Anticipating an end to the winter weather, the Union military in early February prepared for an attack against the very heartland of the Confederacy. Union General William Tecumseh Sherman with a force of over 26,000 men was prepared to leave Vicksburg, Mississippi on a raid into the interior of that state, with the intention of destroying Confederate held railroads.
While lethargy may have seized the Northern electorate during the winter months of early 1864, Abraham Lincoln remained absolutely committed to winning the civil war. On Monday, February 1, 1864 the president ordered that 500,000 Northerners be drafted on March 10 to serve for a period of three years or for the duration of the war.
In February, 1864 America’s tragic domestic conflict between the North and South entered its thirty-fourth continuous, and destructive, month. No clear-cut winner was evident, although many Northerners and Southerners alike realized that the North militarily held the upper hand.
In areas of the Confederacy dominated by Union troops, President Abraham Lincoln desired the establishment of pro-Union, state governments. That meant that some southern states had both a Unionist government and a Confederate government, often times in exile.
Union forces surrounding Charlestown Harbor in South Carolina continued their relentless bombardment of Confederate held, Fort Sumter. In three days, January 29 through the 31st, 1864 Union batteries fired a total of 583 artillery rounds at the now-battered but still defiant Fort Sumter.
However, as important as Fort Sumter was to the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis and the Confederate military establishment refused to surrender the fortification, even though its military importance was destroyed by the Union bombardment.
Foraging to supplement an army’s meager supplies was, as William Tecumseh Sherman reputedly once said, a “right as old as history.” While in the field or encamped during the winter when fresh vegetables were scarce, foraging was a practice employed by both the Union and the Confederacy during the American Civil War.
The Union bombardment of Fort Sumter, Charlestown, South Carolina relentlessly continued through January 1864. Since August, for approximately five months, Union batteries assaulted Confederate held, Fort Sumter, firing thousands of shells at the fortification and reducing its outer walls to rubble, with a surprising, small loss of life among her defenders.
By January 1864 the much heralded Emancipation Proclamation had been in effect for an entire calendar year, and no doubt President Abraham Lincoln was more than ready for the war to end so slavery would exist no more in the United States.
On Saturday, January 23, 1864 Lincoln approved a policy whereby plantation owners in the militarily occupied South would recognize the freedom of their former slaves and subsequently hire them under fair work conditions “to re-commence the cultivation of their plantations.”
From January 21 through 25, 1864 Union forces conducted a reconnaissance of Confederate defenses on Matagorda Peninsula in Texas, landing near Pass Cavallo and spending the first two days marching through the marshland and lowlands of the peninsula.
During the war both the Union and Confederacy experienced soldiers who violated military codes of conduct. The most severe crime involved abandoning one’s post in the face of the enemy; however, many men went AWOL in order to provide for their families back home.