Civil War Timeline and History, from September to December 1864

September 1, 1864—December 31, 1864

The fourth year of the American Civil War continued into the fall and winter of 1864. This timeline covers important moments from September to December, including military and political events that affected the course of the war and the history of the United States.

Civil War Timeline, History, September to December 1864, AHC Original

A timeline of the Civil War, featuring rare images from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated and Harper’s Weekly. The image is Sheridan’s Ride by Thure de Thulstrup, 1886 from the Library of Congress.

10 Moments That Shaped the Civil War

  1. September 2 — General William T. Sherman (USA) took control of Atlanta, Georgia.
  2. September 18 — General John Bell Hood (CSA) started his Franklin-Nashville Campaign.
  3. September 19 — The Battle of Opequon was the first battle in a campaign waged by General Philip Sheridan (USA) in the Shenandoah Valley, known as the “The Burning.”
  4. September 27 — A Confederate raid into Missouri, led by General Sterling Price, started with the Battle of Fort Davidson.
  5. October 19 — The Shenandoah Valley Campaigns ended with the Battle of Cedar Creek.
  6. October 29 — Colorado Territorial forces attacked a Native American Indian Camp in what is known as the Sand Creek Massacre.
  7. November 8 — President Abraham Lincoln was elected for a second term as President of the United States.
  8. November 15 — General William T. Sherman started his march to Savannah, Georgia, also known as “Sherman’s March to the Sea.”
  9. November 25 — Confederate sympathizers attempt to burn down New York City.
  10. December 21 — Savannah, Georgia surrendered to General Sherman.

1864, September

September 1 — Fall of Atlanta

Georgia — Confederate troops under General John B. Hood evacuated the city of Atlanta. General William T. Sherman’s army occupied the city and its defenses on September 2.

September 3 — Berryville

Virginia General Philip Sheridan moved south from Halltown, reaching Berryville on September 3. There, he found General George Crook was setting up camp. 

General Richard H. Anderson attacked the combined Union forces but achieved limited results. That night, General Jubal Early brought up his entire army, but by daylight, he realized that Sheridan’s position was too well fortified to assault. Early withdrew after dark, retreating behind Opequon Creek.

September 7General William T. Sherman issued orders to evacuate Atlanta.

Siege of Atlanta, 1864, Evacuating Atlanta, HW
This illustration depicts people evacuating Atlanta. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, October 15, 1864.

September 17 — The Second Battle of Cabin Creek took place in the Indian Territory. Confederate victory.

September 19 — Opequon

Virginia — After General Joseph B. Kershaw’s division left Winchester to rejoin General Robert E. Lee’s army at Petersburg, General Jubal A. Early resumed his raids on the B&O Railroad at Martinsburg. 

On September 19, General Philip Sheridan led Union forces toward Winchester along the Berryville Pike with the VI and XIX Corps, crossing Opequon Creek. The Union advance was delayed, allowing Early to concentrate his forces to meet the main assault, which continued for several hours with heavy casualties on both sides. The Confederate line was gradually driven back toward the town. 

Battle of Opequon, Third Winchester, 1864, Union Cavalry Charge, HW
Battle of Opequon. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, October 15, 1864.

In the mid-afternoon, Crook’s (VIII) Corps and the cavalry turned the Confederate left flank, forcing Early to order a general retreat. 

Numerous casualties occurred on both sides at the Battle of Opequon, including the deaths of Confederate generals Robert Rodes and  Archibald C. Godwin and Union general David Allen Russell. 

September 22 — Fisher’s Hill

Virginia — After suffering defeat at Opequon (Third Winchester) on September 19, General Jubal Early’s army retreated to a strong defensive position at Fisher’s Hill, south of Strasburg. 

On September 21, the Union army advanced, capturing important high ground. 

On the 22nd, General George Crook’s Corps flanked Early and attacked, starting the Battle of Fisher’s Hill. The Confederate defense collapsed, and Early retreated to Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, opening the Valley to Union forces. 

The Union conducted a “scorched earth” campaign, burning mills and barns from Staunton to Strasburg, known as the “Burning” or “Red October.”

September 26 — Fort Davidson

Missouri — In September 1864, General Sterling Price led his Confederate army into Missouri to capture St. Louis. Union General Thomas Ewing moved reinforcements to Ironton to slow Price’s advance. 

On September 27, the Confederates attacked, pushing the Federals back to their defenses anchored by Fort Davidson. In the late afternoon, Price made repeated but unsuccessful assaults on the fort, suffering heavy casualties at the Battle of Fort Davidson

Overnight, the Federals evacuated the fort, costing Price many lives and allowing Union forces time to concentrate and oppose his raid.

September 29 — Chaffin’s Farm and New Market Heights

Virginia — On the night of September 28–29, General Benjamin Butler and the Army of the James crossed the James River to assault the defenses north of Richmond. 

The attack started at dawn, with initial Union success at New Market Heights and Fort Harrison. However, the Confederates regrouped and contained the breach. 

On September 30, General Robert E. Lee counterattacked without success. The Federals dug in, and the Confederates built a new line of fortifications isolating the captured forts. Union General Hiram Burnham was killed during the Chaffin’s Farm and New Market Heights.

As Grant had expected, Lee moved troops to protect Richmond, weakening his defenses at Petersburg.

Battle of Chaffin's Farm and New Market Heights, 1864, HW
Battle of Chaffin’s Farm and New Market Heights. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, October 22, 1864.

September 30 — Peebles’ Farm

Virginia — General Benjamin Butler’s offensive north of the James River was coordinated with the efforts of General Ulysses S. Grant to extend his left flank and disrupt Confederate communications southwest of Petersburg. 

Two divisions from the IX Corps led by General John G. Parke, two divisions from the V Corps led by General Gouverneur K. Warren, and General David M. Gregg’s cavalry division were part of this operation. They marched toward Squirrel Level and Vaughan Roads via Poplar Spring Church on September 30. 

The initial attack by the Federals overran Fort Archer and forced the Confederates out of their positions along Squirrel Level Road. Confederate reinforcements arrived later in the day, slowing the Federal advance. 

On October 1, the Federals stopped a Confederate counterattack led by General A.P. Hill. With the addition of General Gershom Mott’s division, the Federals resumed their advance on the 2nd, capturing the lightly defended Fort MacRae and extending their left flank near Peebles’ and Pegram’s Farms. 

Despite these limited successes at the Battle of Peebles’ Farm, General George G. Meade decided to halt the offensive and established a new defensive line extending from the Federal works on the Weldon Railroad to Pegram’s Farm.

Battle of Peebles' Farm, 1864, HW
Battle of Peebles’ Farm. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, October 22, 1864.

1864, October

October 2 — Saltville, First Battle

Virginia — Union cavalry and infantry, commanded by General Stephen Burbridge, embarked on a mission to destroy the saltworks near Saltville. However, they were delayed at Clinch Mountain and Laurel Gap by Confederate forces. The delay allowed General Alfred E. Jackson to gather Confederate troops near Saltville to counter the Union raid. 

On the morning of October 1, Union forces attacked but faced strong resistance. Confederate reinforcements continued to arrive throughout the day. After a prolonged battle, Burbridge’s forces were unable to achieve their objective, and he ultimately decided to withdraw from the First Battle of Saltville. It was reported that Confederate soldiers mistreated captured and wounded black soldiers following the battle.

October 5 — Allatoona

Georgia — Following the capture of Atlanta, General John B. Hood moved north to threaten the Western & Atlantic Railroad, which was General William T. Sherman’s supply line. During October 2–4, Hood launched attacks on several smaller garrisons and also inflicted damage to the railroad tracks. Sherman, in response, sent John M. Corse and his brigade to join Union forces at Allatoona just before the Confederates attacked.

On the morning of October 5th, General Samuel G. French’s Confederate division arrived near Allatoona. They demanded the surrender of the Union forces, but the request was denied. Subsequently, French attacked, starting the Battle of Allatoona. The Union’s outer defenses held up during a sustained two-and-a-half-hour assault, but eventually, they fell back and regrouped within an earthen star-shaped fort located within Allatoona Pass. 

Despite multiple attacks by the Confederates, the fort held. As the Confederates started to run low on ammunition and received reports of Union reinforcements arriving, French decided to disengage and rejoin Hood.

Battle of Allatoona, 1864, HW
Battle of Allatoona. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, November 19, 1864.

October 7 — Darbytown and New Market Roads

Virginia — In response to the loss of Fort Harrison and the growing Federal threat to Richmond, General Robert E. Lee launched an offensive against the far-right flank of the Union forces on October 7 at the Battle of Darbytown and New Market Roads

This offensive started by pushing the Federal cavalry out of their position on Darbytown Road. Following this success, divisions led by Charles Field and Robert Hoke advanced to attack the main Union defensive line along New Market Road, but their efforts were met with staunch resistance, and they were unable to break through. 

During the battle, Confederate General John Gregg, who commanded the Texas brigade, was killed. Despite their best efforts, the Confederates could not dislodge the Union forces, prompting Lee to withdraw to Richmond.

October 9 — Tom’s Brook

Virginia — Following his victory at Fisher’s Hill, General Philip Sheridan pursued General Jubal Early’s Confederate army up the Shenandoah Valley, coming close to Staunton. However, on October 6, Sheridan started a strategic withdrawal. 

During the withdrawal, Sheridan’s cavalry conducted a scorched-earth policy, burning anything that could have military value, including barns and mills. General Early, reinforced by Joseph Kershaw’s division, pursued Sheridan. Additionally, General Thomas Rosser arrived from Petersburg to take command of Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry division and harassed the retreating Union forces.

The situation changed on October 9 when Alfred Torbert’s Union cavalry turned and faced their pursuers. In a decisive battle at Tom’s Brook, the Union troopers routed the Confederate divisions led by Thomas Rosser and Lunsford Lomax. This victory gave the Union cavalry overwhelming superiority in the Shenandoah Valley.

October 13 — Darbytown Road

Virginia — On October 13, Union forces moved forward to locate and assess the Confederate defensive line near Richmond. Although the engagement mainly involved skirmishes, a brigade from the Federal side launched an attack on fortifications situated north of Darbytown Road. Unfortunately, they were met with strong resistance and suffered significant casualties. As a result, the Union forces withdrew to their fortified positions along New Market Road.

October 19 — Lexington, Second Battle

Missouri General Sterling Price and his Confederate army slowly advanced along the Missouri River, giving Union forces time to gather. General William S. Rosecrans, in charge of the Department of the Missouri, proposed a plan to encircle Price’s army, but communication with General Samuel R. Curtis, who led the Department of Kansas, was slow. 

Curtis faced issues as many of his troops were Kansas militia and reluctant to enter Missouri. However, a contingent of 2,000 soldiers under General James G. Blunt did move toward Lexington.

On October 19, Price neared Lexington, clashing with Union scouts and pickets around 2:00 p.m. Price pushed the Union forces back and escalated the Second Battle of Lexington

The Federals resisted but were forced through the town to its western outskirts. Price pursued them along the Independence Road until nightfall. 

Although the entire force under Curtis was not present, the Union troops managed to impede Price’s advance. Additionally, Blunt gathered crucial intelligence about the size and arrangement of Price’s army.

October 19 — Cedar Creek

Virginia — On October 19, at the break of dawn, the Confederate Army of the Valley, led by General Jubal A. Early, caught the Federal army by surprise at the Battle of Cedar Creek. They overwhelmed the VIII and XIX Army Corps, causing them to retreat. 

However, General Philip Sheridan (USA) arrived from Winchester to rally his troops. In the afternoon, Sheridan launched a powerful counterattack and regained control of the battlefield.

Battle of Cedar Creek, 1864, Sheridan Riding to the Front, HW
This illustration depicts General Sheridan riding to the front at the Battle of Cedar Creek. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, November 5, 1864.

Sheridan’s victory at Cedar Creek was a decisive turning point in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, severely weakening the Confederate army. The momentum from Sheridan’s victories, combined with General Sherman’s successes in Georgia, played a role in President Lincoln’s re-election in November.

October 21 — Little Blue River

Missouri — Following the Second Battle of Lexington, General James G. Blunt fell back to the Little Blue River, 8 miles east of Independence. Blunt prepared to engage the Confederates again from a strong defensive position on the west bank. However, General Samuel R. Curtis ordered Blunt to enter Independence, leaving a small force under Colonel Thomas Moonlight at the Little Blue. The next day, Curtis instructed Blunt to return to Little Blue with all the volunteers.

As Blunt approached the river, he found that Moonlight’s small force had burned the bridge, engaged the enemy, retreated away from the previously occupied defensive position, and crossed the river. Blunt entered the battle, attempting to push the Confederates back beyond the defensive position he intended to reoccupy. T

Union forces initially forced the Confederates to fall back. However, after 5 hours of fighting, the Federals retreated to Independence and set up camp after dark. Once again, the Confederates had been delayed, and more Union reinforcements were arriving.

October 22 — Independence, Second Battle

Missouri General Sterling Price and his army continued to move west toward Kansas City. They camped in Independence on the night of the 21st and resumed their march the next morning. 

General Joe Shelby’s division led the way, followed by General John S. Marmaduke’s division, with General James Fagan’s division bringing up the rear. While Shelby’s men achieved success at Byram’s Ford, the other two columns faced challenges. General Alfred Pleasonton (USA) crossed the Little Blue River, engaged a Confederate brigade in Fagan’s command, and occupied Independence.

Marmaduke’s division met Pleasonton’s troops about two miles west of Independence, escalating the Second Battle of Independence. Marmaduke’s forces pushed the Federals back and held them at bay until the morning of the 23rd. 

Pleasonton’s actions, however, concerned Price. As he crossed the Big Blue River, he decided to send his supply train to Little Santa Fe on Fort Scott Road.

October 22 — Byram’s Ford

Missouri — General Sterling Price’s Army of Missouri was moving west toward Kansas City and Fort Leavenworth, however, General Samuel R. Curtis’s Army of the Border was blocking their path west, positioned in and around Westport. Meanwhile, General Alfred Pleasonton’s provisional cavalry division was pressing Price’s army from the rear. Price’s army had a substantial number of wagons, and finding a suitable ford over the Big Blue River was essential for their supplies.

On October 22, General James G. Blunt’s division held a defensive position on the west bank of the Big Blue River. Around 10:00 a.m. that day, a portion of General Joseph O. Shelby’s Confederate division launched a frontal assault on Blunt’s forces. However, the attack was a diversion because the rest of Shelby’s troops flanked Blunt, forcing him to withdraw to Westport.

Meanwhile, Price’s supply train and approximately 5,000 cattle crossed the Big Blue River at Byram’s Ford, moving south toward Little Santa Fe. 

Pleasonton’s cavalry trailed Price’s army. General John S. Marmaduke’s Confederate division held the west bank of the Big Blue at Byram’s Ford to prevent Pleasonton from attacking Price’s rear.

Around 8:00 a.m. on the 23rd, Pleasonton launched an assault on Marmaduke at Byram’s Ford. After 3 hours of fighting, Marmaduke retreated toward Westport. With Pleasonton successfully crossing the river, he posed an additional threat to Price’s army, which was already engaged in combat with Curtis’s Army of the Border at Westport. As a result, Price was forced to retreat south.

October 23 — Westport

Missouri — Following the Battle of Byram’s Ford, General Sterling Price (CSA) moved south, but also recognized the need to address the two Union forces chasing him and decided to engage them separately. With General Alfred Pleasonton’s cavalry still trailing behind him, Price opted to launch an attack on General Samuel R. Curtis at Westport. 

Curtis had established robust defensive positions, and during a 4-hour battle, the Confederates assaulted the Union lines. However, their efforts proved futile as they were unable to breach the Union defenses. Eventually, the Confederates retreated south.

October 25 — Marais Des Cygnes

Kansas — General Sterling Price eventually faced opposition from Union forces led by General Samuel R. Curtis and General Alfred Pleasonton near Kansas City. Price decided to retreat south, and Pleasonton, who was in command in the field, pursued Price into Kansas. The two forces clashed at the Battle of Marais des Cygnes.

The battle started with an artillery bombardment at 4:00 a.m., followed by a fierce attack from Pleasonton’s men. Despite being outnumbered, the Union forces launched a strong assault on the Confederate line, which eventually forced the Confederates to withdraw.

October 25 — Mine Creek

Kansas — 6 miles south of Trading Post, where the Battle of Marais des Cygnes took place, the brigades led by Colonel Frederick W. Benteen and Colonel John F. Phillips, both part of General Alfred Pleasonton’s Provisional Cavalry Division, caught up with the Confederates as they were crossing Mine Creek. The Confederates, hindered by their wagons while crossing the creek, had formed a defensive line on the north side of Mine Creek.

Despite being outnumbered, the Union forces launched an attack, and as additional troops from Pleasonton’s command arrived during the Battle of Mine Creek, they gradually encircled the Confederates. 

This encirclement led to the capture of approximately 600 men, including two Confederate generals, General John S. Marmaduke and General William L. Cabell.

October 25 — Marmiton River

Missouri — Following the Battle of Mine Creek, General Sterling Price continued his march toward Fort Scott. In the late afternoon of October 25, Price’s supply train struggled to cross the Marmiton River ford. This situation forced Price to make a stand, similar to what had happened at Mine Creek.

General John S. McNeil (USA), who commanded two brigades of General Alfred Pleasonton’s cavalry division, launched an attack on the Confederate troops that included a significant number of unarmed men. 

McNeil, not fully aware that many of the Confederates were unarmed, refrained from launching a full-scale assault. After approximately two hours of skirmishing, Price resumed his retreat, and McNeil could not mount an effective pursuit.

By this point, Price’s army was in disarray, and it was only a matter of time before he could successfully evacuate as many men as possible to friendly territory.

October 26 — Decatur

Alabama — As General John B. Hood started his Franklin-Nashville Campaign in the autumn of 1864, his Army of Tennessee engaged in a demonstration near Decatur, Alabama, from October 26 to 29. Their goal was to cross the Tennessee River. Union forces, led primarily by General Robert S. Granger during most of the battle, consisted of only around 5,000 soldiers. However, they effectively thwarted the much larger Confederate force’s attempts to cross the river.

October 27 — Fair Oaks and Darbytown Road

Virginia — In conjunction with operations against the Boydton Plank Road in Petersburg, General Benjamin Butler launched an assault on the Richmond defenses along Darbytown Road with the X Corps. Meanwhile, the XVIII Corps advanced north to Fair Oaks, where it was stopped by Confederates from the command of General Charles W. Field. Subsequently, the Confederates launched a counterattack, resulting in the capture of approximately 600 Union prisoners. Despite these efforts, the defenses of Richmond remained unbroken. Among General Ulysses S. Grant’s offensives north of the James River, the one at the Battle of Fair Oaks and Darbytown Road was stopped with relative ease.

October 27 — Boydton Plank Road

Virginia — Under the command of General Winfield Scott Hancock, divisions from 3 Union corps (II, V, and IX) along with David Gregg’s cavalry division, totaling over 30,000 troops from the Army of the Potomac, disengaged from their positions along the Petersburg lines. 

They marched west to operate against the Boydton Plank Road and South Side Railroad. During the initial advance on October 27, the Union forces secured the Boydton Plank Road.

However, later that afternoon, a counterattack near Burgess’ Mill, led by General Henry Heth’s division and General Wade Hampton’s cavalry, isolated the II Corps and forced them to retreat from the Battle of Boydton Plank Road. As a result, the Confederates maintained control over the Boydton Plank Road for the remainder of the winter.

October 28 — Newtonia, Second Battle

Missouri — On October 28, General Sterling Price’s retreating force paused for rest approximately two miles south of Newtonia, Missouri. Soon after, Union forces under the command of General James G. Blunt launched a surprise attack, opening the Second Battle of Newtonia.

General Joe Shelby’s division, including his Iron Brigade, advanced to confront the Union troops after dismounting. Meanwhile, the remaining Confederates started their retreat toward Indian Territory.

General John B. Sanborn later arrived on the scene with Union reinforcements, which prompted Shelby to withdraw. While the Union forces forced the Confederates to retreat, they were unable to destroy or capture them.

October 29 — Sand Creek Massacre

Colorado Territory — Scattered Indian raids had caused trouble between the white settlers and the Indians in the region. In the autumn, Colorado officers had offered a vague amnesty if Indians reported to army forts. 

Chief Black Kettle with many Cheyennes and a few Arapahos, believing themselves to be protected, established a winter camp about 40 miles from Fort Lyon. 

On November 29, Colonel John Chivington arrived near the camp, having marched there from Fort Lyon. 

Despite the American flag and a white flag flying over the camp, Chivington attacked, killing and mutilating about 200 of the Indians, two-thirds of whom were women and children.

October 30 — Four prospectors, known as the “Four Georgians,” discovered gold and founded Helene, Montana.

October 31 — Nevada was admitted to the Union.

1864, November

November 3 — Johnsonville

Tennessee — To impede the advance of the Union army through Georgia, General Nathan Bedford Forrest (CSA) led a 23-day raid that culminated in an attack on the Union supply base at Johnsonville, Tennessee. 

The campaign started with a northward swing from Corinth, Mississippi, toward the Kentucky border, during which he temporarily blockaded the Tennessee River at Fort Herman. Moving south along the west bank of the Tennessee River, Forrest captured several U.S. steamers and a gunboat, although he eventually had to abandon the gunboat.

On November 4, Forrest started to position his artillery across the river from the Federal supply base and landed at Johnsonville. The Union forces discovered the Confederates as they were completing their entrenchments and battery emplacements on the afternoon of the 4th. 

An artillery duel ensued between the Union gunboats and land batteries on one side and the Confederates on the other. The Confederate artillery, well-situated, proved impervious to Union attempts to disrupt their positions and disabled the Union gunboats. 

Fearing that the Confederates might cross the river and capture the transports, the Union forces set fire to the transports. Unfortunately, the wind spread the flames to the piles of supplies on the levee and to a warehouse filled with provisions. Seeing the fire, the Confederates started targeting the steamboats, barges, and warehouses to prevent the Federals from putting out the fire

The light from the fire aided Forrest’s nighttime withdrawal. 

The next morning, November 5, Confederate artillery bombarded the depot before departing. While this victory enhanced Forrest’s reputation and caused substantial losses in Union materiel, it failed to halt the Union’s progress in Georgia.

November 8 — Presidential Election of 1864

United StatesAbraham Lincoln was reelected President of the United States. Lincoln carried all but 3 states, winning 212 of 233 electoral votes and 55 percent of the popular vote.

November 11 — The Battle of Bull’s Gap took place in Tennessee. Confederates won the battle.

November 15 — General Sherman’s Army of Georgia started the March to the Sea.

November 22 — Griswoldville

Georgia — General Charles Walcutt (USA) received orders to conduct a demonstration to assess the Confederate forces in the direction of Macon. On the morning of November 22, Walcutt embarked on a brief march that brought him into contact with some cavalry from the command of General Joseph Wheeler (CSA). Waluctt successfully pushed these cavalry units beyond Griswoldville.

Having achieved the primary goal of gathering intelligence on enemy movements, Walcutt decided to withdraw to a fortified position at Duncan’s Farm. There, his troops constructed defenses using logs and rails in anticipation of a potential Confederate attack. 

A Confederate force comprising 3 brigades of Georgia State Militia, mistakenly en route from Macon to Augusta, crossed paths with Walcutt.

Walcutt withstood 3 charges from the Georgia Militia before receiving reinforcements, including one infantry regiment and two cavalry regiments. The Confederates were forced to withdraw.

November 24 — Columbia

Tennessee — As General John Bell Hood (CSA) advanced northeast from Florence, Alabama, General John M. Schofield (USA) withdrew from Pulaski to Columbia. Schofield arrived in Columbia on November 24, just ahead of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate cavalry. 

Union forces constructed two lines of earthworks south of the town on November 24 and 25 while they skirmished with Confederate cavalry.

The next day, November 26, Hood advanced his infantry but did not launch a direct assault on the Union positions. Instead, he conducted demonstrations along the front while maneuvering two corps of his army to Davis Ford, which was about 5 miles east along the Duck River. 

Schofield realized what Hood was doing, but poor weather conditions prevented him from crossing to the north bank of the river until November 28, allowing Columbia to fall into Confederate hands.

On the 29th, both armies marched north toward Spring Hill. 

Schofield had successfully slowed Hood’s movements, although he had not completely stopped him.

November 25 — Confederate sympathizers in New York City known as the “Confederate Army of Manhattan,” started fires, attempting to burn the city down.

November 28 — Buck Head Creek

Georgia — As General William T. Sherman’s infantry advanced southeast through Georgia, his cavalry, commanded by General Judson Kilpatrick, executed a strategic move on November 24. The goal was to disrupt the railroad line between Augusta and Millen, including the destruction of the trestle near Briar Creek. Additionally, Kilpatrick wanted to free Union prisoners held at Camp Lawton, near Millen, while feigning an attack toward Augusta.

General Joseph Wheeler (CSA) was deceived by Kilpatrick’s maneuver and concentrated his cavalry forces around Augusta. However, when Kilpatrick failed to appear as expected, Wheeler realized his error and set out to catch up with the Union cavalry. 

On November 26, Wheeler caught up with two trailing Union regiments, launching an attack on their camp. He pursued them until they rejoined the larger Union force and prevented Kilpatrick from destroying the Briar Creek trestle. Instead, Kilpatrick managed to destroy a mile of railroad track in the vicinity and then moved southwest to rejoin Sherman’s main army.

During the operation, Kilpatrick learned that the Union prisoners held at Camp Lawton had been relocated. He established his camp near Buck Head Creek on the night of the 27th. 

The next morning, Wheeler almost captured Kilpatrick and pursued him and his troops to Buck Head Creek. As Kilpatrick’s primary force crossed the creek, one regiment, supported by artillery, engaged in a rearguard action that inflicted significant damage on Wheeler’s forces. Subsequently, they burned the bridge behind them, slowing Wheeler’s pursuit.

Wheeler eventually crossed the creek and followed after Kilpatrick, but a Union brigade entrenched behind barricades at Reynolds’s Plantation effectively stopped his advance, ultimately him to withdraw.

November 29 — Spring Hill

Tennessee — On the night of November 28, General John Bell Hood (CSA) and his Army of Tennessee started marching toward Spring Hill to disrupt the supply line of General John M. Schofield (USA). Throughout the day, there were skirmishes between the Union cavalry under General James H. Wilson and Confederate troops commanded by General Nathan Bedford Forrest as the Confederates advanced.

On November 29, Hood’s infantry crossed the Duck River and converged on Spring Hill. Meanwhile, Schofield reinforced the troops holding the crossroads at Spring Hill. 

In the late afternoon, the Federal forces managed to stop a Confederate infantry attack. 

During the night, the remainder of Schofield’s command moved from Columbia through Spring Hill to Franklin. This particular moment after the Battle of Spring Hill was likely Hood’s best opportunity to isolate and defeat the Union army.

November 30 — Honey Hill

South Carolina — On November 28, a Union expeditionary force led by General John P. Hatch left Hilton Head. They embarked on a journey up the Broad River using transports to sever the Charleston & Savannah Railroad near Pocotaligo. After reaching Boyd’s Landing, Hatch’s troops disembarked and commenced their march inland. 

The battle took place on November 30 when Hatch’s forces met Confederate troops composed of regulars and militia under the command of Colonel Charles J. Colcock at a location known as Honey Hill.

During the battle, assaults were launched by U.S. Colored Troops, including the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. However, these efforts proved unsuccessful in capturing the well-entrenched Confederate positions or severing the railroad connection. 

That night, Hatch ordered a withdrawal, and his forces returned to their transports at Boyd’s Neck.

November 30 — Franklin, Second Battle

Tennessee — After the Battle of Spring Hil, General John B. Hood (CSA) marched in rapid pursuit of General John M. Schofield (USA) and his retreating army. Schofield wanted to occupy Franklin, repair the bridges, and move his supply trains over them. 

Schofield’s advance force reached Franklin about sunrise on November 30 and formed a defensive line in works that had been built by Union forces in the spring of 1863, on the southern edge of town. 

Skirmishes at Thompson’s Station and other places slowed Hood’s march, but, around 4:00 p.m., he prepared a frontal attack against the Union forces at Franklin. 

Two Federal brigades holding a forward position gave way and retreated to the inner works, but their other Union forces were able to hold their positions. 

When the Second Battle of Franklin ended after dark, 6 Confederate generals were dead or had mortal wounds. Despite the loss, Hood continued toward Nashville.

1864, December

December 4 — Waynesborough

Georgia — As General William T. Sherman’s infantry made their way southeast through Georgia, his cavalry, commanded by General Judson Kilpatrick, undertook a separate mission. 

On the morning of December 4, Kilpatrick’s cavalry embarked on an operation to attack Waynesborough and eliminate the threat posed by General Joseph Wheeler (CSA) and his cavalry.

The day started with Kilpatrick’s men advancing, pushing back Confederate skirmishers who were in their path. The Union force then encountered a series of defensive barricades set up by the Confederates. Overcoming these obstacles required time and effort, but the Union troops eventually managed to overrun them.

Union forces encountered more barricades as they advanced, leading to more intense fighting. Ultimately, they reached a final line of barricades within the town of Waynesborough. 

After a fierce struggle, the Union troops successfully broke through the Confederate defenses, causing Wheeler to retreat.

Battle of Waynesborough, 1864, Union Cavalry Charge, HW
Battle of Waynesborough. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, January 14, 1865.

December 5 — Murfreesboro, Second Battle

Tennessee — General John Bell Hood (CSA) led the Army of Tennessee north toward Nashville, in an attempt to draw General Wiliam T. Sherman out of Georgia.

Despite suffering a devastating loss at the Battle of Franklin, Hood believed destroying the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad and disrupting the Union supply depot at Murfreesboro would aid his cause.

On December 2, Hood sent General William B. Bate to dismantle the railroad and attack the blockhouses between Murfreesboro and Nashville. Bate attacked Blockhouse No. 7, which guarded the railroad crossing at Overall Creek, but Union forces successfully stopped the assault.

On December 4, Hood sent General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Bate’s infantry division to Murfreesboro. The next morning, Forrest’s troops moved towards Murfreesboro. His force split into two columns — one aimed at assaulting the fort on the hill, and the other targeting Blockhouse No. 4 in La Vergne. Both Union garrisons surrendered upon Forrest’s demand. 

Outside La Vergne, Forrest’s command linked up with Bate’s division and advanced towards Murfreesboro via two different roads, driving Union forces into the fortifications of Fortress Rosencrans before encamping on the city outskirts for the night.

On the morning of December 6, Forrest ordered Bate to move against the Union works. Although fighting carried on for a couple of hours, the Union forces ceased firing, and both sides held their positions for the remainder of the day. Additional Confederate infantry brigades joined Forrest’s command in the evening.

On the morning of December 7, General Lovell Rousseau, who commanded all Union forces in Murfreesboro, sent two brigades led by General Robert Milroy on the Salem Pike to assess the situation. Milroy engaged the Confederates. 

At one point, some of Forrest’s troops fled, confusing the Confederate ranks. Even Forrest and Bate were unable to prevent the retreat of these units. The remainder of Forrest’s command carried out an organized withdrawal from the field and established a camp outside Murfreesboro.

December 7 — Fort Fisher

North Carolina — General Benjamin Butler (USA), who had been relieved of his command of the Army of the James, was tasked with leading an amphibious expedition against Fort Fisher (CSA). 

The fort protected Wilmington, which was the last open seaport on the Atlantic coast still under Southern control. Upon learning that a large contingent of Union troops had embarked from Hampton Roads on December 13, General Robert E. Lee ordered General Robert F. Hoke to take his division to confront the anticipated attack on Fort Fisher.

On December 24, the Union fleet commanded by Rear Admiral David D. Porter arrived at Fort Fisher and initiated a bombardment of the fort’s defenses. Meanwhile, an infantry division disembarked from the transports to attack the fort. The Federal assault on Fort Fisher was already ready to start when Hoke arrived, effectively discouraging Union efforts to take the fort.

General Butler decided to call off the expedition on December 27 and withdrew to Fort Monroe.

December 10 — Sherman’s Arrival at Savannah, Georgia

Savannah — General William T. Sherman (USA) and the Army of Georgia arrived at Savannah, Georgia, completing the famous March to the Sea. At Savannah, his troops took Fort McAllister and forced Confederates to evacuate the city.

December 13 — Fort Mcallister, Second Battle

Georgia — As General William T. Sherman advanced toward Savannah, he needed supplies. Recognizing the importance of securing Fort McAllister, which would allow supply ships to reach him, Sherman ordered General Oliver O. Howard, commander of his right wing, to capture the fort. Howard selected General William B. Hazen to lead the operation.

On the afternoon of December 13, Hazen’s troops were positioned and ready for the assault. When the order was given, his men charged forward, breached the fort, and captured it. With the fort in Union hands, Sherman’s supply line was open, enabling him to prepare for the subsequent siege and capture of Savannah.

Second Battle of Fort McAllister, 1864, Union Storming the Fort, HW
Second Battle of Fort McAllister. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, January 14, 1865.

December 15 — Nashville

Tennessee — Elements of the command of General George H. Thomas (USA) reached Nashville on December 1. John Bell Hood (CSA) and his army reached the outskirts of the city on December 2 and took defensive positions on a line of hills parallel to those of the Union army, constructing fieldworks in preparation for the impending Battle of Nashville. 

The Union Army Engineer, General James St. Clair Morton, had overseen the construction of sophisticated fortifications in Nashville in 1862–63, which would prove instrumental in the coming battle.

From December 1st through the 14th, Thomas prepared for battle, intending to hand Hood a decisive defeat by attacking him on both flanks. On the night of December 14, Thomas informed General Henry W. Halleck he would attack Hood on the 15th.

Before dawn on December 15, Union troops, led by General James Steedman, launched an attack on the Confederate right. They engaged one Confederate corps and kept it occupied for the rest of the day.

The assault on the Confederate left started after noon with a charge on Montgomery Hill. After successfully capturing Montgomery Hill, Union forces launched attacks on other parts of the Confederate left, eventually gaining success across the line. Darkness ended the day’s fighting.

Despite the damage to his army, Hood remained confident and established a new defensive line along the base of a ridge, fortified the hills on his flanks, and threw up new works. The Union IV Army Corps approached within 250 yards of the new Confederate line and started building fieldworks. Other Union troops moved into positions opposite the Confederate line.

The Union attack commenced against Hood’s strong right flank on Overton’s Hill. Although the initial charge failed, troops led by General A.J. Smith successfully assaulted Shy’s Hill. Seeing the success along the line, additional Union troops charged up Overton’s Hill, capturing it, and forcing Hood’s army into a retreat, ending the Battle of Nashville.

Battle of Nashville, 1864, Union Charge, HW
Battle of Nashville. Image Source: Harper’s Weekly, January 14, 1865.

The Union army pursued the defeated Confederates for 10 days until they recrossed the Tennessee River. Hood retreated to Tupelo, Mississippi, and resigned his command.

December 16 — Marion

Virginia — Riding through the Cumberland Gap, General George Stoneman (USA) led his expedition to advance on the crucial lead mines and salt ponds located in the vicinity of Marion and Saltville. 

On December 17, Stoneman’s forces engaged and defeated a Confederate force defending the area. The next day, December 18, Union troops proceeded to destroy the leadworks and mines.

On December 20, Stoneman’s expedition captured and subsequently demolished the salt works at Saltville. These actions disrupted Confederate supply lines and resources.

December 20 — The Second Battle of Saltville took place in Virginia.

December 21 — Savannah surrendered to General Sherman, concluding his destructive March to the Sea.

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Civil War Timeline and History, from September to December 1864
  • Date September 1, 1864—December 31, 1864
  • Author
  • Keywords Civil War Timeline, Civil War History, Civil War 1864
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date June 13, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update January 12, 2024