Conclusion and Assessment
The reduction of Arkansas Post was at best a sidelight to the greater operations around Vicksburg. Its success was reasonably assured from the outset given the disparity in the number of forces available to the respective commanders. The Confederates, despite an impressive early showing , had little hope of successfully defending the fort against McClernand’s masses. The real issue arose in the post battle command repercussions for the Union army. Despite McClernand’s claim that his victory at Arkansas Post would be all “gall and wormwood” to those who doubted his command ability there was serious concern about exactly that. The common misconception is that Grant assumed overall command of McClernand’s forces because he had disobeyed orders to concentrate his operations on Vicksburg. In fact Grant wrote in his memoirs that although he initially opposed the operation “that when the result was understood I regarded it as very important.”
What did trouble Grant was private correspondence from both Sherman and Porter questioning McClernand’s competency. The subordinate commanders for the Arkansas Post expedition expressed “their distrust of McClernand’s ability and fitness for so important and intricate an operation” as the reduction of Vicksburg. Grant travelled to Napoleon to meet with McClernand on January 17th and came away with a similar view. Although he “felt great embarrassment” over the situation he also observed that it “would have been criminal to send troops under these circumstances into such danger”.
McClernand’s independent command was dissolved and placed under Grant’s overall control. McClernand, as might be expected, was disagreeable to the new arrangement. His dealings with Grant became “highly insubordinate”. The relationship continued to degenerate until Grant used the release of a congratulatory message from McClernand to his troops concerning the Battle of Champion Hill to the press, against his orders, to relieve the general of command on June 18th, 1863. President Lincoln in a conciliatory move restore McClernand to a post in the Department of the Gulf in 1864 but Arkansas Post would remain his sole independent claim to military success.Arkansas Post (Campaign Series)