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 Chattanooga, Tennessee 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
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
Confederate Heartland Offensive – June-October 1862
Iuka and Corinth Operations – September-October 1862
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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