- January 26, 1864:
Battle of Athens.
- February 6, 1864:
Robert E. Lee assumes command of the Confederate Armies.
- February 17, 1864:
Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley sinks USS Housatonic outside Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.
- March 2, 1864:
Ulysses S. Grant is promoted to Lieutenant General.
- March 9, 1864:
President Lincoln appoints General Grant to command all of the armies of the United States. General William T. Sherman succeeds Grant as commander in the West.
- March 31, 1864:
Battle of White Oak Road.
- April 3, 1864:
Battle of Elkin’s Ferry.
- April 8, 1864:
Battle of Mansfield.
- April 9, 1864:
Battle of Pleasant Hill. Battle of Prairie D’Ane.
- April 18, 1864:
Battle of Poison Spring.
- April 25, 1864:
Battle of Marks’ Mills.
- April 30, 1864:
Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry.
- May 4, 1864:
The beginning of a massive, coordinated campaign involving all the Union Armies. In Virginia, Grant with an Army of 120,000 begins advancing toward Richmond to engage Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, now numbering 64,000, beginning a war of attrition that will include major battles at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor. In the West, Sherman, with 100,000 men begins an advance toward Atlanta to engage Joseph E. Johnston’s 60,000 strong Army of Tennessee.
- May 5, 1864:
Battle of the Wilderness begins in Virginia.
- May 7, 1864:
William T. Sherman begins his Atlanta campaign. Battle of Spotsylvania. Battle of Rocky Face Ridge.
- May 11, 1864:
Confederate Cavalry General J.E.B. Stuart is mortally wounded. A dismounted Union trooper fatally wounds J.E.B. Stuart, one of the most colorful generals of the South, at the Battle of Yellow Tavern, just six miles north of Richmond. Stuart died the next day.
The death of Stuart was a serious blow to Lee. He was a great cavalry leader, and his leadership was part of the reason the Confederates had a superior cavalry force in Virginia during most of the war. Yet Stuart was not without his faults: He had been surprised by a Union attack at the Battle of Brandy Station in 1863, and failed to provide Lee with crucial information at Gettysburg. Stuart’s death, like Stonewall Jackson’s the year before, seriously affected Lee’s operations.
- May 12, 1864:
Close-range firing and hand-to-hand combat at Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia, result in one of the most brutal battles of the Civil War. After the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5-6), Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee raced respective Union and Confederate forces southward. Grant aimed his army a dozen miles southeast of the Wilderness, toward the critical crossroads of Spotsylvania Court House. Sensing Grant’s plan, Lee sent part of his army on a furious night march to secure the road junction before the Union soldiers got there. The Confederates soon constructed a five-mile long system of entrenchments in the shape of an inverted U.
On May 10, Grant began to attack Lee’s position at Spotsylvania. After achieving a temporary breakthrough at the Rebel center, Grant was convinced that a weakness existed there, as the bend of the Confederate line dispersed their fire. At dawn on May 12, Union General Winfield Scott Hancock’s troops emerged from the fog and overran the Rebel trenches, taking nearly 3,000 prisoners and more than a dozen cannons. While the Yankees erupted in celebration, the Confederates counterattacked and began to drive the Federals back. The battle raged for over 20 hours along the center of the Confederate line—the top of the inverted U—which became known as the "Bloody Angle." Lee’s men eventually constructed a second line of defense behind the original Rebel trenches, and fighting ceased just before dawn on May 13.
Around the Bloody Angle, the dead lay five deep, and bodies had to be moved from the trenches to make room for the living. The action around Spotsylvania shocked even the grizzled veterans of the two great armies. Said one officer, "I never expect to be fully believed when I tell what I saw of the horrors of Spotsylvania."
And yet the battle was not done; the armies slugged it out for another week. In spite of his losses, Grant persisted, writing to General Henry Halleck in Washington, "I will fight it out on this line if it takes all summer."
- May 13, 1864:
Struggle for the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania concludes. This day also marked the Battle of Resaca, Georgia.
- May 15, 1864:
Battle of New Market, Virginia: Students from the Virginia Military Institute take part in the Battle of New Market, part of the multipronged Union offensive in the spring of 1864 designed to take Virginia out of the war. Central to this campaign was Ulysses S. Grant’s epic struggle with Robert E. Lee around Richmond.
Union General Franz Sigel had been sent to apply pressure on a key agricultural region, the Shenandoah Valley. He marched south out of Winchester in early May to neutralize the valley, which was always a threat to the North. The Shenandoah was not only a breadbasket that supplied Southern armies, it also led to the Potomac north of Washington. The Confederates had used the valley very effectively in 1862, when Stonewall Jackson kept three Federal armies occupied while keeping pressure off of Richmond.
But the Confederates were hard pressed to offer any opposition to Sigel’s 6,500 troops. Lee was struggling against Grant and was badly outnumbered. He instructed John Breckinridge to drive Sigel from the valley but could offer him little in the way of troops to do the job. Breckinridge mustered a force of regular troops and militia units and pulled together 5,300 men. They included 247 cadets from the nearby Virginia Military Institute, some of the boys just 15 years old.
On May 15, Breckinridge attacked Sigel’s troops at New Market. Sigel fell back a half mile, reformed his lines, and began to shell the Confederate center. It was at this juncture that Breckinridge reluctantly sent the VMI cadets into battle. The young students were part of an attack that captured two Yankee guns. Nine of the cadets were killed and 48 were wounded, but Sigel suffered a humiliating defeat and began to withdraw from the valley.
The courage of the VMI cadets at the Battle of New Market became legendary, and the pressure was temporarily off of the Rebels in the Shenandoah Valley. Breckinridge was able to send part of his force east to reinforce Lee.
- May 24, 1864:
Battle of North Anna River, Virginia. General Jeb Stuart is killed.
- May 25, 1864:
Battle of New Hope Church, Georgia.
- June 1, 1864:
Battle of Cold Harbor begins. Confederates attack Union troops at the strategic crossroads of Cold Harbor, less than a dozen miles from Richmond.
Determined to retake the crossroads, Lee ordered a Confederate attack shortly after dawn, before more Northern troops arrived. The spirited assault was led by an inexperienced colonel named Lawrence Keitt from South Carolina, who was mortally wounded in the first Yankee volley. Soon after, the 20th South Carolina, a green regiment at the head of the attack, broke into a frantic retreat. The panic spread to other units, and the Confederate attack wilted. Sheridan’s troops held the crossroads.
Grant attacked the Confederates in the late afternoon, after more Union troops had arrived. But the Yankees could not break through the Rebels’ newly constructed fortifications, and so they decided to wait until the bulk of the Army of the Potomac had arrived before launching another attack. This delay proved costly. The Rebels used the time to dig trenches and construct breastworks. When the attack came on June 3, it turned into one of the biggest Union disasters of the war.
- June 3, 1864:
Union disaster at Cold Harbor: Union General Ulysses S. Grant makes what he later recognizes to be his greatest mistake by ordering a frontal assault on entrenched Confederates at Cold Harbor. The result was some 7,000 Union casualties in less than an hour of fighting.
- June 5, 1864:
Battle of Piedmont.
- June 6, 1864:
Battle of Old River Lake.
- June 10, 1864:
Battle of Brice’s Crossroads, Mississippi.
- June 12, 1864:
Grant pulls out of Cold Harbor; After suffering a devastating defeat on June 3, Union General Ulysses S. Grant pulls his troops from their positions at Cold Harbor, Virginia, and moves south.
- June 14, 1864:
Battle of Petersburg begins. Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia collide for the last time as the first wave of Union troops attacks Petersburg, a vital Southern rail center 23 miles south of the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. The two massive armies would not become disentangled until April 9, 1865, when Lee surrendered and his men went home.
- June 17, 1864:
Battle of Lynchburg.
- June 18, 1864:
Siege of Petersburg, Virginia, begins.
- June 19, 1864:
Off the coast of Cherbourg, France, the Confederate raider CSS Alabama loses a ship-to-ship duel with the USS Kearsarge and sinks to the floor of the Atlantic, ending an illustrious career that saw some 68 Union merchant vessels destroyed or captured by the Confederate raider.
At the outset of the War For Southern Independence, the Union began an increasingly successful blockade of Southern ports and coasts, crippling the economies of the Confederate states. In retaliation, Confederate raiders, outfitted in the South and abroad, launched an effective guerrilla war at sea against Union merchant shipping. In 1862, the CSS Alabama, a 1,000-ton screw-steam sloop of war, was built at Liverpool, England, for the Confederate Navy. Britain had proclaimed neutrality in the War For Southern Independence but was sympathetic to the Southern cause and gave tacit aid to the Confederacy in the opening years of the conflict. Before the Alabama was put to sea, the Union government learned of its construction, but the protestations of the U.S. ambassador did not prevent it from sailing from Liverpool. After leaving British waters disguised as a merchant ship, the Alabama was outfitted as a combatant by supply ships and placed in commission on August 24, 1862.
The CSS Alabama was captained by Raphael Semmes of Mobile, Alabama, who as commander of the Confederate raider Sumter had captured 17 Union merchant ships earlier in the war. The warship was manned by an international crew–about half Southerners, half Englishmen–and rounded out by a handful of other Europeans and even a few Northerners. Leaving sunk and burned U.S. merchant ships in its wake, the Alabama cruised the North Atlantic and West Indies, rounded Africa, and visited the East Indies before redoubling the Cape of Good Hope back to Europe. By the time the Alabama docked at Cherbourg for a badly needed overhaul on June 11, 1864, it had inflicted immense damage on the seaborne trade of the United States, destroying 60-odd U.S. merchant ships during its two-year rampage.
The USS Kearsarge, a steam-sloop that had been pursuing the Alabama, learned of its presence at Cherbourg and promptly steamed to the French port. On June 14, the Kearsarge arrived and took up a patrol just outside the harbor. After being fitted and stocked over five more days, the Alabama steamed out to meet its foe on June 19. A French ironclad lurked nearby to ensure that the combat remained in international waters.
After an initial exchange of gunfire, the battle quickly turned against the Alabama, whose deteriorated gunpowder and shells failed to penetrate the Kearsarge’s chain-cable armor. Within an hour, the Alabama was reduced to a sinking wreck. Captain Semmes tried to retreat back to Cherbourg, but his way was blocked by the Kearsarge, and he was forced to strike his colors. The crew abandoned ship, and the Alabama went down into the Channel. The survivors were rescued by the Kearsarge and the British yacht Deerhound, which had been observing the battle. Those picked up by the latter, including Semmes and most of his officers, were taken to England and thus escaped arrest.
After traveling to Switzerland for a much-needed rest, Semmes returned to the Confederacy via Mexico. Appointed a rear admiral, he helped command the Confederate Navy in Virginia’s James River. After the defeat of the Confederacy in 1865, he returned to Mobile to practice law and write about his war experiences. After years of U.S. protests, the British finally agreed in 1871 to take responsibility for the damages caused by British-built Confederate raiders. In 1872, an international arbitration panel ordered Britain to pay the United States $15.5 million in damages, of which more than $6,000,000 was inflicted by the Alabama.
- June 27, 1864:
Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.
- July 2, 1864:
Congress passes the Wade-Davis Bill, an unsuccessful attempt by Radical Republicans and others in the U.S. Congress to set Reconstruction policy before the end of the War For Southern Independence. The bill, sponsored by senators Benjamin F. Wade and Henry W. Davis, provided for the appointment of provisional military governors in the seceded states. When a majority of a state’s white citizens swore allegiance to the Union, a constitutional convention could be called. Each state’s constitution was to be required to abolish slavery, repudiate secession, and disqualify Confederate officials from voting or holding office. In order to qualify for the franchise, a person would be required to take an oath that he had never voluntarily given aid to the Confederacy. President Abraham Lincoln’s pocket veto of the bill presaged the struggle that was to take place after the war between President Andrew Johnson and the Radical Republicans in Congress.
- July 6, 1864:
Jubal Early occupies Hagarstown, Maryland: Confederate General Jubal Early’s troops cross the Potomac River and capture Hagerstown, Maryland. Early had sought to threaten Washington, D.C., and thereby relieve pressure on General Robert E. Lee, who was fighting to keep Ulysses S. Grant out of Richmond.
- July 9, 1864:
Battle of Monocacy At Frederick Maryland: Confederate General Jubal Early brushes a Union force out of his way as he heads for Washington.
Union General Lew Wallace, commander of the Middle Department and stationed in Baltimore, patched together a force of 6,000 soldiers from various regiments to stall the Confederates while a division from Grant’s army around Petersburg arrived to protect Washington.
Wallace placed his makeshift force along the Monocacy River near Frederick Maryland. Early in the morning of July 9, Early’s troops easily pushed a small Federal guard from Frederick before encountering the bulk of Wallace’s force along the river. Wallace protected three bridges over the river. One led to Baltimore, the other to Washington, and the third carried the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Early’s first attack was unsuccessful. A second assault, however, scattered the Yankees. The Union force retreated toward Baltimore, and the road to Washington was now open to Early and his army.
Union losses for the day stood at 1,800, and Early lost 700 of his men. However, the battle delayed Early’s advance to Washington and allowed time for the Union to bring reinforcements from Grant’s army.
- July 11, 1864:
Confederate forces invade Washington DC. led by General J. Early.
- July 14, 1864:
Battle of Tupelo.
- July 17, 1864:
General John B. Hood replaces General Joe Johnston. Sherman threatens Alabama.
- July 20, 1864:
Battle of Peachtree Creek (Atlanta), Georgia. Sherman’s forces battle the Rebels now under the command of General John B. Hood, who replaced Johnston.
- July 22, 1864:
Battle of Atlanta, Georgia.
- July 24, 1864:
Battle of Kernstown, Virginia. Confederate General Jubal Early defeats Union troops under General George Crook to keep the Shenandoah Valley clear of Yankees.
- July 28, 1864:
Battle of Ezra Church.
- July 30, 1864:
Battle of "the Crater" Petersburg, Virginia.
- August 5, 1864:
Battle of Mobile Bay, Alabama.
- August 7, 1864:
Battle of Utoy Creek
- August 13, 1864:
Battle of Deep Bottom II.
- August 25, 1864:
Battle of Ream’s Station II.
- September 1, 1864:
- September 11, 1864:
Civilians forced to evacuate Atlanta.
- September 21, 1864:
Battle of Fisher’s Hill.
- September 27, 1864:
Battle of Pilot Knob.
- September 29, 1864:
Battle of Chaffins Farm.
- September 30, 1864:
Battle of New Market Heights.
- October 5, 1864:
Battle of Allatoona.
- October 19, 1864:
Battle of Winchester, Virginia. Battle of Cedar Creek.
- October 22, 1864:
Battle of Byrams Ford.
- October 23, 1864:
Battle of Westport.
- October 26, 1864:
Battle of Decatur.
- October 27, 1864:
Battle of Boydton Plank Road.
- October 28, 1864:
Battle of Newtonia.
- November 8, 1864:
President Lincoln is elected to second term.
- November 15, 1864:
William T. Sherman’s "army group" departs Atlanta to begin "March to the Sea". Sherman’s army was 62,000 strong.
- November 25, 1864:
Battle of Spring Hill.
- November 30, 1864:
Battle of Franklin.
- December 15, 1864:
Battle of Nashville, Tennessee. Hood’s Rebel Army of 23,000 is crushed at Nashville by 55,000 Federals, including Negro troops under General George H. Thomas. The Confederate Army of Tennessee ceases as an effective fighting force.
- December 20, 1864:
Confederates evacuate Savannah, Georgia.
- December 21, 1864:
Savannah, Georgia, is occupied by Sherman’s troops, ending the "March to the Sea." Sherman reached Savannah, leaving behind a 300 mile long path of destruction 60 miles wide all the way from Atlanta.