On February 28th, Brigadier General George A. Custer, after crossing the north fork of the Shenandoah River, encountered 300 Confederate cavalry under Thomas Rosser guarding the Middle River near the village of Mount Crawford. Rosser set fire to a long covered bridge in an attempt to delay Custer's advance, but Custer ordered two of his regiments to swim the river while other units stormed the burning bridge. Rosser's force was driven off and Custer advanced to Staunton and joined Phil Sheridan's force the next day. Originally, it was Sheridan's intent to join Sherman in South Carolina, but decided to turn east instead to eliminate the remnants of Jubal Early's Army of the Valley. On March 2nd, Sheridan encountered Early's forces at Waynesboro. Early had a good defensive position, but had left his left flank exposed abutting some dense woods. A determined Federal attack turned, and then rolled up Early's flank. More than 1,500 southerners surrendered, although Early and his staff evaded capture.
The U.S. government established the Freedman's Bureau on March 3rd.
Also on the 3rd, President Lincoln issued surrender instructions to General Grant. Grant was given wide-ranging powers concerning Army matters, but reserved political issues to himself.
On March 4th, Lincoln gave his inaugural address, speaking directly to the Confederate people, saying, "...with malice toward none; with charity for all."
Also on March 4th, Tennessee elects its first post-war Governor Parson Brownlow.
On March 10, Sherman's army continues its march through North Carolina, although slowed by spring rains. He captures Fayetteville on the 11th.
On March 13th, the Confederacy enlisted its first black soldiers with the tacit understanding that those who fought would be freed.
On the 16th, Sherman, advancing towards Goldsboro was attacked by Confederate General William Hardee's corps, assaulting the left wing under General Slocum near Averasborough, attempting to slow Sherman's advance. The Union XX Corps was driven back by the assault. Reinforcements arrived and the Union counterattacked, driving back two of the Confederate lines, but repulsed by the third. The XIV Corps arrived, forcing Hardee's forces to withdraw. Three days later, Hardee, along with D. H. Hill and A. P. Stewart combined to attack Slocum's column again near Bentonville. Over the two-day battle, Hardee made early gains, but was repulsed. Sherman reinforced Slocum on the 20th, and on the 21st, Hardee's force made a harrowing escape, as they barely escaped envelopment by Slocum.
Union General James Wilson began a raid on Selma, AL on the 22nd.
On the 23rd, Lincoln left Washington for Grant's Headquarters at City Point.
In an event similar to the World War II Battle of the Bulge, Confederate General John B. Gordon attacked and captured Fort Stedman, a Union outpost on the Petersburg siege line.. Gordon's forces managed to punch a hole 3/4 of a mile wide in the Union lines, making a desperate thrust towards the Union supply base and headquarters at City Point, VA. But the Union had numbers on their side and managed to stop and then turn back the Confederate advance, eventually recapturing Fort Stedman. The defeat, although unrealized at the time, essentially sealed the eventual fate of the Army of Northern Virginia. Weakened by irreplaceable losses of men and material, this was their last offensive effort of the war.
On March 27th, Union forces under Edward Canby lay siege to the heavily fortified Spanish Fort, the eastern defense of Mobile, AL, and the vital port of Mobile Bay. On that same day, Lincoln held an important council of war at City Point with Grant and Admiral David Porter.
General Grant continued to extend his lines around the besieged city of Petersburg, VA, forcing Lee to thin out his lines in order to face the deployments. On March 30th, Sheridan's cavalry attacked the Confederate right flank at Dinwiddie Court House, VA. Grant had ordered a major offensive against the remaining Confederate supply lines along the Boydton Plank Road, the Richmond and Danville Railroad, and the Southside Railroad. Grant wanted the Southerners to be forced out of their fortifications. On the morning of the 29th, Warren and Humphrey's corps' moved south and west towards the Confederate right. Up the Quaker Road came Warren's Corps, led by the brigade of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a hero of Gettysburg. Chamberlain's brigade took on three brigades of Johnson's division. The Union force eventually forced the Confederates back, Chamberlain collecting another of his 6 wounds suffered in the war, and was nearly captured. The bullet that struck Chamberlain had passed through the neck of his horse, spraying blood onto Chamberlain's face. The round was deflected by a picture of his wife which he kept in his coat pocket, but still traveled just under the skin around his ribs and exited out the back. To all observers on both sides, Chamberlain had apparently suffered a fatal wound. Indeed, General Griffin, seeing his subordinate, declared, "Chamberlain,you are dead!" Chamberlain instead rose to his feet, grabbed another horse and rallied his fading troops. Atop the horse, covered in blood and waving his sword, Chamberlain inspired not only his troops, but the Confederates as well. At the end of the day, Warren's corps captured and held a portion of the Boydton Plank Road at Quaker Road. Later, Sheridan occupied Dinwiddie Courthouse, completely severing the road. The Union forces then prepared to attack the Confederates at the important road junction of Five Forks.
On March 31st, Confederate General George Pickett attacked and drove back Sheridan's cavalry. It was merely a tactical victory, as the Union advance was unhindered.
- Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 61 years of living. I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh. I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me. Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying. I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.