May 1864

1 MAY

Skirmishing in Georgia intensified due to the increase in Federal scouting as part of Major General William T. Sherman’s plan to invade the state. General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant had not given Sherman a specific goal, but Sherman focused on Atlanta, the “Gate City of the South,” about 100 miles southeast of Chattanooga. Atlanta was the Confederacy’s second-most important city behind Richmond. It was not only a vital industrial center, but also a doorway to the Atlantic Coast.

Brigadier General John P. Hatch assumed command of the Federal Department of the South, replacing Major General Quincy A. Gillmore.

2 MAY

The first session of the Second Confederate Congress assembled in Richmond. In his annual message, President Jefferson Davis condemned the “barbarism” of the Federals in their “Plunder and devastation of the property of noncombatants, destruction of private dwellings, and even of edifices devoted to the worship of God; expeditions organized for the sole purpose of sacking cities, consigning them to the flames, killing the unarmed inhabitants, and inflicting horrible outrages on women and children.” He did not expect to receive foreign recognition, but he expressed optimism about military and domestic affairs.

3 MAY

General-in-Chief Grant issued orders through Major General George G. Meade that the Federal Army of the Potomac was to cross the Rapidan River tomorrow morning, move around the right flank of General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, and force Lee to block the path to Richmond.

President Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet discussed alleged atrocities by Confederates during the attack on Fort Pillow, Tennessee last month. Four cabinet members called for executing an equal number of Confederate prisoners. Lincoln, unsure of the facts, condemned the alleged atrocity but decided against retaliatory executions. Lincoln was widely criticized by outraged northerners for not retaliating.

4 MAY

Ulysses S. Grant’s campaign to destroy Robert E. Lee’s army and capture Richmond began as the Federal Army of the Potomac started crossing the Rapidan River after midnight. Grant’s forces outnumbered Lee’s by nearly two-to-one, but Lee correctly guessed Grant’s plan and prepared to stop him. As the Federals crossed the Rapidan, they stumbled through a dense forest called the Wilderness. Lee planned to attack there, where Grant’s numerical superiority could be offset by the woods.

Federals gathered in the Wilderness and stopped to await the arrival of their supply trains. Many camped on the site of the Battle of Chancellorsville fought almost exactly one year ago. When a newspaper correspondent asked Grant how long it would take him to reach Richmond, Grant replied, “I will agree to be there in about four days. That is, if General Lee becomes party to the agreement; but if he objects, the trip will undoubtedly be prolonged.” Lee’s forces converged on the Federals in the Wilderness.

As part of Grant’s coordinated Federal offensive, Major General Benjamin F. Butler’s 33,000-man Army of the James assembled in transports at Hampton Roads, Virginia. They were to advance up the James River to attack Petersburg or even Richmond itself. Less than 2,000 Confederates guarded their path.

William T. Sherman prepared his Federal Army of the West to invade Georgia. Grant had ordered Sherman to “get into the interior of the enemy’s country as far as you can, inflicting all the damage you can against their war resources.” Sherman commanded three armies: Major General John Schofield’s Army of the Ohio on the left targeted the Western & Atlantic Railroad at Dalton, Georgia; Major General George Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland in the center targeted Ringgold, Georgia; and Major General James B. McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee on the right advanced from northern Alabama. Opposing Sherman’s 98,000-man army was General Joseph E. Johnston’s 45,000-man Army of Tennessee, camped around Dalton. Skirmishing ensued as Sherman’s Federals advanced.

In the Red River campaign, Confederates destroyed a Federal steamer and captured two others. The Federal naval flotilla under Rear Admiral David D. Porter was in danger of being stuck in mud due to unusually low river levels.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted (73 to 59) to pass the controversial Wade-Davis Reconstruction bill, sponsored by Radical Republicans Benjamin Wade of Ohio and Henry W. Davis of Maryland.

5 MAY

The Battle of the Wilderness began in Virginia as Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia attacked the Federal Army of the Potomac under Ulysses S. Grant in a region of heavy woods and underbrush. Grant had tried to move around Lee’s right, but Lee attacked first in the Wilderness area to offset Federal superiority in manpower and artillery.

Chaotic fighting raged as reinforcements arrived for both sides. Units got lost in the brush and fires burned wounded troops to death. The ragged lines surged back and forth, and by nightfall there was no clear winner. Both armies entrenched and prepared to continue the fight tomorrow.

The Battle of the Wilderness | Image Credit: FineArtAmerica.com

The Battle of the Wilderness | Image Credit: FineArtAmerica.com

Meanwhile, Benjamin F. Butler’s 30,000-man Army of the James landed at City Point and Bermuda Hundred, within striking distance of both Petersburg and the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. Butler faced less than 2,000 Confederate defenders. President Davis informed Robert E. Lee of Butler’s landing.

Federal cavalry raided toward Petersburg and the Weldon Railroad until 11 May. Other Federal cavalry under Brigadier General William Averell raided the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad; this was one of three Federal forces operating in and around Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

In North Carolina, a Confederate attack at New Berne was repulsed as the ironclad Albemarle fought Federal ships on the Roanoke River. The repulse at New Berne enabled the Federals to keep control of Albemarle Sound.

 

6 MAY

The Battle of the Wilderness continued in Virginia as the lines of Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee surged back and forth. Federals nearly captured Lee’s headquarters until Confederates under General James Longstreet hurried to plug the hole. Longstreet was accidentally shot by his own men; doctors pronounced his wounds “not necessarily mortal,” and Lee himself temporarily assumed command of Longstreet’s men.

Grant ordered a general attack, but Lee struck first. The Federal left held firm, but the Federal right nearly collapsed and the Confederates almost cut the Federal supply line before the Federals regrouped and held firm. Brushfires in the Wilderness burned wounded troops to death as the fight ended at nightfall in stalemate. The Federals suffered 17,666 killed, wounded, or missing, while the Confederates lost about 7,500.

Lee hoped that the Federals would withdraw just as they had done following previous battles. However, Grant told a Washington correspondent, “If you see the President, tell him, from me, that whatever happens, there will be no turning back.”

On the James River, Benjamin F. Butler assembled his Federal army within seven miles of Petersburg and 15 miles of Richmond. President Davis called on General P.G.T. Beauregard, commander of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, to assemble all available forces to defend the region: “I hope you will be able at Petersburg to direct operations both before and behind you, so as to meet necessities.” Davis also called all available troops from South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida to come to Virginia.

7 MAY

This morning, Ulysses S. Grant ordered Major General George G. Meade, commander of the Federal Army of the Potomac, to “make all preparations during the day for a night march to take position at Spotsylvania Court House…” The Federals were to move southeast against Robert E. Lee’s right once more. But more significantly, the movement was an advance and not a retreat. Federal troops cheered the decision. Spotsylvania was an important intersection where Lee’s main supply routes met. If the Federals captured the town, they could position themselves between Lee and Richmond.

In Georgia, skirmishing occurred as William T. Sherman’s 100,000-man Army of the West began moving around the left (or western) flank of the 45,000-man Confederate Army of Tennessee under General Joseph E. Johnston. Sherman planned a series of movements around Johnston’s left to avoid a frontal assault or fighting in narrow mountain passes that would offset the Federals’ numerical superiority.

On the James River, Benjamin F. Butler’s 8,000 Federal cavalry captured the Richmond & Petersburg Railroad, but when a smaller Confederate force attacked them, Butler ordered a withdrawal.

At a Marine band concert in Washington, President Abraham Lincoln declined to make a speech but proposed three cheers for Grant “and all the armies under his command.”

8 MAY

In Virginia, Federals arrived at Spotsylvania Court House to find Confederates already blocking their path. Reinforcements poured into both lines, and a 10-day battle ensued that featured one of the most complex trench systems in history.

In Georgia, Federal troops under General James McPherson formed the right wing of William T. Sherman’s army and advanced into Snake Creek Gap to outflank Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederates. Skirmishing occurred in West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

9 MAY

The Battle of Spotsylvania continued in Virginia, as heavy fighting took place between advancing Federals and defending Confederates. President Davis wrote Robert E. Lee, “Your dispatches have cheered us in the anxiety of a critical position…”

Major General Philip Sheridan’s Federal cavalry began a 16-day raid toward Richmond. Sheridan had been dispatched by General Ulysses S. Grant when Sheridan boasted that he could defeat Confederate General Jeb Stuart’s cavalry if allowed.

Benjamin F. Butler stalled on the James River, thinking that Confederate resistance was stronger than it was. Soldiers called the campaign a “stationary advance.” As Butler hesitated, the Confederate defenses were strengthened.

In Georgia, William T. Sherman’s Federals under Generals George Thomas and John Schofield pressed Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederates near Dalton. Meanwhile, Federals under James McPherson advanced through Snake Creek Gap, but McPherson withdrew after determining that Confederate defenses were too strong. McPherson’s withdrawal disappointed Sherman.

On the Red River in Louisiana, a Federal engineer instructed roughly 3,000 troops in building a dam using trees, rocks, barges, and dirt. Bands of Confederate guerrillas sporadically attacked Federal ships on the river, which were in danger of being stuck in mud due to unusually low water levels.

Major General Stephen D. Lee assumed command of the Confederate Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana, as General Leonidas Polk and many of his troops had gone to join Joseph E. Johnston in Georgia.

In Washington, President Lincoln told a serenading group, “Our commanders are following up their victories resolutely and successfully… I will volunteer to say that I am very glad at what has happened; but there is a great deal still to be done.”

10 MAY

The Battle of Spotsylvania continued in Virginia, as Federals launched a general attack. Defending against repeated assaults, the Confederate lines formed the shape of a mule’s shoe. Temporary Federal breakthroughs at various points were repulsed, particularly at the “Mule Shoe” salient of the line.

Philip Sheridan’s Federal cavalry skirmished with Jeb Stuart’s Confederates along the North Anna River and near Beaver Dam Station in Virginia.

In Georgia, Joseph E. Johnston learned of James McPherson’s efforts to turn his left at Resaca and Snake Creek Gap. Skirmishing continued as Leonidas Polk’s corps from Mississippi was on the way to reinforce Johnston. William T. Sherman decided that since McPherson had failed, he would swing his entire army by the right flank through Snake Creek Gap.

11 MAY

The Battle of Yellow Tavern occurred between Philip Sheridan’s Federal cavalry and Jeb Stuart’s Confederates about six miles north of Richmond. The Confederates held their ground despite being outnumbered three-to-one; Stuart was mortally wounded and his command was given to General Fitzhugh Lee. Sheridan drove the Confederates back, but the fight gave them time to strengthen defenses around Richmond.

The Battle of Spotsylvania continued in Virginia, with a brief lull in the heavy fighting. President Davis wrote Robert E. Lee that he was trying to send more troops, but “we have been sorely pressed by enemy on south side. Are now threatened by the cavalry…”

In Georgia, William T. Sherman ordered a general Federal movement from Snake Creek Gap toward Resaca to begin tomorrow.

In the Red River campaign, three Federal ironclads escaped from Alexandria, Louisiana after dams raised the water level.

The Louisiana constitutional convention adopted a new ordinance of slave emancipation without compensation. It was ratified by popular vote on 22 July.

President Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant created a new Military Division of West Mississippi, commanded by Major General E.R.S. Canby, who superseded Nathaniel Banks on the Red River and Frederick Steele in Arkansas. Banks’ command was ultimately redistributed to Canby and William T. Sherman in Georgia.

12 MAY

In Virginia, the Battle of Spotsylvania renewed with fury at 4:30 a.m. This was one of the most murderous days of the war, as roughly 20,000 Federals broke through the “Mule Shoe” salient and captured about 4,000 enemy troops. The Confederates fell back to a second line of defense and halted the advance. General Robert E. Lee attempted to lead an attack himself but his troops prevented him.

Federal attacks on the left and right were repulsed. The fight went on past midnight as the armies fought for nearly 20 consecutive hours, and the Confederate center became known as the “Bloody Angle.” Results were inconclusive, but the heavy losses wore on the Confederates. In the North, critics began accusing Ulysses S. Grant of sacrificing too much human life for too little gain.

General Philip Sheridan’s Federal cavalry skirmished with Confederates while trying to reach General Benjamin F. Butler’s Federals on the James River. Meanwhile, Butler’s Federals began advancing on Drewry’s Bluff and Fort Darling on the south side of the James. Butler’s objectives were either Petersburg or the Confederate capital of Richmond.

Southerners celebrated the repulse of Philip Sheridan’s Federal cavalry from Richmond in yesterday’s Battle of Yellow Tavern, but they grieved the death of General Jeb Stuart, the “Cavalier of Dixie.” When Robert E. Lee received a telegram notifying him of Stuart’s death, he said, “I can scarcely think of him without weeping.”

In Georgia, most of General William T. Sherman’s Federal Army of the West advanced through Snake Creek Gap and approached Resaca. General Joseph E. Johnston, commanding the Confederate Army of Tennessee, learned of Sherman’s move and evacuated Dalton in the night, positioning his forces to block Sherman at Resaca. This marked the first large-scale maneuver of the Georgia campaign.

 

13 MAY

The Battle of Spotsylvania continued as Federals advanced to attack the “Mule Shoe” salient again but found it abandoned. President Jefferson Davis wired Robert E. Lee, “If possible will sustain you in your unequal struggle so long and nobly maintained.” Ulysses S. Grant wired Chief of Staff Henry W. Halleck, “The enemy are obstinate and seem to have found the last ditch.” Grant continued probing Lee’s right, looking to try flanking him once more.

In Georgia, Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederates established defensive positions at Resaca. Reinforcements under General Leonidas Polk joined Johnston. Skirmishing occurred with William T. Sherman’s advancing Federals.

On the Red River, General Nathaniel Banks’s Federal infantry and gunboats continued their retreat. To the north, General Frederick Steele’s Federals returned to Little Rock, making the Red River campaign a Federal failure.

14 MAY

The Battle of Resaca occurred in Georgia, as fighting erupted while William T. Sherman’s Federals advanced around Joseph E. Johnston’s left to avoid a direct confrontation and flank him out of his strong position.

In Virginia, Ulysses S. Grant continued shifting troops to the left (i.e., southeast) as both armies sought to recover from the terrible battle. The hard march and heavy rain suspended orders for a Federal attack. Jefferson Davis wrote Robert E. Lee, “Affairs here are critical…” in reference to Benjamin F. Butler’s advance on Drewry’s Bluff and Petersburg.

In the Shenandoah Valley, Confederate Major General John C. Breckinridge led 5,000 men to join John D. Imboden’s Confederates in opposing a Federal advance of 9,000 troops under Major General Franz Sigel. Sigel continued his southern advance to deprive Robert E. Lee’s army of vital foodstuffs, despite the withdrawal of George Crook’s Federals into West Virginia.

15 MAY

The Battle of Resaca continued in Georgia, as General Joseph Hooker’s Federals drove back Confederates under General John Bell Hood. This prompted William T. Sherman to move south of the Oostenaula River to flank Joseph E. Johnston. Seeing that he was about to be flanked with his back to the river, Johnston withdrew from Resaca in the night, burning the railroad bridge before moving toward Calhoun and Adairsville. The fighting around Resaca resulted in about 3,500 Federal and 2,600 Confederate casualties.

The Battle of New Market occurred this morning as John C. Breckinridge’s Confederates attacked Franz Sigel’s Federals in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Breckinridge plugged a gap in his line with 247 cadets from the nearby Virginia Military Institute, who helped rout the Federals and send them north to Strasburg. The Federals suffered 841 casualties, while the Confederates lost 577. This humiliating Federal defeat temporarily relieved pressure on the Valley.

Skirmishing occurred at Spotsylvania as the Federals continued changing their positions and reestablishing their main lines. The whole battle front moved more to the east and south of Spotsylvania. President Jefferson Davis called all available troops from South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida to Virginia. He warned Robert E. Lee not to expose himself to the enemy because “The country could not bear the loss of you…” In Washington, President Abraham Lincoln expressed confidence after receiving news from the fronts.

Philip Sheridan’s Federal cavalry was unable to link with Benjamin F. Butler’s Federals on the James River. South of Richmond, Butler’s slow Federal advance on Drewry’s Bluff and Fort Darling enabled Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard to set up a firm defense that included stringing telegraph wire along tree stumps to trip up the Federals.

16 MAY

The Battle of Drewry’s Bluff occurred as P.G.T. Beauregard’s 20,000 Confederates launched a preemptive attack on Benjamin Butler’s Federal Army of the James. Fighting on the Federal left was inconclusive, but Butler withdrew because he believed his right was in danger. Butler’s attempt to take Petersburg and possibly Richmond failed. The Federals suffered 4,160 casualties while the Confederates lost 2,506. Butler withdrew to the peninsula formed by a loop in the James River called Bermuda Hundred.

In Georgia, Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate Army of Tennessee was safely across the Oostenaula River, where they began establishing defensive positions once more.

17 MAY

In Georgia, Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederates established defensive positions at Adairsville. Once more, William T. Sherman’s Federal Army of the West sought to move around Johnston’s left flank and not attack directly. As George Thomas’s Federals feinted in Johnston’s front, Federals under Generals John Schofield and James McPherson moved around both of Johnston’s flanks. Johnston ordered another withdrawal in the night, moving toward Cassville and Kingston amid skirmishing.

In Virginia, Federal and Confederate positions continued shifting around Spotsylvania.

Benjamin F. Butler’s Federal Army of the James withdrew to Bermuda Hundred. P.G.T. Beauregard’s Confederates advanced and trapped the Federals on the peninsula, pinning them between the James River on the north, the Appomattox River on the south, and the Confederates in front. Ulysses S. Grant later said that Butler’s army seemed “as if it had been in a bottle strongly corked.” Since the narrow neck of the “bottle” only needed a token Confederate force to guard, Beauregard not only stopped a Federal threat to Richmond, but he was also able to send reinforcements to Robert E. Lee.

18 MAY

The Battle of Spotsylvania resumed with a Federal attack at dawn. Major General George G. Meade, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac under Grant, ended the attack after several unsuccessful charges. Ulysses S. Grant finally decided that Robert E. Lee’s position was too strong to penetrate and began shifting the Federals to the southeast once more.

Philip Sheridan’s Federal cavalry returned to the Army of the Potomac, unable to reach Benjamin F. Butler’s Federals on the James River. Meanwhile, P.G.T. Beauregard’s Confederates were corking the bottle on Butler’s Federals at Bermuda Hundred.

In Georgia, William T. Sherman’s Federals advanced on Joseph E. Johnston toward Kingston. Fighting erupted near Cassville, Kingston, and Pine Log Creek. Jefferson Davis expressed disappointment in Johnston for his recent retreats.

The New York World and the Journal of Commerce published a false proclamation from President Lincoln calling for 300,000 more troops. Lincoln ordered that the military seize the newspaper offices and arrest the editors and publishers. The newsmen were eventually released after explaining that a stock manipulator had given them a fraudulent story.

19 MAY

The Battle of Spotsylvania ended. Following the horrible carnage from the Wilderness and Spotsylvania, Federal General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant planned to move against the Confederate right flank once more.

President Jefferson Davis informed General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate victory over General Benjamin F. Butler’s Federal Army of the James at Drewry’s Bluff. Davis advised Lee to use his own discretion about the future.

The Red River campaign ended as the Federals crossed the Atchafalaya on their retreat from Alexandria, Louisiana. In this complete Federal failure, the Federals lost about 8,000 men, nine ships, and 57 guns. General Nathaniel Banks, commanding the Federal Army of the Gulf, was largely disowned by his troops and his political career ended.

In Georgia, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston ordered an attack on Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal Army of the West while it was separated near Cassville.

Famed writer Nathaniel Hawthorne died at Plymouth, New Hampshire at age 60. The New England school of writers had recognized Hawthorne as a classic American author.

 

20 MAY 

Ulysses S. Grant issued orders for George G. Meade’s Federals to cross the Mattaponi River and establish positions around Guiney’s Station. As the lead Federal corps reached Guiney’s Station, Confederate General Robert E. Lee prepared to move his Army of Northern Virginia south to block Grant once more.

In Georgia, William T. Sherman tried turning Joseph E. Johnston’s left before the Confederates crossed the Etowah River, but Johnston managed to slip away. Pulling back through Cartersville, the Confederates crossed the Etowah and formed a strong position at Allatoona Pass.

President Davis wrote to Robert E. Lee about Confederate efforts on the other fronts, but he left Confederate operations in northern Virginia to Lee’s discretion.

President Abraham Lincoln requested that the Army and Navy refrain from interfering with traders in conquered territory if those traders operated according to Treasury Department regulations. This was part of a continuing effort to maintain trade in occupied regions or with the enemy.

21 MAY

In Virginia, fighting ensued at Guiney’s Station and Stanard’s Mill, and Ulysses S. Grant directed the Federals to continue moving southeast toward Hanover Junction. Robert E. Lee ordered a withdrawal to the North Anna River late today.

Grant replaced Major General Franz Sigel as commander of the Federal Department of West Virginia with Major General David Hunter. Under Hunter, the Federals planned to advance in the Shenandoah Valley once more.

In Georgia, William T. Sherman regrouped his Federal forces while Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederates positioned themselves around Allatoona Pass. As Sherman advanced deeper into Confederate territory, President Lincoln urged western state governors to continue sending forward 100-day troops to “sustain Gen. Sherman’s lengthening lines…”

22 MAY

As Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals moved south from Guiney’s Station toward the North Anna River, Robert E. Lee beat them to Hanover Junction and established defensive positions.

In Georgia, Federal cavalry skirmished at Cassville this evening, and William T. Sherman issued orders to head toward Dallas.

23 MAY

The Battle of the North Anna began as Robert E. Lee formed a strong line between Hanover and the North Anna River. Fighting began at 6 p.m. with a Confederate attack on Federals crossing the river that was eventually repulsed. The Federals were divided on both sides of the river, but a lack of coordination and Lee’s illness prevented the Confederates from capitalizing.

William T. Sherman’s Federals headed toward Dallas from the Cassville area, once again trying to turn Joseph E. Johnston’s left in Georgia. Sherman crossed the Etowah River as Johnston tried determining Sherman’s plan from Allatoona Pass.

24 MAY

The Battle of the North Anna continued as Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals continued crossing the river. However, the Federal army was divided in three parts due to the bend in the river and Robert E. Lee’s apex-shaped line. The long-absent Federal cavalry under Major General Philip Sheridan returned to aid Grant. Lee held firm during the brief fight.

In Georgia, William T. Sherman advanced on Dallas from the Etowah River, with skirmishing breaking out at several points. Joseph E. Johnston realized Sherman’s intent and tried blocking him by moving the Confederates through New Hope Church to get in Sherman’s front. Although Sherman was closing in on the vital industrial city of Atlanta, his supply lines were dangerously extended and Johnston blocked his path to the railroad.

25 MAY

The Battle of the North Anna continued as the Federal right advanced before Ulysses S. Grant realized that Robert E. Lee’s position was too strong. Fighting was inconclusive, with Lee once more checking Grant’s advance. However, both armies were much closer to Richmond than when they had begun fighting 20 days ago.

In Georgia, a Federal force under Major General Joseph Hooker attacked General John Bell Hood’s entrenched Confederates at New Hope Church but were repulsed in a heavy thunderstorm. The Federals suffered about 1,665 casualties, while the Confederates lost less than half that amount. The Federals began entrenching in the Dallas-New Hope Church region as William T. Sherman probed for weaknesses in the Confederate line.

26 MAY

In Virginia, the Battle of the North Anna ended as Robert E. Lee stopped Ulysses S. Grant’s advance once more. At nightfall, Grant directed George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac to continue southward, across the Pamunkey River toward Hanovertown, far around the right flank of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

In Georgia, Federals under James McPherson reached Dallas, while John Schofield’s Federals reached the Dallas-New Hope Church area. Both Federals and Confederates began entrenching.

In Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Federals under new commander David Hunter advanced from Strasburg and Cedar Creek toward Staunton.

Major General John G. Foster assumed command of the Federal Department of the South.

Congress approved an enabling act creating the new Montana Territory separate from the Dakota Territory.

 

27 MAY

In Virginia, Philip Sheridan’s Federal cavalry occupied Hanovertown, south of the Pamunkey River. Skirmishing occurred at various points. Robert E. Lee learned of Ulysses S. Grant’s advance and began moving his Confederates from near Hanover Junction to the southeast.

In Georgia, Federals under Oliver O. Howard attempted to move around Joseph E. Johnston’s right near Pickett’s Mill and Mount Zion Church, about two miles northeast of New Hope Church. Heavy fighting ensued in dense woods, and the Federal attacks were easily repulsed. The Federals suffered over 1,600 casualties, while the Confederates lost only about 500.

General Jo Shelby assumed command of Confederate troops north of the Arkansas River.

28 MAY

In Virginia, Robert E. Lee’s Confederates moved through Mechanicsville and reached Hanovertown ahead of Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals. Cavalry skirmishes occurred. President Davis told Lee that P.G.T. Beauregard, south of Richmond, was strengthening his defenses but was still outnumbered by at least two-to-one.

In Georgia, Joseph E. Johnston determined that the Federal right was weak based on Oliver O. Howard’s attack yesterday. Johnston sent William Hardee’s Confederates to attack James McPherson’s Federals near Dallas. The Federals were initially pushed back, but a late charge regained the lost ground. Nevertheless, McPherson’s Federals were trapped south of Dallas.

Archduke Maximilian of Hapsburg landed at Vera Cruz to become the king of Mexico. Maximilian was supported by Emperor Napoleon III of France, who hoped to expand the French Empire into the Western Hemisphere by establishing a puppet regime in Mexico. The Lincoln administration opposed this move because it violated the Monroe Doctrine. Opposition also came from deposed Mexican ruler Benito Juarez.

30 MAY

In Virginia, Ulysses S. Grant moved further south toward the Totopotomoy River, marking the closest the Federals had come to Richmond since the Peninsular campaign of 1862. Despite the deep advance into Virginia, Robert E. Lee’s army was still strong and Richmond was still safe. Heavy fighting ensued as the Federals probed Lee’s line.

In Georgia, both Federal and Confederate lines still held around the Dallas-New Hope Church area, and skirmishing continued. Confederate raiders under John Hunt Morgan launched another incursion into Kentucky to disrupt William T. Sherman’s communications and relieve pressure on Joseph E. Johnston.

Federals under Brigadier General George Crook started from Meadow Bluff, West Virginia toward Lynchburg, Virginia as part of the Federal move by Hunter against Lynchburg.

Federal naval forces began bombarding Fort Sumter, firing 319 rounds between today and June 5.

31 MAY

In Virginia, Robert E. Lee established defensive positions near Cold Harbor, about 10 miles northeast of Richmond on the Chickahominy River. Ulysses S. Grant shifted part of his line toward Cold Harbor to get around Lee’s right, and Lee shifted to meet him. Skirmishing broke out at various points, as both sides established positions where another major battle was imminent.

Both Grant and William T. Sherman were much closer to Richmond and Atlanta than when fighting started this month. Federals and Confederates each lost about 9,000 men in the May campaign. But Grant and Sherman were beginning to stall.

Dissident Radical Republicans gathered in Cleveland to nominate a presidential candidate for the November election. The Radicals opposed President Abraham Lincoln’s moderate emancipation and reconstruction policies, instead supporting immediate abolition of slavery and harsh punishment for the seceded states. Delegates nominated General John C. Fremont for president and Brigadier General John Cochrane of New York for vice president. Convention attendance was small, and Lincoln worked to garner Radical support to unite the Republican Party against the Democrats.

—–

Last Updated: 11/15/2014

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