- Jun 10, 2011
Although Grant later wrote of a rumored troop movement from Polk in Columbus to Price in Missouri, that was not happening before or after the battle of Belmont. Polks troops were being sent east not west, to Buckner and AS Johnson in Bowling Green and the Cumberland Gap.
That is irrelevant. Fremont's orders were to disrupt Confederate troop movements from Tennessee to Missouri, and demonstrate against, but not attack the enemy. Grant's action at Belmont did not affect the Confederates' ability to move troops into Missouri at all. The fact that it focused Polk's attention away from the eastern Forts was an inadvertent outcome. Dumb luck. Grant also disobeyed orders to demonstrate and actually attacked, being routed and losing 20% of his men in the process.
William Feis, in his book Grant's Secret Service, wrote why Grant felt Belmont was a victory: "From [Grant's] perspective it had emboldened Union forces while striking fear among the Columbus garrison, who now worked feverishly to strengthen their works in preparation for the inevitable Federal onslaught. But Belmont had only stoked his desire for a major offensive."
Giving troops experience, confidence, or emboldening them does not equate to a victory. Confederate troops also received these benefits. Here are some of their comments:
"It so happened that the dogs had to pass the whole length of this Regt. [11th Louisiana] and received their fire, and it was then that they were shot down like deer."
"We mowed them down like grass in the retreat."
"We outflanked them in the retreat - and the slaughter on their side was terrible... we stood behind the trees and shot them down."
Polk himself had to intervene to halt the slaughter, saying it was "too cruel to shoot fellows who were running for their lives."
And this brings to mind why this thread seems a bit off to me. I didn't vote for any of the above, because Grant did not consider himself defeated by any of them. At most, he considered them temporary setbacks before he achieved victory.
Grant didn't consider them defeats but they were in reality. He was lucky to survive Belmont and the first day of Shiloh. The Vicksburg assault, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg assault were all defeats that should have been avoided.