The war entered its third year, and many changes had taken place throughout America thus far. Wartime taxation and inflation were adversely affecting both northerners and southerners. Others were becoming wealthy through war profiteering and speculating. Southern dissatisfaction over the draft grew, while northerners worried about what changes the Emancipation Proclamation would bring. Everyone prepared for more hardship, destruction, and death to come.
The winter had temporarily stalled major military operations. Nevertheless, the Confederacy was being threatened on the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, in Tennessee south of Murfreesboro, on the coastlines, and in Virginia. Both sides were continuing preparations for renewed fighting in the spring.
Both sides were preparing for another battle season, and concern was growing in the South. The Federal naval blockade was slowly strangling the Confederate economy, and the Federal armies continued pushing deeper into southern territory. People were awaiting the coming spring with both hope and dread
The hardships of the war were intensifying in the South, but spirits generally remained high. As the major armies were preparing for another battle season, most southerners expressed confidence that Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson would keep the Federals away from the Confederate capital at Richmond.
Federal offensives on two of the three major fronts had begun. In Virginia, Joseph Hooker’s Federals were moving to attack Robert E. Lee’s Confederates. In Mississippi, Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals were threatening Vicksburg from the south. In central Tennessee, William S. Rosecrans’s Federals remained relatively stationary against Braxton Bragg’s Confederates.
The Federal grip was tightening around Vicksburg and Port Hudson on the Mississippi River. The Confederates had recently lost one of their top commanders, and Robert E. Lee was planning a second northern invasion. The Lincoln administration was under scrutiny for violating civil liberties, and blacks were being recruited by the Federal military.
Robert E. Lee’s Confederates were in Pennsylvania and the Federals had a new commander, both of which alarmed northerners. In Tennessee, William S. Rosecrans’s Federals were outmaneuvering Braxton Bragg’s Confederates and threatening Chattanooga. Ulysses S. Grant’s Federal siege of Vicksburg was growing stronger, and southerners were losing hope that the city could be saved.
Both North and South were reassessing their conditions and realigning their forces following the major events of July. Much of the northern resentment against the war was tempered by the recent Federal victories. Southerners were lamenting their defeats and preparing to make even harder sacrifices for their cause.
The massive Federal bombardment on the forts in Charleston Harbor had not forced surrender. William S. Rosecrans’s Federals were advancing on Chattanooga, and Ambrose Burnside’s Federals were advancing on Knoxville. Northern morale began dropping as it was becoming apparent that the great victories of July would not bring a fast end to the war as had been expected.
The Confederacy was still in great danger of defeat, but the recent victory at Chickamauga, combined with stopping Federal advances on Texas and Charleston, provided new hope. However, the Federals were hurrying troops to reinforce the besieged forces in Chattanooga, and Federals had tightened their control of Arkansas and eastern Tennessee.
Attention had shifted from Virginia and the Mississippi River to eastern Tennessee and Charleston. The besieged Federals in Chattanooga were now receiving supplies that they would use to attempt breaking out of the city. The Federal blockade was becoming more constrictive to the southern economy, as blockade runners were frequently captured by Federal ships.
The military advantage had decisively shifted to the North. George G. Meade’s Federal campaign in Virginia had been unsuccessful, but he was still threatening Robert E. Lee. Significant Confederate resistance in Tennessee had been effectively stopped after the Federal victory at Chattanooga. Southern hopes for either military success or foreign recognition were fading.
Last Updated: 12/18/2018