The American Civil War has been called the first modern war because of the number of men involved, the sweeping movements, the use of trains and telegraphs, effective use of combined land-sea operations, and the increasing sophistication of the weaponery including rifled artillery, repeating weapons and iron-clad ships. The Federal forces using the Army of the Polomac made a great effort to drive on the Confederate capital at Richmond, but the superb tactics of Lee frustrated that effort through most of the War. A succession of vascilating or food hardy northern generals experiended devestaing defeats in the East, in the face of numerically weaker Confederate forces: Bull Run (1861), Seven Days (1862), Bull Run (1862), Fredericksburg (1862), Chancellorsville (1863). The one Federal success in the
Eastern theater was at Antitem (1862). Federal forces under General McClellan managed to turn back Lee's first attempt to take the War to the North. Mclellan in fact was a disastrous commander turned back by Lee at the Seven Day's campaign and failing to take advantage of Lee's defeat at Antitem. McClellan while a poor commander did effectively build the Army of the Poltomac into an effective fighting force, but it was Grant who would put it to effective use. Federal forces in the West were more successful, due in part to the more effective leadership of Ulyses S. Grant and William T. Sherman. The public was agast at the scale of losses in such battles as Shiloh (1862). Finally with the fall of Vicksburg (1863) the Mississippi was secured and the Confederacy cut off from needed suplies west of the
river. The Confederates were turned back at the largest battle of the War--Gettysburg (July 1863). At the same timde Vicksburg finally fell. Lincoln then turned the Army of the Potomac and the eastern camapign over to Grant who relentlessly took the War to Lee. Before after each battle during 1861-63 the Army of the Potomac would turn back or rest. Under Grant the Army moved south and continued moving south toward Richmond regardless of the battlefield outcome. Through a series of bitter battles in the Wilderness Campaign of 1864, Grant pressed south. Even after a costly defeat at Cold Harbor (1864), Grant pressed south. At this stage of the War, the South's only hope was that the Northern public would tire of the mounting losses. Lincoln was challenged in the 1864 election by one of his fired General's--George McClellan. Sentiment against the War was rising. There were draft riots in New York (1863). Lincoln for a time was despondent fearing that he would not be reelected. Then good news began to arrive. Lee retired to Richmond (June 1864). Grant neared Richmond and began a seige around Petersburg. Sherman took Atlanta (September 1864) and comenced his "March to the Sea" across the heartland of the Confederacy. Lincoln won reelection, beating Mcclellan in a landslide (November 1864). Lee held out at Perersburg against overwealing odds. Finally the Confederate lines cracked (April 1865) and
Union Calvary trapped Lee's remaining forces at Appomatox where he surrendered a few days later. Jefferson Davis fled Richmond, but was arrested by Federal Cavalry (May 1865).
The American Civil War has been called the first modern war because of the number of men involved, the sweeping movements, the use of trains and telegraphs, effective use of combined land-sea operations, and the increasing sophistication of the weaponery (rifeled artillery, repeating weapons, imprived ordinance, and iron-clad ships). It was the Federals with their industrial strength who most successfully employed these new technologies. The agricultural south with a smaller population was at a destinct disadvantage, especially when the War contrary to early expectations, did not prove to be a short, limited affair. The North was able to recruit and more importantly supply large aemies deep in the South by supplying it through their extensive and growing rail system. The Condederacy had an essentially agrarian army that had to live off the land. The Federals could recruit and supply large armies indefinitely over long distances. The tragedy for many of the men who fought the War was that while modern weaponry appeared on the battlefield, commanders clung to thec tactics appropriate for less leathal weponry.
Naval operations were critical to the Federal victory. While naval operations are the least reported aspect of the War, they undoubtedly shortened the War and made posible the Federal victory. It is clear that by 1864 the Northern public was tiring of the war. If victory had not been achieved in 1865, a Democratic victory in the 1866 Congressional byelections forcing a negotiated peace almost certainly would have occurred. Unlike the Army, most of the Navy remained loyal to the Federal Government and Union. And unlike the Army, the U.S. Navy was a force in being, albeit small, that the United States could immeditely deploy. The early implementation of the Anaconda Plan blockade began the economic strangulation of the South. The Navy made possible the seizure of New Orleans, the first iportnt southern city to fall. And the Navy played a major role in seizing control of the Mississippi which split the Confederacy in two. The Condederacy as a result of seizing the Norfolk Navy Yards had a few ships, but much of its naval action was conducted by privateers, civilian mariners authorized to engage in military action. They preyed on Federal shipping. Lincoln wanted them tried for piracy which carried the death penalty. The privateer Savanah was taken byb the USS Perry (June 1861). They were tried for piracy. The trial, however, resulted in a mistrail. And the Confederacy threatened to hold Federal prisoners hostage if the Confederate sailors were executed. The naval war was notable for the first appearance of iron sides.
Secession was not an act of war. It was then up to the Federal Government yo accept secession or use mikitary force to supress the rebellion. Such an action would have surely caused the critical border sttes to also seceed. Lincoln wisely held back. It was the Confederacy tht lunched the War. Authorized by bPresident Davis, Confederate batteries at Fourt Sumter fired on Fort Sumter (April 186). These were the oopening shots of the Civil War. The first important battle occurred in the East just south of Washington, the Federal capital. It was fought only a few weeks after the Confederates fired on Firt Sumter launching the war. The Battle of Bull Run shocked the over-confident Federals. The casualties were akso shocking, but small relative as to what was to come. Both sides in the East retired to their camps and prepared for a larger decisive action. Engagements soon followed in the West. No one in either the North or South had any idea how long the War would last are the horrendous casulties that would result. The pace of war picked up in 1862. The early phase of the War can be divided into an Eastern and a Western camaign. The Federals gained ax series of victories in the West. The key theater of war was, however, in the East. And although much of the fighting was in Vurginis, Robert E. Lee's Army bof Northern Virginia, sucessfully defended the capital of Richmond from the larger and better equipped Federal Army of the Potomac. He achieved this in part by aggressive tactics that resulted in substabntiual casualties, casualties the Confederacy could not easilkyv replace.
The Emancipation Proclamation, one of the key documents in American history, was closely tied to the progress of the War. Like many other steps on race issues, it was not taken by Congress, but was a presidential proclamation. President Abraham Lincoln had wanted to act sooner on the slavery issue, but was afraid that Confederate victories would make emancipation look like an act of desperation. Only after the Federal victory at Antitem (October 1862), did he feel confident to proceed. President Lincoln on January 1, 1863 declared that all "... slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, ... then ... in rebellion ... forever free." It was a half measure to be sure. The slaves in the borer states were not freed. It did signal, however, a fundamental shift in Federal policy. The War was now to be fought, not only to preserve the Union, but to free the slaves. One of the interesting aspects of the Emancipation Proclamation is its very legalistic tone, in sharp contrast to the soaring retoric of his Gettysburg Address or the Second Inagural.
Lee and Davis agreed that some action was needed to save the Conderacy. Vicksburg was seen as a kee, but Lee did not want to weaken his army to send units west. The decission was taken to strike north. Lee had at his command the strongest army he had ever commanded, although still badly outnumbered. He was seeking a battle with he Army of the Potomac that he hoped could deliver a knockout blow. Meade had just been given command of the Fderal army. A few days after Vicksburg fell, Lee's Army of Nothern Virginia Confederates clashed headlong with the Army of the Potomac in the the largest battle of the War--Gettysburg. The resulting battle was the largest ever fought on American soil. It was Lee's second invasion of the North and the South's last real chance to win militarily. The two armies camme together at a sleepy crossroads town in southeatern Pennsylvania. Lee developed a plan to strike at the Fedeal flanks which he persued aggressively on the second day. He was almost successful. Federal troops commanded by an ardent unionist and abolistionist, Colonel Josuah Chamberlin when his Maine brigade exausted thir amunition ordered a rare bayonet charge and finally broke the Alabama unit aving the Federal left. Longstreet's Corps was so mauled on he Confederate right that he could not continue on the third day. Lee was convinced that Meade must have weakened his center to support his flanks. Lee thus against Longstreet's advice ordered a cannonade of the Federal center followed by a charge over open ground by Picket's Division. "Picket's Charge" is often seen as the high tide of the Confederacy. Picketd Division was decimated. Lee was forced to retire back accross the Potomac, but Meade refused to persue him. [Trudeau] Lincoln was angered at this decission and finally turned to U.S. Grant. Lee's losses at Gettyburg were inrreplaceable, but he did succeed in keeping the war out of Virginia for nearly a year.
A few months later, Lincoln traveled to Gettyburg to participate in the ceremonies there to dedicate the military cemetary. His speech, little regarded at the time, eloquentedly stated the Federal cause. Many consider it to be the greatest speech ever delivered in the English language. It was not at the time generally considered to be an important speech at the time. One of the few was Edward Everett, the renoouned orator who gave the major orration dedicating the cemetary. "... Mr. Lincoln perhaps said more to the purpose in his brief speech than I in my long one". [MacVeagh] What Lincoln did was to eloquently make the case for democratic government. This of course it taken for granted today. But at the time American was the only republic of any consequence. Britain was becoming more democratic, but was still ruled by a poweful monarch. The rest of the world, however, was goverened by kings, emperors, and tsars, many of whom ruled with absolute or near absolute authority. The world was watching while the sole democratic republic tore itself apart in civil war. Lincoln's address was a rising endorsement of democracy ending with the soaring acclamation that government "of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from this earth." Implicit in this statement was the preservation of the Union. And not mention, but by this time an important part of the struggle--emancipation.
As the War coninued in full fury, civilians were increasingl affected. The North had to institute a draft as volunteers proved harder to find. This led to the New York draft riots. The reaction to the draft might have been more severe had the Emancipation Proclamation not opened the way to the formation of African-American regiments. Civilians in the South were even more severly affected. Industry in the North boomed creating jobs and prosperity for farmers. The Southern econony was devastated by the Anaconda Plan as well as the loss of both slaves (runaways and liberated by Federal advances) and the terrrible casualties. This resulted in the Richmond bread riots. Civilian discontent was a matter of some imprtance. After Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia failed a Gettysburg, the Confederacy had no hope of winning the War on the battlefield. Its only hope was a defensive war to hold Richmond and Atlanta and bleed the Federal armies, hoping that Northern voters woukld vote Lincoln and the Reoublicans out in the 1864 election. And General McClellan, the Democratic nominee, campaigned on making peace with the South.
The Civil War was mostly fought east of the Mississppi River with important engagements along the Mississippi itself. When Civil War historians speak of the Western campaigns they are speaking of battles for the most part fought west of the Apalachins, but east or along the Mississippi. Although not often discussed, there were engagements west of the Mississippi on the Frontier. The Confederates formed the First Regiment, Texas Mounted Riflemen (spring 1861). It was the first Texas unit and involved 1-year enlistments. The ten companies of the regiment occupied the old U.S. Army forts and conducted expeditions into Indian areas in northwest Texas. The primary concern was Comanche raids. They were replaced with the Frontier Regiment, later designated as the 46th Texas Cavalry. The Fedral Army formed the Army of the Frontier that operated in the Trans-Mississippi Theater. It fought in several minor engagements, mostly in Arkansas, the Indian Territory, and Kansas. The U.S. Army discontinued it, but many of its regiments were formed into the District of the Frontier (June 1863). California was the big prize in the West. And although there were secesionist voices, California which joined the Union as a free state, played an important role in holding the Frontier for the Union. California units helped defeat small Confederate units trying to seize the Southwest (New Mexico and Arizona) where they hoped to extend slavery and cotton culture. Confederate Texas had to contend with the Comanche. The Federals were faced with the Dakota rising in Minnesota. The Dakota for several decades were ill-treated by the Federal Goverment and the aggressive advance of settlers. Dakota warriors rise up (August 1862) in what is known as the Dakota War. There were murderous attacks on settlers. After 6 weeks, the rising was put down by Federal forces rushed to the area. [Berg]
Lincoln after Vicksburg and Gettysburg turned command of all Federal forces, inluding the Army of the Potomac, over to U.S. Grant who had achieved important Federal victories in the West. The Federals has fought for 3 years without an overall commander. Some in Congrss felt that an overall commander was neither necessary or advisable. Others did not think that Grant was the appropriate choice. Lincoln ws concinced that an overall commander was needed and that Grant was the man for the job. Congress resurrected the rank of lieutenant general (February 26, 1864). This was a rank held previously only by George Washington. Grant was awarded his commission personally by President Lincoln at a White House ceremony (March 9, 1864). Lincoln was afterwards heard to say, "I don't know General Grant's plans, and I don't want to know them. Thank God, I've got a general at last!" Grant relentlessly took the War to Lee in the East and other Confederate commanders in the West. Grant's plan was to launch a simultaneous offensive by all ll the Federal Armies. He wriote to Major General Meade, the commander of the Army of the Potomac, "So far as practicable all the armies are to move together, and towards one common center. Banks has been instructed ... to concentrate all the forces he can, not less than 25,000 men, to move on Mobile. .... Sherman will move at the same time you do, or two or three days in advance, Johnston's army being his objective point, and the heart of Georgia his ultimate aim. .... Sigel cannot spare troops from his army to reinforce either of the great armies, but he can aid them by moving directly to his front [up the Shenandoah Valley] .... Butler can reduce his garrison so as to take 23,000 men into the field to his front. .... Butler will seize City Point and operate against Richmond from the south side of the [James] river. His movement will be simultaneous with yours. Lee's army will be your objective point. Wherever Lee goes, there you will go also." [Grant's orders, early-April 1864.] This set in motion the final show down between Lee and Grant as they faced off with each other for the first time.
Lt.Gen U.S. Grant, two months after receiving his command as the overall Federal Commander, began the destruction of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in the Wildreness north of Richmond. For most of the War, Lee and Grant fought on widely separate battlefields. The final conclusive last year would pit Grant and Lee in a series of bloody battles. The difference ws that Kee in earlier battkes had spent much of the available southern manpower. On the other hand, the Federal forces were not only larger and better armed, but a much more effective fighting force. Until Grant was given command, Federal commanders after each battle would turn back or rest the Army of the Potomac. Under Grant the Army of the Potomac continued south pursuing Lee regardless of losses incurred. There were nonlonger months-long respites between battles. Along with Grant came black soldiers recruited after the Empancipatuion Proclamation. They would give the Federal forces an important boost in fighting strength. Blacks would eventually make up 10 percent of Federal forces. Although it nowseems so preprdanined, even in the last year of the Wae, The Federal vivtory was still not asured. [Frey] Atlanta and Richmond still held out. The Northern public was tiring of the War and the dreadful losses. It looked like President Lincoln would lose the presidential election to General McClellan who wanted to mke pece with the South.
The fall of Vickesburg did not end the war in the West. What it meant was that the Federals controoled the Mississippi al the way down to New Orleans, This cut off the West (Arkansas and Texas) from the rest of the Conderracy. This meant that supplies such as cattle and grain from Arkansas and Texas coukd not reach the Confederate armies attempting to stave off defeat by defending the two most important Southern cities still in Confederate hands--Richmond and Atlanta. There was still fighting in the West. The battles were, however, largely a side show. The principal importance was that the Federal armies prevented the Confederate forces from gaining control of some of the Mississippi and coming to the aid of their armies fighting the climatic battles of the War. The most important fighing in the West was the Red River campaign.
After Gettysburg, Lee saw the only hope of victory was to so bloody the Federal army that Lincoln and the Republicans would be defeated in the 186r presidential election. Through a series of bitter battles in the Wilderness Campaign of 1864, the new Federal commander, U.S. Grant pressed south. The 6-week campaign in the Wilderness, the sight of Lee's great victory at Chancellorsville in 1863, was unlike any other Civil War campaign. Other campaigns were months of preparation followed by a savage battle follow by more months of recovery and peparation. The Wilderness was 6 weeks of constant fighting. In 2 days of bitter fighting Grant lost 17,500 men and still pressed on. At a critical moment of the fighting, Lee rushed to the front. His men pushed him back and held on. Confederate losses were also high--losses which Lee, unlike Grant, could not replace. Convinced that the Confederate Army of Norhern Virginia was about to crack and less than 10 miles from Richmond, Grant hurled his army at entrenched fortifications built to defend the crossroads at Cold Harbor. In less than an hour, Grant lost 7,000 men and achieved no apreciable gains. he is said to have cried when he learned of the dissaster. In perhaps the greatest blemish on Grant's and Lee's record, wounded men were left on the field 3 days before a truse could be agreed. Federal lossess in the Wilderness were enormous. One estimate puts them at 56,000 men--not much less than in the entire Vietnam War and in a much smaller country. Even after such losses and after the calkamity of Cold Habor , however, Grant and Lincoln were resolute. Many assumed that Grant would retire north to regroup. When the orders went out to march south, the army cheered. [Grimsley] Lee realised that he now faced a very different Federal commanbder. Lincoln had clearly finally found his general to save the Union. Grant moved to beseige Richmond.
Gen. William T. Sherman prepared to drive south from Chatanoga toward Atlanta, one of the largest southern cities. By this point of the War, after Gettyburg, Vicksburg, and now the disaster Chatanoga, most Southerners had given up any hope of a military victory. This did not mean, however, that all hope was lost. The Confederacy had a real prospect of winning the war if it could avoid military collspse. And this meant reataining the two princupal cities still in southern hands--Richmond and Atlanta. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was defending Richmond. Joseph E. Johnston commnding the Army of Tennessee in north Georgia was defending Atlanta, As long as Richmond and Atlanta held, the Condederacy survived. And there was the hopw with the upcoming November elections that the northern electorate would turn against the War and the terrible losses. Sherman began the Atlanta campaign with a small at Tunnel Hill (May 1964). Sherman had several reasons to be confident of victory. 1) He had a substantial numerical superiority (two to one). 2) He was well supplied. 3) Morale was high after the victory t Chstanooga, and 4) Johnson had the reputation as an unaggressive commander. Johnson proved, however, to be a resourceful commander tht effectively used the terraine of north bGeorgia to his advsntage. Sherman advanced, but only slowly and at heavy cost. The outnummered southern forces gradually fell back, but fought a dogged defensive campaign and although outnumbered managed to hold the the line. It is at this point that President Jefferson Davis intervenes. He failed to appreciate the considerable chievement of Johnston in holding a much lsrger Federal Army in check. Desiring a clear cut military victory, he dismissed Johnston and gave comand to the firey Texan, John Bell Hood. Hood launched attacks against the far superior Federal forces. The massive losses so depleted the Confederate forces that Atlnta coukd no longer be defended. Sherman after a gruelling campaign finally took Atlanta (September 1864). One historin writes in an account of one northern regiment, "The good news arrived at noontime on Friday, Septemjber 2, 1864, when an order reached the camp of the 154th New York Volunteer Infantry at Paves Ferry on the Chattahooche River; Pack up and prepare to march to Atlanta. During the night the Condederate army had abandined the city. After four months of marching nbd fighing over the rugged terrain of northern Georgia, a grueling and bloody campaign--the toughest the regimebt had endured in two years of service--was coming to an end, capped with success. The soldiers quickly struck tents, packed gear, formed behind an artillery battery as brigade rear guard, ad wound their way toward Atlanta." [Dunkelman] Sherman after occupying Atlanta decided to launch his "March to the Sea" accross the heartland of the Condederacy.
Military victory for the South was no longer possible. The South's only hope by 1864 was that the Northern public would tire of the continuing losses. Lincoln was challenged in the 1864 election by one of his fired General's--George McClellan. He was southern sypethizer who believed he could bring the south bck by ccepting slvery. Sentiment against the War and the guge cost in men and treasure was rising. There were draft riots in New York. Lincoln for a time was despondent. All indications were that he would lose the election. He met with Stephen Douglas discussing how to get as many blacks as possible north before McClellan became president. Then good news began to arrive. The most important wss from Sherman in the North Georgia campaign. After months of hard fighting Atlanta had finally fallen (September 1864). Lincoln won reelection, beating Mcclellan in a landslide (November 1864). Confederate armies continued to fight after the elction, but there was no possibility that Lincon and his generals would not fight the War to a bloody conclusion. There would be no negotiated peace.
After evacuating Atlanta, Hood began targetting Federal supply lines between Chatanooga and and Atlanta. Sherman for his part after taking Atlanta at first briefly pursued Hood, but then decided to instead march to the sea. One of the reasons that Sherman began his famed march after taking Atlanta is that it feed him army of supply lines while at the same time demonstrating Federal mastery of the heart of the Confederacy. In Atlanta, Sherman would have been forced to defend hundreds of miles of supply lines against Hood's raiders supported by the local population. He later wrote that he would have lost 'a thousand men monthly and gain no result'. [Sword, pp. 45-46.] After Sherman departed Atlanta, Hood had two choices. He could pursue Sherman through north Georgia and the Carolinas or launch a new offensive of his own. He chose the later. The army of the Tennesse had been weakened by wreckless attacks, but it was still a force of about 39,000 men. The result was the short-lived Franklin-Nashville campaign which like Hood's defense of Atlanta prove to be an unmitigated dissater. Hood's tactics might have worked in 1861 or even 62 against a pootly commanded and inexperienced Federal Army, but the Federals he faced in 1864 were a very different army. With the departure of Sherman, Federal forces in central and eastern Tennesse were commanded by Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas and his Army of the Cumberland. Hood set his eyeys on Nashville and believd that as he advanced many Tennesee and Kneticky volunteers oukd join up. He envosioned tolling through Kenticky and joining up with Lee in Virginia. The principal Federal units in central Tennesse prepated to defend Nashville were were IV Corps of the Army of the Cumberland, commanded by Maj. Gen. David S. Stanley, and XXIII Corps of the Army of the Ohio, commanded by Maj. Gen. John Schofield, a force of bout 30,000 men. Thomas ordered another 30,000 men to join them. [Jacobson, p. 41.] Hood hoped to defeat the converging Federals before they had joined together. The resulting Battle of Franklin was fought outside Franklin, Tennessee (November 30, 1864). The Federals under Schofield were positioned in defensive works just outside the city. Hood ordered direct assaults on those positions, leading to the battle being called the Pickett's Chrge of the West. Only there was not just one assualt, Hood ordered asaults again and again on the well-entrenched Federals. The result was massive losses. The Confederate assault were conducted by 18 brigades comprising nearly 20,000 men. The result was devestating and cut the hear out of the Army of Tennesse and Confederate resistance in the West. Not only were there huge losses in men, but also in the military leadership of Hood's command. One of the Confederate units desimated at Franklin ws Granbury's Texas Brigade. One historian writes, "Withbthe tide of battle turing against the Southerners, the Federals captured many of the cTexans insidevthecfortifications, then forced the remnantsof the brigade into the ditchboutsidevthecworks. ThevFederals advanced as darkness fell over the fiekd of Franklin. .... An hour afterbnightdall thevfiring had 'nearly ceased, except when one manwill hold his gun up s high as he cannd shoot over the bank of dirt'. The fighting remained so desperate thatvthe Federals threw 'clods of dirt oiver and sticks or anyhing ekse they can get hold of'. By this time the grim rumors had begun to circulate through thevsurvivors of the Texas Brigade 'that Gen. Pat. Cleburne and Gen. Granbury are both dead.'" [Lundberg]
Hoof followed up Franklin with an assault on Nashville where he was defeated by Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas.
After these engagements the Army of Tennessee retired with only about half the men with which Hood had begun the campaign. The Army of the Teenesee had been the Confederacy's only effective field army in addition to the Aemy of Northern Virginia defending Richmond. Hood's defense of Richmond and the Franklin-Nashville campaign destroyed it as an effective fighting force.
U.S. whohad achieved important victories in the West. Lee retired to Richmond (June 1864). Grant neared Richhmond and began a seige around Petersburg. The two armies sat out the winter building entrenchments. Lee held out at Petersburg against overwealing odds. Grant gradually extended the seige lines south to Petersburg. One of the most notable engagements was fought near Petersburg by U.S. Colored Troops (USCT)--the Battle of the Crater. The Battle was an attempt to break through Condederate lines at an early point of the seige (July 30, 1964). It proved to be one of the bloodiest enggemets of the War exemting the major engagements. There were about 5,000 casualti, mostly suffered by the USCT. The USCT were commanded by Brigadier General Edward Ferrero. Captured USCT were abused and threatened with a return to slavery. Earlier in the War they would have been, but the Confederacy no longer had the mneans to do this. Accounts of the battle have varies over time as American racial attitudes have changed. [Levin] A major asset for Lee was the Richmond & Petersburg Railroad which connected Richmond with Petersburg. It allowed him gorapidly move troops to parry Federal assaults. As a result it was one of Grant's major objectives. Grant streached out h9s lines. He had the men to o it. Lee's out numbered and poorly supplied troops manned thinner and thinner lines, but the process took months. Finally the Confederate lines around Pettersburg cracked. Lee erred badly by not fortifying the Confederate position protecing the Genito Bridge over the Appomatox, but the final outcome was inevitable. Gen Picket position his division protecting the railroad without pritecting his flanks. The resulkt was a gaping hole in the Confederate lines, The Federal troops surged forwar toward Petersburg. Lee informed President Jefferson Davis that Richmond could no longer be defended and hastily evacuated the city with limited provisions. One of the units tht poured into Richmond as the all black XXV Corps commnded by Grman immigrant Godfrey Weitzel. One historian writes, "When the Confederates abandoned their capital city an set it ablaze, Weitzel led his all-black Twenty-Fifth Army Corps. The irony of freed slaves wearing the Union blue and macing into the burning Confederatewas apparent to everyone who witnesed the scene." [Quatman]
It was the the Battle of Five Forks (April 1, 1865) that finally broke the stalemate before the Confederate lines defending Richmond and Petersburg (April 1, 1865). Five Forks as the name suggests was an important road junction southwest of Petersburg, in Dinwiddie County. A mobile Federal task force consisting of infantry, artillery and cavalry commanded by Major General Philip Sheridan defeated a Confederate force. Sheridan was the principal Dederal calvalry commander. For the first 3 years of the War, the Cofederate caklvalry reguklarly outfought and out manuvered the Federals. This seems to have reflected the stronger militia groups in the south and superior horsemanship, As the War progressed, attrition and superior Federal resources changed this. The Henry repeating rifle was an important factor. The turning point was Gettsburg (July 1963). Gen. John Buford's 1st Calvalry Division played a key role on the first day at Gettysburg while J.E.B. Stuart's calvalry force was not only of no aid to Lee, but suffered a major defeat. By 1865, the Federal Calvalry was an extroidinary fighting force and the Confederate calvalry lrgely ineffective. And the Federal calvalry played a key role in forcing lee to surrender the Army of Northern Virgina, essentislly ending the War. Sheridan mastermined the Federal Shenandoah campaign denying Lee supplies from the west. TFrant;s seige cut off Richmion from the north nd east. Only supplies from the soiuth kept the Army og Northern Virginia supplied. Grant ordered Sheridan to sever Lee's final supply lines south of Pertersburg. Lee understnding the danger struck back. He ordered Major General George Pickett to drive the Federals from Five Forks. Pickett of course is best known for his failed charge at the Federal center at Gettysburg. It should be stressed that the charge was Lee's idea, Pickett only dutifully carried it out. After Gettysburg, Pickett played a valiant and competent role in the last 2 years of the War. Two battles were fought leading to Five Forks: White Oak Road and Dinwiddie Court House (March 31). Pivkett achieved some success at first, but ultimately sustsanined unreplaceables losses (1,000 casualties and about 3,000 prisoners). Sheridan's force seized Five Forks severing the South Side Railroad, the vital Confederate supply line and only rail retreat line from Petersburg and Richmond.
Lee as the Federals broke through his lines around Ricvhmond made a desperate attempt to move the Army west, hoping to join Johnston's forces to the south in in North Carolina. Union Calvary managed, however, to trap Lee's remaining forces at Appomatox. Recognizing the futility of further resistance, he surrendered a few days later. The scene of the Lee's surender at Appomatox has passed into legend. Almost unbelieveably, the surrender took place in Wilmer McLean's parlor. This was the same wholesale grocer of whom it is said that the Civil War started in his front yard and ended in his front parlor. The account of Joshua Chaberlin, best noted for anchoring the Federal left at Gettysburg on Little Roundtop, has been questioned. [Marvel] And most illustratiions of the surrender are eronious. There can be little doubt, however, that Grant's generous treatment of Lee and his men was a major step in the eventual unification of the country. Similarly, Lee's injunction to his men to become 'loyal citizens' of the United States. It was Lee's great gift to the American nation. Davis wanted continued resistance, ordering the Army to scatter and wage a guerilla campaign. Such a campaign would have failed, but the campaign needed to supress it would have delayed the heling process for a generation. Jesse James and Bloody Bill Anderson in Missouri are an example of what would have happened if Lee had opted for guerilla war. [Stiles] That is not to say that Grant and Lee saw the War in similar terms. [Varon] Davis also fled Richmond. He was tracked down by Federal Calvary and, unlike Lee, arrested (May 1865).
America in 1865 was two different nations. The South surrendered, but in their hearts the Confederacy was their country. The South and the men who fouught for the Confederacy paid an enormous price. This only changed in time. Leaders like Robert E. Lee played an important in the transition back to a united nations. Hatred of the North in thE south smoldered for generations. In the North ill fillings toward the South passed realtively quickly. But even in the South many ardent secesionists made there peace with the North. By 1900 American can be said to be a single nationa again. Some even moved north and prospered. Roger Pryor was a Confederate Congressman and general. After being relased from a prisonor of war camp he became a successful lawyer in New York, befriened by Sherman and Grant as well as Mark Twain and Grover Cleveland. He died in 1919 an ardent Union man. [Waugh]
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Jacobson, Eric A. and Richard A. Rupp. For Cause & for Country: A Study of the Affair at Spring Hill and the Battle of Franklin (Franklin, Tennessee: O'More Publishing, 2007).
Jordan, Brian Matthew. Unholy Sabbath: The Bttle of South Mountain (2011), 384p.
Levin, Kevin M. Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder (2012), 208p.
Lundberg, John R. Granburty's Texas Brigde: Diehard Western Confederates (2012).
Marvel, William. Lee's Last Retreat: The Flight to Appomatox (University of North Carolina, 2002).
Quatman, G. William. A Young Genral and the Fall of Richmond: The life an Career of Godfrey Weitzel (2015), 368p.
Sword, Wiley. The Confederacy's Last Hurrah: Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1993).
Trudeau, Noah Andre. Gettyburg: A Testing of Courage.
MacVeagh, Issac Wayne. "Lincoln at Gettysburg," The Century Magazine, November 1909. MacVeagh was the Chairman of the Republican State Committe in Pennsylvania.
Stiles, T.J. Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War (Knopf, 2002).
Trudeau, Noah Andre. Gettyburg: A Testing of Courage.
Varon, Elizabeth R. Appomattox: Victory, Defeat, and Freedom at the End of the Civil War (2013), 320p.
Waugh, John. Surviving the Confederacy (Harcourt Brave, 2002).
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