The last reported location of the Patterson Brothers (Robert and William) in December 1863 was as the Union army in the western theater was going into winter quarters in and around Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Union army remained in winter quarters until the beginning of May 1864.
Robert’s regiment, the 61st OVI, was asked in February 1864 to re-enlist for the remainder of the war. On February 21, 262 men re-enlisted and on February 25, 21 commissioned officers re-enlisted. This was a sufficient number for the regiment to receive its “Veteran” status and be furloughed home to Ohio for sixty days. On April 28, 1864, the regiment re-assembled at Camp Dennison, Ohio, and on the same day started for the front, reaching Chattanooga on May 5. It joined the main force of the Union army at Rocky Face Ridge, Georgia on May 7.
From a larger perspective, in March 1864 there was a major shift in direction for the Union army. On March 2, 1864 Ulysses S. Grant was appointed Lieutenant General by President Lincoln and assumed command of all Union armies in the field. With General Grant’s departure, Major General William T. Sherman assumed command of the Military Division of the Mississippi. General Sherman had three armies under his command in Tennessee — Major General George H. Thomas’s 72,900-man Army of the Cumberland, Major General James B. McPherson’s 24,000-man Army of the Tennessee, and Major General John M. Schofield’s 12,800 man Army of the Ohio.
The strategy developed by Generals Grant and Sherman in March 1864 was very simple. While General Grant moved against General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate forces in Virginia, General Sherman’s army was to break up General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate army in northern Georgia and prevent Johnston from sending reinforcements to Lee in Virginia. Sherman’s orders stated simply that he was to, “get into the interior of the enemy’s country as far as you can, inflicting all the damage you can against their war resources.” Atlanta was a Confederate logistical and industrial center with four major railroads. On May 7, 1864, General Sherman’s army began to move into Georgia and the “Atlanta Campaign” begins.