Thursday, August 25, 2005

Battles on Land

The first land battle of the Civil War was June 3, 1861 at Philippi, Virginia (now West Virginia). It was only a minor action with a total of 15 Confederate and 2 Union casualties. The first major battle happened in July 1861. With thousands of casualties and a Confederate victory, the first Battle of Manassas (or Bull Run) was the first sign that the war would be both bloody and long.Throughout the first year of the war, the Union and Confederate governments scrambled to find and train soldiers and to scrounge weapons and supplies to equip them. There were only 16,000 men in the regular United States Army when the war began.The new Confederate States of America had no national military at all. By the end of 1861 the Union and Confederate armies had nearly a million soldiers combined.1861 was a year of testing. The Armies skirmished in small-scale battles (compared to battles later in the war). They tested one another and established the boundaries of the two opposing regions. 1862 was a year of slaughter. Huge battles, like Shiloh and Antietam—the bloodiest single day of the war—shocked and horrified civilians and soldiers alike. A surge of victories in late summer gave the Southerners confidence. The Confederacy went on the offensive.By October, the Northerners had beaten them back, but it was a close call. Mississippi surrendered. This was an important victory for the North. The loss of Vicksburg—with the fall of Port Hudson, Louisiana—opened the Mississippi River to Union gunboats and supply ships. This cut the Confederacy in half.By the end of 1863 the South was on the defensive in the West. In the East the Confederates continued to hold Union lines in Virginia. Meanwhile, the Northerners had changed their goal. Instead of fighting simply to put the Union back together, they were now fighting to destroy slavery as well.In 1864, the North introduced the idea of “total war” to destroy the South. Union troops smashed everything in their path as they moved across Georgia and South Carolina and up and down Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Meanwhile, fighting centered in Georgia, Middle Tennessee, and Virginia.With a seemingly inexhaustible supply of troops, the Northern Army threw itself against the Southerners. The Northerners suffered incredibly high casualties, but they kept coming. Finally, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was bottled up in Petersburg, Virginia, protecting the capital city of Richmond. After months of siege, the Southerners could no longer hold their position. They were forced to abandon their defense of Richmond and pull out of Petersburg. Exhausted, hungry, and harried by overwhelming Union forces the Army of Northern Virginia finally surrendered at Appomattox Court House in April 1865. By June 23 the other Southern armies had laid down their arms as well Fighting slowed as the year ended. Cold, wet, winter weather turned roads into quagmires. In spring 1863, in a bold move, the Southerners decided to invade the North. They struck out towards Pennsylvania but were defeated in a three-day battle

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