Ed Bonekemper on
"The Western Theater Campaign, 
1864-1865"

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Edward H. Bonekemper III Speaks to the Civil War Round Table of the District of Columbia on November 12, 2014, at the Fort McNair Officers' Club in Washington D.C.

A PDF copy of the handouts associated with Mr. Bonekemper's presentation is available by clicking HERE or by visiting http://files.cwrtdc.org/BonekemperMaps11-12-2014.pdf  


About His Topic: From Bull Run to Chattanooga, the Union armies had fought their battles without benefit of either an overarching strategy or an absolute field commander. In 1864, the people of the North were restless and as the election approached, many of them supported a policy of peace with the Confederacy.  President Lincoln, however, never wavered. Committed as ever to destroying the armed power of the Confederacy, he needed a general who could gather all the threads of an emerging strategy to bring to bear the combined power of the Union armies and their supporting naval power against the secessionists. Ulysses S. Grant was that man. 


After Grant became Union general-in-chief in March 1864, though, the Union still had a long way to go to win the Civil War. Military victories were essential to the reelection of Lincoln and his reelection was critical to Northern victory. 

This presentation will be an overview of the 1864-65 campaigns that led to Lincoln’s reelection and the Union victory in the war. While General Grant’s Overland Campaign and other Eastern developments will be discussed, our speaker, Ed Bonekemper, will emphasize the events in the West.

Mr. Bonekemper will discuss William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign which focused on opening the “Gateway to the South.” The city’s fall set the stage for his famous (or infamous) “March to the Sea.” During the March, General Sherman’s forces destroyed military targets in Georgia as well as industry, infrastructure, and civilian property which further disrupted the South's economy and its transportation networks.  Sherman’s bold move of operating deep within enemy territory and without supply lines is considered to be revolutionary in the annals of war.  Sherman then persuaded Grant to allow him to march north through the Carolinas instead of putting his army on ships to reinforce the Army of the Potomac at Petersburg.  Mr. Bonekemper will also review the Carolinas Campaign which was the last campaign of the Western Theater and destroyed everything of military value along the way.

After Atlanta’s fall, General John Bell Hood drove north and, after a brief pursuit by Sherman, George Thomas was left to deal with the aggressive Hood.  Our speaker will talk about the Franklin-Nashville Campaign and Hood’s attempt to defeat the Union force under John Schofield before it could converge with Thomas's army at Nashville. Battles at Springhill, Franklin, and Nashville ensued and the Union’s smashing victories at Franklin and Nashville virtually destroyed Hood’s forces. General Hood resigned his commission shortly thereafter.  Mr. Bonekemper will conclude his talk with a discussion of 1865 events and the end of the war.

About The Speaker:  Historian Edward H. Bonekemper III is the Civil War News Book Review Editor and a native and resident of Pennsylvania. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in American history from Muhlenberg College and Old Dominion University, respectively, and his J.D. from Yale Law School. During his 34 years as a federal government attorney, he wrote for Navy and Coast Guard publications and spoke on a variety of topics for the Coast Guard and the Interior and Transportation departments. He is retired as a commander in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve.

Mr. Bonekemper writes and lectures widely on the topics of his books, slavery, turning points of the Civil War and Union and Confederate generals. He has taught several Civil War and other military history courses and is an adjunct lecturer on U.S. military history at Muhlenberg College. He has spoken at numerous Civil War Round Tables, given nine lectures about the Civil War at The Smithsonian Institution, and lectured at The Chautauqua Institution and on numerous other occasions.

Mr. Bonekemper has published: Grant and Lee: Victorious American and Vanquished Virginian; McClellan and Failure: A Study of Civil War Fear, Incompetence and Worse; A Victor, Not a Butcher: Ulysses S. Grant’s Overlooked Military Genius; How Robert E. Lee Lost the Civil War; and Lincoln and Grant: The Westerners Who Won the Civil War.

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