Western Theater of the Civil War

Western Theater Overview (1861–1865) (red=confederate, blue=union) Map courtesy of Wikipedia. Click for larger view.

Defined both geographically and by campaign sequence, the Western Theater originally represented the area east of the Mississippi River and west of the Appalachian Mountains. However, the area expanded in 1864 when Major General William T. Sherman’s Union armies moved southeast from ChattanoogaTennessee into Georgia and the Carolinas. By some accounts, these campaigns were the most important of the Civil War, where a number of decisive battles were fought. When the Union invaded this immense area, the Confederacy was forced to defend with limited resources, major rivers that led directly to the agricultural heartland of the South. Starting in Kentucky and heading south down the Mississippi River, the Union then turned east  through Tennessee, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Capturing the Mississippi River was a major turning point for the Union and with the exception of just a few battles, the four years in the Western Theater marked a string of almost continuous defeats for the Confederacy.

Major Union commanders in the Western Theater included Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, Major General Henry W. Halleck, Major General William T. Sherman, Major General George H. Thomas, Major General Don Carlos Buell, and Major General William Rosecrans. The Confederate troops were led by General Albert Sidney Johnston, General P.G.T. Beauregard, General Joseph E. Johnston, General Braxton Bragg, Lieutenant General John Bell Hood, and Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Western Theater Campaigns

Operations in Eastern Kentucky (September-December 1861)

ca. 1861-1865 — Federal forces commanded by Ulysses S. Grant assault Confederate forces commanded by Leonidas Polk at Belmont, Missouri, November 7, 1861. — Image by © CORBIS

Operations at the Ohio and Mississippi River Confluence (November 1861)

Operations in Eastern Kentucky (January 1862)

Federal Penetration up the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers (February-June 1862)

Joint Operations Against New Madrid, Island No. 10, and Memphis (February-June 1862)

Battle of Chattanooga, L. Prang and Co, 1880

Battle of Chattanooga, L. Prang and Co, 1880

Confederate Heartland Offensive (June-October 1862)

Iuka and Corinth Operations (September-October 1862)

Battle of Stone River, TN, -Dec. 31, 62. Jan. 2-3, 1863, Kurtz and Allison, 1891

Stones River Campaign (December 1862-January 1863)

Forrest’s Expedition into West Tennessee (December 1862-January 1863)

Operations Against Vicksburg (December 1862-January 1863)

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