By the summer of 1864, it looked as if Ulysses S. Grant’s position as General-in-chief of the Union armies was in jeopardy. He had failed to secure a knockout punch against the Confederacy and he missed a prime chance to gain major ground in Virginia by capturing the railroad junction of Petersburg, which was south of the Confederate capital of Richmond and supplied the capital. To keep from being replaced, which Abraham Lincoln was known to do to his generals, Grant would have to bring a badly needed victory that would serve as a huge blow to Robert E. Lee and his Confederate army.
Abraham Lincoln’s first year as president was 1860, which meant in 1864 that it was election year. The election was in only a few months, and because of Grant’s perceived inadequacies the Republicans were in trouble in the upcoming elections. Though Grant continued in his offensive through many battles, he was losing many men to casualties, prompting criticism in the North. Lee believed that if he could hold off the Union army for a few more months, it would influence the election and Democratic candidates would be more willing to negotiate peace with the Confederates. As it looked, things were not going well for Grant, who had devised an offensive that was to be the last push to ending the war, and his offensive had come to a grinding halt in many aspects of the offensive. Late in the summer of 1864 the Union finally got good news.
The Union navy was able to capture Mobile Bay, a key component of the South. Mobile Bay was a key defensive position for the Confederates as it possessed three fortifications that Grant had wanted to capture during his campaign. In early August, each of the three forts fell to the powerful Union navy. Mobile was not captured but instead rendered unusable to the Confederates, who used the defensive position as a port to supply many areas of the Confederacy despite being blockaded. Without being able to use Mobile Bay as a port because of Union Admiral David Farragut, the Confederacy had no more major ports on the Gulf of Mexico after already having been starved of supplies because of the lack of ports. In September, good news finally came from the Union army.
William T. Sherman laid siege to Atlanta, Georgia, in late August and early September. Pitted against Confederate John Bell Hood, Sherman cut off the supply lines between Atlanta and the other Confederate states and army as he bombarded the Confederate army. At the beginning of September, Hood decided to retreat from the city and allow the Union army to capture it after burning any supplies they left behind. Despite allowing Hood’s army to get away uncaptured and relatively intact, Sherman’s success produces tremendous results in the form of Northern morale and gave a devastating blow to the Southern counterpart. It helped the Republican Party regain some of its lost momentum during Grant’s campaign while deepening the depressing morale felt by Confederate citizens, who began to feel the pinch of the Union military with their foot in the door. With Atlanta captured, Sherman would then produce the so-called “Sherman’s March to the Sea”, a campaign that would produce horrendous results for the Confederates and take the idea of the Civil War being “all-out war” one step further as he looked to inflict direct attrition on the Confederate civilians.
College level lectures
“Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era” by James McPherson