to THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English.
In July of
eighteen sixty-one, Union soldiers from the North and Confederate soldiers from
the South fought the first major battle in the American Civil War. They clashed
at Manassas, or Bull Run, Virginia, less than fifty kilometers from Washington.
soldiers fought fiercely. But two large Confederate forces broke the Union
in our series, Harry Monroe and Kay Gallant tell about some of the other early
battles of the Civil War.
had expected to win the battle of Bull Run. They believed the Confederacy would
fall if the Union won a big military victory early in the war. Now, however,
there was great fear that southern soldiers would seize Washington. The Union
needed to build and train an army quickly.
Abraham Lincoln named General George McClellan to do this. McClellan was
thirty-four years old.
general had two important tasks. He must defend Washington from attack. And he
must build an army to strike at enemy forces in Virginia. McClellan wasted no
time. He put thousands of troops into position around the city. And he built
rush of activity, however, little more happened for a long time. McClellan told
his wife: "I shall take my own time to make an army that will be sure of
success. As soon as I feel my army is well-organized and well-trained and
strong enough, I will force the rebels to a battle."
kept making excuses for why he would not move against the enemy. His excuses
became a continuing source of trouble for President Lincoln. The public, the
press, and politicians all demanded that McClellan do something. They wanted to
win the war, and win it right away.
commanded the biggest army in the Union, the Army of the Potomac. But it was
not the only army. Others were battling Confederate forces in the West.
Confederates had moved up through Tennessee into the border state of Kentucky.
They built forts and other defensive positions across the southern part of the
state. They also blocked as many railroads and rivers as they could.
was to keep Union forces from invading the South through Kentucky. One of the
Union generals in the area was Ulysses Grant.
served in the army for twenty years. He had fought in America's war against
Mexico and had won honors for his bravery. When that war ended, he was sent to
an army base far from his wife and children. He did not like being without
them. And he did not like being an officer in peace time.
began to drink too much alcohol. He began to be a problem. In eighteen fifty-four,
he was asked to leave the army. When the Civil War started, Grant organized a
group of unpaid soldiers in Illinois. With the help of a member of Congress, he
was named a general.
All of the
other Union Generals knew Ulysses Grant. Few had any faith in his abilities.
They were sure he would always fail.
however, had faith in himself and his men. He believed he could force
Confederate soldiers to withdraw from both Kentucky and Tennessee. Then he
would be free to march directly into the Deep South -- Mississippi.
Confederate forts stood in Grant's way. They were in Tennessee, close to the
States Navy gunboats captured the first, Fort Henry, on the Tennessee River.
That fort was easy to attack and not well-defended. The fighting was over by
the time Grant and his men got there.
second, Fort Donelson, was nearby on the Cumberland River. It was stronger and
defended by twenty thousand soldiers. Grant surrounded the fort and let the
navy gunboats shell it. The fighting there lasted several days.
point, the Confederates tried to break out of the fort and escape. They opened
a hole in the Union line and began to retreat. Suddenly, however, their
commanding officer decided it would be wrong to retreat. He ordered them back
to the fort.
that, there was no choice. The Confederates would have to surrender.
commanding officer sent a message to General Grant. "What were the terms
of surrender?" Grant's answer was simple. "No terms except
unconditional and immediate surrender."
Confederates gave up Fort Donelson. Grant took fourteen thousand prisoners.
It was the
greatest Union victory since the start of the war. Ulysses Grant was a hero.
Newspapers called him "Unconditional Surrender" Grant.
Union victory at Fort Donelson, Confederate forces withdrew from Tennessee.
They moved farther south and began to re-group at Corinth, Mississippi.
Generals hoped to build one big army to stop Ulysses Grant. They would have to
move fast. Grant was marching toward Corinth with forty thousand men. Another
thirty-five thousand, under the command of Don Buell, were to meet him on the
arrived in the area first. He waited for Buell thirty kilometers from Corinth,
near a small country meeting hall called Shiloh Church.
General Albert Sydney Johnston was waiting, too. He had more than forty
thousand men, about the same as Grant. And he was expecting another twenty
thousand. But when he learned that Grant was nearby, he decided not to wait. He
would attack immediately.
did not know it, but his attack came as a surprise to the Union army. Union
officers had refused to believe reports that Johnston was on the move. They
said his army was not strong enough to attack.
troops did not prepare defensive positions. They had no protection when the
fighting at Shiloh was the bitterest of the war. It was not one battle, but
many. Groups of men fought each other all across the wide battlefield. From a
distance, they shot at each other. Close up, they cut each other with knives.
The earth became red with blood. The dead and wounded soon lay everywhere.
the Confederates pushed Grant's army back. They had only to break through one
more line and victory would be theirs. But in the thick of the struggle,
General Johnston was shot in the leg. The bullet cut through an artery.
Johnston bled to death before help arrived. Any hope for a southern victory at
Shiloh died with him.
time the fighting began again the next day, General Buell had arrived to help
Grant. The Confederate army retreated. The Union army let it go.
The word itself came to mean death and destruction.
of Shiloh had brought home to the American people -- both of the North and South
-- the horror of war. It was the first time so many men -- one hundred thousand
-- had fought against each other in the western world. It was the American
people's first real taste of the bloodiness of modern warfare.
soldier who fought there said: "It was too shocking, too horrible. I hope
to God that I may never see such things again."
won the battle of Shiloh. But it paid a very high price for victory. More than
thirteen thousand union soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing. On the
Confederate side, more than ten thousand soldiers were killed or wounded.
The North celebrated
the news of its victory. But joy quickly turned to anger when the public
learned of the heavy losses. People blamed General Grant. They demanded that
President Lincoln dismiss him.
thought of the two men who were now his top military commanders: McClellan and
Grant. They were so different. McClellan organized an army, and then did
nothing. Grant organized an army, and moved.
said of Grant: "I cannot do without this man. He fights."
continue our story of the Civil War next week.
Our program was written by Frank Beardsley. The narrators were Harry
Monroe and Kay Galllant. Our series can be found online with transcripts,
podcasts and historical images at voaspecialenglish.com. You can also follow our
programs at twitter.com/voalearnenglish. Join us again next week for THE MAKING
OF A NATION -- an American history series in VOA Special English.
This is program #100 of THE
MAKING OF A NATION