The worst sustained fighting of the war took place. The armies in Virginia fought throughout May, and Robert E. Lee lost two top lieutenants. William T. Sherman edged closer to the prized city of Atlanta, but other Federal efforts were not as effective. Both the Lincoln and Davis administrations faced increasing criticism and resentment from their constituencies.
1 May – The Federal Army of the Potomac prepared to cross the Rapidan River and begin its long-awaited offensive in northern Virginia.
2 May – Major General Frederick Steele’s Federal Army of Arkansas began returning to Little Rock, while Federal naval forces on the Red River in Louisiana were in grave danger of being stranded in shallow water.
3 May – Major General William T. Sherman assembled three Federal armies to confront General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate Army of Tennessee in northern Georgia.
4 May – Another front opened in Virginia, as Major General Benjamin F. Butler’s Federal Army of the James boarded transports at Yorktown to move up the James River.
4 May – The Federal Army of the Potomac moved out to begin its long-anticipated offensive, now with Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant in overall command.
5 May – General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia caught the Federal Army of the Potomac in the forbidding Wilderness, and a chaotic battle opened the spring campaign.
6 May – Fighting raged a second day as Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant learned that General Robert E. Lee would not be an easy foe to overcome.
7 May – Major General William T. Sherman’s three Federal armies began its part of the grand offensive by moving to draw the Confederate Army of Tennessee under General Joseph E. Johnston out into the open where it could be destroyed.
8 May – After two terrible days in the Wilderness, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant led the Federal Army of the Potomac into a new battle that promised to become even more terrible.
10 May – The Federal Army of the Potomac launched an all-out assault on Confederates defending Spotsylvania Court House, with particular emphasis on a salient in the defense line. More horrific casualties resulted.
11 May – Major General Philip Sheridan embarked on a Federal cavalry raid intended to disrupt Confederate supply lines and destroy the famed command of Major General Jeb Stuart.
12 May – The “Cavalier of Dixie” succumbed to a wound suffered at the Battle of Yellow Tavern, and another legendary Confederate general was gone.
12 May – Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant ordered a massive Federal assault on a salient in the line of General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.
13 May – Major General William T. Sherman shifted his Federals southeast to try moving around General Joseph E. Johnston’s flank, but Johnston shifted to block them.
13 May – Major General John C. Breckinridge’s Confederates moved out to confront Major General Franz Sigel’s Federal Army of West Virginia advancing south “up” Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
14 May – The armies of Major General William T. Sherman and General Joseph E. Johnston clashed in northern Georgia, as Sherman still looked to slide around the Confederate flank.
15 May – Major General John C. Breckinridge led a makeshift Confederate army in trying to stop the Federal drive up Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
15 May – Opposing armies assembled at Drewry’s Bluff, about five miles from Richmond on the James River, and both commanders planned to attack.
16 May – General P.G.T. Beauregard launched an attack on Major General Benjamin F. Butler’s Federals as they timidly approached Richmond from the south.
17 May – General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate Army of Tennessee established positions around Adairsville after retreating southward from Resaca.
18 May – Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant directed his Federals to launch another attack in hopes of turning the flank of General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.
18 May – A forged presidential proclamation was sent to the press in an effort to drive up the price of gold. This caused an uproar throughout the North.
19 May – Major General John C. Breckinridge’s Confederates began leaving the Shenandoah Valley, and Major General Franz Sigel was replaced as Federal commander in the region.
Northern Virginia: Race to the North Anna
20 May –
The Red River Campaign Ends
20 May –
Georgia: Confederates Hold Allatoona
21 May –
Northern Virginia: Showdown at the North Anna
22 May –
The Battle of the North Anna
23 May –
The Battle of the North Anna: Lee Sets a Trap
24 May –
The Battle of New Hope Church
25 May –
The Battle of Haw’s Shop
26 May –
Battles at Pickett’s Mill and Dallas
27 May –
Grant and Lee Shift Toward Cold Harbor
30 May –
The Radical Republican Convention
31 May –
Last Updated: 5/19/2019