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The military operations of 1864 were of the most momentous importance. It was a year of intense activity in every department; and, although there were great miscarriages and serious and perplexing disasters, the grand results were such as to show to the people of the whole country that the end was not far off, and that that end would leave the rebellion hopeless and helpless at the feet of the national power. Although the principal interest was attached to the operations of the two grand armies under Grant and Sherman, there were minor movements of subsidiary bodies, which attracted considerable attention.
Early in February, an expedition under General Gillmore's direction, for clearing Florida of insurgent forces, so as to enable the Union elements of the state to reorganize, resulted in a failure. At the same time, Sherman, proceeding from Vicksburg, with a strong infantry force, and General Smith, starting from Memphis, with a heavy force of cavalry, undertook a joint movement for the purpose of destroying rebel supplies and communications; but they failed in their plan of forming a junction, though they were quite successful in their work of destruction. Later in the month, Kilpatrick made his bold and dashing raid upon Richmond, blowing up the locks of the Kanawha canal, cutting railways and telegraphs, and penetrating within the outer defenses of the rebel capital. In March, the disastrous Red River expedition of General Banks occurred. Much damage was done to the rebels, and more was received by ourselves. In April, Fort Pillow was captured from us; and here occurred one of the most shocking outrages of the war, already incidentally alluded to in these pages. Some three hundred negro troops, with women and children, were murdered in cold blood, after they had surrendered. The white officers of these troops shared their cruel fate; and the event was greeted with approval by rebel newspapers. The history of war is illustrated by no deed of blacker barbarism than this. It filled the country with horror, and inspired a universal demand for retaliation. Mr. Lincoln, who was as deeply touched as any one, promised retaliation publicly; but it was never inflicted.
Late in the spring, the western army, under Sherman, confronted Johnston at Chattanooga. The army of the Potomac, immediately under General Meade, faced Lee in Virginia. Both sides had gathered every available man for the last great trial of arms. Lieutenant-general Grant perfected his plans, and, after visiting the western army, and consulting with Sherman, he returned to the east, and took the general direction of military affairs. Everything was given into his hands; and he was supplied with all the men and material that were desired. “The particulars of your plans," said the President to him in a letter, “I neither know, nor seek to know. You are vigilant and self-reliant; and, pleased with this, I wish not to obtrude any restraints nor constraints upon you.” General Grant's response to this note of Mr. Lincoln was evidently not given in ignorance of the charges which had so freely been made, by political enemies of the administration, that our generals were interfered with by the President and the Secretary of War. “From my first entrance into the volunteer service of my country to the present day," said he, “I have never had cause of complaint. * * * Indeed, since the promotion which placed me in command of all the armies, and in view of the great responsibility and importance of success, I have been astonished at the readiness with which everything asked for has been yielded, without even an explanation being asked.”
Everything having been made ready, the two armies moved, at the opening of May, to the work that lay before them. On Tuesday night, May third, the army of the Potomac crossed the Rapidan; and on Thursday that series of actions was begun which will be known in history as “The Battles of the Wilderness." Thousands and tens of thousands of brave men fell on both sides; but the rebel general was obliged, from day to day, to fall back from his carefully prepared defenses, to save his communications; while Grant flanked him by a series of swift and daring swoops of his gigantic force, until Lee found himself and his army in Richmond. In cooperation with these movements of Grant's army, General Butler pushed up the James River with a large force, and secured and held City Point and Bermuda Hundred. This was his principal work; but he undertook various diversions without remarkable results.
It was not until the middle of June that the army reached the James River, and commenced the siege of Petersburgh, which was destined to ultimate in the downfall of the rebellion.
General Sherman pursued the strategy adopted by his superior. He had a larger army than Johnston, but Johnston had the advantage of strong positions and a knowledge of the country
He also moved toward his supplies, while Sherman left his behind him. The federal General flanked Johnston out of his works at Buzzard's Roost; and then, fighting and flanking, from day to day, he drove him from Dalton to Atlanta. Then Johnston was superseded by Hood, and Hood assumed the offensive. In three days of bloody battle, the new commander lost half of his army; and then he was glad to get behind the defenses of Atlanta. Here he remained more than a month, besieged. In the endeavor to escape from the toils which Sherman was weaving around him, he found himself at last thoroughly outgeneraled, and was obliged to
Atlanta fell into our hands, on the second of September. Then Hood, a rash and desperate officer, set off to break up Sherman's communications; and, finding himself thoroughly whipped, started for a grand march to Nashville, where he hoped to find repayment for the losses and disgraces he had suffered. Sherman sent back to General Thomas, who had been left in command there, a portion of his army, and much of his material of war; and then he turned his back on Hood, for a march to the sea-coast.
This march, one of the most remarkable in the history of war, was called by the rebels a retreat. It was begun on the twelfth of November; and, leaving behind supplies and all means of communication, the gallant host started for the Atlantic. The most frantic efforts were made by the rebels to check the progress of the redoubtable army. Small forces hovered in front, in flank, and in rear, but nothing impeded its march. It was a gala-day affair, the soldiers supporting themselves upon the country through which they passed. On the eighth of December, the army arrived within twenty miles of Savannah. On the fourteenth, Fort McAllister was taken; and, on the same day, communication was opened with the federal fleet, sent to co-operate and bear supplies. The army had reached a new base; and had reached it without a single disaster. Savannah was occupied immediately, the rebel troops retreating and escaping. On the next day after Fort McAllister fell, Thomas defeated Hood in Tennessee, and sent him back, with his army cut in pieces and ruined.
In the meantime, Sheridan had whipped Early in the Shenandoah valley, in a series of brilliant engagements; and, although there had been raids of rebel cavalry across the Potomac, and panics and alarms in various quarters, the 1st of January, 1865, found the Union cause much advanced, and the rebels weakened and despondent. Sherman was at Savannah, organizing for another movement up the coast; Hood was crushed; Early's army was destroyed; Price, too, had been routed in Missouri; Canby was operating for the capture of Mobile; and Grant, with the grip of a bull-dog, held Lee in Richmond, while all these great movements in other parts of the country were in progress.
There was discord in the counsels of the rebels. They began to talk of using the negroes as soldiers. The commanding general demanded this measure; and, at last, the singular spectacle was exhibited of a slaveholders' rebellion, undertaken to make slavery perpetual, calling upon the slaves themselves for help. But the call for help came too late, even had it been addressed to more promising sources. Lee was tied, and Sherman was turning his steps toward him; and among the leaders of the rebellion there was a fearful lookingfor of fatal disasters.
Two changes occurred in Mr. Lincoln's cabinet during the year, in addition to that already noted in the post-office department. Edward Bates of Missouri, the Attorney-general, left his post on the first of December, and was succeeded by James Speed of Kentucky. Mr. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury, resigned early in July. That this resignation was unexpected and unwelcome to Mr. Lincoln, was evident; but it was immediately accepted. There was probably some personal feeling on both sides, into the causes of which there is no occasion to enter. The matter excited Mr. Lincoln very much--probably more than anything that concerned him personally during his administration. He first appointed to the vacant office Governor David Todd of Ohio; and, the appointment being declined, he named Hon. William Pitt Fessenden of Maine. Mr. Fessenden was a gentleman in whom the country had full confidence; but, owing to his infirm health, he assumed the responsibilities of the place with great reluctance, and only after such an appeal from Mr. Lincoln as he could not resist.
On the twelfth of October, Chief Justice Taney died; and the friends of Mr. Chase urged that gentleman at once as the proper man to be endowed with the responsibilities of that august office. But Mr. Chase had his enemies, like all those who have achieved an equally prominent position. The antagonism between his friends and enemies was at once developed; and Mr. Lincoln was approached with all the motives for and against the appointment. In this matter, Mr. Lincoln's habit of hearing all the arguments in a case on which he had already