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Henry Wager Halleck
by John T. Marck



This article sponsored by:

Henry Wager Halleck

Halleck was born in Westernville, New York on January 16, 1815 and turned out to be one of the Union's most accomplished generals. Graduating third in his class at West Point in 1839, he was very proficient in military principles. In the field Halleck was cautious, yet spent much of his time at headquarters because of his arrogant manner. It was interesting how Halleck was viewed by others. General Grant thought that he was extremely intelligent, and General Sherman hailed him for his accomplishments, yet others saw him as cold and calculating, almost no good at all.

Before the Civil War began, Halleck experienced an outstanding career as a soldier, teacher, writer, and lawyer. An instructor at West Point, he soon became an accomplished expert in military fortifications. Additionally, he wrote and had published several books on both military and legal topics, as well as fought in Mexico. Furthermore, he served as secretary of state of California, and was one of the prominent attorneys during the gold-rush in San Francisco.

When the Civil War began in 1861, Halleck still had the love for the military in his blood. In August 1861, he accepted a commission as a major general in the Union army. Three months later, in November, he succeeded Major General John Fremont as the commander of the Department of the Missouri, headquartered at St. Louis. Previously a derelict command, Halleck restored discipline and decorum in the ranks. In the process, he earned the nickname of "Old Brains." In many battle victories of General Grant and Major Generals Samuel R. Curtis and Don Carlos Buell, it was Halleck who received and deserved the ultimate credit.

In July 1862, Halleck was named Abraham Lincoln's general-in-chief. Although he had a knack for administrative duties, he lacked in the area of field affairs, and this, combined with his pompous personality made him more enemies than friends. When Grant was named general-in-chief of all the Union armies in March 1864, Halleck assumed the position of chief of staff and remained so until war's end.

Following General Lee's surrender, Halleck assumed command of the Military Division of the James, and in August 1865, was assigned to the Division of the Pacific. In 1869 he was transferred to the Division of the South.

Henry Halleck died in Louisville, Kentucky on January 9, 1872.

Copyrightę John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.