February 1865


U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signed a resolution submitting the proposed Thirteenth Amendment to the state legislatures for ratification. Lincoln’s signature was not necessary but symbolic.

Illinois became the first state to ratify the amendment.

Lincoln spoke to a crowd serenading him at the White House, “The occasion was one of congratulation to the country and to the whole world. But there is a task yet before us–to go forward and consummate by the votes of the States that which Congress so nobly began… this amendment is a King’s cure for all the evils. It winds the whole thing up.”

Lincoln wired General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant at City Point, Virginia about potential peace negotiations: “Let nothing which is transpiring, change, hinder, or delay your Military movements, or plans.”

U.S. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase admitted black lawyer John Rock of Massachusetts to practice before the Supreme Court. Rock was a prominent dentist, physician, orator, and attorney.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis reluctantly accepted the resignation of Secretary of War James Seddon, who had faced intense criticism throughout the Confederacy during his tenure. A Virginia delegation demanded the removal of all cabinet members, but Davis upheld his right to select his own cabinet.


President Lincoln agreed to Ulysses S. Grant’s suggestion to personally join the peace negotiations at Hampton Roads, Virginia. Grant claimed the Confederate peace commissioners’ “intentions are good and their desire sincere to restore peace and union.” Lincoln reached Hampton Roads this evening.

Rhode Island and Michigan ratified the Thirteenth Amendment.


President Lincoln attended a peace conference with Secretary of State William H. Seward and Confederate envoys on the steamboat River Queen in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Lincoln and Seward insisted on unconditional restoration of the U.S., while the Confederates demanded terms for two independent nations. Lincoln suggested compensating southern slaveholders for their loss upon ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, but the talks ended with no agreements made.

New York, Maryland, and West Virginia ratified the Thirteenth Amendment.


Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal Army of the West continued advancing northward from Georgia, crossing the Savannah River into South Carolina.


In Virginia, portions of the Federal Army of the Potomac advanced on Hatcher’s Run to extend their siege lines southwest of Petersburg and weaken General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate defenses.

President Lincoln met with his cabinet and introduced a plan to provide $400 million to the Confederate states if they stopped resisting Federal authority by 1 April. Half the sum would be paid when hostilities ended, and the other half would be paid when the states ratified the Thirteenth Amendment. The cabinet unanimously rejected this proposal, as did the Radical Republicans in Congress and President Jefferson Davis.


The Battle of Hatcher’s Run occurred outside Petersburg, as Confederates attempted to stop a Federal advance to extend siege lines southwest. Federals gained control of the road, but Confederate reinforcements stopped them at Hatcher’s Run.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

President Davis appointed former Major General John C. Breckinridge, former U.S. vice president, as Confederate secretary of war.

Davis reported the results of the Hampton Roads Conference to the Confederate Congress. He tried inspiring greater military effort by pledging he “would be willing to yield up everything” before submitting to northern demands. “I can have no ‘common country’ with the Yankees,” Davis announced. “My life is bound up in the Confederacy; and if any man supposes that, under any circumstances, I can be an agent of reconstruction of the Union, he has mistaken every element of my nature!”

Robert E. Lee received orders to assume the duties of Confederate general-in-chief.


The Battle of Hatcher’s Run continued as Federals abandoned the road and instead extended their lines along a crossing toward Hatcher’s Run. This compelled the Confederates to defend siege lines 37 miles long with only some 37,000 men. Federals suffered 1,512 casualties while Confederates lost some 1,000.

Maine and Kansas ratified the Thirteenth Amendment. Delaware rejected the amendment.


Robert E. Lee informed new Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge that his forces had fought for nearly 72 straight hours, including “the most inclement day of the winter… Some of the men have been without meat for three days, and all are suffering from reduced rations and scant clothing, exposed to battle, cold, hail and sleet.” Lee warned that unless reinforcements came, “you must not be surprised if calamity befalls us.”

President Lincoln signed a joint congressional resolution disqualifying the Confederate states from representation in the Electoral College. However, Lincoln refused to share his opinion on the matter.

Massachusetts and Pennsylvania ratified the Thirteenth Amendment.


President Davis approved Confederate General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee’s proposal to pardon any deserters if they returned to their units within 30 days.

Major General Quincy A. Gillmore replaced Major General John G. Foster as commander of the Federal Department of the South.

Virginia Unionists ratified the Thirteenth Amendment.

10 FEB

President Lincoln reported the results of the Hampton Roads Conference to Congress.

Captain Raphael Semmes was promoted to Confederate rear-admiral and given command of the James River Squadron.

Ohio and Missouri ratified the Thirteenth Amendment.

11 FEB

President Davis urged General William Hardee to concentrate his Confederate forces to make at stand against William T. Sherman’s Federals at Charleston, South Carolina. However, General P.G.T. Beauregard, overall Confederate commander in the region, recommended abandoning Charleston because the Confederacy could not afford to lose an army if a Federal attack succeeded.

12 FEB

The U.S. Congress confirmed the northern votes cast by the Electoral College in the presidential election last year and declared Abraham Lincoln the winner with 212 votes versus George B. McClellan’s 21.

15 FEB

Delegates at the Missouri constitutional convention voted 29 to 19 in favor of drafting a new state constitution with new voting provisions to exclude anyone opposing the abolition of slavery or the U.S.

16 FEB

Lead units of William T. Sherman’s Federal Army of the West reached the Congaree River, across from the South Carolina capital of Columbia. P.G.T. Beauregard wired Robert E. Lee that Columbia’s fall could not be prevented, then abandoned the city. General Wade Hampton’s Confederates looted Columbia to feed the troops since it was assumed the Federals would pillage the city anyway.

As Federals threatened both Columbia and Wilmington, North Carolina, Charleston became isolated on the Atlantic coast. General William Hardee gathered all the supplies he could after determining that Charleston must be abandoned.

17 FEB

Federal forces accepted the surrender of Columbia from the mayor and city officials. Federal prisoners of war and local blacks generally welcomed the occupying troops. Federal soldiers gathered in the new state capitol building and held a mock session of the “state legislature.”

During the night, fire destroyed two-thirds of Columbia in the worst destruction inflicted on any city during the war. Although the Federals were blamed for the fires, they could have been set by departing Confederate troops. Sherman ordered the destruction of all buildings, railroads, and material considered useful to the Confederate military.

Confederates evacuated the prized city of Charleston, and the Confederate garrison at Fort Sumter surrendered after nearly two years of naval bombardment.

18 FEB

At 9 a.m., Federal Brigadier General Alexander Schimmelfennig accepted Charleston’s surrender from the mayor. U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ordered “a national salute” fired from “every fort arsenal and army headquarters of the United States, in honor of the restoration of the flag of the Union upon Fort Sumter.” Most residents fled the city as cotton and war supplies were burned.

The Senate blocked a vote on admitting the reconstructed state of Louisiana to the U.S. Those blocking the vote were mainly Radical Republicans who sought to impose a more punitive reconstruction plan on the southern states instead of President Lincoln’s moderate policy.

20 FEB

President Lincoln wrote to Missouri Governor Thomas C. Fletcher that, while there was no organized Confederate military in that state, “destruction of property and life is rampant every where.” Lincoln called for citizens to control the situation.

21 FEB

In North Carolina, General Braxton Bragg ordered a Confederate evacuation of Wilmington to save his outnumbered forces from capture. Major General John Schofield’s Federal army closed in on one of the Confederacy’s last significant seaport cities. The Confederates destroyed or moved most of their supplies before slipping away.

Robert E. Lee shared a plan with Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge to abandon Petersburg and Richmond if necessary. Under the plan, Lee’s army would move west toward Burkeville and link with other Confederate armies in the South.

Lee contacted Ulysses S. Grant and suggested discussing peace terms. Grant forwarded the request to Washington, where President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton replied, “You are not to decide, discuss, or confer upon any political question. Such questions the President holds in his own hands, and will submit them to no military conferences or conventions. Meantime you are to press to the utmost your military advantages.”

President Davis wrote to newspaper editor John Forsyth, “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…”

22 FEB

Federals captured Wilmington, North Carolina without opposition. Braxton Bragg’s Confederates had escaped before the Federals arrived.

General Joseph E. Johnston was named commander of the Confederate Department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, as well as the Department of Tennessee.

Pro-U.S. voters in Tennessee approved a new state constitution, which included abolishing slavery and repudiating all Confederate debts.

Kentucky rejected the Thirteenth Amendment.

23 FEB

Robert E. Lee informed President Davis about troops in South Carolina, “by diligence & boldness they can be united.”

In North Carolina, P.G.T. Beauregard issued a proclamation urging Charlotte residents to volunteer their slave labor to “destroy and obstruct” the roads to the city. However, William T. Sherman’s Federals intended only a feint toward Charlotte while instead joining John Schofield to the east.

Minnesota ratified the Thirteenth Amendment.

24 FEB

Robert E. Lee wrote to the Confederate War Department expressing concern about the “alarming number of desertions that are now occurring in the army.”

25 FEB

Joseph E. Johnston assumed command of the Confederate Army of Tennessee at Charlotte. He began gathering scattered Confederate forces, then reported to Robert E. Lee he could only muster 25,000 men: “In my opinion, these troops form an army far too weak to cope with Sherman.” Johnston proposed joining forces with Braxton Bragg in North Carolina.

27 FEB

Major General Philip Sheridan’s 10,000-man Federal army left Winchester, Virginia in a final southward advance through the Shenandoah Valley. Ulysses S. Grant had ordered Sheridan to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad and either join forces with William T. Sherman in North Carolina or return to Winchester. Opposing Sheridan was a meager Confederate force under General Jubal Early.


Last Updated: 11/28/2014


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4 thoughts on “February 1865

  1. […] (31) The Legacy of the Civil War: February 1865. […]


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