Rebels fire on Ft. Sumter, beginning the bloodiest conflict in American History. Over the next four years more than 600,000 Americans died as a result of the conflict (some experts think the number is higher than 700,000. Only slightly more than 200,000 died during battle. In Georgia the conflict is referred to as the War of Southern Independence, The War of Northern Aggression and The War Between the States.
Having landed and reinforced a combined Army-Navy operation starting in November, 1861, Tybee Island was the first site of invasion by American forces. These forces took Fort Pulaski, guarding the entrance to the Savannah River, on April 11, 1862, essentially blocking the port of Savannah. On April 12, 1862 men under the command of James Andrews stole the locomotive The General and the train attached to it, riding it from Big Shanty to Ringgold, GA.
In September, 1863, Union forces (The Army of the Cumberland) under the command of Willliam S. Rosecrans
invaded the state from bases in Alabama and Tennessee. General Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee drove these men back to Chattanooga at the battle of Chickamauga. Bragg invested Chattanooga, trapping the Army of the Cumberland within the city. Rosecrans was relieved of duty. Under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant, and reenforced by General Joseph Hooker and William T. Sherman and their armies, The Army of the Cumberland broke the siege and drove the Confederate Army to Dalton, Georgia.
During the Atlanta Campaign, William Tecumseh Sherman, now commander of all western forces, drove General Joseph Johnston, the new commander of the Army of Tennessee to the city of Atlanta. After a two month long battle that saw Johnston relieved of duty and replaced by General John B. Hood, Sherman surrounded the city and forced Hood's retreat.
From south of Atlanta (Lovejoy Station), Hood move west to the Chattahoochee River, then north with a majority of Confederate troops in Georgia. Only Joseph Wheeler's cavalry and a small contigent of troops in Savannah remained.
Sherman gave chase to Hoo'd forces, but quickly realized that his efforts were futile. From Kingston, Georgia, he wired Grant, who was now overall commander of the Union forces, with a bold plan, now called The March to the Sea. His army destroyed Rome, Cassville, Cartersville, Etowah and tore up track from Dalton to Atlanta. As they passed Kennesaw Mountain men from this stronghold joined the march after burning Marietta. In Atlanta, he split his men into a Left Wing and Right Wing, with instructions to destroy railroads, burn depots and any structures usefull in war. The Right Wing headed towards Macon, the Left Wing towards Augusta. Turning south before Augusta and East before Macon, the two wings avoided inevitable battles for the cities. Sherman's forces met again near Sandersville, although the two wings marched on separate sides of the Ogeechee River.
After a 20 minute battle at Fort McAllister, Sherman reached the waiting Union Navy off the shore near Genesis Point. Savannah, which is often included in the March to the Sea was nothing more than a mopping up operation. General William Hardee had withdrawn all Confederate force the night before the city surrendered.