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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1839

Vol. I

(Born N. Y.)

Henry W. Halleck

(Ap'd N. Y.)


Henry Wager Halleck: Born Jan. 16, 1815, Westernville, NY.

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1835, to July 1, 1839, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Second Lieut., Corps of Engineers, July 1, 1839.

Served: at the Military Academy, as Asst. Professor of Engineering, July 6, 1839, to June 28, 1840; as Assistant to the Board of Engineers at Washington, D. C., 1840‑41; as Asst. Engineer in repairing Ft. Wood, Bedloe's Island, and Works on Governor's Island, New York harbor, 1841‑46; on voyage to California, 1846‑47; in the War with

(First Lieut., Corps of Engineers, Jan. 1, 1845)

Mexico, 1847‑48, being engaged in the Skirmishes of Palos Prietos, Mex., Nov. 19, 1847, Urias, Mex., Nov. 20, 1847, San Antonio, L. Cal., Mar. 16, 1848, and Todos Santos, L. Cal., Mar. 30, 1848, — as Aide-de‑Camp to Commodore W. B. Shubrick, during Naval and Military Operations on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, Oct. 16, 1847, to June 28, 1848 (part of this period being Lieut.-Governor of Mazatlan, Mex., and Chief of Staff of Captain Lavalette's naval forces ashore), — and Chief of Staff in Lieut.‑Colonel Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Burton's Operations in Lower California, Mar., 1848; as Secretary of State of California, under the military government of Generals Mason and Riley, Aug. 13, 1847, to Dec. 20, 1849; as

(Bvt. Capt., May 1, 1847, for Gallant Conduct in Affairs with the Enemy
on the 19th and 20th Nov., 1847, and for Meritorious Services in California)

Aide-de‑Camp to Bvt. Brig.‑General Riley, Jan. 1 to July 31, 1850; as Inspector and Engineer of Light-houses on the Pacific Coast of the United States, Dec. 21, 1852, to Aug. 1, 1854; and as Member of the Board of Engineers for Fortifications on the Pacific Coast of the United

(Captain, Corps of Engineers, July 1, 1853,
for Fourteen Years' Continuous Service)

States, Apr. 11, 1853, to Aug. 1, 1854.

Resigned, Aug. 1, 1854.

 p734  Civil History. — Appointed Professor of Engineer in the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University, Mas., Sep. 28, 1848: declined. Member of the Convention to form, and of the Committee to draft, the Constitution of the State of California, 1849. Director-General of New Almaden Quicksilver Mine, Cal., 1850‑61. Counselor at Law, San Francisco, Cal., 1853‑61. President of Pacific and Atlantic Railroad, from San Francisco to San José, Cal., 1855. Major-General, California Militia, 1860‑61. Author of a work on "Bitumen: its Varieties, Properties, and Uses," 1841; of "Elements of Military Art and Science," 1846, — and of a Second Edition, "with Critical Notes on the Mexican and Crimean Wars," 1858; of "A Collection of Mining Laws of Spain and Mexico," 1859; of a work on "International Law, or Rules regulating the Intercourse of States in Peace and War," 1861, — and of "A Treatise of International Law and the Laws of War, prepared for the Use of Schools and Colleges," 1866. Translator and Editor of "De Fooz on the Law of Mines, with Introductory Remarks," 1860; and of General Jomini's "Life of Napoleon," with Notes, 1864. Degree of A. M. conferred by Union College, N. Y., 1843; and of LL. D., 1862.

Military History. — Re-appointed in the U. S. Army with the rank of

Major-General, U. S. Army, Aug. 19, 1861.

Served during the Rebellion of the Seceding States, 1861‑66; in command of the Department of the Missouri, Nov. 9, 1861, to Mar. 11, 1862, and of the Department of the Mississippi, Mar. 11 to July 11, 1862, headquarters

(Major-General Commanding the Missouri Militia, Nov. 25, 1861, to July 11, 1862)

at St. Louis, Mo., from which he directed all the armies and military operations in the West, except while commanding in the field during the Corinth Campaign, Apr. 12 to July 11, 1862; as General-in‑Chief of the Armies of the United States, headquarters at Washington, D. C., July 11, 1862, to Mar. 12, 1864; as Chief of Staff, U. S. Army, Mar. 12, 1864, to Apr. 19, 1865; in command of the Military Division of the James, headquarters at Richmond, Va., Apr. 22 to July 1, 1865, — and of the Military Division of the Pacific, headquarters at San Francisco, Cal., Aug. 30, 1865, to Aug. 12, 1866.

Served: in command of the Division of the Pacific, headquarters at San Francisco, Cal., Aug. 12, 1866, to June, 1869, — and of the Division of the South, headquarters at Louisville, Ky., from June 17, 1869, to Jan. 9, 1872.

Died, Jan. 9, 1872, at Louisville, Ky.: Aged 57.

Buried, Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY.

Biographical Sketch.

Major-General Henry W. Halleck was born, Jan. 16, 1815, in Westernville, Oneida County, N. Y. He received a common-school education at Hudson Academy, N. Y., passed through most of the course at Union College, and was graduated at the U. S. Military Academy, July 1, 1839, third in his class. He was promoted a Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers.

In 1845 he was on a tour of examination of public works in Europe, and during his absence was promoted to a First Lieutenancy. On his return to the United States, the committee of the Lowell Institute, Boston, Mass., attracted by Halleck's able report on "Coast Defense" (published by Congress), invited him to deliver twelve lectures on the science of war. These he published in a volume, with an introductory chapter on the justifiableness of war, under the title of "Elements of Military Art and Science" (New York, 1846; 2d ed., with the addition of much valuable matter, including notes on the Mexican and Crimean wars, 1861).  p735 This popular compendium, then the best in our language, was much used by students of the military profession, and during the Civil War became a manual for officers of the army, particularly for volunteers.

At the beginning of the Mexican War Lieut. Halleck was detailed as Engineer for military operations on the Pacific coast, and sailed with Capt. Tompkins's artillery command in the transport Lexington, which, after a seven months' voyage around Cape Horn, reached her destination at Monterey, Cal. During this long and tedious passage he undertook a translation from the French of Baron Jomini's "Vie politique et militaire de Napoléon," which, with the aid of a friend, he revised and published with an atlas (4 vols., 8vo, New York, 1864).

After partially fortifying Monterey as a port of refuge for our Pacific fleet and a base for incursions into California, Lieut. Halleck took an active part in affairs both civil and military. As Secretary of State under the military governments of Gen. Richard B. Mason and Gen. James W. Riley, he displayed great energy and high administrative qualities. As a military engineer he accompanied several expeditions, particularly that of Col. Burton, into Lower California, and participated in several actions. Besides his engineer duties, he performed those of Aide-de‑Camp to Com. Shubrick during the naval and military operations on the Pacific coast, including the capture of Mazatlan, of which for a time Halleck was Lieutenant-governor. For these services he was brevetted Captain, to date from May 1, 1847.

After the termination of hostilities and the acquisition of California by the United States, a substantial government became necessary. Gen. Riley, in military command of the territory, called a convention to meet at Monterey, Sept. 1, 1849, to frame a State Constitution. This convention, after six weeks' consideration, agreed upon a Constitution, which was adopted by the people; and by Act of Congress, Sept. 9, 1850, California was admitted to the Union. In all of these transactions Halleck was the central figure, on whose brow "deliberation sat and public care." As the real head of Riley's military government, he initiated the movement of State organization, pressed it with vigor, and was a member of the committee that drafted the Constitution, of which instrument he was substantially the author. He remained as Aide-de‑Camp on the staff of Gen. Riley, and from Dec. 21, 1852, was Inspector and Engineer of Light-houses, and from April 11, 1853, a Member of the Board of Engineers for Fortifications on the Pacific Coast, being promoted Captain of Engineers, July 1, 1853. All these places he held till his resignation from the military service, Aug. 1, 1854.

After leaving the army, Halleck devoted himself to the practice of law in a firm of which for some time he had been a member, and continued as Director-General of the New Almaden Quicksilver Mine, an office he had held since 1850. Notwithstanding all these duties, he found time for study and to prepare several works, including "A Collection of Mining Laws of Spain and Mexico" (1859); a translation of "De Fooz on the Law of Mines, with Introductory Remarks" (1860); and a treatise on "International Law, or Rules Regulating the Intercourse of States in Peace and War" (1861). This last-named work he subsequently condensed, to adapt it for the use of schools and colleges (Philadelphia, 1866). This latter work and its abridgment continue to hold the highest rank among publicists. He was also, in 1855, President of the Pacific and Atlantic Railroad from San Francisco to San José, Cal., and Major-General of California Militia in 1860‑61.

Union College gave him the degree of A. M. in 1843, and that of LL. D. in 1862. In 1848 he was appointed Professor of Engineering in the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University, but declined the honor.

 p736  At the beginning of the Civil War he was at the head of the most prominent law firm in San Francisco, with large interests and much valuable property in California, and living in affluence; but he at once tendered his services in defense of the Union. General Winfield Scott, knowing his worth, immediately and strongly urged upon President his being commissioned with the highest grade in the Regular Army, and accordingly he was appointed a Major-General, to date from Aug. 19, 1861. He went without delay to Washington, was ordered to St. Louis, and on Nov. 18, 1861, took command of the Department of the Missouri, embracing the States of Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Arkansas, and western Kentucky. Around him was a chaos of insubordination, inefficiency, and peculation, requiring the prompt, energetic, and ceaseless exercise of his iron will, military knowledge, and administrative powers. The scattered forces of his command were a medley of almost every nationality, with the organization of each and the excellence of none. Missouri and Kentucky were practically but a border screen to cover the operations of the seceding South; and even his headquarters at St. Louis, fortified at exorbitant cost and in violation of all true engineering principles, neither protected the city from insurrection within nor from besiegers without. Hardly had Halleck assumed command when he began to crush out abuses. Fraudulent contracts were annulled; useless stipendiaries were dismissed; a colossal staff hierarchy, with more titles than brains, was disbanded; composite organizations were pruned to simple uniformity; the construction of fantastic fortifications was suspended; and in a few weeks order reigned in Missouri. With like vigor he dealt blow after blow upon all who, under the mask of citizens, abetted secession. But while from headquarters thus energetically dealing with the secessionists at home, he did not neglect those in arms, over whom, by his admirable strategic combinations, he quickly secured success after success, till, in less than six weeks, a clean sweep had been made of the entire country between the Missouri and Osage rivers; and Gen. Sterling Price, cut off from all supplies and recruits from northern Missouri, to which he had been moving, was in full retreat for Arkansas. Halleck now turned his attention to the opening of the Mississippi River. Gen. Scott had intended unbarring it by a flotilla and an army descending it in force; but Halleck that this plan would only scotch the serpent of secession. He held that the Confederacy must be rent in twain by an armed wedge driven in between this great stream and the mountains on the east. On Jan. 27, 1862, the President had ordered a general advance of all the land and naval forces of the United States to be made simultaneously against the insurgents on the 22d of the coming month. In anticipation of his part of the grand movement, early in February Halleck sent his chief of staff to Cairo to direct in his name, when necessary, all operations auxiliary to the armies about to take the field on the Mississippi, Tennessee, and Cumberland rivers, which their respective commanders soon set in motion.

The Confederate first line of defense was screened behind Kentucky's quasi neutrality, with its flanks strongly protected by the fortifications of Columbus and Bowling Green; but its centre was only feebly secured by Forts Henry and Donelson. The second line of defense followed the railroad from Memphis on the Mississippi to Chattanooga, — a most important position in the mountains, threatening both South Carolina and Virginia by its railroad connections with Charleston and Richmond. Still a third line, with almost continuous communication by rail, extended from Vicksburg through Meridian, Selma, and Montgomery to Atlanta, with railroad branches reaching to the principal ports on the Gulf and the South Atlantic.

In a little more than three months of Halleck's sway in the West, Gen.  p737 Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Ulysses S. Grant, aided by Com. Andrew H. Foote's gunboats, captured Forts Henry and Donelson; the strategically turned flanks of the enemy's line, protected by the power­ful works of Bowling Green and Columbus, were deserted; and Nashville, the objective point of the campaign, was in the possession of the National forces. In the mean time Gen. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class. Samuel R. Curtis had been sent to drive the Confederates out of Missouri, and early in March gained the decisive battle of Pea Ridge, in Arkansas, the enemy flying before him to the protection of White River; and Gen. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.John Pope, despatched to New Madrid, after taking that place, confronted the fugitives from Columbus at Island No. 10, which, by the happy device of Hamilton's cut-off canal, was taken in reverse, and this strong barrier of the Mississippi removed by the joint action of the army and navy. By these masterly operations the Confederate first line, from Kansas to the Alleghany Mountains, being swept away, and the strongholds captured or evacuated, the National forces moved triumphantly southward, pressing back the insurgents to their second line of defense, which extended from Memphis to Chattanooga.

On March 11, 1862, to give greater unity to military operations in the West, the departments of Kansas and Ohio were merged into Halleck's command, the whole constituting the Department of the Mississippi, which included the vast territory between the Alleghany and Rocky Mountains. Gen. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Don Carlos Buell, marching from Nashville, was directed, on the withdrawal of the enemy from Murfreesborough, to unite with Gen. Grant, proceeding to Pittsburg Landing by the Tennessee, and their union secured the great victory of Shiloh. Then Halleck took field, and, after reorganizing and recruiting his forces, moved on Corinth, where the enemy was strongly intrenched on the important strategic position at the junction of the railroads connecting the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River with the Atlantic Ocean. By striking a vigorous blow here on the enemy's left centre, Halleck proposed to repeat the strategy that had so admirably accomplished its purpose against the Confederate first line; but success was indispensable, and hence he made every step of his progress so secure that no disaster should entail the loss of what he had already gained. With the National army much shattered by the rude shock of Shiloh, he cautiously advanced upon his objective point through a hostile, rough, marshy, and densely wooded region, where all the roads and bridges were destroyed, and rain fell in torrents. On May 30 he was in possession of Corinth's fifteen miles of heavy intrenchments, strengthened by power­ful batteries or redoubts at every assailable point, the whole being covered to the boggy stream by a dense abatis, through which no artillery or cavalry, nor even infantry skirmishers, could have passed under fire. When Halleck communicated this success to the War Department, the Secretary replied: "Your glorious despatch has just been received, and I have sent it into every State. The whole land will soon ring with applause at the achievement of your gallant army and its able and victorious commander." Immediately Gen. Pope was sent in hot pursuit of the retreating enemy; soon afterward Gen. Buell was despatched toward Chattanooga to restore the railroad connections; Gen. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Sherman was put in march for Memphis, but the navy had captured the place when he reached Grand Junction: without delay, batteries were constructed on the southern approaches of the place to guard against a sudden return of the enemy; and, with prodigious energy, the destroyed railroad to Columbus was rebuilt to maintain communications with the Mississippi and Ohio, in jeopardy by the sudden fall of the Tennessee, by which supplies had been received.

It was now little more than six months since Halleck assumed command at St. Louis, and from within the limits of his department the enemy had been driven from Missouri, the northern half of Arkansas,  p738 Kentucky, and most of Tennessee, while strong lodgments were made in Mississippi and Alabama. Secretary Stanton, always chary of praise, had said that Halleck's "energy and ability received the strongest commendations of the War Department," and added, "You have my perfect confidence, and you may rely upon my utmost support in your undertakings." Such, in fact, was the very high appreciation of Halleck's merits by both the President and the Secretary of War that during the General's occupation of Corinth, while he was organizing for new movements against the enemy's third line of defense, two assistant secretaries of war and a senator were sent there to urge upon Halleck the acceptance of the post of General-in‑Chief; but he declined the honor, and did not go to Washington till positive orders compelled him to do so.

Reluctantly leaving Corinth, to which he hoped to return and enter upon the great work of opening the Mississippi and crushing the Confederacy in the Southwest, Halleck reached Washington, July 23, 1862 and at once assumed command as General-in‑Chief of all the armies of the United States. The first problem presented was, how safely to unite the two Eastern armies in the field so as to cover the capital and make common head against the enemy, then interposed between them and ready to be thrown at will on either, and able generals held different opinions as to the best measures to be adopted to accomplish the desired end. The General-in‑Chief entered upon the duties of his high office with heart and soul devoted to the preservation of the Union. Often compelled to assume responsibilities that belonged to others, constantly having to thwart the purposes of selfish schemers, and always constrained to be reticent upon public affairs, which many desired to have divulged, Halleck, like all men in high station in times of trial, became a target for the shafts of the envious, the disloyal, and the disappointed. Doubtless, with scant time for the most mature reflection, he made errors; but, says Turenne, the great marshal of an age of warriors, "Show me the commander who has never made mistakes, and you will show me one who has never made war."

Congress, in recognition of General Grant's glorious campaigns of Vicksburg and Chattanooga, revived the grade of Lieutenant-General. Though a desire was manifested in high places in some way to retain Halleck in the performance of his functions, he at once insisted that compliance should be made with the obvious intentions of the law, and that, being senior in rank, Grant must necessarily be General-in‑Chief. Halleck, however, remained at Washington from Mar. 12, 1864, till Apr. 19, 1865, as Chief of Staff of the Army, under the orders of the Secretary of War and the General-in‑Chief, performing much of the same duties that had before devolved upon him;​1 and from Apr. 22 till July 1, 1865, was in command of the Military Division of the James with headquarters at Richmond.

On the termination of hostilities, and the disbandment of the volunteer forces, Halleck was ordered to the Military Division of the Pacific, of which he took command, Aug. 30, 1865, and on Mar. 16, 1869, was transferred to that of the South, which he retained while he lived.

Since his death, when he can no longer defend himself, much unjust criticism has assailed his reputation. The chief charge was "Halleck's injustice to Grant," which Gen. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.James B. Fry, by a forcible article in the "Magazine of American History," has proved to be nothing more than "misunderstandings" between these distinguished soldiers. John Russell Young, in his book, "Around the World with General Grant" (1879), quotes Grant thus: "In the early part of the war, Halleck did very good service, for which he has never received sufficient credit, — I mean in his civic administration. Some of his orders were in anticipation, I think, of those of Butler, which gave him so much fame in  p739 New Orleans." . . . "He was in addition a very able military man. Halleck had intellect and great acquirements outside of his military education. He was at the head of the California bar when the war broke out, and his appointment to the Major-Generalcy was a gratification to all who knew the old Army. When I was made Lieutenant-General, Gen. Halleck became Chief of Staff of the Army. He was very useful, and was loyal and industrious; sincerely anxious for the success of the country, and without any feeling of soreness at being superseded. In this respect Halleck was a contrast to other officers of equal ability, who felt that, unless they had the command they craved, they were not needed. Halleck's immense knowledge of military science was of great use in the War Office to those of us in the field." . . . "After Donelson I was in disgrace, and practically without a command, because of some misunderstanding on the part of Halleck. It all came right in time. I never bore Halleck ill-will for it. He was in command, and it was his duty to command as he pleased." A more serious charge, almost of treason, was made by Gen. Lew Wallace, but has been triumphantly refuted by official documents; yet he has not had the manliness to confess the baselessness of his accusations.

Halleck, with few advantages in early life, and hardly the rudiments of a classical education, overcame all obstacles by the power of mind and character. He took at once a prominent place at the United States Military Academy, was a conspicuous officer of Engineers, became a youthful statesman in the creation of a State, rose to the direction of various public trusts, established an enviable reputation for author­ship, was a prominent publicist among learned jurists, and held command of great armies in the tremendous struggle for a nation's existence. It is unnecessary to describe each of these segments of his fame, or in language build monuments to his mental vigor and distinguished deeds, achieved, without extraordinary leaps, in a long and steady race of usefulness. Like the eagle's strength, his is to be measured not only by his height of place, but his continuance on the wing.

Halleck had a strong, clear intellect, which enabled him to take a comprehensive grasp of the various important matters presented to his consideration, and was sustained in his conclusions by a most assiduous industry and self-reliant perseverance. Indeed, determination was his most marked characteristic, evinced in a calm firmness which neither entreaty nor persuasion could remove from his fixed purpose. Of such a nature caution would be a prevailing quality. With these was united a modesty, almost shyness, and thus perhaps he did himself injustice, as his sensitiveness to the value of sincerity caused him often to repel rather than be deemed insincere. This known temperament secured him the most valuable estimation of his instructed and able fellow-officers. His dryness of manner was no argument of want of heart, for indeed he was a warm, true, loyal friend, and in the inner circle of his life was tender and playful, showing a keen sense of humor. His home was a scene of perfect happiness and kind hospitality. Of children he was fond, had an ardent love of Nature, and indulged the expectation of closing his latter hours in a retreat in the beautiful region south of San Francisco, looking on the Pacific Ocean.

The Author's Note:

1 Colonel Chesney, of the British Army, says in his "Military Biography": "Great praise has been justly bestowed on Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Sheridan for his nervous and energetic conduct of the pursuit by which Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Lee was finally completely cut off. Nor less does Grant deserve it for the free and ungrudging manner in which he supported his ardent lieutenant. But he who, above all, should have earned honor for the conduct of that march now sleeps in the grave; and it is due here to the reputation of General Halleck to say . . . that to his stern and unflinching insistance on the necessity of bringing proper discipline to bear on the Federal Volunteers was due much of the success with which the arms of the Union were crowned at the close of the war. . . . Soldiers are ever dependent largely for their feeling of subordination on the conduct of those above them, and the improvement effected by Halleck's stern measures extended  p740 constantly downwards. The Army of the Potomac, which was at once the nearest and the most important of those which, as Chief of the Staff, he supervised, rose that year in its standard of discipline, if not to the level to which Europe, with the aid of caste traditions and reverence for rank, brings her standing forces, at least to a measure of efficiency which troops recruited as were these, the mixed volunteers and conscripts of a young republic, can seldom attain. And if Grant and Sheridan were able to press the success of Five Forks on to a complete triumph over the retreating Confederates; if the conduct of their troops after the victory of the second of April was in marked contrast to the lassitude and indifference which had hitherto followed advantages won on either side, — the difference is to be found, not so much in the circumstances of the time, or the individual characters of the generals, as in the moral power of discipline, which had been left unused by both parties alike until Halleck brought it into play to add to the advantages of the North."

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