After Lee had retreated during the Battle of Antietam, Lincoln was outraged that McClellan had not given chase to the Confederates fleeing across the Potomac. Because of this, and because Lincoln and McClellan were often at each other’s throats politically, Lincoln replaced McClellan. General William Rosecrans took over for fellow Union general Don Carlos Buell in the West, and McClellan was replaced by General Ambrose Burnside in Maryland and the so-called “Army of the Potomac” that McClellan had been commanding. Lincoln wanted men of action, and McClellan failed on many occasions throughout the war to adhere to Lincoln’s orders on taking the offensive.
During the winter of 1862, General Rosecrans marched on Tennessee from Nashville, where met with the Confederate army led by General Braxton Braggs a day before New Year’s Eve. Instead of fighting as they made contact, instead bands from each army came out to play music. It wasn’t until New Year’s Eve that Bragg decided to attack first. His troops attacked the right flank of Rosecrans’s army, pushing him backward. Though Rosecrans was pushed backward, he was able to form a defensive strategy and prevent a massive defeat or having to retreat. As the day ended Bragg, who had a history through the Civil War of misinterpreting the battlefield, sent word to his commanders that he had won a victory near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Two days later, on January 2, the Battle of Stones River entered its second day of fighting in three days.
Bragg attacked once more on the second day of fighting but, thanks to Rosecrans stabilizing his defenses, they were able to drive back Bragg’s attack. From here, Bragg gave ground and retreated into Southern Tennessee the next day after tens of thousands of casualties on both sides of the war. Though neither the Confederates nor the Union came out with a significant victory, Rosecrans won what is believed to be a tactical victory due to the retreat of Braggs. Lincoln was pleased at the “competence” of the general he had just promoted to replace Buell, due mainly to the inaction of other generals and the failure of Ulysses S. Grant.
Union Major General Grant planned to attack Vicksburg, Mississippi, in the heart of Confederate territory, with a coordinated attack with William T. Sherman. Grants offensive was repelled and was actually considered disastrous, because during his retreat a Union supply base was destroyed. With Grant on the retreat, William T. Sherman’s attack was easily dealt with and he was repelled. Grant would not stop trying to get Vicksburg after one try. He continued t attack it from different directions, including going in the Yazoo Pass along the Yazoo River, which ultimately failed. It wouldn’t be until spring in 1863 after a risky maneuver that put Grant’s troops in a position to attack Vicksburg. From here, the Siege of Vicksburg lasted nearly two months before Vicksburg was lost to the Confederates.
“How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War” by Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones
College level lectures