Western Theater of the Civil War

Western Theater Overview (1861–1865) (red=confederate, blue=union) Map courtesy of Wikipedia.

Defined both geographically and by campaign sequence, the Western Theater originally represented the area east of the Mississippi River and west of the Appalachian Mountains. However, the area expanded in 1864 when Major General William T. Sherman’s Union armies moved southeast from ChattanoogaTennessee, into Georgia and the Carolinas. By some accounts, these campaigns were the most important of the Civil War, where a number of decisive battles were fought. When the Union invaded this immense area, the Confederacy was forced to defend with limited resources, major rivers that led directly to the agricultural heartland of the South. Starting in Kentucky and heading south down the Mississippi River, the Union then turned east through Tennessee, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Capturing the Mississippi River was a major turning point for the Union, and with the exception of just a few battles, the four years in the Western Theater marked a string of almost continuous defeats for the Confederacy.

Major Union commanders in the Western Theater included Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, Major General Henry W. Halleck, Major General William T. Sherman, Major General George H. Thomas, Major General Don Carlos Buell, and Major General William Rosecrans. The Confederate troops were led by General Albert Sidney Johnston, General P.G.T. Beauregard, General Joseph E. Johnston, General Braxton Bragg, Lieutenant General John Bell Hood, and Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Western Theater Campaigns

Operations in Eastern Kentucky – September-December 1861

Barbourville, Kentucky
Camp Wildcat, Kentucky
Ivy Mountain, Kentucky
Rowlett’s Station, Kentucky

Federal forces commanded by Ulysses S. Grant assault Confederate forces commanded by Leonidas Polk at Belmont, Missouri, November 7, 1861.

Operations at the Ohio and Mississippi River Confluence – November 1861

Belmont, Missouri

Operations in Eastern Kentucky – January 1862

Middle Creek, Kentucky
Mill Springs, Kentucky

Federal Penetration up the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers – February-June 1862

Fort Henry, Tennessee
Fort Donelson, Tennessee
Shiloh, Tennessee

Joint Operations Against New Madrid, Island No. 10, and Memphis – February-June 1862

New Madrid, Missouri
Island No. 10, Missouri
Plum Run Bend, Tennessee
Memphis, Tennessee

Battle of Chattanooga, L. Prang and Co, 1880

Battle of Chattanooga, L. Prang and Co, 1880

Confederate Heartland Offensive – June-October 1862

Chattanooga, Tennessee
Murfreesborough, Tennessee
Richmond, Kentucky
Munfordville, Kentucky
Perryville, Kentucky

Iuka and Corinth Operations – September-October 1862

Siege of Corinth, Mississippi
Iuka, Mississippi
Corinth, Mississippi
Hatchie’s Bridge, Tennessee

Battle of Stone River, TN, -Dec. 31, 62. Jan. 2-3, 1863, Kurtz and Allison, 1891

Stones River Campaign – December 1862-January 1863)

Hartsville, Tennessee
Stones River, Tennessee

Forrest’s Expedition into West Tennessee – December 1862-January 1863

Lexington, Tennessee
Jackson, Tennessee
Trenton, Tennessee
Parker’s Cross Roads, Tennessee

Operations Against Vicksburg – December 1862-January 1863

Chickasaw Bayou, Mississippi
Arkansas Post, Arkansas


Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi

Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, by Kurz & Allison, 1888.

Grant’s Operations Against Vicksburg – March-July, 1863

Grand Gulf, Mississippi
Snyder’s Bluff, Mississippi
Port Gibson, Mississippi
Raymond, Mississippi
Jackson, Mississippi
Champion Hill, Mississippi
Big Black River Bridge, Mississippi
Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi
Milliken’s Bend, Mississippi
Goodrich’s Landing, Louisiana
Helena, Arkansas

Middle Tennessee Operations – February-April, 1863

Dover, Tennessee
Thompson’s Station, Tennessee
Vaught’s Hill, Tennessee
Brentwood, Tennessee
Franklin, Tennessee

Streight’s Raid in Alabama – April 1863

Day’s Gap, Alabama

Tullahoma or Middle Tennessee Campaign – June 1863

Hoover’s Gap, Tennessee

Morgan’s Raid in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio – July 1863

Corydon, Indiana
Buffington Island, Ohio
Salineville, Ohio

Battle of Chickamauga

Battle of Chickamauga by Kurz & Allison, 1890.

Chickamauga Campaign – August-September, 1863 

Chattanooga, Tennessee
Davis’ Cross-RoadsGeorgia
Chickamauga, Georgia

East Tennessee Campaign – September-October, 1863

Blountsville, Tennessee
Blue Springs, Tennessee

Reopening the Tennessee River – October 1863

Wauhatchie, Tennessee

Memphis and Charleston Railroad

Operations on the Memphis & Charleston Railroad – November 1863

Collierville, Tennessee – October 11, 1863
Collierville, Tennessee – November 3, 1863

Chattanooga-Ringgold Campaign – November 1863

Orchard Knob, Tennessee
Lookout Mountain, Tennessee
Missionary Ridge, Tennessee
Ringgold Gap, Georgia

Longstreet’s Knoxville Campaign – November-December, 1863

Campbell’s Station, Tennessee
Siege of Knoxville, Tennessee
Fort Sanders, Tennessee
Bean’s Station, Tennessee

Operations about Dandridge – December 1863-January 1864

Mossy Creek, Tennessee
Dandridge, Tennessee
Fair Garden, Tennessee

Operations in North Alabama – January 1864

Athens, Alabama

Meridian Campaign – February 1864

Meridian, Mississippi
Okolona, Mississippi

Demonstration on Dalton – February 1864

Dalton, Georgia

Fort Pillow Massacre, Tennessee

Fort Pillow Massacre, Tennessee

Forrest’s Expedition into West Tennessee and Kentucky – March-April, 1864

Paducah, Kentucky
Fort Pillow, Tennessee

Battle of Atlanta, Georgia

Battle of Atlanta, July 22, 1864, by Kurz & Allison,1888.

Atlanta Campaign (May-September 1864)

The Atlanta Campaign followed the Union victory in the Battles for Chattanooga in November 1863. When Chattanooga, known as the “Gateway to the South,” was captured, it opened the gateway. After Ulysses S. Grant was promoted to general-in-chief of all Union armies, he left General William T. Sherman in charge of the Western armies. Grant’s strategy was to apply pressure against the Confederacy in several coordinated offensives. While he and other generals advanced in Virginia against Robert E. Lee, and General Nathaniel Banks attempted to capture Mobile, Alabama, Sherman was assigned the mission of defeating Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston’s army, capturing Atlanta, and striking through Georgia and the Confederate heartland.

The campaign consisted of a series of battles fought in the Western Theater throughout northwest Georgia and the area around Atlanta during the summer of 1864. Union Major General William T. Sherman invaded Georgia from the vicinity of Chattanooga, Tennessee, beginning in May 1864. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee withdrew toward Atlanta in the face of successive flanking maneuvers by Sherman’s group of armies. In July, Confederate President Jefferson Davis replaced Johnston with the more aggressive John Bell Hood, who began challenging the Union Army in a series of damaging frontal assaults. Hood’s army was eventually besieged in Atlanta, and the city fell on September 2, 1864, setting the stage for Sherman’s March to the Sea and hastening the end of the war.

The Union victory resulted in estimated casualties and losses of 31,687 Union, including 4,423 killed, 22,822 wounded, and 4,442 missing or captured. Confederate casualties were estimated at 34,979, which included 3,044 killed, 18,952 wounded, and 12,983  missing or captured.


Rocky Face Ridge, Georgia
Resaca, Georgia
Adairsville, Georgia
Dallas, Georgia
Pickett’s Mill, Georgia
Marietta, Georgia
Kolb’s Farm, Georgia
Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia
Peachtree Creek, Georgia
Atlanta, Georgia
Ezra Church, Georgia
Utoy Creek, Georgia
Dalton II, Georgia
Lovejoy’s Station, Georgia
Jonesborough, Georgia

Morgan’s Raid into Kentucky – June 1864

Cynthiana, Kentucky

Confederate Major General Nathan B. Forrest’s raid on Memphis on August 21, 1864, by Harper’s Weekly.

Forrest’s Defense of Mississippi – June-August, 1864

Brice’s Cross Roads, Mississippi (June 10, 1864)
Tupelo, Mississippi (July 14-15, 1864)
Memphis, Tennessee (August 21, 1864)

Franklin-Nashville Campaign – September-December, 1864

Allatoona, Georgia
Decatur, Alabama
Columbia, Tennessee
Spring Hill, Tennessee
Franklin, Tennessee
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Nashville, Tennessee

Burbridge’s Raid into Southwest Virginia – October 1864

Saltville, Virginia

Breckenridge’s Advance into East Tennessee – November 1864

Bull’s Gap, Tennessee

Savannah Campaign – November-December, 1864

Griswoldville, Georgia
Buck Head Creek, Georgia
Honey Hill, South Carolina
Waynesborough, Georgia
Fort McAllister II, Georgia

Stoneman’s Raid into Southwest Virginia – December 1864

Marion, Virginia
Saltville, Virginia

Campaign of the Carolinas – February-April 1865 

Rivers’ Bridge, South Carolina
Wyse Fork, North Carolina – March 7-10, 1865
Monroe’s Cross, North Carolina – March 10, 1865
Averasborough, North Carolina – March 16, 1865
Bentonville, North Carolina – March 19-21, 1865

Mobile Campaign – March-April, 1865

Spanish Fort, Alabama
Fort Blakely, Alabama
Mobile Bay, Alabama

Wilson’s Raid in Alabama and Georgia – April 1865

Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Ebenezer Church, Alabama
Selma, Alabama
Munford, Alabama

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated June 2021.

Also See:

The Civil War

Eastern Theater of the Civil War

Civil War Trans-Mississippi Theater

Lower Seaboard Theater & Gulf Approach

War & Military