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Enabling Command and Control - Mission Command at Vicksburg

Military Review

Lieutenant Colonel Paul R. Hayes, USA
Lieutenant Commander Robert K. Smith, USN
Major James A. Stevens, USAF

Joint Forces Staff College
Joint and Combined Warfighting School
Class 13-3
August 19, 2013

Faculty Advisor: Lieutenant Colonel Greg McGuire, USA
Seminar #10

A submission to the Faculty of the Joint and Combined Warfighting School in partial satisfaction
of the requirements for Joint Professional Military Education Phase II. The contents of this
submission reflect our writing teams original views and are not necessarily endorsed by the
Joint Forces Staff College or the Department of Defense.

Lieutenant Colonel Paul Hayes, USA. LTC Hayes currently serves as a Deployable Team
Leader and Observer / Trainer for the Joint Public Affairs Support Element, Joint Enabling
Capabilities Command, USTRANSCOM, Norfolk, VA. He has a Bachelors of Science degree
in History from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a Masters degree in
Public Relations from Iona College, New York. LTC Hayes has over 19 years of Armor and
Public Affairs assignments at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.

Lieutenant Commander Robert Ken Smith, USN. LCDR Smith is currently serving as the
Executive Officer for the J2 at USTRANSCOM, Scott AFB, IL. He was commissioned through
Officer Candidate School at Pensacola, FL in 1998. LCDR Smith earned a Bachelor of Science
in Business Administration (Finance) from the University of Florida in 1997. Prior to his current
assignment, LCDR Smith was assigned to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA
where he earned a Master of Arts in Security Studies (Far East, Southeast Asia, Pacific). LCDR
Smith has over 15 years of experience in Intelligence assignments at the strategic, operational,
and tactical levels.

Major James Jamie Stevens, USAF. Maj Stevens is currently serving as Branch Chief, Special
Technical Operations Plans for USSTRATCOM JFCC Global Strike, Offutt AFB, NE. He
earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from East Carolina University in 1999. Prior to his
current assignment Maj Stevens was a Strategic Planner at USCENTCOM, Theater Planning and
Synchronization Element. Maj Stevens has over 14 years of B-52, Information Operations, and
Cyber experience.


The navy under Porter was all it could be, during the entire campaign.
The most perfect harmony reigned between the two arms of the service. There
never was a request made, that I am aware of, either of the flag-officer or any
of his subordinates that was not promptly complied with. Personal Memoirs
of U.S. Grant

One hundred fifty years have passed since General U.S. Grant and Admiral David Porter
collaborated to achieve victory during the Vicksburg Campaign and the crafting of General
Dempseys Mission Command White Paper. While the joint function of command and control
and concept of mission command have only recently been defined, Union joint operations at
Vicksburg and the respective senior service commanders provide excellent examples of these
principles in action. The purpose of this paper is to examine joint Union operations as well as
the actions of General Grant and Admiral Porter at Vicksburg through the modern-day lenses of
command and control and mission command. The Union campaign at Vicksburg highlights how
challenges of command and control were overcome by Union service commanders. Both
General Grant and Admiral Porter enabled success by reflecting the principles outlined in the
Chairmans White Paper on Mission Command.
Early examples of joint operations in the Civil War
The Union conducted multiple operations using both naval and army units to varying degrees
of success prior to the Vicksburg Campaign of 1863. General Winfield Scotts Anaconda Plan
is the first example of attempted joint operations. Scotts plan was to harness the Unions Army
and Navy to divide and suffocate the Confederacy through control of the Mississippi and coastal
ports [See Figure 1]
This plans first tangible success was the capture of New Orleans by Admiral David Farragut.
Initially, Farragut did not work in direct concert with ground forces. In fact, Farragut was able to

Scott Stucky, Joint Operations in the Civil War, JFQ Winter 1994-95, p 94.

accept the surrender of the city on April 25, 1862 with only 250 marines. However, this
operation could be considered joint because he eventually required the arrival of 5,000 Union
soldiers under General Benjamin Butler on May 1, 1862 to occupy the city.

Another small-scale example of Army and Navy collaboration was the capture of Forts
Henry and Donelson in 1862. General Grants Union forces, working in close coordination with
Flag Officer Andrew Foote, were able to use the firepower, maneuver, and transportation
potential of naval gunboats coupled with Union ground forces to secure the two critical positions

Robert Bellitto, Vicksburg: Prologue to Joint Operations, p 4.
Figure 1 Union Army and Navy implement the Anaconda Plan. (Griess 1986)

on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.
While these early examples of joint operations were
successful, they lacked the scale and coordination reflected in the Vicksburg Campaign.
Vicksburg Overview

Vicksburg was the largest joint operation undertaken in the Civil War to date. Re-opening
the Mississippi had been a key Union objective and President Lincoln himself viewed its capture
as a potential
crushing blow
(if not deadly
one) to hopes

The campaign
began with
Grants first
order to
Sherman on December 8, 1862 and ended with the surrender of Confederate Forces in Vicksburg
on July 4, 1863[See Figure 2]
. The campaign lasted some 208 days, involved over 100,000
combatants, touched 4 states, and cost over 8,000 casualties.
For the Union, the Army brought
considerable ground force capability with over 90,000 soldiers available for employment at their

Stucky, pp 94-99.
Christopher Gabel, Staff Ride Handbook for the Vicksburg Campaign, December 1862-July 1863, p 69.
Ulysses S. Grant, The Personal Memoirs of US Grant, p 223.
James B. McPherson, Ordeal By Fire, p 332.
Figure 2 - Vicksburg Campaign Overview March - July 1863 (Service n.d.)

peak troop strength levels.
Union Naval forces (The Mississippi Squadron) under the command
of Admiral Porter included some 60 combat vessels of which 33 participated in the Vicksburg
Campaign at one time or another.
Primary roles for these vessels included providing indirect
fires, transportation of troops and supplies, riverine security, and in several cases giving up their
own armaments for utilization as siege mortars.
In the end, Union forces on ground and water
had collaborated to re-open the Mississippi River. Just as Lincoln envisioned, on July 16, 1863
the first commercial steamboat traveled unmolested from St Louis to the Gulf of Mexico.
Thanks to the large joint operation, Lincoln was able to pronounce, the Father of Waters
again goes unvexed to the sea.

Challenges of Command and Control

As defined in Joint Publication 3-0, command and control is the joint function which,
encompasses the exercise of authority and direction by a commander over assigned and
attached forces to accomplish the mission.
Furthermore, JP 3-0 states command and control
allows the joint force commander to provide operational vision, guidance, and direction to the
joint force.
In late 1862 and early 1863, the function of command and control in the Western
Theater was at best dysfunctional. Commanders of Union forces were many times
independent-minded, politically appointed, and ambitious.
In one example, Major General
John McClernand solicited a plan in 1862 to march south along the Mississippi directly to
Lincoln, had it approved, began raising troops, and deployed them to Memphis and Helena all

Gabel, p. 80.
Ibid, p. 15.
Ibid. pp. 18-20.
McPherson, p. 332.
Department of Defense, Joint Publication 3.0 Joint Operations, p xiv.
Thomas Griess, The American Civil War, p. 70.

without ever informing his commander, U.S. Grant.
Modern doctrine suggests the first task a
joint force commander must do under the C2 function is to establish, organize, and operate a
joint force headquarters.
Today, the Joint Force HQ staff is the critical enabler to this task
the commander cannot do it alone. In 1862, staff organizations and their ability to execute
command and control was merely in its infancy. As opposed to today, staffs of the early civil
war were organized as their commanders saw fit or desired. For example, Grants staff may
have retained a chief of artillery, ordnance, and quartermaster at any given time. His
subordinates, however, may not have retained these positions on their staffs. Thus, coordination
over a range of joint functions took place not between staffs at different levels, but between
commanders. In a sense, the nature of warfare and range of joint functions during the civil war
had not overwhelmed the span of control for a single commander.

Another task within the C2 function is for the joint force commander to establish appropriate
command authorities among subordinate commanders.
From the beginning, Grant recognized
the challenge this task would provide him. In a letter to Halleck in October 1862, Grant
struggled with the task of establishing command authorities:
You have never suggested to me any plan of operations in this
department, and as I do not know anything of those commanders to my
right or left I have none therefore that is not independent of all other
forces than those under my immediate command.

Grant also wrestled with coordinating and controlling the employment of joint lethal and
nonlethal capabilities, in particular his C2 of naval forces operating in his area. In 1862, Union
Naval command on the Mississippi was divided between Admirals Farragut (Gulf Squadron) and

Ibid, p. 72.
DoD, p. xiv.
Gabel, p. 8.
Department of Defense, p.III-2.
Griess, p 70.

Porter (Mississippi Squadron). Adding to the confusion was the fact that each of these
commanders reported independently to the Navy Department in Washington and neither was
required to coordinate
with Grant.
coordinating and
employment of lethal
capabilities was never
formalized, but
achieved through the
cooperation and
congenial spirits of
both commanders.

The final challenge
to the Union joint
operation came in the form of communication. JP 3-0 states joint force commands must
communicate and maintain the status of information to enable success.
The terrain and limits
of technology served as large impediments to this task. The Mississippi River provided a daily
impediment to communication. Rains, bayous, flooding, tributaries, swift currents, and steep
banks all conspired daily to prevent communication between Union elements [See Figure 3].

Gabel, p. 73.
Department of Defense, p III-2.
Figure 3 - Terrain and River vicinity Vicksburg (Service n.d.)

The Navy, with its shallow-draft craft and river access helped alleviate some of the challenges,
but were limited in numbers. In addition to terrain, no telegraph units were used by Grant during
the campaign. This limited strategic and operational communications to boat and messenger on
horseback. Memphis, the closest Union telegraph hub was two days by steamboat from
Even that communications option was not reliable. Connections north from
Memphis were often interdicted by guerilla fighters. The Mississippi River also challenged
communications efforts. Forces operating on either side of the river could not talk to each other.
Couriers on horseback were often reliant on the availability of naval transport to deliver
dispatches through swamps and across rivers at the tactical level.

With all the challenges to executing the vital tasks of command and control, it is a wonder
the Union prevailed during the campaign. How did the Union prevail when most of the critical
tasks of command and control were not accomplished? In the end, it was the efforts of both
Grant and Porter the senior service commanders to carry the day. Even though the Union
attempted and ultimately failed to implement many of the command and control tasks seen in JP
3-0, it was the personalities and spirit of joint cooperation which overcame these challenges and
ultimately led to success.
The naval contribution to mission command Admiral Porter
Admiral David Dixon Porter was born into a family with an extensive naval tradition. He
was the son of Commodore David Porter, a naval legend of the War of 1812, and the foster
brother of David Glasgow Farragut. Born in Chester, Pennsylvania in 1813, Porter sailed to the
West Indies with his father at the age of ten on the frigate USS John Adams. Throughout the
remainder of his life, Porter was in some fashion associated with the sea and invariably served

Gabel, p. 60.
Ibid, p 62.

Figure 4 - Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter
(National Park Service, U.S. Department of the
under joint conditions.
Porter received his
formal education as well as learned the
principals of seamanship in two navies the
Mexican Navy, commanded by his father, and
the U.S. Navy, which had begun in 1829.

Porter His joint experience
Porters joint experience arguably began
during the contributions he made while serving
in the Mexican War in the attack on the fort at
the City of Vera Cruz. His joint operations and
interactions between the Navy and Army
continued at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 onboard the USS Powhatan during the battle
at Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens. It was at these historic battle grounds where Secretary of State
William H. Seward, Captain Montgomery C. Meigs of the U.S. Army, and Admiral Porter
devised a plan for the relief of Fort Pickens. The principal element of their plan required the use
of the USS Powhatan, which was commanded by Porter carrying reinforcements to the fort from
New York. Ultimately, this joint execution disrupted the initiative to relieve the garrison at Fort
Pickens, leading to its fall.

Porters true test in carrying out effective joint operations came about after he was advanced
to the rank of acting Rear Admiral in command of the Mississippi River Squadron. Beyond the
required close cooperation between the Army and the Navy, it was Porters tight relationship
with his Army contemporary, Major General Ulysses S. Grant, that ultimately proved vital to the

James Russell Soley, Admiral Porter, p. 3.
Ronald Scott Mangum, The Vicksburg Campaign: A Study in Joint Operations, p.78.
Chester G. Hearn, Admiral David Dixon Porter: The Civil War Years, pp. 37-40.

success of the siege of Vicksburg. The most significant contribution to the campaign was the
passage of the batteries at Vicksburg and Grand Gulf by the majority of the Mississippi River
Squadron [See
Figure 5].
Grant had
asked merely for a
few gunboats to
protect his
infantry, but
Porter convinced him to use more than half of his fleet. With this additional support, the fleet
was successful in moving past the batteries. Less than one week later, a similar run past the
batteries gave Grant the transports required to cross the river.
Once south of Vicksburg, Grant
initially attempted to attack the Rebels at Grand Gulf, and requested Porter to destroy the
batteries before his men would be sent across. Porters gunboats spent most of the day
bombarding two Confederate forts; however, only one was silenced. Grant decided to call off
the attack and moved downstream to Bruinsburg, where he was successful in crossing the river.

Despite the fleet under Porter making no major offensive contributions to the campaign after
Grand Gulf, the Navy remained critical in its secondary role of maintaining the blockage against
the city. When Vicksburg fell, its containment was arguably made complete by the Navys
control of the Mississippi and the Yazoo rivers.
Porter his reputation
So how did Admiral Porter reflect General Martin Dempseys vision of Mission Command? The

Hearn, Admiral David Dixon Porter: pp. 209-219.
Ibid., pp. 223-225.
Figure 5 - Porters Fleet Running the Vicksburg Batteries (National Park Service,
U.S. Department of the Interior)

evidence suggests Porters actions as a Union service commander lived up to the Chairmans
standards. More, however, could have been done. The first evidence to support this position is
seen in an evaluation of Admiral Porters reputation. Within his own family, Porter had large
shoes to fill, as his father was a Commodore. Unfortunately, his father eventually lost much of
this notoriety due to a dispute with the Secretary of the Navy. This event ultimately had a
profound effect on the son as David Dixon Porter not only inherited his fathers disdain for
politicians, but also created a resolute desire to clear his familys reputation. Needless to say, his
superiors had a less than admirable view of him. Even during his final years, during which he
made Second Admiral, controversy provoked by his many enemies surrounded him. Among
them were several very powerful politicians, including some of the political generals he had
contended with in the war.
Another example which epitomizes his character flaws as viewed by
superiors is illustrated by a diary excerpt by Secretary of the Navy Welles:

Porter is but a Commander. He has, however, stirring and positive
qualities, is fertile in resources, has great energy, excessive and
sometimes not over-scrupulous ambition, is impressed with and boastful of
his own powers, given to exaggeration in relation to himself, - a Porter
infirmity, - is not generous to older and superior living officers, whom he
is too ready to traduce, but is kind and patronizing to favorites who are
juniors, and generally to official inferiors.

Even the Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton wrote that Porter revealed he was to display
many times: he belittled a superior officer [Charles H. Poor]. He often heaped undue praise upon
a subordinate, but rarely could find much to admire in a superior.

However, despite the above perspectives, Porters peers and subordinates had quite another
view on his character as a military leader. Many of his contemporaries, to include Major General

Richard S. West, Jr., The Second Admiral, pp. 327-334.
Gideon Welles, The Diary of Gideon Welles, vol. 1, p. 157.
Ibid., p. 157.

William T. Sherman, looked quite favorably towards Porter and viewed him as a prominent
figure in the Union military. In fact, no one showed more empathy towards Porter than Major
General Ulysses S. Grant. The characterization of Porter and his proficiency as a joint
warfighter is portrayed best by highlighting the following personal memoir of Grant: The
Navy under Porter was all it could be, during the entire campaign. The most perfect harmony
reigned between the two arms of the service. There never was a request made, that I am aware
of, either of the flag-officer or any of his subordinates that was not promptly complied with.

Another peer testimony which attests to Porters exceptional attributes as a credible joint officer
is evident by the words of his adopted brother, David Farragut. In his letter to Welles he writes:
It gives me great pleasure to say that nothing could exceed
[Porters] perseverance in getting to the scene of his labors, or the
steadiness with which his officers and men have carried on his work of
demolition. Porters service has been hard upon his officers and crew, but
they have performed it well, willingly, and unflinchingly.

Farragut stressed Porter always praised his officers, giving them credit for standing in the face of
battle under all conditions.
Porter himself fully believed in his men and was eager to compliment them on their earnest
and untiring devotion to their duties despite an occasional non-compliance to the rules of the
service which he too was often to be blamed. He knew his sailors were willing to go the extra
mile and as such he was prepared to stand up for the rights of his men.
Porter was a
professional who saw both sailoring or soldiering as an honorable calling, not as a means to gain
personal recognition.

Porter His mission command structure

Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, Chapter XXXIX.
Chester G. Hearn, The Civil War Years, p. 133.
Ibid., p. 133.
Ronald Scott Mangum, The Vicksburg Campaign: A Study in Joint Operations, p.79.

One way Porter enabled success at Vicksburg was that he practiced the basic principles of
mission command, particularly decentralized execution. At lower levels of command,
coordination was achieved by directive from above to obey a specific commander of one service
or another. Porter frequently gave orders to his subordinates to obey the orders of Grant and
Sherman the same as if they came from himself. For instance, during the Steeles Bayou
expedition, Sherman ordered General Smith to report to Porter for orders. Upon arrival, Porter
turned over the entire fleets Marine force to Smith to operate under his command.
But even
more than decentralization, flexibility and cooperation between Porter and Grant enabled
success. Porter noted after Vicksburg it is only through the high courtesy bred in a purely
military school that so perfect an understanding was achieved,
but it was also through the
close friendship and high mutual regard that flourished between these two esteemed leaders.
Shortly after the Vicksburg campaign, Porters flagship became the temporary headquarters of
the joint command, with Grant and his subordinates arriving daily for meetings. Porter wrote,
Grant and Sherman are on board almost every day. Dine and tea with me often; we agree on
Porter unquestionably empowered his subordinate leaders and worked extremely
close with his peers to attain effective mission command. Had this not have been the case, the
outcome of the campaign could have been remarkably different. Thus, planners cannot assume
commanders in the future will have the traits to make war successful. Instead, leaders must rely
on a completely authentic joint service planning and operating structure.
While General
Dempsey would have been extremely proud of Grant and Porters accomplishments within the
campaign, in reality his expectations for future leaders are much higher.

Ibid., p. 79.
Ibid., p. 79.
Ibid., p. 79.
Ibid., p. 85.

Figure 6 Major General Ulysses S. Grant,
Cold Harbor 1864 (Catton 1969)
Grant the Army component of the joint operation
Ulysses S. Grant is often credited as winning the war for the Union and was arguably the
greatest Civil War General. Grant was not
born of a family with military lineage.
Tannery was the source of his familys
livelihood. Aware that Grant was not likely
to join the family tannery business, his father
sought educational opportunities for him,
securing an appointment to the Military
Academy at West Point; however, Grant did
not expect to graduate nor did he have
aspirations or intentions of remaining in the

Grants reputation was mixed but also
misconstrued. Some mistook his calm, deliberate manner, and rare display of emotion as a lack
of concern for his troops or the outcome of a battle. His more widely known and positive
reputation was his willingness to accept risk and take action at a time when other commanders
appeared reluctant to do so; a great force of will.
Grant was a fighting General who earned
the respect, admiration, and constant support of President Lincoln. While Grant never read a
book on military tactics or history in his entire lifetime, his experiences, successes and failures
as a leader afforded him the opportunity to learn mission command.
Grant would prove to

Robert P. Broadwater, Ulysses S. Grant a Biography; p. 13
Harry S. Laver, A General Who Will Fight; p. 6
Robert P. Broadwater, Ulysses S. Grant a Biography; p. 13

himself and others his ability to lead and is the first commander known in history to deal
successfully with an army of a million in size.
Vicksburg was the ultimate test.
Grant - learned behaviors and key attributes
Command and control is not a new concept nor is mission command. It would take time for
Grant to gain the confidence necessary to apply the key attributes of General Dempseys Mission
Command White Paper: understanding, intent, and trust. Mission command is fundamentally a
learned behavior to be imprinted into the DNA of the profession of arms.

Of the issues of command and control, at that time there was heavy reliance on telegraph,
letters, and face-to-face correspondence when possible. Grant faced a major setback when his
headquarters at Holly Springs was completely destroyed by Confederate General Van Dorn. He
was cut off from all communication for more than a week.
There were orders being issued and
carried-out without his knowledge. Upon regaining communications, Grant immediately
reinforced his position of command and issued orders to his subordinates. Grant was a firm
believer in unified command as well as de-centralized execution. Grant wrote to his
Commanding General, Halleck: all of the Western departments really ought to be combined
under one head
He realized the simplification and effectiveness of a single commander
providing clear guidance to his subordinates.
Grant learned mission command solely through experience without the opportunity for
continued education and training available to todays commanders. Two key events provided
opportunities for Grant to build his foundation for mission command. The first example was his
attack against Tom Harriss irregulars in Missouri. Faced with anxiety and fear of battle, Grant

A.L. Conger, The Rise of U.S. Grant, p. 349
Martin Dempsey, Mission Command White Paper, p. 6
Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs, p. 229
Ibid., 375

opted to continue and not retreat. Self-revelation after his army attacked was a pivotal point in
his development as an effective commander. The moment Grant recognized that the will to
succeed stemmed from a deliberate decision to press forward, a conscious choice to confront
rather than avoid adversity, and that a commanders resolve was as important as logistics,
firepower, or numerical superiority defined him as a leader.
Grants second experience was his
failure at the Battle at Bellmont where he lost four hundred and eighty-five men killed, wounded,
and missing.
Another important lesson learned that would become part of his conviction was
decisive action:
This battle confirmed Grant in the belief on which he always
afterwards acted, that when neither party is well disciplined, there is
nothing to gain in the matter of discipline, by delay. The enemy organizes
and improves as rapidly as yourself, ad all the advantages of prompt
movement are lost.

Well in advance of General Dempseys White Paper, Grant demonstrated key attributes of
mission command as well as challenges and successes associated with command and control.
Understanding equips decision-makers at all levels with the insight and foresight required to
take effective decisions, to manage associated risks, and consider second and subsequent order
Grant had very little joint experience. Prior to Vicksburg, Grants only joint
experience was his plan to capture Fort Donelson utilizing Flag Officer Andrew Footes
gunboats. This experience provided lessons of joint army and navy operations and afforded the
experience of employing naval power with ground forces. This was the understanding he needed
for the Campaign at Vicksburg.

Harry S. Laver, A General Who Will Fight; p. 23
Adam Badeau, Military History of Ulysses S. Grant, p. 18
Ibid., pp. 20-21
Martin Dempsey, Mission Command White Paper, p. 5

In todays operational design construct, Vicksburg could have been viewed as the
Confederates center of gravity in the west. Grant wrote: Vicksburg was important to the
enemy because it occupied the first high ground coming close to the river below Memphis. So
long as it was held by the enemy, the free navigation of the river was prevented. Hence its
Understanding its importance, Grant sought early on to take Vicksburg. He also
understood the challenges which were key to his foresight in developing three potential courses
of action: attack from the north - face Pemberton and his forces directly; attack from the east
Union forces in the deep south and vulnerable to attack; or attack from the west cross the
Mississippi River prior to any attack.
Vicksburg serves as an early example of a commander framing and reframing an
environment of ill-structured problems.
Grant attempted to maintain a lengthy supply line
while moving against Vicksburg but his supply base at Holly Springs was destroyed; Grant then
determined he did not need the supply line as the local economy and farms could provide the
needed support. A direct attack against Vicksburg was attempted but failed due to heavier than
expected fortifications and challenging terrain. Four more attempts were made to secure
positions below and take Vicksburg via unnavigable waterways; these attempts were also
unsuccessful. Grant again reframed and worked out a new plan, from which grew one of the,
most dazzling campaigns of the war.

Grant - his vision
In the mission command context, intent fuses understanding, assigned mission, and
direction to subordinates.
Grants meetings with General Sherman and Admiral Porter are

Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs, p. 224
Martin Dempsey, Mission Command White Paper, p. 5
Bruce Catton, U.S. Grant and the American Military Tradition, p. 97
Martin Dempsey, Mission Command White Paper, p. 5

two key examples of Grant relaying his intent and trusting his subordinates in execution. First,
Grant met with General Sherman, his right wing commander at Memphis. Grant talked over his
general plans and ordered Sherman to join him with two divisions via the Mississippi Central
Railroad if able. Grant not only provided clear face-to-face guidance but also intent and
empowerment to operate as he saw fit to achieve his objectives. It was clear Grant had trust in
Sherman. After providing his commanders intent, Grant allowed Sherman wide latitude to
execute in a decentralized fashion. The following excerpt demonstrates this trust:
Sherman, who was always prompt was up by the 29
to Cottage Hill,
ten miles north of Oxford. He brought three divisions, leaving a garrison
of only four regiments of infantry, a couple pieces of artillery, and a small
detachment of cavalry. Further reinforcements he knew were on their way
from the north to Memphis.

Next Grant met with Admiral Porter. His initial operational design relied primarily upon land
forces but he soon realized the co-operation of the Navy was absolutely essential to the success
of such an enterprise.
His intent was for troops to move to and operate from a point below
Vicksburg. While Porter was not under his command, Grant stressed to him that the navy was
the only viable escort and protection for the steamers transporting his troops.
Grants orders for the Army in the Field,
analogous to todays operational plan, provided the
understanding, assigned mission, and direction necessary to execute the plan [See Fig. 7].

Grant - inspiring trust
An essential element of mission command as referenced by the Chairman is trust. Trust
informs the execution of intent.
Subordinates at all levels should trust the commander

Leonard Fulenkamp, Stephen Bowman, & Jay Luvaas, Guide to the Vicksburg Campaign, p. 29
Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs, p. 243
Ibid., p. 248
Martin Dempsey, Mission Command White Paper, p. 6

Figure 7 Final Order for Troop Movement
provided he has fostered such a climate. Conversely, subordinates must prove to their
commanders they are trustworthy by mission execution. Should a subordinate fail, it is vital for
the commander to reinforce expectations and react as necessary including removal and
replacement of the subordinate. At the decisive moment when Grant determined sending forces
down the Mississippi River to Vicksburg was required, he wanted a competent commander in
and sent Sherman back to Memphis to assume command. Grants orders to Sherman
were for him to assume command of the forces in Memphis and proceed to Vicksburg based on
the situation and his own judgment. Grant also made clear he would make whatever
transportation, forces, and supplies available for use at his discretion. Grant only requested
Sherman notify him of his timeline for movement and to leave Memphis in the command of an

Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs, p. 227

efficient officer
. Grant not only trusted Shermans ability as a leader but also his judgment
in executing his plan as Sherman saw fit. Grant wrote in his memoirs:
It was understood, however, between General Sherman and myself
that our movements were to be cooperative. It was my intention, and so
understood by Sherman and his command, that if the enemy should fall
back I would follow him even to the gates of Vicksburg.

It is evident Grant made his intentions known, expecting his subordinate leaders understood and
trusted there would be no problems in execution.
Tomorrows leaders can glean invaluable lessons from General Grant. During a time when
current technology to assist in command and control of forces was not available, Grant did so
effectively through his understanding, clearly relaying his intent, and gaining the trust of his
subordinates. General Grant overcame personal and operational adversity to learn and apply
mission command. In addition to the key attributes prescribed by General Dempsey
understanding, intent, and trust Grant also learned initiative and decisiveness. Vicksburg was
an ill-structured problem. Grant understood its importance and remained engaged in every
aspect of the campaign. He ensured this understanding flowed from him to both his superiors
and subordinates. Most importantly, Grant recognized the need for and displayed mission
command during joint operations.

Many of the command and control challenges seen during the Vicksburg Campaign are seen
on todays battlefields. Terrain, technology, headquarters design, and weather can conspire
today, much as they did 150 years ago, to degrade a commanders ability to lead a joint force.
Limitations to command and control posed by poor roads in Afghanistan, lack of
communications infrastructure in Africa, torrential rains and floods in Haiti for example, can be

Ibid., p.228
Ibid., p.229

overcome by adaptable, decentralized, and intent focused leadership. Just as Grant and Porter
overcame the challenges of their campaign, so too will commanders in the future. By
embodying the principles of mission command as outlined by the CJCS General Dempsey,
commanders in the future can be highly successful joint force commanders.

The basic principles of mission command commanders intent,
mission type orders and decentralized execution are not new concepts.
They are part of current joint and service doctrine. But this is not enough;
we will ask more of our leaders in the future. Conduct of mission
command requires adaptable leaders at every echelon. Mission
Command White Paper, April 3, 2012, GEN Martin Dempsey


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