The Richmond Enquirer, in the final months of the Civil War, exulted in early January over news that Confederate troops at Fort Fisher near Wilmington, North Carolina, had successfully rebuffed a Union attack. According to the Southern paper, initial "apprehensions in the community were that Wilmington our last seaport would succumb to the immense force sent against it." But the paper noted that Union forces were turned back, boosting Southern moral. It said "the enemy having expended their utmost strength on Fort Fisher, an outpost of Wilmington, (has) been badly beaten" in a "most gratifying triumph" for the Confederacy in defending its last major seaport. Nonetheless, that news was tempered in the South by fresh reports about Union troops in Savannah, Georgia, which was captured by Maj. Gen. William Sherman. "Where the next blow will be struck is not developed; but every man in the army talks of a grand and overwhelming march" into South Carolina, reports speculated on Sherman's next moves. In the North, meanwhile, some were already seeking to profit from past tales of war, including a veteran of the 1st Regiment of New York Mounted Rifles who promoted sales of a story called "Life in The Saddle" with "most graphic, exciting and thrilling portraiture" of past military campaigns in Virginia.
On Dec. 24, 1864, a Union amphibious expedition under the command of Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler began shelling Fort Fisher, a Southern fortification defending Wilmington, North Carolina. The Northern objective: to shut down one of the last major seaports of the Confederacy still open in the South. But attempts by an infantry division that disembarked to probe the fort's stout defenses met with resistance and a Federal attack withered once Confederate reinforcements approached. Amid deteriorating weather conditions, Butler called off the expedition in late December 1864. A dispatch by The Associated Press dated Dec. 28, 1864, quoted reports as saying the fort was "much damaged" by the engagement with "all the barracks and storehouses burned" though Union forces failed to seize it. The dispatch noted that Northern infantry troops actually had gotten close enough to capture a rebel flag from the outer defense works before withdrawing.
Union forces led by Maj. Gen. William Sherman reached Savannah near the Georgia coast in December 1864, and the news spread quickly throughout Northern newspapers this week 150 years ago in the Civil War. "Savannah Occupied by Gen. Sherman" read one headline on a dispatch from The Associated Press dated Dec. 25, 1864. It said Sherman had recently taken 800 prisoners, guns and ammunition. And in a famous line remembered long after, Sherman wrote President Abraham Lincoln: "I beg to present to you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousands bales of cotton." AP dispatches said Confederate ironclad vessels were blown up and the navy yard burned at Savannah. The dispatch said the city of some 20,000 was quiet, and one officer called it an "almost bloodless victory."
Union forces smashed into a sizable Confederate force in the Battle of Nashville on Dec. 15-16, 1864. The fighting 150 years ago during the Civil War came as a Confederate army led by Gen. John Bell Hood sought to make a last attempt to drive Union forces from the region. Fighting raged until nightfall on Dec. 15, 1864. The next day, fighting seethed along a hastily erected Confederate line before federal forces overran the Confederate positions. The Southern army, driven off, was forced into retreat toward Mississippi with Union forces in pursuit.
This week 150 years ago in the Civil War, the Union army led by Gen. William Sherman reached the major port city of Savannah, Georgia, near the Atlantic coast. Sherman’s soldiers, after capturing Atlanta in a decisive Union victory earlier in the year, had spent weeks crossing Georgia while destroying farms and property in their path. The arrival of the Union forces at Savannah in early December of 1864 as they wrapped up their “March to the Sea” would prompt Confederates to hastily retreat. The Union troops would eventually move on in February 1865 into South Carolina during the culminating months of the conflict.
Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood led his troops in pursuit of a Union army across Tennessee in this week 150 years ago in the Civil War. The two foes met up on Nov. 30, 1864, at Franklin, Tenn., near Nashville, where Union forces dug in along a defensive line just outside the community. Fierce fighting erupted as Hood led an assault on Union defensive positions. Although two federal units crumpled, the Union positions largely held despite much bloodletting that left more than 8,000 troops wounded, dead or missing. The casualties hit especially hard at Hood’s forces, which withdrew bloodied and bruised after the Union victory.
Union forces had occupied Atlanta for more than two months when Union Gen. William Sherman departed in mid-November 1864 on the so-called March to the Sea — a campaign to capture Savannah, Georgia. As Sherman's federal forces advanced, the troops destroyed buildings, businesses, and property in their path, a "scorched earth" policy that angered and also demoralized Southerners. Sherman split his roughly 60,000 troops into two wings and the two groups kept miles apart as they crossed Georgia, raiding farms and plantations and occasionally clashing with Confederates along the route.
Union states patiently awaited final ratification this week of President Abraham Lincoln's re-election 150 years ago in the Civil War. The New York Hearld, a day after the voting concluded in November 1864, trumpeted: "The Result of the Great National Contest. ABRAHAM LINCOLN RE-ELECTED PRESIDENT." The newspaper reported voting proceeded calmly despite rain in many Union states and that based on early vote tallies, Lincoln's re-election was at hand. The Associated Press reported Lincoln was serenaded by well-wishers from Pennsylvania a day after the vote, delivering a speech from a window stating he had worked "for the best interests of the country and the world, not only for the present, but for all future ages." He added that he would abide by the outcome once it had been duly ratified.
Buoyed by a series of military successes, Abraham Lincoln was re-elected president this week 150 years ago in the Civil War. Lincoln defeated Gen. George B. McClellan, who got into politics in the years after Lincoln sacked him from his military command for a cautious approach to the early Union war effort. McClellan campaigned on an anti-war platform but the Union's military successes late in 1864, including the capture of Atlanta, swayed many voters on Nov. 8, 1864, to hand him a second term. Many Union soldiers voted by absentee ballot from the field.
A Union vessel sunk the Confederate ironclad Albemarle at its berth in Plymouth, North Carolina, 150 years ago this week in the Civil War. The Confederate ironclad had menaced Union warships since it was commissioned in 1864, sinking the USS Southfield on one occasion and damaging or driving others off in a subsequent encounter. Later, when Union forces gained control of Plymouth, the ironclad would be refloated and taken in 1865 to Norfolk, Virginia, before being sold off. Fighting continued in late October in Virginia as Union commander Ulysses S. Grant launched a double-pronged offensive near the Confederate seat at Richmond, Virginia, and the neighboring city of Petersburg. But the attempt on Oct. 27-28, 1864, to cut off Confederate supply lines was repulsed by the Confederate defenders at Burgess Mill in Virginia and Union fighters were forced to retreat to their earlier positions.