This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, June 16: Fighting in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.
More fighting rages in Virginia 150 years ago during the Civil War after the major cavalry battle at Brandy Station, Va., Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee dispatches a sizable column of soldiers from the Army of Northern Virginia to scatter Union rivals from the Shenandoah Valley. The valley that slants northeastward in the shadow of the Appalachian mountains will in coming weeks become a corridor for Lee to march his army into Pennsylvania, where the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg will be fought in July 1863. Thousands of his troops massed at Winchester, Va., and fighting raged from June 13 to June 15, 1863. All told, hundreds of federal troops eventually surrendered and were captured in what was an important Confederate victory. For Lee, the importance of victory meant the Shenandoah Valley would now be largely clear of Union troops, opening a door for his second invasion of the North and the eventual showdown at Gettysburg.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, June 23: New Leader for Union's Army of the Potomac.
This week 150 years ago in the Civil War, Joseph Hooker was sacked as commander of the Union's Army of the Potomac, replaced by George G. Meade. Hooker had served only months in the leadership post, promoted there by President Abraham Lincoln in January 1863 in place of Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside after Burnside's disastrous stint at the helm. Hooker was felled by infighting despite his deft moves to reorganize the Union army and better supply it with arms and rations for the fighting still ahead. But his undoing began at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Va., in early May 1863 when Confederate Robert E. Lee outsmarted and divided a far larger Union force, seizing a key victory. Only days ahead, Meade would meet and defeat Lee at the historic Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. Already there were ominous signs that Lee's invasion of the North was on track. The Associated Press reported in a dispatch June 21, 1863, that Confederate cavalry had captured a number of horses near Hagerstown, Md., and that some 6,000 Confederate troops were on the northern side of the Potomac River. A second AP dispatch this week reports "rebels, in heavy force, were advancing on Pittsburg(h), Pa." In fact, Lee had been moving forces forward for days, poised to redirect fighting away from war-ravaged Virginia to the North – moving within potential striking distance of several Northern cities that also included Philadelphia and Baltimore.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, June 30: Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate surrender at Vicksburg.
A Confederate army invading the North under Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Union Army of the Potomac led by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade collided over three blazing summer days at Gettysburg, Pa., 150 years ago this week in the Civil War. The July 1-3 battle on Pennsylvania farmland would mark the turning point of the war as the Union claimed its biggest victory, repulsing Lee's second incursion into the North. Gettysburg also would be the bloodiest battle with some 51,000 casualties and give rise to Lincoln's timeless "Gettysburg Address." The battle began July 1, 1863, when Lee massed his Army of Northern Virginia at a crossroads at Gettysburg, driving Union defenders back to Cemetery Hill. More troops arrived overnight for both sides and vicious fighting resumed the next day. The fierce combat raged over fields, a sunken road and on hilltops until nightfall. Through it all, the Union desperately held its positions, and then on July 3, momentum turned against Lee. Confederate infantrymen were flung backward. But a major Confederate assault, Pickett's charge, briefly punctured the Union line until frenzied federal fighters forced back the charge and the Union line held. By July 4, 1863, a defeated Lee began withdrawing southward toward Virginia, his bloodied and exhausted column strung out for miles. Lee's defeat at Gettysburg marked a turn for the worse for a Confederacy whose end would come ultimately in 1865. That July 4, 1863, also brought another Union victory: Confederate forces weathering a long siege at Vicksburg, Miss., capitulated to federal forces now in full control of the Mississippi River.
This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, July 7: Lee turns back after Gettysburg.
Gettysburg has been fought a week earlier and the boldest offensive ever waged by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee has been turned back by Union forces. And so a turning point arrived 150 years ago this month in the Civil War. After the three days of fierce battle and bloodletting at Gettysburg, Pa., Lee's exhausted columns are retreating in this the second week of July to Virginia, seat of the Confederacy. Witnesses reported hearing the frequent wailing and cries of the wounded being carried back on wagon trains. At times rain lashed at the retreating columns. Although major fighting at Gettysburg is over and the Union has held firm, Union Gen. George Meade contemplates an all-out assault on retreating Confederates trapped beside the rain-swollen Potomac River, just across from Virginia. Nonetheless Mead scraps plans for an offensive around July 13, 1863,, providing Lee the opportunity to escape southward after the failure of his gamble at Gettysburg. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia manages to get across the Potomac river in these hot days of July so as to regroup and fight another day.