Monday, June 05, 2006

Civil War Timeline: 1864

January 14 - General Sherman begins his march across the south. His strategy is total war, destroying or taking anything that might be used by the enemy to continue fighting.

March 10 - Grant is named commander of the Union armies, replacing General Halleck.

April 17 - Grant suspends prisoner-of-war exchanges with the Confederates to further weaken Confederate forces. His strategy is successful, but leads to the deaths of Union soldiers held in overcrowded southern camps where food supplies are scarce.

May 4 - Grant begins an assault on Virginia with an army of over 100,000 men.

May 5-6 - The Battle of the Wilderness (Virginia) - Lee and Grant meet in two days of inconclusive but bloody fighting. Many of the wounded die in the dense woods in brushfires ignited by gunfire.

May 8-12 - The Battle of Spotsylvania (Virginia) - Another five days of inconclusive fighting reveals Grant's strategy: a war of attrition to wear down Lee's outnumbered, poorly fed, ill-clad troops.

May 12-16 - The Battle of Drewry's Bluff (Virginia) - Grant continues his unrelenting assault on Lee's army.

May 13-15 - Sherman launches a series of attacks against General Johnston, who saves his army with a skillful retreat.

June 1-3 - The Battle of Cold Harbor (Virginia) - Grant, ignoring horrible losses, assaults Lee's impregnable defenses. In the worst twenty minutes of this holocaust, more than 7000 men on both sides are killed. Total Union casualties number 12,000. To date, Grant has suffered 60,000 casualties in the campaign, a number equal to Lee's entire army. Although this is Lee's last clear victory, his army never recovers from Grant's unrelenting attacks.

June 15-18 - Grant begins the long siege of Petersburg, Virginia.

June 27 - Johnston's Confederates turn back Sherman at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia.

July 2-13 - A small force under Confederate General Jubal Early raids Maryland and heads toward Washington.

July 14 - General Early is slowed down by Union General Lew Wallace. Early reaches the District of Columbia, then withdraws. Wallace, later the governor of New Mexico and minister to Turkey, gains his greatest fame as the author of the novel Ben Hur.

July 17 - Johnston is replaced by General John B. Hood, who makes a foolhardy attempt to take the offensive against Sherman.

July 22 - Hood's first assault against Sherman outside Atlanta is turned back, as is a second assault six days later.

July 30 - At Petersburg, General Burnside oversees the digging of a tunnel under the Confederate fortifications. A disasterously miscalculated explosion results in 4000 casualties in his own force. Burnside is relieved of all command.

August 5 - Union Admiral David Farragut launches a naval attack on the key southern port of Mobile, Alabama. He orders the fleet to continue the attack after mines in the harbor sink one of his ships, shouting, "Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!" He successfully closes the port and is given the new rank of vice admiral, created especially for him. Ecstatic New Yorkers give him a purse of $50,000.

September 2 - Sherman takes Atlanta after Hood's army withdraws. The capture of Mobile and Atlanta lifts northern morale, providing Lincoln with a much needed boost in the coming election.

September 19 and October 19 - Union forces under General Philip Sheridan twice defeat Jubal Early's Confederates, driving them from the Shenandoah Valley, one of Lee's remaining supply sources.

November 8 - Lincoln has been campaigning against two generals he has sacked, John C. Fremont and George McClellan. Fremont withdraws before the election. Lincoln wins re-election by less than a half-million popular votes, but a sweeping electoral vote.

November 15 - Sherman begins his March to the Sea from Atlanta to Savannah. Before Sherman departs Atlanta, he orders his troops to demolish military facilities and set fire to the rest of the city. Much of the city is destroyed. His forces cut a forty-mile-wide swath through the state, destroying everything in their path. Three days before Christmas, Sherman marches into Savannah. He sends Lincoln a telegram offering Savannah as a Christmas present.
Sherman: "We have devoured the land...To realize what war is, one should follow our tracks."

November 30 - The Battle of Franklin (Tennessee) - Confederate General John Bell Hood launches a foolhardy head-on assault against Union General John Schofield's entrenched force. After fierce fighting, Schofield breaks off and heads toward Nashville, but this is no Confederate victory. Hood suffers 7000 casualties, more than three times the enemy total.

December 15-16 - The Battle of Nashville (Tennessee) - Union forces under General George H. Thomas attack Hood's line at Nashville. Hood's Army of Tennessee is virtually destroyed. The remnants of the army are pursued all the way into Mississippi.

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