Events, Great And Small, Work Together In 1864.
The chief interest in the campaign of 1864 centers in the army operations in Virginia and Georgia, but before the collision came in early May between Lee and Grant in the former State, and between Joseph E. Johnston and Sherman in the latter, there had been over 200 engagements since the 1st of January, covering portions of New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, many of these fights rising to the dignity of battles. The activity of the combatants and the great area of military operations are made apparent by this survey (at a glance) of the theater of war. The defense of the South at so many points where its territory was attacked, required local uses of its resources and detachments from the main armies of large numbers of its troops, or the arming of nearly the entire male population. In line with the policy of destruction then adopted at Washington and understood at the headquarters of the armies, many expeditions and raids invaded the Southern interior, subsisting on the country while they could and leaving desolation when they withdrew. Fighting for farm and fireside was made necessary. Agriculture was hindered, transportation crippled, and all resources for successful war diminished. The Southern States still under the protection of the Confederate armies were thus left in such alarm, notwithstanding the raiders were usually driven off, that productions available for the armies were greatly reduced.
Among this large number of small affairs, the movements of Grant in Virginia to be met by Lee, and of Sherman in Georgia to be met by Johnston, indicated the coming of great events. Grant's lone task was to take Richmond, distant only a few days' march. The capital of the Confederacy was the castle whose capture would satisfy the monarchs of Europe that President Davis had lost his government. Belligerent rights, which had been rightfully accorded the Confederate government when organized in due form and defended by successful arms, had chafed the Washington administration. The fall of Richmond would be followed by the withdrawal of these belligerent rights, so that the Confederate movement for independence would probably at once subside. To the attainment of this great end Grant was equipped with a splendid army for his personal command, and made lieutenant-general in control of the United States army operations. Sherman's advance southward was not so distinctly determined. Marching from Dalton upon Johnston he could move into Alabama and find his "deep water" at Mobile; or, cutting a way into Georgia he could gain Atlanta, from which he might proceed to Savannah. He could make a strong demonstration on either course and retire into Tennessee and be available in helping Grant. Sherman's task was to further subdivide Confederate territory, destroy its resources, interrupt communications and prevent reinforcements from going to Lee. His operations were subordinate and would avail nothing unless Grant destroyed Lee's army and captured Richmond.
Meanwhile the United States armies were well supported by the dispositions of the navy. The total number of naval vessels in use was 588, of 4,443 guns aggregate, consisting of 46 ironclad steamers for coast service, 150 guns; 29 ironclad steamers for inland service, 152 guns; 203 side wheel steamers, 1,240 guns; 198 screw steamers, 1,578 guns; 112 sailing vessels, 1,328 guns. The number of seamen in service was over 40,000. Six squadrons were kept along the Atlantic seaboard and the Gulf shores. One flotilla patrolled the Mississippi river, and another occupied the Potomac and the James. Other squadrons were stationed on the Pacific coast, and a considerable number of vessels was employed in search of the bold cruisers and privateers who were destroying United States commerce. The squadrons on the Atlantic and the Gulf stood guard over Southern ports to enforce the blockade, in which duties they were often interrupted by bold attacks.
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