Military Efforts: 1863-1865

The Battles: 1863–1865

The battles of the Civil War were fought between 1861 and 1865, with the most significant battles occurring in the western and eastern theaters.

Learning Objectives

Summarize the battles fought in the eastern, western, Trans-Mississippi, Pacific coast, and lower seaboard theaters during the Civil War and the generals that led them

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The most significant theaters were the western theater, which included the battles of Shiloh and Vicksburg, and the eastern theater, which included the Battles of Gettysburg and Antietam.
  • The war was fought in five theaters: the eastern theater, the western theater, the Trans-Mississippi theater, the Pacific coast theater, and the lower seaboard theater.
  • Important generals for the Confederacy included Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
  • Important generals for the Union included Ulysses S. Grant, George B. McClellan, Ambrose Burnside, George Meade, and Joseph Hooker.
  • Important battles in the Civil War included, chronologically, the Battle of Shiloh, the Seven Days Battle, the Second Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Antietam, the Battle of Chancellorsville, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the Battle of Chickamauga.

Key Terms

  • Eastern Theater: An area that included the states of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, and the coastal fortifications and seaports of North Carolina.
  • Trans-Mississippi Theater: An area that comprised the major military and naval operations west of the Mississippi River. The area excluded the states and territories bordering the Pacific Ocean, which formed the Pacific coast theater of the American Civil War.
  • Western Theater: An area defined both by geography and the sequence of campaigning in the Civil War. It originally represented the area east of the Mississippi River and west of the Appalachian Mountains.

More than 10,000 military engagements took place during the Civil War. The battles of the American Civil War were fought between April 12, 1861, and May 13, 1865, in 23 states and in the District of Columbia, as well as in Arizona Territory, Colorado Territory, Dakota Territory, Indian Territory, New Mexico Territory, and Washington Territory, and included various naval engagements. The major engagements can be divided into the eastern theater, including Gettysburg and Antietam, and the western theater, including the Battles of Shiloh and Vicksburg. Smaller theaters included the Trans-Mississippi theater, the Pacific coast theater, and the lower seaboard theater, which included Texas.

The map shows battles of the American Civil War by Theater. The Theaters include the following regions: Eastern, Western, Lower Seaboard/Gulf, Trans-Mississippi, and Pacific Coast. Using a color key, the map shows whether the battles occurred in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865, or over multiple years. Virginia had the most battles of any state.

Battles of the American Civil War: A color-coded map of the battles of the American Civil War.

Fort Monroe in Virginia; Fort Sumter in South Carolina; and Fort Pickens, Fort Jefferson, and Fort Taylor, all in Florida, were the remaining Union-held forts in the Confederacy, and Lincoln was determined to hold them all. Under orders from Confederate President Jefferson Davis, troops controlled by the Confederate government bombarded Fort Sumter on April 12, forcing its capitulation. Most Northerners rallied behind Lincoln’s call for all states to send troops to recapture the forts and to preserve the Union. Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Virginia, however, refused to send forces against their neighbors, declared their secession, and joined the Confederacy.

Winfield Scott, the commanding general of the U.S. Army, devised the Anaconda Plan to win the war with as little bloodshed as possible. His idea was that a Union blockade of the main ports would weaken the Confederate economy and the capture of the Mississippi River would split the South. Lincoln adopted the plan, but overruled Scott’s warnings that his new army was not ready for an offensive operation in order to satisfy public demand for an immediate attack.

While the Confederate forces had numerous successes in the eastern theater of the American Civil War, they were defeated many times in the West. They were driven from Missouri early in the war as a result of the Battle of Pea Ridge. The Confederate invasion of Columbus, Kentucky, ended Kentucky’s policy of neutrality and turned that state against the Confederacy. Nashville and central Tennessee fell to the Union early in 1862, leading to attrition of local food supplies and livestock and a breakdown in social organization. The one clear Confederate victory in the West was the Battle of Chickamauga. General Braxton Bragg defeated Union troops, who retreated to Chattanooga, which Bragg then besieged.

The Union’s key strategist and tactician in the West was Ulysses S. Grant, who won victories at Forts Henry and Donelson, the Battle of Shiloh, and the Battle of Vicksburg, which cemented Union control of the Mississippi River and is considered one of the turning points of the war. Grant marched to the relief of troops in Chattanooga and defeated Bragg at the Third Battle of Chattanooga, driving Confederate forces out of Tennessee and opening a route to Atlanta and the heart of the Confederacy.

Guerrilla activity turned much of Missouri into a battleground. Missouri had, in total, the third-most battles of any state during the war. The other states of the West, though geographically isolated from the battles to the east, saw numerous small scale military actions. Battles in the region served to secure Missouri, Indian Territory, and New Mexico Territory for the Union. Confederate incursions into New Mexico territory were repulsed in 1862, and a Union campaign to secure Indian Territory succeeded in 1863. Late in the war, the Union’s Red River Campaign was a failure. Texas remained in Confederate hands throughout the war, but was cut off from the rest of the Confederacy after the capture of Vicksburg in 1863 gave the Union control of the Mississippi River.

At the beginning of 1864, Lincoln made Grant commander of all Union armies. Grant made his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac and put Major General William Tecumseh Sherman in command of most of the western armies. Grant understood the concept of total war and believed, along with Lincoln and Sherman, that only the utter defeat of Confederate forces and their economic base would end the war. This was total war, not in terms of killing civilians, but rather, in terms of destroying homes, farms, and railroads. Union forces in the East attempted to maneuver past Lee and fought several battles during that phase of the eastern campaign, sometimes termed Grant’s Overland Campaign.

Stalemate in the Eastern Theater

Many of the Civil War’s most important and bloodiest battles occurred in the eastern theater between Washington, D.C., and Richmond.

Learning Objectives

Identify the important battles fought and the states and generals involved in the eastern theater of the Civil War

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Many of the bloodiest days of the Civil War occurred in the eastern theater, including the Battles of Gettysburg and Antietam.
  • The eastern theater of the American Civil War included the states of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, and the coastal fortifications and seaports of North Carolina. The theater was bound by the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean.
  • General Robert E. Lee commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.
  • The Union Army of the Potomac was led, in turn, by Irvin McDowell, George B. McClellan, John Pope, Ambrose Burnside, Joseph Hooker, George G. Meade, and Ulysses S. Grant.
  • The eastern theater hosted the following important events, in chronological order: the First Battle of Bull Run, the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, the Seven Days Battles and the Peninsula Campaign, the Second Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Antietam, the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Battle of Chancellorsville, the Battle of Gettysburg, the Overland Campaign, the Shenandoah Valley Campaigns of 1864, and the surrender at Appomattox.

Key Terms

  • Battle of Gettysburg: A battle fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was the battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War and is often described as the war’s turning point.
  • Second Battle of Bull Run: A battle fought August 28–30, 1862, which was the culmination of Robert E. Lee’s offensive campaign against Union General Alexander Pope’s Army of Virginia while it was isolated from General George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac.
  • Robert E. Lee: (1807–1870) A career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War.

The eastern theater of the American Civil War included the states of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, and the coastal fortifications and seaports of North Carolina. Operations in the interior of the Carolinas in 1865 are considered part of the western theater, while the other coastal areas along the Atlantic Ocean are included in the lower seaboard theater. The theater was bound by the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. The eastern theater included the most famous campaigns in the history of the war, if not for their strategic significance, then for their proximity to the large population centers, major newspapers, and capital cities of the opposing parties.

The Second Battle of Bull Run

The Second Battle of Bull Run, fought August 28–30, 1862, was the culmination of Robert E. Lee’s offensive campaign against Union General Alexander Pope’s Army of Virginia while it was isolated from General George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac, which was stationed near Richmond. The battle began with Confederate Major General Stonewall Jackson’s troops capturing a supply depot at Manassas Junction, which threatened Pope’s line of communication with Washington, D.C. Jackson directed attacks against Union forces from the surrounding area, and Lee’s troops broke through light Union resistance at the same time to enter the battlefield. Pope believed Confederate Major General Stonewall Jackson’s corps to be trapped and led the bulk of his army against Jackson’s. Unfortunately, Pope was unaware that Jackson’s troops had actually recently been reinforced on a large scale, and the Union offensive was repulsed with heavy casualties on both sides. The Union army was pushed further back in retreat, allowing Lee an opening to the north into Maryland.

Gettysburg Campaign

In the summer of 1863, Lee’s second invasion, the Gettysburg Campaign, reached Pennsylvania, which was farther north than any other major Confederate army had gone previously. The Confederate government agreed to this strategy only reluctantly, because Jefferson Davis was concerned about the fate of Vicksburg, Mississippi, the river fortress being threatened by Ulysses S. Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign. The Battle of Gettysburg, fought from July 1 to July 3, is often considered the war’s turning point. General George G. Meade defeated Lee in a three-day battle fought by 160,000 soldiers with 51,000 casualties. The battle led to a Confederate retreat, but Union pursuit did not succeed in destroying the Confederate Army. If it had been successful, President Lincoln and others believed the war could have ended.

The Shenandoah Valley was a crucial region for the Confederacy: It was one of the most important agricultural regions in Virginia and was a prime invasion route against the North. The campaign was effectively concluded with a Union victory at the Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864.

The imaginations of both Northerners and Southerners were captured by the epic struggles between the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, under Robert E. Lee, and the Union Army of the Potomac, under a series of less successful commanders. The bloodiest battle of the war at Gettysburg and the bloodiest single day of the war at Antietam were both fought in this theater. The capitals of Washington, D.C., and Richmond were both attacked or besieged. It has been argued that the western theater was more strategically important in defeating the Confederacy, but it is inconceivable that the civilian populations of both sides could have considered the war to be at an end without the resolution of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in 1865.

image

“President Lincoln on Battle-Field of Antietam.”: President Lincoln visiting the Army of the Potomac at the Antietam battlefield, September 1862. Photo by Alexander Gardner.

Siege of Vicksburg

During the Vicksburg Campaign, Union victory secured the important Mississippi River for the Union and was a turning point in the war.

Learning Objectives

Explain the strategic importance of Vicksburg to the Confederates and the role of the Union victory in securing the Mississippi River

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Union victory was secured by Ulysses S. Grant.
  • The Battle of Vicksburg consisted of 11 distinct battles from December 26, 1862, to July 4, 1863.
  • Military historians divide the campaign into two formal phases: operations against Vicksburg from December 1862 to January 1863, and Grant’s operations against Vicksburg from March to July 1863.

Key Terms

  • Operations Against Vicksburg: The first formal phase of the Vicksburg Campaign (December 1862–January 1863).
  • Ulysses S. Grant: (Born Hiram Ulysses Grant; April 27, 1822–July 23, 1885) The 18th president of the United States (1869–1877) following his dominant role in the second half of the Civil War.
  • Vicksburg Campaign: A series of maneuvers and battles in the western theater of the American Civil War. These were specifically directed against Vicksburg, Mississippi, a fortress city that dominated the last Confederate-controlled section of the Mississippi River.

The Vicksburg Campaign was a series of maneuvers and battles in the western theater of the American Civil War directed against Vicksburg, Mississippi, a fortress city that dominated the last Confederate-controlled section of the Mississippi River. The Union Army of Tennessee, under Major General Ulysses S. Grant, gained control of the river by capturing this stronghold and defeating forces stationed there.

image

View of Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1863, during the American Civil War: View of Vicksburg and plan of the canal, fortifications & vicinity Surveyed by Lieut. L. A. Wrotnowski, Top: Engr. Drawn & lithogd. by A. F. Wrotnowski C.E.

The campaign consisted of many important naval operations, troop maneuvers, and failed initiatives, aa well as 11 distinct battles from December 26, 1862, to July 4, 1863. Military historians divide the campaign into two formal phases: operations against Vicksburg from December 1862 to January 1863, and Grant’s operations against Vicksburg from March to July 1863.

Vicksburg was strategically important to the Confederates. Jefferson Davis said, “Vicksburg is the nail head that holds the South’s two halves together.” While in their hands, it blocked Union navigation down the Mississippi. Together, with control of the mouth of the Red River and of Port Hudson to the south, it allowed communication with the states west of the river, upon which the Confederates depended extensively for horses, cattle, and reinforcements. The natural defenses of the city were ideal, earning it the nickname, “The Gibraltar of the Confederacy.” President Abraham Lincoln had long recognized the importance of Vicksburg, writing, “Vicksburg is the key.”

Grant initially planned a two-pronged approach, in which half of his army, under Major General William T. Sherman, would advance to the Yazoo River and attempt to reach Vicksburg from the northeast, while Grant took the remainder of the army down the Mississippi Central Railroad. Both of these initiatives failed. Grant conducted a number of “experiments” or expeditions, called “Grant’s Bayou Operations,” that attempted to enable waterborne access to the Mississippi south of Vicksburg’s artillery batteries. During this period, the overland half of Grant’s offensive was failing. His lines of communication were disrupted by raids. Unable to maintain his army without replenished supplies, Grant abandoned his overland advance.

Finally, Union gunboats and troop transport boats ran the batteries at Vicksburg and met up with Grant’s men who had marched overland in Louisiana. On April 29 and April 30, 1863, Grant’s army crossed the Mississippi and landed at Bruinsburg, Mississippi. An elaborate series of demonstrations and diversions fooled the Confederates, and the landings occurred without opposition. Over the next 17 days, Grant maneuvered his army inland and won five battles, captured the state capital of Jackson, Mississippi, and assaulted and laid siege to Vicksburg.

After Pemberton’s army surrendered on July 4, one day after the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, and when Port Hudson surrendered on July 9, the entire Mississippi River belonged to the Union. This defeat was the second major blow to the Confederacy in the summer of 1863. On July 3, General Robert E. Lee’s invasion of the North collapsed at Gettysburg. On July 4, the Stars and Stripes rose over Vicksburg. To the Confederates, surrendering on Independence Day was a bitter defeat. Union troops behaved well, mixing with Confederates and giving rations to starving soldiers. The most significant result of the campaign was control of the Mississippi River, which the Union obtained completely after Port Hudson. The Confederacy was now cut in two. These events are widely considered the turning point of the war. Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign is considered one of the masterpieces of American military history.

image

“Admiral Porter’s Fleet Running the Rebel Blockade of the Mississippi at Vicksburg, April 16th 1863.”: Lithograph of the Mississippi River Squadron running the Confederate blockade at Vicksburg on April 16, 1863.

The Battle of Chancellorsville

The Confederate Army won at the Battle of Chancellorsville, but lost many troops, including General “Stonewall” Jackson.

Learning Objectives

Assess the pros and cons of the Battle of Chancellorsville for the Confederate Army

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Battle of Chancellorsville is known as General Robert E. Lee’s “perfect battle” due to his risky decision to divide his army in the presence of a much larger enemy force, which resulted in a significant Confederate victory. The battle included the second bloodiest day of the Civil War.
  • Union troops planned to march on Richmond, Virginia, which was the Union goal of offensive strategies in the eastern theater for the first two years of the war. During the Battle of Chancellorsville, however, the goal of the Union advance shifted toward destruction of Lee’s troops.
  • Despite the Confederate victory, the loss of troops was devastating to the Confederate Army.
  • The battle led to 13,303 Confederate casualties and 17,197 Union casualties.

Key Terms

  • Robert E. Lee: (January 19, 1807–October, 12 1870) A career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War.
  • Joseph Hooker: (November 13, 1814–October 31, 1879) A career U.S. Army officer, achieving the rank of major general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.
  • Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson: (January 21, 1824–May 10, 1863) A Confederate general during the American Civil War, and one of the best-known Confederate commanders after General Robert E. Lee.
image

Wilderness Church at Chancellorsville: Wilderness Church at Chancellorsville was the center of a stand made by Union General Schurz’s division after Confederates under Stonewall Jackson made a surprise flank attack. The stand was brief, as the Confederates smashed through and continued to roll up the Eleventh Corps (under the command of General Oliver O. Howard).

The Battle of Chancellorsville was a major battle of the American Civil War, and the principal engagement of the Chancellorsville Campaign. It was fought from April 30 to May 6, 1863, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, near the village of Chancellorsville. Two related battles were fought nearby on May 3 in the vicinity of Fredericksburg. The campaign pitted Union Army Major General Joseph Hooker ‘s Army of the Potomac against General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Chancellorsville is known as Lee’s “perfect battle” due to his risky decision to divide his army in the presence of a much larger enemy force, which resulted in a significant Confederate victory. The victory was tempered by heavy casualties and the mortal wounding of Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson by friendly fire, a devastation that Lee likened to, “losing [his] right arm.”

The central Union strategy in the eastern theater was to seize the Confederate capital, Richmond. Four attempts in the first two years of the war had been thwarted. After this string of defeats, President Abraham Lincoln became convinced that the Union’s real strategy should lie with defeating General Robert E. Lee’s forces rather than capturing the Confederate capital. Nonetheless, the best strategy for doing this involved advancing toward Richmond. Lincoln placed Major General Hooker in charge of the offensive, and Hooker developed a strategy that was, on paper, superior to those of his predecessors.

The Chancellorsville Campaign began with the crossing of the Rappahannock River by the Union Army on the morning of April 27, 1863. Union cavalry under Major General George Stoneman began a long distance raid against Lee’s supply lines at about the same time. This operation was completely ineffectual. The federal infantry concentrated near Chancellorsville on April 30. Combined with the Union force facing Fredericksburg, Hooker planned a double envelopment, attacking Lee from both his front and rear.

Hooker's army faced Lee across the Rappahannock from its winter quarters in Falmouth and around Fredericksburg. He planned to send his 10,000 cavalrymen under Maj. Gen. George Stoneman to cross the Rappahannock far upstream and raid deep into the Confederate rear areas, destroying crucial supply depots along the railroad from the Confederate capital in Richmond to Fredericksburg, which would cut Lee's lines of communication and supply. Hooker assumed that Lee would react to this threat by abandoning his fortified positions on the Rappahannock and withdrawing toward his capital. At that time, Hooker's infantry would cross the Rappahannock in pursuit, attacking Lee when he was moving and vulnerable.

Hooker’s plan for the Chancellorsville Campaign: One of a series of maps of the Battle of Chancellorsville of the American Civil War. This one depicts the plan of Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker prior to the campaign.

The fiercest fighting of the battle—and the second bloodiest day of the Civil War—occurred on May 3 as Lee launched multiple attacks against the Union position at Chancellorsville, resulting in heavy losses on both sides. The campaign ended on May 7 when Stoneman’s cavalry reached Union lines east of Richmond. The Chancellorsville Campaign was one of the most lopsided clashes of the war, with the Union’s effective fighting force more than twice the Confederates’, the greatest imbalance during the war in Virginia.

In his Fredericksburg headquarters, Lee was initially in the dark about the Union intentions. As intelligence information about the Union’s river crossings began to arrive, Lee did not react as Hooker had anticipated. He decided to violate one of the generally accepted principles of war and divided his force in the face of a superior enemy, hoping that aggressive action would allow him to attack and defeat a portion of Hooker’s army before it fully could be concentrated against him.

Despite his being in a potentially favorable situation, Hooker halted his brief offensive. His actions may have demonstrated his lack of confidence in handling the complex actions of such a large organization for the first time, but he also had decided before beginning the campaign that he would fight the battle defensively, forcing Lee, with his small army, to attack Hooker’s larger one. Hooker’s decision to change plans led to disagreements and misunderstandings with his subordinates.

Lee, despite being outnumbered by a ratio of over two to one, won arguably his greatest victory of the war, sometimes described as his “perfect battle.” However, he paid a terrible price for it. With only 60,000 men engaged, he suffered 13,303 casualties, losing some 22 percent of his force in the campaign—men that the Confederacy, with its limited manpower, could not replace. Just as seriously, he lost his most aggressive field commander, Stonewall Jackson. Of the 133,000 Union men engaged, 17,197 were casualties, a percentage much lower than Lee’s. Lee’s Chancellorsville battle consisted of a pastiche of unbelievably risky gambits that led to a great triumph. Hooker’s campaign, after the brilliant opening movements, degenerated into a tale of missed opportunities and underutilized troops.

image

Battle of Chancellorsville by Kurz and Allison: Battle of Chancellorsville by Kurz and Allison depicts the wounding of Confederate Lt. Gen. Stonewall Jackson on May 2, 1863.

The Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg resulted in the Confederate Army’s retreat and the war turning in favor of the Union.

Learning Objectives

Describe General Lee’s and General Meade’s strategies at the Battle of Gettysburg, and the Confederacy’s ultimate defeat.

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, had an estimated 57,225 casualties over three days.
  • The Battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1-3, 1863.
  • The Confederate Army, led north in an offensive by Robert E. Lee, retreated after significant losses.

Key Terms

  • Gettysburg Address: The Gettysburg Address is a speech by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and is one of the most well-known speeches in U.S. history. It was delivered by Lincoln during the American Civil War on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the Battle of Gettysburg.
  • Pickett’s Charge: Pickett’s Charge was an infantry assault ordered by Confederate General Robert E. Lee against Major General George G. Meade’s Union positions on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863, during the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1-3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. As the battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War, it is often described as the war’s turning point. Union Major General George Gordon Meade’s Army of the Potomac defeated attacks by Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, ending Lee’s invasion of the North.

image

The Battle of Gettysburg: The Battle of Gettysburg, PA. July 1—3, 1863. The battle was part of the American Civil War and was won by the North. Hand-colored lithograph by Currier and Ives.

After his success at Chancellorsville in Virginia in May 1863, Lee began his second invasion of the North—the Gettysburg Campaign. With his army in high spirits, Lee intended to shift the focus of the summer campaign from war-ravaged northern Virginia and hoped to influence Northern politicians to give up their prosecution of the war by penetrating as far as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, or even Philadelphia. Such a move would upset federal plans for the summer campaigning season and possibly reduce the pressure on the besieged Confederate garrison at Vicksburg. The invasion would allow the Confederates to live off the bounty of rich Northern farms while giving war-ravaged Virginia a much-needed rest. In addition, Lee’s 72,000-man army could threaten Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, and possibly strengthen the growing peace movement in the North.

Elements of Meade’s and Lee’s armies initially collided at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, as Lee urgently concentrated his forces there. His objective was to engage the Union army and destroy it. On the second day of battle, most of both armies had assembled. In the late afternoon of July 2, Lee launched a heavy assault on the Union left flank, and fierce fighting raged at Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, Devil’s Den, and the Peach Orchard. On the Union right, demonstrations escalated into full-scale assaults on Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill. All across the battlefield, despite significant losses, the Union defenders held their lines.

On the third day of battle, July 3, fighting resumed on Culp’s Hill. The main event was a dramatic infantry assault by 12,500 Confederates against the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge, known as Pickett’s Charge. The charge was repulsed by Union rifle and artillery fire at great losses to the Confederate army. Nearly one half of the attackers did not return to their own lines. Lee led his army on a torturous retreat back to Virginia.

image

Map of Gettysburg Battle: Overview map of the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 3, 1863.

The two armies suffered between 46,000 and 51,000 casualties. Union casualties were 23,055, while Confederate casualties are estimated from 23,231 to as many as 28,000. The casualties for both sides during the entire campaign were estimated at 57,225. Contemporary observers often describe that, “the town of Gettysburg looked as if some universal moving day had been interrupted by catastrophe”.

image

Incidents of the War: “The Harvest of Death”: Union dead on the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, photographed July 5 or July 6, 1863, by Timothy H. O’Sullivan.

The news of the Union victory electrified the North, with enthusiasm dissipating as the public realized that Lee’s army had escaped destruction and the war would continue. The Confederates had lost politically as well as militarily. President Lincoln, upon hearing of the Gettysburg results, refused requests for negotiation. As the news reached London, any lingering hopes of European recognition of the Confederacy were finally abandoned. The immediate reaction of the Southern military and public sectors was that Gettysburg was a setback, not a disaster, as the Union army failed to completely destroy the retreating army.

The significance of the Battle of Gettysburg has been the subject of controversy for years. Although not seen as overwhelmingly significant at the time—particularly since the war continued for almost two years afterwards—in retrospect, many historians consider it a “turning point”, usually in combination with the fall of Vicksburg the following day. This is because, after Gettysburg, Lee’s army conducted no more strategic offensives, whereas prior to Gettysburg, Lee had established a reputation as an almost invincible general, achieving stunning victories against superior numbers.

The two victories also cut off Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas from the rest of the Confederacy, and provided an obstacle to communication with Confederate forces in the Trans-Mississippi Theater for the duration of the war, effectively cutting the Confederacy into two and making replenishment of supplies much more difficult.

The ravages of war were still evident in Gettysburg more than four months later when, on November 19, the Soldiers’ National Cemetery was dedicated. During this ceremony, President Lincoln honored the fallen and redefined the purpose of the war in his historic Gettysburg Address. Between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers from both armies were casualties in the three day battle.

The Battle of Chattanooga

After winning a series of battles in the Chattanooga Campaign, the Union Army was able to invade the South.

Learning Objectives

Explain the importance of Chattanooga, and the sequence of events between Generals Bragg and Rosecrans

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Chattanooga Campaign was a series of battles in October and November 1863. Union victory gave the North control of valuable supply lines and made possible an invasion of the South.
  • The Chattanooga Campaign took place in Tennessee along the Tennessee River.
  • The Campaign included battles at Orchard Knob, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, and Rossville Gap.
  • William S. Rosecrans led the Union’s Army of the Cumberland against Braxton Bragg and the Confederate Army of Tennessee.

Key Terms

  • William S. Rosecrans: (September 6, 1819–March 11, 1898) An inventor, coal-oil company executive, diplomat, politician, and U.S. Army officer. He gained fame for his role as a Union general during the American Civil War. He was the victor at prominent western theater battles, but his military career was effectively ended following his disastrous defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863.
  • William T. Sherman: (February 8, 1820–February 14, 1891) An American soldier, businessman, educator, and author. He served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War (1861–1865). He received recognition for his outstanding command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the “scorched earth” policies that he implemented in conducting total war against the Confederate States.
  • Braxton Bragg: (March 22, 1817–September 27, 1876) A career U.S. Army officer, and then a general in the Confederate States Army. He was a principal commander in the western theater of the American Civil War and later the military adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

The Chattanooga Campaign was a series of maneuvers and battles in October and November 1863, during the American Civil War. Chattanooga was a vital rail hub and an important manufacturing center for the production of iron and coke, located on the navigable Tennessee River. In September 1863, the Union Army of the Cumberland, under Major General William S. Rosecrans, executed a series of maneuvers that forced Confederate General Braxton Bragg and his Army of Tennessee to abandon Chattanooga and withdraw into northern Georgia. Rosecrans pursued Bragg, and the two armies collided at the Battle of Chickamauga on September 19–20, with the Confederates coming out victorious.

image

Grant and Bragg: Portraits of Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (left) and Gen. Braxton Bragg (right), commanding generals of the Chattanooga Campaign

Bragg had three alternative courses of action: He could outflank Rosecrans by crossing the Tennessee either below or above the city, assault the Union force directly in their fortifications, or starve the federals by establishing a siege line. The flanking option was deemed to be impracticable because Bragg’s army was short on ammunition, they had no pontoon for river crossing, and Longstreet’s corps from Virginia had arrived at Chickamauga without wagons. A direct assault was too costly against a well-fortified enemy. Receiving intelligence that Rosecrans’s men had only six days of rations, Bragg chose the siege option, while attempting to accumulate sufficient logistical capability to cross the Tennessee.

Bragg’s army besieged the city, threatening to starve the Union forces into surrender. The Confederates established themselves on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, both of which had excellent views of the city, the Tennessee River, and the Union’s supply lines. In Chattanooga, Rosecrans was stunned by the defeat of his army and became psychologically unable to take decisive action to lift the siege. President Abraham Lincoln remarked that Rosecrans seemed, “confused and stunned like a duck hit on the head.” Union soldiers began to feel the effect of extremely short rations, and many of their horses and mules died. The only supply line that was not controlled by the Confederates was a roundabout, tortuous course nearly 60 miles long. Heavy rains began to fall in late September, washing away long stretches of the mountain roads.

image

“Chattanooga from the North Bank of the Tennessee.”: Chattanooga viewed from the north bank of the Tennessee River, 1863. The Union Army pontoon bridge is shown on the left, Lookout Mountain at the right rear, and Chattanooga in the background. The small hill in front of Lookout Mountain is Cameron Hill, which was significantly flattened during twentieth-century development of the city.

The Union high command began immediate preparations to relieve the city, and Major General Ulysses S. Grant was given command of Union forces in the West. Significant reinforcements began to arrive with him in Chattanooga from Mississippi and the eastern theater. The chief engineer of the Army of the Cumberland had devised a more reliable supply line to the troops in Chattanooga. He briefed Grant immediately after the new commander’s arrival, and Grant enthusiastically endorsed the plan. Brown’s Ferry crossed the Tennessee River with a navigable point that could be reached by Union supply boats. If the Army of the Cumberland could seize Brown’s Ferry and link up with other forces, a reliable, efficient supply line—soon to become known as the “Cracker Line”—would be open. A force at Brown’s Ferry would also threaten the right flank of any Confederate movement into the valley. After opening the “Cracker Line” to feed his starving men and animals, Grant’s army fought off a Confederate counterattack at the Battle of Wauhatchie on October 28–29, 1863. Further battles took place at Orchard Knob, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, and Rossville Gap, resulting in Confederate retreat and their pursuit by Union soldiers, which the Confederates effectively thwarted.

On November 25, General William T. Sherman’s attack on Bragg’s right flank made little progress. Hoping to distract Bragg’s attention, Grant authorized Thomas’s army to advance in the center of his line to the base of Missionary Ridge. A combination of misunderstood orders and the pressure of the tactical situation caused Thomas’s men to surge to the top of Missionary Ridge, routing the Army of Tennessee, which retreated while successfully fighting off the Union pursuit. Bragg’s defeat eliminated the last Confederate stronghold in Tennessee and opened the door to an invasion of the Deep South, leading to Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign of 1864. Casualties for the Union Army amounted to 5,824 of about 56,000 engaged; Bragg reported Confederate casualties of 6,667 out of about 44,000. The loss caused division within Confederate Army leadership. Confederate enthusiasm had risen so high after Chickamauga, but had been dashed at Chattanooga. The Union now held undisputed control of the state of Tennessee, including Chattanooga, the “Gateway to the Lower South.” The city became the supply and logistics base for Sherman’s 1864 Atlanta Campaign and the Army of the Cumberland. Grant won his final battle in the West prior to receiving command of all Union armies in March 1864.