On the 7th day of August, 1864, General Sheridan was placed in command of the military division comprising the Department of Washington, the Department of West Virginia, the Department of the Susquehanna, and the Middle Department. In two great battles- at the crossing of the Opequon on the 19th of September, and at Fisher's Hill on the 22nd of September-the rebel army under Early was routed and driven from the Valley with immense loss of prisoners, artillery, and stores. A desperate effort was made by the enemy to recover their position. Early was strongly re- enforced, and on the morning of the 19th of October, in the absence of General Sheridan, his lines were surprised, his position turned, and his forces driven back in confusion. At the moment when a great disaster was impending Sheridan appeared upon the field, the battle was restored, and a brilliant victory achieved. The routed forces of the enemy were pursued to Mount Jackson, where he arrived without an organized regiment of his army. All his artillery and thousands of prisoners fell into Sheridan's hands. These successes closed military operations in the Shenandoah Valley, and a rebel force appeared there no more during the war.
Major General William T. Sherman began the brilliant series of his campaigns early in May. The first objective point was Atlanta. To reach that city his armies must pass from the northern limit to the center of the great State of Georgia, forcing their way through mountain defiles and across great rivers, overcoming or turning formidable intrenched positions defended by a strong, well-appointed veteran army, commanded by an alert, cautious, and skillful general. The campaign opened on the 6th day of May, and on the 2nd day of September the national forces entered Atlanta. This achievement is thus described in General Sherman's Field Orders, Numbers 68:
On the 1st of May our armies were lying in garrison, seemingly quiet, from Knoxville to Huntsville, and our enemy lay behind his rocky-faced barrier at Dalton, proud, defiant, and exulting. He had time since Christmas to recover from his discomfiture on the Mission Ridge, with his ranks filled, and a new commander-in- chief, and second to none in the Confederacy in reputation for skill, sagacity, and extreme popularity. All at once our armies assumed life and action and appeared before Dalton. Threatening Rocky Face, we threw ourselves upon Resaca, and the rebel army only escaped by the rapidity of its retreat, aided by the numerous roads, with which he was familiar, and which were strange to us. Again he took post in Allatoona, but we gave him no rest, and by our circuit toward Dallas and subsequent movement to Acworth, we gained the Allatoona Pass. Then followed the eventful battles about Kenesaw, and the escape of the enemy across the Chattahoochee River.
The crossing of the Chattahoochee and breaking of the Augusta road was most handsomely executed by us, and will be studied as an example in the art of war. At this stage of our game our enemies, became dissatisfied with their old and skillful commander, and selected one more bold and rash. New tactics were adopted. Hood first boldly and rapidly, on the 20th of July, fell on our right at Peach Tree Creek and lost. Again, on the 22nd, he struck our extreme left, and was severely punished; and finally, again on the 28th, he repeated the attempt on our right, and that time must have become satisfied, for since that date he has remained on the defensive. We slowly and gradually drew our lines about Atlanta, feeling for the railroad which supplied the rebel army and made Atlanta a place of importance.
We must concede to our enemy that he met these efforts patiently and skillfully, but at last he made the mistake we had waited for so long, and sent his cavalry to our rear, far beyond the reach of recall. Instantly our cavalry was on his only remaining road, and we followed quickly with our principal army, and Atlanta fell into our possession as the fruit of well-concerted measures, backed by a brave and confident army.