This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, June 1: Bloody combat at Cold Harbor, Virginia.
Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant pressed on with fierce fighting in Virginia, his massive Union force intent on breaking the backbone of the Confederacy on its territory. But Confederate rivals in turn exacted heavy casualties on the Union foe. On June 1, 1864, Union cavalry fighters drove back one attack by Confederate forces, which were being reinforced by more troops arriving from Richmond, Va., seat of the Confederacy. Union attempts to attack the Southern forces met with heavy casualties on the federal side. The fighting raged for days along a front stretching for miles to the Chickahominy River in Virginia. By mid-June of that year, with both sides bloodied and wearied, Grant began moves to relocate his forces in an area threatening Petersburg, Virginia, below Richmond.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, June 8: Lincoln nominated to run again for president as fighting rages.
President Abraham Lincoln was nominated by his party to seek a second term on June 8, 1864 — a major political milestone for Lincoln as he pressed on with the war. The New York Times reported on May 16, 1864, that critics had been predicting Lincoln wouldn't let any major fighting go on as he pressed for the nomination for a second term. But heavy fighting by the Union in Virginia in recent days trumped the naysayers. "The recent campaign in Virginia has very effectually silenced that calumny; for one of its most conspicuous features has been the zealous cooperation of every department of the Government and every branch of the public service ... President Lincoln has done everything in his power to insure success" in the war effort, The Times declared. It added that Lincoln was intent on the public good first and foremost. "The country may rely, with unfaltering trust, upon the supreme devotion of the President to the defence of the Government and the suppression of the rebellion," the newspaper added.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, June 15: Union assault on Petersburg, Virginia.
This week 150 years ago during the Civil War, the Union Army of the Potomac crossed the James River and began heading towards Petersburg, Va., ever closer to the capital of the Confederacy. The movements came days after Union Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler had sent thousands of cavalry and infantry soldiers up against thousands of Confederate fighters manning stout defenses all around Petersburg, not far from Richmond, Virginia. Union forces had early success in driving back the outer ring of Confederate defenders, but Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee quickly dispatched new forces to Petersburg who repulsed subsequent Union attacks over four days of fighting. With Lee's Army of Northern Virginia now firmly in control of the defense works at Petersburg, any Union attempt at a breakthrough was lost. The early Confederate victory in these hot June days of 1864 would eventually open the way for a long and grinding Union siege of that city near Richmond.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, June 22: AP on chaotic evacuation of the wounded, fighting in Virginia.
The Associated Press reported in a dispatch June 23, 1864, that the Confederates had been firing upon horse-drawn hospital wagons evacuating the wounded to steamers off the Virginia coast. Union forces reported that "the Rebels pay no respect to our hospital flags; and on Thursday last they fired upon one of our hospital trains from a battery stationed near Petersburg, (Virginia), killing and wounding several horses." The AP account said no one aboard the hospital wagons was wounded in that and other incidents as Union troops took aim at Petersburg 150 years ago in the Civil War. AP reported, meanwhile, that the toll of war was ghastly: thousands upon thousands of bloodied, wounded men were being taken to steamer ships off Virginia for the trip northward. Also evacuated were many wounded rebel prisoners, including one rebel lieutenant who had lost an arm in the fighting. In a separate dispatch, AP reported the artillery duels had continued unabated for days near Petersburg. "The city is full of lofty shade trees, and the steeples of the churches are the only prominent objects on which to take effective range. The effects of the shooting have not yet been ascertained, aside from the burning of some of the buildings," AP's correspondent wrote in June 1864, adding the air was humid and hot with the dust and din of battle.
This series marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War draws primarily from wartime dispatches credited to The Associated Press or other accounts distributed through the AP and other historical sources.