March 1864

1 MAR 

Federal General Judson Kilpatrick began his planned raid on the Confederate capital of Richmond. He led a detachment toward Richmond from the north, while Colonel Ulric Dahlgren’s force circled southward, crossed the James River, and approached Richmond from the south. However, Confederate knowledge of the raid cost the Federals the vital element of surprise. Richmond officials assembled clerks, wounded soldiers, veterans, and home guards to defend the city.

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln nominated Ulysses S. Grant for the new rank of lieutenant general.

Wednesday, March 2

The U.S. Senate confirmed President Lincoln’s appointment of Ulysses S. Grant to lieutenant general. After enduring a series of unsuccessful commanders, Lincoln that Grant would be the general to finally destroy the Confederacy.

In the Federal raid on Richmond, Ulric Dahlgren’s Federal detachment fell back after Dahlgren learned that Judson Kilpatrick’s main force had withdrawn. General Fitzhugh Lee’s Confederate cavalry ambushed Dahlgren’s detachment while crossing the Mattaponi River, killing Dahlgren and capturing about 100 of his 500 men. Unsubstantiated reports that papers found on Dahlgren’s body indicated a plot to assassinate President Jefferson Davis outraged southerners.

Meanwhile, Kilpatrick hurried east under pursuit by General Wade Hampton. The failed raid on Richmond ended with 340 Federals killed and nearly 1,000 horses killed, disabled, or captured. A diversionary unit under General George A. Custer returned to Federal lines after its successful raid of Albemarle County.

Thursday, March 3

The U.S. Congress authorized the Treasury Department to sell another series of war bonds. The sale of 10-year bonds was intended to generate $200 million to help finance the war.

Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton summoned Ulysses S. Grant from his Nashville headquarters to Washington to receive his new lieutenant general commission and assignment.

Friday, March 4

The U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Andrew Johnson as military governor of Tennessee.

A pro-Union state government was initiated in Louisiana, and new Governor Michael Hahn assumed the powers formerly held by Federal military authorities.

The main portion of Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal forces returned to Vicksburg after destroying Meridian, Mississippi.

Saturday, March 5

The Confederacy required every sea vessel to provide at least one-half of its freight capacity for government shipments. This intended to reduce profiteering through blockade running and to better facilitate government efforts to obtain badly needed supplies.

Major General John C. Breckinridge assumed command of the Confederate Department of Western Virginia.

Monday, March 7

President Davis wrote to Lieutenant General James Longstreet, whose Confederate corps was camped at Greeneville in eastern Tennessee: “It is needless to point out to you the value of a successful movement into Tennessee and Kentucky, and the importance–I may say necessity–of our taking the initiative.”

President Lincoln wrote to Congressman John A.J. Creswell of Maryland expressing support for the immediate emancipation of slaves in that state, even though he preferred gradual freedom. Lincoln stated, “It needs not to be a secret, that I wish success to emancipation in Maryland. It would aid much to the end of the rebellion.”

Under terms of the Pacific Railway Act of 1862, President Lincoln designated the western boundary of Iowa as the starting point for the Union Pacific Railroad to begin westward construction on a transcontinental railroad. Iowa was chosen largely because of the state’s role in nominating Lincoln for president in 1860. Council Bluffs was selected as the specific starting point, coincidentally a town in which Lincoln had bought property in 1859.

Newspapers in Richmond reported the first arrival of black prisoners of war.

Federal Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant | Image Credit:

Federal Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant | Image Credit:

Tuesday, March 8

Ulysses S. Grant arrived in Washington unrecognized, but word quickly spread that he was in town, and he was warmly received at Willard’s Hotel. Grant then proceeded to the weekly reception at the White House, where he met President Lincoln for the first time. In the East Room, Grant stood on a sofa so the cheering guests could see him.

Wednesday, March 9

In Washington, President Lincoln presented Ulysses S. Grant with his new commission as lieutenant general in a formal White House ceremony. Lincoln said, “As the country herein trusts you, so, under God, it will sustain you…” Grant replied, “I feel the full weight of the responsibilities now devolving upon me, and it will be my earnest endeavor not to disappoint your expectations…”

Lincoln informed Grant that he had been promoted because he was not expected to procrastinate like former commanders. Lincoln said he wanted no knowledge of Grant’s plans if he would just act decisively.

Thursday, March 10

Ulysses S. Grant was officially authorized to become general-in-chief of all U.S. armies. Grant traveled to Virginia to inspect the Army of the Potomac and consult with army commander George G. Meade. Grant stated that he intended to set up headquarters with Meade in the field.

After nearly two months of planning, the 30,000-man Federal Army of the Gulf under Major General Nathaniel Banks began moving northwest up the Red River from Vicksburg, Mississippi to Shreveport, Louisiana. The expedition’s purpose was to capture the rich cotton land of eastern Texas, seize the Mexican supply route to the Confederacy, and apply pressure on the French puppet regime in Mexico to abdicate.

The Federals advanced among a flotilla of warships, ironclads, and transports commanded by Rear Admiral David D. Porter. The forces were to be reinforced by Major General Frederick Steele, who was leading his Federals south from Arkansas. Reinforcements from Major General William T. Sherman were also forthcoming.

Major General Franz Sigel replaced Brigadier General Benjamin F. Kelley as commander of the Federal Department of West Virginia.

Friday, March 11

Ulysses S. Grant returned to Washington from Virginia, then left this evening for Nashville to confer with William T. Sherman, the new Western Theater commander. Confederate President Jefferson Davis assured General John C. Pemberton that his defense of Vicksburg was justified, and had Pemberton chosen to abandon Vicksburg, “few if any would have defended your course.” Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee.

Saturday, March 12

The official reorganization of the U.S. Army was announced:

  • Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant became general-in-chief of all Federal armies
  • Current General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck was relieved (at his request) and became Federal chief of staff
  • Major General William T. Sherman replaced Grant as commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi (including the Departments of the Ohio, the Cumberland, the Tennessee, and the Arkansas)
  • Major General James B. McPherson replaced Sherman as commander of the Department of the Tennessee.

President Lincoln expressed gratitude to Halleck for “able and zealous” service in the general orders.

The Lincolns hosted several high-ranking military officers at the White House, but Grant was in Nashville consulting with Sherman.

Sunday, March 13

President Lincoln suggested to Louisiana Governor Michael Hahn that perhaps some of the “very intelligent” blacks should attend a convention that would determine whether to allow blacks to vote.

Monday, March 14

In Louisiana, a detachment of the Federal Army of the Gulf seized Fort De Russy near Simsport. Another portion of the army advanced on Alexandria.

President Lincoln authorized the drafting of 200,000 men into the U.S. Navy and providing “an adequate reserve force for all contingencies” in the overall U.S. military.

Federal naval vessels bombarded Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina with 143 shells.

Tuesday, March 15

President Lincoln urged Louisiana Governor Hahn to not “take charge of any church as such” in New Orleans.

Wednesday, March 16

Federals occupied Alexandria, Louisiana as part of their Red River campaign.

Major General Sterling Price replaced Lieutenant General Theophilus Holmes as commander of the Confederate Department of Arkansas.

Thursday, March 17

Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant issued General Order No. 1 from Nashville, Tennessee: “I assume command of the Armies of the United States, headquarters will be in the field, and, until further orders, these will be with the Army of the Potomac.” Major General George G. Meade would continue as Army of the Potomac commander, but Grant would be directly supervising him.

Friday, March 18

Major General William T. Sherman officially assumed command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, formerly commanded by U.S. Grant.

At the closing of the Sanitary Commission Fair in Washington, President Lincoln said that “if all that has been said by orators and poets since the creation of the world in praise of woman applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice for their conduct during this war.”

Arkansas voters ratified a pro-Union state constitution that included abolishing slavery.

Saturday, March 19

The Georgia legislature passed resolutions expressing confidence in President Jefferson Davis and recommending that the Confederacy offer to negotiate peace after each military victory. The negotiations would be based on recognizing southern independence and the self-determination of the border states (i.e., Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware).

Monday, March 21

President Lincoln signed a bill into law enabling the territories of Nevada and Colorado to become states. These territories had relatively small populations, but they were hurried toward statehood because they had Republican majorities that could be used to increase the party’s representation in Congress and cast electoral votes in the upcoming presidential election.

President Lincoln told the New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association, “Property is the fruit of labor–property is desirable–is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich, shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another…”

Tuesday, March 22

President Lincoln signed an autograph album for the Sanitary Fair: “I never knew a man who wished to be himself a slave. Consider if you know any good thing, that no man desires for himself.”

Major General Lewis Wallace replaced Brigadier General Henry H. Lockwood as commander of the Federal Middle Department, headquartered in Baltimore.

Wednesday, March 23

General Frederick Steele’s Federals advanced south from Little Rock, Arkansas to join General Nathaniel Banks’s Federals coming up the Red River in Louisiana. Banks sought to launch a two-pronged offensive toward Shreveport, Louisiana and eastern Texas that would destroy the Confederacy west of the Mississippi River. Steele’s Federals were met with immediate resistance as they advanced.

Ulysses S. Grant returned to Washington after conferring with William T. Sherman and other commanders in the West. During his conference with Sherman, Grant had proposed a coordinated offensive by all Federal armies–totaling over 500,000 effectives–at the same time against all major Confederate forces.

Major General Gouverneur K. Warren replaced Major General George Sykes as commander of Fifth Corps in the Federal Army of the Potomac.

Radical Republicans in Washington urged President Lincoln to remove George G. Meade as Army of the Potomac commander.

Thursday, March 24

Confederates under General Nathan Bedford Forrest captured Union City in western Tennessee.

President Lincoln conferred with new General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant at the White House.

Friday, March 25

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates alarmed residents in the Ohio River Valley by invading Kentucky and briefly occupying Paducah. Federals repulsed Forrest’s attack on Fort Anderson.

Brigadier General David McM. Gregg replaced Major General Alfred Pleasonton as commander of Federal cavalry in Virginia. Pleasonton was reassigned to Missouri.

Saturday, March 26

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates withdrew back into western Tennessee.

Ulysses S. Grant established permanent headquarters with the Federal Army of the Potomac at Culpeper Court House, Virginia.

Major General James B. McPherson assumed command of the Federal Army of the Tennessee.

President Lincoln announced that offers of amnesty did not apply to Confederate prisoners of war, but only to Confederates voluntarily coming forward and swearing allegiance to the Union.

President Davis argued with the governors of North and South Carolina over trade and troop policies.

Monday, March 28

In one of the most violent anti-war outbursts in the North, about 100 Copperheads attacked Federal soldiers on furlough in Charleston, Illinois. Fighting finally ended when active Federal troops arrived to restore order. Five were killed and over 20 wounded, and the local newspaper reported that “a dreadful affair took place in our town.”

General Nathaniel Banks’s Federal Army of the Gulf advanced northwestward from Alexandria, Louisiana as part of the Red River campaign. Meanwhile, Confederates under General Richard Taylor moved to stop Banks, and General Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department, began organizing defenses to stop General Frederick Steele’s Federals in Arkansas from linking with Banks.

Tuesday, March 29

Major General George G. Meade, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, decided not to seek a formal court of inquiry to investigate his conduct at Gettysburg last July. Meade had initially demanded the investigation to defend himself against criticisms in the press and among his subordinates. However, President Lincoln persuaded him to withdraw his demand.

Thursday, March 31

In the Red River campaign, skirmishing occurred at Natchitoches, Louisiana.


Last Updated: 11/18/2014


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