ADVANCE PLACEMENT
AMERICAN HISTORY

1864

*Following the defeat of Braxton Bragg at Chatanooga, both armies would see changes in their leadership.

*Davis would at last withdraw Bragg from command, and put in his place Joseph Johnston.

*In March, Lincoln would promote Grant to overall command of Union forces.  Grant would soon go east and take personal command of the Army of the Potomac.  Although Meade would remain the nominal head of the Army, Grant would direct its movements.  William Tecumseh Sherman would be promoted to command of the Army of the Tennessee.

*Grant and Sherman devised a plan for the army.  Review Anaconda plan thus far; now, on to Richmond!  Grant will move on Richmond, Sherman on Atlanta, Sheridan into the Shenandoah (breadbasket of the CSA), and Butler up the Peninsula.

*In 1864, Grant moved into Virginia and began to attack Lee.  Grant’s army would remain larger than Lee’s, but Lee’s men were mostly veterans, and Grant’s mostly new recruits.  Grant also was not a brilliant commander in the field; he killed thousands in frontal assaults, but he did so in part because he knew he could afford it—the North had far more men to spare than did the South.  When Grant’s campaign in Virginia begins, Grant has about 123,000 men compared to Lee’s 65,000.

*Grant and Lee faced off in what is called the Battle of the Wilderness, in Virginia not far from Chancellorsville.  This is actually a series of battles and skirmishes.  The fighting was so intense that the discharge from some of the guns set the woods on fire, and some men were burnt to death.  The battle lasted from 2 to 6 May, more or less.  In the battle General Longstreet, back from Tennessee, will, like Jackson, be shot by his own men, but Longstreet will eventually recover.

*Grant took terrible casualties (17,666 vs 7,500), but refused to retreat.  Rather, he re-oriented himself, moved south on the 8th, and attacked again.  It is a tactical victory for the CSA but a strategic win for the North.

*Grant’s next attack was at Spotsylvania Courthouse.  There Lee’s men managed to dig in on a series of hills.  The main fighting was against a Confederate salient called the ‘Mule Shoe,’ guarded by Early on behalf of A P Hill’s III Corps.  The worst fighting in this bad area was where Grant concentrated his men to try to break through in one place, thus disrupting the Southern lines (the same things German storm troopers would do in WWI):  ‘the Bloody Angle.’  Grant’s men weakened the Mule Shoe and it drew back, but they did not take the field.  During the battle, Union Cavalry under Sheridan would attempt to ride around the Confederate Army, but would be stopped by JEB Stuart, although he would die in the effort.  General Sedgwick would also die, hit by a Confederate sniper.  The battle lasted from 8-19 May when Grant decided he could not take the field and moved on.  Losses:  USA 18,000; CSA 12,000

*On 31 May to 3 June, Grant (with 105,000 men) meets Lee at Cold Harbor, where Lee’s men (59,000 with new reinforcements) are again dug in.  Grant attacked Lee at Cold Harbor, a battle famous for fighting so intense that 7,000 men died in less than an hour.  More would have been killed as Grant ordered further attacks, but his officers refused to obey his orders, knowing them to be futile.  Grant decided now to never again attack Confederate fortifications—he would end up turning to siege warfare again.

*The Union army lost 13,000 men against a loss of only 2,600 for the Confederates. The battle brought the toll in Union casualties since the beginning of May to a total of more than 52,000 as compared to 23,000 for Lee.  For suffering such losses, Grant will be condemned by North and South as a butcher and a monster, and many will call for his removal, but Lincoln will stand by him.

*Grant moves out again, and Lee flies before him, getting to Petersburg, a major rail hub south of Richmond, where he digs in, and Grant prepares for a lengthy siege (15 June 1864 to 2 April 1865).  The Union will try a few minor assaults on the Confederate lines, the most bizarre of which is the Battle of the Crater, 30 July 1864.

*Sheridan, hero of Missionary Ridge, will accompany Grant on most of this campaign, but after the siege of Petersburg begins, he will move on to the Shenandoah Valley, where he will burn fields full of crops, as well as barns, mills, and other public buildings, kill or confiscate livestock, and capture towns such as Winchester, and defeat several Confederate armies.  This was done partly in revenge for Early’s burning of McCausland, Pennsylvania (itself burnt in revenge for Union burnings in the Valley), but mostly to starve the South.

*In the West, Sherman will march towards Atlanta, but will be delayed and deflected by Joseph Johnston, Forrest, and Joe Wheeler.  Soon he gives up on getting supplies from home, and begins to live off the land, which has the added benefit of terrorising the South.  Sherman advances, but very slowly, as Johnston defends fairly well with the troops he has.  However, even these small Union advances are too much for Davis, who grows increasingly angry with Johnston, with whom he has disagreed on several points since 1861.

*With Sherman and Grant both stalled outside their objectives, Lincoln grows worried about his own political survival.  Many Northerners have grown weary of the war, especially after the unspeakable slaughter of Grant’s campaigns in Northern Virginia.  Party politics also caused problems for Lincoln, both from the Democrats and his own Republicans.

*In 1864 the Democrats were split.  Stephen Douglas had died in 1861, and the party had no leader.  Some Democrats supported the War and were called War Democrats.  Some opposed it and were called Peace Democrats.  Some opposed not just Lincoln and the War, but the Federal government, which they saw as tyrannical, corrupt, and in the pockets of wealthy New England industrialists.  These Copperheads, many of them in the old Northwest along the Ohio River where cultural, economic, and family ties to the South were strong, called the War cruel and unjust, condemning the slaughter, the draft, and the loss of Constitutional rights.  They also resented fighting a war to end slavery, not being eager to die for blacks they had never met and did not want to meet.  They either took their name from the copper pennies they often wore depicting the head of liberty (which coins were called ‘copperhead’ at the time) or were give the name of the snake by their enemies, who assumed they were all spies and traitors, although only a few of them really were.

*The most outspoken of all the Copperheads was a Congressman from Ohio, Clement Vallandingham.  In an inflammatory speech against Lincoln’s administration in 1863, he had denounced ‘the grand experiment, on a scale the most costly and gigantic in its proportions, of creating love by force, and developing fraternal affection by war.’  Lincoln had him tried by a military court (and him a civilian) and banished him to the CSA.  Thence he made his way to Canada, whence he campaigned for the Governorship of Ohio, winning a large but inadequate vote.  He came home in 1864 and continued to cause trouble, once spitting on a military decree, and his joining the Knights of the Golden Circle, a pro-Southern group that at one point tried to liberate CS POWs.

*Vallandingham was mostly left alone after his return home, and he would eventually practise law until accidentally shooting himself to death with a revolver used as evidence in a trial.

*Lincoln also had opponents in his own party.  In his own Cabinet, Chase still thought he could be a better president, so, to keep him out of trouble, Lincoln made him chief justice of the Supreme Court to replace Taney who had recently died.

*Lincoln wanted to unify the North, so he did not run as a Republican, he ran for the Union Party, comprising Republicans and War Democrats.  He chose as a running mate, not Hannibal Hamlin, but Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, the most prominent Southern Democrat to remain loyal.  Supposedly he offered the job to Ben Butler, who turned it down unless the president would promise to die within three months of taking office.

*The Democrats ran George McClellan, on a platform that planned to end the War.  Little Mac was still popular with his old command, and it was feared the Army would vote with him.  Lincoln told voters ‘don’t change horses in the middle of a stream’ and ‘vote as you shot,’ but he was not sure he would win.  Many of Lincoln’s cabinet advised him not to hold the election at all, but to cancel it due to the emergency of war, but, despite his violation of civil liberties earlier, Lincoln refused to even consider cancelling or postponing the election.

*Then in the summer, several things will happen that boost Lincoln’s popularity among the people.  On 5 August 1864, Admiral Farragut would attack and take Mobile, closing off another Confederate port to blockade-runners.  In the process, Farragut was warned that torpedoes lay in the water ahead in Mobile Bay, and he uttered his famous line:  ‘Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!’

*Sheridan finally begins to destroy the Shenandoah Valley, and will continue to do so from August 1864 until April 1865.

*In the west, Davis is angry that Johnston is retreated rather than attacking Sherman.  He replaces Johnston not far outside Atlanta and replaces him with John Bell Hood.

*Hood, impressed by Sherman’s foray into enemy territories without supplies or support, decides to do the same thing:  he plans to leave Atlanta (1 September), invade Tennessee, live off the land, and make Sherman chase him.  Sherman lets him go.  On 7 September, Sheridan takes Atlanta.  Lincoln finally has some victories.

*In November, Lincoln offers furloughs to many soldiers to go home and vote.  He also allows soldiers in the trenches to cast absentee ballots.  Lincoln will win with about 55% of the popular vote (2.2 million vs. 1.8 million) and 212 electoral votes to McClellan’s 21.  Lincoln also makes Thanksgiving a national holiday, sending turkeys to the troops before Petersburg.

*On 16 November Sherman burns Atlanta to the ground, destroying the factories there and beginning his March to the Sea, designed to terrorise the South and destroy both their materiel and their will to use it.

*In November of 1864 Hood launched his ill-fated invasion of Tennessee, suffering decisive defeats at Franklin, Tennessee on 30 November (General John Schofield [US]; 8,587 total (US 2,326; CS 6,261)).  15 of 28 Confederate generals were casualties.

*Hood attacked at Nashville on 16 December (General George Thomas [US]) with the 21,000 troops remaining to him, and his army was almost completely destroyed.  Although no-one is sure, records indicate that he may have lost 18,000 or 19,000 men to death and prison camps.  Retreating with the shattered remnants of the Army of Tennessee into northern Mississippi, Hood resigned his command on January 23, 1865.  Johnston was put back in command and told to do what he could with what remained of the armies of the South.

*Was Hood on drugs?  Yes; he was dependent on painkillers, especially laudanum.

*While Hood destroys his own army in Tennessee, Sherman is marching from Atlanta to Savannah, burning, looting, and destroying on the way, in order to make the War so terrible that no-one will have the stomach for it any more.  On 22 December, he will capture Savannah, and offer it to Lincoln as a Christmas gift.

*With Atlanta burnt and Lincoln re-elected, the North has won the war.  It is only a matter of time until Grant can get past the walls south of Petersburg and move on to Richmond.
 

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This page last updated 4 December, 2003.