Grant Moves South: A Star Ascends in the West

A BGES’ Civil War Field University Program

With Tim Smith

Jully 11-16, 2022; from Southaven, MS

Battle of Belmont, Missouri, on the Mississippi River, opposite Columbus, Kentucky. Fought November, 1861. From Frank Leslie’s Pictorial History of the American Civil War. Courtesy Library of Congress.

The hero of the Civil War and the savior of the Union was Lt. Gen. U. S. Grant. Today his equestrian statue stands outside the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., looking toward the White House, honoring his service as general in chief, Secretary of War, and 18th President of the United States. How did this diminutive man overcome his mediocre early career and return to become that Architect of Victory? It starts along the banks of the Ohio River and cuts through the midsection of the country he saved.

For more than 140 years, Grant rested on his last words in a much admired autobiography. However, contemporary studies have revealed more of the complexity of this man from Ohio, and no scholar has done more to advance that discussion than Dr. Timothy Smith. In 20 years, he has written multiple books on Grant’s western campaigns–the cumulative effect being to raise the visibility of Grant’s foundational commands. Join Tim and the BGES as we probe the successes and failures of this most important of U.S. military figures. Hotel included.


Monday, July 11, 2022

6:30 PM. Meet at the headquarters hotel to pick up your reading books, nametags, and to meet the cohort. Memphis is another city we are avoiding because of their handling of Civil War monuments. We refuse to provide tax revenue to those municipalities, so expect we will be staying at a hotel in Mississippi that services the Memphis gateway airport. Tim will deliver an opening lecture that sets the stage in the Western theater. One doubts that in mid-1861 this seedy-looking failed muleskinner would be the savior of the Union. Afterward, we will break for dinner on your own–look for homemade tamales and famous Memphis BBQ.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

8:00 AM. Bags on board by 8, and we are off to the washed-out village of Belmont, Missouri. Here Grant, a newly minted Brigadier General, attacked a Confederate camp and dispersed it, only to lose control of his troops and be routed by a counterattack that forced him to withdraw to Paducah, Kentucky. This is a portion of the Civil War not frequently visited, and so while up there we will visit the small Civil War museum and the town of Cairo, Illinois, which was Grant’s initial headquarters. There are some artifacts of note there. We also will discuss the construction of the City Class Ironclads, one of which was named the U.S.S. Cairo–an artifact you can see in the Vicksburg National Military Park.

Another significant and overlooked site is Columbus, Kentucky. We will visit there, where you will learn about the decision of Confederate Gen. Leonidas Polk to occupy this position while Kentucky still was officially neutral. Militarily you will understand the decision. However, it drove a wedge between the state and Confederate officials, making the military occupation of Kentucky by Federal forces under Grant’s command necessary. The day will end with a trip to Grant’s new headquarters: Paducah, where we will spend the night. Lunch and hotel will be provided, and dinner will be on your own.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

8:00 AM. Have your bags on-board by 8 AM for our 8:15 departure, which opens with Grant’s occupation of Paducah and Smithland. The Ohio River looms large as does the entry points to the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. You can see the inviting lines of communication that Grant possesses as he determines to move against the Confederate lines of Albert Sidney Johnston. The Confederates’ decision to defend along a broad front weakened them at many locations and subjected them to being flanked out of their chosen defensive positions. The balance of the day will be devoted to the Forts Henry and Donelson Campaigns, culminating with Grant’s dramatic victory at Fort Donelson in which he captures his first Confederate army. Lunch, dinner, and your hotel are included.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

8:00 AM. Have bags out again at 8. We start by considering the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the successful Grant and his boss in St. Louis, Gen. Henry Halleck. With the occupation of the capital city of Nashville by forces under the command of rival general Don Carlos Buell, Grant is falsely accused by Halleck and loses his command to Gen. C. F. Smith as the Federals push down the Tennessee River to Burnsville, Mississippi, and Savannah, Tennessee. The controversy surrounding this demands Grant be restored, which takes place after Smith skins his shin and develops tetanus–it will kill him. There, on the banks of the Tennessee, Grant’s forces under the command of a newly restored commander, William T. Sherman, were surprised and attacked in camp by forces under Sidney Johnston. As the day waned, Grant’s final line is with the river at his back. We will devote the majority of the day to the first day at Shiloh before overnighting for two days in the area. Lunch, dinner, and your hotel is included.

Friday, July 15, 2022

You can leave your bags as we will be staying a second night. Grant has been dramatically defeated, but the Confederate command structure is in disarray–Johnston has been killed and Beauregard has not reorganized overnight. With the arrival of Lew Wallace and augmented by Bull Nelson’s command from Buell’s forces, Grant counter-attacks and drives the Confederates from the battlefield with a noteworthy rearguard action at Falling Timbers. Grant has escaped and, in the wake of the battle, we learn that Grant can be pretty vindictive and petty–he blames his troubles on the failure of Gen. Lew Wallace to obey his orders …the controversy lives on today. The day ends as we pick up the arrival of General Halleck, who again demotes Grant to second in command while initiating a ponderous month-long advance on the Confederates in Corinth. Beauregard quietly slips away to Tupelo. Lunch, dinner, and hotel are provided.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

8:00 AM. Bags on board by 8 as we have much to do to wrap this up. Grant has been restored and, indeed, replaces Halleck when the latter is promoted to General in Chief and called to Washington. Grant will meet a new antagonist, William Rosecrans, and this day will develop that relationship while covering the Fall 1862 Campaign that included a fight at Iuka, where Col. Robert Murphy will find himself staged for scapegoating later at Holly Springs. Grant is on vacation with his wife when Confederate forces attack Rosecrans at Corinth. The failed effort causes Rosecrans to pursue the defeated Van Dorn to the banks of the Hatchie River, where a sharp fight at Davis Bridge ends the fall campaign. Grant orders Rosecrans to abandon his pursuit, and the Confederate escapes to Holly Springs to regroup. We will perform a postmortem, including the new controversy between Grant and Rosecrans that is alleviated by the assignment of Old Rosy to replace Buell. We will return to Memphis and our HQ hotel, where you can start home or get a room at your own expense and depart on Sunday. For those hanging around Saturday night, we will have an ad hoc dinner and go find some Memphis BBQ.

About the Faculty

Tim Smith is one of the new stars rising in the next generation of Civil War historians. He worked at Shiloh NMP as he was getting his doctorate, and since then has moved on to teach at the University of Tennessee-Martin. An engaging and popular tour leader, he rapidly has spread his wings along the Mississippi River from Ohio to Vicksburg. He is an author or editor of more than 19 books, and our reading list is but a sampler of his scholarship. Highly recommended by BGES members who have traveled with him before, this will be his first program for the BGES.

Hotel Information

The headquarters hotel for this program will be the Fairfield Inn and Suites, 7149 Sleepy Hollow Dr., Southaven, MS (662-349-6640). If you are registered your first night reservation will be made there and prepaid. Additional hotels will be arranged closer to the event once we find out what our need will be–currently we have 7 registered but I expect as many as 10-12 more. The hotel has an airport shuttle to and from Memphis (MEM). For those driving in, you can leave your car at the hotel. The program ends on the 16th–if you want to stay that night in the area and depart on Sunday morning you can call the hotel and make your reservation. They will honor a Blue and Gray Education Society rate of $99 plus tax.


Our servicing airport is Memphis (MEM). Amtrak services Memphis Central Station on the City of New Orleans line between Chicago and New Orleans. Interstates 40 and 55 serve the city.

Recommended Reading

You will be provided with a reading book and maps upon arrival. The following books are suggested to enhance your readiness for the program. has a program to support non-profits IF YOU SIGN UP to support Blue and Gray Education Society (EIN 54-1720582) at AmazonSmile. When you sign up there rather than the normal Amazon site, one-half of one percent of your purchase price will be provided to BGES as a donation from Amazon. This will apply not only on this purchase but others you may make at other times.

Registration Form

Registration includes five lunches and three dinners (we will seek hotels with complimentary breakfast but cannot guarantee that at this time), five nights single or double lodging, a reading book with maps, the academic program, support of a professional historian, tour director, all admissions, and transportation. The program will be restricted to just 19 people–two vans, which are needed due to access considerations. Register early and do not be disappointed. We also will provide snacks, bottled water, and a limited selection of sodas.

Register for this program using a secure PayPal link

Registration Type

To register by mail or fax, download this printable registration form: Grant Moves South: A Star Ascends in the West

Questions? Need more information? Please contact us.