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Campaigns and Battles:
The Virginia Theater, 1862
*************Start of Test #3
After routing Pope (he is replaced by McClellan), Lee
soon went on the offensive again, heading north
through western Maryland, and McClellan moved out
to meet him. McClellan had the good luck to get a
copy of Lee’s orders, which revealed that a part of
the Confederate army, under Stonewalll Jackson, had
separate from the rest to Harper’s Ferry. But instead
of attacking quickly before the Confederates could
recombine, McClellan stalled and gave Lee time to
pull most of his forces together behind Antietam
Creek, near the town of Sharpsburg.
Campaigns and Battles:
The Virginia Theater, 1862
On 9.17.1862, in the bloodiest engagement of the
war, McClellan ‘s 87K army repeatedly (yet
uncoordinated) attacked Lee’s force of 50K, with
staggering causalities on both sides. In all, 6K were
killed, 17K wounded. Late in the day, just as the
Confederate line seemed ready to break, the last of
Jackson’s troops arrived form Harpers’ Ferry to
reinforce it. McClellan might have broken through
with one more assault. Instead, he allowed Lee to
retreat into Virginia. It was a tactical draw, but a
Union strategic victory despite the poor leadership of
McClellan (not crushing and/or pursuing Lee in
retreat). In November, Lincoln finally removed
McClellan from command forever.
Campaigns and Battles:
The Virginia Theater, 1862
McClellan’s replacement, Ambrose E. Burnside, was a
failure, too. He tried to move toward Richmond by
crossing the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg,
the strongest defensive point on the river! There, on
12.13.1862, he launched a series of attacks against
Lee—up hill!!—, all of them bloody, all of them
hopeless, all of them a failure. After losing a large
part of his army, he withdrew to the north bank of
the Rappahannock. He was relieved at his own
request (he never wanted the command). After
momentum at Antietam, 1862 ended with
frustrations at Fredericksburg.
Campaigns and Battles:
1863: Year of Decision
At the beginning of 1863, General Joseph Hooker was
commanding the still-formidable AOTP, whose 120K troops
remained north of the Rappahannock, opposite Fredericksburg.
But despite his formidable reputation (as “Fighting Joe”), hook
showed little resolve as he launched his own campaign in the
spring. Taking part of his army, Hooker crossed the river above
Fredericksburg and moved toward the town and Lee’s army. Bu
at the last minute, he apparently lost his nerve and drew back to
a defensive position in a desolate area of brush and scrub trees
known as the Wilderness. Lee had only half as many men as
Hooker had, but he boldly divided his forces for a dual assault on
the Union army.
Campaigns and Battles:
1863: Year of Decision
In the Battle of Chancellorsville, May 1-5, Stonewall Jackson
attacked the Union right and Lee himself charged the front.
Hooker barely managed to escape with his army. Lee had
frustrated Union objectives, but it was not an entirely happy
victory for the CSA/ANV. He had not destroyed the AOTP. And his
ablest officer, Jackson, was fatally wounded in the course of the
battle (by his own men, accidentally). Basically, the ATOP got outoutflanked.
Campaigns and Battles:
1863: Year of Decision
While the Union forces were suffering repeated frustrations in
the East, they were winning some important victories in the
West. In the spring of 1863, US Grant was driving at Vicksburg
(Miss), one of the Confederacy’s two remaining strongholds on
the southern Mississippi River (the other was Port Hudson
(Louisiana). Vicksburg was well protected, surrounded by rough
country on the north and low, marshy ground on the west, and
had good artillery coverage of the river itself (it sat on a bend in
the river, on high cliffs). But in May, Grant boldly moved men
and supplies—over land and by water—to an area south of the
city, where the terrain was better. He then attacked Vicksburg
from the rear (east). Six weeks later, on July 4, Vicksburg—whose
residents were by then literally starving as a result of the
prolonged siege—surrendered.
Campaigns and Battles:
1863: Year of Decision
At almost the same time, the other Confederate strong point o n
the river, Port Hudson (Louisiana), also surrendered to a Union
force that had moved north from New Orleans. The Union had
achieved one of its basic military aims: control the whole length
of the Mississippi River. The Confederacy was split in two, with
Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas cut off from the other seceded
states. The victories on the Mississippi were one of the great
turning points of the war. During an early stage of the siege of
VB, Lee proposed an invasion of PA, which would, he argued 1)
divert Union troops north and remove the pressure on the lower
Mississippi. 2) Further, he argued, if he could win a major victory
on the Northern soil, England an France might come to the
Confederacy’s aid. 3) The war-weary North might even quit the
war before Vicksburg fell. 4) The ANV could raid PA for food and
Campaigns and Battles:
1863: Year of Decision
In June 1863, Lee moved up the Shenandoah Valley into
Maryland and then entered PA. The ATOP, commanded first by
Hooker and then (after June 28), by George Gordon Meade,
moved north too, paralleling the Confederates movement and
staying between Lee and Washington. The two armies finally
encountered one another at the small town of Gettysburg, PA.
There, on July 1-3, 1863, they fought the most celebrated battle
of the war. It began as a cavalry skirmish and escalated into the
largest battle in the Western Hemisphere—to this day.
What happened there? Basically, it evolved over three days….
Campaigns and Battles:
1863: Year of Decision
Day 1: Meade’s army established a strong, wellprotected position on the hills south of the town—
fish-hook The confident and combative Lee attacked,
even though his army of 75K was outnumbered by
Mead’s 90K. His first assault on the Union forces on
Cemetery Ridge failed.
Day 2: Major fighting along the line. Union Key: the
20th Maine, under Col. Joshua Chamberlain, bayonet
charged the Texans and Alabamians to defend Little
Round Top (southern flank).
Day 3: Lee ordered a direct, larger effort. In what is
remembered as Pickett’s Charge, a force of 15K
Confederate soldiers advanced for almost a mile
across open country while being swept by Union gun
and artillery fire. Failure!
Campaigns and Battles:
1863: Year of Decision
Only about 5K made it up the ridge, and this
remnant finally had to surrender or retreat. By now,
Lee had lost nearly a third of his army. On July 4,
the same day as the surrender of VB, he withdrew
from Gettysburg. The retreat was another major
turning point in the war. Never again were the
weakened Confederates forces able seriously to
threaten Northern territory.
Campaigns and Battles:
1863: Year of Decision
Before the end of the year, there was another
important turning point, this one in Tennessee. After
(simply) occupying Chattanooga on September 9,
Union forces under William Rosecrans began an
unwise pursuit of Bragg’s retreating Confederate
lines. (Prideful, for WR had maneuvered Bragg out of
Tenn!) Bragg was waiting for him just across the
Georgica line, with reinforcements from Lee’s army
(thanks Longstreet/Railroads!). The two armies
engaged in the battle of Chickamauga 9.19-20.1863),
one of the few battles in which the Confederates
enjoyed a numerical superiority (70 K to 56K). Union
forces could not break the Confederate lines and
retreated back to Chattanooga.
Campaigns and Battles:
1863: Year of Decision
Bragg now began a siege of Chattanooga itself, seizing
the heights nearby and cutting off fresh supplies to the
Union forces. Grant came to the rescue. In the Battle of
Chattanooga (11.23-25.1863), the reinforced Union army
drove the Confederates back into Georgia. George H.
Thomas replaced William Rosecrans as commander of the
Army of the Cumberland. Northern troops then occupied
most of eastern Tenn. Union forces had now achieved a
second important military objective: control of the Tenn.
River. Four of the eleven Confederate states were now
effectively cut off from the Southern nation. No longer
could the Confederacy hope to win independency through
a decisive military victory. It could hop to win only by
holding on and exhausting the Northern will to fight.
Campaigns and Battles:
The Last State, 1864-1865
By the beginning of 1864, US grant had become
general in chief of all the Union armies, at long last,
the president had found a general whom he could
rely on to pursue the war doggedly and tenaciously.
Grant was not a subtle strategic or tactical general;
he simply believed in using the North’s great
advantages in troops and material resources to
overwhelm the South. He was not afraid to absorb
massive casualties as long as he was inflicting
similar or greater casualties on his opponents.
Campaigns and Battles:
The Last State, 1864-1865
Grant planned two great offensives for 1864. 1) In
Virginia, the AOTP would advance toward Richmond
and force Lee into a decisive battle. 2) In Georgia,
the western army, under William Tecumseh
Sherman, would advance east toward Atlanta and
destroy the remaining Confederate force, which was
now under the command of Joseph E. Johnston
(until end of war).
*The northern campaign began when the AOTP,
115K, strong, plunged into the rough, wooded
Wilderness are of northwestern Virginia in pursuit of
Lee’s 75K man army. After avoiding an engagement
for several weeks, Lee turned Grant back into the
Battle of Wilderness (5.5-7.1863). Grant persisted!!
Campaigns and Battles:
The Last State, 1864-1865
Without stopping to rest or reorganized, he resumed
his march toward Richmond. He met Lee again in
the bloody, five-day Battle of Spotsylvania Court
House, in which 12K troops and a large, but
unknown, number of Confederates fell. Despite the
enormous losses, Grant kept moving. But victory
continued to elude him. Lee kept his army between
grant and the Richmond and on June 1-3 repulsed
the Union forces again, just northwest of Richmond,
at Cold Harbor. The month-long Wilderness
campaign had cost Grant 55K men (killed, wounded,
captured, missing) compared with Lee’s 31K. And
Richmond still had not fallen.
Campaigns and Battles:
The Last State, 1864-1865
Grant now changed his strategy. He moved his army east of
Richmond, bypassing the capital altogether, and headed south
toward the railroad centers at Petersburg. If he could seize
Petersburg, he could cut off Richmond’s communications with the
rest of the Confederacy. But Petersburg had strong defenses; and
once Lee cam to the city’s relieve, the assault became a
prolonged siege, which lasted nine months.
In Georgia, meanwhile, Sherman was facing a less ferocious
resistance. With 90K men, he confronted Confederate forces of
60K under Johnston, who was unwilling to risk a direct
engagement. As Sherman advanced, Johnston tried to delay him
by maneuvering.
Campaigns and Battles:
The Last State, 1864-1865
The two armies fought only one real battle—Kennesaw Mountain,
northwest of Atlanta, on June 27,—where Johnston scored an
impressive victory. Even so, he was unable to stop the Union advance
toward Atlanta. Davis replaced Johnston with the combative John B.
Hood, who twice daringly attacked Sherman’s army but accomplished
little except seriously weakening his own forces. Sherman took Atlanta
on September 2. News of the victory electrified the North and helped
unite the previously divided Republican Party behind President Lincoln.
Hood now tried unsuccessfully to draw Sherman out of Atlanta by
moving back up through Tennessee and threatening an invasion of the
north. Sherman did not take the bait. But he did send Union troops to
reinforces Nashville. In the Battle of Nashville on December 15-16,
1864, Northern forces practically destroyed what was left of Hood’s
army. The end was near.
Campaigns and Battles:
The Last State, 1864-1865
Meanwhile, Sherman had left Atlanta to begin his
soon-to-be-famous “March to the Sea.” Living off the
land, destroying supplies it could not use, his army
cut a sity-mile-wide swath of desolation across
Georgia. “War is all hell,” Sherman had once said. By
that he meant not that war is terrible, and to be
avoided, but that it should be made as horrible and
costly as possible for the opponent. He sough not only
to deprive the Confederate army of war material and
railroad communications but also to break the will of
the Southern people by burning towns and plantations
along his route. By December 20, he had reached
Savanna, which surrendered two days later. Sherman
offered it to President Lincoln as a Christmas gift.
Campaigns and Battles:
The Last State, 1864-1865
Early in 1865, Sherman continued his destructive march, moving
northward through South Carolina. He was virtually unopposed
until he was well inside North Carolina, where a small force under
Johnston could do no more than cause a brief delay. In April 1865,
grants AOTP—still engaged in the prolonged siege at Petersburg—
finally a vital railroad junction southwest of the town. Without rail
access to the South, cut off from other Confederate forces, plagued
by heavy causalities and massive desertion, Lee informed the
Confederate government that he could no longer defend Richmond.
Within hours, Jefferson Davis, his cabinet, and as much of the white
population as could find transpiration fled along with Lee’s soldiers.
That night, mobs roamed the city, setting devastating fires.
Campaigns and Battles:
The Last State, 1864-1865
And the next morning, Northern forces (led by an African-American
infantry brigade) entered the Confederate capital. With them was
Abraham Lincoln, who walked through the streets of the burned-out
city surrounded by black men and women cheering him as the
“Messiah” and “Father Abraham.” In one particularly stirring
moment, the president turned to a former slave kneeling on the
street before him and said: “Don’t kneel to me….You must kneel to
God only, and thank Him for the liberty you will enjoy hereafter.”
Campaigns and Battles:
The Last State, 1864-1865
With the remnant of his army, now about 25K men, Lee began
moving west in the forlorn hope of finding a way around the Union
forces so that he could move south and link up with Johnston in
North Carolina. But the Union army pursued him and blocked his
escape route. Lee finally recognized that further bloodshed was
futile. He arranged to meet Grant at a private home in the small
town of Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, where on April 9 he
surrendered what was left of his forces. Nine days later, near
Durham, North Carolina, Johnston surrendered to Sherman
Campaigns and Battles:
The Last State, 1864-1865
In military terms, at least, the long war was now
effectively over, even though Jefferson Davis refused
to accept defeat. He moved south after leaving
Richmond, hoping to reach Texas and continue the
struggle from there. He was finally captured in
Georgia. A few Southern diehards continued to fight,
but even their resistance collapsed before long. And
well before the last shot was fired, the difficult
process of reuniting the shattered nation had begun.