Questions of the Week for February 3, 2014

This week we are reintroducing our question of the week, which is designed for open and courteous debate on Civil War topics. We hope that many of you will join in or suggest questions of the week by emailing us a

What do you think was the pivotal battle in the Eastern Theater in 1864, and why?

15th New Jersey Monument at Spotsylvania Court House.
15th New Jersey Monument at Spotsylvania Court House.

9 Responses to Questions of the Week for February 3, 2014

  1. I have to believe the Second Battle of Petersburg, fought from June 15-18, 1864, was the pivotal battle in the East in 1864, with the first day of that battle being the reason why. Had Baldy Smith been able to take a thinly defended Petersburg, Richmond falls much, much sooner, and the war in the East looks nothing like how it eventually played out. It’s an interesting counterfactual to think about. Would the loss of Richmond and the Tredegar Iron Works been at least partially worth Lee’s ability to maneuver and escape siege conditions? I suspect not, and I think some of Lee’s Virginia troops would have melted away had Lee been forced to entirely abandon Virginia.

  2. The Wilderness. Grant vs. Lee for the first time. To win in the Court of Public Opinion and the Eastern newspapers, the Union needed to beat Marse Robert in the Eastern Theater, more specifically in Virginia. Even though it was a Union defeat, the Wilderness was the opening round of this epic heavyweight battle.

  3. Cedar Creek – it destroyed all Confederate opposition to the Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley, and allowed the destruction of food production in the Valley to feed the Confederate forces defending Richmond. The victory, shortly before the Presidential election of 1864, virtually guaranteed Lincoln’s reelection and dashed any hope of a negotiated end to the war allowing the Confederate nation to survive

    1. Yes, Meg. It is a bit confusing to think that all the battles of the Atlanta Campaign were in the Western Theater. It helps me to realize that not too much farther west was the Trans Mississippi Theater.

  4. I would suggest The Wilderness or, more properly, the day after the Wilderness, when Grant continued to move south. The Wilderness was no Union victory, but Grant refused to let it be a defeat as he continued the offensive rather than retreat as previous Union offensive movements had done after similar results. Still a lot of war left in Virginia after the Wilderness, though.

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