March 1865

1 MAR

The Wisconsin legislature ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery, but the New Jersey legislature rejected it.

2 MAR

The Battle of Waynesboro occurred in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, as Federals under Major General Philip Sheridan decimated and dispersed General Jubal Early’s remaining Confederates. Federals captured some 1,600 Confederates, which ended Confederate opposition in the Shenandoah.

Confederate General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee wrote to Federal General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant to reach “a satisfactory adjustment of the present unhappy difficulties by means of a military convention…” Grant forwarded the request to Washington.

3 MAR

President Abraham Lincoln approved “an act establishing a Bureau for the Relief of Freedmen and Refugees and Abandoned Lands.” This became known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, which would administer abandoned southern land and have “control of all subjects relating to refugees and freedmen from rebel States.” The Bureau was to assign land and provide temporary food, clothing, and shelter to former slaves and poor southern whites. The Radical Republicans strongly supported this law.

Lincoln instructed Ulysses S. Grant “to have no conference with General Lee unless it be for the capitulation of Gen. Lee’s army… you are not to decide, discuss, or confer upon any political question. Such questions the President holds in his own hands…”

Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to a congressman, “In spite of the timidity and faithlessness of many who should give tone to the popular feeling and hope to the popular heart, I am satisfied that it is in the power of the good man and true patriots of the country to reanimate the wearied spirit of our people… I expect the hour of deliverance.”

4 MAR

The Thirty-eighth U.S. Congress finally adjourned about 8:00 a.m. President Lincoln and various cabinet members went to the Capitol to review and sign last-minute bills into law. The U.S. Senate met in special session to consider presidential nominations.

Abraham Lincoln began a second term as U.S. president. An estimated 50,000 people gathered at the Capitol to witness the inauguration ceremony. The vice presidential inauguration took place first in the Senate chamber, as Andrew Johnson replaced Hannibal Hamlin as vice president. Johnson delivered a rambling and partly incoherent speech; he had taken whiskey to relive his typhoid fever and the room was overheated. The speech shocked many spectators.

In his inaugural address, Lincoln blamed the Confederacy for starting the war and announced that God was punishing the nation for past mistreatment of slaves. He concluded, “With malice toward none; with charity for all… let us move on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds… to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace.”

Abraham Lincoln's Second Inauguration | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inauguration | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

The White House gates were opened to the public from 8 to 11 p.m., as Lincoln greeted an estimated 6,000 people in one of the largest public receptions in White House history. Guests stole several decorations from the East Room and cut fabric from the expensive tapestries.

5 MAR

General Joseph E. Johnston assumed command of all Confederate troops in the Department of North Carolina in addition to commanding the Army of Tennessee and other departments.

6 MAR

President Lincoln appointed Hugh McCulloch of Indiana as the new treasury secretary. McCulloch replaced outgoing Treasury Secretary William Fessenden, who had been elected to the U.S. Senate from Maine.

The Lincoln inaugural ball took place at the Patent Office in Washington. Tickets to the ball cost $10 each, with most of the money donated to families of Federal war dead. A grand midnight supper fed 4,000 and included beef, veal, poultry, oysters, terrapin, salads, jellies, tarts, ices, cakes, chocolate, and coffee.

7 MAR

President Lincoln issued several orders allowing citizens in the “insurrectionary states” to sell their goods to Treasury-appointed agents within Federal military lines.

In North Carolina, Major General John M. Schofield’s Federals moved from Wilmington to a better supply base at New Berne. This threatened the nearby Confederate army under General Braxton Bragg.

8 MAR

The Battle of Kinston occurred in North Carolina, as Braxton Bragg’s Confederates attacked a Federal force advancing on New Berne. The Federals initially fled, but reinforcements arrived and repulsed further attacks.

General Edmund Kirby Smith, Confederate commander of the Trans-Mississippi District, wrote to President Davis offering to resign due to intense press criticism of his leadership.

The Confederate Senate voted 9 to 8 in favor of recruiting blacks as soldiers in the Confederate army. The House of Representatives had approved the bill last month.

9 MAR

Robert E. Lee wrote to Confederate Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge that the military situation “is full of peril and requires prompt attention… Unless the men and animals can be subsisted, the army cannot be kept together, and our present lines must be abandoned.” However, Lee stated, “I do not regard the abandonment of our present position as necessarily fatal to our success.”

President Lincoln accepted the resignation of Interior Secretary John P. Usher without comment. Senator John Harlan of Iowa replaced Usher; Harlan’s daughter Mary was engaged to the Lincolns’ son Robert.

This evening, Confederate cavalry under Generals Wade Hampton and Joseph Wheeler surprised General Judson Kilpatrick’s Federal cavalry camped near Solemn Grove and Monroe’s Cross Roads in South Carolina. Confederates nearly captured Kilpatrick in bed, but he escaped and rallied his men allegedly without his trousers.

10 MAR

The Battle of Kinston continued in North Carolina, as Confederates launched several unsuccessful attacks against defending Federals. Braxton Bragg withdrew to join Confederates under Joseph E. Johnston.

In South Carolina, Judson Kilpatrick’s Federals counterattacked at Monroe’s Cross Roads and drove the Confederates off in defeat. This battle was derisively nicknamed “the Battle of Kilpatrick’s Pants.”

Robert E. Lee wrote to President Davis about the recent bill recruiting blacks into the Confederate military: “I attach great importance to the result of the first experiment with these troops…”

11 MAR

The left wing of Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal Army of the West captured Fayetteville, North Carolina, an important city about 75 miles up the Cape Fear River from Wilmington. Sherman arranged to join Federals under John Schofield at Wilmington, and then advance against Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederates.

President Lincoln issued a proclamation pardoning deserters if they returned to their military units within 60 days. If they did not return, they would lose their citizenship.

12 MAR

William T. Sherman’s Federals began destroying all buildings and supplies considered useful to the Confederate military at Fayetteville. Confederates under General William Hardee fought a delaying action outside town, giving Joseph E. Johnston more time to concentrate his main force between Raleigh and Goldsboro.

13 MAR

President Davis signed the bill into law recruiting blacks as Confederate soldiers. This authorized Davis to recruit up to 300,000 blacks into the Confederate armies, and it was generally understood that any slaves joining the military would be freed after service. The law had been strongly supported by Robert E. Lee, and the Richmond Enquirer reported that it passed because “The country will not deny General Lee anything he may ask for.” However, the law passed too late to affect the war.

Davis submitted a message to the Confederate Congress requesting that it stay in session to enact “further and more energetic legislation.” Davis accused congressmen of not acting boldly enough to handle the crisis.

14 MAR

Robert E. Lee informed President Davis that Joseph E. Johnston was uniting forces at Raleigh, and although he was outnumbered in “tone,” Johnston planned to “strike the enemy in detail.” Lee stated, “The greatest calamity that can befall us is the destruction of our armies. If they can be maintained, we may recover our reverses, but if lost we have no resource.”

16 MAR

The Battle of Averasboro occurred in North Carolina, as Federals advancing from Fayetteville attacked Confederates blocking their path. The Confederates withdrew toward Smithfield after suffering some 865 casualties; the Federals lost 682.

Several members of the Confederate Congress submitted a rebuttal to President Davis’s message three days ago: “Nothing is more desirable than concord and cordial cooperation between all departments of Government. Hence your committee regrets that the Executive deemed it necessary to transmit to Congress a message so well calculated to excite discord and dissension…”

17 MAR

Major General Edward R.S. Canby assembled some 32,000 Federals to capture the Confederate seaport city of Mobile, Alabama, defended by some 2,800 Confederates under Brigadier General R.L. Gibson.

President Lincoln addressed the increasing sales of arms to Native Americans by proclaiming that anyone caught conducting such transactions would be arrested and tried by a military tribunal.

Lincoln delivered a speech to the 140th Indiana, stating, “Whenever (I) hear any one, arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”

Famed actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth led accomplices in a plot to kidnap Lincoln and exchange him for Confederate prisoners of war. The group went to the Soldiers Home outside Washington where the Lincolns often stayed, but Lincoln was not there. Booth soon changed his plan from kidnapping to assassination.

18 MAR

The Confederate Congress adjourned with several important bills left unpassed. President Davis wrote to a friend, “Faction has done much to cloud our prospects and impair my power to serve the country.”

In North Carolina, Joseph E. Johnston concentrated his 20,000 Confederates to oppose the Federal advance on Goldsboro.

19 MAR

The Battle of Bentonville occurred in North Carolina, as Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederates attacked Federals on their way to Goldsboro. Federal reinforcements repulsed three attacks, and Johnston withdrew to his original position.

A new Confederate battalion of white hospital convalescents and black hospital orderlies began drilling on Capital Square in Richmond, Virginia.

20 MAR

The Battle of Bentonville continued, as William T. Sherman’s entire 100,000-man army was positioned near the town to face Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederates. Heavy skirmishing occurred.

Ulysses S. Grant invited President Lincoln to visit Grant’s headquarters at City Point, Virginia. Lincoln’s visit was intended to be partly vacation, partly observation, and partly conferring with Grant on future plans. Lincoln accepted.

21 MAR

The Battle of Bentonville continued as William T. Sherman’s entire 100,000-man Federal force moved forward, forcing Joseph E. Johnston to withdraw. Federals suffered some 1,500 casualties while Confederates lost 2,600, mostly captured. This was the last significant battle between Johnston and Sherman, as the Federal advance through North Carolina continued.

President Davis responded to Robert E. Lee’s statement that Mobile must be held, stating “all the recent indications are that the purpose of the enemy is to cut off all communication with Richmond…”

22 MAR

Federals under Brigadier General James H. Wilson advanced on Selma, Alabama to not only capture the important communication center, but to divert attention from the major assault on Mobile.

John M. Schofield’s Federals captured Goldsboro almost unopposed.

23 MAR

The Federal forces of William T. Sherman and John M. Schofield joined at Goldsboro, North Carolina. This ended the Carolinas Campaign that Sherman and Schofield had begun from Savannah and Nashville respectively in January.

President Lincoln, First Lady Mary Lincoln, and son Tad left Washington on the steamer River Queen to visit Ulysses S. Grant’s headquarters at City Point.

24 MAR

The Lincoln family arrived at Fort Monroe, Virginia on their way to visit Ulysses S. Grant at City Point.

25 MAR

The Battle of Fort Stedman occurred outside Petersburg, as Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia attempted to break the Federal siege lines. However, a Federal counterattack overwhelmed the Confederates, proving that Lee could not launch any attacks on the Federals without risking destruction. Federals suffered about 1,000 casualties while Confederates lost some 3,500 (including 1,900 captured).

President Lincoln met with Ulysses S. Grant at City Point and reviewed the troops at Fort Stedman after the battle. Lincoln reported the battle to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton as “a little rumpus.”

26 MAR

Robert E. Lee wrote to President Davis after the defeat at Fort Stedman, “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.” This meant the imminent evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, as Lee hoped that linking with Joseph E. Johnston would prevent a linkage between Grant and Sherman.

27 MAR

President Lincoln met with Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, and Rear Admiral David D. Porter aboard River Queen at City Point, Virginia. The commanders agreed that “one more bloody battle was likely to occur before the close of the war.”

General E.R.S. Canby’s 32,000 Federals began a siege of Spanish Fort defending the vital Confederate seaport city of Mobile, Alabama. Mobile Bay had fallen to the Federals last year, but the city itself was still in Confederate hands, defended by some 2,800 Confederates.

28 MAR

President Lincoln and his commanders met again aboard River Queen. Regarding surrender, Lincoln said, “Let them (the Confederates) go, officers and all. I want submission and no more bloodshed… I want no one punished, treat them liberally all around. We want those people to return to their allegiance to the Union and submit to the laws.”

29 MAR

Federals led by Major General Philip Sheridan began moving to block a Confederate escape from Petersburg via the South Side Railroad at Five Forks. Federals attacked to dislodge Confederates from their siege lines, but results were inconclusive.

30 MAR

At City Point, President Lincoln said he should return to Washington, “and yet I dislike to leave without seeing nearer to the end of General Grant’s present movement.”

31 MAR

Philip Sheridan’s Federals advanced on Confederate siege lines west of Petersburg. After repulsing a Federal advance, Confederate General George Pickett withdrew to Five Forks. This initiated a campaign that Ulysses S. Grant hoped would end the war.

—–

Last Updated: 11/26/2014

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