(Kansas City, Missouri) - The 3 1/2-year-old Civil War may have reached a turning point in 1864, when Ulysses S. Grant became general-in-chief of the Union armies, Confederate defeats continued to mount, and Northern voters sustained the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.
On the 150th anniversary of Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's arrival in Savannah — approaching the end of his devastating, 265-mile March to the Sea — military historian Ethan S. Rafuse of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth leads a round-table discussion of the year's events and their ramifications on Wednesday, December 10, 2014, at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St. The event begins at 6:30 p.m.
Participating with Rafuse are three other Army Command and General Staff College historians, all making return Library appearances: Terry Beckenbaugh, Louis DiMarco, and John Kuehn.
It was early in 1864 when Lincoln decided to make Grant his commanding general, hoping he'd finally found the man who could put the North on the road to victory. Conversely, Confederate leaders hoped to thwart Grants efforts and demonstrate, despite the setbacks of the previous year and growing problems on the home front, that their bid for independence could not be defeated.
The ballots cast in November would prove to be of equal significance, giving Lincoln a 55-45% victory over Democratic candidate George B. McClellan.
Sherman and his army embarked on their March to the Sea a week after the election, going on to carve a 265-mile swath of destruction from Atlanta to Savannah. They reached Georgia's largest city - one of the last Confederate seaports still unoccupied by Union forces - on December 10 and captured it 11 days later.
The sequence of events leads many to herald 1864 as the year of decision in America's bloodiest war, when the balance tipped irretrievably and decisively toward Union victory. Rafuse and his panel weigh that assessment.
The program is part of the Library's Civil War Sesquicentennial series.
Admission to his presentation is free. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available in the Library District parking garage at 10th & Baltimore.