The war entered its fourth year, and there had been no major military operations since November. Momentum was clearly in the North’s favor, as the Federals’ superiority in manpower and armaments was taking its toll. Southern hopes were diminishing as the Federals relentlessly advanced deeper and deeper into Confederate territory and chances for foreign recognition or more brilliant victories grew slimmer.
Confederate guerrilla attacks and partisan raids were increasing as the Federal military was growing stronger and the conventional Confederate war effort was weakening. The Federal naval blockade was relentlessly squeezing the southern coastline and wreaking havoc on the Confederate economy.
The Federals had captured many key points in the South, and both sides were preparing for the upcoming spring campaign. Southern resolve was weakening, while northerners were hopeful that this would be the last year of the war.
One of the longest stretches without major fighting was about to end. A Federal expedition had begun on the Red River, Federal naval forces had continued attacks on Charleston Harbor, and Ulysses S. Grant had become commander of all U.S. armies. In the North, more press attention was turning toward the upcoming elections in November. In the South, discontent with the Davis administration was increasing.
The Confederacy was massing defenses for the impending Federal offensives. In Virginia, Robert E. Lee was struggling to learn where and when the Federal Army of the Potomac may strike. William T. Sherman was readying his Federals to invade Georgia. Other Federal armies were preparing to advance in conjunction with Ulysses S. Grant’s call for a coordinated, simultaneous attack.
Americans had witnessed a period of horrible carnage as the Confederacy just endured its worst month of the war. Southerners were growing more concerned as Federal armies plunged deeper into southern territory. Ulysses S. Grant’s Federal Army of the Potomac had hammered its way from the Rapidan River to within striking distance of Richmond. William T. Sherman’s Federal Army of the West had maneuvered its way from Chattanooga toward Atlanta.
Northerners were looking toward the fall elections, and many were horrified by the enormous loss of life in Ulysses S. Grant’s campaign against Robert E. Lee. Grant’s campaign was generally perceived to be a failure. In the South, dissension increased as southerners grew resentful of “Retreating” Joe Johnston’s constant backward movements in Georgia.
The North had just endured its worst month of the year. Ulysses S. Grant was stalled at Petersburg. William T. Sherman had defeated John Bell Hood in Georgia, but he was still unable to capture Atlanta. Northerners tired of the soaring casualties began believing that the war was unwinnable. However, there was just as much dissension and misery in the South, as the Confederate armies barely held their ground with dwindling troop numbers.
It was apparent that Atlanta, the Confederacy’s most valuable city besides Richmond, would fall to William T. Sherman’s Federals. Philip Sheridan was preparing to launch a Federal offensive into the Shenandoah Valley, and Ulysses S. Grant continued extending the Federal siege lines around Petersburg in an effort to spread Robert E. Lee’s Confederate line thin enough to break.
The fall of Atlanta had caused reverberations throughout North and South. To northerners, Atlanta’s capture offset the stalemate at Petersburg and greatly improved President Abraham Lincoln’s chances for reelection. To southerners, Atlanta’s fall was a devastating defeat. Philip Sheridan believed that the Shenandoah Valley campaign was over, but Jubal Early’s Confederates were preparing one final offensive.
The October elections and Federal military victories had given the Lincoln administration optimism regarding the upcoming Federal elections. George B. McClellan was still highly popular among soldiers and northerners tired of the war, but the Federal victories had given the Republicans new momentum.
William T. Sherman’s Federals were moving through Georgia, but their exact location was unknown since he had cut his own communication and supply lines. John Bell Hood’s Confederates were threatening Nashville, where George H. Thomas had established strong Federal defenses. The slow starvation of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia outside Petersburg and Richmond continued.
Last Updated: 9/30/2019