Because its location at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, and at the northern terminus of the railroad, Paducah was a strategic location throughout the War.
Large numbers of troops and supplies passed through Paducah on their way to campaigns in the lower South. Union headquarters was located here, a more convenient location than Fort Anderson for those with business to conduct with the city's commander.
A number of officers, some of whom went on to distinguish themselves in the War, served in Paducah or as commanders of the District of Paducah. Most notably, William Tecumseh Sherman was in command of the District of Paducah from February to March 1862. One of the longest serving was Col. Stephen G. Hicks.Hicks was district commander during the Battle of Paducah. Following the battle Hicks ordered a large number of buildings in the vicinity of Fort Anderson torn down because they had been used by Confederate to fire into the fort. This action was seen as excessive by local residents who were reminded of the abuses of the civil liberties by one of Hick's predecessors, General E.A. Paine.
At the beginning of the War Hicks was among the leading citizens of Salem, Illinois. He joined the Union Army in July 1861 at Clear Lake, Illinois. Hicks had served as a Lt. Colonel in the Mexican War and served in the Illinois legislature at the same time as Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. He was mustered in as Colonel of the 40th Illinois Volunteer Infantry and briefly commanded the recruiting post at Camp Butler, Illinois. He was seriously wounded at the Battle of Shiloh and did not return to his command for seven months while recovering. Within a few days of his return to active duty, he was discharged because of the severity of his injuries. At his own request, however, he was returned to active duty two months later and, because his injuries prevented him from taking a field command, was appointed district commander in Paducah from November 1, 1863 serving until the end of the War, except for a few periods when he was assigned elsewhere temporarily. He was mustered out of the Army in July 1865 and returned to Salem, Illinois. After the War Hicks received a pension because of the injuries, he sustained at Shiloh. The physician who examined him states that his arm was completely useless to the point that Hicks could neither dress nor undress himself. Hicks died in 1867.