As spring arrived in 1862, the rains moved to Kentucky, letting the Virginia roads finally dry. Davis in a moment of weakness consulted his astrologer, after which he made the difficult decision to relieve Johnston of command, and Robert E. Lee was then appointed to the post he was destined for - the head of the Army of Northern Virginia. Butler, upon hearing that Lee was accompanied by two division of reinforcements sent Stoneman out to cut Lee's line of communication. Lee was not to be deterred, and immediately wired to Bragg in Richmond for assistance, who sent Longstreet out with an understrength division to defend a wagon train through the Blue Ridge mountains which would supply all the ammunition and hard tack Lee would need for his upcoming campaign.
Butler, as if seeing his strategy implemented in a magic mirror which improves the appearance of the viewer, was greatly chagrined to find J.E.B. Stuart sitting astride his main supply artery back through the Alleghenies, the hungry Confederate troopers, having found slim pickings in Grafton, now feasting on the coffee and bacon meant for the Union soldiers in Staunton. In order to keep his hungry soldiers from starving, Butler detached Sigel's XI Corps to reopen a new supply route. McDowell was also sent into Harpers ferry with a corps of green troops to provide some relief to his old army of Northeastern Virginia, but unlike the wary Johnston who may have regrouped to defend his lines of communication, Lee would not be distracted from his goal. Having heard rumors of his new opponent's aggressiveness, Lincoln ordered work on the D.C. fortifications accelerated.
Now seeing his opportunity to destroy the Union Army of Northeastern Virginia, Lee telegraphed Davis that he was heading out to confront Butler. Waiting anxiously, 5 days after receiving Lee's last dispatch the wire at last came in from Staunton. The Union army had been routed - Lee was victorious, and Staunton had been liberated. Upon hearing the news of the first major Confederate victory in Virginia, Davis and his cabinet raised a hearty cheer and broke out the good liquor. From that point on, Davis would not doubt his astrologer again, no matter how ridiculous her advice might seem.
Not one to miss an opportunity to turn a victory into a triumph, Lee pressed his army after Butler all the way to Covington, where, with the route of retreat headed of by Stewart, the remainder of the Army of Northeastern Virginia was this time utterly destroyed, surrendering in mass to Lee and Stewart after a frontal assault by Hood's division broke their line right in the center. After taking stock of their success, Lee gave a speech praising his soldiers for their gallantry and steadfastness, and gave his brave men a well-earned rest while preparing for his army's next move. Pope's division, seeing the danger posed by Lee's force, abandoned Lynchburg and headed southwest, hoping to do some more damage to the Confederate rails in Appalachia before heading back behind the Union lines, despite the fact that his soldiers were running low on food and ammunition.
Meanwhile, the shift in weather had left the Kentucky roads little more than bogs of mud. Hardee, after his fine performance in the Massacre of Munfordsville against Grant, was promoted and sent to help improve the defense at Fort Smith on the Mississippi south of Columbus.
Morgan began planning to cross the Ohio for a raid into the Union proper, but the swollen Ohio, and the inability to get any more support than some local militia into Henderton caused this plan to die on the drawing board. Johnston did march the Army of Tennessee to liberate the Kentucky capital, but this victory was bought at a grievous price. After taking almost 2 weeks to march 50 miles, Johnston was shot by a Union sharpshooter while arranging his troops in line of battle to assault the federal earthworks. The Confederate army easily won the ensuing battle against what turned out to be mostly local militia, but the loss of the Confederate general was to put an end to any more military maneuvers until the summer would arrive.
Grant was eager to prove himself after the previous month's fiasco in Kentucky, and came up with a plan for an amphibious assault which would lead to the capture of the jewel of the South - Charleston, South Carolina. With the battle of Staunton still a month in the future, and after watching McDowell, Butler, and McClellan stand idly by in the Eastern theater for almost a full year since the first campaign in the Shenandoah, Lincoln decided to give Grant another chance (when challenged by his Secretary of State for this decision, Lincoln responded - "I can't spare this man - he fights!")
The first step in this plan was a feint in the Deep South - Grant would gather a Corps on Ship Island outside Mobile, Alabama. This feint served its purpose admirably. Bragg dispatched Stonewall Jackson along with an entire Corps to deter Grant, and even to take back Mobile if that proved practicable, and the defenses at Fort Jackson were reinforced under the supervision of Pemberton. Unfortunately for Jackson, the Union engineers proved quicker than the Confederate railroads. By the time his full strength had arrived outside of Mobile, the Union under Thomas had constructed a near-impregnable fortification which Jackson was far to wise to throw his men against.
The Union Navy then carried Grant for a landing at Port Royal, southwest of the now depleted garrison at Charleston.
Grant quickly marched up to Charleston, capturing a score of heavy guns from the unsuspecting defenders and driving them off in hurried retreat, and immediately invested Fort Sumter.
Unlike the coastal forts outside Wilmington, Fort Sumter was manned my loyal Southerners to a man, and even after a full month of siege by Grant, with near-constant bombardment and food running low, the Stars and Bars still flew high over the ramparts. While these soldiers hoped for relief, they knew it would have to come by rail from hundreds of miles away, since the South Carolina militia and the rallied Charleston garrison had no hope of retaking Charleston by themselves. With provisions exhausted, and the soldiers forced to eat mules and rats, the commanding officer knew that if help didn't come soon, he'd soon have to strike the colors and give the fort to Grant.
In neighboring North Carolina, after dropping Grant at Port Royal, Farragut and the Navy returned to the Pamlico sound, where they brought Sumner to Beaufort. The slow Confederate ironclad Pamlico attempted to intercept, but the federals were too quick, and the town fell practically before the Confederate ship had worked up a full head of steam. The Union force invested Fort Macon, which surrendered after about two weeks of bombardment made clear that there was no help coming to their aid any time soon. Eager to capitalize on his success, Sumner attempted to push into New Bern, but suffered a bloody repulse at the well-entrenched North Carolina militia.
The Union Navy wasn't done yet. It also assisted in a lightning raid, capturing Frernandia, leaving Savannah as the only remaining Atlantic port open to Confederate blockade runners.
Seeing the problems this would create for the Southern cause, Davis sent Kirby Smith down to take control of a division recently sent by rail to Waresboro, Georgia to check the Union advances in Florida.
While Burnside was content to reside in Olustee, enjoying the pleasant spring weather, Smith wasted no time in liberating first Brunswick,
and then Fernandia, on a march directly toward Jacksonville. However, worried about being caught unprepared between Burnside and the federal Navy, Smith moved cautiously, making sure to maintain a highly defensible position along his march, rather than rushing into Jacksonville and risking a crushing defeat. His caution would end up costing him more than he could imagine at this point.
Out past the Mississippi in Missouri, things were relatively quiet. Hindman was placed in command of the department, and began construction of what would eventually be the most impressive fortification in the Confederacy down at his headquarters in Little Rock.
Curtis marched down to attempt to cut Van Dorn's supply. Van Dorn wanted badly to attack, but was under strict orders from Hindman to avoid a general engagement and to instead strike out at Curtis's lines of supply. This he hid, fortifying outside of Wayneville, but to little effect, as Curtis had brought hundreds of full wagons with him on this campaign - easily enough to maintain him through a protracted siege of Springfield.
With the warm weather and dry roads of summer coming, Lee began planning where the Army of Northern Virginia would strike next, while Davis wondered who would be fit to take up command and complete the liberation of Kentucky, and also if there was any possible way that Grant could be stopped in South Carolina. With these thoughts in his mind, the Confederate President went once more to visit his astrologer...