September 1864


The Battle of Jonesboro continued outside Atlanta, as Confederates fended off several Federal attacks while trying to maintain control of the Macon & Western Railroad. However, a massive Federal assault finally broke the Confederate line, destroyed two brigades, and led to the capture of hundreds of prisoners.

Two days of fighting at Jonesboro resulted in at least 1,450 Federal casualties and an unknown number of Confederate losses. This evening, the Confederate Army of Tennessee withdrew to regroup at Lovejoy’s Station. The Confederate defeat meant that only one railroad line remained to feed the starving soldiers and civilians in Atlanta.

General John Bell Hood, commanding the Confederate Army of Tennessee ordered the evacuation of Atlanta. Confederate cavalry burned supplies that could not be evacuated, including seven locomotives, 81 rail cars, 13 siege guns, and many shells. The fires raged for hours and sparked massive explosions.

In Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Major General Philip Sheridan regrouped his Federal Army of the Shenandoah to launch an offensive. The Federals had been stalemated with General Jubal Early’s Confederate Army of the Valley around Winchester.


Federals entered Atlanta unopposed. Mayor James M. Calhoun and a city delegation formally surrendered the city to Major General Henry Slocum.

Philip Sheridan planned to advance up the Shenandoah Valley as skirmishing in the region increased.

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln spoke with various political leaders and administration officials to gather support and gauge public opinion about the upcoming election.

General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under siege at Petersburg, wrote to Confederate President Jefferson Davis about the dangerous manpower shortage: “Our ranks are constantly diminishing by battle and disease, and few recruits are received; the consequences are inevitable…” Lee urged the Confederate government to restrict exemptions to the conscription law. He also supported allowing blacks to be substituted for whites “in every place in the army or connected with it when the former can be used.”


Major General William T. Sherman, commanding the Federal Army of the West, wired Washington at 6:00 a.m.: “Atlanta is ours, and fairly won.” News of Atlanta’s capture sparked joyous celebrations throughout the North, along with 100-gun salutes in Washington and dozens of other cities.

President Lincoln declared 5 September a day of celebration for the victories at Atlanta and Mobile Bay. The capture of Atlanta strengthened the Federal fighting spirit and immediately shifted momentum in the upcoming presidential election to Lincoln. Conversely, the loss of Atlanta demoralized the South, and crucial industrial resources in the heart of the Confederacy were lost.

In the Shenandoah, a corps from Jubal Early’s Confederate army left to reinforce General Robert E. Lee’s Confederates at Petersburg. The corps accidentally clashed with a corps from Philip Sheridan’s Federal army, revealing Sheridan’s intention to invade the Valley against Early’s depleted force.

President Davis tried gathering troops to reinforce John Bell Hood’s struggling Confederate Army of Tennessee.


A Federal raiding party killed famed Confederate raider John Hunt Morgan in Greenville, Tennessee. Federals raided Morgan’s headquarters emulating his own tactics, and Morgan was shot trying to reach his troops. The legend and terror of John Hunt Morgan would be long remembered in poems, songs, and stories.

In the Shenandoah, Philip Sheridan’s Federals moved to cut the Confederate supply lines south of Winchester. Jubal Early countered by advancing along the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad from Stephenson’s Depot, north of Winchester, toward Martinsburg. Early had only 12,000 men to oppose some 40,000 Federals.

President Lincoln replied to a letter from Eliza P. Gurney of the Society of Friends: “The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must prevail, though we erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive them in advance.”

A third major Federal bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor ended after 60 days. The attack included 14,666 rounds fired that inflicted 81 casualties.


In the Shenandoah, portions of Philip Sheridan and Jubal Early’s armies clashed near Stephenson’s Depot, north of Winchester.

Louisiana voters approved the new state constitution, which included abolishing slavery. Swearing loyalty to the U.S. was required to vote.


A Maryland state convention adopted a new state constitution that also included the end of slavery.

Lieutenant General Richard Taylor assumed command of the Confederate Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana.

An eighth minor Federal bombardment of Fort Sumter began with 573 rounds fired.


William T. Sherman wrote to Confederate General John Bell Hood, “I have deemed it to the interest of the United States that the citizens now residing in Atlanta should remove, those who prefer it to go South and the rest North.” Sherman ordered all residents who had not already fled Atlanta to evacuate to make the city safer for Federal troops.

Atlanta Mayor James Calhoun called Sherman’s order “appalling and heartrending.” Hood angrily called it “studied and ingenious cruelty.” Sherman replied, “You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.”

In the Shenandoah, portions of Philip Sheridan and Jubal Early’s armies skirmished near Brucetown and Winchester.


Former U.S. General-in-Chief George B. McClellan formally accepted the Democratic nomination for president in the upcoming election. Submitting a letter to the Democratic National Committee, McClellan assured the party that he would “exhaust all the resources of statesmanship” to end the war if elected. However, he declared: “The Union is the one condition of peace… Union must be preserved at all hazards… I could not look in the face of my gallant comrades… and tell them that their labor and the sacrifice of so many of our slain and wounded brethren had been in vain…”

The letter infuriated “Peace” Democrats who sought peace at any price, even if it meant southern independence. But with the election less than two months away, there was no time to find a suitable replacement that shared their views. Recent Federal military successes also undermined the peace agenda and hurt the Democrats’ chance for victory.


President Lincoln and his cabinet discussed the complex issue of trading with the Confederates. The administration was gradually allowing more trade to take place.

12 SEP

President Lincoln and General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant expressed dismay about what Lincoln called a “dead lock” in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Neither the Federals under Philip Sheridan nor the Confederates under Jubal Early seemed to be making progress against each other around Winchester.

13 SEP

President Lincoln responded to a political serenade but made no policy statements.

14 SEP

In the Shenandoah, General Richard H. Anderson’s Confederate corps left Jubal Early’s army to reinforce the Army of Northern Virginia at Petersburg. This seriously depleted Early’s force. Pressure increased on Philip Sheridan’s Federals to break Early’s hold on the Shenandoah and his threat to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.

15 SEP

Ulysses S. Grant left his headquarters at Petersburg, Virginia to discuss the military situation in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley with Philip Sheridan.

16 SEP

General Nathan Bedford Forrest and about 4,500 Confederate cavalrymen left Verona, Mississippi to raid William T. Sherman’s Federal supply and communication lines in northern Alabama and southern Tennessee.

Ulysses S. Grant and Philip Sheridan conferred at Charles Town, West Virginia. Sheridan informed Grant that General Jubal Early’s Confederate army in the Shenandoah was depleted because a corps had been transferred to reinforce Confederates at Petersburg. Grant approved Sheridan’s plan to cut Early’s supply lines south of Winchester.

General Wade Hampton’s Confederate cavalry delivered a herd of cattle to Robert E. Lee’s Confederates under siege at Petersburg. Hampton had raided Federal supply lines since 11 September, capturing 304 Federal prisoners and nearly 2,500 cattle consisting of almost two million pounds of beef for Lee’s hungry troops. This became known as the “beefsteak raid,” and Hampton’s cavalrymen were nicknamed the “cowboys.”

17 SEP

Radical Republican John C. Fremont withdrew his candidacy for president. Fremont still considered President Lincoln a failure, but he wanted to prevent a Republican Party split that would allow Democrat George B. McClellan to win the upcoming election. Behind the scenes, Radicals in Congress had indicated willingness to facilitate Fremont’s withdrawal in exchange for assurances from Lincoln, such as dismissing cabinet members who opposed Radical policies. Fremont’s withdrawal, along with recent Federal military victories, unified the Republican Party and gave Lincoln strong momentum in the upcoming election.

In the Shenandoah, Jubal Early’s Confederates advanced along the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad from Stephenson’s Depot, north of Winchester, toward Martinsburg. Early had only 12,000 men to oppose about 40,000 Federals under Philip Sheridan. Despite this, Early did not place his force in a better defensive position with more adequate supply lines.

18 SEP

In the Shenandoah, Jubal Early’s Confederates pulled back toward Bunker Hill, but his army was dangerously spread out. Learning of this, Philip Sheridan moved his Federals toward Winchester, hoping to attack each Confederate division separately.

President Davis wrote a Confederate congressman that he thought Atlanta could be recovered and that “Sherman’s army can be driven out of Georgia, perhaps be utterly destroyed.”

19 SEP

The Third Battle of Winchester occurred in the Shenandoah, as Philip Sheridan’s Federals attacked Jubal Early’s outnumbered Confederates at Opequon Creek, northeast of Winchester. Early called in all reserves, and the fight moved back and forth for nearly eight hours. Federals finally broke the thin Confederate line, and Early retreated up the Valley Pike. Federals suffered 4,018 casualties while Confederates lost 3,921. Sheridan wired Washington, “We have just sent them whirling through Winchester, and we are after them tomorrow. This army behaved splendidly.” Sheridan’s Federals began pursuing Early through the Valley.

General Sterling Price and about 12,000 Confederates invaded Missouri in a desperate attempt to free the state from Federal control. Federals skirmished with the advancing Confederates at Doniphan but could not stop them.

Confederates under Brigadier Generals Stand Watie and Richard M. Gano successfully raided a Federal wagon train at Cabin Creek in northeastern Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). The Federals lost over 200 wagons, five ambulances, 40 horses, and over 1,200 mules. The Confederates captured an estimated $1.5 million worth of food, clothing, and other supplies intended for troops and refugee Native Americans at Fort Gibson.

John Y. Beall and fellow Confederate operatives captured the Federal steamer Philo Parsons and burned Island Queen in an attack on Federal shipping on Lake Erie. Their main target was U.S.S. Michigan, which carried Confederate prisoners of war. Michigan’s commander learned of a planned prisoner uprising and arrested the ringleader. Their plot foiled, Beall burned Philo Parsons at Sandwich, Canada and retreated.

President Lincoln urged William T. Sherman to grant furloughs to Indiana soldiers in his army so they could go home and vote. Indiana was a crucial Republican state that did not allow absentee voting. Lincoln believed that although George B. McClellan was still highly popular among the troops, they would ultimately vote for their current commander-in-chief.

President Davis wrote to various southern governors that “harmony of action between the States and Confederate authorities is essential to the public welfare.” Davis urged the repeal of certain state laws requiring immigrants to either serve in the military or leave the state, arguing that such policies deprived the Confederacy of needed manpower. He suggested encouraging immigrants to serve in non-military capacities.

Federal naval forces bombarded Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor for the rest of the month, firing 494 total rounds.

20 SEP

In the Shenandoah, Philip Sheridan pursued Jubal Early, with fighting at Middletown, Strasburg, and Cedarville. By evening, Federals were fortifying on high ground north of Strasburg. Early was south of Strasburg on Fisher’s Hill, having narrowly escaped disaster.

In Missouri, Sterling Price’s Confederates captured Keytesville and then advanced on Fayette.

President Davis left Richmond for Georgia to consult with officials on how best to regain Confederate momentum. Davis also sought to assure southerners that they were not yet defeated.

21 SEP

Philip Sheridan became permanent commander of the Federal Middle Military District, including the Shenandoah Valley. At Strasburg, Sheridan prepared his men to attack Early at Fisher’s Hill.

President Lincoln spoke with various political leaders and administration officials to gather support and gauge public opinion on the upcoming election.

22 SEP

The Battle of Fisher’s Hill occurred in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Philip Sheridan followed his Federal victory outside Winchester last week with another major attack that sent Confederates running four miles before their commander, General Jubal Early, could stop them. The Federals pursued through the night, suffering 528 casualties while Early lost an estimated 1,235, some 1,000 of whom were taken prisoner. Among the Confederates killed was Alexander S. “Sandie” Pendleton, famed chief of staff for Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and now Early.

Ulysses S. Grant ordered a 100-gun salute fired into the Confederate lines under siege at Petersburg. Grant wired Sheridan, “Keep on, and your good work will cause the fall of Richmond.”

President Davis unexpectedly arrived in Macon, Georgia on a trip to assess the military situation there. Davis also sought to assure southerners that they were not yet defeated. Addressing a refugee relief meeting, Davis said, “Friends are drawn together in adversity… Our cause is not lost. Sherman cannot keep up his long line of communication, and retreat, sooner or later, he must.” Davis said he would confer with Confederate General John Bell Hood about recovering Georgia, he called for army absentees to return, and concluded, “Let no one despond.”

In Washington, President Lincoln continued lining up support for the upcoming election.

Sterling Price’s Confederates continued their invasion of Missouri, fighting at Patterson and Sikeston.

23 SEP

In the Shenandoah, Jubal Early’s Confederates withdrew toward New Market as the cavalry fought Federal pursuers at various points. Philip Sheridan did not order a full pursuit, believing his victories at Winchester and Fisher’s Hill had broken Confederate morale.

President Lincoln dismissed Postmaster General Montgomery Blair from his cabinet. Blair was a War Democrat who opposed many Radical Republican policies, and Senator Zachariah Chandler of Michigan had informed Lincoln that if Blair was dismissed, Radical presidential candidate John C. Fremont would withdraw his candidacy and the Radicals would back Lincoln. Blair had offered to resign when Lincoln deemed it necessary, and Lincoln said, “the time has come.”

Major General Stephen A. Hurlbut assumed command of the Federal Department of the Gulf, headquartered in New Orleans.

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates continued raiding Federal supply lines in northern Alabama and southern Tennessee, fighting at Athens, Alabama.

Sterling Price’s Confederates fought at Rocheport, Missouri.

24 SEP

In the Shenandoah, Jubal Early’s Confederates continued retreating. Philip Sheridan, believing the Confederate threat was ended, suggested to Ulysses S. Grant, “Let the burning of the crops in the Valley be the end of this campaign, and let some of this army go elsewhere.” Grant agreed, and the Federals began destroying private crops from Staunton to Strasburg to prevent the region from feeding Confederate forces.

President Lincoln appointed Ohio Governor William Dennison to replace Montgomery Blair as postmaster general. Lincoln also approved a measure allowing the Federal purchase of products from states “declared in insurrection.”

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates captured Athens in northern Alabama.

Sterling Price’s Confederates attacked Fayette and fought at Jackson and Farmington in Missouri.

25 SEP

In the Shenandoah, Philip Sheridan’s Federals continued burning private property and crops. Staunton was virtually destroyed, and railroad track to Waynesboro was demolished. Jubal Early’s Confederates withdrew into the Blue Ridge Mountains.

President Davis visited John Bell Hood, commanding the Army of Tennessee, at Hood’s headquarters in Palmetto, Georgia to discuss the military situation. Hood asked Davis for permission to relieve Lieutenant General William Hardee as corps commander; Hood blamed Hardee for many of the army’s failures.

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates raided railroads and captured Sulphur Branch Trestle in northern Alabama.

Sterling Price’s Confederates fought at Farmington and Huntsville, Missouri.

26 SEP

In the Shenandoah, Federals and Confederates skirmished at various points. The Federals pulled back, and Jubal Early began reorganizing his disheveled army. Confederate General Robert E. Lee sent Early reinforcements with a message: “It will require the greatest watchfulness, the greatest promptness, and the most untiring energy on your part to arrest the progress of the enemy in the present tide of success. I have given you all I can.” Early faced intense criticism in Richmond for his recent defeats.

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates fought near Pulaski, Tennessee.

Sterling Price’s Confederates fought at various points in Missouri as his army moved north toward St. Louis.

27 SEP

Sterling Price’s Confederates fought at various points in Missouri. Some 1,200 Federals under Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, Jr. repulsed a Confederate charge at Fort Davidson in Pilot Knob.

Some 70 Confederate ruffians under “Bloody” Bill Anderson burned Centralia, Missouri after committing robbery, rape, and murder. Anderson’s men stopped a train and killed 26 unarmed Federal soldiers, then killed 124 Federal soldiers trying to rescue the town. Carrying the scalps and heads of victims as trophies, Anderson’s men included George Todd and Frank and Jesse James.

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates continued fighting at Pulaski, Tennessee.

28 SEP

In Missouri, Sterling Price’s Confederates continued advancing despite their repulse at Fort Davidson yesterday. They fought in Polk County and Caledonia, and concern grew in St. Louis.

President Davis wired John Bell Hood, permitting Hood to relieve William Hardee as corps commander. Hardee was given command of the Confederate Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Davis also considered creating an overall Western Department with General P.G.T. Beauregard in command.

In the Shenandoah, Philip Sheridan’s Federals withdrew toward Harrisonburg as they fought lightly with Jubal Early’s retreating Confederates.

29 SEP

Two battles erupted between the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the Federal Army of the Potomac outside Petersburg, Virginia. North of the James River, Federals attacked and captured Fort Harrison and other nearby works. However, Confederates repulsed an attack on Fort Gilmer farther north toward the Confederate capital at Richmond. Both commanding generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant considered Fort Harrison so important that they personally directed operations.

The second battle occurred west of Petersburg near Peebles’ Farm, as Federals attacked Confederate siege lines. Some 16,000 Federals tried extending the overstretched Confederate line and capture the South Side Railroad.

Sterling Price’s Confederates continued their invasion of Missouri by fighting at Harrison and Cuba.

30 SEP

The Battle of Fort Harrison continued outside Petersburg, as Federals repulsed desperate Confederate counterattacks to recapture the fort. The Confederates established new defensive lines between the fort and Richmond, while Federals built siege lines east of the capital. Federals suffered 3,327 casualties, including 1,773 black troops killed or wounded; 14 black soldiers earned Medals of Honor for valor during this fight.

The Battle of Peebles’ Farm continued west of Petersburg, as two Federal corps advanced toward Poplar Spring Church. General A.P. Hill’s Confederate corps counterattacked and divided the Federals, prompting them to entrench near Peebles’ Farm. This fight, combined with the fight at Fort Harrison, stretched the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to its limit and forced a desperate shift of troops from one threatened front to the other.


Last Updated: 11/14/2014


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