What military turning points in 1863 and 1864 ultimately led to the Confederacy's defeat?
In 1863, the Confederate Army suffered a major setback when Union troops under the leadership of Ulysses S. Grant launched the Vicksburg campaign that saw the capture of the Mississippi state capital. Union troops managed to isolate Confederate troops and forced them to surrender the full control of the Mississippi River, a key supply channel for the Confederates.
Another key connectivity center also fell to the Union forces after the Confederates lost control of the Chattanooga rail center. Attempts to recover from the setback were unsuccessful after Union troops received support from Grant and his troops.
Loss of their supply lines restricted the Confederate Army’s ability to rejuvenate their troops and also served as a blow to the troops’ morale. The situation had the effect of pushing them back. They were forced to retreat and yield ground to the Union troops as experienced during the Battle of Gettysburg.
In 1864, with Grant promoted to lieutenant general and serving as general-in-chief, he decided to continue cutting off Confederate supply lines. However, to act on the strategy, Grant was forced to engage the Confederates in all theaters. The situation brought about new challenges for the Union troops because raids by Confederate troops began to yield positive results, forcing Grant to consolidate some of his troops in strategic areas to address the emerging threat. As a result, desperate maneuvers by the Confederate Army saw the loss of thousands of troops, including generals, in single engagements such as the Battle of Franklin.
Military technology also played an important role in the Confederacy's defeat. The seven-shot Spencer Repeating Rifle was introduced by the Union side. Its introduction had devastating results as demonstrated at the Battle of Hoover's Gap (1863).