Civil War Trans-Mississippi & Pacific Coast Theaters

Trans-Mississippi Theater Campaign

Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas

Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, by Kurz & Allison. Click for prints & products

The Trans-Mississippi Theater Campaign of the Civil War was the major military and naval operation west of the Mississippi River, with the exception of those near the Pacific Coast. The Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department was formed on May 26, 1862 after recognizing problems associated with trying to govern a region more than a thousand miles distant from the capital at Richmond. The area included Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Indian Territory (Oklahoma), and Louisiana west of the Mississippi River.

Until the surrender of Vicksburg, Mississippi, the Trans-Mississippi region offered many important resources, including significant numbers of men, Texas cattle, war goods from Mexico, and Texas and Louisiana cotton. Additionally, the small Army of the Trans-Mississippi the Union to keep a military presence in the region, thus tying up men who could have been used elsewhere.

After the summer of 1863, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas no longer made a significant contribution to the Confederacy. As a result, the states along the east bank of the Mississippi River suffered too. Tennessee, with its capital under Union control, could offer little to the Confederate war effort but men. Even within the Army of Tennessee, Trans-Mississippi Confederates from Texas occasionally deserted to go home to protect family and friends from marauding Indians. By ignoring the needs of the western Confederacy, and allowing the isolation of the Trans-Mississippi, Jefferson Davis forced leaders in the region to rely on their own resources and manpower. Both politicians and military commanders knew that by 1864 the region’s inhabitants had become less willing to send their soldiers elsewhere, and that many soldiers would refuse to go. It is true that Trans-Mississippians failed to provide the needed diversions for the fighting in late 1864, and as a result A. J. Smith helped destroy Hood’s army at the Battle of Nashville, but the failure of Confederate leaders to see the Trans-Mississippi as an asset in 1861, or even as a source of manpower to protect the Mississippi River Valley in Arkansas and Louisiana early in the war, ranks as one of the major failures of Confederate strategic thinking. It can also be argued that the manpower to cover all the states from the Carolinas to Texas was simply not there, and when Davis set his priorities, he decided to sacrifice the Trans-Mississippi in order to use the soldiers to defend important cities in the Western theater.

Yet this decision fostered resentment and frustration among Confederates west of the river. Once Vicksburg fell and the Trans-Mississippi became a semi-independent department, the region’s leaders, both civilian and military, made no concentrated attempt to aid the overall war effort and essentially ignored Jefferson Davis’s plea of “one cause, one country” fighting together “for the defence of each other.” As a result, the Union ultimately proved more successful at combining its resources on both sides of the river, while the Confederacy maintained two distinct areas of operations west of the Appalachian Mountains—uncoordinated and separated—to the end.

Battle of Carthage, Missouri

Battle of Carthage, Missouri, 1861, Harper’s Weekly.

Operations to Control Missouri (June-October 1861)

Operations in the Indian Territory (November-December 1861)

Operations in Northeast Missouri (December 1861)

Battle of Glorieta Pass, by Roy Anderson

Battle of Glorieta Pass, by Roy Anderson

Sibley’s New Mexico Campaign (February-March 1862)

Pea Ridge Campaign (March 1862)

Operations on the White River (June 1862)

Operations Near Cache River, Arkansas (July 1862)

Operations North of Boston Mountains (August-November 1862)

Operations to Suppress the Sioux Uprising (August-September 1862)

Operations to Blockade the Texas Coast (September 1862-January 1863)

Prairie Grove Battlefield

Prairie Grove Battlefield

Prairie Grove Campaign (November 1862)

Operations Against Galveston (December 1862-January 1863)

Marmaduke’s First Expedition into Missouri (January 1863)

Marmaduke’s Second Expedition into Missouri (April-May 1863)

Operations to Control Indian Territory (June-September 1863)

Operations Against the Sioux in North Dakota (July 1863)

Lawrence, Kansas Raid during the Bleeding Kansas Affair

The Lawrence, Kansas Raid as illustrated in Harper’s Weekly, September, 1863.

Quantrill’s Raid into Kansas (August 1863)

Operations to Blockade the Texas Coast (September 1863)

Advance on Little Rock (September-October 1863)

Occupation of Indian Territory North of the Arkansas River (October 1863)

Red River Campaign (March-April 1864)

Camden Expedition (April 1864)

Expedition to Lake Village (June 1864)

Sully’s Expedition Against the Sioux in Dakota Territory (July 1864)

Sterling "Old Pap" Price

Sterling “Old Pap” Price

Price’s Missouri Expedition (September-October 1864)

Sand Creek Campaign (November 1864)

Expedition from Brazos Santiago (May 1865)

Pacific Coast Theater

The Pacific Coast Theater encompasses operations that occurred in the Civil War in those states bordering or close to the Pacific Ocean, including California and Oregon, and the territories of Washington and Idaho. There was only one battle fought in this theater.

Expedition from Camp Douglas, Utah, to Cache Valley, Idaho (January 1863)

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