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The following article offers a complete history of events in Give Them the Bayonet!
Late spring - Conquest at Chancellorsville
The Battle of Chancellorsville took place from May 1st to 4th, 1863. For the Confederate II Corps under Lieutenant General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson the engagement began on the second day at halve past five, when it ambushed Major General Oliver O. Howards's XI Corps. The Northern corps lost fifty-five percent of its men without most of them firing a shot. Only one of the divisions returned fire on the Southern soldiers, but the counter-attack was short-lived. Meanwhile, the Union's commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, had his III Corps retire to Chancellorsville, reuniting Jackson's II Corps with the rest of General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. "Stonewall" left to scout a way to secure "United States Ford", the only way for the Northern army to retreat across the river. He alerted some of his soldiers upon his return at dusk, but they were well able to see that he was their commanding officer.
Lee ordered multiple attacks into the front of the Army of the Potomac. This compelled Hooker to order Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds and his I Corps from U.S. Ford to the front. This action is often debated by historians as what cost the North the battle. Lt. Gen. Jackson's men set out at halve past seven. They climbed through the dense forests northeast until reaching the ford. The general was amazed to see no defenders. With U.S. Ford in Confederate hands, Jackson let his soldiers rest for the night. However, he did not rest before sending General Lee news of his position.
May 3rd began with a total offensive into the Union lines. The attacks caused Hooker to encircle U.S. Ford, still thinking it was under his control. Once Jackson's scouts confirmed this, he ordered his II Corps to attack Howard's XI Corps. Jackson's 26,000 men charged into the backs of Howard's 5,000 troops, reducing the Federal corps to only a few lucky survivors. Jubal A. Early's division, that had been engaged with Howard before Jackson's breakthrough, combined with the II Corps to assault Henry W. Slocum's surrounded corps, which was twice the size of the combined Confederates. Nevertheless, the Federal corps was forced to flee while under heavy fire from "Stonewall" Jackson's men.
The day ended with the Army of Northern Virginia stretched from U.S. Ford to Chancellorsville. Hooker resolved to flee by Ely's Ford, about fifteen miles to the west. Only two of the eight Federal corps retreated without doing any battle. Jackson's II Corps, combined with Early's and Lafayette McLaws' divisions, took the Northern II and XII completely by surprise. The rest of the Confederate army joined in, overrunning both formations before being pushed back.
Betrayal in the North, trust in the South
Infuriated from the astounding loss at Chancellorsville and Hooker's reluctance to claim responsibility for the event, Union Generals Couch, Slocum, Meade, and Sedgwick turned to President Lincoln. Their goal was to have Hooker replaced by someone much more capable. On May 29, a meeting was held between the president and General John F. Reynolds. The latter agreed to take command of the Army of the Potomac if civilian control of the military would cease. President Lincoln was desperate. He reluctantly agreed. The next day, the indifferent Abner Doubleday took command of the I Corps of the Army of the Potomac. (Ramifications of Hookers very early removal include no central artillery corps and the incapable Stoneman in charge of the Federal cavalry corps.)
General Lee, with President Davis's approval, began to prepare for his second invasion of the North. To increase maneuverability, he split the army from two corps to three. Much of the III Corps's men were leeched from the II. After much debate, it was decided that General Lafayette McLaws would take command of the III. He was one of General Longstreet's most trusted subordinates while General Jackson was amazed by his bravery at Chancellorsville.
Early summer - Lee's second invasion
With Lee's men organized, the Army of Northern Virginia set out. The III Corps stayed behind at Fredericksburg for the start of the trip to confuse the Northern force across the Rappahannock River. Jackson's II Corps (known for its speed) was sent out in the lead alongside General Stuart's cavalry; Longstreet's I Corps would take up the rear before the III arrived. The army would sneak through the Blue Ridge Mountains and would be poised to strike the heart of the Union.
The Battle of Brandy Station took place on June 6. General Stuart's cavalry had taken up residence at the station to distract the Northern army from the nearby I Corps. Once Federal General John F. Reynolds knew of his enemy's presence, he sent his cavalry corps under General Stoneman to destroy the force. The ensuing battle was eight hours of hellish cavalry charges. General Stoneman's incompetence cost him the battle and his position. The Confederates took 300 losses; their counterparts took 1,000.
The front of the Army of Northern Virginia arrived in Pennsylvania on June 30th. Seeing the geographic importance of the nearby town of Gettysburg, General "Stonewall" Jackson ordered his men to set up camp at Round Top and Little Round Top. These hills were several miles down the road from the town itself. Jackson's scouts confirmed his fears that the Army of the Potomac was in pursuit. His men dug in, preparing for a battle.
Longstreet's I Corps and Stuart's cavalry corps arrived in Gettysburg on July 1st. Longstreet's men were deployed between Cemetery Hill and Cemetery Ridge. McLaws's III Corps was still on its way from Cashtown. On the other side, Doubleday's Federal I Corps gathered on Power's Hill with the II encircling it. The III and V were stationed just north of Little Round Top, oblivious to Jackson's presence. The other two corps of the Army of the Potomac were still on the way.
Day in Hell
At 6:30 a.m., the first division of Sickle's III Corps under General Birney was ordered to take Little Round Top (the Confederate presence was unknown). A.P. Hill's division was the only defending force on the hill, but quickly opened fire. Birney's men were gaining a lot of ground, but a bayonet charge drove them back.
One and a half hours later, the rest of the III Corps arrived. Hill's men were breaking apart by the onslaught. However, the rest of Stonewall's II Corps pierced the left flank of the corps. Sickles died in the conflict when a Confederate volley tore through his neck. General Birney took command of the III and ordered retreat.
At 10 a.m., the Confederate III Corps under General Lafayette McLaws arrived at Culp's Hill. Lee planned for them to seize Baltimore Pike which would cause the Army of the Potomac to be surrounded and weakened by a lack of reinforcements. Some Confederate soldiers called it the "Anaconda Plan", mocking the Federal blockade.
Fighting returned to Gettysburg at 2:30 p.m. General Jackson organized his II Corps for an attack on Meade and Birney. Hill attacked from the left; Early seized the road that connected the two Federal corps with the rest of General Reynolds's army. The remainder of the corps would charge down from Little Round Top under cover of artillery fire. Birney's I Corps was still weak from the earlier encounter and crumbled under Jackson's weight. Meade's V offered incredible resistance. However, the Confederates managed to push the two Federal corps together. And out of nowhere, Jackson's men charged directly into the group's flank. The offensive action prompted Generals Birney and Meade to order a retreat to Power's Hill.
General James Longstreet carried out his attack much later than Jackson's. The result was disaster. The I Corps was forced to take on a force nearly three times the size of it that was adequately defended. The I took hundreds of casualties before retreating. However, the failure is not completely Longstreet's fault. He had sent a mounted messenger to McLaws to ask for reinforcements. The messenger was intercepted and killed by Federal cavalry under General Buford. Because of this, McLaws and his III stayed camped on the Baltimore Pike.
Then disaster hit General McLaws and his men. Sedgwick and his VI Corps marched up the pike only to find a large Confederate corps. The ensuing battle would have ended in a bloody stalemate if McLaws had not been forced to retreat from his position when General Slocum's XI added to the Federal force.
The Union Offensive
Reynolds had lofty goals for the next day. He planned to remove Jackson's corps from either the high grounds or the battle. At the start of July 3, General Oliver Howard's new III Corps (he replaced Birney) spread into the meadows and wheat fields just a mile or so north of Little Round Top. Confederate General A.P. Hill reported this to General Jackson who then approved an assault on the Federal position. Hill's division virtually destroyed the III Corps because it had been spread to thinly (A very similar event happened in OTL).
General Sedgwick and his VI Corps launched a surprise attack on McLaws and his III Corps. The resulting Battle of Culp's Hill forced the III its now-wounded commander to the Longstreet's I, just in time for the third Federal attack. Hancock and his II attacked Cemetery Hill, thinking its occupants were the I (they happened to be the remains of McLaws's III). Longstreet (stationed at Cemetery Ridge) then ordered an attack into the flank of Hancock's men. The latter was forced to retreat after taking monumental casualties. July 3, 1863 ended with the bulk of the Army of the Potomac camped at Power's Hill with the exclusion of Sedgwick's men, stationed at Culp's Hill. Jackson was aimed at the back of the Union army from Little Round Top. With McLaws temporarily out of the picture, control of the III shifted to Longstreet. His men stretched from Cemetery Ridge to the hill bearing the same name.
Blood and Lead
July 4 was Independence Day for those wearing Yankee blue. However, even the soldiers in gray celebrated the holiday, hoping that it would mark their independence as well. The last day of the battles started with the Battle of the Hills. A combination of soldiers from both the Confederate I and III pushed Sedgwick's corps from Culp's Hill. General Hancock, believing the rebel defenses to be weakened, charged his enemy. By the time he arrived, however, the Confederate force had returned. The Federal II was repulsed with severely heavy casualties. Longstreet led his corps in a counterattack on the retreating force. McLaws had just arrived to take command of his III Corps and ordered an attack on Powell's Hill. Meanwhile, Jackson's II was traveling to the back of the hill.
The three corps attacked the hill in unison. The Confederates watched as the defenders eventually crumbled. General Reynolds himself was wounded. George Meade of the V Corps took temporal command of the Army of the Potomac, expertly reorganized the army, and was able to hold back the three-pronged attack long enough to allow the army to retreat in good order. The Battle of Gettysburg had ended, but it had claimed thousands of lives in the process. Although it was militarily a minor Southern victory, the battle was a major strategic victory for Southern morale along with a being a heavy blow to Lincoln in the Northern press.
The Third Invasion
Both armies replenished while they sat idle for a few months. General Lee knew of the upcoming election. He knew that he could not allow Reynolds to gain the offensive. That would probably throw the North into Lincoln's hands. General Lee would have to resume the aggressive at the earliest point possible. He would find his chance at the beginning of October, 1863.
On October 2, the Army of Northern Virginia trudged to Harpers Ferry to begin the third invasion of the North. Two days later, they trekked to Frederick, Maryland. This time the destination was not Pennsylvania.
Stuart's cavalry was mainly absent. A division was currently raiding the Potomac, trying to divert Union attention. However, General Reynolds and his army were not fooled. Despite his fervor to counter Lee's invasion, the Army of the Potomac was disorganized and scattered. The Army of Northern Virginia was encamped in between Washington and Baltimore by the time Reynolds attacked.
The Battle of Savage began at 8 a.m. McLaws III Corps was positioned at the road leading into the town. Longstreet and Jackson were placed on either sides. The Union Army had remade the III Corps and was once again headed by General Oliver Howard. The fight began after fire was exchanged between the III Corps (CSA) and the II Corps (USA). Three more corps followed Hancock toward McLaws, causing the Confederates to retreat after a quick and hard defense. Jackson took the opportunity to launch an offensive into the Union's moving flank before being repulsed by volleys of Union fire. Soon after, though, the I Corps (CSA) followed the II's example. The III, hearing the gunfire of its allies, turned to counter-attack the oncoming Federals. They were sent back to Reynolds after taking heavy losses. Because the Army of Northern Virginia's camps had only been made for this battle, Lee ordered his generals to pursue the army.
Jackson and Longstreet engaged the flanks of the Union Army just outside of Savage while McLaws attacked the center made up of the weakened Union corps. The battle was long and hard and ended with a Confederate advance towards Washington and a Federal retreat to Washington. The Battle of Savage was yet another victory for Lee and another nail in Lincoln's political coffin.
Hoping to sneak in a victory before the winter to end the rising Confederate dominance in the East, General John F. Reynolds mobilized his Army of the Potomac. His men would maneuver across their namesake and then move northwest against Lee's headquarters at Leesburg.
General Stuart's cavalry had informed General Lee of the approaching Federal army. The Army of Northern Virginia was sent out to counter Reynolds’ movements. On October 31, the two armies collided at Oak Grove. The left flank of the Union army (Sedgwick) assaulted Longstreet’s defenses at Herndon. McLaws’ III Corps defended the farmlands east of the town. Meanwhile, Jackson led the center of the Army of Northern Virginia.
The I Corps was able to hold the line at Herndon, sending Sedgwick’s VI back. The III Corps was less successful. It lost their base and their commanding officer, Lafayette McLaws. McLaws had been organizing his men in the chaos of the Union attack when he was shot in the head by either a Northern infantryman or sharpshooter. Richard H. Anderson took command of the III Corps. He quickly organized a retreat to Jackson’s II.
Confederate cannon placed at the rear of Oak Grove tore through Union lines as they neared the town. Longstreet’s I Corps had arrived from Herndon after he heard of Sedgwick’s new position. The now-unified Confederate army pushed through the Federal lines, forcing a retreat.
Lee had successfully repulsed the Army of the Potomac once again. The number of Southern sympathizers in the North was growing. The Battles of Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Savage, and now Oak Grove was about to call one of the most famous events in United States history. In early November, Abraham Lincoln was killed by John Wilkes Booth while watching a performance of The Marble Heart. At the same time Booth was captured, Hannibal Hamlin was sworn in as the 17th President of the United States.
It was two weeks after the assassination of President Lincoln. General Lee knew to that he could not let Grant do the attacking if the Confederacy was to win the war. He also knew that he could not leave Richmond unguarded. Lastly, Lee knew that there was no way he could besiege Washington. He resolved to move to a better spying position.
General Grant had similar views. He knew that capturing Richmond was superior to destroying Lee's army. And so, the Army of the Potomac moved from Washington to Alexandria, the foothold of Virginian loyalty to the Union.
It was only natural for the two armies to collide. And they did. At Brimstone Hill, right outside of Fairfax Station, a skirmish broke out between the newly formed Federal III Corps (under Howard) and Confederate General Heth's division. However, the eventual Battle of Brimstone Hill would come to justify the hill's name.
By the time both armies had fully assembled, the Confederates had been pushed to the top of the mountain. While both sides funneled troops up the hill, several corps were engaged in heavy fighting around the bottom of Brimstone Hill. Cannon from both sides tore through earth and men. While Jackson and Anderson combated Sedgwick and Hancock at the base of the hill, the mountain changed hands several times.
History would be made on this day. Under cover of cannon fire, George Pickett's division overwhelmed Sedgwick's defenses in a desperate attempt to seize an advantage in the battle. Pickett's Charge, as it would famously be called, allowed Anderson's III Corps to attack the rear of Hancock's II. Jackson and Anderson sent the II into a retreat. This successfully cut off Brimstone Hill from Union reinforcements. Howard's III Corps was slaughtered as it broke apart in retreat. Even Oliver Howard himself was killed.
The Army of the Potomac set up base at Alexandria while its counterpart rested at Fairfax Station. The Battle of Brimstone Hill would start the very famous Brimstone Campaign, the last campaign in the Eastern Theater of the Civil War.
Divide And Conquer
General Lee was planning his next offensive measure against Grant and Meade (Reynolds had been relieved after three defeats). It was now the last week of November, and it seemed as though winter would come later than expected. Plus, a great opportunity had been discovered by General Stuart's cavalry: The Federal army was split. Several corps had been stationed at Springfield Station while the rest of the army was gone. Lee reasoned that it was a trap after learning that the rest of the Army of the Potomac was currently around Falls Church. He reasoned that it would be a two-pronged attack. However, General Lee would take the fighting to Grant first.
Major General Adolph von Steinwehr was now the leader of the III Corps’s remains. Von Steinwehr's old division had seen fighting at Chancellorsville (XI Corps), Gettysburg (XII Corps), and Oak Grove (XII) before the massacre at Brimstone Hill last week. It had escaped much of the battle after the general reasoned that it was useless to continue fighting and retreated. This was much to General Oliver Howard's dismay, causing the hesitation that had cost him a head full of lead. Ironically, this event had given Von Steinwehr control of the III Corps. And, like his commander before him, he found himself one of the most unprepared men in the world.
Richard H. Anderson had been the one to propose this plan to Lee several days prior to the attack. It had therefore been Lee's idea to have him head it. Anderson's III Corps clashed with its counterpart around 7:00 a.m. One of the divisions (Von Steinwehr had only two) was caught off guard and pushed south of the city by Pender's Division. Then General Heth ruthlessly assaulted the other half. General von Steinwehr easily reorganized his men and held against the Confederates until reinforcements arrived from the XII Corps.
General Shurz's division was blown apart by Pender's. Before long, Anderson's III Corps was combined against the Federal III and XII. Anderson quickly besieged Slocum's flank, driving many Union men into the fire of Heth's division. The attack gained more momentum as Southern soldiers overran the Federal positions. It was not long before the corps and less-than-a-half was driven away from Springfield Station. The fighting was over on one of the fronts.
The surprise attack was not as much as a surprise as Longstreet and Jackson had hoped. Pleasonton's cavalry had reported with just enough time to spare for defensive measures to be made. The Army of Northern Virginia obviously met much resistance. The tide of the battle turned, though, when a bullet caused one of the nails from Cincinnati's saddle (along with quite a bit of shrapnel) to find itself inside the right leg of General Ulysses S. Grant. He was taken from the battlefield. The time before Meade assumed control caused confusion in the army's orders. Stonewall Jackson took complete advantage of the situation.
Jackson ordered his II Corps to apparently flee to Longstreet's. Sedgwick detected this and moved to Jackson's old positions. However, the II Corps kept going until it maneuvered in what appeared to be a complete circle (which Stonewall had performed several times prior). The Confederates then crashed directly into the Union flank. Sedgwick's VI Corps was separated from the other three and took heavy casualties. The corps was strangled to death under Jackson's power grip (Sedgwick himself was killed by a confederate sniper). General Meade, with the commanding officer wounded and his army split and on the brink of destruction, ordered a retreat to Alexandria.
Meade found the defeated XII and III at Alexandria. The day had been a disaster. The perfect encirclement plan had been destroyed in the most perfect way. The situation became worse for Meade when he heard that Grant's right leg had been amputated due to infection.
Around this time, Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate States, had once again arrived at Alexandria with the desire for peace talks with the president of the United States. President Hamlin, however, had specifically ordered Meade not too allow a conference with the rebel.
However, there was one patch of light in the ever-growing storm. While the Army of the Potomac was weakened but united, the Confederate army was in two pieces. And so, Meade took the bait that Anderson had planned for the second phase of the Battles of Springfield Station and Falls Church.
The second phase of Anderson's plan was to lure Meade into a one-sided bloodbath. Although the Army of the Potomac did come, Lee would find that he underestimated its speed and aggressiveness. Conflict came on December 2.
General George Gordon Meade entered Springfield Station at 6 a.m. to find no rebels. It seemed as though he would not be able to exploit the advantage of a split Confederate Army. Luckily for him, this would prove wrong. Major General Buford's cavalry informed Union Command about the presence of a lone Confederate corps stationed at Annandale a few miles up the road. Meade took the opportunity.
Instead of attacking the town head-on, the Army of the Potomac crashed into the Anderson's III Corps to the right of Annandale. The I, II, and III lead the attack while the VI was stationed a bit south of the town in defense of the left flank. The XII and V stood a distance behind the Union front lines to replenish any Northern losses.
Needless to say, General Anderson found himself in the middle of hell. He was almost completely separated from Lee; his plan had failed. However, he had scribbled a note for help to General Lee at the sight of Federal soldiers. Anderson would need to hold out for several hours at most. The waves of the three corps were stopped by the dug-in Confederates but with heavy losses on the latter's side. By the time the remainder of Lee's army arrived at noon, the III Corps had lost a divisions worth of fighting men.
Longstreet ambushed Sedgwick and Doubleday. Kershaw and Pickett clashed with the back of Doubleday's I Corps. Hood was left to deal with Sedgwick. After hours of fighting, Doubleday fell back, and the two Federal corps melted into two. They fought in slow retreat, inflicting many unexpected losses on their counterparts. Finally, they halted and offered a staunch defensive.
Meanwhile, Jackson ambushed Adolph von Steinwehr and Hancock, removing the pressure on Anderson. The Confederate II and III fought the Federal II and III into a similar retreat that was occurring a bit to the south of the town. If not for a coming event, the Army of Northern Virginia may have been nearly destroyed.
Stuart's Confederate cavalry raided the North's reinforcements in the form of Sykes and Slocum. Without these men, the Federal lines began to collapse. By the time Stuart had fled from the battlefield, the Army of the Potomac was on its way back to Alexandria. Many losses were inflicted on both sides (particularly on Anderson's corps), but Meade had retreated a it was political victory for the Confederacy.
It also marked the close of the year 1863 in the Eastern Theater. Despite the heavy losses, thoughts of victory livened General Lee's eyes. The Army of Northern Virginia marched to Arlington, Virginia, just a few miles from Washington and Alexandria. Lee set up his winter headquarters in his reacquired home. He wouldn't find victory in the North this time. If his new plan came to light, the Army of the Potomac would die in Virginia.
The Confederate States of America were dying. Despite the news of the Confederate victory at Nashville, most of the officers in the Army of Northern Virginia knew that the day of defeat grew nearer. Everyday supplies dwindled. Every month, irreplaceable men fell in battle. General Lee knew foremost that the day of reckoning was at hand. He would need to convince President Hamlin of a lost war in the East. Instead of leading a campaign based on small skirmishes, Lee prepared for a bloodbath. On March 2, 1864, the Confederate army marched from Arlington to Dranesville.
The news of Nashville brought Northern morale to an all time low. Throughout the Brimstone Campaign, the Army of the Potomac had felt a rising wave in desertion. These numbers had only increased since the victory at Annandale. With a steady population of around 70,000 men, General Meade was relieved and William T. Sherman was brought from the West to lead the Army of the Potomac. Before beginning the campaign though, Sherman reorganized his army into three corps. (The I, II, and III were combined into the new II under Hancock; the V, VI, and XII were joined to form the new V under Sykes; while the IX corps under Ambrose Burnside arrived with Sherman from the west.) General Doubleday of the old I Corps was angered by his demotion to put it lightly.
On March 3, the Army of Northern Virginia had planned to set up defensive positions a few miles north of Dranesville. However, a mixed-up order had General Longstreet’s I Corps separated from the rest of the army and settled on the Potomac River. The missing presence of the corps would go unnoticed for the last several hours of March 3. Once Lee learned of its location, though, the defenses were abandoned to venture into the wilds of Northern Virginia.
Shortly after learning of the absence of the Army of Northern Virginia, General James Longstreet learned of the approaching Federal Army. It seemed as though Sherman would take advantage of a weaker and separated enemy. Being an experienced general, Longstreet ordered defensive structures to be made in preparation for the attack. However, he did not plan to use them for more than two hours.
On March 4, 1864, Sherman attacked. The V Corps under General Sykes spearheaded the audacious attack. After taking extremely high casualties, the corps was reinforced by the remainder of the Army of the Potomac. (The others had not arrived by the start of the battle.) The I Corps quickly retreated west before opening fire into the flank of the Northern Army. By the close of eight o’clock, the Army of Northern Virginia was completely assembled to aid Longstreet. To make matters worse for the Federal soldiers, their new defenses now ran the wrong way.
The Army of the Potomac folded into a square. The II Corps was directly on the water with its three brigades reinforcing its allies; the I stood defiantly at the front with the IX on its left and right. Lee ordered an offensive into all sections of the Union army. Stonewall’s Corps pierced into Sykes'; Anderson’s assailed Burnside's; Longstreet’s charged into Hancock’s. It was the most daring assault General Lee had every planned. Many historians argue that it worked because of the terrain.
The densely wooded area stopped any ability for either army to use artillery. Many of the Confederate soldiers were skilled at fighting in forests; many Northern men were not. Union defenses were spread thin by the forest. These, along with ability for many Confederate generals to rally their men after breaching the North’s walls, won the charge for the South. Sherman was now surrounded with a river at his back. He however gathered his men expertly and broke through the right wing of the Southern III Corps. The army turned into a wall of retreating men. Lee reorganized his army and renewed the attacks.
Every yard the Northerners turned back and opened fire. As soon as their backs were turned, the Confederates returned. Before long, this process became obsolete and an all-out charge ensued. In the famous fighting, the Confederacy lost many brave generals. Among them were Major Generals Richard S. Ewell and Pickett, along with Brigadier General Richard B. Garrett.
But the Confederates were relentless. Jubal Early took command of his and Ewell’s division and cried out to his men to follow the "damn Yankees all the way to hell". Holes were drilled in the Union positions by bloodied bayonets. Sherman was able to keep most of his men together before reaching Washington. The charge was over. The Battle of the Potomac, or of Dranesville as it is referred to in the South, took the most lives in the entire American Civil War. Lee lost over a third of his 56,000 men in one day. Sherman lost a little bit more than 40% of his army.
Both Sherman and the United States president both believed that their opponent was now larger than the Army of the Potomac. To top it off, the president felt a major loss in morale with a successive loss in the West and the East. On March 6, President Hannibal Hamlin penned a letter to Confederate President Jefferson Davis with the intention of opening peaceful negotiations. Despite the cost, the Army of Northern Virginia had triumphed. Upon receiving the invitation, Davis accepted, and the de facto end of the War Between the States had finally occurred. People throughout the Confederate States of America were jubilant.
Ides of March
On March 15, 1864, a peace treaty was finally signed to officially end the War Between the States. Named the Treaty of Alexandria after the location of its signing, it is arguably one of the most famous documents in the history of North America. Through the document, the United States of America formally recognized the Confederate States of America as a separate nation composed of the eleven states that had seceded from the Union. The United States also recognized that the Indian and Arizona Territories were part of the newly born country. And after much debate, it was decided that West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri would hold plebiscites on January 1, 1865 to decide if they were to stay with the Union or join the Confederacy. War reparations were included in the Treaty of Alexandria, but they would hardly cover the amount of money needed for the South’s reconstruction.
After the signing of the Treaty of Alexandria, President Hannibal Hamlin told his party and the American people that he would not run in the upcoming election. This was due to the fact that he little support in the Republican Party because while he supported the treaty, his party vehemently opposed it. They believed that there was a still hope for a victorious Union.
November 8, 1864 was the day of the election. The Republican candidates happened to be part of the radical branch of the party: General John C. Frémont and Representative Thaddeus Stevens. On the other hand, the Democratic ticket was composed of two Democrats who had supported the war: General George B. McClellan and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. The election was a bit close. The Republican candidates were much more extreme in dealing with the Confederacy, causing many votes for McClellan due to fear of renewed conflict with the South.
Once the results were in, it was clear who would be the next president. On that day in November, George B. McClellan won both the popular vote and the electoral vote.