Shades of Blue and Gray: An Introductory Military History of the Civil War

By Herman Hattaway | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 15
The War Draws to a Conclusion

During the summer of 1864 the Northern populace’s morale and will to continue the contest reached its lowest ebb; despite that, on June 19, 1864, off the coast of Cherbourg, France, the USS Kearsarge sank the vexatious commerce raider, the CSS Alabama, and obviously other progress was being made. Nevertheless, long casualty lists were appalling. More and more, to many people victory seemed so distant and so costly that it truly was not worth striving for. It looked very much as if the Republicans could not win reelection in November, Abraham Lincoln would be turned out of office, and his place filled by the Democratic candidate—General McClellan—who was running on a peace platform. McClellan was adamant that there could be no peace without reunion, but many Unionists feared that McClellan would terminate the war with some sort of negotiated capitulation.

Even though the Federal army continued its slow advance into Georgia, Atlanta stubbornly refused to fall before Sherman’s vastly superior numbers. Moreover, in Virginia, on June 23 Gen. Jubal Early led fourteen thousand Confederates down the Shenandoah valley, and they raided as far as the outer defenses of Washington, D.C., which they reached on the afternoon of July 11. Lincoln even briefly came under enemy fire at Fort Stevens, where he had gone to view some of the action.

With the summer’s end and the beginning of autumn, things suddenly changed. General Early, after all, had not succeeded in entering the capital. He and his men had gotten as close as they were going to get, on July 11 and 12 and then were obliged to withdraw during the night of July 12. And Atlanta did at last fall, perhaps the final catalyst in ensuring Lincoln’s victory at the polls in November. (It may even be fair to assert that this reelection was the point of no return for the South, for it meant that the war would be continued and it

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