In early March 1864 the United States government took several significant steps to bring to a conclusion the American Civil War; these actions were the direct result of Union victories on the battlefield during 1863.
Ulysses Grant was ordered by the War Department to Washington to receive a promotion on March 3, the same day in which the Treasury Department issued to the public $200 million in ten-year bonds.
Were the papers alleging that Jefferson Davis and his cabinet of advisors were to be killed in the Kilpatrick raid against Richmond in February 1864 a forgery or were Union forces in fact ordered to assassinate Davis and members of his government?
The so-called Dahlgren papers were published by the Confederacy as evidence of Union barbarism. The absolute truth in this matter will never be known, in part because the Dahlgren papers no longer exist. After the war they were part of the Confederate archives seized and sent to Washington, D. C.
March 1, 1864 witnessed the failure of the Kilpatrick cavalry raid into Richmond in an attempt to free Union prisoners within that city. Once the main force under Kilpatrick approached Richmond’s outer defenses he ascertained that he could not penetrate into the city and moved away to the east, ending his raid.
The night Dalgren’s force, just two miles from Richmond, learned of Kilpatrick’s withdrawal and also retreated, moving to the northeast of Richmond. Confederate troops ambushed Dalgren’s command, capturing over a hundred Federals and killing Dalgren.
On Sunday, February 28, 1864 a Union force of approximately 3500 cavalry under General Judson Kilpatrick left the Rapidan River, intent on raiding Richmond, Virginia and releasing Federal prisoners.
As a diversionary tactic, General George Armstrong Custer began a raid into Albemarle County, Virginia which would last for some four days. On the 29th Kilpatrick would split his command, assigning 500 cavalry to Colonel Ulric Dahlgren while the bulk of his command would stay with him.
Given the mass escape of Union prisoners which had just occurred from Libby Prison in Richmond and the concerns that the Davis government had about incursions into the heartland of the Confederacy as Union General William Tecumseh Sherman had just completed, the Davis government decided for security reasons to move Union prisoners into the rural, isolated areas of the Confederacy.
In late February 1864, promotions and statements of support for the military seemed to be the focus of both the North and the South, as the wintering of armies came to an end. On Wednesday February 24, General Braxton Bragg became the Confederate chief of staff in charge of all Southern forces.
During Union General Sherman’s Meridian, Mississippi campaign, a Union flanking column under General William Smith invaded northern Mississippi from Memphis, Tennessee. Smith’s troops were initially successful, destroying rail lines and stores of military foodstuffs but were actively harassed by Confederate cavalry under the command of General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
On Monday, February 22, 1864 Forrest’s cavalry attacked Smith’s force as the Federals retreated northward toward Memphis, after failing to and link up with Sherman at Meridian.
Although Jefferson Davis feared that William Tecumseh Sherman’s Union force would move from Meridian, Mississippi to Mobile, Alabama to be resupplied via the sea, Sherman had no intention at pushing his luck in mid-February 1864.
In the largest battle fought in Florida during the Civil War, on Saturday, February 20, 1864 Confederate and Union forces clashed at the Battle of Olustee, Florida.
As approximately 5500 Union troops advanced from Union-held Jacksonville westward toward Tallahassee intent on raiding Confederate supplies and destroying the railroads, near Olustee an estimated 5000 Confederates attacked, stubbornly forcing the Union troops to withdraw.
On Wednesday, February 17, 1864 the First Confederate Congress adjourned its fourth session after suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus until August 2, 1864, as requested earlier by President Jefferson Davis.
The Confederate Congress and President mutually agreed that something had to be done to counter the growing resistance within the South toward conscription measures and other disloyal activities. Suspension was, however, restricted only to arrests made under the direct authority of the President and the Confederate Secretary of War.