This Week in the American Civil War: May 18-24, 1864

MN150Logo_OL_FNLInformation courtesy of the

Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force

( and “Minnesota Civil War 150” on Facebook)


Major Highlights for the Week

Wednesday May 18, 1864

The days of comparative quiet around Spotsylvania, Virginia ended when two Federal corps led a dawn assault on Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s left flank, dug in new entrenchments. The Federals charged several times without success. Major General George G. Meade, Army of the Potomac commander, ordered the drive abandoned. After further shifts by the Federals to probe the lines, Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant decided that the enemy was too strong to be defeated in his present position, and once more started moving to his own left to attempt to get around Lee’s right flank.

Fighting occurred at Fosters’s Plantation and near City Point (present day Hopewell), Virginia as Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard fended off attacks by Major General Benjamin Butler’s Army of the James from their base of operations at Bermuda Hundred landing.

In Alabama, skirmishing broke out at Fletcher’s Ferry and in Pike County, Kentucky along the Wolf River.

Thursday May 19, 1864

For perhaps the first time since the war began, politics and the war was eclipsed by one singular event outside of those topics – the sixty-year-old classic American writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne, died in his sleep in Plymouth, New Hampshire.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered his left line at Spotsylvania, Virginia, to make a demonstration to determine whether Federal Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant was moving to the Confederate right. Severe fighting around Spotsylvania erupted proved that Lee was correct. The action continued until late in the evening when the Confederates pulled back. Grant was now swinging to the south and east towards the Po River.

During the series of battles around Spotsylvania Court House, Federal casualties are estimated at 17,500 out of 110,000 men engaged. The Confederates put approximately 50,000 into action but total losses are not reliably recorded.

From his position near Cassville, Georgia, General Joseph E. Johnston ordered an attack on the separated units of Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal army. By the evening, however, after Johnston was forced to take up a defensive position and two of his three corps commanders felt that the position could not be held, the general reluctantly decided to retreat through Cartersville to the Etowah River.

Friday May 20, 1864

Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston continued to cross the Etowah River and made a strong defensive position at Allatoona Pass, Georgia, with Federal Major General William T. Sherman’s forces in pursuit.

In Virginia, Federal Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant gave Army of the Potomac commander, Major General George G. Meade, orders to move by its left and cross the Mattapony River. Major General Winfield Scott Hancock’s Second Corps led the way, heading to Guiney’s Station. However, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia prepared to pull his army out to the south to block Grant’s movement once more.

President Abraham Lincoln ordered that no person engaged in trade in accordance with the treasury regulations should be hindered or delayed by the Army or Navy. It was part of the continuing difficulties regarding trade in occupied territory or with the enemy. 

Saturday May 21, 1864

Fighting broke out at Guiney’s Station and at Stanard’s Mill, Virginia, as Federal Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant shifted his army east and south and away from Spotsylvania Court House.

Federal Major General David Hunter replaced Major General Franz Sigel in the Department of West Virginia, following Sigel’s lackluster performance in the Shenandoah Valley area.

In Georgia, Federal Major General William T. Sherman regrouped his forces, took the day to repair bridges and giving his troops a brief rest in the Cassville-Kingston-Cartersville area, while Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston dug in around Allatoona Pass.

Sunday May 22, 1864

    Federal Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant’s Army of the Potomac was moving south from Guiney’s Station, Virginia, towards the North Anna River. Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was moving south a few miles to the west. In the morning, two Confederate corps beat Grant into position at Hanover Junction.

Major General William T. Sherman was ready to move his Federal army again and by the evening, the cavalry engaged Confederates at Cassville, Georgia. Meanwhile, Sherman issued orders for the bulk of his army to by-pass the Allatoona area and head towards Dallas, Georgia.

U.S.S. Stingaree was taken by Confederates off the coast near Brazos, Texas, but was then recaptured by the Federals.

Monday May 23, 1864

Late in the afternoon, Federal Major General Gouverneur K. Warren’s Fifth Corps crossed the North Anna River and was hit by Confederate Lieutenant General Ambrose Powell Hill’s corps near Jericho Mills, Virginia around 6 p.m. With the Army of the Potomac split between the two banks of the river, Confederate General Robert E. Lee had an opportunity to attack the divided army but failed to take advantage of the opportunity, partially because of his own illness, to go along with other factors.

Federal Major General William T. Sherman’s entire army headed towards Dallas, Georgia from the Cassville area in an attempt to turn Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston’s left flank. Only minor action was recorded at Stilesborough.

In Florida, Confederates captured the U.S.S. Columbine.

Tuesday May 24, 1864

Federal Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant continued to move the Army of the Potomac, now divided into three parts, across the North Anna River in Virginia. A brief fight broke out at Ox Ford, but Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s troops held the strong position.

Major General William T. Sherman pressed on from the Etowah River toward Dallas, Georgia. Fighting broke out at Cass Station, Cassville, Burnt Hickory and near Dallas. Much of the action involved Confederate cavalry raids upon the Federal wagons in Sherman’s rear. Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, at Allatoona, realized Sherman’s intent and ordered his army to move towards Dallas via New Hope, to try to get in front of Sherman once again. Sherman, now quite a ways from his vital railroad supply line, was closer than ever to Atlanta. Meanwhile, Johnston’s communication lines were also contracting, making it a perilous situation for both armies.

Where Minnesota Regiments were the week of May 18-24, 1864 

Active units:

1st Battalion Minnesota Infantry – Created from the remnants of the old 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the 1st Battalion Minnesota Infantry, under Colonel Mark W. Downie, left Fort Snelling for Washington, D.C. on May 16. They arrived in Washington on May 30, 1864. 

2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Guarded trains in the Cassville, Georgia area during Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign.

3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Pine Bluff, Arkansas until October 10, 1864.

4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in Huntsville, Alabama until June 22, 1864.

5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Vicksburg, Mississippi until June 4, 1864.

6th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at various Minnesota outposts for garrison duty until June 9, 1864.

7th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in Paducah, Kentucky until June 19, 1864.

8th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Left the various Minnesota outposts and concentrated at Paynesville, Minnesota on May 24, 1864.

9th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Left their outposts at Rolla, Jefferson City, LaMine Bridge, Warrensburg, Independence, Knob Noster, Kansas City, Waynesville and Franklin, Missouri and consolidated at St. Louis, remaining there until May 29, 1864.

10th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Companies E and D were on duty at Island No. 10 until June 15, 1864. The remaining companies were on duty around Columbus, Kentucky until June 19, 1864.

2nd Regiment Minnesota Cavalry – On duty at Fort Snelling and at frontier posts throughout Minnesota until May 24, 1864.

Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry –On duty at Sioux City, Iowa until June 4, 1864.

Hatch’s Independent Battalion of Cavalry – Companies A, B, C and D moved to Fort Abercrombie. Companies A and B assigned to garrison at Fort Abercrombie.  Company C assigned to garrison at Alexandria and Pomme de Terre. Company D on patrol duty from Fort Abercrombie to Pembina.  Companies E and F on frontier duty. The battalion would remain in these duty locations for the duration of the war – until April 26, 1866.

1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery – Moved to Rome, Georgia via Clifton, Tenn.; Huntsville and Decatur, Ala.; and Big Shanty, Ga. arriving on June 9, 1864 to join the Atlanta Campaign.

2nd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery – Veterans were on furlough through June 5, 1864. Non-veterans attached to Battery I, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery and moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where they escorted cattle and horses to the army in the field until July 14, 1864.

3rd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery – Various sections of the battery were stationed at Fort Snelling, Fort Ridgely, Fort Ripley and Pembina until June 5, 1864.

1st United States Sharpshooters Company I– Now detached from the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, in camp at Stevensburg, Virginia awaiting the arrival of the 1st Battalion of Minnesota Infantry at the end of May 1864. 

2nd United States Sharpshooters, Company A – Participated in the assaults at Harris Farm, Fredericksburg Road and the North Anna Crossing during Grant’s Overland Campaign.

Inactive units: 

1st Regiment Minnesota Cavalry “Mounted Rangers” – Formally mustered out of service on December 7, 1863. Inactive.  

1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Mustered out of Federal service on April 29, 1864. Inactive. 

About civilwarweek

Member - Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, Civil War reenactor and historian since 1993, holds Bachelor's Degree in History from Concordia University-St. Paul, currently pursuing Master's Degree in History at St. Cloud State University and is author of the forthcoming book, "Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man's Journey through the Civil War."
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