The final battle was fought in the Shenandoah Valley. In the North, Abraham Lincoln began a second term as president amidst a growing rift between him and the Radical Republicans in Congress. In the South, the Confederate government resorted to desperate measures to stay intact. Joseph E. Johnston futilely tried holding Sherman back in North Carolina, and Robert E. Lee made plans to abandon Petersburg and Richmond. Most southerners knew that the end was near.
1 Mar – Philip Sheridan’s Federal cavalry advanced to within seven miles of the last substantial Confederate force in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The Federals attacked the next day.
2 Mar – Robert E. Lee proposed to meet with Ulysses S. Grant to discuss the possibility of “a satisfactory adjustment of the present unhappy difficulties by means of a military convention..”
2 Mar – Letter from Luther Rice Mills of the 26th Virginia Infantry to his brother from the Petersburg trenches.
3 Mar – Abraham Lincoln signed a bill into law establishing the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, which became known as the Freedmen’s Bureau.
4 Mar – Abraham Lincoln began a second term as U.S. president in Washington, D.C.
5 Mar – William T. Sherman’s Federal armies began crossing the Pee Dee River after leaving a swath of destruction through South Carolina.
6 Mar – Ulysses S. Grant, the overall Federal commander, continued preparing to launch the spring offensive, which looked promising considering the growing number of Confederate desertions.
7 Mar – Braxton Bragg hoped to prevent Federals from joining forces in North Carolina by blocking a detachment moving inland from the coast.
8 Mar – A small Confederate force under Braxton Bragg tried making a stand east of Kinston to stop Jacob D. Cox’s advance inland from the North Carolina coast.
10 Mar – Wade Hampton’s Confederate cavalry caught Federal horsemen by surprise in a fight separate from the main Federal thrust into North Carolina.
11 Mar – The left wing of William T. Sherman’s Federal armies captured Fayetteville, a key city on the Cape Fear River in southern North Carolina.
13 Mar – Jefferson Davis signed a bill into law authorizing the recruitment of slaves into the Confederate armies.
13 Mar – Jefferson Davis submitted a contentious message to the Confederate Congress as a growing sense of defeat spread throughout the South.
15 Mar – A small Confederate force dug in near Averasboro and partially blocked the path of William T. Sherman’s advance into North Carolina.
18 Mar – Joseph E. Johnston concentrated all the Confederates he could muster near Bentonville, North Carolina, to oppose the advancing left wing of William T. Sherman’s Federal army.
19 Mar – Joseph E. Johnston’s makeshift Confederate army moved to crush the left wing of William T. Sherman’s Federal army outside Bentonville before the right wing could come up in support.
The Battle of Bentonville: Day Two
20 Mar – The fight that began yesterday in North Carolina ended as William T. Sherman scrambled to unite his Federal army to oppose Joseph E. Johnston’s makeshift Confederate force.
The Fall of Goldsboro
22 Mar – William T. Sherman’s Federals ended their devastating march through the Carolinas by arriving at Goldsboro, North Carolina.
The Lincolns Leave Washington
23 Mar – The Lincoln family boarded a steamboat to visit Ulysses S. Grant and the Federal armies laying siege to Petersburg and Richmond.
Petersburg: Lee Targets Fort Stedman
23 Mar – Robert E. Lee approved a desperate plan for his Army of Northern Virginia to break the Federal siege line east of Petersburg, thereby opening an escape route to the south.
Petersburg: Lee and Grant Prepare for Offense
24 Mar – Ulysses S. Grant continued preparing to mount his spring offensive, unaware that Robert E. Lee was preparing to attack first.
The Battle of Fort Stedman
25 Mar – Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia launched a desperate attack to break out of the siege lines at Petersburg.
The Lincoln Visit Continues
26 Mar – An ugly incident occurred at a military review as Abraham Lincoln continued his visit with the Federal armies besieging Richmond and Petersburg.
The City Point Conference
27 Mar – Abraham Lincoln met with his top commanders to discuss plans for what they hoped would be the last campaign of the war.
Petersburg: The Federal Offensive Begins
28 Mar – Federal forces prepared to move west, around the Confederate right flank southwest of Petersburg, in what Ulysses S. Grant hoped would be the final offensive of the war.
Petersburg: Grant Looks to Destroy Lee
29 Mar – Federal troops encircling Richmond and Petersburg embarked on a movement that Ulysses S. Grant hoped would destroy the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and end the war.
Petersburg: Both Sides Prepare to Attack
30 Mar – General Robert E. Lee planned a Confederate assault, while Major General Philip Sheridan pleaded with the Federal high command to launch an attack of his own.
The Dinwiddie Court House Engagement
31 Mar – Confederates repelled a Federal advance in the southwestern sector of the Petersburg siege lines, but the Federals would not be denied for long.
Last Updated: 3/19/2020