By the close of March 1864 both the Union and Confederate governments asked the same question of when would warfare in Virginia begin anew, given that the wintering of armies was over and a new Union overall commander, Ulysses S. Grant, had assumed control over the Northern armies?
Since Grant had announced that he would accompany George Meade’s Army of the Potomac and that his headquarters would be in the field, observers on both sides of the American Civil War wondered when Grant would unleash the so-called Anaconda Plan against the South?
A major goal of Abraham Lincoln’s was to keep harmony among his Union army generals. While he was not always successful in doing so, Lincoln was aware of many interpersonal conflicts between his generals and often intervened, seeking resolution.
Pro-Southern, Copperhead activity occurred in all states of the North to some degree during the American Civil War. However, on Monday, March 28, 1864, anti-war activity even came to Illinois, the home state of President Abraham Lincoln.
Both presidents of the North and South issued statements relating to the conduct of the war but with very differing tones. On Saturday, March 26, 1864 Abraham Lincoln clarified his earlier, December 1863 statement on amnesty, explaining that the offer of amnesty did not apply to prisoners of war but only to those who were free and voluntarily came forward to take an oath of allegiance.
During the Civil War, cavalry raids into the enemy’s interior invoked fear among both civilians and rear echelon troops. Raids were designed to seize and destroy enemy supplies, thus disrupting the enemy’s logistics.
Among the southern cavalry commanders, the very mention of Nathan Bedford Forrest often threw both Union military units and civilians into a panic, given Forrest’s alleged approval of the killing of Negro troops at Fort Pillow in 1862 and because he was alleged to have personally killed thirty men while in close range combat.
President Abraham Lincoln, consumed daily with the conduct of the Union war effort, nevertheless had time on March 22, 1864 to address in writing a meeting of the New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association, acknowledging that “(P)roperty is the fruit of labor—property is desirable—is a positive good in the world.
As in many states of the Southern Confederacy, there was an active peace movement within the state of Georgia by mid-March 1864. On Saturday, March the 19th the Georgia legislature, while expressing its confidence in President Jefferson Davis, resolved that the Confederate national government should after each Southern triumph on the battlefield make an offer of peace to the North, providing for independence for the South and self-determination by individual border state between the North and South.
Assuming overall command of the Union armies, Ulysses Grant busily prepared himself for what was soon to come. At Nashville, Tennessee while conferring with General Sherman, Grant announced that his headquarters “will be in the field, and, until further orders, will be with the Army of the Potomac.”
After conferring with Sherman and others, Grant returned to Washington, D.C. on March 23, 1864 where a number of congressional “radical” Republicans were pressing for the removal of General George Meade as commander of the Army of the Potomac.
In mid-March 1864 Union forces actively probed the Texas coastline. On March 17, a Federal force landed near Corpus Christi seeking contraband cotton; the Federals soon evacuated, taking seized cotton and Texas Unionists with them.
Lincoln’s commitment to black rights which culminated in the August 1862 Emancipation Proclamation after the Battle of Antietam continued into mid-March 1864. On March 13, the president suggested that both whites and some “very intelligent” Negroes should participate in an upcoming Louisiana state convention; on the issue of emancipation in Maryland, Lincoln on March 17 wrote that the end to slavery in Unionist Maryland “would aid much to end the rebellion” of the Southern states.