Question of the Week: Which major 1864 campaign was more impactful?

What 1864 campaign was more impactful on the war’s outcome: the Overland Campaign or the Atlanta Campaign? Why?

13 Responses to Question of the Week: Which major 1864 campaign was more impactful?

  1. In my opinion the Overland Campaign. Grant was going to use whatever resource at his disposal at any cost to wear Robert E. Lee into submission.

  2. I don’t see one over the other. The desired coordination of the 1864 campaigns also included Benjamin Butler’s Bermuda Hundred. Even with Butler’s failure, the combined pressure from Grant and Sherman limited Confederate options, related to deployment, supply, resource allocation, and maneuverability. 1864 signaled the beginning of – what is now understood to be – total war.

  3. Atlanta. The fall of Atlanta and Sherman’s March secured Lincoln’s re-election. Had Sherman’s advance stalled in front of Atlanta and with no end in sight in Virginia, Lincoln may well have lost the election.

  4. Since both campaigns happened simultaneously, it’s the net impact that matters … without a successful Atlanta Campaign, United States voters, weary of mounting casualties and the summer-long stalemate northern Virginia, might have voted the Republicans out of office in the Fall of 1864 … in August of ’64, Lincoln was genuinely concerned he would lose the election … so, net positive impact by the capture of Atlanta.

  5. Atlanta. Because of Lincoln’s re-election, which is credited quite a bit to the successful taking of Atlanta, there was now more of an inevitable aspect as to whether the war would end. There was no longer any shred of recognition being possible for the Confederacy. Lincoln had his resolute commander in place (Grant) and his strategy of grinding down Confederate resources was well underway. Lee was still dangerous, and the Overland Campaign had been a bloody slog for both sides. But Lee was pretty much immobilized in the environs of Richmond when Atlanta was taken. So the end was definitely near thanks to the events Atlanta’s capturing spawned.

  6. Might be a copout answer, but I would argue that the Atlanta campaign was more influential in securing Lincoln’s reelection and allowing the North to see the war through to its end, while the Overland campaign was more influential in the demise of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and leading to his surrender at Appomattox.

  7. The premise of this question is a false one. From Grant’s point of view the campaigns in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama & Virginia were elements of a single integrated strategic operation.

    In a matter of a few months, the war in the Western Theater became a mopping up operation; Mobile occupied; Wilmington occupied; Lee’s major logistical base in Georgia gone; & yes, the Army of Northern Virginia stoppered in a bottle. That is what made Grant head & shoulders above his contemporaries.

    Let’s be candid, on an 8 1/2” X 11” map of the Western Theater the entire operations of the Army of the Potomac & Army of Northern Virginia is the size of a postage stamp. The fight one battle, fall back on base, fight another battle without strategic impact; repeat; pattern of the Eastern Theater has created a focus on individual battles.

    In the Western Theater in 1863 Grant was managing a front that stretched from Cumberland Gap, Knoxville, Sequachie Valley, Chattanooga, Vicksburg, Little Rock & New Orleans. A single battle was just an element of the strategic matrix. Just for scale, the Department of the Cumberland had (+/-) 240,000 men.

    To directly answer the question, the war in Virginia & the war in Georgia were cogs on a strategic wheel. Each campaign & the vast logistical apparatus that made them possible was working in concert.

    Indeed, if they could not skin they could hold a leg.

    1. To follow up, the premise of the question makes for an entertaining exercise but looking at one in a vacuum that ignores the other invites oversimplification. IMHO, of course.

  8. Hood’s campaign from Atlanta to Nashville eviscerated an entire army in 5 months.

    1. Doh! Sorry – didn’t see there was only a choice of two, Overland or Atlanta. My bad. Sorry. Atlanta got Lincoln re-elected.

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