbars, narrow gorges, and the Muscle Shoals of Alabama forced boatmen to unload their cargos, transport it overland for some distance, and then reload their freight and continue on water. Still, the combined influence of rivers and roads swelled the volume and significance of western trade.
Like the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, both the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, to some degree, also had a unifying influence in the region. Indeed, some Midwesterners thought that the Mississippi River, "the Father of Waters," flowed into the Ohio River as it curved south around Cairo, Illinois. These important waterways were symbols of the nation. Anyone who had spent time along the Mississippi would have agreed with William T. Sherman, who recognized the river's vast importance, that the Mississippi was the "Spinal column of America."
Despite the growing divide between the North and South, the states encompassing these rivers shared common social interests and associations resulting from the population's use of common highways and markets. The Mississippi-Ohio River system had also conditioned how people communicated, traded, and survived in the Upper South, creating ties of blood and experience between these Southerners and residents of the Old Northwest. Rivers such as the Wabash and the Illinois, which stretched well back into the interior and flowed south, mirrored several other streams that drained nearly every state north of the Ohio. This connected Missouri, southeastern Iowa, and Minnesota to Ohio, Indiana, and New Orleans. Thus, such national rivers were reflective of "a bond of Union made by nature itself," as South Carolina senator James H. Hammond remarked. When the war came, however, a divided nation could no longer share these waterways. As Sherman noted: "Should the Ohio River become a Boundary between the two new Combinations [Union and Confederacy], then will begin a new change. The extreme South will look on Kentucky & Tennessee as the North."
For decades before the railroad, Ohio and Mississippi were the major arteries of transportation for the Midwest to other regions of the country. This produced a river tradition and nationalism that transcended region and benefited westerners, southerners, and easterners. Throughout the "great secession winter" of 1860-61, this tradition remained unchanged. Though the Ohio River was essentially the natural extension of the Mason-Dixon line, it was far less important than the barriers that separated Northerners and Southerners in the West from other sections. Because of the nature of their location-Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan composed the Northern "heartland"-Midwesterners' chief dilemma was the maintenance of friendly relations throughout the country. "Heartlanders," whether Confederate or Union, had grown dependent upon one another during the prewar decades. The conflict threatened to sever the bonds of profitable intercourse as Southern states began to question their loyalties during the secession winter. After the formation of the Confederacy in February 1861, the New Albany Daily Ledger, which hailed from the Indiana town on the Ohio River, editorialized that "there is no great and fertile ... region ... embracing Kentucky, Missouri and a large portion of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, whose people are not to any considerable extent effected by the ultraism of either of the extremes, who would in the event of the convulsion of the Republic, be drawn together by ties of commerce, neighborhood and general coincidence of views and interest."
Like all Midwestern governors concerned about the foreign domination of such a vital commercial artery, Illinois governor Richard Yates echoed the sentiment of the Daily Ledger, arguing: "There is no division of sentiment in this section.... The Northwest will be a unit in maintaining its rights to a free and unobstructed use of the Mississippi river throughout its entire course." Therefore, the real line of demarcation was not only the Ohio River that ran east and west but also the Allegheny Mountains that ran north and south. Indeed, what added to the significance of the Ohio River was not only that it skirted slave and free states but also that it joined the Mississippi. In many respects this union of rivers helped make the Confederate heartland a commercial appendage of the North. "The Power which controls the Ohio and the Mississippi," wrote Sherman to Salmon P. Chase, "will ultimately control this continent."
By the Civil War, railroads, like the rivers, had forged relationships between people and places in the Midwestern heartland. Though the river system channeled western goods south to the port of New Orleans and the force of this commercial habit was still influential, the construction of railroads helped break this dependency. The immediate impact resulted in a community of commercial interests between the upper and lower Midwestern heartland. As they penetrated land-locked areas, railroads played an enormous role in creating an interior network with river cities and provided more opportunities for otherwise isolated farmers. The cumulative effect during the prewar decades expanded the market range of western produce and shifted trade routes from north-south to eastwest. This change not only redirected economic traffic but also realigned political allegiances. Upper South residents reacted to this by developing an internal commerce cultivated from the region's interior streams, establishing cities and towns linked by rail and river. Residents engaged in the commercial sector of agriculture north of the Ohio responded by developing closer ties to surrounding towns and by centralizing in the urban areas the manufacturing elements needed to increase agricultural production. Consequently, by 1860 the Old Northwest, engaged largely in economic specialization and characterized by social diversification, was as urbanized as the Northeast had been in 1830. Railroads, therefore, like rivers, consumed the attention of residents of the northern heartland.
These iron routes, by 1860 competing strongly with water-born traffic, encouraged inland communities to develop internal trade. This released most Midwesterners from their dependence on Southern markets. Communities in isolated places sprang up overnight along the vast stretches of rails as had happened along the rivers decades before. Still, the great mass of people living on isolated farms were not keen on railroads and continued to rely on rivers for economic exchange. Many still failed to appreciate the significance of the great transportation change and continued to regard the commerce of the rivers as of the highest importance to them simply because it had been away of life. Consequently, the growth of railroads in the North had not been matched by an iron-rail system in the South. Moreover, in times of peace, railroads offered distinct advantages in transporting goods, but in war, rivers afforded the safest and most effective means to transport armies and supplies.
Several railroads played a prominent role in redirecting the market economy's shift. The Louisville-Nashville-Decatur Railroad stretched from northern Kentucky to northern Alabama and linked the Tennessee capital to the Ohio River. The fact that it crossed the Green, Cumberland, Duck, and Tennessee Rivers made it all the more vital a link in the internal trade, though also more vulnerable to significant destruction. The Memphis and Charleston stretched east from the Mississippi River though the mountains of Tennessee and Chattanooga before branching north to Virginia and east to Charleston. The Mobile and Ohio Railroad fanned out from Columbus through Corinth and south to Mobile. The Virginia and Tennessee, perhaps the most important railway in the South, however, threaded Tennessee and crossing into Virginia near Cumberland Gap. Like the cities through which rivers flowed, the railroad spawned an economic interdependence, and the flow of rail traffic helped shape the region's political culture.
Cities of the Middle West connected by turnpike, river, and rail, particularly Louisville, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis, and Chattanooga, established powerful commercial interests that proved quite influential during the secession winter. Legislative leaders were preoccupied by attempting to alleviate the economic fears of Midwesterners who were particularly concerned when the closure of the prosperous intravalley trade seemed likely. Many regional businessmen traded profitably from the initial escalation in the purchase of war material, despite the fact that much of the profit came from trade with the South. Economically, the people were unified through their common means of livelihood. Nearly all of them were directly or indirectly dependent upon agriculture, and thus the importance of commerce was significant as politicians sought to secure uninterrupted routes of transportation and favorable treatment for their products. This increased the favorable relationships the Midwest shared with the East.
The changes in the marketplace resulting from the more deliberate use of rivers and railroads made the Upper South particularly suspect as an area in which the defense of slavery was less prominent than farther south. Because these were not cotton states, slavery played a lesser role in their economy. Support for the institution in Kentucky and East Tennessee, both as an economic investment and a means of racial control, was eroding as in other Border States, many excess slaves being sold to Lower South planters. Because wheat was either replacing or competing with tobacco as the region's major cash crop and urban centers were shifting to manufacturing, in which employers preferred immigrant laborers to slaves, it became clear that slavery was giving way to free labor. Georgia senator Alfred Iverson alluded to this realization, concluding during the secession crisis that the "border States can get along without slavery." He argued, "Their soil and climate are appropriate to white labor; they can live and flourish without African slavery; the cotton States cannot."
Although slavery in the Upper South played only a minimal role in the commercial life of the people, residents in slave states did not believe the institution was immoral, which diminished immediate prospects for emancipation. Furthermore, they resented the North trying to determine questions of morality for them. Because of the deterioration of slavery in the borderland, particularly in its urban centers, secessionists came to believe that Republicans would, through their control of federal patronage, organize a free-labor party throughout the South. These secessionists concluded that such a political movement would derive its strength from the nonslaveholding poor, especially in the Upper South, where the conditions for a free-labor victory were most favorable. The New Orleans-based De Bow's Review editorialized that those poor nonslaveholders harbored "a feeling of deep-rooted jealousy and prejudice, of painful antagonism, if not hostility, to the institution of negro slavery, that threatens the most serious consequences, the moment Black-republicanism becomes triumphant in the Union."
Excerpted from Struggle for the Heartland by Stephen D. Engle Copyright © 2001 by University of Nebraska Press . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.