Civil War Timeline: 1865
January 1865January 1, 1865
he ever-colorful Edward O. Guerrant observes, “The ‘Old Year’ froze to death last night. Tho’ many years older than he, I nearly froze myself. It was an awful cold night for anybody to lay out of doors. No wonder it died.”
Confederate artillerist Henry Robinson Berkeley notes the transition from one year to the next: “The old year is gone with all its hopes, sorrows, losses, trials, dangers, sufferings, deaths, bloody battles and still more bloody heartaches and anxieties. Farewell, Old Year. Thou art gone, and with thee, many a noble and brave soldier. . . . Alas, when will all this stop? The future looks gloomy, and almost hopeless, I wonder if I shall live to see 1866. I do not believe I shall. May God give me grace to do my whole duty to Him, my fellow man and to my country.”
As he contemplates another year in the field, Emerson Opdycke is encouraged: “Peace seems to me not only possible but probably, during the next few months. I do not beleive the Confederacy can long survive the disasters that have overtaken it in 1864. Its R.R. communications are cut and many of them wholly destroyed, its armies are scattered all but one and its men all dead or in the army while our resources in men and means seem exhaustless. Victory crowns our arms and slavery is dying.”
Confederate war clerk John B. Jones offers his view on an embattled Jefferson Davis:
“The President is considered really a man of ability, and eminently qualified to preside over the Confederate States, if independence were attained and we had peace. But he is probably not equal to the role he is now called to play. He has not the broad intellect requisite for the gigantic measures needed in such a crisis, nor the health and physique for the labors devolving on him. . . .
Jones notes the disaffection in the ranks of many long-standing politicians. “Nearly all desire to see Gen. Lee at the head of affairs; and the President is resolved to yield the position to no man during his term of service. Nor would Gen. Lee take it.”
After cataloging briefly the recent developments as he understands them from the Trans-Mississippi, William Henry King concludes: “I suppose we may regard this as the first round in the ladder of descent—a pretty long stride.”
The Grant and Sherman connection could not be closer, as “Ulys.” explains to his wife, Julia:
“Sherman’s letter shows how noble a man he is. How few there are who when rising to popular favor as he now is would stop to say a word in defence of the only one between himself and the highest in command. I am glad to say that I appreciated Sherman from the first feeling him to be what he has proven to the world he is.”January 2, 1865
J.B. Jones finds a despondent James Seddon awaiting when he comes to work at the War Office: “The Secretary had his head between his knees before the fire when I first went in this morning. Affairs are gloomy enough—and the question is how Richmond and Virginia shall be saved.”
President Abraham Lincoln reacts to calls for the controversial Benjamin Butler to be sent to Kentucky:
“You howled when Butler went to New Orleans. Others howled when he was removed from that command. Somebody has been howling ever since at his assignment to military command. How long will it be before you, who are howling for his assignment to rule Kentucky, will be howling to me to remove him?January 3, 1865
War Clerk Jones notes that with renewed threats to the Confederate hold on Wilmington, N.C., as a transit point for supplies, speculators are beginning to buy remaining quantities of already scarce commodities, such as coffee and sugar, to drive up prices in the capital.
Ned Guerrant has found better accommodations with the family of a local doctor in the area of Wytheville, in Southwest Virginia:
“Had a good joke on the cold weather last night, for when he poked his icicle fingers under my single blanket, in the rail shanty, it wasn’t me he felt, I was ‘non est inventus,’ but rolled up in Mrs. Snead’s feather bed. This weather has revived my old attachment to feathers, which had nearly died out in my new manner of life.”January 4, 1865
Major General Alfred Terry loads troops in Virginia for transport to North Carolina, and another crack at stubbornly-held Fort Fisher.January 5, 1865
Still in Savannah, Ga., William T. Sherman is feeling gratified at the part he has played in the war, as he explains to wife, Ellen:
“If the honors profered and tendered me from all quarters are of any value they will accrue to you & the children. John writes that I am in every body’s mouth and that even he is Known as my brother, and that all the Shermans are now feted as relations of me. . . . I do think that in the Several Grand Epochs of this war my name will bear a prominent part, and not least among them will be the determination I took at Atlanta to destroy that place & march on this City, whilst Thomas my Lieutenant should dispose of Hood. The idea, the execution and Strategy are all good and will in time be understood. . . . The quiet preperation I made before the Atlanta Campaign, the rapid movement on Resaca, the crossing the Chattahoochee without loss in the face of a skillful General with a good army—the movement on Jonesboro, whereby Atlanta fell, and the resolution I made to divide my army, with one part to take Savannah and the other to meet Hood in Tennessee are all clearly mine, and will survive us both in History.”
As is his wont, War Clerk Jones broaches numerous topics in his diary, including a proposal to obtain recruits in the far southwest. He explains that the President and the Secretary of War differ on the question of the propriety for such efforts, given the likely need for all Trans-Mississippi men to be transferred to “this side of the river.” Davis also hopes that steps might still be undertaken to “enlist the Indian tribes on our side also.”January 6, 1865
More humorous, if unsettling, is the rumor that one member of the Confederate Congress has defected to the North: “He considered the difference between Davis and Lincoln as ‘between tweedledum and tweedledee.’”
Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas is feeling the press of recent events. “No positive news of Sherman’s intentions. Indications are that Charleston, too, will be given up. Where is this to end? No money in the Treasury, no food to feed Gen. Lee’s Army, no troops to oppose Gen. Sherman, what does it all mean. . . . Is the cause really hopeless? Is it to be abandoned and lost in this way?”January 7, 1865
Gorgas has come to the conclusion that Jefferson Davis is not capable of handling the executive duties: “When I see the President trifle away precious hours & idle discussion & discursive comment, I feel as tho’ he were not equal to his great task. And yet where could we get a better or a wiser man? Where, indeed!”
The colorful and controversial career of Benjamin Franklin Butler has reached a conclusion as orders proceed for his removal as commander of the Union Department of Virginia and North Carolina. He has been a pariah in Southern circles, but deemed to be politically expedient. But, in the wake of a successful re-election and the increasing likelihood that some kind of national reconciliation, if not reconstruction, will be required, Butler’s services are no longer required. Besides, he has bungled at Fort Fisher and lost whatever confidence he might have had with Ulysses Grant.January 8, 1865
Robert G.H. Kean has recovered from an illness, but finds the state of his nation deplorable, with numerous “arrearages” in various governmental departments and a Congress groping for answers and solutions, prompting the usual expedient of a joint committee for investigating matters. Kean notes, “The Secretary of War talks of resigning. He has lost his chance to do so with credit as he might have done last summer at any time. Now, under the Tennessee ruin, the march of Sherman, the break down of subsistence, the responsibility for which is largely thrown upon him . . . he would go out covered with odium, a large part of which belongs to others.”January 9, 1865
Tennessee’s Constitutional Convention adopts a measure that will abolish slavery within its borders, subject to voter ratification.January 10, 1865
Heated rhetoric marks the debate on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives over a proposed Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. While some maintain that slavery must go, the colorful New York figure, Fernando Wood, summarizes the arguments of many opponents of the measure: “The Almighty has fixed the distinction of the races; the Almighty mas made the black man inferior, and, sir, by no legislation, by no partisan success, by no revolution, by no military power, can you wipe out this distinction. You may make the black man free, but when you have done that what have you done?”January 11, 1865
In Beverly, West Virginia, a raid by Thomas L. Rosser produces an embarrassing setback for the Union, that includes the loss of 580 prisoners and other property, as well as 28 casualties in the blue ranks.
J.B. Jones reports: “Some $40,000 worth of provisions, belonging to speculators, but marked for a naval bureau and the Mining and Niter Bureau, have been seized at Danville. This is well—if it be not too late.”
No amount of martial success or rank can protect Ulysses Grant entirely from some of the missiles aimed in his direction. To wife, Julia:
“I receive all your letters. Some of them are rather cross.—Love and kisses for you and the children.”January 12, 1865
In Richmond, Francis P. Blair, Sr. sits with Jefferson Davis to gauge the possibilities for bringing the war to a close. The long-standing Democratic Party stalwart hopes to find some means of reaching an agreement that can be acceptable to North and South. But, Davis remains adamant that “the two countries” will have to arrive at it, re-emphasizing his insistence upon Confederate independence.
In South Carolina, Emma LeConte awaits the potential approach of Union forces with a degree of trepidation, even as defenders of the state appear in the streets:
“Troops have been passing through Columbia for some days and I feel a little safer, though if Joe Johnston is put in command, we had as well pack up and prepare to run. He will certainly execute one of his ‘masterly retreats’ from the coast back to Virginia, and leave us at Sherman’s mercy.”
From Bermuda, U.S. consul Charles M. Allen informs Secretary of State Henry Seward of the state of affairs in the new year, including continuing efforts at Confederate covert activities, as well as his own attempts to assist escaping U.S. prisoners of war.
“It has come to my knowledge that several rebel conspirators left here last Saturday in the steamer City of Petersburgh for Halifax. The principal of the gang passed here by the name of Wood, his real name is Joseph E. Hunt, a resident of Savannah, Georgia. I have no doubt he took from here $22,000 in British gold to aid in carrying forward his schemes. I have sent his description so definitely that he cannot fail to be recognized to the Collector of Customs at New York. . . .
There is a large number of destitute refugees here from the rebel states who seek my aid. Almost every vessel that runs the blockade brings some, and not infrequently Union soldiers who have been captured and escaped come here by secreting themselves on board the blockade running steamers. Where I have evidence to believe they are not imposters, I have assisted them while here, and in many cases paid their passage to New York.”January 13, 1865
A Federal fleet unleashes a furious bombardment against the Confederate earthworks that constitute Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, N.C. Vessels of all types pummel the defenders, testing the mettle of the men attempting to hold those works against the increasing pressure.
John Bell Hood is no longer commander of the Army of Tennessee.
J.B. Jones notes the incongruity of leadership in Richmond while prices of certain commodities continue to remain exorbitant:
“Beef (what little there is in the market) sells to-day at $6 per pound; meal, $80 per bushel; white beans, $5 per quart, or $160 per bushel. And yet Congress is fiddling over stupid abstractions!”
From his imprisonment at Johnson’s Island, John Dooley records the plight of a recent transfer to the facility who is in a wretched condition and asks to work for scraps from their mess.
“His very look and piteous tone told a tale of misery and starvation . . . we told him that he might have all we could possibly spare, but that he should not do any work for us in payment; but he replied that unless we permitted him to do some work for us he could not accept of the food & insisted so strongly and urgently that we consented for his own gratification to permit him to assist occasionally in bringing water. He appears to be a good, honest, simple hearted man. . . and is one of the gallant Georgians who have done so much and suffered more to stay the foul footstep of the Yankee invaders.”January 14, 1865
Union naval forces continue to pound Fort Fisher, producing casualties and damage, as well as inflicting severe psychological stress among the harried defenders.
President Lincoln responds to a telegraphic message from Tennessee’s current executive officer and vice president-elect, Andrew Johnson, noting that a state convention has adopted a measure abolishing slavery and declaring, “Thank God that the tyrants rod has been broken.” Lincoln’s thanks for the action include a desire for Johnson to come to Washington. “Would be glad to have your suggestions as to supplying your place of Military Governor.”January 15, 1865
Fort Fisher again becomes the target of Union efforts to assail and capture it as naval and marine forces converge against the plucky defenders. Hard fighting marks this last endeavor as Federal forces finally succeed in entering the works and subduing the defenders. Some 500 of the 1,900 Confederate defenders are casualties, including Colonel William Lamb and Major General William H.C. Whiting. Union losses stand at 266 killed, 1,018 wounded and 57 missing, but the stubborn Southern citadel has fallen. Wilmington, N.C. is no longer open as a port for Confederate blockade-running.
Josiah Gorgas continues in a gloomy mood. “In this dark hour of our struggle there is of course strong feeling against the administration for having mismanaged our affairs. This must be expected in adversity.”
The orator who had been the featured speaker at the cemetery dedication at Gettysburg, Pa., and once graced the ticket of the Constitutional Union Party as its vice presidential candidate in 1860 has died in Boston. Edward Everett is seventy-one at the time of his passing.January 16, 1865
Francis P. Blair, Sr. is back in Washington to report to Abraham Lincoln what his Confederate counterpart has said.
Tragedy strikes at Fort Fisher, where an accidental discharge in the powder magazine rocks the works and produces 104 casualties among the Union victors: 25 killed, 66 wounded and 13 missing.
The Confederates abandon nearby Fort Caswell and other defensive works, now that Fort Fisher is in Union hands.January 17, 1865
Jefferson Davis continues to scramble to try to locate troops to defend South Carolina now that Sherman appears poised to move in her direction, including calling upon the combative governor of Georgia, Joe Brown, for help for his neighbors to the north.January 18, 1865
Ulysses Grant tells Henry Halleck that he has learned that General Beauregard is hoping to use the remnants of Hood’s army to challenge Sherman and considers Selma and Montgomery, Al., consequently uncovered. But he remains skeptical concerning George Thomas’s abilities to launch an aggressive campaign:
“I do not believe though that Thomas will ever get there from the north. He is too ponderous in his preparations and equipments to move through a country rapidly enough to live off it. . . .
These I give as views—What I would order, is, that Gen. Canby be furnished cavalry horses and be directed to prepare to commence a campaign, and that Thomas be telegraphed to see what he could do—and when, and get his views upon the choice of routes, looking upon Selma as his objective point. Thomas must make a campaign, or spare his surplus troops.”
Josiah Gorgas observes: “A distinguished Virginian, Mr. [J.P.] Holcombe, tells me there is a strong disposition among members of congress to make terms with the enemy, on the basis of the old Union, feeling that we cannot carry on the war any longer with hope of success. Wife & I sit talking of going to Mexico to live out there the remainder of our days.”
President Lincoln replies to overtures for peace being brought to him through Francis Blair, Sr. “Your having shown me Mr. Davis’ letter to you of the 12th Inst., you may say to him that I have constantly been, am now, and shall continue, ready to receive any agent whom he, or any other influential person now resisting the national authority, may informally send to me, with the view of securing peace to the people of our one common country.”January 19, 1865
Abraham Lincoln takes a moment to compose a personal note to General Grant concerning, his own son’s future:
“Please read and answer this letter as though I was not President, but only a friend. My son, now in his twenty second year, having graduated at Harvard, wishes to see something of the war before it ends. . . Could he, without embarrassment to you or detriment to the service, go into your military family with some nominal rank, I, and not the public, furnishing his necessary means? If no, say so without the least hesitation, because I am as anxious and as deeply interested that you shall not be encumbered as you can be yourself.”
John B. Jones notes: “The House of Representatives (in secret session) has passed the Senate joint resolution creating the office of commander-in-chief (for Gen. Lee), and recommending that Gen. Johnston be reinstated, etc. It passed by a vote of 62 to 14.”
Guerrant has a “new overcoat” brought over from Bristol, Virginia, by a person who returns “by dinner.” For the warrior, this represents odd timing: “You never knew a soldier to come after dinner, always before dinner.” Of his apparel, he explains: “$100.00 ‘Damages’ (to use the popular phrase) for sewing it up. Am at least $100 (C.S.A.) wiser. Shall make my own coats after this, or go without, or marry a tailor.”
Confederate prisoner Dooley notes the discussion among his comrades of potentially “galvanizing:”
“There is a question open for discussion among many of the prisoners here as to whether it be right and just to take the oath to the Yankee government and afterward when an opportunity occurs, return to the ranks of the Confederacy—because, say some, we are placed under a kind of necessity. It is life or death with us—we will be kept here and our lives are being daily sacrificed by our enemies and in a case of life and death we may say that we are even forced to take this oath, but are not compelled to observe that which we have been obliged to promise under pain of death. . . . But I think we had better bide our time and take our chances: the present gloom may soon be dispelled and none of us, I am sure, would in after years feel altogether comfortable, were we to have our violated oath constantly before our eyes and upon our conscience.”January 20, 1865
From Huntsville, Alabama, Emerson Odycke observes optimistically: “We are all rejoicing over the good news from Fort Fisher. The final crush seems to be drawing near.”January 21, 1865
Rumors reach Emma LeConte that Lee’s army may evacuate Virginia and pull back to South Carolina. “That would be safer for us, but who could endure the idea of giving up Richmond! Glorious old Richmond, that we have been defending so long—to fall after all those battles—that would be the darkest, darkest days of all.”
William T. Sherman prepares to move his command out of the vicinity of Savannah, Ga., with his sights set on South Carolina.
Cump Sherman also continues to cultivate the friendship of his superior, Ulysses Grant:
“I have been told that congress meditates a bill to make another Lt. Gen. for me. I have written to John to stop it if it is designed for me. It would be mischievous, for there are enough rascals who would try to sow differences, whereas you & I now are in perfect understanding. I would rather have you in Command than anybody for you are fair, honest, and have at heart the Same purpose that Should animate all. I should Emphatically decline any Commission Calculated to bring us into rivalry, and I ask you to advise all your friends in Congress to this Effect. . . .”
Grant still mulls over the degree to which he considers George Thomas capable of concluding affairs against Hood’s remnant: “He is possessed of excellent judgement, great coolness and honesty, but he is not good on a pursuit.”
General Grant also informs President Lincoln that he will be pleased to find Robert Lincoln a place “in my Military family in the manner you propose.”
From near Richmond, Alvin Voris observes, “Fort Fisher is ours but it cost us terribly. I see in the list of Officers killed quite a number of valuable men. But this is the price of our success. The loss of Wilmington is a severe blow to the rebels, the most damaging of the war save the taking of New Orleans. I have no doubt but that we will be able to completely blockade the port of Wilmington & thereby to a great extent stop the blockade runners from access to the South.”January 22, 1865
Activity sparks in Arkansas, near Little Rock.
On a wet and cold day at Johnson’s Island, John Dooley remarks on the conditions he and his comrades are experiencing in Northern prisoner of war camps:
“There is continual suffering among the prisoners. Many go to the slop barrels and garbage piles to gather from the refuse a handful of revolting food. And the Yankees cry out concerning the ill treatment and starvation of their prisoners in the South, although it is well known that they receive the best we can give and equal rations with those of our own soldiers; whereas they not only do not give us equal rations or one fourth of what they can afford, but openly assert that they do not do so in order to retaliate upon us for the sufferings of their prisoners in the south. . . .”January 23, 1865
President Davis signs into law legislation that provides for a General-in-Chief of the Confederate Armies.
Lieutenant General Richard Taylor assumes command of the Army of Tennessee.
Despite occasionally cool relations, Grant reacts strongly to the possibility that the Senate has not advanced George Meade to the rank of major general in the regular army, as it has for George Thomas and William T. Sherman. The army commander explains to Military Affairs Chair Henry Wilson:
“I have been with Gen. Meade during the whole campaign, and not only made the recommendation upon a conviction that this recognition of his services was fully won, but that he was eminently qualified for the command such rank would entitle him to—
I know Gen. Meade well. What the objections raised to his confirmation are, I do not know. Did I know, I would address myself directly to these objections—”
Consul Allen reports to Secretary Seward details of the vessels that have made a run for the Confederacy, but the Owl, under John Maffitt, has come back with unsettling news for the Southern cause.
“The Owl returned on the morning of the 20th having on the night of Sunday the 15th communicated witf Fort Caswell where they were informed Fort Fisher had been captured and they at Fort Caswell were to surrender the next day. Several other steamers were about to leave here when the Owlreturned. Upon the receipt of the information by the Owl, business was nearly suspended and had they known the Islands were to sink in twenty-four hours, there could hardly have been greater consternation. The blockade runners and their aiders feel their doom is sealed, undoubtedly some of them will go from here to Havana thinking to run to Galveston.”January 24, 1865
Nathan Bedford Forrest assumes command of the cavalry in the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana. He also has authority in the District of Mississippi, East Louisiana and West Tennessee.
The Confederate James River Squadron attempts to descend the namesake river from Richmond to threaten the massive Union supply complex at City Point, but the difficulties of navigating the waterway prove too great. The ebb of the tidal James undermines the effort, costing the Confederacy the armed tender Drewry, when she runs aground and has to be abandoned. The torpedo boat Scorpion is lost as well, and the battle of Trent’s Reach comes to a close as Union forces return a destructive fire in terms of damage if not in loss of life.
Ulysses Grant responds to the threat on the James by insisting, “It would be better to obstruct the channel of the river with sunken Gunboats than that a rebel ram should reach City Point.”
Ned Guerrant responds to news on other fronts as it reaches him:
“Found papers up to 17h. Fort Fisher has fallen, & port of Wilmington closed. We are now for the first time effectually cut off from the rest of the world, as completely isolated as ever ‘Robinson Crusoe’ or any other man was.
‘Good bye vain world.’
We are now shut up to our own resources, with calico & crinoline subjects only of recollection. . . .
Beast Butler put out & sent home. Quarreled with Admiral Porter about being whipped at Fort Fisher. We hand him over to his relative in ‘Revelations.’”
Guerrant notes the news of the visit of Frank Blair to Richmond. “Gen. James W. Singleton, M.C. from Ill., a Peace Democrat, has also been to see Jeff. Davis recently. They needn’t talk to Jeff. about Peace without Independence. No reconstruction.”
Robert Kean welcomes a personal visit with William Cabel Rives, who shares, confidentially, the essence of a long and frank conversation the latter has had recently with President Davis. Davis seems to be impressed with the dire circumstances of the nation and willing to negotiate with the Lincoln administration on ending the war. “At the same time Rives (A.L.) showed me a copy of a letter from General Lee to Mr. Andrew Hunter on the subject of negro enlistment, at the sentiments of which I was astonished. He favors emancipation per se; advocates large enlistments accompanied by the promise of prospective emancipation of the families of the negro soldier as a reward of good conduct; overlooks entirely all the difficulties, legal, constitutional and physical; and urges that the negroes be enlisted at once.”January 25, 1865
Grant reports to Secretary of War Stanton on recent Confederate water-borne activity in Virginia, with a swipe at Union commander William A. Parker:
“Present danger from the Rebel Navy in the James River is at an end and I will take care that there shall be none in the future. With a proper Naval commander, and the fleet there at his disposal there should have been no cause for apprehension.”
Emma LeConte is buoyed by news that England and France might yet intervene on behalf of the Confederacy. She knows that such rumors have come and gone before, only for her to be, “disappointed and lured on to false hopes by that will-o-the-wisp ‘Recognition’ and ‘Intervention,’ yet there are some circumstances that lend a slight colouring of possible truth to this rumor.”
The Confederate flag flies over Melbourne, Australia, as the Shenandoah, calls at port.
From his imprisonment in Camp Chase, Ohio, Preston Sheffey writes his wife, “My own unfortunate imprisonment (for few worse misfortunes than capture can befall a soldier) is of little moment compared with the welfare of those I love. It can be easily borne as long as I have good news from home, country and friends. The news we generally get now is, horribly bad, and fills us with anxiety.
My health is very good. But my homesickness does not get better as I grow older. Already chronic, none but those renowned physicians; Patience and Fortitude, can manage it. Our spirits rise & fall like stocks on Wall Street.”
Josiah Gorgas rallies from his fit of despair. “I have outlived my momentary depression, & feel my courage revive when I think of the brave army in front of us, sixty thousand strong. As long as Lee’s army remains intact there is no cause for despondency. As long as it holds true we need not fear.”January 26, 1865
John B. Jones now finds beef selling at $8 per pound and laments that having expended his store of wood ($150 per cord), he is reduced to using coal to “to do my little cooking,” concluding dramatically, “This is famine!”January 27, 1865
General Lee remains worried about desertion in his ranks, calling its frequency alarming.” He also deplores the limited resources, labeling the troops rations “too small for men who have to undergo so much exposure and labor as ours.”January 28, 1865
Jefferson Davis authorizes three individuals to treat with the Federal government on the question of ending the war. These include his troublesome, but smart vice president, Alexander H. Stephens, former U.S. Supreme Court justice John A. Campbell and former Confederate secretary of state, Robert M.T. Hunter.
Emma LeConte confides in her diary:
“How dreadfully sick I am of this war. Truly we girls, whose lot it is to grow up in these times, are unfortunate! It commenced when I was thirteen, and I am now seventeen and no prospect yet of its ending. No pleasure, no enjoyment—nothing but rigid economy and hard work—nothing but the stern realities of life. These which should come later are made familiar to us at an age when only gladness should surround us.”January 29, 1865
Sherman to Grant: “I think the Poor White trash of the South are falling out of their Ranks by sickness, desertion and every other available means; but there is a large class of vindictive southerns who will fight to the last. The Squabbles in Richmond, the howls in Charleston, and the disintegration elsewhere, are all good omens to us, but we must not relax one iota, but on the Contrary pile up our efforts.”January 30, 1865
Alvin Voris still feels that the Confederacy will not so easily quit the war, despite the increasing evidence that continuation of the conflict will only result in additional suffering for the South: “They are too strong yet to feel like submission. Yet they must see the inevitable consequences of a protracted prosecution of the war. We can conquer them and they know it. They last year relied on the want of harmony in the North and the events of our presidential election for peace. Now they have neither foreign hope nor distraction in our councils to encourage them. We mean war, unyielding and irresistible, and with our means we can make it so & they begin to feel it. . . .”
Gorgas notes the developments concerning possible peace talks with a rhetorical conclusion: “Old Frank Blair left last week, and on Sunday morning (yesterday) three so-called peace commissioners started off for Washington. They are Judge Campbell, Mr. Hunter and Mr. Stephens. Will anything come of it? I doubt it.”
At Johnson’s Island. Dooley explains, “the miscreant oath-takers are transferred from their old quarters to block 1 where they are to have better lodgings and superior rations in order by this method to tempt other prisoners to follow their degrading example. .January 31, 1865
By a vote of 119 for, 56 against and 8 not voting, the United States House of Representatives joins the Senate in sending forward an amendment to abolition slavery. After much haggling, this Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution will now go to the states for ratification.
Abraham Lincoln instructs Secretary of State William Seward to meet with the Confederate peace commissioners on the following basis:
“1. The restoration of the National authority throughout all the States.
2. No receding by the Executive of the United States, on the Slavery question, from the position assumed thereon, in the late Annual Message to Congress, and on preceding documents.
3. No cessation of hostilities short of an end of the war, and the disbanding of all forces hostile to the government.
You will inform them that all propositions of theirs not inconsistent with the above, will be considered and passed upon in a spirit of sincere liberality. You will hear all they may choose to say, and report it to me.”
In Richmond, President Davis sends forward the name of Robert E. Lee as General-in-Chief of the Confederate armies. The Confederate Senate approves the recommendation.
February 1865February 1, 1865
Sherman’s troops leave Savannah, Ga., marching for South Carolina.
The United States Congress produces “A Resolution Submitting to the legislatures of the several States a proposition to amend the Constitution of the United States.” If ratified, the Thirteenth Amendment put forth will consist of: “Section 1. Neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
President Lincoln’s response to a sign of public acclamation is to offer his “congratulation to the country and to the whole world” for the Congress’s action on the new Thirteenth Amendment and say that “he felt proud that Illinois was a little ahead” of other states in demonstrating its approval of the measure, which “was a very fitting if not an indispensable adjunct to the winding up of the great difficulty.”
Ulysses Grant forwards his opinion concerning a preliminary meeting between one of his subordinates and the three Confederate commissioners, Vice President Alexander Stephens, Senator Robert M.T. Hunter and Assistant Secretary of War Joseph Campbell. The army commander observes: “I will state confidentially, but not officially to become a matter of record, that I am convinced, upon conversation with Messrs Stevens & Hunter that their intentions are good and their desire sincere to restore peace and union. . . . I fear now their going back without any expression from any one in authority will have a bad influence.”
Grant tells Sherman of the peace mission underway, but concludes: “The Peace feeling within the rebel lines is gaining ground rapidly. This however should not relax our energies in the least, but should stimulate us to greater activity.”
Confederate War clerk John B. Jones offers an assessment of Robert E. Lee’s appointment to command all Southern armies: “It is hoped he will, nevertheless, remain in person at the head of the Army of Virginia, else the change may be fraught with disaster, and then his popularity will vanish! He has not been fortunate when not present with the troops under his command, as evidenced by Early’s defeat and Jones’s disaster in the Valley last year. A general must continue to reap successes if he retains his popularity.”February 2, 1865
Spurred by Grant’s message, President Lincoln sends a message to Secretary of State William Seward that he plans to join him at Fortress Monroe to meet with the Confederate representatives and shortly departs Annapolis, Md., aboard a steamer bound for Virginia for that purpose.
Alvin Coe Voris is buoyed by the chances for peace, but realistic in telling his wife: “We are all excited over the peace question. The Commissioners have gone through our lines on their way to Washington to see what can be done to settle the awful troubles now distracting and distressing our country. . . .
I do not believe the South are whipped enough yet to compel them to relinquish their idea of Southern independence. Still they must see that we are relatively stronger every day while they are in fact becoming much weaker. . . .”
Rhode Island ratifies the Thirteenth Amendment.February 3, 1865
In the company of Secretary of State Seward, Abraham Lincoln, boards the steamer River Queen to meet with the three individuals tasked by the Confederacy to consider terms for peace. Lincoln is anxious to end the bloodshed and must consider the possibility that this might be one means of doing so. After some innocuous, but pleasant, overtures, Alexander Stephens inquires: “Is there no way of putting an end to the present trouble?” The next hours of discourse produce no common ground on which the participants can find meaningful agreement and the envoys from the Confederacy return with a sense that little is left but more fighting or outright capitulation.
Maryland, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia add their state’s names to support for the Thirteenth Amendment.February 4, 1865
Lincoln wants it to be clear where he stands in the wake of his secret session with Stephens, Hunter and Campbell. Consequently, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton instructs Grant at City Point: “The President desires me to repeat that nothing transpired, or transpiring with the three gentlemen from Richmond, is to cause any change hindrance or delay, of your military plans or operations.”
Grant informs Secretary of War Stanton that the Peace mission has “had no influance on Military movements whatever,” and explains that, for the moment, he does not actually want to drive Lee from Richmond, until operations by Philip Sheridan against Wilmington can be completed. This is to give greater assurance that Lee and his army will not be in position to threaten Sherman in the Carolinas if he chose to combine forces that for that purpose.
John B. Jones is harsh in his assessment of the Confederate Congress: “Yesterday much of the day was consumed by Congress in displaying a new flag for the Confederacy—before the old one is worn out! Idiots!”
President Davis signals his desire that General Beauregard, in Augusta, Ga., attempt to form a force to oppose Sherman’s advance.
Union troops begin a movement out of their lines with the intent of targeting supplies headed for Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, with cavalry under Major General David McM. Gregg leading the way.
Alvin Voris is pleased that President Lincoln inserted himself in the discussions for peace that were supposed to have taken place at Fortress Monroe. “I am glad the President has taken it upon himself to see these Commissioners face to face and find from them by his own observation what the wishes of the South are in this matter. Mr. Lincoln possesses a rare amount of shrewdness and strong hard sense, perhaps I ought to say sagacity, and having more at stake than any other man living in the solution of this matter would be more likely than any other to act with great circumspection. It would be the crowning glory of his life if he could announce to the Country & world in his next inaugural address that during the first four years of [his] Administration the rebellion had been put down and that the country was restored and again at peace. . . .”
Robert G.H. Kean engages in an extended discussion with recent Commissioner Joseph Campbell, getting his perspective on the Hampton Roads talks. The former Supreme Court Justice and current War Department official tells him how Vice President Stephens had worked to interject historical precedents for the Confederacy maintaining its existence, while at the same time ending hostilities with the Union: “Mr. Stephens cited historical instances of nations at war laying aside their quarrel to take up other matters of mutual interest to both. Mr. Lincoln replied that he knew nothing about history, ‘You must talk history to Seward.’” Campbell relates other matters of discussion concerning the question of punishments for the defeated leaders, the future of slavery and the nature of bringing the fighting to a close, but notes the inability of the participants to reach satisfactory conclusions on any of these issues.
Kean observes: “This ends this peace fiasco which must satisfy the most sceptical that we have nothing whatever to hope or expect short of the exaction of all the rights of conquest, whether we are overrun by force, or submit.”February 6, 1865
Sharp fighting characterizes the action south of Hatcher’s Run as the Union V Corps confronts the Confederate Second Corps. The Southern forces will emerge victorious, but lose dashing Brigadier General John Pegram, killed in the vicinity of Dabney’s Steam Sawmill.
John C. Breckinridge is slated to become the new Confederate secretary of war.
Brigadier General John Henry Winder, the man in the Confederacy most associated in Northern minds with the mistreatment of Union prisoners dies of an apparent heart attack. Disliked in the South for his activities in Richmond as provost marshal and railed against in the North for the conditions in camps like Andersonville as commissary of prisons east of the Mississippi River, Winder’s future would have been clouded in any scenario while living.
Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his diary the essence of an extraordinary session of the Federal Cabinet: “There was a Cabinet-meeting last evening. The President had matured a scheme which he hoped would be successful in promoting peace. It was a proposition for paying the expenses of the war for two hundred days, or four hundred millions, to the Rebel States, to be for the extinguishment of slavery. . . . It did not meet with favor. . . . The earnest desire of the President to conciliate and effect peace was manifest, but there may be such a thing as so overdoing as to cause a distrust or adverse feeling. In the present temper of Congress the proposed measure . . . could not be carried through successfully.”
Missouri indicates its support for the Thirteenth AmendmentFebruary 7, 1865
Robert G.H. Kean records his impressions from the Confederate War Office: “Today Mr. Seddon took leave of us, and General Breckinridge was sworn in. . . . [Assistant Secretary Campbell] told me in confidence and plainly that he regarded the cause as hopeless from our want of money and failing resources.”
General Grant attempts to clarify an earlier order to Major General George Meade following the Hatcher’s Run maneuvers, explaining that he is to hold the line he thinks best, while understanding that “a general move against the enemy” will come in time that will alter any current arrangements.
William Bluffton Miller marches with his comrades from Indiana into South Carolina:
“The first state to Seceed and fired the first gun And we have all sworn vengeance against it.”
Maine, Massachusetts, and Kansas join the supporters of the Thirteenth Amendment, but the Delaware vote falls short.February 8, 1865
Miller continues his description of his movements through South Carolina:
“We did not see a single house in the whole days marching and plenty of Chimneys are standing monuments of the march.”
Mary Chesnut is in a feisty mood, offering her commentary on a range of subjects:
“General Lee generalissimo of all our forces. Rather late—when we have no forces. Breckinridge secretary of war.
‘Splendid hand—quantity of trumps—no playing cards however.’
‘Grant us patience, good Lord,’ was prayed aloud.
‘Not Ulysses Grant—good Lord,’ laughed Teddy.
Our commissioners the Laodicean Stephens, Campbell, etc. were received by Lincoln with taunts and derision. Why not? He has it all his own way now.”
Diarist Judith Brockenbrough McGuire laments, “I feel more and more anxious about Richmond. I can’t believe that it will be given up; yet so many persons are doubtful that it makes me very unhappy. I can’t keep a regular diary now, because I do not like to write all that I feel and hear.”
As news begins to spread of the secret peace conference that has taken place in Virginia, the New York Herald concludes triumphantly: “Old Abe . . . was a giant among the pigmies.”February 9, 1865
Robert E. Lee’s headquarters issues General Orders No. 1:
“In obedience to General Order No. 3, Adjutant & Inspector General’s Office, 6, February 1865, I assume the command of the Military forces of the Confederate States. Deeply impressed with the responsibility & the difficulties of the position, and humbly invoking the guidance of Almighty God, I rely for success upon the courage & fortitude of the Army, sustained by the patriotism & firmness of the people, confident that their united efforts, under the blessing of Heaven, will secure peace & independence.”
General Grant informs Major General Edward R.S. Canby in Mississippi that he is sending him Benjamin Grierson as a cavalry commander who is capable of waging war in the manner Grant approves: “He set the first example in making long raids by going through from Memphis to Baton Rouge, His raid this winter on the Mobile and Ohio rail road was most important in its results and most successfully executed, [ . . .] What is wanted is a Commander who will not be afraid to cut loose from his base of supplies and who will make the best use of the resources of the Country.”
Yet another day of desolation in South Carolina: “The houses are all distroyed along our march and we can see smoke all around us and tell where the advance is by the Smoke.”
The Unionist government in Virginia votes for the Thirteenth Amendment.February 10, 1865
Mary Chesnut notes the death of Brigadier General John H. Winder: “Yesterday General [Mansfield] Lovell dined here—and then they went to poor old Winder’s funeral. Well, Winder is safe from the wrath to come. General Lovell suggested that if the Yankees ever caught Winder, ‘it would go hard with him—the prisoners complain of him, you know.’”
Celebrated captain Raphael Semmes receives an appointment to Rear Admiral in the Confederate navy.
Kean notes an exchange between Secretary Breckinridge and Colonel Lucius B. Northrop of the Commissary Department in which the latter complains to every question by placing blame on everyone else and offering no solutions of his own. The inability to address these matters has now reached President Davis’s desk and Kean is certain that the effects may finally reach Northrup himself: “This probably hastens his fate which was sealed before.”
Josiah Gorgas sees passions grow in the wake of the failed Peace Mission in Virginia: “Yesterday there was an enthusiastic meeting on the war, at the African Church. Mr. Hunter, Mr. Benjamin & others spoke. The war feeling has blazed out afresh in Richmond, & the spirit will I hope spread thro’ the land.”
Ohio becomes part of those states advancing the Thirteenth Amendment.February 11, 1865
General Grant appears before the Congress’s Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War in Washington, in relation to Benjamin Butler’s earlier failed effort against Fort Fisher and the question of prisoner exchanges with the Confederates. On the latter, the commander of the Union armies explains: “I have effected an arrangement for the exchange of prisoners, man for man and officer for officer, or his equivalent, according to the old cartel, until one or the other party has exhausted the number they now hold. I get a great number of letters daily from friends of prisoners in the south, every one of which I cause to be answered, telling them that this arrangement has been made, and that I suppose exchanges can be made at the rate of 3,000 per week. The fact is, that I do not believe the south can deliver our prisoners to us as fast as that, on account of want of transportation on their part. But just as fast as they can deliver our prisoners to us I will receive them, and deliver their prisoners to them.
Their roads are now taxed to their utmost capacity for military purposes, and are becoming less and less efficient every day.
Exchanges having been suspended by reason of disagreement on the part of the agents of exchange on both sides before I came in command of the armies of the United States, and it then being near the opening of the spring campaign, I did not deem it advisable or just to the men who had to fight our battles to re-enforce the enemy with thirty or forty thousand disciplined troops at that time. An immediate resumption of exchanges would have had that effect without giving us corresponding benefits. The suffering said to exist among our prisoners south was a powerful argument against the course pursued, and I so felt it.”
The Confederate leadership is arguing over what to do about Charleston in terms of holding on there or evacuating, but Sherman may have something to say about the matter.
The war is having a negative impact on such slave property as remains in the Richmond area for sale, according to John B. Jones: “Here the price of slaves, men, is about $5000 Confederate States notes, or $100 in specie. A great depreciation. Before the war, they commanded ten times that price.”February 12, 1865
The Electoral College affirms Lincoln’s election by 212 to 21 over George McClellan.
Even circumstances beyond the active theaters are showing few signs of slowing down for the Federals. From Nashville, Alfred Hough of the staff of General George H. Thomas writes home: “I find myself plunged into an abyss of work.”
Alvin Voris anticipates the fall of Wilmington and Charleston: “Then all the seaport towns on the Atlantic Coast will be in our hands and all the railroad lines leading to the Cotton States and the S.W. will be completely severed. Poor Dixie certainly will know what it is to have Uncle Samuel standing between the extremes of the Confederacy, spreading himself over the whole interior armed with a mighty long sharp stick, too strong to be taken by rebel hands. Bully for Uncle Samuel. . . .”
Word has reached Edward Guerrant in far Southwestern Virginia about the Peace Conference at the other end of the Commonwealth: “Lincoln demands submission! N-e-v-e-r. With a thousand years between each letter & Eternity before the period!
1000 1000 1000 1000February 13, 1865
N e v e r
years. years. years. years.”
President Lincoln continues to look forward to the aftermath of the war, requesting that commanders in Western Tennessee: “relieve the people from all burthens, harassments, and oppressions, so far as is possible, consistently with your Military necessities; that the object of the war being to restore and maintain the blessings of peace and good government, I desire you to help, and not hinder, every advance in that direction.”
Indiana approves the Thirteenth Amendment.February 14, 1865
Cump Sherman has his sights set on Columbia, S.C.
With Sherman in the state is Indianan William Miller: “It Sleeted and rained nearly all day and was a bad day for us. The Rebels have been following us all day but did not molest us and our men got out of patience and if they give us an opportunity we will give them a dressing in fine stile. This is Valuntine day but I did not receive any Valuntines.”February 15, 1865
War Clerk Jones sees General Lee in Richmond, describing him as, “walking about briskly, as if some great event was imminent. His gray locks and beard have become white, but his countenance is cheerful, and his health vigorous.”
Ulysses Grant is supremely confident in affairs as he explains to a friend: “Every thing looks to me to be very favorable for a speedy termination of the war. The people of the South are ready for it if they can get clear of their leaders. It is hard to predict what will become of them, the leaders, whether they will flee the country or whether the people will forcibly depose them and take the matter in their own hands. One or the other will likely occur if our Spring Campaign is as successful as I have every hope it will be.”
William Miller shares the notion that the spirit for resistance is fleeing almost as fast as the opposition can do so in South Carolina:
“We are . . . approaching the city of Columbia (The capital) where report says we will meet a large force of Rebels. If they can defend any place I would think it would be their capital but I dont think there will be any fighting but they will evacuate as they are better at that than any other military move now.”February 16, 1865
In a fascinating turn-about on the question of loyalties, J.B. Jones records the return of slave on a flag of truce boat. “His master took the oath [to support the Union], the slave refused. He says ‘Massa had no principles.’”
Grant keeps his eyes on all details, observing that he has heard that Confederate prisoners who express any reluctance to be sent back are the first to be identified to go: “I think this wrong. Those who do not wish to go back are the ones whom it is most desireable to exchange; If they do not wish to serve in the rebel army, they can return to us after exchange, & avoid it.”
Nevada indicates agreement with the Thirteenth Amendment.February 17, 1865
Sherman captures Columbia, S.C. Confederate troops evacuate Charleston, S.C. Debate will long ensue as to where responsibility will rest for the massive destruction that takes place in Columbia at the time of its occupation by Federal troops. Whether attributable to a desire to leave nothing of military value behind, the interjection of spirituous drink or the desire for retribution, the charred ruins of the city will remain a symbolic issue for years to come.
Tragedy strikes as the Confederate steamer, William Allison, operating under a flag of truce in prisoner exchange related-activities, strikes an underwater torpedo or mine and sinks. There are no apparent survivors among the crew, but also no Union prisoners are aboard, although materials meant for those captives remaining in Southern facilities, such as blankets, shoes and mail, go down with the vessel.
The United States Senate votes to repudiate any debts owed by the Confederacy to its creditors.
Louisiana ratifies the Thirteenth Amendment.February 18, 1865
Charleston surrenders to Union forces, with blue-coated troops entering the city at approximately 9:00 A.M. Smoldering ruins mark the heavy damage wrought on Columbia.
Emma Holmes demonstrates her strategic understanding when reacting of the news of Charleston’s fall: “After three years’ resistance & hard labor to have to yield at last to stern necessity, for I know nothing else would have compelled the voluntary surrender of the city, for which the enemy have so long thirsted. It can only be because our army is too small to protect both the city and interior. And, of course, the latter is a matter of life and death not only to the state, as the productive part, but to the Confederacy. For, if all our railroads are cut & communications cut off, how is the Army of [Northern] Virginia to be maintained with supplies, while the city is comparatively valueless now as a strategical point.”
Closer to home, she observes: “Yankee raiding parties are going everywhere, & no one feels safe. Mother writes that so far they have behaved much better than was anticipated from their threats; no houses that were occupied have been burned, nor those where ladies were, molested, though out houses [storage and kitchen] are pillaged.”
In Richmond, self-styled Louisiana exile, Henri Garidel, has been struggling with what he deems as primitive living conditions and the circumstances associated with a major city in wartime. He expects the city to fall, but to William T. Sherman and not Ulysses S. Grant: “Every day I await the order to evacuate Richmond. I think it will be soon. I wish I were mistaken, but we will soon see. Sherman is the best Yankee general and the most adventurous, and this would be a way for him to make his reputation.”February 19, 1865
Alvin Voris notes the scourge in his own ranks and a likelier source of disdain than the some of the victims for their actions: “Nobody is hurt unless it be the few fellows that catch their death for desertion and other verry aggravated crimes. . . . Two of the cases were proper subjects for the gallows, the other was one of those doubtful cases that could only be hung for the effect of others. He was a mere boy, and Irish at that, who had been forced into the service by the fraud of those bounty brokers about our metropolitan cities who resort to the most abominable frauds to fill the quota for those verry loyal [persons] subject to the draft who can preach patriotism but dare not fight.
I am led to think that some of the Eastern states that have been the most eloquent declaimers against the South for her crimes against the poor African will have as dark a list of crimes to answer for as ever did the South for the infamous wrongs they have resorted to fill their quotas.”February 20, 1865
As William Wiley and his comrades from the 77th Illinois Infantry make their way to the Gulf of Mexico aboard their transport only to find that their constitutions and the conditions they encounter are compatible: “Before starting they issued us a lot of dried herring as a special ration. But they did not lay on our stomachs well when we got into the rough water. We felt that we had turned the table on the fish instead of the fish throwing up Jonah, Jonah was throwing up the fish.”
The Confederate House of Representatives votes to allow the use of slaves in the Confederate army.February 21, 1865
General Lee is convinced that his opponent will offer the Army of Northern Virginia little respite this winter. “Grant, I think, is now preparing to draw out his left, with the intent of enveloping me,” he tells Secretary of War Breckinridge. After speculating on the timing of such a move, or whether Grant is simply hoping that the Confederates will make a break out or Richmond and Petersburg, Lee concludes wearily, “I cannot tell yet.”
William Miller observes the effects of the rivalry between blue-coated soldiers from different sections of the country that leave some of them wounded after a fight: “It Seams very foolish for our own men to fight among themselves, but The Eastern and western men dont get along together and I dont know the reason. One difficulty is the Eastern men put on considerable Style and think that we are ignorant and are hardly fit for Soldiers.
There was two of our Soldiers killed and layed along the side of the Road and their bodys mutilated with a Board across their Breasts saying ‘we will serve all the Yankees we catch the same way.’ That does not make us feel any better towards the Rebels and our men talk vengeance on men who perpetrate such outrages.”
Signs of destruction arise in another Southern city, as defenders of Wilmington, N.C., torch resources that they do not wish to fall into Union hands.
President Jefferson Davis has to confront other important concessions in order to keep any hope of attaining independence for the Confederacy alive. He explains to a newspaper editor in Mobile: “It is now becoming daily more evident to all reflecting persons that we are reduced to choosing whether the negroes shall fight for us or against us. . . .” But the Confederate Senate holds off a vote on a bill the House of Representatives to allow the use of black troops.February 22, 1865
John B. Jones records the significance of the day: “To-day is the anniversary of the birth of Washington, and of the inauguration of Davis; but I hear of no holiday. Not much is doing, however, in the departments; simply a waiting for calamities, which come with stunning rapidity. The news, I suppose, will be the evacuation of Wilmington! Then Raleigh may tremble. Unless there is a speedy turn in the tide of affairs, confusion will reign supreme and universally.”
Although its usefulness to the Confederacy had diminished with the losses of Fort Fisher and other defensive positions, Wilmington, N.C. had remained in Southern control until today, when troops under John M. Schofield enter the city.
Robert E. Lee calls Joseph Johnston back to duty as commander of the Army of Tennessee.
Kentucky rejects the Thirteenth Amendment.February 23, 1865
While moving through the Carolinas, William T. Sherman is still grappling with the parameters of acceptable warfare, telling Major General Oliver O. Howard that he has learned of a troubling incident from Judson Kilpatrick: “He reports that two of his foraging parties were murdered by the enemy after capture and labeled, ‘Death to all foragers.’ Now it is clearly our war right to subsist our army on the enemy. Napoleon always did. . . . I contend that if the enemy fails to defend his country we may rightfully appropriate what we want. If our foragers act under mine, yours, or other proper orders they must be protected. I have ordered Kilpatrick to select of his prisoners man for man, shoot them, and leave them by the roadside labeled, so that our enemy will see that for every man he executes he takes the life of one of his own. I want the foragers, however, to be kept within reasonable bounds for the sake of discipline.”
Sherman instructs Kilpatrick: “I regret the matter you report, that eighteen of your men have been murdered after surrender, and marked that the enemy intended to kill all foragers. It leaves no alternative; you must retaliate man for man and mark them in like manner. Let it be done at once. We have a perfect war right to the products of the country we overrun. . . .
If our foragers commit excesses punish them yourself, but never let an enemy judge between our men and the law. For my part I want the people of the South to realize the fact that they shall not dictate laws of war or peace to us. If there is to be any dictation we want our full share.”
William Miller sees tangible evidence of retaliation: “Killpatrick hung Seven Bushwhackers in retalliation for some of his men we was murdered by them. It seams dreadfull to carry on that kind of a war but it will stop them when nothing els will.”
Ulysses Grant allows himself a moment of optimism concerning the outcome of the war to his friend Elihu Washburne: “Everything looks like dissolution in the South. A few days more of success with Sherman will put us where we can crow loud.”
Minnesota ratifies the Thirteenth Amendment.February 24, 1865
War Clerk Jones notes a letter from General Lee on the question of arming slaves for Confederate service:
“. . . in my opinion, the negroes, under proper circumstances, will make efficient soldiers. I think we could at least do as well with them as the enemy, and he attaches great importance to their assistance. Under good officers, and good instructions, I do not see why they should not become soldiers. They possess all the physical qualifications, and their habits of obedience constitute a good foundation for discipline. . . . I think those who are employed should be freed. It would be neither just nor wise, in my opinion, to require them to serve as slaves. The best course to pursue, it seems to me, would be to call for such as are willing to come with the consent of their owners.”
Sherman’s anger over the killings of foragers from his command turns to Confederate lieutenant general Wade Hampton, whom he does not hold personally responsible or knowledgeable of such actions, but for whom command authority has its obligations: “I hold about 1000 of prisoners captured in various ways, and can stand it as long as you can. . . .
Of course you cannot question my right to ‘forage on the country.’ It is a war right as old as history.
Personally I regret the bitter feelings engendered by this war: but they were to be expected, and I simply allege that those who struck the first blow, and made war inevitable, ought not in all fairness to reproach us for the natural consequences—I merely assert our War Right to Forage, and my resolve to protect my foragers to the extent of life for life.”
Despite all of the fits and starts, rumors and disappointments concerning the exchange of prisoners, John Dooley finally finds himself among the Confederate captives who will leave their Johnson’s Island confinement. “We get the order to be ready only about 9½ A.M. and are expected to leave about the middle of the day: So many little things to be packed up and affairs to be settled! So many to tell good-bye to. I feel heels over head in confusion and scarcely know which way to turn first. . . .
All my effects are deposited in a satchel (leaving about half my things behind), and, with a blanket hung round my shoulder, I begin the journey about 3 P.M.”
General Voris sees new hope for the Union cause with the fall of Wilmington—“The poor Johnnies are having a hard time of it with no verry flattering prospects for the future.”—but, he also detects a concerted scheme in mind on the part of the increasingly desperate Confederates: “The rebellion has an immense amount of power left, and can make us a great deal of trouble before the war is ended. The evacuation of Charleston, Columbia & Wilmington are part & parcel of matured plans of the rebels, however doing this no faster than they are compelled to do and not lose too many men and too much materiel. By this course they gain time, waste our energies and prepare a place inland where they mean to make a stand and desperately resist us.
Men are liberated from the defense of these places that may be used in the army and was it not for the moral effect on the Confederacy and in the eyes of the world, I should say that these victories are not half as damaging to them as people generally suppose. The worst blow they have received in all this is the destruction to their lines of travel and their inability to reach the great section of their supplies.”
General Grant sees further indications of decline in the fortunes of the Confederacy, as he explains to John Schofield in North Carolina, with a swipe at the loyalty of a unit from the Carolina noted for avid devotion to the cause of secession: “Desertions from the Rebel Army are growing very numerous. . . . This morning 45 came in in a single squad and from a single regiment, a South Carolina regiment at that.”
He tells another associate: “Every thing now seems to be working well for the final overthrow of the rebellion. In three weeks more I do not believe there will be a Rebel Army in the field capable of resisting the advance of 10,000 Cavalry. This is my candid judgment only I may, in view of the bad roads that may be expected during the next month, fix the time for this final triumph a little to[o] short.”
Wisconsin ratifies the Thirteenth Amendment.February 25, 1865
Johnston assumes command of the Army of Tennessee. He has the difficult, if not impossible, task of pulling together as many forces as possible to throw in Sherman’s path through the Carolinas.
Georgian Irby Scott takes the opportunity of sending a quick letter homeward after moving out to protect the Southside Railroad supplying Lee’s army at Petersburg. The men are without baggage and living in “small tents” while enduring the elements. “My warmest love and affection for yourself mother and all the children. My respects to all friends. Remember me to all the negroes. Although cut off from home I think of you often. No chance to come home at present or untill Sherman is whiped from the railroad.”February 26, 1865
Mary Chesnut continues to fill the pages of her diary with her wide-ranging thoughts and views on religion, war, and personal relations: “Job is my comforter now.
They say no living thing is found in Sherman’s track—only chimneys, like telegraph poles, to carry the news of Sherman’s army backward.
Now we know the worst. Are we growing hardened? We avoid all allusion to Columbia. We never say ‘home.’
The shrinking and the daring—both ways we missed it. Sherman and Johnston, Hood and Thomas. So easy to write pretty sentences if you are born a poet.February 27, 1865
The wise conquer difficulties—by daring to attempt them.”
Wade Hampton is not intimidated by the threats of execution made by Sherman. He promises to shoot two Union soldiers for every one Confederate killed in this manner.
After an agonizing period in limbo, Captain William H.S. Burgwyn finally can record leaving his incarceration at Fort Delaware Prison in the wave of exchange now occurring: “At last we started this morning about 12:00 noon in the steam transport Cressandra and my feelings were beyond expression as I left and I hope for ever all the privations of Fort Delaware. We were all put 400 privates and 200 officers in the between decks in bunks so close together you could not sit up and sentinels put on the hatchways and we were compelled to stay in there.”
Grant has overseen almost every detail that can arise, but considers one more matter of pressing importance, as he points out to Major General Edward R.S. Canby, after urging that general to capture Mobile, Ala.: “It is also important to get all the negro men we can before the enemy put them into their ranks.”February 28, 1865
Nathan Bedford Forrest receives a promotion to lieutenant general, commensurate with his duties as commander of all cavalry in the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana. In Virginia, Judith McGuire feels a little more encouraged now. “Our new Commissary-General is giving us brighter hopes for Richmond by his energy. Not a stone is left unturned to collect all the provisions from the country. Ministers of the Gospel and others have gone out to the various county towns and court-houses, to urge the people to send in every extra bushel of corn or pound of meat for the army.”
The Shenandoah Valley remains active as Union cavalry units traverse the region. Colonel Francis T. Sherman chronicles movements in the vicinity of Woodstock, where mortal dangers do not always appear from enemy forces: “Two miles south threw pontoon bridge over Shenandoah River in one hour & 10 minutes. Custer lost one man drowned in fording."
March 1865March 1, 1865
U.S. Consul Charles Allen reports to Secretary of State William Seward on continuing Confederate activities in Bermuda, particularly regarding the movement of crew members “here under the charge of the Rebel Agent.”
Confederate secretary of the navy Stephen Mallory directs Commander James Bulloch in England to abandon the effort to obtain heavy vessels and instead focus on lighter craft: “We can not ship cotton at present, but with light-draft vessels we could place cotton aboard. Moreover, we need them to get in our supplies now at islands, and the want of which is seriously felt.”
Trying to strike a note of optimism amidst the darker realities that prevail, he observes: “We are upon the eve of events fraught with the fate of the Confederacy, and without power to foresee the result. . . . The coming campaign will be in active operation within fifty days and we can not close our eyes to the dangers which threatens us and from which only our united and willing hearts and arms and the providence of God can shield us. We look for no aid from any other source.”
William H.S. Burgwyn is still aboard a transport that has taken him and some 600 of his comrades from Union imprisonment at Fort Delaware to Virginia to be exchanged. But the end of the journey is in sight.
Ulysses Grant is concerned that just as the war is closing, William T. Sherman might suffer the fate of their mutual friend James McPherson, and be struck down. He tells a friend: “Sherman has immortalized his name and that of the Army he commands. It would be too unfortunate now to have anything to occur to prevent him, and those under him, enjoy their laurels.”March 2, 1865
George Armstrong Custer confronts the remnants of Confederate forces at Waynesboro, Virginia, and wins decisively.
Virginia artillerist Henry Robinson Berkeley is one of the unlucky Southerners at Waynesboro. He describes the situation that ends in his capture:
“We took up a position on a very high hill, north of Waynesboro, on the Port Republic Road. After remaining here until three in the evening in a cold and sleety rain and being nearly frozen, the Yankee cavalry, in a large and heavy body, forming almost a semicircle, appeared in front and on both flanks. After a short fight our little force being flanked and outnumbered by ten to one, gave way and attempted to get to the mountains. . . . There were thirty of my company captured with me, and some eight hundred prisoners from the infantry. I aimed and fired my gun five or six times that day. It looks now, as if they would be the last shots fired by the Confederate artillery in the Valley of Virginia.”
Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas, finds little to lift his spirits: “People are almost in a state of desperation, and but too ready to give up the cause, not that there is not patriotism enough to sustain it, but that there is sentiment of hopelessness abroad, a feeling that all our sacrifices tend to nothing, that our resources are wasted, in short that there is no leadership, and so they are ready to despair. . . . Lee is about all we have & what public confidence is left rallies around him . . . . The President has alas! lost almost every vestige of the public confidence. Had we been successful his errors and faults would have been overlooked, but adversity magnifies them. He has undoubtedly done much, perhaps irreparable wrong by adhering to the wrong men. . . . The President has great qualities & shining virtues, & may yet win back the good opinion of the country in the trying times before us. We cannot lose this cause, & the President will perhaps show his strength of character in sustaining it when others have lost all hope.”
On the coast of Florida, the crew of the blockade-runner, Rob Roy, beaches and burns the craft rather than allow her to be captured by a pursuing Union vessel. On her manifest as cargo are cavalry sabers and farm implements.March 3, 1865
General Grant informs George Meade that he has no intention to assault the Confederate earthworks directly, and, instead, has a broader strategy in mind for Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia that requires the positioning of all available Union forces to limit the Confederate general’s viable options: “Whilst the enemy holds nearly all his force for the defence of Richmond and Petersburg the object to be gained by attacking intrenchments is not worth the risk to be run. In fact for the present it is better for us to hold the enemy where he is than to force him South. . . . Unless therefore the enemy should detach to the amount of at least two Divisions more than we know anything about as yet we will not attack his entrenchments and probably not then if the roads improve so as to admit of a flank movement.”
The commander of the Union armies also understands the nuances of policies such as paying Confederate deserters for the weapons they bring with them, that might have once seemed unthinkable, but now could be of use, as he observes in a petition to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton: “A great many deserters are coming in from the enemy bringing their Arms with them expecting the pay for them as the means of [obtaining] a little ready cash. Would there be any objection to amending my order so as to allow this? Now that the sources of supply are cutt off from the enemy it is a great object to deprive the enemy of [their] present supply of Arms.” Stanton replies affirmatively: “That Kind of trade will not injure the service.” Grant notifies Meade and Major General Edward O.C. Ord to “order payment at a fair valuation for Arms, Accoutrements or any other species of property brought in by rebel deserters,” and suggests that circulars of this policy may be distributed widely.
Abraham Lincoln responds to a call for remarks at a serenade:
“Sherman went in at Atlanta and came out right. He has gone in again at Savannah, and I propose three cheers for his coming out gloriously.”
The captive cannoneer, Henry R. Berkeley, marvels at the vast war machine the Federals have assembled in the Valley of Virginia:
“We remained in Waynesboro until three o’clock in the afternoon, all the Yankee cavalry marching past us. It was a grand sight, and for ten hours without the least interruption did this mighty stream of cavalry pour by us on its way of devastation, death and destruction. The end of this war is in the near future.”March 4, 1865
President Lincoln offers his second inaugural address:
“Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.’
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
From Southwest Virginia, Edward Guerrant, takes note of the occasion: “Today the first four years of the reign of Abraham 1st ends, & another four years begins. The first term commenced with the most prosperous & powerful people on Earth. It ends with the most discordant, distracted, miserable people on Earth.
Where it will end, in four years, no eye but One can see!”
Reaching Richmond in the early morning hours after a grueling period awaiting the appropriate protocols to be followed for released prisoners of war, John Dooley records his feelings: “Thus have I returned after an absence of 21 months, 20 of which I have spent in prison. The returned prisoners are far more hopeful than the citizens and those who have remained at home watching the coming events with anxious scrutiny. I find nearly all my friends gloomy and despondent in regard to the nature of the Confederacy.”March 5, 1865
Confederates, attributed to Colonel John Mosby, have outfitted a large craft for night service (gray paint and muffled oars) on the waters of Maryland, but a Union landing party disperses them, capturing and destroying the vessel.March 6, 1865
Charles Allen hopes to have the assistance of the lieutenant governor in Bermuda in thwarting Confederate purposes with regard to the steamer Louisa Ann Fannie, “from the appearance of the vessel and what little information I could obtain I came to the conclusion she was intended for a rebel privateer.” Activity at his post has certainly decreased, but Allen remains vigilant.
Rufus Kinsley: “At Ship Island again, for duty; which will be to guard rebel prisoners, of whom we have several hundred.”March 7, 1865
Union major general Jacob D. Cox advances toward Kinston, North Carolina, from New Berne with 13,000 troops and finds 10,000 Confederates entrenched at Wyse Fork (Wise’s Forks) under Braxton Bragg.March 8, 1865
Bragg orders Major General Robert Hoke to strike the opposing Union forces. With assistance from Major General Daniel H. Hill, Hoke makes limited headway and captures approximately 1,000 Federal prisoners. But, no decisive advantage can be gained as both sides dig in to improve their positions.
The Confederate Senate narrowly approves a measure to enlist slaves in the Confederate ranks, by a vote of 9 to 8.March 9, 1865
General Lee informs Secretary of War Breckinridge of his assessment that the Confederate States of America “is full of peril and requires prompt action.” It is unclear what that action could be at this stage, but the army commander is most concerned with keeping his soldiers and animals provisioned: “Unless the men and animals can be subsisted, the army cannot be kept together, and our present lines must be abandoned.” Lee is not advocating guerrilla warfare, but he understands that keeping the Army of Northern Virginia where it has been for these many months of siege cannot continue indefinitely under the circumstances.March 10, 1865
Fighting in the area of Wyse Fork renews as Hoke and D.H. Hill launch attacks on Cox’s Union forces. The Confederates make additional captures, but suffer repulse in the heaviest of their attacks. Both sides lose over 1,000 men and the fighting cannot prevent further Union advance.
The Confederates have more success at Monroe’s Cross Roads, North Carolina, where a cavalry force under Major General Matthew C. Butler surprises a Union camp, barely missing the opportunity to capture the notorious Judson Kilpatrick. The Federals rally and drive off their adversaries, but casualties stand higher for the blue-coated horsemen at 185 than they do for their gray-clad counterparts (86).
Ominous signs begin to shake even the confidence of Judith Brockenbrough McGuire in the Confederate capital:
“Still we go on as heretofore, hoping and praying that Richmond may be safe. . . . I know that we ought to feel that whatever General Lee and the President deem right for the cause must be right, and that we should be satisfied that all will be well; but it would almost break my heart to see this dear old city, with its hallowed associations, given over to the Federals. Fearful orders have been given in the offices to keep the papers packed, except such as we are working on. . . . As we walk in every morning, all eyes are turned to the boxes to see if any have been removed, and we breathe more freely when we find them still there.”March 11, 1865
Union troops enter Fayetteville, North Carolina, where Sherman rests his command, while ordering the destruction of the arsenal and other facilities.March 12, 1865
Sadness continues to permeate Richmond. Judith McGuire notes the bitter ironies of the war: “A deep gloom has just been thrown over the city by the untimely death of one of its own heroic sons. General John Pegram fell while nobly leading his brigade against the enemy in the neighbourhood of Petersburg. But two weeks before he had been married in St. Paul’s Church, in the presence of a crowd of relatives and friends. . . . All was bright and beautiful. Happiness beamed from every eye. Again has St. Paul’s, his own beloved church, been opened to receive a soldier and his bride—the one coffined for a hero’s grave, the other, pale and trembling, though still by his side, in widow’s garb.”
From Fayetteville, N.C., Sherman writes Grant to inform him of his current situation: “We reached this place yesterday at noon. Hardee as usual retreating across the Cape Fear burning his Bridge, but our pontoons will be up today, and with as little delay as possible I will be after him towards Goldsboro. . . . We are abundantly supplied . . . having in a measure lived off the Country.
We cannot afford to leave detachments, and I Shall therefore destroy this valuable arsenal for the Enemy shall not have its use, and the United States Should never again confide such valuable property to a People who have betrayed a trust.
I hope you have not been uneasy about us, and that the fruits of this march will be appreciated.”
To his wife Cump explains: “The importance of this march exceeds that from Atlanta to Savannah. South Carolina has had a visit from the West that will cure her of her pride and boasting. . . . I fear the People along our Road will have nothing left wherewith to Support an hostile army, but I told them their sons & brothers had better Stay at home to take Care of the females instead of running around the Country playing soldiers. The same brags and boasts are Kept up, but when I reach the path where the lion crouched I find him slinking away. . . . I think we are bringing matters to an issue.”
Sherman continues his surge of communications, this time with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, noting his progress through the Carolinas: “These points were regarded as inaccessible to us, and now no place in the Confederacy is safe against the Army of the West. Let Lee hold on to Richmond, and we will destroy his Country, and then of what use is Richmond. He must come out, and fight us on open ground, and for that we must ever be ready. Let him stick behind his parapets and he will perish.”March 13, 1865
The Confederate Congress acts on a measure to allow the recruitment of black troops in the ranks. The measure still does not guarantee freedom for service from those slaves who join the Army, and the level of recruitment will depend on co-operation from the masters, but the Confederacy has embraced a concept that would have been inconceivable in the earlier phases of the war.
War Clerk John B. Jones notes the flourish of official activity in Richmond: “The President had the Secretary of War and Mr. Benjamin closeted nearly the entire day yesterday, Sunday. Some important event is in embryo. If Lee’s army can be fed—as long as it can be fed—Richmond is safe. Its abandonment will be the loss of Virginia, and perhaps the cause. To save it, therefore, is the problem for those in authority to solve.”March 14, 1865
Union forces seize a schooner in the Chesapeake Bay that was supposed to be cleared, but is found to contain powder for which there is no authorization. In addition to this contraband material, a significant amount of liquor is located on-board under the name of the customs official who had earlier signed the paperwork to allow the vessel to pass unmolested.March 15, 1865
President Lincoln responds to a compliment of his remarks relating to the official notification that he had won a second term in office with a reflection on his Second Inaugural: “I expect [the Inaugural] to wear as well as—perhaps better than—any thing I have produced; but I believe it is not immediately popular. Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them. To deny it, however, in this case, is to deny that there is a God governing the world. It is a truth which I thought needed to be told. . . .”
J.B. Jones records the harsh judgment of history and the fickle nature of public opinion regarding John Bell Hood: “Gen. Hood is here, on crutches, attracting no attention, for he was not successful.”
Union raids on the coastal areas, this time of Georgia, deprive the Confederacy of badly-needed production facilities. At Broro Neck, this work results in the loss of ten structures that contain twelve boilers, 100 bushels of salt, and ample quantities of barrels for transporting the salt inland.March 16, 1865
Once more Judson Kilpatrick experiences a less than stellar moment as he confronts Confederate troops under Brigadier General William B. Taliaferro. Union infantry reinforcements arrive to assist and tilt the balance in the favor of the Federals. The fighting results in 682 Union and 865 Confederate casualties.
The Confederates are having less good fortune eluding the Federal blockade. Two vessels fall into Union hands, one in Florida and the other in the Gulf of Mexico, forfeiting cargoes of shoes, percussion caps, rum, cotton and peanuts.March 17, 1865
Noting the latest developments, J.B. Jones declares: “We shall have a negro army. Letters are pouring into the department from men of military skill and character, asking authority to raise companies, battalions, and regiments of negro troops. It is the desperate remedy for the very desperate case—and may be successful. If 300,000 efficient soldiers can be made of this material, there is no conjecturing where the next campaign may end.”March 18, 1865
The Confederate Congress closes its session with a flourish of discontent at the policies and programs of President Jefferson Davis.
Confederate brigadier general Daniel H. Reynolds has reached his destination after a long journey across North Carolina: “Shortly after 8 a.m. moved and reached Bentonville at 5½ p.m. Orders to make no noise in camp. The enemy are near us.”March 19, 1865
General Reynolds and his comrades engage with Union troops at Bentonville, with the hope of catching elements of Sherman’s command separated widely enough to be vulnerable. He is just in the act of leading his men into the fighting when a Federal shell smashes his leg and kills his horse. He will lose the shattered limb, but hears cheering news: “The brigade acted with great gallantry and won the praise of all who beheld the charge.”
The fighting in which Reynolds is involved allows the Confederates under Joseph Johnston to claim first honors as the Southern troops press the men of Brigadier General William P. Carlin’s division of Henry Slocum’s corps backward. A Union counteract stabilizes the situation and allows Sherman to bring Oliver O. Howard’s command to the scene.March 20, 1865
Ulysses Grant wires President Lincoln: “Can you not visit City Point for a day or two? I would like very much to see you and I think the rest would do you good.” Without referencing the need for resting from his labors, Lincoln replies that he had been thinking about coming to Virginia already and would do so as soon as possible. “Mrs. L. and a few others will probably accompany me. Will notify you of exact time, once it shall be fixed upon.”
John B Jones notes caustically: “Congress adjourned sine dieon Saturday, without passing the measures recommended by the President. . . .
When the joint committee waited on the President to inform him that if he had no further communication to make to them they would adjourn, he took the occasion to fire another broadside, saying that the measures he had just recommended he sincerely deemed essential for the success of the armies, etc., and, since, the Congress differed with him in opinion, and did not adopt them, he could only hope that the result would prove he was mistaken and that Congress was right. But if the contrary should appear, he could not be held responsible, etc. This is the mere squibbing of politicians, while the enemy’s artillery is thundering at the gates!”
Sherman spends the day at Bentonville consolidating his columns, while Johnston opts for the defensive and the opportunity to remove his wounded.March 21, 1865
Union brigadier general Joseph Mower seals a victory for Sherman over his badly outnumbered opponent by threatening the Confederate line of retreat. Johnston recognizes the precariousness of his situation and by nightfall prepares to pull back. Bentonville has been his best chance to date to stem Sherman’s march through the Carolinas, but has left him with 240 killed, 1,700 wounded and 1,500 missing or captured badly needed men. The Federals have lost 194 killed, 1,112 wounded and 221 missing or captured, but hold the decidedly upper hand in the deteriorating Confederate theater of operations.March 22, 1865
Robert E. Lee has been seeking a powerful stroke against the Federals after rejecting the notion of negotiating peace terms or retreating abruptly from Petersburg and Richmond. He has turned to his youngest corps commander, John B. Gordon, to determine where such a blow might come. Gordon has reconnoitered and concluded that the best chances for success lie in capturing Fort Stedman, located only a little over a hundred yards from the Confederate lines outside Petersburg. Lee listens intently to the officer’s findings and after making queries, notes that he will take the matter under further advisement.
War Clerk Jones illustrates the mixed images of the current state of the Confederate military: “To-day some of our negro troops will parade in the Capitol Square.March 23, 1865
The Texas cavalry in Virginia—originally 5000—now number 180!”
On this day, Jones is less enthusiastic concerning the new soldiers: “The parade of a few companies of negro troops yesterday was rather a ridiculous affair. The owners are opposed to it.”
General Lee signals his approval of Gordon’s plan to attack Fort Stedman.
Johnston reports the distressing news of his recent encounter with Sherman to General Lee, concluding, “I can do no more than annoy him.” A junction of the major Union forces seems increasingly inevitable if some other solution cannot be found.March 24, 1865
Whether it is the drinking water on the River Queen as he surmises, or the worries associated with bringing the conflict to a close without having to endure significantly heavier loss of life, Abraham Lincoln is suffering from an unsettled stomach.
Still, Lincoln cannot help but display his vaunted sense of humor when he asks Grant if he recalls the enormous coat Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens had worn over his gaunt frame at the Hampton Roads peace talks. The President remembers that when the coat came off in the middle of those heated discussions, he thought: “Well, that’s the biggest shuck and the littlest nubbin I ever did see.”
Sherman feels more confident than ever that the war is closing favorably. He tells Grant: “I think I see pretty clearly how in one more move we can checkmate Lee, forcing him to unite Johnston with him in the defense of Richmond, or by leaving Richmond to abandon the cause. I feel certain if he leaves Richmond Virginia leaves the Confederacy.
Cump Sherman’s passions spill over in a letter he has received: “As my opinions of the various questions which arise in the progress of events are formed for my own use, and not designed to please the people, or self constituted representatives of the People, I am utterly indifferent whether they please or displease. . . .
I see my name occasionally alluded to in connection with some popular office. You may tell all that I would rather serve 4 years in the Singsing Penitentiary than in Washington & believe I could come out a better man. If that aint emphatic enough use strong expressions and I will endorse them.”
The Confederate ironclad Stonewall goes out from her moorings in Spanish waters. The commander of two Union wooden vessels located nearby declines to be goaded into a fight that he deems unwinnable and for which he will face court martial afterward.March 25, 1865
Promising initial moments open the assault on Fort Stedman as the Southern troops capture pickets, and overrun the fort, as well as several supporting portions of the line, but soon fade as Union troops rally and regain their lost positions. The Army of Northern Virginia has made its best effort and fallen short, suffering heavy casualties in an already strained manpower situation. The Federals have lost 1,044 casualties, of which 72 are killed, 450 wounded and 522 captured or missing, including General Napoleon B. McLaughlen, inadvertently made prisoner when he rides into the fallen fort in the initial confusion of the fight.
Sensing a weakness elsewhere in the Confederate lines in order to make the attack on Fort Stedman, General George Meade sends two corps forward and the bluecoat surge captures a quantity of the opposing picket lines. Counterattacks seek to undo the damage, but the essence of the gains hold, even as Union troops work vigorously to face the old lines in a new direction.
As the drama at Petersburg unfolds, President Abraham Lincoln reaches City Point, where he expects to meet with his principal military commanders. As part of General Grant’s staff, Lincoln’s son greets his father with the news about Fort Stedman that the President shares with Secretary of War Stanton: “Robert just now tells me there was a little rumpus up the line this morning, ending about where it began.”
Rufus Kinsley has new duties at his posting on the Gulf Coast: “Appointed as Recorder of a Court to investigate the circumstances attending the shooting of a rebel prisoner by one of the guard. Found the reb. refused to obey orders, and exonerated the guard.”March 26, 1865
In the aftermath of Gordon’s assault, Robert E. Lee recognizes that he has reached a turning point at Petersburg and Richmond, informing President Davis: “I fear now it will be impossible to prevent a junction between Grant and Sherman, nor do I deem it prudent that this army should maintain its position until the latter shall approach too near.”
J.B. Jones finds his hopes of Lee’s success at Fort Stedman dashed: “After all, I fear Lee’s attempt on the enemy’s lines yesterday was a failure. We were compelled to relinquish the fort or battery we had taken, with all the guns we had captured.” Even the momentary success signals badly to the war clerk: “The 600 prisoners were completely surprised—their pickets supposing our troops to be merely deserters. This indicates an awful state of things, the enemy being convinced that we are beaten, demoralized, etc.”March 27, 1865
President Lincoln meets with Grant.
Imprisoned at Fort Delaware, Henry Robinson Berkeley marks a special occasion:
“May my next birthday be as joyous and happy as this one is sad, gloomy and hopeless. God has been very gracious to me and I try not to repine. The end of this long and bloody war is certainly drawing to a close and that very rapidly. And what an awful close it is going to be. A great many people have seen it, since ill-fated Gettysburg; but they would not acknowledge it, even to themselves. Maybe I ought not to write it down even in this little diary.”
A combined operation between the Union army and navy opens against Spanish Fort, on the Blakely River, guarding Mobile, Alabama. The Federals work diligently to sweep the waters for torpedoes, or mines, but over the next five days, several vessels will fail to detect the devices in time to prevent being sunk by them.March 28, 1865
Berkeley has taken to watching a somber sight from his barracks window:
“The hospital dead-house, and a shed where the plain, pine coffins are made for our dead can also be seen. It is a gloomy and sad sight, those high piles of coffins, and they carry from eight to a dozen of them every morning, filled with our poor dead boys, whose loved ones down in Dixie are anxiously waiting for, and bury them on the New Jersey shore. It has passed into a hackneyed phrase among the prisoners, to say ‘That poor fellow will soon be in Jersey,’ when one sees a poor prisoner whose end is not far off.”
While high level conversations continue for the Union commanders in Virginia, General Lee intimates to his daughter that the next campaign is imminent: “Genl Grant is evidently preparing for something & is marshalling & preparing his troops for some movement, which is not yet disclosed. . . .”
John B. Jones notes activity in high Confederate circles: “The President, and one of his Aids, Col. Lubbock, ex-Governor of Texas, rode by my house, going towards Camp Lee. If driven from this side of the Mississippi, no doubt the President would retire into Texas.
And Lee must gain a victory soon, or his communications will be likely to be interrupted. Richmond and Virginia are probably in extreme peril at this moment.”March 29, 1865
As Lee has suspected, Ulysses Grant unleashes the movement that he believes will bring the siege of Petersburg, if not the war itself, to a conclusion. Pressure along the line by the 125,000 men of the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James will keep the Confederates unsettled, but the greatest thrust will come on the Army of Northern Virginia’s vulnerable remaining supply routes into Petersburg.
As part of this operation, Union major general Gouverneur K. Warren’s 12,000 men move toward the Boydton Plank Road, meeting resistance in the area of Lewis’ Farm. The Confederates fall back to White Oak Road to re-establish themselves as heavy rain inundates the combatants and mires them in mud. Major General Philip Sheridan reaches Dinwiddie Court House with his cavalry, probing for a way to turn the Confederate line.March 30, 1865
In the midst of continuing rainfall, Warren’s men are holding the positions they have taken, with the troops of Lieutenant General Richard Anderson ensconced along White Oak Road.
Union brigadier general Alvin Voris writes home: “You will hear of something big before long from the Army of the Potomac unless all Gen Grant’s calculations fail. Sherman, Sheridan & Meade are at work. May God speed the right.”March 31, 1865
In an effort to wrest the Federals from their positions, Major General Bushrod Johnson attacks Warren’s command, forcing the Federals back, but the arrival of Union reinforcements stymies further success. A counterattack sends the Confederates rearward and cuts communications between these Southern troops and their counterparts at the critical crossroads of Five Forks, where Union cavalry under Philip Sheridan confront Confederates under major generals George Pickett and Fitzhugh Lee.
Cump Sherman tells Ellen of his recent dash into Virginia to confer with Grant and President Lincoln and notes that he made the journey “before Joe Johnston or the newspapers found out the fact.” Even as he plans to generate an official report on his late campaign, Sherman expects to remain active: “Of course if in the meantime Grant has not disposed of Lee I must try him.”
April 1865April 1, 1865
Five Forks must be held if the Confederates are to maintain a viable defense of Petersburg and Richmond, but Union major general Philip H. Sheridan is as determined to seize the vital road junction as Robert E. Lee is to hold it. George Pickett has primary responsibility for the position, but is absent when the Union attack occurs and shatters the Confederate defenses. Casualties stand at 830 Union and 3,300 Confederate, mostly captured or dispersed.
Jefferson Davis sends a wide-ranging message to General Lee that begins by addressing the attempt to raise black troops for Confederate service and ends with the thoughts that are on everyone’s minds: “I have been laboring, without much progress, to advance the raising of negro troops. You must judge how far you can consistently detach officers to recruit. . . . I have prepared a circular letter to the governors of the States invoking their aid, as well by appeals to the owners as by recommendations to the legislatures, to make the most liberal provisions for those who volunteer to fight for the safety and independence of the State.
I have asked often, but without satisfactory reply, how many of the exchanged prisoners have joined the Army. Your force should have been increased from that source 8,000 or 10,000 men. . . .
The question is often asked of me, ‘Will we hold Richmond?’ to which my only answer is, ‘If we can; it is purely a question of military power.’”
The same man who had chided George Thomas for being slow before Nashville in December 1864 is explaining to Abraham Lincoln why it is so difficult for him to move now in Virginia. Ulysses Grant telegraphs: “The quicksand of this section exceeds anything I have ever seen roads have to be Corduroyed in front of teams and Artillery as they advance we were 56 hours moving 600 teams 5 miles with 1200 men to help them through the woods where it is perfectly dry for infantry horses will go through so deep as to scarcely be able to extricate themselves.”
William Wiley of the 77th Illinois Infantry is facing the defenders of the Confederate defensive works near Mobile, Alabama. The Confederates are showing signs of lowering morale, but the fighting can still be deadly. “One of the first Indiana heavy artillery was killed by a musket ball.”
Young Emma LeConte does not care much for the latest fashion requirements, but insists that she and a relative have decided that under the circumstances “We would willingly wear sackcloth and even ashes if necessary, rather than give up to the Yankees. With all the ports closed, we will be obliged to give up every foreign luxury, which are even now by their high prices beyond the reach of all but spectators.”
CSS Shenandoah is busy marauding Union shipping in the Pacific.April 2, 1865
General Lee prepares for what the day may bring by donning a new uniform, but there will be little else to cheer him. Union major general Horatio Wright’s VI Corps crashes into Confederates under the hard-fighting Ambrose Powell Hill, who falls as he tries to reconnoiter and rally his men. By mid-morning the state of affairs is becoming painfully clear for the Army of Northern Virginia. The Union offensive has proven to be so daunting that the possibility exists that Lee will not be able to disengage his army successfully after all. The defenders of Forts Gregg and Whitworth (or Baldwin) secure valuable time by delaying the blue tide while their comrades re-establish their lines and cling to the hope that night will come before it is too late. In any case, Richmond must be sacrificed. Lee observes quietly to a subordinate: “This is a sad business, colonel. It has happened as I told them in Richmond it would happen. The line has been stretched until it is broken.” Losses have been high, with Union casualties at 3,894 and Confederate at 4,852.
Subsequent fighting at Sutherland Station adds another 1,000 men to the total lost for the opposing sides, but the South Side Railroad is in Union hands.
Lee signals the desperate nature of affairs to his commander-in-chief in Richmond: “I think it is absolutely necessary that we should abandon our position tonight. . . .”
To Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge, Lee first says, “I see no prospect of doing more than holding our position here till night. I am not certain that I can do that.” Then explains a few hours later, “It is absolutely necessary that we should abandon our position to-night, or run the risk of being cut off in the morning. . . . It will be a difficult operation, but I hope not impracticable.”
Word reaches Jefferson Davis of the devastating news that all is lost for the Confederate capital. Rising silently, he strides from his pew at St. Paul’s Church to oversee the withdrawal of the government officials, heading by train for Danville, Virginia.
Henri Garidel has been to mass at his Catholic Church, but begins to sense impending trouble as the day progresses: “I see that Richmond is even more topsy-turvy than ever. Everyone is actively preparing to leave. I am going to go home to wait for the news. I think things are about to explode.”
Abraham Lincoln is now seeing the fruits of the Union efforts that had been stymied in front of Petersburg for so long. He tells Ulysses Grant: “Allow me to tender to you, and all with you, the nations grateful thanks for this additional and magnificent success.”
Ulysses Grant starts a letter for Julia from City Point, only to cross out that location since he has progressed from that starting point: “I am now writing from far inside of what was the rebel fortifications this morning but what are ours now. They are exceedingly strong and I wonder at the success of our troops carrying them by storm. But they did do it and without any great loss. We have captured about 12,000 prisoners and 50 pieces of Artillery. . . . Altogether this has been one of the greatest victories of the war. Greatest because it is over what the rebels have always regarded as their most invincible Army and the one used for the defince of their capitol. We may have some more hard work but I hope not.”
The news is just as bad for the Confederacy in the Western Theater, where troops under James H. Wilson overwhelm a cadre of defenders under the vaunted Nathan Bedford Forrest at Selma, Alabama. Despite personal heroics, “The Wizard of the Saddle,” can conjure no magic to prevent the collapse of his position and Forrest finds himself fortunate to cut his way out of a surrounding tide of blue-coated opponents. Some 2,700 prisoners fall into Union hands, as well as artillery, equipment and a vast array of industrial facilities that had turned the city into an important element in Confederate production.
While Union major general Edward R.S. Canby besieges Spanish Fort, troops under Major General Frederick Steele close on Fort Blakely, near Mobile, Alabama.April 3, 1865
Philip Sheridan’s cavalry is pressing the retreating Confederates, with Brigadier General George Custer encountering troops under Rufus Barringer at Namozine Church. By the end of the engagement, Barringer is one of 350 Confederates now prisoners of war.
Confederate war clerk John B. Jones has watched events unfold through the previous day and evening, but cannot leave the capital himself. As morning breaks, “clear and bright,” he awaits what will come next after sleeping fitfully, “in anticipation of the entrance of the enemy.”
“At dawn there were two tremendous explosions, seeming to startle the very earth, and crashing glass throughout the western end of the city.”
In the early hours Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas has left his family to depart from the capital before it falls. Worried about them, he nevertheless has duties to perform and finds initially, “All was Still & orderly on the Streets.” But, by the time his train pulls away, the circumstances are set to change in the city. His hopes of avoiding a conflagration will be dashed as tobacco warehouses and official papers left behind go up in flames. “We reached Danville Monday evening. . . .”
With the Confederate government and troops gone, Union troops enter Richmond.
Judith Brockenbrough McGuire is reeling from the spate of events that have overwhelmed her and the Confederacy:
“Agitated and nervous, I turn to my diary to-night as the means of soothing my feelings. We have just passed through a fatal thirty-six hours. Yesterday morning (it seems [like] a week ago) we went, as usual, to St. James’s Church, hoping for a day of peace and quietness, as well as of religious improvement and enjoyment. How short-lived we are, and how little do we know of what is coming, either of judgment or mercy! The sermon being over, as it was the first Sunday of the month, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was administered. The day was bright, beautiful. . . . While the sacred elements were being administered, the sexton came in with a note to General [Samuel] Cooper, which was handed to him as he walked from the chancel, and he immediately left the church. It made me anxious; but such things are not uncommon, and caused no excitement in the congregation. The services being over, we left the church. . . . [Shortly, word spread] that there was sad news—General Lee’s lines had been broken, and the city would probably be evacuated within twenty-four hours. Not until then did I observe that every countenance was wild with excitement. . . . We could do nothing, no one suggested any thing to be done. We reached home with a strange, unrealizing feeling. . . . Then we began to understand that the Government was moving, and that the evacuation was indeed going on. The Office-holders were now making arrangements to get off. Every car was ordered to be ready to take them south. Baggage-wagons, carts, drays, and ambulances were driving about the streets; every one was going off that could go, and now there were all the indications of alarm and excitement of every kind which could attend such an awful scene. The people were rushing up and down the streets. . . .
A telegram just received from General Lee hastened the evacuation. The public offices were all forsaken. They said that by three o’clock in the morning the work must be completed, and the city ready for the enemy to take possession. Oh, who shall tell of the horror of the past night! Hope seemed to fade; none but despairing words were heard, except from a few brave hearts. Union men began to show themselves; treason walked abroad. A gloomy pall seemed to hang over us. . . . The suddenness and extent of it is too great for us to feel its poignancy at once. About two o’clock in the morning we were startled by a loud sound like thunder; the house shook and the windows rattled; it seemed like an earthquake in our midst. . . . In a few hours another exploded on the outskirts of the city, much louder than the first, and shivering innumerable plate-glass windows all over Shockoe Hill. . . . The lower part of the city was burning. About seven o’clock I set off to go to the central depot to see if the cars would go out. As I went from Franklin to Broad Street, and on Broad, the pavements were covered with broken glass; women, both white and coloured, were walking in multitudes from the Commissary offices and burning stores with bags of flour, meal, coffee, sugar, rolls of cotton cloth, etc. . . . I went on and on towards the depot, and as I proceeded shouts and screams became louder. The rabble rushed by me in one stream. . . . ‘The Yankees have come.’ I turned to come home, but what was my horror . . . to see a regiment of Yankee cavalry come dashing, yelling, shouting hallooing, screaming! All Bedlam let loose could not have vied with them in diabolical roarings. . . .”
McGuire spends the remainder of the day, amidst the chaos and smoking ruins seeking a guard for the house and attempting to make sense of what has happened in her world.
Henri Garidel has waited too long to leave the city, recording the explosions, chaos and fire that plague the city: “I finally went home and shut myself in my room, desolate, and from there I witnessed the entrance of the Yankees into Richmond. The Negro troops were the first to come in after the cavalry. It made your heart bleed to see with what joy the army was received by the population, particularly the Negroes. Their hurrahs filled the air, and there were Yankee flags flying on all sides. My heart was as heavy as a mountain. I am stuck here with 800 Confederate dollars in my pocket. . . .”
President Lincoln passes along to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton the news from Grant that the Confederates have evacuated Petersburg, and presumably Richmond, soon. Stanton telegraphs in reply his “congratulations to you and the nation on the glorious news in your telegram just recd.” But the Cabinet official tries to persuade the President not to put himself in danger and thus “expose the nation to the consequence of any disaster to yourself in the pursuit of a treacherous and dangerous enemy like the rebel army.” From City Point, Lincoln notes his appreciation of this concern, but attempts to allay any fears: “Thanks for your caution; but I have already been to Petersburg, staid with Gen. Grant an hour & a half and returned here. It is certain now that Richmond is in our hands, and I think I will go there to-morrow. I will take care of myself.”
The war news of Richmond’s capture travels swiftly, reaching the compound of Fort Delaware, where imprisoned Virginia artillerist Henry Robinson Berkeley observes: “There was great joy among our Yankee friends and guards. . . . All our men are very low down; but I still hope and trust in God.”
Jefferson Davis remains defiant as his train pulls into Danville. President Davis takes residence in the local home of Major William T. Sutherlin, turning the city into a new capital for the Confederate States. In an address meant to bolster the shattered morale of his countrymen, the proud leader pronounces:
“It would be unwise, even if it were possible, to conceal the great moral, as well as material injury to our cause that must result from the occupation of Richmond by the enemy. It is equally unwise and unworthy of us, as patriots engaged in a most sacred cause, to allow our energies to falter, our spirits to grow faint, or our efforts to become relaxed, under reverses however calamitous.”
Danville’s tobacco warehouses had been turned into prisons for captured Federal soldiers, but it remains to be seen if the Confederate chief executive, himself, despite these expressions of fortitude, will share a similar fate.
Robert G.H. Kean is one of the official refugees, along with War Department papers he has packed for their safe removal. Subsequent to his arrival in Danville, he notes the efforts of his department to at least appear to remain functional: “I opened the War Office though the Secretary had not arrived, because I deemed it of great importance that the country should see a government was in operation though Richmond was evacuated.”
Alvin Voris writes to his wife of his harrowing experiences against Lee’s men as the Confederate line collapsed around Petersburg: “I led the charge on Fort Gregg near Petersburg, losing over 60 men of the 67th. Col. Hunt & myself sought shelter in the ditch of the fort filled with water & mud waist deep where I remained for a half hour with shot & shell flying in a terrible hurricane from all points of the compass. Had it not been for this ditch we would in all probability all been slaughtered or disabled.”
General Grant communicates with his close associate William T. Sherman to coordinate actions in the wake of Lee’s retreat. He is understandably proud of the outcome for troops frequently maligned after their previous confrontations with the Army of Northern Virginia:April 4, 1865
“This Army has now won a most decisive Victory and followed the enemy. This is all that it ever wanted to make it as good an Army as ever fought a battle.”
Grant telegraphs Secretary Stanton concerning the situation on his front:
“The army is pushing forward in the hopes of overtaking or dispersing the remainder of Lee’s army. . . . All of the enemy that retains anything like organization have gone north of the Appomattox & are apparently heading for Lynchburg
Their losses have been very heavy—Houses through the country are nearly all used as hospitals for wounded men,
In every direction I hear of rebel soldiers pushing for home some in large, some in small squads and generally without arms. . . .”
President Lincoln arrives at Richmond, protected by a small contingent of sailors. He finds friendly faces to greet him, many of whom had lived in the last vestiges of slavery only a short time before. Lincoln visits the former Confederate White House, to see the domain of his counterpart.
Henri Garidel still struggles to process what is happening in the city to which he fled after the fall of New Orleans: “The city is crawling with Yankees, both blacks and whites. The whites are very polite. They have posted guards at every block to maintain order. The Negroes of Richmond are in a state of great jubilation. They have almost all come out into the streets. I don’t know if the Yankees are going to be able to maintain the peace that is reigning right now.”
Captured cannoneer Berkeley records the elation in the opposite ranks: “The Yanks fired a hundred guns in honor of the fall of Richmond. . . . We have been unable to get a paper from some cause. I suppose all Yankeedom is so joyous over the capture of Richmond [and] its burning that they have bought up all the papers and have left not even one copy for a poor Reb.”
Formerly a Union prisoner himself, John Dooley, has made his way to Lynchburg, where the war seems suddenly to be coming in his direction. He hears the news of the Confederate capital’s fall:
“Richmond is beyond a doubt the prize of the enemy. . . . This intelligence is the most afflicting I ever received. I feel bewildered—crushed—by the sudden, fearful fall, never before have I felt so desolate, so prostrate, so hopeless. Farewell poor burning Richmond. . . .
Oh! Most wretched of calamities, worse than the loss of our capital, that the noble and invincible army of Lee should be hewn & hacked to pieces by a vile host of Yankee hirelings.”
The fevered pitch of blockade-running activity in Bermuda has changed considerably. Nevertheless, U.S. consul Charles Allen continues to update his superior, Secretary of State William Seward: “There are several of the late blockade running steamers in port, soon to leave for England. The arrivals and departures of this class of vessels have been frequent during the past few weeks, but as they are all bound home their movements have excited but little interest.”April 5, 1865
Lee’s army pushes toward Farmville, where he hopes to obtain the food supplies that had failed to arrive at Amelia Court House (they got ammunition instead). His men are in desperate condition, but largely determined to press on as long and far as “Marse Robert” leads them. Grant has 112,000 men in pursuit, determined to head off Lee’s command and sparing with the Southerners as often as possible along the way.
Sherman communicates with his Old Army commander, Robert Anderson, about a special honor about to be bestowed:
“I see in the papers that an order has been made by the War Dept. that on the 14th instant you are to raise the same flag over Sumpter which you were compelled to lower four years ago, and that I am supposed to be Present. I will be there in thought but not in person, and I am glad that it falls to the lot of one so pure and noble to represent our country in a drama so solemn so majestic and so just.April 6, 1865
I have not been in Charleston since we parted then, captain & Lieutenant in the spring of 1846: but I can see it in imagination almost as clearly as you behold it with your Eyes: and though I may be far away, you may think of me as standing by your side, ready to aid you with labor to achieve the End I know you Strive to attain, Not to pull down the Sacred fabric of our Government, but to improve it, and to strengthen it, so that the good and the brave will seek the shelter of its Flag, and the Evil & treacherous shall fly to other Lands.
The Army of Northern Virginia suffers another crushing setback as Union forces converge on Confederates under Richard S. Ewell, Richard H. Anderson and John B. Gordon at Sailor’s or Sayler’s Creek. Fierce fighting marks the ground near the Hillsman farm house as the antagonists grapple with each other in attack and counterattack. By day’s end, the Federals compel Ewell to surrender his remaining troops. At this point alone, the Confederates have lost over 3,000 men and six generals to 440 Union casualties.
Protecting the wagons as best he can, John B. Gordon suffers losses, too, before he can pull away. Richard H. Anderson’s corps loses 2,600 men as opposed to 172 Federals in a day that has gone horrifically against the Southern cause. “My God! Has the army been dissolved?” Lee is heard to observe as he confronts the evidence of 7,700 Confederate casualties (against 1,148 Federal). Lee’s remnant will again trudge forward, hoping to outdistance the Union pursuit before greater tragedy can strike.
Finally, at Farmville, some of the Confederates get access to rations, but the sounds of firing interrupt the distribution and the box cars get forwarded along the line for retrieval later. At High Bridge, efforts to secure the crossing lead to brief success for the Southern forces, although at the cost of the mortal wounding of dashing Brigadier General James Dearing.
Grant has already congratulated George Meade for his efforts at bringing the Army of Northern Virginia to bay. Now from Burkeville, he pauses to add:
“I understand the North Carolinians are all leaving Lee. If we press him with vigor for a couple of days more I do not believe he will get off with 5000 men.”
From the same location he tells Sherman: “We have Lee’s army pressed hard, his men scattering and going to their homes by the thousands. He is endeavoring to reach Danville where Davis and his cabinet have gone. I shall press the pursuit to the end. Push Johnston at the same time and let us finish up this job all at once.”
Charles Mattocks of the 17th Maine experiences the exhilaration and costs of combat as the Union forces overwhelm their adversaries during Lee’s retreat: “From the wagon-train we obtained many valuable curiosities, such as Rebel officers’ uniforms, books, spurs, swords, shot guns, etc. I have Lt. Genl. Longstreet’s General Order Book, a nice English double-barrelled shot gun, a nice silver-plated bridle, etc., etc. The loss of the Regt. today is 1 officer killed, 4 wounded 4 Enlisted men killed & 23 wounded. The loss of officers is one in five, of men, one in ten. This charging is death to officers, as they have to say ‘come on’ instead of ‘go on.’”
President Lincoln informs General Grant of Secretary Seward’s accident and injury. “This, with other matters, will take me to Washington soon.”
Judith McGuire records the recent visit of President Lincoln to Richmond, disdainfully noting that only “the low, lower, lowest of creations” welcomed him “with cringing loyalty.” She also regrets the fact that the former residence of Jefferson Davis has been opened to him. “Ah! It is a bitter pill. I would that dear old house, with all its associations, so sacred to the Southerners, so sweet to us as a family, had shared in the general conflagration. Then its history would have been unsullied, though sad.”
For William Wiley in Alabama, the mixed emotions of warfare seem ever present:
“One of the 28th Illinois was cut into by a shell. A saloot of 100 guns was fired on account of the fall of Selma Ala.”April 7, 1865
Union major general Andrew A. Humphreys’s II Corps troops reach High Bridge and drive William Mahone’s Confederates from the structure. The inability to destroy the span and a smaller one below, prevent the Southerners from buying more time to retreat unmolested.
Elsewhere, John Gordon’s men turn on their pursuers, mortally wounding Union brigadier general Thomas A. Smyth, at Cumberland Church. But the blue tide crashing after Lee remains undiminished.
From City Point, Virginia, President Lincoln sends the short, but emphatic, direction to Ulysses Grant:
“Gen. Sheridan says ‘If the thing is pressed I think that Lee will surrender.’ Let the thing be pressed.”
In addition to continuing his operations on the ground, Grant presses matters with his counterpart by emphasizing the impact of recent developments. He tells Lee, “The result of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle.”
Henry Berkeley concludes of the distant events, “A great many rumors about Gen. Lee’s army and its hopeless situation. I know exactly how things are. It is impossible to be otherwise. That Grand Old Man and his noble army have simply worn out fighting numberless foreign hirelings. God help them. We are near the end.”
In a scene no doubt playing out in numerous settings, New Englander Rufus Kinsley relates the story of a former slave and master with the circumstances of power reversed:
“Ordered to investigate and report upon a complaint made by one of the officers confined in the camp of rebel prisoners, of abuse by the guard. Found the complaint unfounded. The officer refused to do the police [i.e. cleaning] work required of him, and the guard, who was formerly owned by the officer, used the means necessary to compel him to work. This lesson he had doubtless learned on the plantation of the contumacious officer.”
Tennessee ratifies the Thirteenth Amendment.April 8, 1865
Circumstances are turning dramatically against the Army of Northern Virginia as George Custer’s Union troopers reach Appomattox Station, capturing the three supply trains diverted there and a substantial portion of the Confederate artillery.
Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee exchange communications on the question of terms and surrender. Grant is anxious for peace and offers paroles for the officers and men of Lee’s army. Lee responds, “In mine of yesterday I did not intend to propose the Surrender of the Army of N. Va.—but to ask the terms of your proposition. To be frank, I do not think the emergency has arisen to call for the Surrender of this Army, but as the restoration of peace should be the Sole object of all, I desired to know whether your proposals would lead to that end.”
Grant sees in this an opening, telling Secretary Stanton: “I feel very confidant of receiving the surrender of Lee and what remains of his Army by to-morrow.”
Hearing of developments from afar and reacting to what he knows, Sherman writes from “In the Field, Goldsboro, N.C.”to Grant in Virginia:
“I will bear in mind your plain and unmistakeable point that the Rebel Armies are now the strategic points to strike at—I will follow Johnston presuming that you are after Lee or all that you have left to him and if they come together, we will also.
I am delighted and amazed at the result of your move to the South of Petersburg, and Lee has lost in one day the Reputation of three years, and you have established a Reputation for perseverance and pluck that would make [the Duke of] Wellington jump out of his Coffin.”
From even greater a distance from the active war fronts, Jeremiah Lamson finally hears that his son, Roswell, has survived a serious wounding earlier in the year. He writes from Willamina, Oregon:April 9, 1865
“It is with pleasure that I now write you, because I am assured of your safety.
We learned by the papers that you were severely wounded at the taking of Fort Fisher, but not hearing any thing from you we feared that your wound had proved mortal, mail after mail and no news from you. . . at last the long looked for letters came from you giving an account of your first and second attack on Fisher, and that you was safe, it was a day of rejoicing with us. How thankful we ought to be to God that your wounds were not mortal.
We have just received the news that Richmond is taken. On the reception of the news there was a great gathering at Salem. Gov. [Addison C.] Gibbs made a speech in which he alluded to your services, cheer after cheer was given for you.
If you should come back to Oregon she would bestow her best gifts upon you.”
John B. Gordon once more tries to make it possible for the Army of Northern Virginia to prevail on a battlefield, but his efforts come to naught, as they had at Fort Stedman. Longstreet is in no position to render aid, facing a powerful force on his front as the vice closes on Lee’s army. General Lee recognizes that further efforts must prove futile and concludes, “There is nothing left for me to do but to go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths.”
With all hope of escape closed off, Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia take the steps that will lead to a formal surrender, as the Confederate commander meets with Ulysses Grant in the parlor of Wilmer McLean’s household at Appomattox Court House. Paroles and final ceremonies remain to be carried out, overseen by a special commission of six generals from each side, but the war has ended for General Lee and his men. Altogether, the surrender and paroles will embrace 28,251 officers and men.
Even as Confederate history takes its course at Appomattox, President Davis is doing his best to supervise business as usual in Danville. He informs General Lee of the steps he is taking regarding men, supplies and the movement of remaining forces, before closing: “I hope soon to hear from you at this point, where offices have been opened to keep up the current business until more definite knowledge would enable us to form more permanent plans. May God preserve, sustain, and guide you.”
At 4:30 P.M., General Grant notifies Secretary Stanton: “Gen. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Va this afternoon on terms proposed by myself.”
Grant informs Meade: “Agreement having been made for the Surrender of the Army of North Va. hostilities will not be resumed. General Lee desires that during the time the two Armies are laying near each other, the men of the two Armies be Kept separate, the sole object being to prevent unpleasant individual rencontres that may take place with a too free intercourse.”
As part of a regiment of United States Colored Troops, Major Edward Bacon is acting as much as a tourist as he is an occupier in Richmond:
“I have just returned from town where I attended St. Paul’s Church, where last Sunday afternoon Mr. Davis received his startling telegram.
These Richmond people behave themselves remarkably well—such a contrast to the New Orleans citizens when we landed there. St. Paul’s seemed to have much the same audience as ever, save some Northern clothes & some blue uniforms. No inhabitant of the Confederacy (with a few exceptions) wears either good or new clothes.
I send you a number of relics of the Confederacy. Of most touching interest are ‘Rules & Regulations’ which I tore from a post in Room ‘No. 9, Castle Thunder.’
I send also an unpublished letter to Gov. Brown of Georgia which I obtained at the ‘President’s Room, C.S.A.’ where the Cabinet meetings used to be held.
P.S. Room No. 9 was the best & most comfortable in Castle Thunder.”
Union general Canby attacks and overruns Fort Blakely. Little now stands in the way of a Federal seizure of Mobile, itself.
William Wiley records the moments of Union success in the Gulf region: “The rebels had evacuated Spanish Forts during the night escaping by water. Our fources took possession of the works about 2 o’clock in the morning. Capturing some 30 guns and a lot of ammunition. The forts consisted of a system of strong earthworks. The grounds around the forts was planted thickly with torpedoes which they marked with small flags about two inches square so that their men could tell where they were. But an assaulting column would not notice them but would tread on them and explode them.”
Wiley and his comrades proceed to Fort Blakely, which has fallen by the time they arrive, but the action has not entirely abated: “The ground around the fort was just litterly planted full of torpedoes. Gen. Steele assaulted the works with three divisions two white and one colored troops. Our loss was quite heavy as the rebels just mowed them down while they were making their way through the obstructions and a great many was blown up by the torpedoes. The colored troops [were] so worked up by the time they got in the fort that their officers couldn’t control them. They set up [the] yell, Remember Fort Pillow and were determined to do as the rebels had done with the colored troops at Fort Pillow. Kill them, surrender or no surrender! They had to bring up a division of white troops to stop them. They took some 4000 prisoners which they marched out into the timber and placed the colored around them to guard them which made the darkeys feel pretty saussy. . . . Some of them discovered some of their old slaves among the colored soldiers and wanted to be friendly with them. . . [but the former slaves] say stand back massa, Ise massa now.”
In Richmond, Judith McGuire notes that “between nine and ten o’clock, as some of the ladies of the house were collected in our room, we were startled by the rapid firing of cannon. At first we thought that there must be an attack upon the city; bright thoughts of the return of our army darted through my brain; but the firing was too regular.” Passersby finally explained that Lee had surrendered his army. “We cannot believe it, but my heart became dull and heavy, and every nerve and muscle of my frame seems heavy too.”April 10, 1865
Robert E. Lee issues General Orders, No. 9: “After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources. . . . You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed; and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection. With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous considerations for myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.”
General Grant attempts to persuade his former opponent to surrender all hostile Confederate forces in the field. Despite his role as overall Confederate commander, Lee declines, noting that in his opinion this decision must be left in the hands of President Jefferson Davis.
News of Lee’s surrender reaches Danville in the evening. Josiah Gorgas records the effect this latest intelligence has upon a harried Jefferson Davis: “I saw the President the same evening, as he was preparing to leave Danville. He was evidently overwhelmed by this astounding misfortune. He sent for Gen. Cooper, myself & Col. [Richard] Morton [of the Nitre Bureau], the only Chiefs of Bureau present. . . . He left Danville the same evening with such of the cabinet as were with him, by rail for Greensboro.”
Before he departs, President Davis communicates with the mayor of Danville thanking him for the kindnesses of the people. “I had hoped to have been able to maintain the Confederate Government on the soil of Virginia, though compelled to retire from the capital. . . . The shadows of misfortune which were on us when I came have become darker. . . . May God bless and preserve you and grant to our country independence and prosperity.”April 11, 1865
Confederate general Dabney Maury commences the evacuation of Mobile, removing what he can, before pulling his forces out.
The panic that had characterized the evacuation of Richmond is repeated again in the last Confederate capital. John Dooley witnesses and records the moments: “Danville is in a frightful uproar; the President and his cabinet were here last night and hearing officially of Lee’s surrender, left these parts for Greensboro, N.C. . . . The streets are choked with government wagons trying to force their way out of town. Soldiers and officers of every degree and description throng the town mingled in one promiscuous mass. . . .”
Governor Zebulon Vance seeks definite knowledge from President Davis of the fate of Lee and his army. Davis can offer nothing official, but points to evidence that “represent the disaster as extreme.” The Confederate executive continues to project an air of defiance: “We must redouble our efforts to meet present disaster. An army holding its position with determination to fight on, and manifest ability to maintain the struggle, will attract all the scattered soldiers and daily and rapidly gather strength. Moral influence is wanting, and I am sure you can do much now to revive the spirit and hope of the people.”
The usually effusive Edward O. Guerrant has been silent in his record of his martial career for the last several days. Today, he provides a final, poignant entry: “IT IS FINISHED.”
From prison, Henry Berkeley writes, “Lee has certainly surrendered. The Yanks are firing four hundred guns in honor of Lee’s surrender. The firing of these guns makes my heart sink within me. To think that all the blood and treasure, which the South has so unsparingly poured on the altar of our country, should have been shed in vain. Oh! How many unhappy mothers are now mourning throughout the South for the useless slaughter of their sons.”April 12, 1865
Mobile, Alabama, falls into Union hands, as Canby’s men arrive in the city now devoid of Confederate defenders. The total Federal casualties for the campaign to take Mobile stand at 232 killed, 1,303 wounded and 43 missing or captured.
As Wiley approaches the city, he notes the unusual tableaux that occurs as the Union troops prepare to storm the Confederate defenses of Mobile: “Before we reached the shore we could see a carriage coming from the city driven at a furious gate carrying a white flag and we knew what that meant. The rebels had evacuated the city and the mayor and the city authorities came to surrender the city and ask protection. . . . They had a very strong line of earth works around the city but could not have held out long against our land and naval forces. The rebel gunboats and transports retreated up the Mobile and Tombigee Rivers. We found the forts and city entirely deserted by the rebel army and the other troops coming up we went into camp inside of the rebel works.”
General James H. Wilson’s troops occupy Montgomery, Alabama, as they brush aside a small force.
George Stoneman’s command takes similar actions near Salisbury, North Carolina, capturing some 1,300 Confederates before entering the town that has served as a supply center and notorious camp for Union prisoners of war.
President Lincoln offers an extended statement on the state of national affairs in the wake of recent developments:
“We all agree that the seceded States, so-called, are out of their proper practical relation with the Union; and that the sole object of the government, civil and military, in regard to those States is to again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe it is not only possible, but in fact, easier, to do this, without deciding, or even considering, whether these states have ever been out of the Union, than with it. Finding themselves safely home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad. Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restoring the proper practical relations between these states and the Union; and each forever after, innocently indulge his own opinion whether, in doing the acts, he brought the States from without, into the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they never having been out of it.”
President Davis remains defiant, meeting with Cabinet officials and generals Joseph Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard at Greensboro, North Carolina. Johnston and many of the others want to meet with William T. Sherman to negotiate, now that there is no hope of Lee joining forces with them.April 13, 1865
Sherman’s men enter Raleigh, North Carolina.
From Appomattox Court House, Alvin Voris recaps his week, from the end of the siege of Petersburg to Lee’s surrender. Returning in his mind to Fort Gregg, he explains, “Next to Ft. Wagner it was the most trying place I ever was in the field.” In the aftermath of the surrender, he notes: “The men on both sides look upon the war as over. The entire army of “Northern Virginia” with all its materiel and the army of the Confederacy with the Generalissimo of the broken concern are all in our hands. This with the crushing losses they have sustained during the last year must from necessity end the rebellion. Their supplies are gone, munitions of war captured, their soldiers thoroughly demoralized, the inhabitants discouraged with an utter prostration of business and no public treasure. . . . As for guerilla warfare they dare not resort to that, for our armies can devastate any section of the country where they have the temerity to try this dangerous experiment.”
Judith McGuire at last accepts that Lee’s army is no more and something of the “Lost Cause mentality” begins to materialize in her mind: “We know, of course, that circumstances forced it upon our great commander and his gallant army. How this all happened—how Grant’s hundreds of thousands overcame our little band, history, not I, must tell my children’s children. It is enough for me to tell them that all that bravery and self-denial could do has been done. We do not yet give up all hope. General Johnston is in the field, but there are thousands of the enemy to his tens.”
The teenaged Emma LeConte is in a pessimistic, but unshaken mood: “All looks so dark and gloomy. I do not despair as many do, but I feel very sad and bitter when I think of the condition of our dear country.
The South will not give up—I can not think that. . . .
Today they intended raising their wretched flag over noble old Sumter and there was to be a great to-do and fuss. Poor old Sumter—dear old fort! What a degradation! This day four long years ago. The joy—the excitement—how well I remember it.”
John B. Jones continues to try to assess the circumstances. Having failed to obtain permission to remove his family from Richmond and uncertain as to his own fate, he observes:
“No intelligent person supposes, after Lee’s surrender, that there will be found an army anywhere this side of the Mississippi of sufficient numbers to make a stand. No doubt, however, many of the dispersed Confederates will join the trans-Mississippi army under Gen. E. Kirby Smith, if indeed, he too does not yield to the prevalent surrendering epidemic.”April 14, 1865
From Raleigh, Sherman tells Judson Kilpatrick of the state of affairs as he sees them and provides instructions that ought to endear him to academic hearts:
“The People here manifest more signs of Subjugation than I have yet seen, but Jeff Davis has more lives than a cat, and we must not trust him. If you reach the University do not disturb it library buildings or specific property.”
Amid much fanfare, Robert Anderson returns to Fort Sumter to raise the flag of the Federal Union over the works. Henry Ward Beecher offers remarks on the occasion, a symbol for many of the end of bloody struggle that had begun on the site in 1861.
President Abraham Lincoln takes several actions during the day, including a note indicating that passes will no longer be necessary for those traveling to or from Washington City and Petersburg or Richmond. “People [can] go & return just as they did before the war.”
In the evening at around 8:30, he leaves a card of admission for “Mr. [George] Ashmun & friend come in at 9 A.M. to-morrow,” before setting out to take the play, “Our American Cousin,” at Ford’s Theater. Awaiting him there is John Wilkes Booth, who makes his way into the President’s box and fires a shot with the words, “Sic Semper Tyrannis,”echoing in the building. Although he has broken his leg as he leapt onto the stage, Booth makes good his escape and a severely, perhaps mortally, wounded Lincoln gets carried across the street to a boarding house, where he lingers through the night. William Seward and Andrew Johnson are also intended as targets; Seward suffering injuries, but saved, in part, by the cast that he still wears from his earlier carriage accident and the actions of his son and an attendant to ward off the attacker’s knife blows.
Consul C.M. Maxwell has one more surprise to report from Bermuda when he uncovers a plot to ship garments of individuals infected with Yellow Fever that are destined for New York City. Maxwell informs the port’s health officer, who carries out a raid and discovers trucks with the items collected therein. Reporting the matter to Secretary Seward, the consul concludes: “From the evidence before me, I believe the facts in relation to these trunks and Dr. Blackburn’s visit here were well understood by Confederate officers here, and that they have paid money to carry out the diabolical scheme.”April 15, 1865
“Now he belongs to the ages,” Secretary Stanton is heard to say just after 7:22 A.M. as Abraham Lincoln loses his struggle to survive the wounding John Wilkes Booth has inflicted. By mid-morning, Andrew Johnson receives the oath of office to replace Lincoln as the nation’s chief executive, vowing to continue to pursue the course “I have taken in the past, in connection with this rebellion. . . .”
Booth and accomplice David Herold elude pursuit for the time, stopping long enough at the residence of Dr. Samuel Mudd to have the injured limb set.
News of Lincoln’s death reaches the inmates of Fort Delaware: “Some of the prisoners think that his assassination will make the Yanks hard on us. I don’t see why they should take revenge on us. We certainly could not possibly have had a hand in it. He ought to have been in church instead of at the theatre as it was Good Friday.”April 16, 1865
Wilson’s cavalry move to new targets at Columbus, Georgia.
From his confinement as a prisoner, Confederate general Richard Ewell writes to General Grant to express his outrage at the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the attempt to William Seward’s life: “No language can adequately express the shock produced upon myself in common with the other Gen’l Offr’s of the Confed. Army, confined with me, by the occurrence of this appalling crime, & by the seeming tendency in the public mind to connect the South & Southern men with it.”
A well-known figure arrives back at his wartime home in Richmond, as Judith McGuire notes: “General Lee has returned. He came unattended, save by his staff—came without notice, and without parade, but he could not come unobserved; as soon as his approach was whispered, a crowd gathered in his path, not boisterously, but respectfully, and increasing rapidly as he advanced to his home on Franklin Street, between 8th and 9th, where, with a courtly bow to the multitude, he at once retired. . . . He has returned from defeat and disaster with the universal and profound admiration of the world, having done all that skill and valour can accomplish.”
For Emma LeConte, the evidence of the desolation of warfare has been present before her eyes in Columbia, South Carolina, but now is occurring in ever-widening circles and threatening to engulf her world: “This the Grand Army of Virginia which has heretofore never known defeat, but has stood like some great rock against which the huge waves of our enemies have dashed themselves in vain, is now melted away. All that is left is Johnston’s small army, cooped between Grant’s hordes on the one hand and Sherman’s on the other. Wiser heads than mine say it must surrender, and then the waves will roll over us.”April 17, 1865
William T. Sherman and Joseph E. Johnston meet at the Bennett farm house near Durham, North Carolina to discuss the next dispositions for the Confederate forces Johnston commands.
Wilson’s men dismantle or wreck war machinery at Columbus, Georgia.
In East Tennessee, Emerson Opdycke is still reeling from the news of President Lincoln’s death and notes the inauspicious moment of national introduction when the former President’s successor, suffered from the effects of alcohol consumption, when taking the office of Vice President earlier in the Spring: “Andrew Johnson is President and I sincerely hope he may in some degree rise to an appreciation of the great events with which he has to deal. It may be that his sad misconduct on inaugeration day will be of use to him as a warning.”
President Davis and his party continue toward Charlotte, North Carolina, with the apparent hope of securing transportation to the Trans-Mississippi.April 18, 1865
Sherman and Johnston sign a Memorandum or basis of agreement” to end the war by calling for all Confederate forces to lay down their arms. Sherman is elated at his foresight in taking this opportunity to end the hostilities, without realizing that his efforts will incur a strong reaction from Official Washington as to his authority for such a sweeping concordat.
Emerson Opdycke contemplates closing his life as a soldier: “The idea of going out of the service is so perfectly delightful to me. I shall hope and beleive that will soon come. No more orders and obedience. No more ‘Reveilles’ ‘Tattoos’ or ‘Taps.’ No more ‘General Assembly’ ‘Attention’ and ‘Forward.’ No more thunder of artillery and roll of musketry in bloody battle. Oh! after four years of such a life will not Home seem a Heaven on earth.”
Richard Ewell writes to his sister from prison at Fort Warren in Boston Harbor disavowing any responsibility for the destruction of the Confederate capital during the evacuation and explaining the circumstances of his capture at Sayler’s Creek: “I am abused for burning Richmond. It was burned by the mob. There were no troops to keep order. I had told the principal citizens months before what would happen & urged them to form a constabulary force to keep order, but they would not, only 3 offering their services when there were hundreds doing nothing. The Fire hose was cut and the Arsenal burnt by the mob. I had taken every precaution possible & the people must blame themselves.” In the subsequent fighting on the retreat westward, the Union forces had cut Ewell off from the other Confederate forces, “my men entirely surrounded, fighting over ten times their numbers were all captured or slain.”April 19, 1865
President Abraham Lincoln’s remains lie in state in the East Room of the White House.
Washington experiences the solemn funeral services for President Lincoln. Public officials and military figures, including Ulysses Grant, join Robert Lincoln in honoring the nation’s fallen leader. Mary Todd Lincoln and young Tad remain in seclusion. Following the traditional ceremonies that mark such occasions, the public begins to file past for a last glimpse of the individual who has seen the conflict nearly to its conclusion.
Prompted by events elsewhere and with General Grant’s support, Major General John Pope communicates with Lieutenant General Edmund Kirby Smith on the subject of surrendering the forces under his command authority based upon the terms Grant had offered to Lee in Virginia.
President Davis has reached Charlotte.April 20, 1865
Wilson’s men enter Macon, Georgia.
Feelings remain strong and the wounds fresh from Lincoln’s assassination for Leonard Bacon, writing his son in the army from New Haven: “The awful & stunning event of last Friday night has caused two days suspension of all business.
God has ordered the course of events that the terrible crime which has overwhelmed the nation with sorrow, cannot arrest for an hour the grand [succession] of our victories. But it will make the treason of this rebellion more abhorred than ever. The whole world will cry out for justice, not only on the wretched assassin & his immediate accomplices but on all the leading authors of the treason which attempted to destroy the life of the nation. I think there will be a much more thorough purgation of the South than there would have been but for the murder of the President.”
In Richmond, Henri Garidel takes stock of his circumstances: “Today it has been twenty-three months since I left New Orleans. Twenty-three months of suffering. I had an abominable night. I had to keep getting up. I thought I was going to die. I finally got up at seven. I am very weak. I went down and lit my pipe, my only consolation. Luckily, I still have a portion of tobacco, otherwise I would be truly miserable because I have no money to buy any more. When I picked up the paper, I saw the announcement of the taking of Mobile, which fell on the ninth. They say that 3,000 prisoners were taken in Spanish Fort and the rest of the army is retreating.”
Ewell revisits the sensitive matters of his capture and the destruction of Richmond for his wife, Lizinka, repeating what he had written his sister, before adding, “The tobacco was burned by order of the govt but had the mob not interfered this would have been all. I was exceedingly averse to burning anything, but you know it was even contemplated to destroy the Capitol, but [the presence of Jean] Houdin’s statue [of George Washington] prevented it.”April 21, 1865
Ulysses Grant is feeling the effects of the conflict that has weighed on him for so long, telling his wife: “I find my duties, anxieties, and the necessity for having all my wits about me, increasing instead of diminishing. I have a Herculean task to perform and shall endeavor to do it, not to please any one, but for the interests of our great country that is now beginning to loom far above all other countries, modern or ancient.”
Grant forwards an assessment of the new President to a cousin: “I am satisfied the country has nothing to fear from his administration. It is unpatriotic at this time for professed lovers of their country to express doubts of the capacity and integrity of our Chief Magistrate. All should give him a hearty support and recollect that whatever his policy it can not suit all and from his stand point he is better able to see the wants and true interests of the country than any other man. As to myself I believe I can truly say that I am without ambition. From the first I have tried to do what I thought my clear duty in putting down the rebellion. I never aimed or thought of my present rank in the Army until it was thrust upon me. The fears and clamors of the public can not change my course one ioto from what my own judgement tells me is right. Of course I like to have the approval of the public for it is in their interest I am serving and what they approve can be more effectually done.”
President Lincoln’s mortal remains begin the trek from Washington to Springfield, Illinois.
Hardened by the war at even her tender age, Emma LeConte finds less reason to express compassion for Lincoln’s fate: “We have suffered till we feel savage. There seems no reason to exult, for this will make no change in our position—will only infuriate them against us. Never mind, our hated enemy has met the just reward of his life.
The first feeling I had when the news was announced was simply gratified revenge. The man we hated has met his proper fate. I thought with exultation of the howl it had by that time sent through the North, and how it would cast a damper on their rejoicings over the fall of our noble Lee. . . . After talking it over, the hope presented itself that it might produce a confusion that would be favorable. . . . Andy Johnson will succeed him—the rail-splitter will be succeeded by the drunken ass. Such are the successors of Washington and Jefferson, such are to rule the South.”
John Mosby disbands his celebrated command at Salem, Virginia. “I have summoned you together for the last time. The vision that we have cherished of a free and independent country has vanished, and that country is now the spoil of the conqueror. I disband your organization in preference to surrendering it to our enemies.April 22, 1865
The Lincoln train arrives in Philadelphia.
Still on the run, John Wilkes Booth and David Herold secure a passage of the Potomac River into Virginia.April 23, 1865
At Charlotte, Jefferson Davis confronts more evidence of the disintegration of his nation. He tells his wife, “Panic has seized the country.”
Emma LeConte can sense the panic, too; indeed feels it to her core, but the teenager will not succumb: “The more I think of Lee’s surrender the harder it is to bear. That army—that General—we idolized Stonewall Jackson, worshipped Lee.
Our beloved Lee! Now that the first crushing grief for the country us passed in some measure away, how deeply I feel for him—how he must suffer—not only the humiliation, but to [be forced to] hold his hands in this hour of his country’s greatest need. What must it have meant to him to yield his sword! And what are we to do without him!
I cannot feel hopeless. . . . We still have an army in the West, and dark as everything is, we must hope. The conviction that the South can not be conquered, that it can never be reunited with the North, is so deeply rooted in my heart.”
Illinois soldier William Wiley notes the impact of the news of President Lincoln’s assassination: “It raised a terable feeling of indignation in the regiment as Abraham Lincoln occupied a chief place in every true soldiers heart. . . . There was a lot of rebel deserters in camp as they kept deserting and coming in everyday. When they heard the news of Lincoln assassination and seen the excitement among our soliders they looked pretty badly scared perhaps were afraid the soldiers might retaliate on them. They condemned the act in strong language. We supposed they done so for effect but perhaps some were cincere.”
Colonel Frank Sherman is in Washington with a cache of war trophies taken recently in Virginia, as he explains to his mother:
“I am now here with fifty-one battle flags captured by Sheridan’s command during the recent campaign, which ended with the surrender of Lee and his army to Grant. Tomorrow I present them to the War Department.”April 24, 1865
Ulysses Grant arrives at Sherman’s headquarters with the word that the President has rejected the broad-based agreement the latter had reached with Johnston. Although Sherman is angry that his efforts at peace have been rebuffed and claims to have received no other instructions to the contrary, he informs Johnston of the new circumstances and awaits developments.
Lincoln’s body has reached New York City.April 25, 1865
Federal pursuit is closing on the fugitive Booth.
Officers from Virginia who have remained thus far with the Confederate government in its flight receive permission from Secretary of War Breckinridge to return to their home state rather than proceed farther with President Davis.
Ulysses Grant tells Julia how beautiful he has found Raleigh, North Carolina, and how anxious everyone is that no more destruction is necessary: “The suffering that must exist in the South the next year, even with the war ending now, will be beyond conception. People [in the North] who talk now of further retalliation and punishment, except of the political leaders, either do not conceive of the suffering endured already or they are heartless and unfeeling. . . .”April 26, 1865
In the early morning hours Union troops surround a structure on the farm of Richard H. Garrett. As the situation becomes clearer, the officer in charge of the contingent, Lieutenant Colonel Everton Conger, calls on the occupants of the barn to give themselves up. David Herold emerges to be taken into custody, but Booth refuses. Amidst the tirade from inside, the fire set to drive Booth out, and a shot that wounds the fugitive mortally, the affair comes to a dramatic conclusion. Booth’s body will be taken to the Washington Navy Yard for examination. The manhunt for Lincoln’s assassin has ended.
War clerk R.G.H. Kean turns over his papers to an associate and joins the party of officers heading back to Virginia. “The Presidential party left soon after noon, and our party took the northern road in the afternoon, travelling in the night, 19 miles. This was the final breakup of the Confederate government. . . . We kept well to the west of the debris of Lee’s and Johnston’s armies. . . .”
Ordnance Chief Gorgas has not been riding with the Presidential party, but meets up with his governmental colleagues in Charlotte, where he finds Davis “booted and spurred with one of his aids, Gov. Lubbock, ready to take Saddle. He was going with a large escort of cavalry by the way of [South Carolina] to the Trans.-Miss. All the cabinet except Mr. [George A.] Trenholm [of the Treasury] who is sick were with him. Before he reaches the Miss. events will have shaped themselves. Whether I shall follow remains to be determined.”
Edward Bacon is in Petersburg, revisiting the sites of his service in the long siege: “I went the other day to the Hare House—‘Fort Stedman’—& strolled all about the works which we helped build & into the bomb-proof which I had occupied, walking up right through covered ways in which we used to stoop right low and I confess myself astonished to behold the trials & dangers we really endured.”
Alvin Voris returns to his destination after the detour to Appomattox, where he witnesses scenes of pride and desperation: “I am now writing you from the fair City of Richmond, the late Confederate capital which to us for the last three & a half years has been a City of ‘magnificent distances,’ if the miles marched to gain it are all to determine its distance.
The rebels as they evacuated the City burned the richest portion of the place, destroying the most parts of eleven blocks. . . . All the property destroyed in and about Richmond was done from the most foolish and unphilosophic idea possible, for they destroyed nothing that could be of present use to us against them but what might have been good to the country and to Va, particularly after the war in aid of the development of her resources after the return of peace.
There is more aristocratic beggary here today than can be found in any other city on the globe. I saw a rich poor old woman today trying to sell a few silver wine goblets at the Provost General’s office. She had not courage to ask for a long time, & when she did she burst out in tears, pride & poverty having a terrible struggle in her bosom when want came to the rescue and forced poor pride to the wall.”
Confederate prisoner Berkeley is once again contemplating bending to an oath of allegiance to the United States: “We surrendered to these people as prisoners of war, and now they wish and are trying to thrust their vile oath of allegiance down our throats on bayonets. It is a vile piece of tyranny of which they ought to be ashamed. . . . They pretend to have made war on us to save the Union; but is a Union pinned together by bayonets worth saving? I think certainly not. We are very near hopeless, and it is not wise for the United States government to render us desperate. It can certainly afford to [be] liberal and magnanimous; but the question is, will it be liberal and magnanimous? I hope so, but very much doubt [it].”April 27, 1865
In a horrific disaster, the heavily overloaded steamer Sultanasuffers an explosion that scalds or leads to the drowning of some 1,547 souls, many of whom were returning prisoners of war from Andersonville and Cahaba prison camps.April 28, 1865
Jefferson Davis accepts the resignation of Confederate secretary of the treasury George Trenholm. There is not much left for such a Cabinet official to supervise anyway, but the stalwart Postmaster General from Texas, John Reagan, assumes the Treasury portfolio.
Sherman explains to his wife, Ellen:
“The capitulation of Johnston’s army at Greensboro completes my campaign.
“The mass of the People South will never trouble us again. They have suffered terrifically, and I now fell disposed to befriend them. Of course not the leaders and lawyers, but the Armies who have fought & manifested their sincerity though misled by risking their persons.”April 29, 1865
President Davis and his party continue their flight in South Carolina, while President Lincoln’s funeral train moves closer to Illinois.
Sherman is awake in the early morning hours. He contemplates all that has happened and concludes in a letter to John A. Rawlins: “The South is broken and ruined, and appeals to our pity. To ride the people down with persecutions and military exactions would be like slashing away at the crew of a sinking ship. I will fight as long as the enemy shows fight, but when he gives up and asks quarter, I cannot go further.April 30, 1865
Grant instructs George Thomas in Nashville, to try to convince smaller bands of hold-outs “to come in and surrender their Arms on the terms made by Lee & Johnston.” He also wants his subordinate to keep a close watch for the fleeing Confederate president. “Make every effort to obtain intelligence of Davis Movements in the South and spare no pains in setting an expedition on foot to ketch him if he should be heard from.”
Edward Bacon passes along the latest news and other items of interest to his family: “Gen. Grant, having finished his glorious campaign, seems to be at a loss what to do with his immense armies. We are kept here but we know not for how long. It cant be a great while, however. Rumor already sends us back to Richmond this week sometime.
The blue violets are from the South Side Railway, near our present camp and the butter cup I got from one of the halting place for breakfast just outside of Petersburg. . . .”
Union general Edward R.S. Canby and Confederate general Richard Taylor settle on a truce that will lead to the surrender of the forces the latter commands in Alabama and Mississippi.
Lincoln’s funeral train reaches Indianapolis, Indiana.
May 1865May 1, 1865
President Andrew Johnson is moving forward on a military commission that will consider the culpability of the individuals linked to the death of Abraham Lincoln. At the same time, crowds of Chicagoans are paying homage to Lincoln’s remains.
Jefferson Davis has reached Cokesbury, South Carolina.
In Greensboro, North Carolina, Confederate brigadier general Daniel H. Reynolds, is still recovering from his wounds when he writes: “Paroling of the army commenced today. Weather fine. Some rumors of our paroled officers in Virginia being grossly mistreated by the Yankee government. I hope it is not so. Our distracted country needs some repose.”May 2, 1865
Union major general Edward R.S. Canby wires Ulysses Grant that Lieutenant General Richard Taylor has accepted the terms of surrender for the soldiers under his authority and that they will meet in two days to complete the agreement.
General Taylor informs Major General Dabney Maury that he is to keep his command in good order preparatory to finding a way, “after the surrender of General Lee’s army and other recent disasters to our cause,” to “secure an honorable and speedy cessation of hostilities.” He emphasizes that the situation must not be allowed to go out of control: “Unless the troops remain intact and are relieved from service by some general agreement between Confederate and Federal commanders they will be hunted down like beasts of prey, their families will be persecuted, and ruin thus entailed not only upon the soldiers themselves, but also upon thousands of defenseless Southern women and children. I hope you will take the pains to impress these views upon the officers and men of your command, and to assure them that their safety rests solely upon all of us remaining together in an organized state, faithfully respecting public and private property, and so performing all of our duties as will enable us to certainly secure our private rights, if finally compelled to succumb to overwhelming numbers, and lay down our arms as soldiers of a national cause with the preservation of military honor.”
President Davis has reached Abbeville, South Carolina, but he is the subject of a proclamation by Andrew Johnson that ties him to the Lincoln assassination, as well as offering $100,000 reward for his arrest.
Davis remains defiant, but the collapse of what remains of the government continues. Stephen Mallory asks to be relieved of his duties: “The misfortunes of our country have deprived me of the honor and opportunity longer to serve her, and the hour has approached when I can no longer be useful to you personally. Cheerfully would I follow you and share whatever fate may befall you, could I hope thereby in any degree to contribute to your safety or happiness. The dependent condition of a helpless family prevents my departure from the country, and under the circumstances it is proper that I should request you to accept my resignation as Secretary of the Navy.” Mallory leaves for LaGrange, Georgia.
Mary Chesnut records the effects on the region as she passes through it: “Since we left Chester—solitude. Nothing but tall blackened chimneys to show that any man has ever trod this road before us.
This is Sherman’s track. It is hard not to curse him.”
Then, as she travels on, the circumstances change: “After we left Winnsboro, in the fields negroes were plowing and hoeing corn. In status quo antebellum. The fields in that respect looked quite cheerful. And we did not pass in the line of Sherman’s savages, so we saw some houses standing.”
Chesnut had just broached the topic that must be on many minds as swords are set to be turned into plowshares: “Fidelity of the negroes the principal topic. There seems not a single case of a negro who betrayed his master. And yet they showed a natural and exultant joy at being free.”
William T. Sherman is back in Georgia and supervising his final operations in the wake of Joseph Johnston’s surrender. He gives George Thomas a glimpse into his thinking concerning the latest developments as hostilities close and peace begins to unfold:May 3, 1865
“I will have much to tell you at some future time of the details of my negotiations with Johnston, which have been misconstrued by the People at the North, but I can afford to let them settle down before telling all the truth. At my first interview with Johnston he admitted the Confederate Cause was lost, and that it would be murder for him to allow any more conflict, but he asked me to help him all I could to prevent his Army and People breaking up into Guerilla Bands. I deemed that so desirable that I did make terms subject to the approval of the President which may be deemed too liberal. But the more I reflect the more satisfied I am that by dealing with the People of the South magnanimously we will restore 4/5 of them at once to the Condition of good Citizens leaving us only to deal with the remainder. But my terms were not approved and Johnstons present surrender only applies to the troops in his present command viz. East of Chattahoochee.”
Davis and his party are traveling toward Washington, Georgia. Davis accepts Mallory’s resignation regretfully: “For the zeal, ability and integrity with which you have so long and constantly labored, permit one who had the best opportunity to judge, to offer testimonial and in the name of our country and its sacred cause to return thanks.” Judah Benjamin sets out on his own.
Richard Taylor communicates again with Dabney Maury on the state of affairs, assuring him “If I see the slightest hope of withdrawing my army, or any considerable portion of it, at any cost, to some other field of operations, and then prolong the struggle with the shadow of a chance of final success, I will most certainly make the attempt. In the present condition of affairs such an attempt will not only be useless, but criminal on my part.”
Taylor explains that he has learned that he cannot cross the Mississippi River in any numbers and offers Dabney suggestions for communicating with the men: “Say to them, also, to remember the duty they owe to our defenseless Southern women and children, whose homes and happiness will be ruined if the struggle, which in the supposed contingency will have become a hopeless one, is continued. No false pride, no petty ambition, no improper motives whatever, must sever them from the straight line of duty.”
The Lincoln funeral train reaches Springfield, Illinois.May 4, 1865
Citronelle, Alabama, becomes the latest surrender scene for a Confederate command as Richard Taylor orders the troops in the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana to capitulate.
When word reaches Judith Brokenbrough McGuire of the earlier loss of another Confederate army she turns to a paraphrase of the Greek philosopher, Euripides, to express her reaction: “General Johnston surrendered on the 26th of April. ‘My native land, good-night!’”
Abraham Lincoln is laid to rest in Springfield.May 5, 1865
Businessman James Thomas, Jr., has come to the conclusion that circumstances are such that declaring loyalty to the Union now makes sense:
“The Confederate authority has no existence and our allegiance is rightly due to the U. States—there can be no question or hesitation about this. If you want to be a citizen of the U. States with equal rights of others—then the path is plain—I should take the oath at once. . . .”
Sherman is feeling the frustration of a field commander with a political support system that seems to be inadequate to the current demands for winning the peace. He explains to John Schofield:
“. . . I feel deeply the embarrassment that is sure to result from the indefinite action of our Government. It seems to fail us entirely at this crisis, for I doubt if any one at Washington appreciates the true situation of affairs south. Their minds are so absorbed with the horrid deformities of a few assassins & southern Politicians that they overlook the wants and necessities of the great masses. Stanton & Halleck turned on me because I simply submitted a skeleton or basis. Any thing positive would be infinitely better than the present doubting halting, nothing to do policy of our poor bewildered government. . . . Now that all danger is past, our former Enemy simply asks some practicable escape from the terrible vicissitudes of his position it is wonderful how brave and vindictive former non-combatants have become.”
Connecticut ratifies the Thirteenth Amendment.May 6, 1865
Richard Taylor releases General Orders, No. 54, announcing the surrender of his command.
The War Department taps Major General David Hunter to head the Lincoln conspiracy commission.
Jefferson Davis continues to elude his pursuers.
In Richmond, Henri Garidel is writing in his journal when sounds reach him. “It was the Army of the Potomac beginning to parade through Richmond on its way back to Washington. They began to march past at nine o’clock and ended at four in the afternoon. Forty-four thousand men passed by with General Meade, two army corps. And, lined up in battalions on various city streets, 8,000 of their men stationed in Richmond presented arms to them as they marched by. I have never seen anything like it. When you see something like that spectacle, you are no longer surprised that we were simply crushed.”
Sherman continues to take the opportunity to express his views. To Salmon P. Chase, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who is assessing matters in North Carolina with regard to suffrage for the former slaves, the soldier replies:
“I am not yet prepared to receive the negro on terms of political equality for the reasons that it will arouse passions and prejudices at the North, which superadded to the causes yet dormant at the South, might rekindle the war whose fires are now dying out, and by skillful management might be kept down. As you must observe, I prefer to work with known facts than to reason ahead to remote conclusions that by slower and natural laws may be reached without shock. . . . I am willing to admit that the conclusions you reach by pure mental process may be all correct, but don’t you think it better first to get the ship of state in some order, that it may be handled and guided?”
He follows his first, with a second message, based upon a letter of instructions meant to guide events in Louisiana:
“I have had abundant opportunities to Know these People both before the war, during its existence and since their public acknowledgment of submission. I have no fear of them armed or disarmed, and believe that by one stroke of the pen nine tenths of them can be restored to full relations to our Government so as to pay taxes, live in Peace, and in war I would not hesitate to mingle with them and lead them in battle against a national foe. But we must deal with them with frankness and candor, and not with doubt, hesitancy and prevarication. The nine tenths would from motives of self interest restrain the other mischievous tenth, or compel them to migrate to Mexico, or some other country cursed with anarchy & civil war.May 7, 1865
P.S.: I feel additional confidence in the ability of the United States to rule the late Rebel states by and through even their existing state authorities. . . . Their resources are all gone and their confidence in their leaders is turned to hate. With moderation & courage on our part Jeff Davis, [Robert] Toombs, [Howell] Cobb, [Judah] Benjamin [John] Slidell and other Political leaders will receive less mercy at the hands of their country men, than ours.”
In compliance with the actions of his department commander, Dabney Maury informs his men, “Our last march is almost ended. To-morrow we shall lay down the arms which we have borne for four years to defend our rights—to win our liberties. We have borne them with honor, and we only now surrender to the overwhelming power of the enemy, which has rendered further resistance hopeless and mischievous to our own people and cause.”
Alvin Coe Voris notes the responsibilities he has now assumed:
“I am doing all sorts of duty, being sort of a military governor, police officer and judge, being to this people what Moses was to the children of Israel.”
As he has watched comrades depart for home, Daniel Reynolds remains confined to his bed for the time being: “Wound doing well. It is seven weeks today since I was wounded.”May 8, 1865
E.R.S. Canby’s commissioners process the paroles for Richard Taylor’s troops. All eyes begin to shift westward, to the Trans-Mississippi, where active Confederate forces remain.
Sherman informs his wife, Ellen, of the trouble he is having in Army circles, but declares, “I am not dead yet by a long sight and these matters give me new life for I see the Cause. A Breach must be made between Grant & Sherman, or certain cliques in Washington who have a nice thing [going] are gone up.”
At Fort Warren, in Boston Harbor, Campbell Brown explains that he has identified new skills while a prisoner of war: “[John S.] Marmaduke cooks [this] week—my turn, next. We live well. I have large undeveloped talents for cooking, and expect to astonish the mess.”
In Greensboro, Daniel Reynolds is finally able to stir from his bed: “Improving. Commenced walking on my crutches. Only took a few steps. Am very weak yet and had a person near me to prevent my falling.”May 9, 1865
Nathan Bedford Forrest issues a statement from his headquarters in Gainesville, Alabama, to explain that the surrender of General Taylor has ended the war for his command as well: “That we are beaten is a self-evident fact, and any further resistance on our part would be justly regarded as the very height of folly and rashness. . . . The cause for which you have so long and so manfully struggled, and for which you have braved dangers, endured privations and sufferings, and made so many sacrifices, is to day hopeless. The Government which we sought to establish and perpetuate is at an end. Reason dictates and humanity demands that no more blood be shed. . . .
Civil war, such as you have just passed through, naturally engenders feelings of animosity, hatred, and revenge. It is our duty to divest ourselves of all such feelings, and so far as in our power to do so to cultivate friendly feelings toward those with whom we have so long contested and heretofore so widely but honestly differed. Neighborhood feuds, personal animosities, and private differences should be blotted out, and when you return home a manly, straightforward course of conduct will secure the respect even of your enemies. . . .
I have never on the field of battle sent you where I was unwilling to go myself, nor would I now advise you to a course which I felt myself unwilling to pursue. You have been good soldiers, you can be good citizens. Obey the laws, preserve your honor, and the Government to which you have surrendered can afford to be and will be magnanimous.”
Andrew Johnson recognizes Francis H. Pierpont as the governor of Virginia.
The trial for the eight Lincoln conspirators gets underway.May 10, 1865
The end of the journey has come for Jefferson Davis, as Union forces converge on his camp near Irwinville, Georgia. Accompanied by his wife, Varina, and Postmaster General Reagan, among a small band of other associates, Davis is no longer a fugitive and his government essentially ceases to exist.
The notorious William Clarke Quantrill suffers a severe and possibly mortal wound in Kentucky.
A Union vessel captures a blockade-runner off the coast of Florida laden with a cargo of sugar, rum, wool, ginger, and mahogany.
Sherman forwards a “private and confidential”communication to his friend Grant as he prepares to travel to Washington. He remains highly incensed by the “great outrage . . . enacted against me, by Mr. Stanton and General Halleck.” He has already indicated his disdain to Halleck and anticipates treating Secretary of War Stanton “with like scorn & contempt unless you have reasons otherwise. . . .” Sherman is convinced that his army service is essentially over, but promises to obey legitimate commands. “No man shall insult me with impunity, even if I am an officer of the Army. Subordination to Authority is one thing, to insult Another.” Cump assures Grant that Stanton has political designs that may include him as well. “He seeks your life and reputation as well as mine. Beware, but you are Cool, and have been most skilful in managing such People, and I have faith you will penetrate his designs. . . . Keep above such influences, or you will also be a victim—See in my case how soon all past services are ignored & forgotten.
Excuse this letter. Burn it, but heed my friendly Counsel. The lust for Power in Political Minds is the strongest passion of Life, and impels Ambitious men (Richard III) to deeds of Infamy. Ever your friend.”
The letter to Grant has not lessened Sherman’s pique. He plans to brook no interference from Halleck or Stanton and prepares to demonstrate his disdain at the next opportunity. “They will find that Sherman who was not scared by the Crags of Lookout, the Barriers of Kenesaw, and long and trackless forests of the South is not (to be intimidated). . . [by them].”
Emerson Opdycke recounts the review of his command near Nashville, Tennessee:
“Yesterday was lovely after the showers and the Grand Review of the Grand old 4th Corps came off. Each regiment was formed in mass by division and even in that order the line must have been a mile long. As the immortal [George H.] Thomas approached the troops rent the air with spontaneous cheers. When the General came within a few paces of me my brigade presented arms the colors saluted and all the music of the brigade struck up. The Genl. returned the salute by taking off his hat he then rode up to me shook hands and said ‘I am very glad to see you.’ I replied ‘Thank you. I hope you are well General.’
Opdycke’s command then passed in review before being chosen for a special honor:
Gen. Thomas was very happy and declared it to be the finest display he had ever seen. This closed the review but Genl Thomas desired that a brigade should be selected to form in line of battle throw out skirmishers and make a mock charge as though against the enemy. . . . My line was quickly formed the skirmishers thrown out and the bugle sent forth the ‘Forward.’ It was really inspiring and when we came opposite Genl. Thomas I ordered ‘Charge bayonets’, ‘Forward’ ‘double quick’ ‘March’. The old battle cry arose and the men rushed grandly forward with great enthusiasm.
Genl. Stanley sent his thanks and we were generally complimented. [General Washington] Elliot told me he had never seen Thomas as much excited; that when the brigade commenced to move he (Thomas) said addressing his wife who was near him ‘Look look wife Genl. Opdycke is going to show us how to fight’ and after the charge he repeated with evident satisfaction ‘Ah! That was first rate first rate.’”May 11, 1865
Sherman’s command marching through the former Confederate capital on the way to Washington City impresses Henri Garidel: “I think that a whole city like New Orleans with bag and baggage would have taken less time to pass than these two corps that have passed through Richmond. It seems like it will never end.”
Confederate brigadier general M. Jeff Thompson surrenders in Arkansas.
The CSS Stonewall arrives at Havana, Cuba.May 12, 1865
In the opening phase of the Battle of Palmito (Palmetto) Ranch, Union troops under Lieutenant Colonel David Branson reach the vicinity and scatter a small contingent of Confederates.
Testimony begins in the Lincoln conspirator trial.
Andrew Johnson appoints Major General Oliver Otis Howard as commissioner to lead the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, or Freedmen’s Bureau, an organization rooted in the U.S. army through the War Department, and designed to assist the former slaves in making a transition from that status into freedom.
From prison in Fort Warren, Richard Ewell tells his wife:
“I signed the application to be placed on parole, made out by the General Officers here, because I thought that if I have to take the oath of allegiance (as I suppose will be the case with all who remain in the U.S. & in which case I can see not the slightest objection) it would be far better to do so away from apparent compulsion among one’s own people. I would not support in future a man who, whatever might have been his course during secession, provided of course it had been honest, who should not be a thoroughly patriotic citizen of the country. I am sick of halfway men. . . . I could tell you a great deal that would tend to make you think it a mercy that the struggle came to a close without more useless loss of blood, that it ended as quickly as it did, that the coup de grace was so decided.”May 13, 1865
Reinforced and now commanded by Colonel Theodore H. Barrett, the Federals enjoy early success again at Palmito Ranch, but end the day in retreat when Confederates under Colonel John S. “Rip” Ford arrive to augment a counterattack. Ford uses artillery and cavalry against the Union infantry to drive off and pursue the Federals for a time, before declaring, “Boys, we have done finely. We will let well enough alone, and retire.” Union losses amount to over 100 men, mostly captured. Among those killed is Private John J. Williams of the 34th Indiana, reputed to be the last individual to die in combat in the war. The Confederates suffer only a handful of wounded in the engagement.
A testy exchange occurs in Texas, where some Confederates wish to continue the war, while others appear reticent to do so. Most adamant in fighting on is Jo Shelby.
C.S.S. Shenandoah continues to prowl the waters of the Pacific Ocean.May 14, 1865
To Montgomery Blair, Sr., in Washington, Ewell makes similar remarks to those he has written earlier about the timing of taking an oath to the United States: “Any influence I may have for good among the people I have been with for four years might be lost by unseemly haste in throwing off my allegiance to the Confederacy while a show of force in Texas is kept up. A few days more or less may make the difference between good and ill repute in my return and proportionably in my power for good, and though I may be satisfied that Kirby Smith can make no serious resistance, something may be due to form.”
Voris travels to Louisa Court House, Virginia, where he observes the effects of war and other institutions on the people he encounters:
“I thank God for myself and my children that I was not a slave owner. The burdens & disabilities it throws on the owner in Virginia never compensated the community for the costs even when the individual owner made it profitable, which cases are rare . . . . Honest thinking persons tell me that they [have] no doubt that Virginia is better without slavery than with it. . . .May 15, 1865
Persons with pockets full of what was used for money one year ago are absolutely penniless. Those who have their hundreds of thousands of Confederate government bonds are as poor as if they had the same weight in paper rags only, and the owners of real estate have few horses, no other kinds of farm stock, hardly grain enough to keep themselves and their negroes from starvation till after harvest, and everything in the nature of home or domestic supplies are so battered and worn under the pressure of four years of war and a searching blockade that all are compelled to begin almost anew.”
Emerson Opdycke joins other general officers in traveling into Nashville for the purpose of having photographs taken. They learn the news that Jefferson Davis has been captured: “We thought the news ought to cause an unusually amiable expression in our pictures!” They cap off the occasion with a dinner “at a new and excellent saloon: the dinner was verygood, fresh strawberries & cream for dessert.”
Daniel Reynolds has progressed so well in his recovery that he is finally able to leave Greensboro, although the train will not depart until later in the afternoon: “At this writing, 10 a.m., am ready to take the cars for Danville, Virginia, on my way to Arkansas.”May 16, 1865
Reynolds is on his way to Richmond when he realizes an ironic element regarding his mode of transportation: “We are in the same car that President Davis occupied when he left Richmond at the evacuation.”May 17, 1865
Emma LeConte continues to grapple with the close of the struggle for Southern independence: “The fall of the Confederacy so crushed us that it seemed to me I did not care what became of me. It is impossible not to feel rebellious and bitter. It is impossible not to feel that it is unjust and cruel.”May 18, 1865
But, there are other positive developments for her, even in the midst of her inner turmoil: “The troops are coming home. One meets long-absent, familiar faces on the streets, and congregations once almost strictly feminine are now mingled with returned soldiers. . . . For four years we have looked forward to this day—the day when the troops would march home. We expected to meet them exulting and victorious. . . . The army is disbanded now—oh! Merciful God!—the hot tears rush into my eyes and I cannot write.”
Richard Ewell writes his niece to tell her of the loss of his horse when he was captured and the conditions he now experiences as a prisoner:
“I suppose you know Rifle was taken when I was. I expect when he got his fill of good oats & hay he thought the millenium had come. Prison life is not altogether as pleasant as it might be, although we have every indulgence the law allows.”
For Emma LeConte the misfortune continues as Union troops enter Columbia and she learns of other developments:
“Dear me! How the sight of that blue uniform makes my blood boil! They are camping just in front of the house so that I cannot go to the front door or windows without seeing their hateful forms. . . .
AFTERNOON. This morning we received the last crowning piece of bad news. I did not think it possible anything worse could happen. We heard the capture of President Davis. This is dreadful, not only because we love him, but because it gives the final blow to our cause. If he could have reached the West he might have rallied the army out there and continued the resistance. . . . I did not cry—the days of weeping are past—but, ah! the heartache—the only thing left to hear now is the surrender of the army in the West and that must come pretty soon. I think I have given up hope at last, at least for the present. We will be conquered.”May 19, 1865
The Stonewall surrenders in Havana, having learned of the state of affairs for the Confederacy.May 20, 1865
Union forces arrest Stephen Mallory in LaGrange, Georgia, for transport to Fort Lafayette in New York, charged with “treason and with organizing and setting on foot piratical expeditions.”
Daniel Reynolds notes: “I am anxious to know my fate, so far as it is to be decided by the Federal government. I hear that President Johnson has under consideration a new Amnesty Proclamation. Will I be included or excluded is the important question.”
Artillerist Henry Robinson Berkeley marks an important anniversary:
“This day four years ago I left home for the army. It has been four years of blood, hardship, sickness and danger and its end finds me a prisoner of war in this horrid prison den, and my country desolated, pillaged, plundered and conquered by these vile Yankees. Yet I believe we Rebs are going to be proud of these four years of war. It was only ‘by overpowering numbers and resources,’ as Gen. Lee puts it in his good-by order to the Army of Northern Virginia. We put up a bully fight, if we did go under. And we have no excuses to make for our actions.”May 21, 1865
Alvin Voris reports on his visit to Charlottesville, “one of the finest towns in Virginia, the county seat of Albermarle, the seat of Virginia University and the former home of Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States.” He is disturbed by the condition of Monticello. “The mansion house is much dilapidated.”May 22, 1865
Jefferson Davis now finds a casemate at Fortress Monroe, in Virginia, to be his new home.
Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury, inventor and scientist for the Confederate cause, reaches Havana, and upon learning of the fate of the country, turns over to a compatriot “$30,000 or $40,000 worth of torpedoes, telegraphic wire, etc. which I brought for a defense of Richmond.” Maury has consistently refused to profit personally from his work or the materials he has acquired and finds it “quite a relief to get rid of them.”May 23, 1865
A grand review of the Army of the Potomac takes place in Washington.May 24, 1865
Sherman’s western armies take their turns in the grand review at the nation’s capitalMay 25, 1865
At Fort Delaware, Robin Berkeley notes the concern arising by the Federals of smallpox among the Confederate prisoners, although this is not the malady that most concerns them: “A good many cases of smallpox have broken out in the last few days. Yanks are taking every precaution to prevent its spread and to stamp it out. The prisoners, however, fear the scurvy much more than they do the smallpox. The scurvy is mostly confined to the men who have been here for two years, or longer, and is caused by a long diet of hardtack and salt meat without any vegetables. . . . Hundreds have died of it. A few vegetables and fruits would save their lives, and yet they are dying in the sight of these things. It is nothing but cruelty and tyranny.”
A tremendous explosion of stored captured ordnance supplies rocks Mobile, Alabama. Union quartermaster John Cooper will receive a Medal of Honor—his second—for his role in saving an injured man from the fire.
The Confederates have abandoned the defensive fortifications at Sabine Pass, Texas.May 26, 1865
For the second time since Fort Donelson in 1862, Simon B. Buckner is involved in negotiations for a capitulation of forces as he meets with his counterpart to discuss ending hostilities and surrendering the Confederate troops under Edmund Kirby Smith.May 27, 1865
Rufus Kinsley has had the unenviable task of overseeing captured Confederates, but his duties in this regard have changed: “Confederate prisoners all sent to Vicksburg. Great relief to us.”
The Shenandoah captures a whaling vessel. One of the members of the crew notes sarcastically to the skipper, who had earlier run afoul of the C.S.S. Alabama, “You are more fortunate in picking up Confederate cruisers than whales. I will never again go with you, for if there is a cruiser out [there], you will find her.”May 28, 1865
Robin Berkeley remains a defiant Confederate, condemning those who have shown less fortitude than he: “Fifty-two galvanized Yanks were set free. These galvanized Yanks are men who were captured as Confederate soldiers and surrendered as such. They have, however, turned traitors and gone over to the Yanks. I pity them, even under our present conditions. They are utterly scorned and despised by the other Confederate prisoners, and are held in the utmost contempt by all the Yankees. They are, however, men of the very lowest standard and have little or no sense of honor, or of good character.”May 29, 1865
President Johnson grants amnesty and pardon on a wide-scale to most former Confederates. The restoration of property will not include slaves and a loyalty oath is meant to bind the transgressor to the U.S. Constitution. High ranking officials, former officers who had rejected their earlier oaths, wealthy individuals who supported the Confederacy and others are left out of the blanket amnesty, but can apply individually for the President’s personal consideration.
Emma LeConte notes the continuing effects of the war on her family and community, but one measure has particularly raised her ire:
“They are administering the oath here now and almost everyone is obliged to take it, for unless they do, they are not allowed to engage in any occupation, nor to travel beyond the limits of the town, nor will they be protected against violence or injustice of any kind. Aunt Josie says, and I suppose they reason in the same way, that she would take it as a mere form forced upon her and therefore not binding on her conscience, and that she would break it as readily as she would take it. But I cannot feel that way and I do not see how I could do it unless [I am] really starving. . . .
She notes that some of the Union officers seem distressed that the local populace has not embraced them warmly: “Great Heavens! What do they expect? They invade our country, murder our people, desolate our homes, conquer us, subject us to every indignity and humiliation—then we must offer our hands with pleasant smiles and invite them into our homes, entertain them perhaps with ‘Southern hospitality’—all because sometimes they act with common decency and humanity! Are they crazy? What do they think we are made of?”May 30, 1865
Sherman issues Special Field Order No. 76:
“The General commanding announces to the Armies of the Tennessee & Georgia that the time has come for us to part. Our work is done, and armed Enemies no longer defy us. . . .
How far the operations of this army have contributed to the final overthrow of the Confederacy and the Peace which now dawns on us must be judged by others not by us, but that you have done all that men could do has been admitted by those in authority, and we have a right to join in the universal Joy that fills our land—the War is over, and our Government stands vindicated before the world by the joint action of the Volunteer Armies of the United States. . . . Your Genl. now bids you all farewell, with the full belief that as in war, you have been good soldiers so in Peace you will make good citizens and if unfortunately new war should arise in our country, ‘Sherman’s army’ will be the first to buckle on its old arms and come forth to defend & maintain the Government of our inheritance & choice.”
In the crush of paperwork and other routine duties that attends the closing of hostilities, Emerson Opdycke receives “an important notice from the Ordnance Office to the effect that my accounts there are all square.”
Alvin Voris observes, “Kirby Smith having surrendered his army we may say the war is entirely over. Thank God for peace. I see in the terrible fruits of this war that peace is going to be appreciated and preserved with jealous care by the American people. . . .
I am trying to do good here. I am sort of middle man between the former poor, helpless slave and his owner, to see his rights are respected and when it is needed to compell respect for his rights. I do not allow these chivalrous lords of creation to scourge women anymore in my district. If by my efforts I can leave these poor creatures in a better condition for my having been among them, I shall feel bountifully paid for the sacrifices I am making in their behalf and count the pains in feeling I am compelled to undergo as well borne.”
Voris hears the plight of an older former slave who has endured a recent beating:
“I verry plainly told . . . them to understand that the rights of humanity would be recognized in my command and that I had just as high a regard for the rights of a poor colored woman as of any other person in Virginia, and that I would use my power to compell others to respect their rights. When they act meanly I mean they shall know that the tables are turned, that right not might rules.”May 31, 1865
From Fort Delaware, Robin Berkeley and his comrades speculate: “No news. Everyone talks of release and about going home.”
The Union navy reduces its squadrons of blockade vessels significantly and retitles the departments by eliminating the word “Blockading” from them.
June 1865June 1, 1865
While stationed at Camp Harker, near Nashville, Tennessee, Emerson Opdycke has the opportunity to examine the ground over which he and his men fought the previous December, telling his wife: “The day before yesterday I visited the old battle field in company with my staff. The day was cool and cloudy and I enjoyed the four hours very much. We followed the track of our brigade and the scene seemed very familiar even my horse seemed to recognize it. Here our skirmishers first came under fire: there our lines lay down to escape the enemies artillery fire. This hill my brigade stormed on the 15th and captured three cannon one battle flag and a few prisoners pursueing untill darkness obliged it to halt.
We met several rebel officers one a Colonel on the battle field: they were going home on parole from Greensboro, N.C. and it seemed to embarrass them to meet us on the very scene of their disaster. They pointed out where they had fought and they were the very troops my brigade had vanquished on the 15th.”
George Pickett writes to President Andrew Johnson to request amnesty be extended to him based on his resignation from the Regular Army from his post at San Juan Island in the far northwest and adherence “through conscientious duty (as I conceived) to my mother state-Virginia. Had she not have seceeded, I should not have been in the Confederate Army, as no one was more attached to the old service, nor ever stood by, and fought for it, with more fidelity, nor could any one have been sadder, and more loth to leave it than I, who from my youth had been so devoted to it; and I now am, and have been since the surrender of Genl. Lee (to whose army I belonged) willing, and ready to renew my allegiance as a loyal citizen, to the United States Government, and have advised and counseled all men belonging to my division to return to their homes, and the peaceful pursuits of life—to take the oath of allegiance—and observe with scrupulous truth its stipulations, and to faithfully obey the laws of their country.”
Some messages were more foreboding, based upon the arrests of or rumors concerning prominent former Confederate leaders:
“If you attempt to do anything unbecoming the justice of the free Country over which you rule to Either Jeff Davis or General Lee I swear that your life as well as others will be the penalty We of Canada will Exact. I will shoot you and others & will not run as my poor friend Booth did. This is true. It is a shame after taking their parole you arrest them for Treason—disgrace to the trust that they should not act honorably. Be just—be merciful—& your reward will be hereafter.
A Southerner for life”June 2, 1865
General Edmund Kirby Smith accepts the surrender terms offered earlier by General Edward R.S. Canby.
The British retract belligerent rights to the Confederate States of America, set in place in response to the implementation of a Union naval blockade of Southern ports in 1861.
Former Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas is traveling through Alabama, taking notice of conditions: “The slaves are of course in great commotion. Their freedom has been announced to them, & they are in a state of excitement & jubilee not yet knowing what responsibilities their new condition brings with it. . . . It is a curious problem which is being solved by the sword—this freedom of the African race. It will cause many a cruel pang on both sides. The master sees his property suddenly swept away, & the negro does not find in his freedom compensation for the ills it brings upon him. But the world will wag on & his freedom will cling to him and the master will continue to cultivate his land, with black labor or that failing with white.”
Emma Holmes notes the transitional nature of the world around her and records the opinions of one companion: “He thinks the Yankees are too cute, with all their hatred of the Southerners to kill the Goose for the Golden Egg, and that, in regard to the negroes, they are like the man who bought the Elephant, then did not know what to do with it. They have freed the negroes & now don’t know what to do with them, as the negroes think freedom means freedom from labor & equality with whites, but especially the former, neither of which suits the Yankee in practice.”June 3, 1865
On the popular story in the Northern circles that President Jefferson Davis’s capture came with him dressed in ladies’ apparel, she notes: “Charlie Holmes says he saw the official announcement of President Davis’s arrest and the frock story is only a Yankee clap trap . . . . The President was captured in his camp just after rising in the morning. W.W.W. said he heard the Grand Jury in Washington had found a true bill against him & had indicted him for treason, but he did not think they could possibly hang him unless the jury was packed, for there were many prominent & distinguished lawyers who had always been opposed to this war on constitutional grounds. He was sure they would come forward in his defence. A report comes through John Kershaw, who has just returned, that he [Davis] has been released on parole and taking the oath.
How hard it is to get the truth in these days of excitement & no mails. We are entirely dependent on chance passengers for letters, old papers, and reports.”
President Johnson instructs Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to consider allowing the former governor, Joseph E. Brown, to return to Georgia on parole. “I think that his return home can be turned to good account. He will at once go to work and do all that he can in restoring the State.
I have no doubt that he will act in good faith. He can not under the circumstances act otherwise.”June 4, 1865
President Johnson is not prepared yet to release former Confederate general Richard Ewell or allow him “to take the Oath of Amnesty at present.”June 5, 1865
Many of Emerson Opdycke’s comrades are mustering out. He has just received his commission “as Brevet Brigadier General” and explains, “it is quite a formidable looking sheepskin and may be of interest to the boy half a century hence.”
A delegation of individuals from Alabama calls upon the president:
“The president’s reception of the joint delegations was cordial and hearty. He entered at once upon the subject of the restoration of civil government to the State of Alabama, and presented his views and the future policy to be pursued in relation to States hitherto insurrectionary, in a methodical, and business-like manner, concluding, after a conference of an hour and a half, with a suggestion that the members of the delegation should consult together and propose or recommend such persons from among the friends of the National Government in Alabama, any one of whom might be acceptable for the appointment of provisional governor, to guide him in the appointment of such an officer.”
Johnson explained that no State authority could be recognized that “in any way connected with the old order of things, during the period of the rebellion” and insisted that he “came from the people himself and desired nothing which should not conduce to the public welfare. He had found himself suddenly and unexpectedly occupying the highest official position in the gift of the American people. He had but one other ambition, and that was, to go out of his present position, with his whole country once restored and all her people once again prosperous and happy.
The president added that, he cherished the kindest feeling towards the people of the Southern States. He was a Southern man himself, and, he had been a slave owner. Slavery was dead, beyond resurrection. The war had effectually disposed of that institution and the sooner the people of the South should come to the realization of this fact, the more readily and harmoniously would they come to accept the new order of things, and assist in the re-establishment of civil government. He differed from those persons who bewailed the condition of the Southern States. He thought the future of the South more brilliant than ever. The dawn of her prosperity had only begun.”June 6, 1865
The notorious William Clarke Quantrill meets his end in Louisville, Kentucky, succumbing to wounds he had sustained earlier in May.June 8, 1865
The grocery bill for the White House for today consists of:
“35 lb cut loaf sugar @25¢ 8.75
50 lb B Coffee @20¢ 10.00
1 Sack Flour 1.75 1 sack salt .20
¼ Gro Matches .75 2.70
1 lb White Pepper .80 1 Bot mustard .85
10 lb Pow Sugar 2.20 3.85
10 lb Pro Coffee 5.00 24 lb Ham @ 25¢ 6.00
6 Bots yeast Pow 1.80 12.80
1 Bot Oil .75 1 Bot Chow Chow 1.00
¼ nutmegs .56 2.31
½ lb Allspice .50 6 Bars Soap 1.20
1 nest spice Boxes 1.75 3.45
1 lb Oolong Tea 1.75 1 lb Imp Tea 2.50
½ Doz mackerel .60 4.85
2 Sugar Buckets @1.50 3.00”
Tennessee governor William Brownlow provides an update for President Johnson on the state of affairs in his home state:“We shall close out our Session in two days more. We have done some good things, and left others undone, that ought to have been done. We have had a troublesome minority in the House, some of whom have acted worse than Rebels would have done.’
Brownlow laments the departure, as he has understood it, of Union general George Thomas:“We are sorry that the noble old Thomas is to leave us. He is vastly popular with loyal men in Tennessee, and is respected by rebels, for his ability, integrity, and manly bearing.”
Former vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, writes to President Johnson asking for a pardon, but insisting legalistically, in “no sense was I ever a citizen of the United States except as a citizen of Georgia—One of the ‘States united’ under the Compact of union of 1787.’”
It is hard to say who Richard Ewell had in mind specifically or whether he would attribute the person’s vehemence prior to Fort Sumter to overcompensation, but from confinement at Fort Warren, he explains to Lizinka the contradictions inherent in military life today:“The only one I remember to have heard spoken of as a violent advocate of secession & all that, remained in the Army & has been active in suppressing the South. It is all right, but still it seems strange to hear one’s self denounced while some of the class that did the most harm are highly honored. I mean the Pre-Adamite Secessionists. I for one had everything to lose & nothing to gain.”June 9, 1865
Purchasing for the White House larder today calls for:
“10 ½ Cheese @.30 3.15 10 lb Crackers 2.00
3 [indecipherable] 3.00 8.15
2 Galls Whiskey 10.00 1 Gall Sherry 4.50 14.50
Accidents continue to occur where military ordnance is concerned as a storage facility in Chattanooga goes up in flames.
Richard Ewell has additional time to ponder his choices in the late conflict, while remembering that his most significant pre-war disappointment came at the hands of Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, who used his influence to promote another to a position Ewell felt he deserved for himself:June 10, 1865
“We sometimes find our greatest misfortunes turn into benefits, but if there were anything I had to dread & regret in 61 it was the war. I was too sick & too busy sowing guano & timothy etc. to think much about it, but I clung to the last ray of hope like a drowning man to straws. I had only received benefits from the U.S. The greatest injustice I had experienced was the making [of Lucius Northrop] a Captain over my head from civil life, but this several years before & by our leading man[, President Davis]. Certainly I had nothing to tempt me into secession either from Ambition or hope.”
A committee of individuals representing “a population of more than 20,000 colored people, including Richmond and Manchester” communicates with President Johnson.
“During the whole of this slaveholder’s rebellion we have been true and loyal to the United States Government. . . . We have given aid and comfort to the soldiers of freedom. . . . We have been their pilots and scouts, and have safely conducted them through many perilous adventures, while hard-fought battles and bloody fields have fully established the indomitable bravery, the loyalty, and the heroic patriotism of our race.”
Yet, circumstances have remained at variance with the notion that the “termination of the war . . . broke the last fetter of the American slave. . . .
When we saw the glorious old flag again streaming over the capitol [in Richmond], we thought the power of these wicked men was at an end; and, however sad our hearts may be over the present state of affairs, we have lost none of our faith and love for the Union, or for yourself as its Chief Magistrate; and, therefore, as oppressed, obedient, and loving children, we ask your protection, and upon the loyalty of our hearts, and the power of our arms, you may ever rely with unbounded confidence.”
Emma Holmes laments the state of affairs as she understands them:
“We are indeed a conquered people. Each day brings the dread fact more strongly into view, but none alas more humiliating and painful to every feeling heart than the fate of our President and great officials. . . . ‘Oh, God, I shudder when I think of it—a living death, for him who wielded our destinies for four years. Great as his [Davis’s] errors of judgment have been and much as our failure may have been owing to his obstinate prejudices for or against certain of our generals and other officials, still he was a pure minded patriot whose all was involved in ours. . . . If there is anyone I pity & feel for from the depths of my heart, it is Jefferson Davis.”
Edward Bacon is on his way to Gulf Coast with the 117th U.S. Colored Troops when he writes a letter home while “on Board Star of the South”off Fortress Monroe in Virginia:
“You will observe that we are to remain in the same state of tantalizing uncertainty which has possessed us for the last six weeks until the fourth of July, if not much later. So the prospect is not very [pleasing].”June 12, 1865
General Opdycke recounts the torchlight parade his old brigade had offered him: “After dark the regiments ‘fell in’ and with lighted candles in the hollow of their bayonets they marched over. It was a charming sight to see hundreds of those little flame points moving in long column through the green trees across the creek and then file in and mass near my door, of course the band was playing all the time. They called me out and I made them a little speech not occupying more than ten minutes closing with these words ‘I thank you again and again for all your kindness to me and for that grand devotion to duty which will never cease to live in my memory for it achieved the rescue of the Republic.’”June 13, 1865
President Andrew Johnson appoints a new provisional governor for Mississippi: William L. Sharkey.
Robert E. Lee sends a short, but respectful message relating to the president’s amnesty proclamation, requesting the “full restoration of all rights & privileges extended to those included in its terms.”
John Bennitt has made his way back to Michigan with his unit and meets with a welcome reception at Detroit:
“We were mustered out on the 9th of which I wrote you, --and started on the 10th for this place. Were enthusiastically greeted all along the route—Fare sumptuously at the hands of the Ladies of Pittsburg, Pa yesterday noon, and again before daylight at the hands of the ladies of Cleaveland Ohio, who make special provisions for Michigan and Wisconsin troops. I could not restrain tears to see the real earnest warm hearted greeting given to the men who had borne the burden of the war—given by the people of our own state here, and all along the way. It leads me to think that the people have some appreciation of the toils and dangers these men have endured for their country’s sake.”June 15, 1865
Emma Holmes reflects the uncertainties of the times as former masters and former servants or slaves seek to establish the new parameters of freedom. She explains that her mother has asked the servants to remain and if they chose to leave to tell her openly and they could go. She makes plain that there is no money for payment, but that any servants and their families who continue to work there will be food and shelter provided “as usual. . . . Chloe said she never had run away & never would. She did not approve of such meanness & was quite willing to remain. But if she could, would like to go to Charleston in the autumn when the railroad was finished.”
Josiah Gorgas notes the efforts of a captain from the Freedman’s Bureau to speak to the former masters and slaves about their new relationships and the expectations of the United States government: “Four months ago that Yankee capt. attempting to make such an address to their Slaves, would have been hung on the nearest tree, & left there. It is a good omen for the future of our country. Where sense & discretion guide & direct the masters they will be sure to regain in time their sway, in some shape which they have at present lost, thro’ the total failure of military operations. We may still hope for a future I think.”June 17, 1865
President Johnson continues his policy of appointing new provisional state executives, tapping James Johnson for Georgia and Andrew J. Hamilton for Texas.
The ultmate "Fire-eater," Edmund Ruffin, cannot contemplate life in a world that follows the collapse of the Confederacy. He prefers death at his own hand to continued existence under Union rule: “And now with my latest writing and utterance, and with what will [be] near to my latest breath, I here repeat, & would willingly proclaim, my unmitigated hatred to Yankee rule—to all political, social and business connections with Yankees, & to the perfidious, malignant, & vile Yankee race.”
On his way to a new posting in New Orleans, General Opdycke makes a stop at Johnsonville, the scene in the previous November of a dramatic raid by Nathan Bedford Forrest, which still exhibits the effects of the operation: “After loading up we were obliged to wait until after dark for ten days rations; the water is so low we cannot sail in fogs or at night so after boiling in the hot sun of Johnsonville all day we had to stay there all night. The town is perfectly detestable; it was disgracefully abandoned and millions of Government stores destroyed last fall; it is being officially investigated now.”
Henri Garidel is also on a steam voyage from Richmond, via Fortress Monroe, to home in New Orleans. Anxious to proceed and discouraged by the many delays in his journey, the traveler also witnesses some of the changes occurring in the post-war era:
“This afternoon three Negro marriages were celebrated on board on deck, with all of us watching. The minister is a Negro. . . . Afterwards they had other Negroes come with violins, and they all began to dance.June 18, 1865
At last free of Johnsonville, Opdycke continues his voyage and sees wonders he had only once contemplated as the craft reaches the Mississippi River: “I arose this morning and looked out upon the ‘Great Father of Waters’ for the first time. It gratified the wish of years.”
Alvin Coe Voris is experiencing the alterations wrought by war and the end of slavery in the part of Virginia to which he has been posted:
“The new relation between the once master & his slaves occasions much perplexity. I must confess to verry vague ideas as to what ought to be done. . . .
I have urged upon the property owners the humanity and necessity of devising some systematic plan by which the labor of the freed population may be advantageously used, but system is almost entirely out of the question. Everybody and every economic relation are in a state of shocking chaos. The want of money, subsistence and facilities for working the land is exceeding embarrassing to the immediate application of productive labor.
The price to be fixed for the labor of the freed man is a difficult matter to fix. The landholders will not develop their agricultural resources unless they can secure labor on advantageous terms. The freed man will not unless he can be satisfied that he is securing an equivalent for his labor. If the matter of price be left to the caprice of each employer great variations will exist & in many instances gross injustice be done to the laborer. If association of effort is secure there is great danger of combinations of capital against labor, leaving the relation of master & slave only changed in name.”June 19, 1865
Major General Gordon Granger releases General Orders, No. 3, in Galveston, Texas:
"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."
Opdycke has reached Memphis, passing “the celebrated Island No. 10” and “Fort Pillow but little could be seen there.”
Ulysses Grant warns President Johnson of relaxing the nation’s guard against the actions of Ferdinand Maximlian in Mexico. “What I would propose would be a solemn protest against the establishment of a monarchical government in Mexico by the aid of foreign bayonets.”
Josiah Gorgas arrives in Elyton and assesses the effects of the recent raid by General Wilson and his raiders. In addition to the destruction of the furnaces, he finds other ruins: “A Saw mill, grist mill, foundry & machine shop about a mile off, were also burned, & the machinery pretty well ruined by the fire.”June 20, 1865
Alvin Voris enjoying a game of cat-and-mouse with local residents in Louisa, Virginia: “The Secesh women here think they spite me terribly by refusing to receive us into their society. At my boarding house the other day two ladies were sitting on the stoop when I rode by with my staff in full dress. I rode so near to them that they thought it best to go in, but I saw their inquisitive eyes peeping through the lattice boards. . . .”June 21, 1865
Lewis E. Parsons becomes provisional governor for Alabama.
Reaching Vicksburg, General Opdycke declares “very formidable to a river attack but I see nothing very wonderful in Grants conception of the plan of attacking the place from below it ought to occur to any one.”
Former Confederate secretary of the navy Stephen Mallory applies for pardon.June 22, 1865
The CSS Shenandoah continues to operate in the Bering Sea, oblivious to the closing of the war, capturing whaling vessels.
Robert M.T. Hunter and James A. Seddon are among the latest former Confederate officials to seek pardons.June 23, 1865
Andrew Johnson issues a declaration ending the Federal blockade of Southern ports. Confederate brigadier general Stand Watie surrenders his command in Indian Territory as the last significant capitulation in the Civil War.June 24, 1865
Ewell draws on history to contrast the Confederate legislative body to political leaders in the time of Napoleon and the Rome where “80 Roman Senators perished in the ranks in one battle. Instead of ours doing anything so rash, they were intriguing for office to keep out of the Army & it was difficult to keep a quorum when bullets were heard. Yet I daily hear of the failure being the fault of the people, when I know how willingly they poured out blood & property as long as there was proper use made of them, & untill it became evidently nothing but pouring water into sand. To abuse the people is as reasonable as to expect horses in a field to harness themselves & draw off the wagons without drivers.”June 25, 1865
Edward Bacon has reached his destination with his men and professes to be unimpressed by what he sees:
“Indeed Texas—so far as [I] have seen it—does not at all make a good impression on my mind. I have not seen a tree in the whole state. . . .
The people are very anxious to have our forces to occupy the state but are much afraid of the negro troops & don’t want to see them. Everybody ‘has always been Union’ but everybody , too, has been in the service of Mr. [Jefferson] Davis.”June 26, 1865
CSS Shenandoah’s rampage through the whaling fleets has added six more vessels to her tally.
Emma Holmes observes, “The gentlemen generally are taking the oath & making contracts with their negroes, all opposition or holding back being worse than useless. . . .”June 27, 1865
Young Emma LeConte is experiencing the twin elements of the Union presence in South Carolina, with one Union officer exhibiting the rule by letter and another more philosophical in his treatment of a defeated people:
“Gen. [Alfred S.] Hartwell is in town again, the vile, miserable tyrant. He came up here not long ago. I suppose he thought things were going on too smoothly and comfortably under [Colonel Nathaniel] Haughton and he needed to stir up a fuss and make the people realize their position. . . . The first thing he did was to take possession of Mrs. Bausket’s house, which she had left for a short visit to her plantation, and there he established himself and proceeded to hold his orgies. The next thing he did was to go to Church. After the service he wrote a note to Mr. Shand saying he observed the omission of the prayer for the President of the United States, and that Mr. Shand would be pleased to use it hereafter or he would be under the unpleasant necessity of closing his Church. . . . A few days after he left for a week or two. Mr. Shand went to Col. Haughton about it. The Colonel told him he was very sorry, but since the thing was brought before him officially, he was compelled to carry out his orders, ‘I have,’ he said, ‘abstained from going to Church ever since I have been here because I understood the prayer was not used and I did not wish to interfere with your religious worship.’ The next Sunday Col. Haughton went to Church and the prayer was used. . . . Mr. Shand hurried through it as if the words choked him, and at the end not one amen was heard throughout the Church, not even from the minister who was assisting at the altar.
Yesterday we had a little piece of beef—a luxury indeed—the first we have tasted since Sherman passed through. . . . The Yankees are issuing rations but they are only drawn by people in actual need or who have no self-respect.”June 28, 1865
Shenandoah brings her captures to new heights with eleven whaling vessels taken.June 29, 1865
Having not heard from President Johnson on the matter of a pardon, Alexander Stephens asks to withdraw his request, maintaining that he had petitioned “not as a suitor for a probable voluntarily tendered favor but as a claimant for my clear legal rights.” Stephens reminds Johnson that his own reference to the Magna Carta would be basis enough for bringing about his release or allowing him to face formal charges so that he might mount a defense.June 30, 1865
The members of the military commission sitting to determine the fates of those persons associated with Abraham Lincoln’s assassination find all eight of these individuals guilty, with four of them—David Herold, Lewis Payne, George A. Atzerodt and Mary E. Surratt scheduled for execution by hanging. Dr. Samuel Mudd, who had set Booth’s injured leg, Samuel Arnold and Michael O’Laughlin receive life sentences. Edward Spangler, a stagehand at Ford’s Theater, will be incarcerated for a six year term.
President Johnson continues the business of the day, naming Benjamin F. Perry provisional governor of South Carolina.
July 1865July 1, 1865
Through the good offices of the governor of Mississippi, Nathan Bedford Forrest forwards a request to President Andrew Johnson for a pardon. At the time, Forrest felt he had “owed his first allegiance to his state,” when the national crisis occurred and entered the service as a private in the Confederate army, “fought the ones who were opposed to it—in arms—when ever and wherever I could find them,” but “acquiesced in the fate of war . . . and withdrew to my plantation.” With the close of fighting, he explained that he instructed “all soldiers under my command to pursue the same course—to lay aside all ideas of ‘guerrilla- warfare—and to return to peaceful avocations of citizens.” Should the United States go to war with a foreign country, the former cavalryman insists he will “draw my sword in behalf of my country.” Observing that he had been “fairly whipped” in the fight, he hopes “amnesty may be granted me.”
Traveling with his former commander, James Longstreet, Thomas Goree is making arrangements and settling accounts as best he can, although the party frequently depends on the largess extended to them from others:
“Accommodations last night very indifferent. No corn for horses.”
William Wiley applauds his superior’s ability to keep the 77th Illinois from being transferred to Texas for additional duty, before recalling the real incentive:
“We thought our old man was doing pretty well by us as he had succeeded in keeping us from being sent to Texas and had now got a special order for our muster out. Altho we were aware that he had a little personal interest in the matter as he had a new wife waiting for him up in Illinois.”
New Hampshire ratifies the Thirteenth Amendment.July 2, 1865
Longstreet and Goree continue their sojourn:
“Very hospitably entertained . . . . Asked the amt. of our bill. Reply was, ‘No charge against men who have fought the battles of my country.’”
Josiah Gorgas attends a service conducted by a defiant Bishop Richard H. Wilmer of Alabama: “He instructs his clergy to omit the prayer for the President [of the United States] until civil government is restored in the Diocese.”
Emerson Opdycke is in New Orleans, and has the opportunity to call upon a celebrated superior:
“Yesterday I went up to see Gen. Sheridan he has changed in personal appearance greatly since I last saw him but not in his pleasant cordial manner: he knew me at once and seemed glad to see me. He is going to send us into the interior of Texas in a few days to the region of San Antonio a fine healthy country he says.”
Alvin Coe Voris notes the coming of a great national holiday now to be experienced under vastly different circumstances:
“We understand arrangements are making to make the 4th one of the grandest hollidays the world has ever witnessed. Well may it be so. The most cruel and destructive of wars is just over, the best Government in the world just established and twenty millions of free men rejoicing over a peace that must be permanent and overflowing with blessings. . . .”July 3, 1865
Opdycke remarks on his change in leadership: “I was sorry to leave Gen Thomas department but next to being under him I would prefer to be under ‘gallant Phil Sheridan’.”July 4, 1865
Mary Chesnut notes quietly and defiantly: “Black 4th of July—1865.”
Thomas Goree finds one stop a pleasant reminder of an earlier time:
“We were very hospitably entertained at Mr. Dalton’s last night. His wife was sick but his daughter (an only child) did the honors with much grace. If the Yankees had not freed the negroes, this would be the place for a young man in search of a wealthy wife. The young lady was not pretty, but very well educated and has been raised to [her] business [as hostess].”
Union soldier Rufus Kinsley offers his appreciation for a meaningful Fourth of July celebration:
“To-day for the first time in its history, does the old Liberty Bell in Independence Hall speak the truth. To-day for the first time since I began to think for myself do I exult, and rejoice, and thank God for the return of this anniversary. . . . To-day I am thankful. To-day I am ready to beat my sword into a plowshare. And I think I’ll do it, too. I can afford to retire from the field of Mars.”July 5, 1865
President Andrew Johnson approves the sentences of the Lincoln conspirators and orders them carried out.
Edward Bacon writes home from his new billet in Brownsville, Texas. The circumstances are hardly promising:
“From that doleful desert [near the mouth of the Rio Grande] we marched directly for Brownsville. The weather, which had been very warm, was fortunately cloudy, but the mud and water were so deep that we could make on the first day only ten miles and that at the loss of all the men’s shoes which stuck fast in the bottom of the mud. Reaching a little rise in the ground we bivouacked for the night and four the next morning started again and after crossing Palo Alto battle ground, had pretty good marching for some eight miles when we reached a body of clear water which stretched before us knee deep for a good mile. There was only one thing to be done: wade. Having gotten over the pond we again bivouacked at a place called Jackass Prairie, barren ground, save [for] the growth of Prickly Pear & Chapparal, which only served to make the place more dismal. Moreover, rattle snakes, moccasins, Scorpions, centipedes, tarantulas and all manner of more insignificant torments made existence miserable & several officers were severely bitten by them.”July 6, 1865
The Longstreet party has the chance to treat their animals, as well as themselves:
“. . . slept very comfortably all night. Horses fared well: plenty of corn, oats and nice pasture to run in.”
Thaddeus Stevens censures the President for his toward the Southern governments and pardons to the former Confederates:
“Among all the leading Union men of the North with whom I have had intercourse I do not find one who approves of your policy. They believe that ‘restoration’ as announced by you will destroy our party (which is of but little consequence) and will greatly injure the country. Can you not hold your hand and wait the action of Congress and in the mean time govern them by military rulers? Profuse pardoning also will greatly embarrass Congress if they should wish to make the enemy pay the expenses of the war or a part of it.”July 7, 1865
The Lincoln conspirators meet their fates on a scaffold assembled on the Arsenal Grounds of the Old Penitentiary Building in Washington, D.C. Lewis Payne, George A. Atzerodt, David Herold and Mary E. Surratt will pay the summary price for Abraham Lincoln’s death before a large crowd of civilians and soldiers.July 8, 1865
In the wake of the deaths of the Lincoln conspirators, President Johnson begins to receive anonymous letters threatening him with the same fate as his predecessor. One, who declares that he will murder the President at any opportunity insists in comparison to Lincoln: “We thought you was a different man but now we see. Your penalty is death, and not by a natural death but a cold Blooded murder. It will be accomplished as soon as possible.”
Thomas Goree finds that everyone they encounter is not prepared to offer services at no charge as they crossed South Carolina:
“To my surprise, Mr. Kemp had a bill. Charged us six dollars. Very kindly invited us to call whenever we passed [again]. Came today to within 1½ miles of Spartanburg & stopped for noon. Bought corn for our horses, $1.00 per bushel.”July 9, 1865
Goree is more pleased with the circumstances at the relatives of one former Confederate who had served in Longstreet’s command:
“Eldest son was in Jenkin’s Brigade. Anxious for us to spend the day. No charge of course. Put us up a snack.”
A Union guard records an earlier conversation he had (on July 4) with an imprisoned Jefferson Davis which exhibits some of the captive’s mind-set at the moment:
“Jef is keeping his spirrits up pretty well now. he talked a great deal, he gave his opinion on some of our generals he said Gen rosencrance was one of our ablest Generals. . . . he said when he [George McClellan] found gen lee on his front[in Virginia in 1862] he should have crossed to the south side, and went up. he said Stonewall Jackson was a good general as he moved rapidly. . . . he spoke of the trial of the conspirotors at washington but as the other guard kept walking the floor i could not hear clearly what he said.”July 10, 1865
Busy with court martial duty, Edward Bacon notes the declining health and morale of the soldiers:
“The troops now are quite as much under privation & suffering (save that of action) as they usually were in Virginia. Scurvy is beginning to manifest itself among the men, still the Subsistence Department has no anti scorbutics and the Medical Department has nothing at all.”July 11, 1865
Longstreet and Goree are at the one-time residence of John C. Calhoun, where the staffer lingers for an examination of the house:
“I went out to the library of the great ancestor, Jno. C. Calhoun, which is arranged just as it was at his death. I could but think while here how fortunate this great man was not to live to see the disgrace and ruin of his country which he strove so hard to prevent.”
The commission that will decide the fate of the notorious guerrilla Champ Ferguson convenes in Nashville, Tennessee.July 12, 1865
Josiah Gorgas stops to visit with former Confederate general William Hardee: “He lives in two somewhat dilapidated log cabins.”
Oliver O. Howard, commissioner for the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands sets strict guidelines for officers to prevent “compulsory unpaid labor” from former slaves, except as criminals, and to avoid a “substitute” for slavery in some other form.July 13, 1865
With a furlough from General Sheridan, Emerson Opdycke has undertaken a change of venue, writing now from the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia:
“I am inside of the historic walls of Fortress Monroe right on top of the casemate wherein the Arch Rebel Jeff Davis is confined. How glad I am he is there at last.”
Richard Ewell is making the best of his continued incarceration at Fort Warren in Boston:July 14, 1865
“Should the fates keep me here next winter I shall get a cooking stove . . . .
I take the Tribune, which I believe to be as truthful as [Horace] Greeley’s prejudices permit. I have thought of taking another paper to keep myself posted in events.”
Lizinka Ewell has received a delayed notice that President Johnson will consider “release for of General Ewell and your son.” She heads for Washington, sending a quick note to Fort Warren: “Probably—almost certainly—I am required to give bond & security for the good behaviour of you both, & won’tyou have to walk straight & give an account of yourselves every evening.”July 15, 1865
Former Georgia Joseph Brown communicates with President Johnson on his willingness to press for state action that “will abolish slavery,” despite some opposition. “It is hard for our slaveholders to realize the facts as they exist, and to accept them. . . . I shall do all in my power to have the Convention incorporate into the state constitution a clause forever prohibiting slavery and to pass a resolution concurring in the proposed amendment of the constitution on that subject. I am satisfied under all the circumstances by which we are surrounded that this is best for our people and will promote the future prosperity of the state.”July 16, 1865
Richard Ewell to the news from “My dear Lizinka:”
Your of 14th notified us yesterday of your Journey. I am anxious on your as on my account that your hopes will not be disappointed. You make some strange mistakes, dont you see if you give bail for C[ampbell Brown] and myself it will be you that will have to walk straight and not we & on the first provocation we can cause forfeiture of the bonds that you suppose are to be given by you & the trouble will be yours?
Ewell insists that she not place at potential risk any of her property to secure his release, a result for which he still harbors doubts:
“I think it more likely you will succeed in C’s case, but I doubt if anything more than promises will be had in regards to me. I made up my mind to trust to time & had I commenced by preparing for a years siege it would have been best.July 17, 1865
You see I am not at all sanguine about my release & if you fail I want you to remember that I am not troubled much, not having expected much. . . .”
In South Carolina, Emma Holmes notes the news she has heard from Charleston:
“People just up from the city say that there are daily altercations between whites & blacks, in which the latter always suffer, & four or five of them murdered every day—while in Columbia & other places, they are suffering greatly from want of food, for no one will hire those who have children to be fed.”July 18, 1865
Still embittered by the deteriorating conditions he and his command face in Texas, Edward Bacon tells his sister, “Corps Head quarters seem to be having a pretty jolly life of it and for the matter of providing for the troops, no one seems to care a penny. Do not, however, allow any such statements to be made in connection with my name.”
Through the Freedmen’s Bureau, General Orders no. 3 denote: “Ass’t Superintendents will see that the Freedmen within their sub-Districts are not defrauded, in their contracts for labor, by their employers.” Contracts found to be “injurious and unfair” can be annulled.July 19, 1865
Andrew Johnson endorses the order by which Ford’s Theater “was seized and is held by my orders, given to the Secretary of War, who is directed to retain possession thereof, for the use of the Government of the United States, until further order.”July 20, 1865
John Craven, the man responsible for Jefferson Davis’s health, has registered his concerns for the man in his charge for some time, but finds the case worsening in a disturbing fashion:
“Found Mr. Davis in a critical state; his nervous debility extreme; his mind more despondent than ever heretofore; his appetite gone; complexion livid, and pulse denoting deep prostration of all the physical energies. Was much alarmed, and realized with painful anxiety the responsibilities of my position. If he were to die in prison, and without trial, subject to such severities as had been inflicted on his attenuated frame, the world would form unjust conclusions, but conclusions with enough color to pass them into history.”
Nelson Miles, commanding at Fortress Monroe, notes similarly:
“During the last week Mr. Davis appears extremely dejected. He takes little or no exercise, constantly sitting in his chair or reclining on his couch. . . . When he heard of the execution of the assassins he made the remark that ‘President Johnson is very quick on the trigger.’”
President Johnson crafts a short message to General George Thomas in Nashville, Tennessee, instructing him to use “whatever amount of military force is necessary to sustain the Civil authority and enforce the law. . . . I am hard pressed here. Every moment of my time is occupied. Accept assurances of my esteem.”
Alvin Voris reacts to strong calls for stern measures toward the defeated Confederates:
“While I would hang a verry few of the rebels, those who were most instrumental in precipitating the calamities of revolution on our nation, I would extend generous clemency to the great body of the people of the revolting states. I had rather heal up the wounds made by this cruel rebellion than irritate the festering sores which will soon enough kill treason without hanging all of them on the sour apple tree. . . .”July 21, 1865
Lizinka Ewell expresses her joy to President Johnson at the release of her husband and son from Fort Warren.July 22, 1865
Former Confederate ordnance chief Gorgas finds himself deeply affected by the current state of Selma, Alabama:
“The aspect of S is desolate in the extreme—many of the best regions, comprising nearly all the business part of the town are mere rows of crumbling walls. I walked up after sunset toward the square where the ‘Arsenal’ was. All vestige of its arrangements had disappeared, except a tall stack; & fragments of rows of gun carriages lay about to show where gun carriages were stored in iron making. It was not thus I had hoped to visit it—one of my principal establishments.”
Secretary of War Edwin Stanton allows Jefferson Davis access to some books and newspapers, as well as removing the light in the prisoner’s cell and permitting some supervised exercise for the prisoner.July 23, 1865
Not all of the messages Andrew Johnson receives are demanding or threatening. Former secretary of the interior John P. Usher, observes:
“I have been much over the Country and am glad to know that the masses are for you and earnestly pray that no harm may befal you, and that, you will remain firm in your course.”July 24, 1865
Craven finds his patient improved enough to venture out of his cell: “Found prisoner still very feeble, but said he could not resist the temptation to crawl out in such beautiful weather, even at the cost of the degrading guards who dogged his steps.”
Once more, the doctor finds Davis talkative on subjects that include, in this instance, his belief that those Confederates who have sought refuge in Mexico should be held to have committed “an act of cowardice—an evasion of duty only to be excelled by suicide. They had been instrumental in bringing the evils of military subjugation on the people, and should remain to share their burdens. The great masses of the people were rooted to the soil, and could not, and should not, fly. The first duty of the men who had been in command during the struggle was to remain faithful fellow-sufferers with the rank and file.”
Davis also provides a written notice of his acceptance of parole for the purpose of leaving his confinement for limited periods:
“I do hereby give my ‘Parole of Honor’ that if allowed to exercise under guard in the open air—I will take no advantage of it to attempt to escape.”July 25, 1865
General Miles notes the significant improvement in Jefferson Davis’s condition.
William Wiley goes through the last stages of his martial career:
“We signed the payrolls and returned over our guns and accoutraments. . . . We felt sad to part with our guns which we had carried so long.”July 26, 1865
Wiley has processing yet to complete: “We still remained in camp waiting for full pay and final muster out by the state.”July 27, 1865
Thomas Goree has had his heart set on seeing some of the natural wonders. Having failed to view Toccoa Falls, he will not miss his opportunity at Tallulah Falls:
“. . . made an excursion . . . to Tellula Falls. The scenery at the falls is grandly beautiful, though I was somewhat disappointed with the falls themselves. The volume of water was not so great as I had anticipated.”July 28, 1865
he members of the 77th Illinois finally complete the transformation from soldiers to civilians, turning in tents and receiving their pay. William Wiley explains, “We were now civil citizens of Illinois once more and paid our own passage and travled like men.”July 29, 1865
Wiley has made his way home with his comrades. The reception in Peoria is ample, the final ceremonies poignant:
“After breakfast we marched to the Corthouse Square where we listened to a considerable amount of speach making. The flag which had been presented to our regiment by the ladies of Peoria was returned to them in an appropriate speech by Captain Stevens of Company E. It was not the same beautiful flag that it was when presented to us three years before. But badly soiled and torn riddled by shot and shell and stained with patriotic blood. But its wounds were honorable and only added to its glory.”July 30, 1865
Rufus Kinsley passes through Mobile, Alabama, noting the appearance of new schools for “freed children.” But he also detects a strong animus among the local population who had once benefitted from the old social order:
“Mobile is ill at ease. Mobile is rebellious. Mobile cannot sit calmly, and with quiet dignity, and see the Common School System of the North thrust into her vitals. It is inimical to the interests of aristocracy. But the arm of the Government is long; the Federal bayonet is potent, and Mobile must submit, with the best grace she can command.”July 31, 1865
Goree’s journey through Georgia continues:
“Started at 7 o’clock this morning. Travelled 15 miles and stopped to noon. In the evening crossed the Chattahoochee River to east side at Clark’s Bridge. Passed through Gainesville, Ga., & have camped for the night 2 miles west of Gainesville. Toll over Clark’s Bridge $1.25. Travelled today 28 miles.”
August 1865August 1, 1865
Major General Philip Sheridan passes along to Ulysses Grant “a list of prominent Confederates which have gone to Mexico through San Antonio,” including several governors, military officers, and civilian and Cabinet officials.
Former Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas laments:
“The time passes very heavily with me having no occupation & our future being so uncertain not to say gloomy.”
Gideon Welles is also not sanguine when it comes to the future of the South:
“The tone of sentiment and action of people of the South is injudicious and indiscreet in many respects. I know not if there is a remedy, but if not, other, and serious disasters await them,—and us also, perhaps, for if we are one people, dissension and wrong affect the whole.”August 2, 1865
While cruising in search of Northern commercial vessels to capture or destroy, Lieutenant James Waddell, of the C.S.S. Shenandoah, learns from a British vessel that the war in America is over. In the ship’s log appears the following:
“Having received by the Barracouta the sad intelligence of the overthrow of the Confederate Government, all attempts to destroy the shipping or property of the United States will cease from this date, in accordance with which the first lieutenant, William C. Whittle, Jr., received the order from the commander to strike below the battery and disarm the ship and crew.”
The Longstreet entourage draws deeper into Georgia, with Thomas Goree noting, “We came on this evening to Marietta where we stopped an hour or two to replenish our stock of provisions. This place has a garrison of Yankees and I purchased from Yankee commissary 2 hams, a box of hardbread and some sugar & coffee. Saw two colored ladies riding out in a fine carriage. We camped for the night three miles west of Marietta.”August 3, 1865
Goree is struck by the evidence of damage in the region from the fighting that had ranged a year earlier and the neglect since: “The country for several miles . . . [from] Marietta to Dallas has been made almost a complete waste—the fencing all destroyed and all the best houses burned. It will take many, many years for the country to recover its former prosperity.”August 4, 1865
Former Confederate naval chief Stephen Mallory offers an interesting perspective on the just-ended war, the capabilities both sides in the conflict had exhibited for waging war, and its potential longer-term ramifications: “I concur in all you say of the power developed by the North, a power that finds no parallel in history; and I am sure that you were not prepared for the resources and strength manifested by the South. It may be that, in His inscrutable wisdom, the God of Battles, in decreeing that, as a people, we are one and indissoluble, presented as a warning to mankind the tremendous power of the Separate Sections. Evidences are abundant that the warning has been taken. May it constitute an enduring bod of peace on Earth to men of good will.”August 5, 1865
“Lee’s War Horse” finds that he is not immune to dangers on the road. As he rides along in his ambulance, he “was accosted by a drunken man who wished him to drink with him and wanted also to trade his horse for a mule.” When Longstreet declines the opportunity, the fellow departs and the awkward moment appears to be over. However, the rider returns “and with a cocked pistol in his hand ordered the driver of the ambulance to stop. He then put his pistol inside as if endeavoring to shoot the Genl., when the Genl. seized the pistol & wrenched it from hi. Where upon the man put spurs to his horse and made away as fast as possible. The Genl. will report the circumstance to the Yankees and tray & have them arrest him.”August 6, 1865
James Longstreet and his party have dinner with an old Texas veteran. Theen, Thomas Goree notes, “Passed this evening in Oxford. The Genl. stopped and reported the man who assaulted him yesterday. The Yankee officers promised to send and have him arrested.”
Emma LeConte returns to her diary after a period:
“It has been a month since I have made an entry in this journal. But our home life is monotonous with little worth recording. And as to the condition of the country and our unhappy state as a people, it would seem better not to think of that, still less to write of it. . . . As far as I can, I try to lose myself in books and study.”August 7, 1865
Overwhelmed by the deluge of requests for personal interviews, President Andrew Johnson has an edict prepared that all requests are to proceed through the proper channels for disposition as appropriate: “An impression seems to prevail that the interests of persons having business with the executive government require that they should have personal interviews with the President or heads of Departments. As this impression is believed to be entirely unfounded, it is expected that applications relating to such business will hereafter be made in writing to the head of that Department to which the business may have been assigned by law. Those applications will in their order be considered and disposed of by heads of Departments, subject to the approval of the President. This order is made necessary by the unusual numbers of persons visiting the seat of Government. It is impracticable to grant personal interviews to all of them, and desirable that there should be no invidious distinction in this respect.”August 8, 1865
Ella Washington thanks President Johnson for his considerations in a recent visit to the White House, but reiterates her desire to have her family’s plantation property in Virginia restored to her:
“I have no foolish pride, but only the honest pride, of wishing to be independant once more in a home of my own, however poor or plain, only let it be mine.
Few can know the bitterness of being dependant on others, and though I know my future must be one of exertion and sacrifice, that will be new to one who has been shielded by luxury and affection from trouble or want.”August 9, 1865
Gorgas continues to experience the impact of the recent war: “The morning was excessively hot. Went on to Gen. Hardee’s, & dined there. Got home about 8½ P.M. Met Miss Amelia Lightfoot & Miss Sue Tarleton there. The first is named for the same person as Mamma . . . is very agreeable & well instructed, the other was engaged to Gen. Cleburne, & wears mourning for him.”August 10, 1865
President Johnson sends U.S. Supreme Court chief justice Salmon P. Chase a request “to have a conference with you in reference to the time place and manner of trial of Jefferson Davis, at your earliest convenience.”
Emma LeConte reflects on the political developments occurring around her in South Carolina, with her pride and state loyalties still intact:
“[Governor Benjamin] Perry has been empowered by Johnson to act as he pleases with the exception of remanding the negroes to slavery. Their fine President seems disposed to adopt a conciliatory policy. Perhaps he feels a spark of attachment for the State where he once plied his trade as a tailor. . . . I am pleased to say, however, that South Carolina has not the honor of having given birth to this appropriate Yankee President. He is a North Carolinian.”
Edward Bacon is in Brownsville, Texas, contemplating an end to his service as the army scales down. He is worried about the costs of returning home, even with the government providing transportation, but is mostly disturbed at how difficult it is to receive news from home anymore:
“It seems strange here—after the excellent mail facilities of the glorious Potomac Army—to have to remain so constantly behind the times to know that at least there must be twenty days elapsed about which we know nothing, stranger than it did in my West Indies cruise to wait seven months without the first rumor from home.”August 11, 1865
Joseph A.L. Lee from Muscogee County, Georgia, is one of many petitioners seeking pardon from President Johnson after asserting the special nature of his circumstances, from opposing secession until the Emancipation Proclamation, “declaring the negroes free and ruining me in all my property of every kind and nature—leaving me no place to escape but to go with the Rebellion.” Even so, as a Unionist reluctantly siding with the Confederate States, he wants Johnson to know how limited he has felt his choices to be: “The Confederacy had laws confiscating disloyal subjects property. Your petitioner was between two Governments—the one at that time could not protect the loyal citizen or his property, the other had the power to strip him of every thing for disloyalty. Interest if not inclination drove him in to the support of the Confederacy.” Admitting that he had held a public office collecting taxes, largely to avoid conscription—“I discharged the duties of the office as a protection from serving in the State Malitia until the 15 of April 1865 when I packed up papers money and every thing belonging to the Confederacy in my hands. . . Lee insists upon his loyalty at the time and his desire to remain “a peaceful citizen . . . throughout life.”August 12, 1865
In the midst of austerity measures, General Grant informs Secretary of War Edwin Stanton that he will travel to St. Louis to review the movement of troops in the region. “In the meantime I think all extraordinary requisitions should be disapproved. I will not go back to Washington for some weeks.”
From Lexington, Georgia, Mary C. Stokely writes an impassioned letter to President Johnson:
“I approach the august presence of the chief magistrate of this, the most powerful nation on the globe, with much diffidence, and yet, with a consciousness of right, and a firm confidence, in your well known, and proudly acknowledged nobility of soul, your generosity and magnanimity, asking pardon at your hands. . . . [for] Mr. Jefferson Davis!
Will you not deal leniently with your prostrate foe? Can you not do something to alleviate the privations to which he is subjected? He is feeble. His life hangs by a thread; Like an expiring lamp it flickers, flashes and wanes, almost extinguished. . . .
Would you have your name revered & cherished by nations yet unborn? Would you have the admiration of the world; Would you have the blessings of the South? the commendations of the North? the plaudits of the universe? Pardon Mr. Davis!
Hundreds of brave hearts, now writhing at thought of defeat & subjugation, would bless you, and feel that there was yet, a bright future for them. . . .”
Josiah Gorgas observes a growing rift between former comrades: “went to Gen. H. to see Longstreet & dined there. . . . Gen. H. is not pleased with L, thinks him somewhat self sufficient & engrossed with himself. I was surprised to hear how little credit L. was inclined to give Gen. Lee. The credit of suggesting the movement against McClellan he gave to Gen. Johnston, That against Pope to Jackson.”
Union rear admiral Samuel Phillips Lee closes the existence of the Mississippi Squadron with the lowering of the colors on his vessel, U.S.S. Tempest.August 13, 1865
Grant has reached Detroit, Michigan, on his way westward and telegraphs Philip Sheridan to make sure that in mustering out his cavalry he does not eliminate the capability of “keeping Texas in the traces” or watching the actions across the border: “The Imperial troops in Mexico still require watching, and before all the seed of rebellion can be regarded as crushed out they must go back to their homes.”
Emerson Opdycke: “I fully expect to be ‘home again’ inside of a few weeks. I feel sure that once out of the army I shall find some business and I will not be likely to find it until I look for it with energy and determination.”
President Johnson directs George Thomas to have fraudulent cotton-trading activities in his department investigated and “that you will deal with them in the most summary manner and report the names of persons engaged in such transactions and each case.”
Edward Bacon continues to bemoan his isolation in Texas and the toll conditions are beginning to take on his men:
“We still have no news at all. Nothing ever happens here and our dates from the North are very irregular and unsatisfactory—a New York Herald or a Times costs 30¢ and the New Orleans papers are no cheaper.August 14, 1865
We are still living without vegetables and the men are still dying of Scurvy—and the scant supply of tomatoes, which has in some way prevented an increase of scurvy, is now exhausted. The mortality among the troops is very large and the months for the largest mortality is yet to come. As I have several times before stated, the total sinful incompetency of the several departments is plainer than I ever thought it would appear.”
Andrew Johnson passes along his concern to General Thomas over reports of abuse by the Freedmen’s Bureau in Nashville, Tennessee, “which is incompatible with the law creating the Bureau and the design of its creation.” Johnson is concerned that larger implications might be felt: “I fear the operations of Treasury Agents and the Freedmens Bureau are creating great prejudice to the Government and their abuses must be corrected.”August 15, 1865
President Johnson remains active in the political developments unfolding in the nation, commending Mississippi governor William L. Sharkey for organizing a state convention:
“I hope that without delay your Convention will amend your State Constitution abolishing slavery, and denying to all future legislatures the power to legislate that there is property in man—Also that they will adopt the Amendment to the Constitution of the United States abolishing slavery.
If you could extend the elective franchise to all persons of color who can read the constitution of the United States in English and write their names, and to all persons of color who own real estate valued at not less than two-hundred and fifty dollars and pay taxes thereon, you would completely disarm the adversary and set an example the other States will follow.
This you can do with perfect safety, and you thus place the Southern States, in reference to free persons of color, upon the same basis with the Free States. I hope and trust your convention will do this, and as a consequence the Radicals, who are wild upon negro franchise, will be completely foiled in their attempts to keep the Southern States from renewing their relations to the Union by not accepting their Senators and Representatives.”August 16, 1865
Major General Thomas takes steps to address the concerns the President has raised with him and assures him, “[General Clinton B.] Fisk is doing all he can to settle all difficulty arising in his Bureau justly and fairly, under the law creating the Bureau.”August 17, 1865
Chief Justice Chase meets with the president on the matter of a treason trial for Jefferson Davis.August 18, 1865
From his headquarters in New Orleans, Sheridan offers a blunt assessment of conditions in Mexico as he understands them: “The Franco-Mexico rebels hold Matamoras and Monterey, the Liberals all the balance of the country. The Imperialists are getting shaky about their connection with the rebels. Juarez is stupid. He does not know what he has in his hands.”
Then, he follows with additional information: “There has been quite a collection of rebel generals here in the last two weeks, some sub rosa, some by authority. I feel quite certain that the burden of their mission here was the Mexican colonization scheme. . . . The Maximilian Government in Mexico is a farce. He holds only a few cities and towns, and cannot collect revenue except on the line from Vera Cruz to the City of Mexico. If our Government does not watch these rebels closely there will be a Franco-Mexico rebel league.”
In response to a direct communication from former Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens, President Johnson directs the commander of Fort Warren in Boston, Massachusetts to provide him with “the most comfortable quarters at your disposal.”August 19, 1865
While traveling on the Mississippi by steamer, Emerson Opdycke notes: “The most of the passengers are Southerners; they are full of talk about reconstruction, the negroes etc. etc. The substance of it all is ‘We will reconstruct on the basis of freedom to the slave get back into Congress remove the army from our midst and then have as complete a control over the black man as we ever had.’ And as the Democratic party in the North is essentially a pro slavery party with little or no sympathy for ‘the freedmen’ it will of course again unite with the old slave owners of the South, and again place itself at the head of National affairs, unless we give the black man the ballot with his freedom. Everything I see and hear through the South forces me to this conclusion.”
Matthew Fontaine Maury, the ex-Confederate scientific wizard, has found refuge in Mexico, but gets strong personal advice from a friend: “As long as Maximilian tries to make what is called a civilized government his position is unstable and I should not like you to stay there, however sweet and pleasant it may be in the shade of an Emperor’s crown . . . . You may run the chance as his Prime Minister to be a Prince of Empire or to be hung or shot or something worse.”August 20, 1865
Chief Justice Chase tells Charles Sumner that he had met with Andrew Johnson as requested on the matter of a trial for Jefferson Davis, “[but] this did not seem to me a proper subject of conference between the President and chief justice.” Nevertheless, President Johnson had indicated his preference “about the necessity of doing something in the matter soon.”August 21, 1865
Emerson Opdycke meets with General Sheridan in New Orleans, his fate in the service still unsettled, but the officer is confident will likely be resolved shortly.
From his confinement at Fort Lafayette, Stephen Mallory advises his daughter that he is in no position to offer her solace: “Neither my mood nor my situation qualify me much as comforter. . . . I am not precisely upon a bed of roses, though it is a far better one than many a better man has had; but, believing that one of the strongest proofs of manhood, no less than one of the greatest gifts of God, is the power to rise upon mind over matter, above and beyond the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,’ I shall fear God and nothing else, and preserve a heart for any fate.”August 22, 1865
President Johnson notes the troublesome appearance of rumors that the Federal government favors ex-Confederates over “true Union men,” in state appointments in North Carolina. He tells Governor William W. Holden, “The object of such representations is to embarrass the Government in its reconstruction Policy, & while I place no reliance in such statements I feel it due to you to advise you of the extended circulation they have gained and to impress upon you the importance of encouraging & strengthening to the fullest extent the men of your State who have never faltered in their Allegiance to the Government.”
Josiah Gorgas notes a troublesome development: “found the vicinity full of federal cavalry. I learned that the town came near being sacked, some imprudent men having fired into a Yankee camp. The men were so incensed that they asked leave to plunder the town as revenge. The Col. commanding said that he had rec’d so much ill treatment from the inhabitants by which his men had been greatly irritated, that he hesitated whether he should or should not grant them the license they asked!
I have to-day taken the oath of amnesty before a federal officer . . . and forwarded my petition for pardon!—pardon for having done my duty in a cause I deemed the best on earth! But the conquerors have a right to dictate terms and ours have not been magnanimous.”August 23, 1865
President Johnson tries to quell concerns of racial unrest in Georgia, observing to Major General James Steedman in Augusta, “There seems to[o] much apprehension on the part of many citizens of Georgia that the negro population is being incited to insurrection by the colored troops and some few white emissaries. I hope you will keep a vigilant watch upon this subject and at once suppress any and all moves of an insurrectionary character.”August 24, 1865
In a “Private & Confidential” message to the President, a citizen from Hartford, Connecticut, explains that despite the criticisms of the administration found in “the radical portion of the Republican party. . . the masses—the thinking, calm honest unselfish masses, most earnestly approve your policy & support it with zeal and energy. . . . I see proofs of this daily. In the shops, in factories on the farms—every where the first remark is ‘Mr Johnson is doing right.’ Such is the almost universal feeling. I know not whether it reaches you—for the truth seldom enters the White House—but so it is.”August 25, 1865
A committee of citizens from Richmond invites the President to visit the city and assure him of the sincerity of white Southerners in accepting the outcome of the war:
“The rude blast of War has just swept over Virginia leaving her fields desolate, and her homesteads in ruins. Of our once thriving and beautiful City, the most valuable portion has been consumed by fire and now lies an appalling mass of smouldering ruins. . . .
You have been told that our people are not honorable, and do not intend to keep the faith which they have pledged. They confide however in your justice, ability and patriotism. They have been much gratified by the stand which you have taken in behalf of the Constitutional rights of the Southern people. . . .”August 26, 1865
Governor Holden responds to the concerns President Johnson has raised with the assurance that in all instances, “I have been very careful to prefer and to appoint persons who were original union men & persons who were in favor of restoring the authority of the Federal Govt. . . . I have proceeded deliberately and carefully in the work of reorganizing & thus far I am sure there are no grounds for apprehending that North Carolina will not present an acceptable Constitution. The great body of her people are loyal & submissive to National authority.”August 27, 1865
Johnson attempts to assuage any doubts Holden may have over his recent communication: “My telegram was merely intended to call your attention to the impression being made by those who are opposed to the Southern States resuming their former relations with the Federal Government, and in making appointments to guard against it as far as practicable, and thereby deprive them of all excuse for opposing a restoration of State Governments. . . . God grant that the Southern people would see their true interest and welfare of the whole country and act accordingly.”August 28, 1865
Major General John Pope offers his opinions concerning agreements with Native Americans in his jurisdiction:
“I have only one suggestion to make to you in relation to negotiations of peace with the Indians in question, and I deem it of so much importance, in view of permanent peace, that I ask your earnest consideration of it. The Indians are unwilling to make peace simply on condition that they are not molested by white men. I am greatly opposed to money or other annuities being given to Indians, as it is my belief that they consider such presents as evidences of fear on the part of the Government, and of a desire to bribe them to keep the peace. Such a belief on the part of the Indians has a most unfortunate effect upon them, and simply leads to the renewal of hostilities in the hope of more presents of money and goods. I am satisfied that you will find that they will agree to as favorable terms of peace without the promise of money and goods as with it, and that such a treaty will be much more likely to be permanent.”August 29, 1865
Emerson Opdycke could at last call his wartime journey to a close: “I am ‘Homeward Bound.’ Heaven grant that when I am with you again it may be to remain with you always.”
General George Thomas reports that he has had the matter of illicit cotton trading in Alabama investigated and that “no such transactions are now carried on . . . [and] that proper precautions have been taken by the Military & treasury authorities to prevent further frauds.”August 30, 1865
Varina Davis writes President Johnson concerning her husband:
“My anxiety about his health is intense. . . . I would bear any privations, imprisonment, or restrictions, take and keep any parole, to be with him, even if only for an hour each day. His health is always frail, and I have been used to ministering to him at such times as he has been suffering, and consider it the chief priviledge of my life.”
Josiah Gorgas anticipates the future, with a mix of trepidation and curiosity: “All look forward with doubt and some with apprehension to the 1st of January, when the present contracts made by planters and negros expire, & new ones are to be made. These have been for a portion of the crop in every case. Whether new contracts are to be made or the negro simply hired remains to be seen, probably the latter. The negros seem still to expect a division of lands and hope for some undefined good on the 1st of January, what they don’t exactly know.”August 31, 1865
Gorgas reflects once more on the end of the Confederacy he had served: “It is the day of election for members of convention to reconstruct the State back into the Union. This is the bitter end of four years of toil & sacrifices. What an end to our great hopes! Is it possible that we were wrong? Is it right after all that one sett of men can force their opinion on another sett? It seems so, & that self government is a mockery before the Almighty.”
September 1865September 1, 1865
The Orleans Independent Standard, a Vermont newspaper, aims a blow at “The Pirate Shenandoah,” with a strong editorial:
“It is difficult to repress a feeling of indignation as we hear of the ravages of this dastardly pirate among the whalers in the Northern seas. Even supposing that the war was not over, and that the poor excuse of recognized belligerency could be offered for such a course, it is both cowardly and characteristic of the way in which this war has been carried on by the rebels. The fishermen of the Northern seas are honest, peaceable, and industrious men, engaged in a pursuit which in no way affected the issue of the contest, whose destruction would not help the case in the least, and whose prosperous voyages, were they allowed to make them, could never have contributed to the Southern defeat.”
Similarly intense feelings exist for Ellen Renshaw House in Tennessee:
“Two years today since the Yanks took possession of Knoxville. Oh! how things have changed since that time. It sickens me to think of it. Then we were free, now we are slaves—slaves to the vilest race that ever disgraced humanity.”September 2, 1865
Anderson Edmonds, a one-time U.S. and now former-Confederate postmaster, exhibits the plight of local officials who have worked in some capacity during the late war and now wish only to move on with their lives, as he explains to President Johnson:
“May I presume to write you a Line? The time has bin when I cold write you freely and Expect to Git a kind and pleasant answer from you. . . . You and I am Glad of it, are at the very top most Round of the Ladder and I at the bottom or Eavin Lower if possible but being a Subject of your Murcy or parden I will Make the attempt. . . . I am Living on a Little pore place 8 miles from Glade Spring Depot washington co va. I have walked and traveld for the Last 5 weeks to try to Git aplace that I cold make a Living on but can Git none. All the Good Land in this Cuntry is owned by Rich men that is now asking pardons from you and a pore man Seems can not Git an acre to tend of it. . . . I took the amnsty oth the 21 august at Marion via the first opportunity I had . . . . I took it in Good faith and intend to Live a peacible Life if permited to Live at all. . . . I onley Resignd the Post office of the united States after the so cald [Confederacy] held the country and was talking about appointg or Having appointed a nother Post Master. I was then appointed by Mr. Davis at Richmond and I Sent on all the assets of the P.O. of the U.S. via Nashvill after communication had Stopt via Richmond, but Some Say I can not be Pardend until I pay over all the dues to the united States I collected for the So Calld Confederate States. If that Shood be So My Parden wood be a ded Letter for I cold not Pay it if it wood Save me from Perdition. That was all collected in confederate mony and Paid over and infact I have nothing to Pay with nor no frinds to helpe me. . . . May God prosper you and inable you to carry on the Govement in Such a way as will make a Great and Happy nation agin the South fields Runed. Some Say had Mr. Lincon of Livd it wood Have bin better for us. I all was Say no. If you cant do for us and better for us than any man North of Mason & Dixon Line I am very much mistaken. You have My umble prays. I don’t Know that they are worth Much.”September 3, 1865
A Union soldier from Kentucky provides Andrew Johnson with the perspective of a prisoner of war in the South:
“President Johnson if you were to know how horribly we Union Soldiers were treated in Andersonville Prison & in Libby Prison in Richmond, i am sure you would have Jeff Davis & all his Cabinet hung before 2 weeks. . . . President Johnson Jeff Davis ought to have as good a prison to stay in as we had at Andersonville and no better. Every bit as dirty and as lousy & as stinking as the Secesh Prisons were for us poor Union soldiers.”September 4, 1865
President Johnson demonstrates the conflicts in his mind as he attempts to move the South toward a meaningful restoration, while attempting to mitigate the excesses that appear to be occurring. He tells George Thomas:
“I have information of the most reliable character that the negro troops stationed at Greenville, Tenn., are under little or no restraint and are committing depredations throughout the country, domineering over and in fact running the white people out of the neighborhood.”
Johnson is disturbed that his own property has fallen prey to nefarious practices:
“It was bad enough to be taken by traitors and converted into a rebel hospital, but a negro whore house is infinitely worse. . . .
The people of East Tennessee above all others are the last who should be afflicted with the outrages of the negro soldiery. It is a poor reward for their long and continued devotion to the country through all its perils.”September 5, 1865
Under the influence of Matthew Fontaine Maury, and based upon the justification “of the sparseness of the population in the Mexican territory,” Emperor Maximilian decrees that his country “is open to immigrants of all nations. Immigration agents shall be appointed, whose duty it will be to protect the arrival of immigrants, install them on the lands assigned them, and assist them in every possible way in establishing themselves.”September 6, 1865
Thaddeus Stevens sets a framework for reconstruction in a speech delivered at Lancaster, Pa.:
“In compliance with your request, I have come to give my views of the present condition of the rebel States—of the proper mode of reorganizing the Government, and the future prospects of the Republic. . . . [W]e hold it to be the duty of the government to inflict condign punishment on the rebel belligerents, and so weaken their hands that they can never again endanger the Union; and so reform their municipal institutions as to make them republican in spirit as well as in name.
Stevens notes the two arguments of the Southern states as having never left the Union and having done so to form a new government.
“While I hear it said everywhere that slavery is dead, I cannot learn who killed it. No thoughtful man has pretended that LINCOLN’s proclamation, so noble in sentiment, liberated a single slave. It expressly excluded from its operation all those within our lines. No slave within any part of the rebel States in our possession, or in Tennessee, but only those beyond our limits and beyond our power were declared free.”
“The whole fabric of southern society must be changed, and never can it be done if this opportunity is lost.”
“Let all who approve of these principles rally with us. Let all others go with the Copperheads and rebels. Those will be the opposing parties. Young men, this duty devolves on you. Would to God, if only for that, that I were still in the prime of life, that I might aid you to fight through this last and greatest battle of freedom.”
From Greensboro, Ala., Josiah Gorgas continues to digest as best he can the events he sees unfolding before him:
“I felt a good deal depressed, & Sarah appeared so also. Our affairs are all unsettled and no one can see his way before him. All is unquiet. We find on reaching here the details of an affair which came near ruining this town on election day. Yankees and Confederates got to drinking, & thence to quarreling & shooting. One soldier was killed and another wounded. This so incensed the Yankees that they spread over the town and attempted to fire it several times.”
Robert E. Lee calls on Maury to return home to Virginia: “We have certainly not found our form of government all that was anticipated by its original founders; but this may be partly our fault in expecting too much, and partly due to the absence of virtue in the people. . . . I look forward to better days, and trust that time and experience—the great teachers of men under the guidance of our ever-merciful God—may save us from destruction, and restore to us the bright hopes and prospects of the past. The thought of abandoning the country, and all that must be left in it, is abhorrent to my feelings, and I prefer to struggle for its restoration, and share its fate rather than to give up all as lost.
I shall be very sorry if your presence will be lost to Virginia. She has now sore need of all her sons, and can ill afford to lose you.”September 7, 1865
President Johnson suspends the part of an Executive Order that had allowed for the disbursement to representatives of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands of “all funds collected by tax or otherwise for the benefit of refugees or freedmen, or accruing from abandoned lands or property set apart for their use. . . .”
General George Thomas explains to his commander-in-chief that he does not have sufficient numbers of white troops to replace the black soldiers removed from East Tennessee, although he is aware of problems that exist:
“Complaints reach me almost daily of difficulty between the returned Rebels and loyal citizens either in defiance of the civil authorities or that the civil authority is inefficient and does not act.”September 8, 1865
General Thomas also responds to the President’s communication regarding conditions in East Tennessee by assuring him that the rumors are untrue and that his “house is now occupied by a white family.”
At the same time, Johnson continues to express concern over unnecessary agitation and its long-term effects upon the South and the nation. He suggests expelling troublemakers, even regarding “mischievous persons, acting as Emissaries, inciting the Negro populations to acts of violence, revenge, and insurrection, [and] whose business it is to excite and originate discontent between the races.
The President is convinced that the South is poised to return to its former status in the Union and that his Virginia-born general can play a crucial role in the process:
If the Southern States can be encouraged, I have no doubt in my own mind, that they will proceed and restore their Governments within the next six or seven months and renew their former relations with the Federal Gov’t. You can do much in the consummation of this great end. The whole South has confidence in you, & any move you make in that direction, will inspire confidence & encourage them in the work they have undertaken.”
The circumstances in East Tennessee are volatile and deadly, as Ellen Renshaw confides in her diary, noting that former Confederates are leaving Knoxville to avoid being singled out:
“Almost all the boys have gone. Johnnie left last night. He said he did not like the idea of leaving now. . . . But all thought best for him to go. He belonged to the old Nineteenth that was organized right here, and hated so by the Union men. . . .September 9, 1865
We certainly live in horrible times. Scarcely a day passes some one is not killed. Yesterday two were.”
Thomas continues his long distance communication with the White House from his departmental headquarters in Nashville:
“As a general rule the negro Soldiers are under good discipline. I have required all commanding officers to keep their commanding officers [to do so]. I believe in the majority of cases of collision between whites and negro Soldiers that the white man has attempted to bully the negro, for it is exceedingly repugnant to the Southerners to have negro Soldiers in their midst & some are so foolish as to vent their anger upon the negro because he is a Soldier.”September 10, 1865
Andrew Boyd, a former editor of a Democratic newspaper in Maryland, expelled to the Confederate States and subsequently a soldier in the Army of Northern Virginia, writes President Johnson to inquire if his circumstances require a pardon.September 11, 1865
The Cleveland Leader continues to keep its readers abreast of developments in the trial of Henry Wirz under the headlines on this day: “WIRZ TRIAL! Abuse, Outrage and Horror.”
Matthew F. Maury records that after dinner with Maximilian and Carlotta in the quarters at Chapultepec, the men retire “into the smoking-room. Gilt cigars were handed round; the Emperor did not smoke.” Maury indicates that he prefers to work with the Emperor personally regarding immigration issues, receiving the sovereign’s assurances. Maximilian then excuses himself to handle pressing matters and turns the discussion over to his wife, Empress Carlotta. The scientist notes that she handles the situation quite well: “She is very clever, practical and businesslike. I told her I thought she could do more business in a day than all of the Ministers put together could do in a week. She said, ‘I believe I could’.”September 12, 1865
Provisional Governor Lewis Parsons explains that the convention for Alabama is underway: “We shall have no difficulty in adopting the amendment prohibiting slavery, as far as I can see now, but there is a considerable difference of opinion in relation to the manner in which the question touching the right of the negro to testify shall be disposed of.”September 13, 1865
Governor Benjamin F. Perry of South Carolina, reports that his state’s convention has assembled. “The ablest body ever convened in the State. . . . All is going well.”September 14, 1865
Leaders from the Indian nations who had sided with the Confederacy gather at Fort Smith, Arkansas, to sign a treaty that establishes loyalty with the United States.September 15, 1865
Jefferson Davis writes his wife to explain his current condition, aware that his letters are subject to inspect and motivated by a desire to soften her concerns for him:
“The Surgeon who attends me is both kind and skillful. I am deeply indebted to him. . . . During my confinement here I have marked a steady growth of that kindness on the part of the officers which my position rendered it proper for them to show. . . . Farewell, my loved Wife, remember that you cannot diminish my griefs by sharing them and strive to preserve the tone both of your mind and body by cultivating cheerful views of all things and charitable feelings towards all men.”
Reports from New York indicate the visit by Georgian and former Vice Presidential candidate Herschel V. Johnson with the confined former Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens at Fort Warren. “He spent last Friday with Mr. Stephens and reports that he is in ordinary health, and as comfortably situated as any one can be in confinement. He has the freedom of the Fort and is allowed to receive the visits of friends.”September 16, 1865
Gorgas relates a story that reflects current conditions and concerns among some of the established local figures:
“stopped last night at Gen. Bocock’s . . . . He has little hope of being able to make a crop next year, the negros, he thinks, cannot be prevailed on to work. An attempt was made some weeks ago to steal his private cotton from near his home. With the assistance of his negros he frightened the teamsters & captured two teams at dead of night. The life of a planter is just now no sinecure.”
Lieutenant Waddell and the C.S.S. Shenandoah round Cape Horn to enter the Atlantic Ocean.September 17, 1865
After service in the coastal waters of North Carolina, USS Arleta heads for the Philadelphia Navy Yard and decommissioning.September 18, 1865
In response to requests for clarification of status from individuals like the exiled Maryland newspaper editor, Andrew Boyd, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office asserts:
“The [Amnesty] Proclamation, like the Statutes of the Country must be construed by each citizen for himself. The President cannot undertake to be the expounder of his own words. The citizen in the first instance, and the Courts in the last instance, must interpret them.”September 19, 1865
The South Carolina Convention repeals the state’s ordinance of secession.September 20, 1865
A recommendation for a pardon comes forward on behalf of Sergeant Samuel Smith of the 5th Cav., U.S. Colored Troops, for his conviction for the involuntary manslaughter of a livery stable attendant in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, after they had quarreled earlier in the year. The petition presents the fact that the soldier only responded when confronted by the angry man with a pitchfork, that he admitted he should have reported the man rather than resorting to his weapon, and finally, that he “has been sufficiently, if not more than sufficiently punished” for the incident.September 21, 1865
Obviously contemplating his current wrangles with members of Congress over restoration or reconstruction in the South, Andrew Johnson requests a copy of a speech he had made ten years earlier in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, “which reviews the power of the Federal Government in reference to the elective franchise of citizens in the States.”September 22, 1865
Emperor Maximilian continues his efforts to bring an elevated stature to his realm by calling for the creation of a National Observatory and naming the former Confederate and renowned scientific expert, Matthew F. Maury, as “Director.”September 23, 1865
Richard Ewell makes his case to President Andrew Johnson that he receive the same terms of parole as others, and thus place him “on the same footing with them. Some of these officers entered the service of the late Confederate States with higher rank than I had & were instrumental in bringing about the secession. The list includes graduates of West Point and every feature that could be waged against me with the single exception that when taken prisoner I held the rank of Lieut. General, a rank I received solely because I did my duty to the best of my ability.”September 24, 1865
Ellen House remains indignant at displays of “Yankee” perfidy”
“Capt Wish the leader of that diabolical affair is still here, cursing at Rebels and copperheads. Gen Stoneman came and went and took no notice at all of it. But there will, there must be a day of retribution in store for them. Such devils cannot prosper. God will not allow it. Sometimes I almost feel convinced that we will yet be free.”September 25, 1865
Among the myriad requests flooding his desk in Washington comes one to President Johnson on behalf of a widow in New Orleans who is having difficulty getting her “abandoned”property returned from the Freedmen’s Bureau officials there. “Her case comes clearly within the class with reference to which the most positive instructions for restitution have been sent from the Government, and affords a striking illustration of the persistency with which those instructions are ignored and disobeyed.”September 26, 1865
Jefferson Davis offers a physic for his wife’s worries that also reveals something of his understanding of human nature and ideas of his own role as the Confederacy’s leader:
“This is not the first time that we have found our humblest friends, the truest when no longer selfishly prompted. Yet I would not ascribe the defections of the higher class so much to treachery and deceit, as to timidity and avarice. Wishing to be relieved of responsibility for the past they offer in proof either their little identification with the cause of the Confederacy or of their repentence for such connection. . . . If I alone could bear all the suffering of the country and relieve it from further calamity, I trust our Heavenly Father would give me the strength to be a willing sacrifice.”
Acting on behalf of her husband, Emperor Maxmilian, Empress Carlotta accepts Maury’s proposal to appoint former Confederate major general John Bankhead Magruder as head of the land office, with a salary of $3,000 per year. He will be given control over surveyors to help ensure that the land titles to be issued will be accurate.September 27, 1865
Seventy-nine individuals from Alabama forward a petition to Washington calling for leniency regarding Jefferson Davis. “We do not propose to argue the question of the right of the States to secede, and to maintain that right by force if necessary. The argument on both sides is exhausted; the appeal to arms has forever settled the question, and the people of the South are daily giving unmistakable evidence of their acquiescence in the decision. State after State is wheeling into line; the authority of the United States is everywhere admitted and willingly conformed to; and the Southern people, with as great unanimity as they endeavored to dissolve the Union, are now willing and desirous to resume, in a fraternal spirit, their old relations.September 28, 1865
In view of these facts, we respectfully submit that any additional punishment inflicted upon Mr. Davis is unnecessary to deter others from a like course. A Government and a people which overcame the united efforts of eleven States can well afford to be magnanimous.”
The Charleston Daily News presents a formula for restoring the South to productivity, while allowing the public press to serve an important service function:
“Two ideas constitute a large part of the editorial capital of the Southern press. The first is that white laborers can comfortably perform out-door toil in the cotton and sugar States, and the second is that Southern men should not be hasty in selling their plantations under the discouragement which they encounter in view of the abolition of slavery.”September 29, 1865
President Johnson responds gleefully to news that a South Carolina convention has acted appropriately on such matters as repudiation of secession and slavery, telling Governor Benjamin F. Perry:
“It affords great satisfaction here to all who favor a speedy restoration of all the States to their former relations in the Union. Let this work go on and we will soon be once more a United, a prosperous and a happy people forgetting the past, looking with confident hope to a prosperous and harmonious future.”September 30, 1865
A request goes forward for a pardon for the beleaguered former Postmaster, A.R. Edmonds, under the President’s signature.
The editor of the Opelousas Courier in Louisiana is skeptical concerning reconstruction policies while Republicans hold sway in Congress:
“The telegraph is bringing us intelligence of the progress of the Republicans in the North, which leaves no room to doubt that the most emphatic terms would fail to exaggerate the monstrous persecution and oppression with which they are determined, if possible, to treat the South. Not one spark of magnanimity, not one tittle of charity, not a trace of manliness, not a shadow of mercy, relieves the intensity of their demoniacal malignity. Nothing short of the crushing policy of President Johnson, and the compelling him to treat the Southern States as conquered provinces. . . .
Nothing short of this, with all the inevitable accompanying horrors and miseries, will satisfy these ruthless paraders of their hypocritical pretentions to piety, to intellect, to philanthropy, to patriotism, to love of justice, to respect for the Constitution, and for law and order.”
October 1865October 1, 1865
Aboard the C.S.S. Shenandoah, Lieutenant William C. Whittle is enjoying the occasion: “Rarely have I ever seen a finer day. We have been fanning quietly along, until toward night we got the breeze light from SE.”October 2, 1865
A vote in Connecticut on the matter of allowing black enfranchisement results in a final tally of 27,217 for and 33,489 against the measure.
Union brigadier general John Croxton communicates with President Johnson to ask his intervention in allowing him to remain in Georgia rather than be transferred to South Carolina for duty there, citing his war record and accomplishments since the end of hostilities:
“I may say to you, that matters are improving very rapidly here. A month ago & I dont think there was a white man in my [district] command who had any positive loyalty & in addition they were very bitter in their feelings toward their former Slaves. [A conciliatory policy] “has magnetized the whole people & they really feel as if the Government was theirs; and that they could forgive their slaves for freedom, if the Government could forgive them for Rebellion. I do not think that matters could be progressing more favorably.”October 3, 1865
Joseph Brown requests to be relieved of traveling from Georgia to Washington to appear “as a witness in the Wirz case. Such is the condition of my wife that to leave home at present would probably endanger [her] life. . . . I never saw Capt. Wirz, was never at Andersonville prison, do not believe I know any fact important in the case.”
On the matter of Reconstruction, President Johnson explains that any Democratic support is a matter of that party finding “its old position untenable, and . . . coming to ours.”
“The State institutions are prostrated, laid out on the ground, and they must be taken up and adapted to the progress of events. This cannot be done in a moment. We are making very rapid progress; so rapid I sometimes cannot realize it; it appears like a dream.
We must not be in too much of a hurry; it is better to let them reconstruct themselves than to force them to it; for if they go wrong, the power is in our hands and can check them at any stage, to the end, and oblige them to correct their errors; we must be patient with them. I did not expect to keep out all who were excluded from the amnesty, or even a large number of them, but I intended they should sue for pardon, and so realize the enormity of the crime they had committed.”
On the larger issue of extending voting rights to former slaves, Johnson is unequivocal:
“It will not do to let the negroes have universal suffrage now. It would breed a war of races. . . . Universal suffrage would create another war, not against us, but a war of races.”
Johnson is in a good mood, as reflected in a brief reply to the provisional governor of Alabama, Lewis Parsons: “The proceedings of the [state] convention has met the highest expectations of all who desire the restoration of the Union. All seems now to be working well, and will result as I believe in a decided success.”October 4, 1865
Citing support for candidates of the Ohio Union ticket under the banner ‘Rally once again for the cause of the Union!” “Get every Union man out to vote, and vote early!’ the Wyandot Pioneer offers as a reminder to the “Boys in Blue:”
“Will you support a party who have been your greatest enemy? The Democracy have opposed your progress whilst you were battling in front of the enemies works. Hear what the Ashland Democratic Union said of you whilst you were bravely fighting the battles of your country:
‘Hired Hessians, going to the Sunny Southern soil, to butcher, by wholesale, not foreigners, but good men, as exemplary Christian as any of our men, who believe that they are fighting for God-given rights!’”October 5, 1865
The Daily Dayton Empire of Dayton, Ohio, presents its support for the candidates of the “White Men’s Democratic State Ticket.” In the same newspaper is a notice of the resumption of the law practice of the controversial “Copperhead or Peace” Democrat Clement L. Vallandigham.October 6, 1865
John Bell Hood writes to ask for a pardon: “He thinks he can now be as earnest in his efforts to restore the union as he was in his attempts to tear it asunder.”October 7, 1865
Josiah Gorgas has been on an extended trip as far as New Orleans. Tired from the exertions, he nevertheless finds time to visit with a former associate in the Confederate Nitre and Mining Bureau:
“Took tea last evening with Prof. [Nathaniel T.] Lupton, who has just returned from Washington. Thinks there is little chance for a general amnesty at present, & that we West Pointers must wait yet awhile.”October 8, 1865
Ulysses Grant is back in Washington after an extensive tour in the West. He is already finding challenges as he settles back into his office routine and reflects on his recent travels to Elihu B. Washburne:
“I reached this city yesterday and have been busy since in getting out orders I desire, and which I could get out in less than one tenth of the time if there was nothing between me and getting of them out, which will [also] reduce expenses materially.
My whole trip has been condusive to health if one judges from corpulancy. I have got to be afraid to weigh almost. Mrs. Grant and children keep pace with me, in enjoyment of travel, if one judges from the difficulty with which they are got up to time in starting from any point where we have spent a day.”October 9, 1865
Braxton Bragg applies for a pardon from President Johnson.October 10, 1865
Colonel William R. Shafter tells the jailed guerrilla, Champ Ferguson, that the decision by the Military Commission regarding his execution is upheld and that the date is set for October 20.
Senator James R. Doolittle of Wisconsin sends a private message to President Johnson containing speeches which he believes: “constitute a triumphant,--a crushing vindication of your policy, and demolish [Charles] Sumner and Thad Stevens’ infernal policy toward the southern states. . . .
Sumner & Stevens are flooding the Country with theirs and the whole of that class, who follow them. It is wrong for us to wait until prejudices and passions, and hate of the south, and avarice, and ambition shall all be joined together hand in hand, before wise statesmanship Magnanimity and returning affection and loyalty can have a fair chance to be heard.”
President Johnson compliments members of the First Regiment, United States Colored Troops, for their service to the country and then proceeds to other matters:
“I know that there is much well calculated in the government and since the late rebellion commenced, to excite the white against the black and the black against the white man. There are things you should all understand, and at the same time prepare yourself for what is before you. Upon the return of peace and the surrender of the enemies of the country, it is the duty of every patriot and every one who calls himself a Christian to remember that with the termination of the war his resentments should cease, that angry feelings should subside, and that every man should become calm and tranquil, and be prepared for what is before him. This is another part of your mission. You have been engaged in the effort to sustain your country in the past, but the future is more important to you than the period in which you have just been engaged. One great question has been settled in this government, and that is the question of slavery.”October 11, 1865
From his cell in Nashville, Champ Ferguson writes a letter to President Johnson asking him for a “commutation of sentence in my case.”
Johnson is not prepared to offer Ferguson the relief he seeks, but orders the release of several important former Confederate leaders, including Alexander H. Stephens, John H. Reagan, and George A. Trenholm, from their “close custody.”October 12, 1865
From South Carolina, The Anderson Intelligencer, includes a letter from the humorist Bill Arp that contains thinly-veiled sentiments concerning current affairs from the perspective of a defeated Confederate:
“Now I suppose that poetikally speakin,
‘In Dixie’s fall,
We sinned all.’
Employing the metaphor of “a big feller and a little feller, so-called,” Arp notes that after fighting for a time, “the little feller caves in and hollered enuf. . . . Well, what did the big feller do? Take him by the hand and help him up, and brush the dirt off his clothes? Nary time! No, sur! But he kicked him arter he was down and throwd mud on him, and drug him about and rubbed sand in his eyes, and now he’s gwine about huntin up his poor little property. Wants to konfiskate it—so-called. . . .
But I’m a good Union man—so-called. I ain’t gwine to fite not more. I shan’t vote for the next war. I ain’t no gurrilla. I’ve done tuk the oath, and I’m gwine to keep it; but as for my bein subjugated, and humiliated, and amalgamated, and enervated, as Mr. Chase says, it ain’t so—nary time. I aint ashamed of nuthin neither, aint repentin, aint axin for no one-horse, short-winded pardon.”October 13, 1865
General Grant continues the campaign of demobilizing the army and disposing of excess public property to trim the military budget, particularly with regard to “abandoned forts around Washington.”
Using the good offices of his former West Point classmate, Philip Sheridan, John Bell Hood seeks permission to meet with the imprisoned ex-Confederate chieftain Jefferson Davis for the purpose of obtaining information related to the general’s proposed memoirs.October 14, 1865
Josiah Gorgas is back in the saddle, examining capabilities in Alabama for production in the postwar environment:
“Saturday reached Shelby Iron Works about noon . . . . There is one fire stack . . . & another smaller partly finished. There is also a rolling mill. The improvements are very good. The country is pleasant, & altogether the establishment is very attractive. They will have to bring coal & coke a distance of about 30 to 35 miles by rail. The destruction of the enemy did a good deal of damage to the works. The company is preparing, however, to go on.”October 15, 1865
Gorgas continues his investigations: “Sunday, left after breakfast & rode back by Montevallo to the Bibb Works, 6 miles S. of M. Here are rolling mills, on the Mahan Creek, & two stacks 2½ miles west of the Mills. The R.Rd from Montevallo to Selma passes thro the rolling mills (Briarfield—so named by Lt. Col. Hunt, C.S.A.). A good train connects the mills to the furnaces. . . . There are 4000 acres of land. The ore is scattered, & not very abundant but sufficient. I am greatly pleased with this property and will try to organize a company to buy it.”
From Nashville, Tennessee, a “Friend” tells President Johnson that he had been put in mind of Champ Ferguson’s plight and seeks a delay in his execution:
“My thoughts at once turned to the condition of the forgotten, helpless, friendless man in his cell whose days of existence are numbered by 6 for on Friday the 20th inst. he dies—forgotten by all except his wife and family, and the officers of the Law, who are too sure to see that the sentence shall be executed. I could not sleep untill I had determined to write to you, and ask for a respite, untill his attorneys & friends can get forward a statement of his case. There can certainly no harm arise by a little extension of time. He has done no more than thousands of others, who have never been arraigned at all. . . . Then let us try [to] heal the sores of the nation, so as to leave no more scars than the War has already made.”October 16, 1865
Ulysses Grant replies to former Confederate general Edmund Kirby Smith, who had left the South after the surrender of his forces and has last communicated from Havana:
“After consultation with the President of the United States I am of the opinion that you had better return to the United States, take the amnesty oath and put yourself on the same footing with other paroled prisoners, I am authorized to say that you will be treated with exactly as if you had surrendered in Texas and been there paroled[.]”October 17, 1865
Still under the cloud of Andersonville, ex-Confederate leaders remain intent upon separating themselves from the taint of the Wirz trial. Georgian Howell Cobb seeks an opportunity to present his case against any charges that he knowingly “ever treated a prisoner unkindly myself or countenanced it in another.”
The Evening Argus, of Rock Island, Illinois, takes up the wide-spread rumor that Jefferson Davis has escaped from his incarceration at Fortress Monroe, “in the disguise of a negro stevedore” and boarded an English steamer bound for Nassau. Although it discounts the story as “a canard,” the newspaper from a community that has housed numerous Confederate prisoners of war provides a wartime communication between President Lincoln and General William T. Sherman over the best disposition for the fleeing Confederate chief executive. Famous for making his points with a story, Lincoln is supposed to have told his general about a temperance man who, after a grueling trip, nevertheless proudly rejects an offer of a libation, before glancing longingly at the bottle: “’But, if you could manage to put in a drop unbeknownst to me I guess it wouldn’t hurt me much.’ ‘Now, general,’ Mr. Lincoln continued, ‘I’m bound not to oppose the capture of Jeff. Davis, but if you could manage to let him slip unbeknownst like, I guess it wouldn’t hurt me much.’”October 18, 1865
President Andrew Johnson is adamant concerning matters relating to the finances of the late war, telling North Carolina governor William W. Holden:
“Every Dollar of the Debt created to aid the rebellion against the United States should be repudiated, finally and forever.”
Lieutenant Whittle recalls a year earlier the events that have shaped his life at sea since:
“This with all of us, and particularly myself [is] an important anniversary. It is the day on which the little steamer Laureland this ship met at Madeira one year ago. The day upon which we took onboard our battery, stores & officers, and in fact the birthday of the Shenandoah. Since this day twelve months ago, how many changes have we gone through. Then we were all rejoiced at and proud of having an opportunity of serving our country; alas, how changed; now, we are plunged into the most heartbreaking despair at having no country to serve. . . .”October 19, 1865
The Bedford Reporter of Towanda, Pennsylvania, celebrates the outcome of the recent elections:
“The result of the October elections has been the glorious triumph of the Republican party.”October 20, 1865
The notorious guerrilla Champ Ferguson climbs the steps of the scaffold to answer for his actions in the war.
Governor Holden informs President Johnson that his telegram has “had a most happy effect.” “The convention had adjourned. It has promptly repudiated every dollar of the rebel debt and bound all future Legislatures not to pay any of it.”
Ulysses Grant makes his report to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton on the current status of the U.S. Army, stressing an optimism that may not have been as present in the field as the tone implies:
“I have the honor to submit the following report of the reduction of the army, and to make some suggestions for the reorganization of the regular army. The surrender of the rebel armies and the collapse of the rebellion rendered a large part of our military force unnecessary, and immediate steps were taken to reduce it, by stopping enlistments, discharging non-effectives, and the mustering out of men and regiments whose terms of service expired before given dates.
By the 1st of July 1865 the spirit in which the results of the war were accepted by the south was known; already two months had passed without a collision of any importance between the soldiers of the rebel army returned to their homes, and our troops; every where submission was perfect, and all that was asked by them was permission to resume the ordinary pursuits of civil life.”
General Grant stresses his satisfaction that the Union soldiery has also adjusted well to their new postwar realities:
“The apprehensions felt by some of disturbance and disorder at so vast a force being suddenly thrown upon the country to resume the occupations of civil life after having been so long absent from them, proved entirely unfounded, the soldiers showing by their conduct, that devotion to their country in the field is no disqualification for devotion to it at home.”
He concludes that while before the recent conflict the small military force in existence had proven barely sufficient to meet the demands made upon it, the circumstances now prevailing or likely to prevail in the future required more troops to be available:
“In view of the vast extent of our country, the recent hostile condition of a portion of it, with the possibility of future local disturbances arising from ill feeling left by the war or the unsettled questions between the white and black races at the south, I am of [the] opinion that a regular army of eighty thousand men is needed. . . .”October 21, 1865
From Austin, Texas, Governor Andrew Jackson Hamilton reports to Washington on matters in his state:
“The great body of the late Slave owners realize not only the fact that Slavery is dead, but let it be said to their credit [that] many, very many of them are deeply concerned for the welfare of the freedmen.
There are however some who in the littleness of their minds and selfish dispositions are in a great passion because the Negro has been made free and not being able to revenge themselves upon the Gov’t gratify their malice by abusing the freedmen.”October 22, 1865
On an unspecified October Sunday, Ellen Renshaw House remains confined to a bed with weakness from overexertion. The situation has not improved her disposition on other matters:
“It has been a long time since I have written in this silly journal. There has been nothing worth writing. Every thing seems so tame now since the close of the war that since I have in a measure become used to our humiliation every thing seems perfectly indifferent. The only strong feeling I have is hatred to the Yankees—oh! how I do hate them. But I have grown so used to hating them that it seems to have been a principle implanted in my breast in infancy, to have grown with my growth and strengthened with my strength, instead of a thing of recent date.”October 23, 1865
Henry Ward Beecher, whose “Bibles” had contributed so much to the atmosphere of “Bleeding Kansas” before the war, strikes a somewhat more conciliatory tone after it:
“However wise it might have been before the war to get rid of slavery gradually, it can scarcely be doubtful to any, that now the sooner, and more utterly it is extirpated the better will it be for all concerned. . . . We, at a distance, can do much, and the Government much for the Black men. But if it shall have the effect of reliveing the white people of the south from all responsibility toward the African, and even exciting their animosity, it will do little to prevent the liberty of the slaves from becoming a disaster to them.”October 24, 1865
Matthew Maury’s son, Richard, reaches Mexico with his wife to join his father in the effort to encourage Southern immigration.October 25, 1865
Waddell and the Shenandoah have a moment of intense excitement when the vessel comes in sight of an apparent warship in the distance. Despite the end of formal hostilities, the potential for a confrontation exists, but the commander hopes to prevent it if possible. Retaining the sail so as not to arouse suspicion, Waddell uses several unobtrusive methods to impede Shenandoah’s progress until darkness falls, and under steam power for the first time in an extended period, she can slip away and continue her voyage to England uninterrupted.October 26, 1865
Louis Schade, a European ex-patriate, writes to ask a pardon for “Captain Wirz, my client.” Noting what he deems to be important discrepancies in testimony, Schade insists, “Captain Wirz was almost a prisoner himself at Andersonville.” The representative offers a powerful final appeal for clemency: “God knows that I would not ask you to do anything which was not right. And therefore let the miserable, crippled, half-dying man, at worst a tool in the hands of his superiors, a subaltern officer who had to obey orders, live out the few remaining days of his life, and do not let our hands be tainted with the blood of this miserable and unfortunate being.”October 27, 1865
Secretary of State William Seward expresses his willingness that the President pardon Pierre Soulé of Louisiana, but notes his concern that the application letter “is very objectionable in containing by way of apology an argument for secession and a detail of hardships neither of which the government could consent to receive. He accepts the true constitutional principles, but only after and because the war settled them against him. . . . I would not consent to receive such a plea.”>October 28, 1865
From Macon, Georgian Howell Cobb informs his wife, “We are once more in possession of our house. A great feat has been performed—the lawful owners have been permitted to take possession of their own property.”
President Johnson repeats for the governor of Georgia, what he had said earlier concerning repudiating the Confederate debt to the chief executive in North Carolina. “Those who vested their capital in the creation of this debt, must meet their fate and take it as one of the inevitable results of the rebellion, though it may seem hard to them.”October 29, 1865
Ellen House laments not having a church to attend and chides a relative for not doing more on a recent trip to New York City: “She has seen nothing of the city—or any thing worth seeing. All she seems to have thought of was dry goods. She did not even go to the theatre or up Trinity church steeple. What a girl she is.”
Provisional South Carolina governor Benjamin Perry requests that President Johnson extend a pardon to former governor Francis Pickens. Although outspoken as a secessionist, Pickens seems to have embraced the changes occurring in his state as a result of the war:
“Gov Pickens has aided nobly since the fall of the Confederacy in exerting his great personal influence to restore the state to the Union. He was a leading member of the late Convention & advocated all of the Constitutional reforms which you & I had so much at heart. His Conduct towards the Freedmen has been most praiseworthy. He has given his warmest support to your administration & your policy of reconstruction. In every way he has merited his pardon as much as any one in South Carolina.”October 30, 1865
His anger still simmering over the loss of his plantation property in Mississippi, the brother of Jefferson Davis, Joseph E. Davis, writes to the President from Vicksburg: “The greatest evil under which the country now labors, is the ‘Freedmens Bureau’: demoralizing the negroes, robbing & defrauding them of what little they possess, And the fruits of their toil.”
October 31, 1865
W.C. Whittle records the burial at sea of a comrade as the Shenandoah continues to make for England.
Newspaperman Alexander McClure interviews Andrew Johnson:
“However reticent the President may be on some issues, he seems to have no reserve as to the policy he conceives to be the true one to bring back the insurgent States. . . . He holds that they were never out of the Union; that secession, however accomplished as a fact, cannot be accomplished in law; that the supreme authority of the Government in those States was not overthrown by the rebellion, but simply in abeyance; and of course it logically follows his premises that, since the rebellion has ceased, the States resume their proper place in the Union, and restoration is accomplished.”
November 1865November 1, 1865
The Daily National Republican of Washington proclaims:
“Cost of the War in Dollars
We are officially informed to-day that one thousand and twenty million of dollars have been paid to the army alone since the beginning of the war. This is but a small portion of the number of dollars expended, to say nothing of the lives lost, to crush out treason. The prize won—freedom to four million of slaves—more than balances the cost.”
The first day of the month also reflects the on-going issues confronting the administration of Andrew Johnson, from the treatment and incarceration of Jefferson Davis to the matter of settling debts in the Southern states not associated with the Confederate government. Recently elected as U.S. Senator from South Carolina, Benjamin Perry, addresses the state of affairs from Columbia as he sees it:
“In good faith South Carolina has abolished slavery and never will wish to restore it again. The legislature is passing a code of laws providing ample & complete protection to the Negro. There is a sincere desire to do everything necessary to a restoration of the Union and to tie up and heal every bleeding wound which has been caused by this fratricidal war.
President Johnson makes his pitch for Mississippi to adopt the Thirteenth Amendment. “The action of the Legislature of Mississippi is looked to with great interest at this time, and a failure to adopt the Amendment will create the belief that the action of the Convention, abolishing Slavery, will hereafter by the Same body be revoked. The argument is, if the Convention abolished Slavery in good faith, why Should the Legislature hesitate to make it a part of the Constitution of the United States.”
The months following the war have not lessened the feelings Ellen House has concerning the circumstances that have left her father to work as a clerk in the quartermaster’s department: “I suppose though we ought to be thankful he has any thing to do. So many who were wealthy before the war are now reduced to poverty, and all for nothing, for worse than nothing, to be made the slaves of Yankee despotism.
Warming to her subject, she continues with a flourish:
“I am glad Lincoln was killed. We were at least saved the humiliation of being under his rule. He would have completed the ruin the war had so fearfully begun. The Southern people would have had their chains riveted with iron. Andy Johnson is more inclined to be just, not that I believe that a true sense of Justice or love for the South has any influence with him, it is his ambition. He thinks that to be reelected he must have Southern votes, and all that he may do will only be to gain his own selfish end.”November 2, 1865
The United States begins to focus abroad increasingly with the Civil War over. Four vessels leave the Hampton Roads area to navigate the long passage to the Pacific Ocean around Cape Horn. The purpose is to beef up the naval presence from ten to fourteen with the additions of the Vanderbilt, Tuscarora, Powhatan and Manandock.
Andrew Johnson informs Benjamin Butler of the motivation behind the demobilization of the wartime army. “There is no desire to muster officers out of the service other than a reduction of the army to the wants of the Govt in time of peace.”November 3, 1865
The irascible secretary of the navy Gideon Welles closes another wartime chapter by ordering that U.S. vessels will no longer withhold the traditional maritime courtesies toward their British counterparts when encountering their vessels or entering their ports. The gesture reverses the policy set in place when the British recognized the Confederate States of America as a belligerent nation in 1861.
Former Virginia governor John Letcher revisits with President Johnson his petition for a pardon. His inability to conduct personal affairs has led to his renewed call for relief. “I desire to go regularly to business, and wish to do so, untrammelled by the restraint imposed upon me, by the terms of my parole. Business is frequently tendered to me, in other counties, than my own, requiring immediate attention. All such business I am compelled to decline, as the parties cannot submit to the delay incident to obtaining permission from Washington [to travel]. . . .November 4, 1865
I solicit a pardon, not from a desire to re-enter political life. In my condition, it would be, but little short of madness to think of it.”
Joseph Davis remains incensed with the loss of his property in Mississippi:
“Your Excellency will excuse an other application for the restoration of my property now in the possession of the Freedmens Bureau who are using every device that Fraud avorice and falsehood can bring to their aid to continue their possessions.”November 5, 1865
Henderson Crawford of “Thomson Columbia co Ga” writes to President Johnson to explain his circumstances and to “Appeal to you for the real condition and estate of our rase for the further and present time. I must tell you how we live here in the Southern States. Great excitement prevailes throughout the South about the rightes of my racse. They dont want us to have any testimony in court. . . . If we have no testimony in court how will we Be protected or without will we ever Become a people of the united States with the full rightes and protections of the Government. . . . We can neve Become citizens of the united states without the privilege [of] polical rights of the Constitution of the united States. We done all we could for the union dueing the existing rebellion. We Shed our Blood and gave our lives and aided in restoring the union. . . .”
Crawford notes the violence being turned against the former slaves in the area, then describes the economic limitations being imposed:
“Driven off tourn out of doors haff paid for labor tenth of the crop is generaly given $5 per month. Now they say that we are to Bound ourselves to them under harder terms than while in Slavery. In some places whipping and Shooting is the order of the day. ”
Perhaps spurred by this appeal, Johnson tells the governor of Georgia that he approves of measures to organize “a police force in the Several counties, for the purpose of arresting marauders, suppressing crime, and enforcing the civil authority. . . . It is hoped that your people will as Soon as practicable take upon themselves the responsibility of enforcing and Sustaining all laws, State & Federal, in conformity to the Constitution of the United States.”November 6, 1865
C.S.S. Shenandoah ends her extraordinary voyage of circumnavigating the globe while threatening Union shipping and commerce under the Confederate banner. Lieutenant James Waddell will be informed officially of the close of hostilities and lower the ship’s standard, before turning the vessel over to Captain J.G. Paynter, who commands H.M.S. Donegal. The final act closes the colorful chapter of the ship that had continued to wreak havoc in Union circles even as the nation under whose flag she served collapsed into oblivion.
Ulysses Grant feels sufficient progress has been made to lower the number of regular troops required and informs George Meade, “In view of the peaceful condition of the South I think now the number of interior posts held may be materially reduced in number and where regular troops are used they can generally be one or two company posts. In this way you may be enabled to discharge from service most of the White Volunteers still remaining within your command.”November 7, 1865
Ulysses Grant sends a communication supporting clemency for former Confederate James Longstreet, who had been excluded from an earlier amnesty proclamation. “I believe I can safely say that there is no where among the exceptions a more honorable class of men in the 5th & 8th of these, nor a class who will more faithfully observe any obligation which they [may] take upon themselves. General Longstreet in my opinion stands high among this class. I have known him well for more than twenty-six years, first as a Cadet at West Point, and afterwards as an office of the Army. For five years from my graduation we served together, a portion of the time in the same regiment. I speak of him therefore from actual personal acquaintance.”
Having conducting himself well in the war, Grant is firm in his endorsement:
“I have no hesitation therefore in recommending Gen. Longstreet to your Excellency for Pardon. I will further state that opinion of him is such that I shall feel it as a personal favor to myself if this pardon is granted.”
The Baltimore Daily Commercial reports the outcome of a “Base Ball Match
Philadelphia, Nov. 6—The return match between the Atlantics, of Brooklyn, and the Athletics, of Philadelphia, was played this afternoon, resulting in a victory by the Athletics. The score stood 27 to 24.”November 8, 1865
Republican electoral success prompts messages of congratulations to President Johnson:
“New Jersey sends greeting. To day she stands redeemed, and the work of consecration is still going on in the heart of the people. . . .
The Copperheads have elected just enough Coroners to hold an inquest over their defunct and offensive remains. New Jersey supports your administration, and loyal men call for the execution of Jeff Davis as the reward for his treason.”
Similarly, two pieces of news with potential to resonate significantly greet readers of the Cleveland Daily Leader. The first is the blaring headline: “THE ELECTIONS. A SWEEPING UNION TRIUMPH The Copperheads Crushed. VICTORY! VICTORY! Massachusetts 50,000 Union. New York 20,000 Union. New Jersey 5,000 Union. Wisconsin 10,000 Union.”
The second is buried under “THE NEWS”
“A SPECIAL says positively the clerk of the House will not call the names of those persons elected to Congress from the lately revolted States.”November 9, 1865
The Yorkville Enquirer of South Carolina recounts a statement attributed to the guerrilla Champ Ferguson, before the latter had faced execution in Nashville:
“I was a Southern man at the start; I am yet, and will die a rebel. I believe I was right in all I did. I don’t think I done anything wrong at any time. I committed my deeds in a cool and deliberate manner. I killed a good many men, of course; I don’t deny that, but never killed a man whom I did not know was seeking my life. It is false that I never took any prisoners. I have taken a great many, and after keeping them awhile paroled them. I tried to prove this during my trial, but they would not give me time to do it.”November 10, 1865
In Washington, Henry Wirz, the convicted commander of Camp Sumter or Andersonville, ascends the scaffold to answer for the charges levied against him concerning the mistreatment of Union prisoners of war.
Ulysses Grant offers his views on a prospective survey of “the Isthmus of Darien for the purpose of determining the practicality of constructing a Ship Canal by that route. . . .”November 11, 1865
He notes that a joint effort by the Army and Navy will make the effort possible. “The importance of the work contemplated I need not dwell upon, nor the importance of keeping it out of the hands of any other first class power than our own. . . .”
Grant tells Secretary of State Seward that the army currently contains 182,784 men.
Charles Sumner states his grounds for insisting that the South is not ready for restoration under any program being undertaken by President Johnson:
“As a faithful friend and supporter of your administration I most respectfully petition you to suspend for the present your policy towards the Rebel States. . . . [It] has failed to obtain any reasonable guarantees for that security in the future which is essential to peace & reconciliation. To my mind it abandons the freedmen to the control of their ancient Masters & leaves the National debt exposed to repudiation by returning Rebels. The declaration of Independence asserts the equality of all men & the rightful government can be founded only on the consent of the governed. I see small chance of peace unless these great principles are practically established by our Government. Without this, the house will continue divided against itself.”November 12, 1865
The Daily Clarion of Meridian, Mississippi, takes up the issues of the status of former slaves and the question of admitting Southern members to Congress. “Among the various questions that are before the Legislature, none so vitally affect the future welfare of the State, none will have so important a bearing on the restoration policy of President Johnson, as the laws that may be passed to define the civil rights and prescribe the future status of the freedmen.”November 13, 1865
South Carolina ratifies the Thirteenth AmendmentNovember 14, 1865
Indiana governor Oliver P. Morton notes to President Johnson that Jefferson Davis could be tried in his state for the raid by John Hunt Morgan that took place under his presidency. Johnson responds, “Jurisdiction is one of the questions which has been much in our way.”November 15, 1865
A citizen from Huntsville, Alabama, relates a gloomy assessment of the state: “Politically our State has gone wild. Our Legislature will be composed ¾ of officers & privates from the Confederate Army. Every Member of Congress elected Cannot take the oath of office. They become candidates knowing this fact, and were elected by the prejudices of the people against the United States Government.”November 16, 1865
The Daily Mountaineer of Dalles, Oregon, chides folks in Nevada for their prudishness:
“The people of Virginia City, Nevada, are becoming very modest. When a ballet-girl danced with rather too much abandon, they hissed her.”November 17, 1865
President Johnson reaffirms William L. Sharkey as Provisional Governor of Mississippi, and calls upon the state legislative body to “without delay place the State in an attitude which will enable her to resume all Constitutional relations between her and the Federal Government.
Let the Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, abolishing Slavery be adopted. Let such laws be passed for the protection of freedmen, in person and property, as Justice and equity demand. The admission of negro testimony, they all being free, will be as much for the protection of the white man, as the Colored.November 18, 1865
I do hope that the Southern people will see the position that they now occupy, and avail themselves of the favorable opportunity of once more resuming all their former relations to the Government of the United States, and in so doing restore peace, prosperity, happiness, and fraternal love.”
William Marvin, Provisional Governor of Florida, notifies Washington that the state convention “has annulled the ordinance of secession abolished slavery & declared that all the inhabitants of the State without distinction of color are free & that no person shall be incompetent to testify as a witness on account of Color in any matter wherein a Colored person is concerned. It has [also] repudiated the State debt contracted in support of the rebellion. . . .”
Notice appears in the Evening Star, of Washington, of an unusual sale of items:
“During the war, a large number of old naval cannon accumulated at the various navy yards throughout the United States, which the Secretary of the Navy now proposes to dispose of. On the 1st of December, 195 will be offered at public auction in Philadelphia, and will be sold by the pound to the highest bidder.”
Word reaches the readers of the Big Blue Union of Marysville, Kansas:
“WIRZ HUNG!—At ten o’clock on Friday morning, Nov. 10th the keeper of Anderson prison expiated his crimes on the gallows at Washington. Never before, in this country did a capital execution take place which met with so general approbation as does this one.”November 19, 1865
The Daily Phoenix of Columbia, South Carolina, offers the following advice to quick-witted readers: “DIFFICULT YET EASY—If a police officer is after you, the best thing you can do is to lock the door, and then bolt yourself.”November 20, 1865
Georgian Howell Cobb forwards a message to appeal to President Johnson for “your early—and I trust—favorable action on my application under your amnesty proclamation.”November 21, 1865
A friend writes to Andrew Johnson after reading editorials from the New York newspapers opposing the President’s Reconstruction policies:
“Mr. President: Yours is a great task. Your acts are perhaps to shape the fate of the country for centuries. . . . History is the only grave, just and impartial judge of human affairs, and as Mr. Lincoln says ‘we cannot escape history.’November 22, 1865
Place yourself above all parties. Let the whole country be your motto. . . . The republicans would never have elected you Vice President, if they had known the untimely fate of Mr. Lincoln. Be firm! The country will sustain you, if by order of party-dictates you will not allow the country to be ruined.”
Robert E. Lee drafts a letter to assist Washington College in raising an endowment to support the institution:
“The friends of Washington College are making efforts to advance its usefulness, and to elevate it to the position of other institutions of the present day. For many years it has stood still, content to dispense in a quiet way its benefits to the youth of the neighboring counties, while other colleges, with enlarged means, have been enabled to keep pace with the progress of science, civilization, and improvement.”November 23, 1865
In addition to providing readers with articles on Judah Benjamin and Henry Wirz, the Yorkville Enquirer of South Carolina explains in unmistakable terms that all transactions, including for subscriptions and advertisements, must be paid in cashNovember 24, 1865
A New Orleans citizen complains to President Johnson that an order of the War Department has ordered him to stop sending telegraphic messages, although he considers the same methods of transmission “are open to the public, and are daily used by Cotton Speculators, rebels, and any one else who will pay the tolls.”November 25, 1865
The Independent of Oskaloosa, Kansas, recounts the story of “A Negro Mother’s Faith.” The elderly woman had received news that her son had fallen wounded into the hands of the Confederates at the Battle of the Crater, but refused to believe that he would not return home in due course. Although no news arrived for many months, eventually the young man appeared at the door of his home to tell that as a prisoner he became a servant for some of the men who guarded Libby Prison, until, when sent on a mission to collect wood for a cook fire, he “forgot” the way back to his captives and eventually reached Washington bringing several slaves with him.November 26, 1865
Philip Sheridan offers his personal observations to President Johnson regarding the state of affairs in his jurisdiction:
“There are without doubt many malcontents in the State of Louisiana and much bitterness, but this bitterness is all that is left for these people, there is no power of resistance left, the Country is impoverished and the probability is that in two or three years there will be almost a total transfer of landed property, the North will own every Railroad, every Steamboat, every large mercantile establishment and everything which requires capital to carry it on; in fact Mr. President I consider the South now Northernized. The slave is free and the whole world cannot again enslave him, and with all these facts staring us in the face we can well afford to be lenient to the last annoyance, impotent ill feeling.”
Ulysses Grant instructs Major General E.O.C. Ord, commanding the Department of the Ohio, to try to prevent elements of the Fenian movement or any other group in the U.S. from threatening British territory, including Canada. Grant notes that while Great Britain had not always “observed this rule very closely towards us during the existence of the late rebellion,” that the U.S. should behave more appropriately. “But their wrong doing is no justification for our following their example. You will therefore prevent all armed and equipped Military organizations going from the United States into Canada when you can. It will not be necessary even for you to know that they are going for the purpose of making war upon a country with which we are at peace. It is sufficient to know that, without the invitation of the Canadian authorities, no organized military companies have a right to enter their country— ”
Ord was not to worry about uncovering groups or their intentions within the country. “It is only when they or any militia or other body of armed men attempt to go into another country, or out of ours, that you need interfere.”
Johnson sends a message intended indirectly for Alexander Stephens to desist in connecting himself to election in Georgia to the U.S. Senate, despite positive personal feelings from their time in government before the war. “If elected he would not be permitted to take his seat, or in other words he could not take the Oath required, other difficulties being out of the way. He stands charged with Treason, and no disposition has been made of his case.”November 27, 1865
The President recognizes that more appears to be at work than returning experienced leaders to office: “There seems in many of the elections Something like defiance, which is all out of place at this time.”
Andrew J. Hamilton, Provisional Governor of Texas, reports on attitudes that seem prevalent in his state:
“The great body of the people are quiet and orderly. They seem disposed to obey the laws, and are doubtless glad to be once more under the protection of the government of the United States, and anxious to accept every benefit it confers. Still it must be confessed, that a great many, even of this class, have had their minds and hearts so perverted by past teachings, that they accept the favor of the Government, as a matter of course, without feeling any corresponding obligation on their part, to make the slightest sacrifice to sustain the Government, or its policy.”November 28, 1865
Provisional Governor Lewis Parsons of Alabama, adds his voice to those asking the suspension of Frank Gurley’s sentence. President Johnson directs Benjamin Grierson to do so and order a review of the case.
In the same communication, Parsons assures: “All is progressing favorably in regard to Construction.”November 29, 1865
In Indiana, the Evansville Daily Journal reports that former Confederate general Gideon Pillow has complained of his inability to review animals held by the U.S. government to determine if any of them once belonged to his plantation, and although provided to the Confederacy during the war, now ought to revert once more to his ownership. “Don’t he hope he will get them? Wonder if all rebels’ property captured should not be given up?”November 30, 1865
In South Carolina, the Yorkville Enquirer forwards a report of an “Extraordinary Dinner Party” which had taken place “at Delmonico’s, embracing Alexander H. Stephens, Horace Greeley, Roger A. Pryor . . . John H. Reagan, ex Postmaster General of the Confederacy. . . and Henry Ward Beecher. They had a long and animated conversation about the war, reconstruction, and the future of the country, and seemed to agree admirably in their conclusions. . . .
The most ultra and life-long abolitionist [Beecher] met and fraternized with the most violent secessionist [Pryor]. The old fable of the lamb and the lion lying down together is not half so remarkable as was the conglomeration of political antipodes.”
December 1865December 1, 1865
President Andrew Johnson lifts the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in the United States, but continues to omit the states of the former Confederacy, Washington City, and the territories of New Mexico and Arizona.
The relationship between Johnson and Charles Sumner continues to deteriorate. George Bancroft writes to tell the President the latest in his endeavors at intervention, particularly on the question of the vote for the former slaves:
“Mr. Sumner was here yesterday, & spent two or three hours with me. I did all in my power to calm him down on the suffrage questions, & he admitted fully that the Presidentcould not have granted the suffrage.
I believe he left me, bent on making in the Senate certain speeches, which he has prepared elaborately, but resolved to cultivate friendly relations with you.”
Bancroft suggests that the men have a great deal of agreement on foreign affairs and a positive tone might be set on those grounds, “that, as he is chairman of the Committee of foreign relations, a little freedom of conversation on your part on our foreign affairs would conciliate him amazingly. He goes in the main well-disposed.
Public opinion is all with you.”
Newly-elected congressman Rutherford B. Hayes, meets with the Ohio caucus to determine how the new Congress should treat the representatives from the former Confederate states: “We agreed to oppose the admission of any delegate from the Rebel States for the present. . . .”December 2, 1865
The Freedmen’s Bureau office in Charleston, S.C., issues a circular addressing the question of contracts for the former slaves:
“It is recommended that, as far as practicable, in order not to break up their homes for the present, freedmen be employed by, and make contracts with, their former masters, and that care be taken to provide for the maintenance of the helpless and infirm. This end will be most easily secured by paying the freedmen for their labor, in clothing, food, and shelter, and medical attendance, and such additional wages in money, or portions of the crops, as may be agreed upon.
The interests of the freedmen will be carefully guarded, and their rights in every respect protected: but, at the same time, they must be compelled to fulfill their agreements, and, if idle or vicious, must suffer the penalties for such conduct.
No effort should be spared to correct the erroneous impressions that prevail among the freedmen in regard to a division of land, that it is not necessary for them to make contracts, or that they will be permitted to leave their present homes, and go in great numbers to any other part of the country.”
Alabama ratifies the Thirteenth Amendment. Provisional Governor Lewis Parsons informs the President: “Tis done. The amendment as adopted by Alabama by more than 2/3d vote in the House & by 4/5 in the Senate.”
Provisional Governor Benjamin F. Perry of South Carolina observes: “The State Government is now perfectly organized, & the people every where disposed to be faithful & loyal. But they wish to be governed by law once more. They have been disposed to do every thing required of them, & now ask to be relieved of military rule. There is no necessity for any military force, out[side] of Charleston, GeorgeTown & Beaufort. To keep troops any longer in the country is mischievous & vexatious.”December 3, 1865
The growing rift between the executive and legislative branches of the government seems most apparent to Gideon Welles, who shares his views with the President:
“Told the President I disliked the proceedings of the Congressional caucus on Saturday evening. The resolution for a joint committee of fifteen to whom the whole subject of admission of Representatives from States which had been in rebellion without debate was in conflict with the spirit and letter of the Constitution, which gives each house [as a whole] the decision of election of its own members, etc. Then in appointing Stevens, an opponent of State rights, to present it there was something bad. . . .
In the Senate, [Charles] Sumner introduced an avalanche of radical—and some of them absurd—resolutions. These appeared to have absorbed the entire attention of that body, which adjourned without the customary committee to wait upon the President and inform him that Congress was organized. This was not unintentional. There was design in it. . . .”
Jefferson Davis closes a letter to his wife in which he admits dejectedly, “My days drag heavily on, to what I have no means to direct or foresee.”
From Mississippi, President Johnson receives a letter that acknowledges the pressures he faces to remove troops “from the different states late in rebellion,” but purports to advance the “real condition of things in this State, and elsewhere in the South.” The writer notes that he has found “that many systems of servitude, are, even now, being matured to send the negro back to his former master, and to make it a penal offence to attempt, or in any way induce him to leave that master, even by offering him higher wages, or otherwise. They will not allow him to own real estate, and propose to punish the white man that would dare to rent or lease him real estate for farming purposes. . . . One of the two conditions, as things now stand, is his inevitable fate—a system of bitter servitude, without a master to protect him, or death by starvation.”
In a post-script on a different subject, the correspondent explains: “The cry that the execution of Jeff Davis would make a martyr of him is false. He is as little tho’t of by the people South as he is by the people north.”
Ulysses Grant reviews a black regiment at Hilton Head, S.CDecember 4, 1865
Grant reaches Savannah, Ga., on his inspection tour, received by cheering black residents of the city.
Congressman Rutherford Hayes seems taken with a senior colleague who will be instrumental in shaping policy from the legislative branch of the national government:
“Thad Stevens, grim-looking, cool, with a ready wit, perfect courage, and the sort of independence which long experience, assured position, and seventy years of age gives an able man. He seems to be leader of the House.”
Hayes will tell his wife, “The only blemish in his puritanical, severe appearance is a brown wig. He is witty, cool, full of and fond of ‘sarcasms,’ and thoroughly informed and accurate. He has a knack of saying things which turn the laugh on his opponent. When he rises everyone expects something worth hearing, and he has the attention of all.”
North Carolina accepts the Thirteenth Amendment, but Mississippi does not.
Adjustments in attitudes and behaviors are increasingly the norm in the transitional world from slavery to freedom. One Kentuckian complains that his now “hired” servant has lain ill for several days, exhibiting an “ill humor.” He concludes, “Several remarks lead to the belief that she is much more contrary than sick. Poor Negroes! I pity them the delusion & ruin the yankee has forced upon them. . . . Many of them remain with their masters. Many return & beg to be taken back as they were before—but the majority are restless—indolent, discontented, seeking constant changes--& not knowing what to do with their freedom.”
A Georgia Unionist deplores the state of affairs as he views them: “The State of Georgia is in almost as rebellious a condition at heart to day as she has been any time during the war.” Finlay Clark believes he has identified the culprit: “Before Pardons were granted the political instigators of the Rebellion were held in check. . . . Now that they all have their Pardons they are on the other track; all trying to see which done the most for the rebel cause, & counciling the people to weigh every man accordingly. From the Congressman elect down to the lowest officer this is perfectly apparent.”
President Johnson’s Message to Congress contains his views on the Constitution and the relationship which the former rebellious states hold with the national government: “The States attempting to secede placed themselves in a condition where their vitality was impaired, but not extinguished—their functions suspended, but not destroyed.”
With an eye to advancing and protecting the national interests, the Secretary of the Navy announces the re-establishment of the West India Squadron consisting of nine vessels under Commodore James S. Palmer.December 5, 1865
Georgia agrees to the Thirteenth Amendment.December 6, 1865
Buoyed by the message of the President to Congress, a copy of which he has received a read, George Bancroft effuses: “In less than twenty days the extreme radical opposition will be over.”
From North Carolina, Provisional Governor William W. Holden is less certain of harmonious relations existing in his region: “I regret to say that there is much of a rebellious spirit still in this State.” He had thought the signs were more propitious, “but leniency has emboldened them, and the copperhead now shows his fangs. If these men had supreme power in this State the condition of real Union men and of the freedmen would be exceedingly disagreeable.”December 7, 1865
Indiana governor Oliver Morton predicts that Congressional opposition to the President’s policies on Reconstruction “will surely melt away or break to pieces in a short time.”December 8, 1865
Andrew Johnson sends a message of congratulations to Provisional Governor James Johnson in Georgia for the state’s acceptance of the Thirteenth Amendment.December 9, 1865
The Evening Argus, of Rock Island, Ill., offers an indication of an approaching holiday with an advertisement: “CHRISTMAS TREES, GREEN trees for Christmas at Black Hawk Nursery. Also evergreen branches for decorating rooms for the holydays.”
But celebratory hardly matches the mood for Charlestonians, as reflected in the Charleston Daily News:
“It is apparent, from the late Washington news, that the subject of the restoration of the Southern States is as prominent among politicians there as it is in our own minds. It will be seen that before Congress met, Republican caucus had settled the immediate course of action of that party in relation to the subject. . . . that, in their view, the Southern States are not members of the Federal Union; and that their readmission, if not denied, is to be delayed.”December 10, 1865
The editors note that South Carolina “has performed the penance prescribed . . . and she now claims the promised shrift. Late events render it doubtful whether our hopes are to be realized; but we are of those who believe that moderate views and the sense of justice will, ere long, prevail, and secure the blessings of self-government. Malignant men there are, however, whom we cannot satisfy—political pathologists, keen to detect symptoms of disease in our body politic. . . .”
The New York Times offers a damning assessment of prisons in the United States:
“The truth is, this country, in penal reform as in public sanitary science, is for ‘behind the age.’ The condition of the county jails throughout the Union is a disgrace to our civilization and humanity. The county workhouses are even worse.”December 11, 1865
Worn from his travels, U.S. Grant returns to Washington.
Oregon adds its support for the Thirteenth Amendment.
Horace Greeley inspires a response in Richmond with his earlier comments on William G. Brownlow of Tennessee:
“The remarkable editor of the New York Tribune astonishes people sometimes by his outspoken candor about men and measures. The telegraph on Saturday quoted the substance of one of these outbursts, viz: a denunciation of Tennessee and her Governor. We suspect that the assailed party will have as few defenders as ever appeared for any man or cause in this world.”December 12, 1865
The Charleston Daily News provides a copy of a letter from “Friends of the Freedmen:”
“There seems to me to be a very unfair and harmful imputation in your editorial this morning, against the friends of the freedmen, in the statement that it is uncertain that they will allow the freedmen to work, even if the latter are inclined to do so.
We defy any person to point to an order of the Freedmen’s Bureau, or any paragraph which instructs the freedmen, that they are not expected to work. On the contrary, the whole burden of orders of late, as well as verbal instructions to agents, has been to insure an immediate renewal of contracts for another year, disabuse their minds of erroneous impressions relative to lands, and prevent, beforehand, if possible, the disturbances which might naturally arise at the end of the year, when the existing contracts close.”December 13, 1865
The U.S. Congress approves the establishment of a Joint Committee on Reconstruction to consist of fifteen members (12 Republicans and 3 Democrats) with directions “to inquire into the condition of the States which formed the so‐called Confederate States of America, and report whether they or any of them are entitled to be represented in either house of Congress. . . ."
Secretary Welles remains wary of the rapid advance of a radical agenda in Congress, at odds with the President’s policies, but accepts that there is little that may be done now to mitigate it: “The Radicals have been busy. They are feeling their way now.”December 14, 1865
The post-war house-cleaning continues with U.S. Grant recommending the mustering out of 17 major generals and 126 brigadier generals from the volunteer ranks, “to date from Jan. 15, 1866.” Some of these individuals have already left the service.December 15, 1865
Gideon Welles records the impressions Grant had reached on his trip through the South: “He says the people are more loyal and better disposed than he expected to find them, and that every consideration calls for the early reestablishment of the Union. His views are sensible, patriotic, and wise.”December 16, 1865
The Opelousas Courier, of Louisiana, adds to the voice of disquiet being felt in some circles of the South in an editorial addressing “The Progress of Radicalism:
The intelligence we have received from Washington is not hopeful. The radicals are triumphant. The House of Representatives has been organized on the basis of the exclusion of the Southern members. . . . Eleven States declared by the President to be constituent members of the Union, have been disfranchized.”December 17, 1865
Raphael Semmes forwards a protest to Ulysses Grant to request his intervention with President Johnson “and ask to have my arrest, in violation of a solemn military capitulation, annulled. . . . I have been arrested for my escape off Cherbourg, after my ship sunk from under me, and I was forced to leap into the sea for the preservation of life, and this escape, which I claim to have been legitimate, is charged against me as a violation of the usages of War—If it were such a violation, it was known to the Government nearly a year before the capitulation and was condoned by the capitulation itself. If the Government designed to proceed against me on this charge, it should have refused to have regarded me as a prisoner of War, and should have withheld from me the benefit of General Sherman’s convention. . . . Reposing entire faith and confidence in the Government, I have been peaceably residing at my home for the space of seven months since the capitulation, and now I find myself arrested by military authority, in violation of its solemn compact.”
Former Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas is in Baltimore, Md., attending to business matters amidst the uncertainties of the times, but notes the distinct attitudes that prevail in the one-time border state:
“The distinction between Union and Confederate is very strongly marked here & generally over Maryland. I had to drop my blue U.S. cape, a part of my old uniform, because it was always noted in the Confederate circles in which of course I am seen. In Alabama it was not noticed.”December 18, 1865
Secretary of State William Seward notes that sufficient votes of support from the ratifying states have now been achieved and the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolishing slavery is affirmed and in effect.
Thaddeus Stevens delivers a passionate articulation of the Congress’ role, as he sees it, in determining the course of reconstruction for the former Confederate states:
“The President assumes, what no one doubts, that the late rebel States have lost their constitutional relations to the Union, and are incapable of representation in Congress, except by permission of the Government. It matters but little, with this admission, whether they call them States out of the Union, and now conquered territories, or assert that because the Constitution forbids them to do what they did do, that they are therefore only dead as to all national and political action, and will remain so until the Government shall breathe into them the breath of life anew and permit them to occupy their former position. . . . They have torn their constitutional States into atoms, and built on their foundations fabrics of a totally different character. Dead men cannot raise themselves. Dead States cannot restore their existence ‘as it was.’ Whose especial duty is it to do it? […] The future condition of the conquered power depends on the will of the conqueror. They must come in as new states or remain as conquered provinces. Congress . . . is the only power that can act in the matter.
Congress alone can do it.December 19, 1865
But this is not all that we ought to do before inveterate rebels are invited to participate in our legislation. We have turned, or are about to turn, loose four million slaves without a hut to shelter them or a cent in their pockets. The infernal laws of slavery have prevented them from acquiring an education, understanding the common laws of contract, or of managing the ordinary business of life. This Congress is bound to provide for them until they can take care of themselves. If we do not furnish them with homesteads, and hedge them around with protective laws; if we leave them to the legislation of their late masters, we had better have left them in bondage. . . .”
Benjamin Dykes, a farmer and former Confederate local official, seeks relief from the President for his “lands at Andersonville Sumter County Ga. . . . I am willing to sell or grant the Government the grave yard or sell all my premises to them.
The so called Confederate Government never bought leased or rented any of my land and what they did was done without my consent or disire.”December 20, 1865
Colorful humorist Bill Arp provides a sounding-board for the rumblings of white Southern Democrats:
“I begin to feel kindly towards all people, except some. I’m now endevering to be a great national man. I’ve taken up a motto of no North, no South, no East, no West!
But you see, my friend, we are gettin restless about some things. . . .
Well, if the war is over, what’s the use of fillin up our towns and cities with soldiers any longer? Where’s your rekonstruction that the papers say is goin on so rapidly? Where’s the liberty and freedom? The fakt is General Sherman and his caterpillars made such a clean sweep of everything, I don’t see much to rekonstruct.”
Arp closes with a practical, if personal, economic solution to matters with a post script:
“And they hawled Grant’s cabin a thousand miles. Well,--Sherman’s war horse stayed in my stable one night. I want to sell the stall to some Yankee State Fair. As our people aint the sort that runs after biga folks’ things, the stall aint no more than other stall to me. State Fairs, its for sale. I suppose that Harper’s Weekley or Frank Lesly will paint a pikter of it soon, by drawin on their imagination.”December 21, 1865
The Daily Dispatch of Richmond sets a tone for the season:
“Christmas is Coming—Our readers will see from our advertising columns that, in spite of the hard times, the sellers of Christmas goods are making ample preparations to furnish everything that old and young can desire for the joyous celebration of the approaching holidays.”December 22, 1865
Sarah Mudd, writes to explain the plight of her husband as she has learned of it through news reports: “Mr President after may weeks anxious waiting for news from my innocent suffering husband, Dr Samuel Mudd last nights mail brought the sad tidings he with others—‘by order from the War department were heavily ironed and obliged to perform hard work.’”December 23, 1865
The Opelousas Courier tries to add humor to leaven the darker hues of post-war politics by relating the story of a returning Confederate veteran in Georgia, whose delay in coming home prompted reports of his demise and offered his wife an opportunity to remarry:
“He determined to give her up; but said he to a number of sympathising friends: ‘The thing that sticks in my craw, gentlemen, is her marryin’ a darned conscript; ef he’d been a man and fout for his country as I hev done, I shouldn’t a keered! He was a lyin’ up in the mountains when I war doin’ my duty, the infernal cuss, and that’s what I dont like him for—durn him!”December 24, 1865
Pulaski, Tennessee, becomes the birthplace of an organization that will become known as the Ku Klux Klan, when six Confederate veterans gather in a local law office.December 25, 1865
This represents the first Christmas since the guns have fallen silent. Many empty chairs tell the tale of those who lost their lives or went missing in the struggle. Other veterans bear the marks, seen and unseen, of the bitter warfare they have experienced.
William Rosecrans is in a fit of pique regarding his perception of his mistreatment as a soldier by his comrades as he appeals directly to Andrew Johnson for an extension of leave to address private affairs before resigning from the service. “That injustice which removed me from active command where I dare say I have always rendered honest faithful and not unimportant services to my country and while conferring brevets on others for even administrative services have failed to give me any recognition for Iuka Corinth Stone River Tullahoma Chicamauga and the overthrow of [Sterling] Price and the conspirators in Missouri, compels me on the advice of friends, who are your friends, to make a personal application to you.”December 26, 1865
Senator-elect William Fishback of Arkansas, denied his seat in the chamber by Congressional fiat, explains to President Johnson that he sees a “coming contest between the Congress and yourself,” but that he believes the sympathies of much of the South lie with the Executive. “I think I hazard nothing in stating. . . that the great ‘public,’ outside of those having selfish and partisan objects in view, appreciate your motives and your task and will lend you an earnest and patriotic support.”December 27, 1865
Secretary Welles is unrepentant and unremitting in his feelings toward those ex-Confederates who plagued him most in the last war. Of Raphael Semmes, the official records in his diary:
“He did not belong in the Rebel region, and has not therefore the poor apology of those who shelter themselves under the action of their States; he was educated and supported by that government which he deserted in disregard of his obligations and his oath; he made it his business to rob and destroy the ships and property of his unarmed countrymen engaged in peaceful commerce. . . .”
Josiah Gorgas takes notice of the earlier arrest of Raphael Semmes and his own circumstances: “The future is still uncertain to us, & we must wait patiently, & take our lot as it comes trying to do the best all the time.”December 28, 1865
Ulysses Grant requests that Varina Davis be given greater latitude for personal travel, “without forfeiting her present privilege of corresponding with her husband.”December 29, 1865
The final edition of William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberatorappears in print with a valedictory from the editor: “The object for which the Liberator was commenced—the extermination of chattel slavery—having been gloriously consummated, it seems to me specially appropriate to let its existence cover the historic period of the great struggle; leaving what remains to be done to complete the work of emancipation to other instrumentalities. . . .”December 30, 1865
The Richmond Daily Dispatch, notes another way in which prewar society has regained some of its footing: “At the time the war commenced the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, located in this city, had about thirty-five Missionaries laboring among the heathen. This number has been greatly reduced in consequence of the difficulty of transmitting funds during the terrible conflicts of the country. The Board have not, however, abandoned their work, but have been able, to some extent, and in different ways, to forward remittances and to keep up their most important missions.”December 31, 1865
A South Carolinian writes to tell President Johnson his views on topics that range from repudiation of the war debt—which the legislature is not prepared to do—to hot button political issues. “In the main, every thing is getting on here pretty well. Of course, the complaints of the Freedman’s Bureau and the cotton agents continue. The former are, I fear frequently well founded, and the latter I am quite sure are generally so.”