The year 1864 opened to a mixed military picture. In the American Civil War’s western theater, Union forces had won a string of victories, securing the Mississippi River and much of Tennessee. In the east, the Army of the Potomac, led by Major General George G. Meade, had rebuffed General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg but had achieved little of significance since then. Profound war weariness gripped the Northern populace. It was an election year, and President Abraham Lincoln rightfully questioned whether voters would give him a second term. Unless Federal armies won victories, the presidential race seemed destined to favor an opposition candidate willing to negotiate with the South, enabling the Rebels to achieve through political means the ends that had eluded them by force of arms.