In 1862, the Confederate armies won many victories in the East, but the Union held its own in the West and South.
In the early part of 1862, Union forces in the Western Theater initiate a flanking movement. The campaign is led by Ulysses S. Grant and Commodore Andrew J. Foote and targets Confederate installations along the Mississippi River. The campaign begins with the Union forces taking Fort Henry on the Tennessee River on February 6. On the 16th, Fort Donelson near Nashville falls to forces led by Grant after a four-day seige. Confederate forces would evacuate Nashville on February 25th, with Grant and his troops advancing.
While Grant was having success in the West, Union forces did not fare so well in the East. In March the Union Monitor and Confederate Merrimac meet in the first battle of ironclad warship. The Monitor withdraws after five hours of fighting. Soon after, Lincoln removes McClellan as general-in-chief, but he retains control of the Army of the Potomac. Later in the month, Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson launches the Shenandoah Valley Campaign in Virginia.
In April, the Union army launches the Peninsula Campaign, which is designed to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia. The Army of the Potomac, under McClellan, moves toward Yorktown, Virginia on the peninsula between the James River and York River. Meanwhile, in the West, Confederate forces led by A.S. Johnston attack Grant’s forces at Pittsburgh Landing, Tennessee — the Battle of Shiloh. After furious fighting for two days, the Confederates are pushed back on April 7. The casualties to both sides are staggering. The North suffers 13,000, the South, 11,000. Soon after Shiloh, Union naval forces are able to retake Fort Pulaski in Georgia, then, on April 25, Admiral David Farragut takes control of New Orleans.
The Peninsula Campaign found early success as Union troops were able to take Yorktown and then Williamsburg, before pausing at White House, Virginia, which is less than 20 miles from Richmond. Confederate forces attack part of McClellan’s army in the Battle of Seven Pines. The arrival of Union reinforcements prevents a disaster for the North, and the Southern troops pull back. General Joseph E. Johnston is badly wounded in the battle, and Jefferson Davis must find a replacement for him.
On June 2, 1862, Robert E. Lee takes command of the Confederate Armies of Northern Virginia. By the end of the month, Lee attempts to drive McClellan off of the Peninsula and away from Richmond. He is ultimately successful in what is known as the Seven Days’ Battles. The Union campaign ends with the Army of the Potomac withdrawing to Harrison’s Landing on the James River, and Lee’s army falls back to protect Richmond. In early July, in an effort to find an effective commander for Union forces, General Henry W. Halleck is named general-in-chief while Ulysses S. Grant is left in command of the Army of West Tennessee.
Away from the war, President Lincoln is facing growing sentiment over freeing the slaves. On July 22, 1862, Lincoln submits the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet. Although the North is generally viewed as anti-slavery, there is are Southern sympathizers. They call themselves Peace Democrats, but on July 30 a Cincinnati newspaper gives them a new name — Copperheads.
August brings more success for the Confederacy in the East when Stonewall Jackson defeats Union forces as Cedar Mountain, Virginia on the 18th. 12 days later, Jackson, joined by Lee and Longstreet, defeat Union forces under the command of General Pope at the Second Battle of Bull Run near Manassas Junction, Virginia. These victories lay the groundwork for Lee’s first invasion of the North, the Maryland campaign. On September 15, the legend of Stonewall Jackson grows as his forces capture equipment and prisoners when they take Harper’s Ferry, Maryland. Two days later, Lee’s invasion is halted at the Battle of Antietam, a bloody affair that sees both sides suffer in excess of 10,000 killed or wounded. When Lee withdraws, McClellan does not pursue him, upsetting Lincoln.
Finally, on September 23, 1862, the slaves are granted freedom when the Emancipation Proclamation is published in the Northern newspapers. It will go into effect on January 1, 1863.
November brings change to the leadership of each army. On the 5th, Lincoln replaces McClellan with Ambrose Burnside. Then, on the 24th, Jefferson Davis puts Joseph E. Johnston back into action as commander of the Army in the West. Despite best intentions, neither change turns the tide. In December, Burnside’s forces are routed at Fredericksburg. In the West, the Battle of Stone’s River temporarily halts the Union advance on Chattanooga, but it is only temporary.