Because Confederate troops had more success in keeping Union troops at bay in the state, Confederate morale stayed reasonably high into mid-1864. Until that point, the Rappahannock–Rapidan River line had served as a de facto boundary, in eastern Virginia, between Union and Confederate control. Ulysses S. Grant's successful Overland Campaign (1864) against Robert E. Lee pushed Confederate troops south to Petersburg and demonstrated to Virginia Confederates that their soldiers were not invincible. After this, the steady advance of Union troops—up the Peninsula toward Richmond, up the Shenandoah Valley, and into the southwestern corner of Virginia, all depressed Confederate spirits in the state.
Angry Confederate civilians complained to their state and national representatives, including Confederate president Jefferson Davis himself, and while their letters often reflect dissatisfaction with government policies, they also reflect a faith that the Confederate government would be able to remedy the problem. Those letters, and that faith, were running out early in 1865 as Union forces tightened their hold on Petersburg and Richmond. Confederate morale had clearly dropped from the early optimism of 1861 and the steely resolve and confidence of early in 1863, but, in large measure, that drop in morale came because of battlefield losses, not the other way around.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Sheehan-Dean, A. Confederate Morale During the Civil War. (2012, September 19). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Confederate_Morale_during_the_Civil_War.
- MLA Citation:
Sheehan-Dean, Aaron. "Confederate Morale During the Civil War." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 19 Sep. 2012. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: March 10, 2010 | Last modified: September 19, 2012
Contributed by Aaron Sheehan-Dean, an associate professor of history at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.