Since Christmas, I have spent some of my spare time watching my way through 48 half hour lectures presented by Gary Gallagher on the Civil War, part of The Great Courses series. This course was produced back in 2000.
I have gotten all the way to Lecture 43 - Mobile Bay and Atlanta. Gallagher starts off the lecture with his opinion that Northern morale bottomed out during the summer of 1864. He also asks some intriguing questions as part of the lecture 43 entry in the supplemental course guidebook:
1. Do you believe the Northern people should have been so pessimistic in July and August?
2. Should the Atlanta Campaign outrank Gettysburg in terms of its influence on the course of the war?
To these questions, I would add my own: what period was the darkest of the war for the Northern people?
The floor is open. I'll respond with my own thoughts soon.