Understanding war, strategy, campaigns, and tactics
Everyone knows what war is, right? All wars are not the same and what some people call war is not really war at all. It’s more than just generalship and battles.
To understand war, it’s necessary to define what kind of conflict we are talking about, because war is extremely complex and needs to be understood if a study of any war is to make sense.
So where do we begin? What is war? To understand the American Civil War, we need to know that, for our purposes, war was state-based armed violence fought by citizens in defense of large political ideas. Political leaders of the states controlled and managed the purpose of war and legitimized the level of armed violence necessary to bring about the total defeat of the opposing state.
The United States (what was left of it after 1861) and the Confederate States of America (composed of the seceded states) were the state actors involved, each seeking to achieve a political end. For the United States, it was to restore the Union; for the Confederacy, it was to create an independent nation. These political ends had to be translated into strategy.
To achieve the desired political end, ways (armed forces) and means (resources) had to be identified, marshalled, and employed. Determining how forces and resources are to be employed to achieve the political end is known as strategy.
Strategy is the large concept that defines how the war is to be fought. A poor strategy will lead to indecisive battles of attrition that devolve into stalemate. A good strategy that integrates forces and resources in a cohesive and imaginative way will allow military commanders to defeat enemy forces on the battlefield that will lead to achieving the state’s political ends.
Employing forces and resources requires that commanders conduct campaigns. Campaigns are a series of strategically focused, properly resourced movements, maneuvers, and battles intended to place enemy forces at a disadvantage, forcing a retreat or resulting in defeat and destruction on the battlefield.
Once a battle is joined, commanders employ tactics to position their units in an advantageous position using infantry, artillery, and cavalry together, or separately, or in sequence, to impose maximum destruction on enemy forces.
It sounds simple, so why is war so difficult? Because war is a human endeavor and it is fraught with human foibles and emotions. The true picture of the battlefield is never clear and nothing is altogether certain once units are engaged in combat. The drama, the terror, the uncertainty of the battlefield, combined with the doubts, the will, the spirit, and the courage of the commanders and the soldiers involved make war a realm of mystery.
Afterward, it is relatively easy to pick out what happened and why. But in the midst of the chaos of battle, everything matters and nothing matters at the same time. Those who rise above this incredible contradiction are able to impose a level of control over events and determine the outcome. Once the battle is decided, the army commander assesses the situation and determines the next action, understanding the overall strategic purpose, while keeping the goals of the campaign in mind.
With this background, you will be able to view the Civil War with deeper appreciation. Battles of the Civil War do not stand alone; each is linked to a campaign with a strategic purpose supporting a larger political outcome.
The battles themselves tell the story of how well or poorly commanders at various levels succeeded in moving and maneuvering forces, how well or poorly they integrated their capabilities, and whether they could stand up to the enormous pressures of a dynamic and uncertain battlefield.
Finally, in the aftermath of a battle, how did the commanders follow or fail to follow a campaign plan? What were the consequences of victory or defeat for the larger strategic picture? How did this outcome relate to the political ends desired? With this understanding, the Civil War becomes a never-ending source of engagement with events that have an immediacy that draws you into another time. It is worth every minute.
Key political events leading to war: 1860 to 1861
- Democrats are unable to unify to nominate a candidate over the issue of the extension of slavery into the territories.
- Republicans nominate Abraham Lincoln for president.
- Democrats split into Northern and Southern wings, each nominating their own candidate.
- Constitutional Union party is formed from the Democratic party breakup and nominates its candidate for president.
- Abraham Lincoln is elected president.
- South Carolina calls for a convention to leave the Union (secede).
- Major Robert Anderson, commander of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, asks for reinforcements.
- President James Buchanan declares that secession from the Union of states is unconstitutional and also declares at the same time that the federal government can do nothing to stop such an action.
- December 20: South Carolina secedes from the Union.
- December 22: Lincoln rejects a Congressional committee’s attempt at compromise that would protect slavery in the territories.
- The Star of the West, a ship with supplies for Fort Sumter dispatched by order of President Buchanan, is turned back when fired upon as it enters Charleston Harbor.
- January 9: Mississippi secedes from the Union.
- January 10: Florida secedes from the Union.
- January 11: Alabama secedes from the Union.
- January 19: Georgia secedes from the Union.
- January 26: Louisiana secedes from the Union.
- January 29: Kansas is admitted to the Union.
- February 1: Texas secedes from the Union.
- February 4: The seceded states meet in Montgomery, Alabama, to form a new government.
- February 8: A new constitution for the Confederate States of America is approved.
- February 18: Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as provisional president.
- March 4: Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated.
- April 4: Lincoln orders a relief expedition to Fort Sumter.
- April 12: Confederate batteries fire on Fort Sumter.
- April 15: Lincoln calls for 75,000 volunteers.
- April 18: Robert E. Lee is offered command of the U.S. Army.
- April 19: Lincoln proclaims a blockade of Confederate ports.
- May 6: Arkansas secedes from the Union.
- May 7 Tennessee aligns with the Confederacy.
- May 20 North Carolina secedes from the Union.
- May 23: Virginia secedes from the Union.
- Western counties of Virginia refuse to secede and set up a separate government.
Major events of 1861
June 21: Battle of Manassas (Bull Run). Union forces under General McDowell suffer a defeat after several hours of confused fighting.
June 27: McClellan replaces McDowell as commander of U.S. troops outside of Washington.
August 29: Union naval and ground forces capture Confederate forts defending Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
November 1: McClellan is appointed general-in-chief, replacing General Winfield Scott.
November 8: Mason and Slidell, Confederate diplomats, are taken off the British steamer Trent by a U.S. warship.
December 20: The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War is established to provide congressional oversight of military operations.
August 10: Battle of Wilson’s Creek, Missouri. After a confusing battle, Confederate forces hold the field and maintain control of southwest Missouri.
September 4: Confederate troops under Leonidas Polk capture Columbus, Kentucky, ending the state’s neutrality.
September 10: Albert Sidney Johnston takes command of all Confederate forces in the Western Theater.
Major events of 1862
February 8: Brigadier General Ambrose Burnside succeeds in capturing Roanoke Island, North Carolina.
March 9: The first battle of the ironclads happens at Hampton Roads, Virginia: CSS Virginia vs. USS Monitor.
March 17: McClellan initiates movement of Army of the Potomac to Fort Monroe, Virginia, to conduct a campaign to capture Richmond.
March 23: Major General Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson encounters Union forces under Brigadier General Shields at Kernstown, forcing Jackson to retreat.
April 4–5: Peninsula Campaign begins; McClellan initiates siege at Yorktown.
April 16: Confederate Congress authorizes conscription; owners of 20 or more slaves are exempt; substitutes can be hired, or an exemption can be bought for $500.
May 8: Jackson defeats a Union force at McDowell, Virginia, to initiate the Valley campaign.
May 25: Jackson defeats Nathaniel Banks’s Union army at Front Royal and drives the army out of Winchester, Virginia.
May 31: General Joseph E. Johnston is wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines outside of Richmond. He is succeeded by General Robert E. Lee.
June 8: Jackson defeats Frémont at the Battle of Cross Keys, Virginia.
May 9: Jackson defeats Shields at Port Republic, Virginia.
June 15: J.E.B. Stuart completes his four-day ride around McClellan’s army.
June 17: Jackson’s Valley army begins movement south to Join Lee’s army in Richmond.
June 19: Slavery is abolished in U.S. territories.
June 26: Lee attacks McClellan’s right wing at Mechanicsville, intending to defeat the Union army before Richmond.
June 27: Lee attacks Union forces at Gaines’s Mill. McClellan begins a withdrawal to the James River.
June 29: Lee attacks at Savage Station, attempting to trap the Union army.
June 30: Lee attacks at Frayser’s Farm to cut off McClellan’s line of retreat.
July 1: Confederate forces are stopped at Malvern Hill, allowing McClellan to reach safety under protection of Union gunboats at Harrison’s Landing.
July 11: Halleck becomes general-in-chief of the Union armies. Major General Pope, with a newly organized Army of Virginia, begins to advance toward Richmond.
July 22: Lincoln presents his first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet.
August 9: Jackson strikes at a portion of Pope’s army at Cedar Mountain.
August 26: Jackson’s forces occupy and destroy Pope’s supply depot at Manassas.
August 28: Jackson conducts a surprise attack on Union troops near Groveton.
August 29: Jackson defends the high ground near Manassas against Pope’s army.
August 30: Battle of Second Manassas. Longstreet’s attack breaks Pope’s army, leading to a rout toward Washington.
September 2: McClellan takes control of all Union forces consolidated around Washington. Pope is relieved of command.
September 5: Lee crosses the Potomac River and enters Maryland.
September 13: McClellan receives a lost copy of Lee’s orders.
September 16: McClellan’s army reaches Antietam Creek. Lee’s army is waiting at Sharpsburg.
September 17: Battle of Antietam. The bloodiest day of the war. Although battered but not broken, Lee’s army retreats back to Virginia the following day.
November 7: Lincoln replaces McClellan with Burnside as the commander of the Army of the Potomac.
December 11: Burnside orders the crossing of the Rappahannock River to drive Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia away from Fredericksburg in preparation for an advance on Richmond.
December 13: Battle of Fredericksburg. The Army of the Potomac batters itself to exhaustion against Confederate defenses. It retreats across the Rappahannock two days later.
February 6: Ulysses S. Grant and Flag Officer Andrew Foote conduct a joint operation to capture Fort Henry on the Tennessee River.
February 13–16: Grant surrounds and captures 15,000 Confederate troops at Fort Donelson.
February 25: Confederate forces retreat from southwestern Kentucky and abandon Nashville, Tennessee.
March 8: Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, Confederate defeat allows the Union to secure Missouri.
March 17: Grant takes command of Union forces at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee.
March 29: Albert Sidney Johnston consolidates Confederate forces at Corinth, Mississippi, intending to strike Grant.
April 6: Confederate surprise attack on Grant’s army assembled near Shiloh Church. Johnston is killed and P.G.T. Beauregard takes command. Union troops are driven to a perimeter near Pittsburg Landing.
April 7: With timely reinforcements, Grant launches a successful counterattack. The Confederate army retreats to Corinth.
April 25: Flag Officer David Farragut captures New Orleans.
April 29: Henry Halleck, commander of all Union forces in the Western Theater, takes personal command of Grant’s army and inches toward Corinth.
May 30: Beauregard evacuates Corinth.
June 27: Braxton Bragg takes command of the Confederate Army of the Mississippi from Beauregard.
August 28: Bragg’s Confederate army moves north to link with Major General Edmund Kirby Smith’s army, both heading north into Kentucky.
September 17: Bragg occupies Munfordville, Kentucky, threatening Union lines of supply from Louisville.
September 19: Battle of Iuka, Mississippi. Major General Rosecrans defeats Confederate forces under Major General Sterling Price.
September 29: Major General Buell’s Army of the Cumberland, pursuing Bragg and Smith, arrives in Louisville.
October 4: Battle of Corinth. Rosecrans defeats repeated attacks by Confederate forces under Major General Earl Van Dorn.
September 8: Battle of Perryville. A confused battle ends with the retreat of Bragg and Kirby. Major General Buell has stopped the Confederate invasion of Kentucky.
September 30: Major General Rosecrans replaces Buell as commander of the Army of the Cumberland.
November 2: Grant begins an advance from Tennessee November to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi.
December 29: Major General Sherman’s Union forces are stopped at Chickasaw Bluffs before Vicksburg.
December 31: Battle of Murfreesboro (Stones River). Bragg believes he has inflicted a major defeat on Rosecrans’s army.
Major events of 1863
January 1: Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation.
January 26: Major General “Fighting Joe” Hooker takes command of the Army of the Potomac from Burnside.
March 3: U.S. Congress passes a conscription act. All men aged 20–45 are eligible, but $300 will buy an exemption, or a conscript can hire a substitute.
April 30: With exceptional skill, Hooker places three corps of the Army of the Potomac behind Lee’s defenses at Fredericksburg, concentrating at Chancellorsville.
May 1–2: Lee counterattacks fiercely, forcing Hooker to retreat into the Wilderness. The following day Jackson moves around the flank of the Union army and launches a surprise attack. Jackson is wounded and J.E.B. Stuart takes command of Jackson’s corps.
May 3: Hooker retreats to the Rappahannock River fords. Major General Sedgwick, marching from Fredericksburg to Hooker’s aid, is defeated at Salem Church.
May 6: The Army of the Potomac makes a sullen retreat across the Rappahannock.
May 10: Lieutenant General Thomas J. Jackson dies.
June 3: Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia moves north toward Pennsylvania.
June 28: Major General George G. Meade takes command of the Army of the Potomac after Lincoln relieves Hooker of command.
June 29: Lee learns that the Union army is moving north toward his scattered forces. He orders a consolidation at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
July 1–3: Battle of Gettysburg. Lee’s army batters Mead’s army in repeated attacks, but Union forces hold and Lee orders a long retreat back to Virginia two days later.
September 8: A Union naval attack on Fort Sumter is repulsed.
November 19: Lincoln delivers the Gettysburg Address.
January 1: At Murfreesboro, Rosecrans does not retreat, but holds against futile Confederate attacks, forcing Bragg to retreat.
April 16: Admiral David Dixon Porter makes a dramatic run with his flotilla past the Vicksburg batteries, opening the way for Grant to move his army below the city of Vicksburg.
April 30: Grant crosses the Mississippi below Vicksburg.
May 1: Battle of Port Gibson. Union forces open the way to an advance north toward Vicksburg.
May 16: Battle of Champion’s Hill. Union forces overwhelm Confederate defenses, opening the way to Vicksburg.
May 22: Grant begins the siege of the city of Vicksburg.
June 23: Rosecrans advances on Bragg’s army consolidated around Tullahoma, Tennessee.
July 3: Commander of Confederate forces in Vicksburg, Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton, asks for surrender terms. Bragg retreats to Chattanooga.
July 4: Pemberton surrenders 30,000 troops to Grant. Vicksburg, the key to the Mississippi River, is under Union control.
July 9: Port Hudson, the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi, surrenders.
September 4: Bragg retreats from Chattanooga as Rosecrans advances.
September 17: Rosecrans begins to consolidate his dispersed forces at Chickamauga in north Georgia.
September 18: Bragg is reinforced by Longstreet’s corps, which moves by rail from Virginia to Georgia.
September 19–20: Battle of Chickamauga. After indecisive fighting the first day, the Confederates achieve a dramatic breakthrough and nearly destroy the Union army. Major General Thomas’s stubborn defense saves the army and earns him the title “Rock of Chickamauga.” Rosecrans retreats to Chattanooga.
September 23: Bragg occupies Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, trapping Rosecrans.
October 17: Grant is named the commander of all Union forces in the Western Theater.
October 19: Thomas replaces Rosecrans as the commander of the Army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga.
October 27: A line of supply is opened to the beleaguered Union troops at Chattanooga known as the “cracker line.”
November 4: Longstreet’s corps is dispatched to attack Burnside at Knoxville.
November 20: Major General Sherman, commander of the Army of the Tennessee, sends reinforcements to Thomas.
November 24: Union forces overwhelm Confederate defenders on Lookout Mountain.
November 25: Battle of Missionary Ridge. Sherman’s attack on the Confederate right flank stalls; without orders, the soldiers of the Army of the Cumberland attack up Missionary Ridge and rout the Confederates. Bragg retreats into Georgia.
November 29: Longstreet fails to dislodge Burnside’s troops defending Knoxville, Tennessee.
December 1: Bragg becomes President Davis’s military advisor.
December 27: Joseph E. Johnston takes command of the Army of Tennessee.
Major events of 1864
February 17: Confederate submarine Hunley sinks the USS Housatonic in Charleston Harbor.
March 12: Grant is promoted to lieutenant general and is appointed general-in-chief of all Union armies.
May 4: Grant initiates the overland campaign, crossing the Rappahannock River to engage Lee.
May 5–6: Lee strikes while Union forces struggle through the Wilderness. The battle see-saws in brutal fighting. Longstreet is wounded. The Army of Northern Virginia holds the field, but the Union army does not retreat.
May 7: Grant continues to move, seeking to outflank Lee at Spotsylvania Court House.
May 8–9: Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. Union forces are stopped by entrenched Confederate defenders.
May 10: Union forces suffer heavy losses attacking the Confederate defenses.
May 12: Union attack at “Bloody Angle” is initially successful, but ends with Confederate forces holding the line.
May 15: Battle of New Market Major General John C. Breckinridge defeats Major General Franz Siegel, preventing a Union threat to the Shenandoah Valley.
May 20: Grant moves his army east to find Lee’s flank.
May 24: Lee is prepared for Grant with strong defensive lines on the North Anna River.
June 1: Lee again stops Grant’s attempt to outflank the Confederates by entrenching at Cold Harbor.
June 3: Battle of Cold Harbor. Grant underestimates the strength of Lee’s defenses and orders an attack that has no chance of success. The Army of the Potomac suffers heavy casualties.
June 8: The Republicans nominate Lincoln for president and Andrew Johnson, a pro-Union Democrat, for vice president.
June 14: Grant’s army begins an extraordinary move by disengaging from Lee’s front and moving secretly to the James River to cross far below the Confederate defenses.
June 15: Major General Smith’s disjointed attack on the Petersburg defenses, the key rain junction for Lee’s army, fails.
June 18: Although slow to react, Lee reinforces General Beauregard’s thinly stretched forces at Petersburg. Grant’s subsequent attacks on solid Confederate defenses fail.
Major General David Hunter, who replaced Siegel, is stopped at Lynchburg, Virginia, by Lieutenant General Jubal Early.
June 19: The Confederate raider Alabama is sunk by the USS Kearsarge off the coast of Cherbourg, France.
June 23: Early begins an offensive to control the Shenandoah Valley and draw Union forces away from Petersburg.
July 9: Early’s troops cross into Maryland and threaten Washington.
July 30: Battle of the Crater. A mine under Confederate strongpoint at Petersburg is detonated and Union forces are badly defeated after a poorly conducted initial attack.
August 7: Sheridan assumes command of Union forces opposing Early in the Shenandoah Valley.
August 29: Democrats nominate George B. McClellan for president.
September 19: Battle of Winchester. Sheridan defeats Early’s Confederate forces defending the gateway to the Shenandoah Valley.
October 19: Battle of Cedar Creek. Sheridan wins a decisive victory, forcing Early to abandon the Valley.
November 8: Lincoln is reelected president.
April 8: Nathaniel P. Banks’s ill-fated Red River campaign is stopped by Confederate forces under Major General Richard Taylor at Sabine Crossroads, Louisiana.
May 6: Sherman initiates his campaign to defeat Joe Johnston’s army.
May 13–15: Johnston retreats from Dalton to Resaca, Georgia, as Sherman seeks to outflank the strong Confederate defenses.
May 19: Johnston is again forced to retreat as Sherman skillfully arranges his three armies to threaten the Confederate defenses.
June 19: Johnston withdraws to Kennesaw Mountain.
June 27: Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. Sherman’s attack on the strong Confederate defensive line meets with failure.
July 9: Johnston is forced to retreat as Sherman’s forces advance toward Atlanta.
July 17: Johnston is replaced as the commander of the Army of Tennessee by General John B. Hood.
July 20–28: Hood launches three separate attacks on Union forces outside of Atlanta to no effect.
August 5: Admiral Farragut, leading a Union flotilla, occupies Mobile Bay.
August 31: Union forces cut off the last rail line supplying Atlanta, forcing Hood to abandon the city.
September 28: Hood moves north with his army, intending to cut Sherman’s supply lines and threaten Kentucky.
October 30: Sherman sends reinforcements under General Schofield to General Thomas at Nashville to protect the vital city as Hood advances into Tennessee.
November 15: Leaving a burning Atlanta behind, Sherman’s army begins the March to the Sea.
November 30: Battle of Franklin. Hood attempts to defeat Schofield’s forces before Schofield can join Thomas. Despite several heroic but ineffective Confederate attacks, no advantage is gained.
December 16: Thomas initiates a devastating attack on Hood’s army, forcing a desperate retreat into Mississippi.
December 21: Sherman reaches Savannah, Georgia, linking up with Union ships off the coast as Confederate troops evacuate the city.
Key individuals of the American Civil War
Robert Anderson (USA): Commander of Fort Sumter, April 12, 1861. On April 14, 1865, at the reoccupied fort, he raises the same flag he took down four years earlier.
Clara Barton (USA): Became famous for care of wounded Union soldiers and advocating for improved medical treatment. First president of the American Red Cross.
P.G.T. Beauregard (CSA): Received the surrender of Fort Sumter in 1861. Commanded Confederate forces at the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862 and was instrumental in the initial defense of Petersburg in June 1864.
Braxton Bragg (CSA): Commanded a Confederate corps at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. Commanded the Army of Mississippi at the Battle of Perryville, 1862. Commanded the Army of Tennessee at the battles of Murfreesboro (Stones River), Chickamauga, and Chattanooga. Military advisor to President Davis, 1864–1865.
Don Carlos Buell (USA): Commander of the Army of the Ohio at the battles of Shiloh and Perrysville, 1862. Relieved of command, October 1862.
Ambrose E. Burnside (USA): Commanded a Union brigade at the battle of First Manassas (Bull Run), 1861. Commanded a corps at the battle of Antietam, 1862. Commanded the Army of the Potomac at the battle of Fredericksburg, 1862. Commanded the Army of the Ohio at Knoxville, Tennessee, 1863. Commanded a corps in the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, 1864. Relieved in August 1864 after the Battle of the Crater.
Benjamin F. Butler (USA): Commanded a brigade during the Peninsula Campaign and Second Manassas (Bull Run), 1862. Commander of occupied New Orleans, 1862. Commanded the Army of the James, November 1863 to January 1865. Relieved in January 1865 after failed assault on Fort Fisher in North Carolina.
Jefferson Davis (CSA): U.S. senator from Mississippi, 1847–1851 and 1857–1861. U.S. secretary of war, 1853–1857. President of the Confederate States of America, 1861–1865.
Jubal Early (CSA): Commanded a brigade at First Manassas (Bull Run), 1861, and the Peninsula Campaign, 1862. Commanded a division at Second Manassas (Bull Run), Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania, 1862–1863. Commanded a corps at Cold Harbor and in the Valley of Virginia, 1864. Relieved of command after defeat at Waynesboro, Virginia, March 1865.
Richard S. Ewell (CSA): Commanded a division in the Shenandoah Valley, 1862. Commanded a division in the Peninsula Campaign and at Second Manassas (Bull Run), 1862. Commanded a corps at Gettysburg, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, 1864. Relieved of command and placed in command of Richmond defenses; captured at the Battle of Sailor’s (Sayler’s) Creek, April 1865.
David Farragut (USA): Vice admiral of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, U.S. Navy. Captured New Orleans, 1862. Supported Grant’s operations at Vicksburg and Port Hudson, 1863. Captured Mobile Bay, 1864.
Ulysses S. Grant (USA): Commander of two Union divisions that captured Forts Henry and Donelson, 1862. Commander of the Army of the Tennessee at Shiloh, 1862, and Vicksburg, 1863. Commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi, 1863–1864, during the Battle of Chattanooga, 1863. Named general-in-chief of all Union armies, March 1864. Directed the Overland Campaign of the Army of the Potomac, 1864, and the siege of Petersburg, 1864–1865. Participated in the strategy meeting with President Lincoln on the River Queen at City Point, Virginia on March 27, 1865. Accepted the surrender of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, 1865.
Henry W. Halleck (USA): Commander Department of Missouri, 1861–1862. Commander of the Department of the Mississippi, 1862. General-in-chief of the Union armies, 1862–1864. Chief of staff, 1864–1865.
Winfield Scott Hancock (USA): Commanded a brigade during the Peninsula Campaign, 1862, and commanded a division at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, 1862–1863. Commanded a corps at Gettysburg, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, 1863–1864. Gave up command in November 1864. Presided over the execution of the Lincoln assassination conspirators in 1865.
P. Hill (CSA): Commanded a division during the Peninsula Campaign, Second Manassas (Bull Run), Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville, 1862–1863. Commanded a corps at Gettysburg, Wilderness, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg. Killed during the Union breakthrough on April 2, 1865.
John B. Hood (CSA): Commanded a brigade during the Peninsula Campaign, 1862. Commanded a division at Second Manassas (Bull Run), Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg, 1862–1863. Commanded a corps at Chickamauga, 1863. Commanded a corps in the Army of Tennessee, 1864. Commanded the Army of Tennessee, 1864–1865. Relieved at own request in January 1865 after the Battles of Franklin and Nashville.
Joseph Hooker (USA): Commanded a division during the Peninsula Campaign and Second Manassas (Bull Run), 1862. Commanded a corps at Antietam and a Grand Division (corps) at Fredericksburg, 1862–1863. Commanded the Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville, 1863. Relieved of command and transferred to the Western Theater. Commanded a corps in the Army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga and Atlanta. Relieved at own request in July 1864.
Thomas J. (Stonewall ) Jackson (CSA): Commanded a brigade at First Manassas (Bull Run), 1861. Commanded Confederate forces in the Valley campaign and supported Lee in the Seven Days Battles, 1862. Commanded left wing of the Army of Northern Virginia at the Battles of Second Manassas (Bull Run) and Antietam, 1862. Commanded a corps at the Battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. Wounded at Chancellorsville May 2 and died May 10, 1863.
Andrew Johnson (USA): Governor of Tennessee, 1853–1857. U.S. Senator, 1857–1862. Military governor of Tennessee, 1862–1865. Elected vice president in 1864 and became president upon Lincoln’s death in April 1865.
Albert Sidney Johnston (CSA): Commanded Western Department, 1861–1862. Commander of the Army of Mississippi at the Battle of Shiloh. Killed during the battle, April 6, 1862.
Joseph E. Johnston (CSA): Commander of the Army of the Valley, reinforcing Beauregard at First Manassas (Bull Run), 1861. Commander of the Confederate army during a portion of the Peninsula Campaign. Wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines, 1862. Commander of the Department of the West, 1862–1863. Commander of the Army of Tennessee, 1863–1864. Relieved of command. Commander of Confederate forces in North Carolina, February–April 1865. Surrendered his army to General Sherman, April 26, 1865.
Robert E. Lee (CSA): Offered command of Union armies in April 1861. Resigns commission to take command of Virginia troops. Commander of Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, 1861–1862. Military advisor to President Jefferson Davis, March–June 1862. Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, 1862–1865. Named general-in-chief of the Confederate armies in February 1865. Surrenders the army to General Grant on April 9, 1865.
Abraham Lincoln (USA): Nominated for president and elected in 1860. Deals with Fort Sumter crisis in April 1861 that leads to war. Declares states in rebellion, calls for 75,000 volunteers, and orders a blockade of Confederate ports in April 1861. Issues the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Delivers the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863. Renominated for president and reelected in 1864. Gives Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865. Visits the Confederate capital of Richmond, April 4, 1865. Assassinated at Ford’s Theater, Washington, D.C., on April 14 and dies on April 15, 1865.
James Longstreet (CSA): Commanded a brigade at First Manassas (Bull Run), 1861. Commanded a division during the Peninsula Campaign and the left wing of the Army of Northern Virginia at the Battles of Second Manassas (Bull Run) and Antietam, 1862. Commanded a corps at Fredericksburg and Gettysburg, 1863. Commanded a corps as an attachment to the Army of Tennessee at the Battle of Chickamauga and at Knoxville, 1863. Returned to the Army of Northern Virginia, commanding his corps at the Battle of the Wilderness (where he was wounded), the siege of Petersburg, and was with Lee at Appomattox.
George B. McClellan (USA): Commander of the Department of the Ohio, 1861. General-in-chief of the Union armies, November 1861–July 1862. Commander of the Army of the Potomac, August 1861–November 1862. Relieved of command, November 1862. Democratic candidate for president, 1864.
Irvin McDowell (USA): Commander of the Union army at First Manassas (Bull Run), 1861. Commanded a division and a corps in the Army of the Potomac, 1861–1862. Commanded the Army of the Rappahannock, April–June 1862. Commanded a corps in the Army of Virginia at the Battle of Second Manassas (Bull Run). Relieved of command, September 1862.
George G. Meade (USA): Commanded a brigade during the Peninsula Campaign and Second Manassas (Bull Run), 1862. Commanded a division at the Battles of Antietam and Fredericksburg, 1862. Commanded a corps at the Battle of Chancellorsville, May 1863, and became commander of the Army of the Potomac, June 1863 to April 1865.
John C. Pemberton (CSA): Commander of the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, 1862. Commander of the Department of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Louisiana, 1862–1863. Surrendered Confederate forces at Vicksburg, July 4, 1863. Resigned May 1864.
George E. Pickett (CSA): Commanded a brigade during the Peninsula Campaign, 1862. Commanded a division at the Battles of Fredericksburg, 1862, and Gettysburg (the famous “Pickett’s Charge”), 1863. Commanded the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, September 1863–May 1864. Commanded a division at the Battle of Cold Harbor and the siege of Petersburg, suffering a crushing defeat at Five Forks. Was relieved of command after the Battle of Sailor’s (Sayler’s) Creek, April 1865.
Leonidas Polk (CSA): Commanded Western Department, 1861. Commanded a corps at the Battle of Shiloh, 1862. Commanded the right wing of the Army of the Mississippi at the Battle of Perryville, 1862. Commanded a corps in the Army of Tennessee at the Battle of Murfreesboro (Stones River). Commanded the army’s right wing at the Battle of Chickamauga. Commanded a corps during the Atlanta campaign. Killed at Pine Mountain, Georgia, June 1864.
John Pope (USA): Commander of the Army of the Mississippi, 1862. Commander of the Army of Virginia at the Battle of Second Manassas (Bull Run). Commander of the Department of the Northwest, 1862–1865.
David Dixon Porter (USA): Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy, 1862–1863. Commanded the mortar fleet supporting Admiral Farragut’s attack on New Orleans, 1862. Commanded the Mississippi squadron in support of Grant’s operations against Vicksburg. Commanded the lower Mississippi fleet during the Red River campaign, 1864. Participated in the strategy meeting with President Lincoln on the River Queen at City Point, Virginia, on March 27, 1865. Commanded the squadron supporting the attack on Fort Fisher in 1865.
William S. Rosecrans (USA): Commanded the Army of the Mississippi at the Battles of Iuka and Corinth, 1862. Commanded the Army of the Cumberland at the Battles of Murfreesboro (Stones River) and Chickamauga, 1863. Relieved in October 1863.
Winfield Scott (USA): General-in-chief of the U.S. Army, 1841–1861. Developed the Anaconda Plan that became the blueprint for Union victory. Replaced by General McClellan in November 1861.
Philip H. Sheridan (USA): Commanded a division in the Army of the Ohio at the Battle of Perryville, 1862. Commanded a division in the Army of the Cumberland at the Battles of Murfreesboro (Stones River), Chickamauga, and Chattanooga, 1863. Commanded a cavalry corps with the Army of the Potomac at the Battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Five Forks, and Appomattox. Commanded the Army of the Shenandoah, August 1864–March 1865.
William T. Sherman (USA): Commanded a brigade at First Manassas (Bull Run), 1861. Commanded the Department of the Cumberland, 1861. Commanded a division in the Army of the Tennessee at the Battles of Shiloh, 1862, and Vicksburg, 1863. Commanded the Army of the Tennessee at the Battle of Chattanooga, 1863. Commanded the Military Division of the Mississippi, March 1864–April 1865. Directed three Union armies across the lower South in the March to the Sea. Accepted Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender of his army on April 26, 1865.
J.E.B. (JEB) Stuart (CSA): Commander of 1st Virginia Cavalry, Army of the Valley, at the Battle of First Manassas (Bull Run), 1861. Commander of the cavalry division (later corps) of the Army of Northern Virginia, 1862–1865. Commanded Jackson’s corps after Jackson’s wounding at the Battle of Chancellorsville, 1863. Wounded at Yellow Tavern, May 11, 1864, and died May 12.
Richard Taylor (CSA): Commanded a brigade during the Valley Campaign and during the Peninsula Campaign, 1862. Commander of District of Western Louisiana, defeated a Union attempt in 1864 to drive up the Red River to capture Shreveport and penetrate into Texas. Commander of Department of East Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, 1864–1865. Surrendered all of the Confederate forces under his command on May 4, 1865.
George H. Thomas (USA): Commanded a division in the Army of the Ohio in the Battle of Mill Springs, 1862, and was second in command of the Army of the Ohio at the Battle of Perryville. Commanded five divisions as the center commander at the Battle of Murfreesboro (Stones River), 1862. Commanded a corps at the Battle of Chickamauga, 1863. Commander of the Army of the Cumberland at the Battles of Chattanooga, Atlanta, Franklin, and Nashville, 1864–1865.