To Henry W. Halleck

Major General Halleck Executive Mansion,
St. Louis, Mo. Washington, Feb. 16, 1862

You have Fort Donelson safe, unless Grant shall be overwhelmed from outside, to prevent which latter will, I think, require all the vigilance, energy, and skill of yourself & Buell, acting in full cooperation. Columbus will not get at Grant, but the the [sic] force from Bowling—Green will. They hold the Railroad from Bowling—Green to within a few miles of Donelson, with the Bridge at Clarksburg [Clarksville] undisturbed. It is unsafe to rely that they will not dare to expose Nashville to Buell. A small part of their force can retire slowly towards Nashville, breaking up the Railroad as they go, and keep Buell out of that city twenty days. Mean time Nashville will be abundantly defended by forces from all South & perhaps from here at Manassas. Could not a cavalry force from Gen. Thomas on the upper Cumberland, dash across, almost unresisted, and cut the Railroad at or near Knoxville, Tenn.? In the midst of a bombardment at Donnelson, why could not a Gunboat run up and destroy the Bridge at Clarksburg [Clarksville]? Our success or failure at Donnelson is vastly important; and I beg you to put your soul in the effort. I send a copy to Buell.



To Don C. Buell

COPY — one also sent to Gen. Halleck.
Brig. Genl. Buell. Executive Mansion,
My dear Sir: Washington, Jan. 13, 1862.

Your despatch of yesterday is received, in which you say “I have received your letter and Gen. McClellan’s; and will, at once devote all my efforts to your views, and his.” In the midst of my many cares, I have not seen, or asked to see, Gen. McClellan’s letter to you. For my own views, I have not offered, and do not now offer them as orders; and while I am glad to have them respectfully considered, I would blame you to follow them contrary to your own clear judgment—unless I should put them in the form of orders. As to Gen. McClellan’s views, you understand your duty in regard to them better than I do. With this preliminary, I state my general idea of this war to be that we have the greater numbers, and the enemy has the greater facility of concentrating forces upon points of collision; that we must fail, unless we can find some way of making our advantage an over-match for his; and that this can only be done by menacing him with superior forces at different points, at the same time; so that we can safely attack, one, or both, if he makes no change; and if he weakens one to strengthen the other, forbear to attack the strengthened one, but seize, and hold the weakened one, gaining so much. To illustrate, suppose last summer, when Winchester ran away to re-inforce Mannassas, we had forborne to attack Mannassas, but had seized and held Winchester. I mention this to illustrate, and not to criticise. I did not lose confidence in McDowell, and I think less harshly of Patterson than some others seem to. In application of the general rule I am suggesting, every particular case will have its modifying circumstances, among which the most constantly present, and most difficult to meet, will be the want of perfect knowledge of the enemies’ movements. This had it’s part in the Bull-Run case; but worse, in that case, was the expiration of the terms of the three months men. Applying the principle to your case, my idea is that Halleck shall menace Columbus, and “down river” generally; while you menace Bowling-Green, and East Tennessee. If the enemy shall concentrate at Bowling-Green, do not retire from his front; yet do not fight him there, either, but seize Columbus and East Tennessee, one or both, left exposed by the concentration at Bowling Green. It is matter of no small anxiety to me and one which I am sure you will not over-look, that the East Tennessee line, is so long, and over so bad a road. Yours very truly


To Simon Cameron

January 10, 1862

The within is a copy of a letter just received from General Halleck. It is exceedingly discouraging. As everywhere else, nothing can be done. A. LINCOLN

Lincoln’s endorsement is on a copy of Halleck’s letter to Lincoln, January 6, 1862, the original of which is in the Lincoln Papers. Explaining in great detail the status of affairs in Missouri which made it impossible for him to send a force against Columbus, Kentucky, Halleck added his opinion of the proposed movement of Buell’s force: “To operate on exterior lines against an enemy occupying a central position, will fail, as it always has failed, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. It is condemned by every military authority I have ever read.”

To George B. McClellan

January 9, 1862

I send the within copy of dispatch from Gen. Buell, with the remark that neither he nor Halleck meets my request to name the DAY when they can be ready to move.

Lincoln’s endorsement is written on the back of a telegram from General Don C. Buell which reads as follows:”. . . undoubtedly there ought to be more and better artillery and better cavalry, but I shall work with what I have, and as soon as possible. Concert of action by which the enemy may be prevented from concentrating his whole force from Columbus to Bowling Green. . . would have the same and better effect than more troops . . .”

To Henry W. Halleck

Major General Halleck. Washington, D.C.
St. Louis, Mo. Jan. 7. 1862.

Please name as early a day as you safely can, on, or before which, you can be ready to move southward in concert with Gen. Buell. Delay is ruining us; and it is indispensable for me to have something definite. I send a like despatch to Buell.


To Henry W. Halleck

Executive Mansion, Washington, January 1, 1862.

My dear General Halleck: General McClellan is not dangerously ill, as I hope, but would better not to be disturbed with business. I am very anxious that, in case of General Buell’s moving toward Nashville, the enemy shall not be greatly re-enforced, and I think there is danger he will be from Columbus. It seems to me that a real or feigned attack upon Columbus from up-river at the same time would either prevent this or compensate for it by throwing Columbus into our hands. I wrote General Buell a letter similar to this, meaning that he and you shall communicate and act in concert, unless it be your judgment and his that there is no necessity for it. You and he will understand much better than I how to do it. Please do not lose time in this matter. Yours, very truly, A. LINCOLN.

To Henry W. Halleck and Don C. Buell

General Halleck Washington, D.C.,
St. Louis, Mo.: December 31, 1861.

General McClellan is sick. Are General Buell and yourself in concert? When he moves on Bowling Green, what hinders it being re-enforced from Columbus? A simultaneous movement by you on Columbus might prevent it. A. LINCOLN.

(Similar despatch to Buell same date.)

Halleck replied January 1, 1862, “I have never received a word from General Buell. I am not ready to co-operate with him. Hope to do so in few weeks. . . . Too much haste will ruin everything.” Buell replied on the same date, “There is no arrangement between General Halleck and myself. I have been informed by General McClellan that he would make suitable disposition for concerted action. . . .”