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Time Line of The Civil War, 1864

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This time line was compiled by Joanne Freeman and owes a special debt to the Encyclopedia of American History by Richard B. Morris.

January - April 1864 -- Winter Quarters at Brandy Station

All was quiet beyond the Rappahannock, but there was a rich harvest for the photographers. Some photographs date from December 1863.

May 1864 -- Grant's Wilderness Campaign.

General Grant, promoted to commander of the Union armies, planned to engage Lee's forces in Virginia until they were destroyed. North and South met and fought in an inconclusive three-day battle in the Wilderness. Lee inflicted more casualties on the Union forces than his own army incurred, but unlike Grant, he had no replacements.

Photographer Timothy H. O'Sullivan followed the federal army and documented the actual course of operations as had not been possible since the middle of McClellan's Peninsular Campaign.

May 1864 -- The Battle of Spotsylvania.

General Grant continued to attack Lee. At Spotsylvania Court House, he fought for five days, vowing to fight all summer if necessary. (See Grant's Wilderness Campaign)

June 1864 -- The Battle of Cold Harbor.

Grant again attacked Confederate forces at Cold Harbor, losing over 7,000 men in twenty minutes. Although Lee suffered fewer casualties, his army never recovered from Grant's continual attacks. This was Lee's last clear victory of the war. (See Grant's Wilderness Campaign)

June 1864 -- The Siege of Petersburg.

Grant hoped to take Petersburg, below Richmond, and then approach the Confederate capital from the south. The attempt failed, resulting in a ten month siege and the loss of thousands of lives on both sides.

General Benjamin F. Butler's command was in the vacinity of Petersburg as early as May 11, missing its opportunity to capture this vital railroad center; but the photographs are all from the later days when Butler was holding a fortified line on both sides of the James and extending nothward as far as the Market or River Road running into Richmond. The photographs follow Butler's lines from south to north, and then, after the evacuation of Richmond, record the Confederate defenses on the James.
Petersburg, Va. The Dictator, a closer view
The "Dictator," a closer view
Petersburg, Va.
1864 October

The Petersburg Campaign gave the photographers full opportunity to build a superb corpus of documentation, completed when they were able to enter the town and its defenses in the first days of April. Grant won by steadily extending his lines westward, but the photographers do not seem to have ventured very far from City Point. The last three photographs place Timothy H. O'Sullivan with the army at Appomattox Court House, where Lee surrendered the remnants of his valiant force.

July 1864 -- Confederate Troops Approach Washington, D.C.

Confederate General Jubal Early led his forces into Maryland to relieve the pressure on Lee's army. Early got within five miles of Washington, D.C., but on July 13, he was driven back to Virginia.

August 1864 -- General William T. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign.

Union General Sherman departed Chattanooga, and was soon met by Confederate General Joseph Johnston. Skillful strategy enabled Johnston to hold off Sherman's force -- almost twice the size of Johnston's. However, Johnston's tactics caused his superiors to replace him with General John Bell Hood, who was soon defeated. Hood surrendered Atlanta, Georgia, on September 1; Sherman occupied the city the next day. The fall of Atlanta greatly boosted Northern morale.

November 1864 -- General William T. Sherman's March to the Sea.

General Sherman continued his march through Georgia to the sea. In the course of the march, he cut himself off from his source of supplies, planning for his troops to live off the land. His men cut a path 300 miles in length and 60 miles wide as they passed through Georgia, destroying factories, bridges, railroads, and public buildings.

After three and a half months of incessant maneuvering and much hard fighting, Sherman forced Hood to abandon Atlanta, the munitions center of the Confederacy. Sherman remained there, resting his war-worn men and accumulating supplies, for nearly two-and-a-half months. During the occupation, George N. Barnard, official photographer of the Chief Engineer's Office, made the best documentary record of the war in the West. Much of what he photographed was destroyed in the fire that spread from the military facilities blown up upon Sherman's departure.

November 1864 -- Abraham Lincoln Is Re-Elected.

The Republican party nominated President Abraham Lincoln as its presidential candidate, and Andrew Johnson for vice-president. The Democratic party chose General George B. McClellan for president, and George Pendleton for vice-president. At one point, widespread war-weariness in the North made a victory for Lincoln seem doubtful. In addition, Lincoln's veto of the Wade-Davis Bill -- requiring the majority of the electorate in each Confederate state to swear past and future loyalty to the Union before the state could officially be restored -- lost him the support of Radical Republicans who thought Lincoln too lenient. However, Sherman's victory in Atlanta boosted Lincoln's popularity and helped him win re-election by a wide margin.

November - December 1864

Its own intrinsic strength and the ease with which it could be supplied and reinforced by sea kept the largest American fort in federal hands throughout the war. Fort Monroe was the starting point for McClellan's Peninsular Campaign in 1862 and for Butler's advance to Petersburg in 1864. The photographs depict only uneventful garrison life toward the end of 1864.

After marching through Georgia for a month, Sherman stormed Fort McAllister on December 13, 1864, and captured Savannah itself eight days later. These seven views show the former stronghold and its dismantling preparatory to Sherman's further movement northward. This operation was ordered on December 24, and General William B. Hazen [2d Division, 15th Corps] and Major Thomas W. Osborn, chief of artillery, completed the task by December 29, storing the guns at Fort Pulaski.

Continuing his policy of taking the offensive at any cost, General John B. Hood brought his reduced army before the defenses of Nashville, where it was repulsed by General George H. Thomas on December 15-16, in the most complete victory of the war. If the dates borne by the first two items are correct, the photographs were taken in the course of battle.

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