Question of the Week: 1/8-1/14/24

Since it’s now 2024 and the 160th anniversaries be will from 1864…

In your opinion, what’s the most important Civil War event/moment of 1864?

23 Responses to Question of the Week: 1/8-1/14/24

  1. US Grant and the AoP not crossing the Rappahannock River, after the Battle of the Wilderness.

  2. Grant’s Overland Campaign because of the end result, but Gen. William T Sherman’s” March to the Sea” not only crippled the Confederacy, but also had a long-lasting effect on the South for generations.

  3. The appointment of Grant to coordinate the movement of the Union armies. Even when he was tactically maladroit, he refused to give incidental failure any long term strategic significance.

  4. The fall of Atlanta, with Lincoln’s re- election a close 2nd. Of course one led to the other.

  5. Ditto, the fall of Atlanta and Lincoln’s re-election stand head and shoulders above all other events in the eventful year of 1864.

    1. I have held this view for a very long time. I believe President Lincoln agreed at the time.

  6. When Lincoln promotes Grant to command of all Union armies. The other big moments that come to mind for me — the Army of the Potomac pressing on after the Wilderness, the Atlanta campaign, Lincoln’s reelection — all stem to varying degrees from that decision.

  7. Davis rejecting Patrick Cleburne’s early 1864 proposal to arm slaves, coupled with the promise of their freedom. Despite the significant obstacles confronting the plan, if – knowing this is a big “if” – even a corps (say, 25,000) of African American soldiers could have been raised by mid-1864 from among the South’s hundreds of thousands of black adult males, and proved willing fighters, it could have been a game changer, not only militarily from the South’s perspective but politically and psychologically crippling in the North.

  8. agreed – Fall of Atlanta was huge morale booster across the country. It just meant something. With a boring seige in progress around Richmond, people were more closely following Sherman’s progress and got to see it to fruition. I think a survey of northern diaries for 9/2 thru 9/4 1864 to see how many of them speak of celebratory gunfire would support this.

    Other superlative worthy events, as already spoken of.
    Grant heading south after the Wilderness. This was a first – a general that meets Bobby Lee and doesn’t retreat.
    Lee not taking care of business at North Anna. Could have inflicted major damage: physically to AOP and psychologically/politically to the Northern population.
    Cold Harbor slaughter. End of headlong charges in the election year, changed Grant’s tactics.
    Lincoln’s re-election was the coffin lid of the Confederacy.

    March to the Sea not on the list.
    Battle of Mobile Bay and victory at the Battle of Cherbourg mattered but not the *most* important.

  9. Lincoln’s re-election. With that the South had no hope. What clinched it was the loss of Atlanta, coupled with Early’s defeat at Cedar Creek.

  10. The points about Grant’s decisions are good ones, but in my opinion those would not have been decisive with a McClellan victory. That might have happened with JE Johnston still in command and doing his best to force Sherman to stretch out and defend his flanks and defend supply lines against the likes of Bedford Forrest. Would Sherman have bypassed Atlanta to conduct his March with Atlanta and an undefeated Johnston at his back? Maybe, but maybe not in time to help Lincoln.

    A lot of this is conjecture, I guess, but the question invites that. I’d be interested in what others, who know the Western campaigns better, would say.

    1. Dan –
      Thank you, I’ve too, been thinking about what if McClellan had won. Caveat, smarter more well researched people than me have written interesting books on it, I’m sure. So I’ve been trying to get a handle on weather on Richmond Nov-Dec ’64, (there’s a book by Krick on this subject) because I’m thinking Lincoln would have had Grant go ALL OUT on bagging Lee’s army by Christmas. Would the Nov-Dec Richmond weather have supported marching and fighting was my question. Of course, if the people voted Lincoln out, it would have been the voice of the people that they’re done with the war, let’s say the army even helped Mac over the top. The army had a lot of fight in it, and so many soldiers died in the cause of Union, that I don’t think they would have just quit if they could see victory. The USCT would understand that, with Mac in charge they might lose their golden opportunity at freedom, so they would have fought like Buffalo’s, every one of them. I can’t see Lincoln opening negotiations to end the war before Mac takes office, because he would be in a weak lame duck position. Confederacy, knowing Mac will be in office, plays a major delaying game on all fronts, not hard given winter weather. Within AOP there would be generals looking to gain from the new circumstances, but could the AOP, with all resources of the full United States applied, in a no holds barred, Lincoln & Grant willing to go ALL IN, take the ANV, in a winner take all 30 day fight? Maybe, if everyone understands the stakes and all key players pull together. Bring in 2/3 of Sherman (by rail) and 1/2 of Thomas into the fight. It’s doable. In 1868 I see Grant being nominated and winning presidency, whether there are two countries, or one, or three. A McClellan expert would have to weigh in on the question of would Little Mac give Grant a chance to wrap it up. I’m guessing Mac might, if Grant calls his plan “The Original McClellan Plan for Victory,” appealing to Little Mac’s ego, which Grant, a practical westerner would do. By 1868 I’m guessing people will be sick of Little Mac just like Lincoln was sick of him. On the positive side, Lincoln lives and Mary Todd Lincoln doesn’t lose her marbles.
      My Civil-War-era two cents, with inflation.

      1. Very thoughtful, Henry. I lack the chops on possibilities in the West to dispute any of your points (especially about the N. Anna—“strike them a blow” indeed.).
        I do think it’s hard to see Grant and a lame-duck Lincoln bringing 3 or 4 corps east, abandoning Atlanta, to try to take Richmond before Mac takes over. Both were risk-takers. But so was Lee. If he saw some shift like that in progress, he might have tried something …with interior lines…

      2. I’m also intrigued by your interest in the influence of weather. Yes, Krick’s book will be useful. Also may want to look at Noe’s Howling Storm. I don’t have that…yet. But as a weather nerd, I probably will.

  11. Secretary Seward stated that when Atlanta fell, it was as if the Northern populace had turned on a light switch when it came to both the war and politics. To Seward what naturally followed was Lincoln’s reelection.

    1. Ed, I’m sorry, but I just have to say, totally respect of you and your many great ideas and comments, I just don’t think Seward was around when Edison invented the light bulb, apologies for being literal on this.

Please leave a comment and join the discussion!