Henry Halleck Papers

Henry W. Halleck was born in New York on January 16, 1815. He graduated from Hudson Academy and West Point, where he graduated third in the class of 1839. With the outbreak of the Civil War, General Winfield Scott recommended that Halleck be appointed major general in the regular service, and he was promoted on August 19, 1861. In November 1861, Halleck replaced Fremont in the Department of Missouri, when Fremont was removed from office. Halleck was not well respected by his peers and often seen as incompetent. Union success at Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Pea Ridge and Island No. 10 enlarged the Department of Missouri to include Ohio and Kansas; thus it was renamed the Department of the Mississippi.1

Halleck’s lack of field experience became evident when he cautiously approached Corinth allowing the Confederate to evacuate. Lincoln then ordered Halleck to Washington and surprisingly promoted him to General-in-Chief. Halleck’s gruff manner and inability to shoulder responsibility earned him few friends in Washington. He, however, served as the President’s military advisor until he was replaced by Ulysses S. Grant on March 9, 1864. After the war, Halleck was transferred to command the Department of the Pacific, headquartered in San Francisco, and in 1869, he was appointed to command the Division of the South. While stationed in Louisville, Halleck died on January 9, 1872.2

Contained within the Halleck papers is a single order placed on March 12, 1862 just months prior to being ordered to Washington. Halleck requested Major William Prince at Fort Leavenworth to advance regiments from there to Kansas City and Independence, Missouri. Prince was ordered to leave one company in each city, and then march south through the border counties clearing the region from “marauding bands of rebels.”3

The Missouri-Kansas border was littered with violence as Jayhawkers from Kansas and Bushwhackers from Missouri raided across the state line. Interestingly, Halleck’s orders specifically note not to take Kansas troops into Missouri. Rebel bushwhackers conducted hit and run attacks, raids, and ambushes to harass Federal forces and disrupt Federal lines of communications. They also attacked pro-Union sympathizers, destroying or seizing private property to exact revenge or gather provisions for their forces. To help combat these irregular forces, Gen. Halleck declared that anyone caught conducting sabotage would be considered an outlaw and would be shot on sight beginning in March 1862. A year later, General Thomas Ewing issued Order No. 11, which depopulated Jackson, Cass, Bates, and Vernon Counties along the Missouri-Kansas border to deny sanctuary for the bushwhackers. Combating guerrilla warfare was a central problem that all union commanders of the Trans-Mississippi Theater were force to address.

Contributed by the Pearce Civil War Collection, Navarro College

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  1. Ezra H. Warner, Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964), 195-197.
  2. “Major General Henry Halleck,” The California State Military Museum, http://www.militarymuseum.org/Halleck.html
  3. Henry W. Halleck letter to William E. Prince – Mar. 14, 1862. Halleck (Henry W.) Papers, 1862, 2001.244. Pearce Civil War Collection, Navarro College, Corsicana, Texas.