January - April 1864
Winter Quarters at Brandy Station
All was quiet beyond the Rappahannock, but there was a rich harvest for the photographers. Some photographs date from December 1863.
Grant's Wilderness Campaign
General Grant, promoted to commander of the Union armies, planned to engage Lee's forces in Virginia until they were destroyed. North and South met and fought in an inconclusive three-day battle in the Wilderness. Lee inflicted more casualties on the Union forces than his own army incurred, but unlike Grant, he had no replacements.
Grant's Wilderness Campaign—May-June, 1864
Photographer Timothy H. O'Sullivan followed the federal army and documented the actual course of operations as had not been possible since the middle of McClellan's Peninsular Campaign.
The Battle of Spotsylvania
General Grant continued to attack Lee. At Spotsylvania Court House, he fought for five days, vowing to fight all summer if necessary. (See Grant's Wilderness Campaign)
The Battle of Cold Harbor
Grant again attacked Confederate forces at Cold Harbor, losing over 7,000 men in twenty minutes. Although Lee suffered fewer casualties, his army never recovered from Grant's continual attacks. This was Lee's last clear victory of the war. (See Grant's Wilderness Campaign)
The Siege of Petersburg
The Army of the James, June 1864-April 1865
Grant hoped to take Petersburg, below Richmond, and then approach the Confederate capital from the south. The attempt failed, resulting in a ten month siege and the loss of thousands of lives on both sides.
General Benjamin F. Butler's command was in the vacinity of Petersburg as early as May 11, missing its opportunity to capture this vital railroad center; but the photographs are all from the later days when Butler was holding a fortified line on both sides of the James and extending nothward as far as the Market or River Road running into Richmond. The photographs follow Butler's lines from south to north, and then, after the evacuation of Richmond, record the Confederate defenses on the James.
The Siege of Petersburg—1864
The Petersburg Campaign gave the photographers full opportunity to build a superb corpus of documentation, completed when they were able to enter the town and its defenses in the first days of April. Grant won by steadily extending his lines westward, but the photographers do not seem to have ventured very far from City Point. The last three photographs place Timothy H. O'Sullivan with the army at Appomattox Court House, where Lee surrendered the remnants of his valiant force.
Confederate Troops Approach Washington, D.C.
Confederate General Jubal Early led his forces into Maryland to relieve the pressure on Lee's army. Early got within five miles of Washington, D.C., but on July 13, he was driven back to Virginia.
General William T. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign
Union General Sherman departed Chattanooga, and was soon met by Confederate General Joseph Johnston. Skillful strategy enabled Johnston to hold off Sherman's force—almost twice the size of Johnston's. However, Johnston's tactics caused his superiors to replace him with General John Bell Hood, who was soon defeated. Hood surrendered Atlanta, Georgia, on September 1; Sherman occupied the city the next day. The fall of Atlanta greatly boosted Northern morale.
General William T. Sherman's March to the Sea
General Sherman continued his march through Georgia to the sea. In the course of the march, he cut himself off from his source of supplies, planning for his troops to live off the land. His men cut a path 300 miles in length and 60 miles wide as they passed through Georgia, destroying factories, bridges, railroads, and public buildings.
Sherman in Atlanta—September-November, 1864
After three and a half months of incessant maneuvering and much hard fighting, Sherman forced Hood to abandon Atlanta, the munitions center of the Confederacy. Sherman remained there, resting his war-worn men and accumulating supplies, for nearly two-and-a-half months. During the occupation, George N. Barnard, official photographer of the Chief Engineer's Office, made the best documentary record of the war in the West. Much of what he photographed was destroyed in the fire that spread from the military facilities blown up upon Sherman's departure.
Abraham Lincoln Is Re-Elected
The Republican party nominated President Abraham Lincoln as its presidential candidate, and Andrew Johnson for vice-president. The Democratic party chose General George B. McClellan for president, and George Pendleton for vice-president. At one point, widespread war-weariness in the North made a victory for Lincoln seem doubtful. In addition, Lincoln's veto of the Wade-Davis Bill—requiring the majority of the electorate in each Confederate state to swear past and future loyalty to the Union before the state could officially be restored—lost him the support of Radical Republicans who thought Lincoln too lenient. However, Sherman's victory in Atlanta boosted Lincoln's popularity and helped him win re-election by a wide margin.
Fort Monroe and Hampton, Virginia—1864
Its own intrinsic strength and the ease with which it could be supplied and reinforced by sea kept the largest American fort in federal hands throughout the war. Fort Monroe was the starting point for McClellan's Peninsular Campaign in 1862 and for Butler's advance to Petersburg in 1864. The photographs depict only uneventful garrison life toward the end of 1864.
Sherman at the Sea—December 1864
After marching through Georgia for a month, Sherman stormed Fort McAllister on December 13, 1864, and captured Savannah itself eight days later. These seven views show the former stronghold and its dismantling preparatory to Sherman's further movement northward. This operation was ordered on December 24, and General William B. Hazen [2d Division, 15th Corps] and Major Thomas W. Osborn, chief of artillery, completed the task by December 29, storing the guns at Fort Pulaski.
Hood before Nashville—December 1864
Continuing his policy of taking the offensive at any cost, General John B. Hood brought his reduced army before the defenses of Nashville, where it was repulsed by General George H. Thomas on December 15-16, in the most complete victory of the war. If the dates borne by the first two items are correct, the photographs were taken in the course of battle.
This time line was compiled by Joanne Freeman and owes a special debt to the Encyclopedia of American History by Richard B. Morris.