Upon being appointed lieutenant-general, and having assumed command of all the armies in the field, in March, 1864, General Grant
had an interview with President Lincoln
, during which interview Mr. Lincoln
stated that procrastination on the part of commanders, and the pressure from the people of the North
and from Congress, had forced him into issuing his series of military orders, some of which he knew
were wrong, and all of which may have been
wrong; that all he, the President
, wanted, or had ever wanted, was some one who would take the responsibility of action, and would call upon him, as the Executive
of the Government
, for such supplies as were needed; the President
pledging himself to use the full powers of the Government
in rendering all assistance possible.
assured the President
that he would do the best he could with the means at hand, and would, as far as possible, avoid annoying the administration with unnecessary demands.
His first work was to inaugurate a plan of campaign for all the armies.
During the first three years of the war, the various armies had acted independently — a condition which had enabled their enemies to reenforce each point of attack by drawing troops from points of inactivity.
Having this in view, General Grant
planned to move all the armies at once.
He looked upon the Army of the James as the left wing, the Army of the Potomac as the center, and the troops operating under General Sherman
as the right wing; all other troops being considered as cooperative
He believed that by moving the whole line at the same time the greatest number of troops practicable would be brought against the armed forces of his enemy, and would prevent them from using the same force to resist the efforts of the Union
army, first at one point and then at another, and that, by continuously hammering against their armies, he would destroy both them and their sources of supply.
To carry out this idea, orders were given to the various commanders — on the 2d of April to Butler
; on the 4th, to Sherman
, and on the 9th, to Meade
In all these orders the same general ideas were expressed.
You will collect all the forces from your command that can be spared from garrison duty . . . to operate on the south side of James River, Richmond being your objective point.
It is my design, if the enemy keep quiet and allow me to take the initiative in the spring campaign, to work all the parts of the army together, and somewhat toward a common center. . . . You, I propose to move against Johnston's army, to break it up, and to get into the interior of the enemy's country as far as you can, inflicting all the damage you can against their war resources.
Lee's army will be your objective point.
Wherever Lee goes, there you will go also.
Thus it will be seen that General Grant
's plan with reference to the movements of the Army of the Potomac was similar to that of Napoleon
in the Russian
campaign, while his plan in reference to the whole army much resembles the plan adopted by the Allies in their campaign against France
When these movements began, the situation was about as follows: In the possession of the Union
was all the territory north of a line beginning at Fortress Monroe
, following the Chesapeake Bay
to the Potomac River
, up that river to near
, the northern border of Virginia
as far as Harper's Ferry
, covered by the Army of the Potomac; across the mountains into West Virginia
, to the headwaters of the Holston River
, down that river and the Tennessee
, and thence along the Memphis and Charleston Railroad to the Mississippi
, which was also in Union hands.
All south of that line was in the hands of the Confederates
, except a few stations along the sea coast, the possession of which assisted in the blockade.
Most of the opposing troops which were east of the Mississippi
had been concentrated into the armies commanded by Lee
; that commanded by Lee
facing the Army of the Potomac and guarding Richmond
, while that of Johnston
was at Dalton
, in the northern part of Georgia
, facing Sherman
and defending Atlanta
, a great railroad center and a point of concentration of supplies for the Confederate
troops, wherever they were stationed, east of the Mississippi River
and the armies under Lee
were the main objectives of the campaign.
, as commander of the Union
armies, placed himself with the Army of the Potomac, where the greatest opposition was to be expected, and where he considered his personal presence would be of the greatest value, and whence he exercised general supervision over the movements of all the armies.
The main movements being against Lee
, all other troops were directed to cooperate with the main armies.
The movements of detached bodies would compel the Confederates
either to detach largely for the protection of his supplies and lines of communication, or else to lose them altogether.
Everything being prepared, orders were given for the start, and all the armies were on the move by the 6th of May, with what results the chapters that follow will tell the reader in detail.
Early on the morning of the 4th of May, 1864, the Army of the Potomac moved out of its Camp near Culpeper Court House and, heading toward Richmond
, crossed the Rapidan
at Germanna and Ely's fords and entered the Wilderness
At the same time the Army of the James moved from Fortress Monroe
up the James River
, landing on the south side of the James
near City Point
, threatening Petersburg
The army in the Shenandoah valley had already started, and Sherman
was about to move.
As the Army of the Potomac was marching through the Wilderness
it was attacked by Lee
, who had moved from his fortifications at Mine Run
The head of Lee
's column met the Army of the Potomac near the Wilderness Tavern
, and the struggle for military supremacy in the field began.
This battle, locally known as “The Wilderness,” had by the 7th of May spread along the entire line of the Federal
armies, and was raging from the Atlantic Ocean
to the Mississippi valley
Columns of men were engaged in battle on the James River
, in the Wilderness
, in the Shenandoah valley, and in northern Georgia
In a few days the question was to be determined whether the North
or the South
possessed the military mastery of the continent.
The decision of this struggle is told in detail by the chapters which follow.
From now on the tactics of Lee
were defensive, and they awaited the assaults of the Union
armies behind fortifications.
The Union center attacked and maneuvered, always by the left flank, while the right wing maneuvered generally by the right flank.
One flank movement after another forced the Confederates
out of position after position, until their main armies were thrown back to near the James River
, to Staunton, Virginia
, and to the Etowah River, Georgia
In the East
, the great battle of Cold Harbor
was fought, and a sudden flank movement to the left was made, the crossing of the James
effected, and the carrying of the outer lines of Petersburg
, which city, with Richmond
, was immediately laid
The junction of the armies of the James
and of the Potomac
now took place, and from this time on they together formed the left wing of the Union
The column in the Shenandoah valley had penetrated to near Staunton
and Lynchburg, in Virginia
; but their ammunition becoming almost exhausted, especially that for artillery, the army had to move over the mountains toward the Kanawha valley
, thus leaving the Shenandoah valley open for General Early
to pass through in making raids on the North
; while the right wing of the Union
army pushed its way on through northern Georgia
to the Chattahoochee River
, which it crossed, and moved toward Atlanta
The first phase of the great campaign was thus ended, and the second phase now opens before us.
As already described, the Shenandoah valley was left open to raids by Southern troops into the North
, and so able a man as General Lee
did not miss such an opportunity.
A portion of the Confederates
within the strong entrenchments of Petersburg
were detached under General Early
, who marched down the Shenandoah
, crossed the Potomac
, and entered Maryland
, penetrating as far as Washington
, for the defense of which city two corps were detached from the right wing.
They succeeded in saving the national capital and in driving Early
's forces to the north and west, and took up the line of the Monocacy
was given the command of the Federal
He soon placed himself in the valley of the Shenandoah
, where his army now became the center of the Union
The second phase was the adoption of the policy to keep the Confederate armies within the besieged cities, Richmond
, and Atlanta
, and actively to engage the outside troops, to drive all the smaller bands to the south, to devastate the country from which supplies were drawn, and, as far as possible, to destroy the troops that gathered these supplies.
In these movements the most active and most effective column was the Army of the Shenandoah, which soon sent the opposing
force, as Sheridan
expressed it, “whirling through Winchester
,” annihilated two armies gathered to protect the Valley
, and destroyed all the war supplies it contained.
In the meantime, the Confederate Government, finding that it was losing so much ground by its defensive policy, relieved Johnston
, an officer of great ability, who was commanding at Atlanta
was placed in charge of that wing of the army.
He immediately assumed the offensive and attacked the Army of the Tennessee on the 22d of July, but was defeated and thrown back, with great losses, into his works at Atlanta
soon followed Hood
's lead by making another flank movement, which caused the fall of the city, the Confederates
evacuating the place and moving to the west and north, threatening Sherman
's line of supplies.
for a while, but it was soon decided to detach part of the troops under him, to concentrate them at Nashville, in Tennessee
, so as to prevent an invasion of the North
's army, and to abandon the lines of supplies to the rear; and then for Sherman
to push on to the sea, cutting through Georgia
, living off the country, and destroying as far as possible the store houses from which the army in Richmond
gathered its food.
followed one of the detachments from Sherman
's army, and penetrated as far north as Nashville
, where, in December, the decisive battle of Nashville
This relieved the country in the rear of the line from menace, and one might say that the Confederacy
was limited to the segment of a circle the circumference of which would pass through Richmond
, and Nashville
The policy maintained was continually to reduce the size of this circle until the Confederacy
turned north, marching through the Carolinas.
Part of the troops that had fought at Nashville
were sent to Wilmington
, under Schofield
, after the fall of Fort Fisher
's troopers were pressed forward up the Shenandoah Valley, to cross over to the headwaters of the James River
, and down that stream to join the armies of the Potomac
and of the James
in front of Richmond
moved from east Tennessee
into the Virginias.
The circle was contracted and the Confederacy
was pressed on every side.
This constituted the second phase of the great campaign, and the grand finale was about to be enacted.
As soon as Sheridan
reached the Army of the Potomac, his troops were placed on the left of that army, to attack the remaining lines of communication between Richmond
and the South
This forced the Confederates
to detach large numbers of troops from their works, and, while thus weakened, the Army of the Potomac assaulted and carried the lines in front of Petersburg
on the 2d of April, 1865.
The fall of the fortifications around Petersburg
opened to the Union
armies all the lines of communication which the Confederates
had to the south from Richmond
, and forced the evacuation of that city.
A race was begun by the Confederates
to get beyond the Army of the Potomac and Sheridan
's troopers, to join Johnston
, and so possibly to overpower Sherman
succeeded in heading Lee
off and in forcing him from the railroad, where his supplies were, while parts of the armies of the Potomac
and the James
followed and pressed Lee
's army in the rear, until the 9th of April, when he was nearly surrounded at Appomattox Court House and his position was such that he was forced to surrender.
With the fall of Richmond
and the surrender of Lee
, the main prop of the Confederacy
was broken, and all that was now necessary was to gather in the other Southern armies.
As further resistance was useless, these armies asked for terms, which were granted, and thus ended the third and last phase of the great campaign.