This Week in the Civil War

Associated Press

This Week in The Civil War for Sunday, Sept. 7: Atlanta's Capture: morale boost for the North.

The Union's capture of Atlanta, one of the most important of Southern cities, immediately buoyed President Abraham Lincoln's re-election prospects — 150 years ago in the Civil War. Lincoln would eventually win another term in the fall of 1864. Suddenly, a North wearied by long years of grinding warfare suddenly had major news to rejoice over — even as the Confederacy and many in the South despaired. Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, days after his forces had entered the city, ordered its civilians to evacuate. Meanwhile, newspapers such as the Philadelphia Inquirer in the North reported Sherman's forces were still "in pursuit" of the fleeing Confederates. The Associated Press reported from Virginia on Sept. 9, 1864, that some Confederate forces in their defense works there had begun cheering after hearing a false rumor spread that Atlanta had been retaken." The AP report said those overly optimistic and mistaken Southern soldiers "were very jubilant for a time, indulging in loud cheering."

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This Week in The Civil War for Sunday, Sept. 14: Third Battle of Winchester, Virginia.

Confederate units often had ranged freely up and down the Shenandoah Valley in mountainous areas of Virginia but fought a bruising fight against Union forces at Winchester in that state 150 years ago this week in the Civil War. Both the Union forces under Philip Sheridan and Confederates led by Jubal A. Early saw high casualties in the Third Battle of Winchester, which was waged on Sept. 19, 1864. The fighting that led to thousands of casualties on both sides was fierce. It resulted in a Union victory and marked the beginning of the decline of the Confederate threat along the strategic corridor running from south to north. Elsewhere in Virginia, The Associated Press reported in a dispatch dated Sept. 14, 1864 that Robert E. Lee's Confederate army was reportedly being reinforced. "It is stated by deserters that Lee's army has been strengthened by reinforcements from various points and by large numbers of conscripts." AP also reported that shelling continued around Petersburg, Va., this week 150 years ago in the civil war: "The Confederates have kept up a brisk artillery firing ... The result of is that five or six Federal soldiers are brought into the hospital every day."

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This Week in The Civil War for Sunday, Sept. 21: More fighting in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.

Confederate forces recently defeated at the Third Battle of Winchester, Virginia, erected defensive works at Fisher's Hill in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia this week 150 years ago in the Civil War. And yet another battle was fought Sept. 21-22, 1864, with the Union taking the offensive against Southern cavalry before breaking through the surprised Southern infantry lines. Thus Confederate Jubal A. Early was forced to retreat with his troops further southward down the Shenandoah Valley. Meanwhile, the news of a Union victory at Winchester was embraced by Northerners. The Associated Press reported on Sept. 20, 1864, that there was a raucous celebration among Union troops of the Army of the Potomac when they got word of developments in Winchester. Said AP: "The news of the victory in the Valley was read to the troops along the lines this afternoon, and was received with unbounded enthusiasm and repeated cheering. A salute of one hundred shotted guns will be fired tomorrow at daylight, in honor of the victory." AP added that Confederate desertion appeared to be on the rise. It added that some Confederate deserters told had they had recently obtained fresh beef from captured herds. The report also said some rebel pickets close to Union forces were offering to trade their fresh beef for Union coffee and other supplies.

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This Week in The Civil War for Sunday, Sept. 28: Quiet prevails at Petersburg, Virginia.

The Associated Press reported on Sept. 28, 1864, 150 years ago during the Civil War, that relative calm prevailed for a few days amid a longstanding Union siege at Petersburg, Virginia, not far from the Confederate capital of Richmond. "Quiet still prevails in front of Petersburg, broken only by the usual picket firing and occasional artillery duels, the effect of which is to consume a large quantity of powder." The AP dispatch added that heavy firing could still be heard in bursts from the area around the James River and there were reports of large groups of Confederate cavalry on the move, their war aims unclear. The Union besieged Petersburg as crucial Confederate supply point 25 miles to the south of Richmond. The siege would drag on nearly until the end of the war before Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant would cut through and hasten the end of the war in 1865.

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.

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