January 1865

The southern economy was on the verge of collapse, as $1 in gold equaled $60 Confederate. A barrel of flour cost $275 and a pair of pants cost $100 while Confederate soldiers received $17 per month. Meanwhile, the northern economy was generally stable as industrial advances replaced farm labor lost due to war.


In Virginia, Major General Benjamin F. Butler abandoned a Federal project to complete a canal at Dutch Gap on the James River.


In Washington, the traditional New Year’s Day reception at the White House took place today because yesterday was a Sunday. Prominent administration officials attended, but members of Congress were not invited. The mood was more cheerful than in previous years because the Federal military outlook was brighter than ever before.

A group of Kentuckians lobbied U.S. President Abraham Lincoln to assign Benjamin F. Butler to command Federals in their state. Lincoln replied, “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?”

Confederate President Jefferson Davis told General P.G.T. Beauregard, commanding Confederates in Georgia and South Carolina, that if necessary, General Richard Taylor should replace General John Bell Hood as commander of the Army of Tennessee.


A Federal expedition prepared for another attack on Fort Fisher, North Carolina. Guarding the port of Wilmington, this was the last major Confederate seaport still open for commerce.

Major General William T. Sherman reorganized his Federal Army of the West, transferring part of Major General Oliver O. Howard’s Army of the Tennessee from Savannah, Georgia to Beaufort, South Carolina. This was part of Sherman’s plan to invade South Carolina.


Federals embarked at Bermuda Hundred for a new attack on Fort Fisher, North Carolina. Major General Alfred H. Terry replaced Benjamin F. Butler as the infantry commander, while the naval forces remained under the command of Rear Admiral David D. Porter.


President Lincoln dispatched Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to Savannah to consult with William T. Sherman and urge him to keep moving, stating that “time, now that the enemy is wavering, is more important than ever before. Being on the down-hill, & some what confused, keeping (keep) him going…”

Lincoln issued a pass through enemy lines to James W. Singleton as an unofficial envoy to negotiate a possible peace with the Confederacy.


Radical Republican Congressman James Ashley of Ohio introduced a constitutional amendment in the U.S. House of Representatives permanently abolishing slavery. The amendment had passed the Senate last year but failed in the House. President Lincoln strongly supported passing this amendment before the new Congress took over in December to show northern bipartisanship.

Debate over the proposed amendment dominated House business this month. Ashley said, “Mr. Speaker, if slavery is wrong and criminal, as the great body of enlightened Christian men admit, it is certainly our duty to abolish it, if we have the power.” Democrat James Brooks of New York replied, “Is the abolition of slavery the only object for which this war is hereafter to be prosecuted, or is now prosecuted? I do not believe it.”

Federal General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant requested permission from President Lincoln to remove Benjamin F. Butler as commander of the Army of the James.

President Davis wrote a bitter letter to Vice President Alexander Stephens, who had publicly criticized the president, “I am aware that I was unfortunate enough to incur your disapproval of my policy… I assure you that it would be to me a source of the sincerest pleasure to see you devoting your great and admitted ability exclusively to upholding the confidence and animating the spirit of the people to unconquerable resistance against their foes.”

A new Missouri constitutional convention assembled in St. Louis to consider abolishing slavery. Delegates to an earlier convention had approved abolishing slavery by 1870 and providing an apprenticeship program for freed slaves. But the abolitionists, led by convention president Charles Drake, sought immediate emancipation. Delegates also considered amendments prohibiting men from voting who did not openly support the state or federal government.


Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton issued orders removing Benjamin F. Butler as commander of the Federal Department of Virginia and North Carolina and the Army of the James.

The Danish ironclad Sphinx left Copenhagen for Quiberon Bay, France. She had been secretly purchased by the Confederates and would become C.S.S. Stonewall.


The 60-ship Federal naval fleet seeking to capture Fort Fisher arrived at its rendezvous point at Beaufort, North Carolina along with Alfred Terry’s expeditionary force on transports. Colonel William Lamb, commanding Confederates at Fort Fisher, notified General Braxton Bragg, commanding all Confederates in the area, of the Federal fleet’s arrival.

Major General E.O.C. Ord replaced Benjamin F. Butler as commander of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, as well as the Army of the James.


Delegates to the Tennessee constitutional convention approved submitting a constitution to a popular vote that included abolishing slavery. Voters ratified the new constitution on 22 February.

Democratic Congressman Moses Odell of New York indicated he would change his vote from rejecting the constitutional amendment abolishing slavery to approving it: “The South by rebellion has absolved the Democratic party at the North from all obligation to stand up longer for the defense of its ‘cornerstone.'” Odell later received an important political job from President Lincoln. In opposition, Robert Mallory of Kentucky said that “the Constitution does not authorize an amendment to be made by which any State or citizen shall be divested of acquired rights of property or of established political franchises.”

10 JAN

Debate continued over the proposed amendment in the U.S. House. John A. Kasson of Iowa said “you will never, never, have reliable peace in this country while that institution exists, the perpetual occasion of moral, intellectual, and physical warfare.” Fernando Wood of New York said, “The Almighty has fixed the distinction of the races; the Almighty has 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?”

11 JAN

Delegates to the Missouri constitutional convention approved an ordinance immediately abolishing slavery, 62 to 4. Governor Thomas Fletcher approved the measure the same day.

Thomas L. Rosser led about 300 Confederates into West Virginia and attacked Federals at Beverly. The Confederates inflicted 28 casualties while capturing 580 prisoners and many supplies. Federal officials considered this a disaster due to lack of vigilance and discipline.

President Davis continued trying to build an army to oppose William T. Sherman. He planned to bring the remnants of the Army of Tennessee to the east coast, and to gather all available reserves, militia, and recruits.

U.S. statesman Francis P. Blair, Sr. arrived in Richmond as an unofficial envoy to discuss a possible peace with Confederate officials.

12 JAN

In early evening, the immense Federal fleet of about 60 vessels and troop transports bearing 8,000 soldiers arrived off Fort Fisher, North Carolina. Inside the fort, Confederate Colonel William Lamb requested help from General Braxton Bragg, commanding the Wilmington area. No reinforcements came.

Interior of Fort Fisher | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Interior of Fort Fisher | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Francis P. Blair, Sr. conferred with President Davis in Richmond.

Debate continued in the U.S. House of Representatives over the proposed amendment abolishing slavery. Samuel S. Cox of Ohio said, “Whatever it may be termed, I am opposed to compounding powers in the Federal Government.” Republican James A. Garfield of Ohio said, “Mr. Speaker, we shall never know why slavery dies so hard in this Republic and in this Hall, till we know why sin outlives disaster, and Satan is immortal…” Radical leader Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania stated that slavery was “the worst institution upon earth, one which is a disgrace to man and would be an annoyance to the infernal spirits.”

President Davis wrote to General Richard Taylor, “(William T.) Sherman’s campaign has produced bad effect on our people, success against his future operations is needful to reanimate public confidence. (General William) Hardee requires more aid than (General Robert E.) Lee can give him, and (General John Bell) Hood’s army is the only source to which we can now look.” Davis said Taylor should keep some troops to hold Major General George H. Thomas at bay, but the main part of the western forces should be sent “to look after Sherman.”

13 JAN

The Federal naval fleet opened fire on Fort Fisher, commanding 627 guns in 59 vessels. This became the largest bombardment in naval history, firing nearly 20,000 shells at the fort over three days. Meanwhile, small boats carrying 8,000 Federal troops landed north of Fisher. The Federals constructed defenses to fend off Braxton Bragg’s 6,000 Confederates between Wilmington and Fisher, then prepared to assault the fort to the south. Fort Fisher was isolated except by boat on the Cape Fear River side. William Lamb called on Bragg to use his troops to stop the Federal advance.

General John Bell Hood submitted his resignation as commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee.

14 JAN

Alfred Terry’s Federals secured their positions on the sandy peninsula north of Fort Fisher and completed their defense line to hold off Braxton Bragg’s Confederates. The firing by naval vessels continued, which was called “magnificent” for its power and accuracy. In the fort, Confederates had no chance to repair damages. William Lamb and Major General W.H.C. Whiting, also in the fort, increased calls for Bragg to help. Lamb and Whiting bitterly denounced Bragg’s failure to attack the Federals.

P.G.T. Beauregard temporarily assumed command of the Confederate Army of Tennessee at Tupelo until Richard Taylor could arrive.

15 JAN

Federals captured Fort Fisher, closing the Confederacy’s last major seaport. This prevented the South from trading cotton for badly needed food and supplies. The loss also shattered southern morale. Vice President Alexander Stephens wrote, “The fall of this Fort was one of the greatest disasters which had befallen our cause from the beginning of the war–not excepting the loss of Vicksburg and Atlanta…”

President Lincoln wrote to Major General Grenville Dodge, commanding the Department of Missouri, expressing concern about “so much irregular violence in northern Missouri as to be driving away the people and almost depopulating it.” Lincoln asked Dodge to appeal to the people to “let one another alone.”

Prominent statesman and orator Edward Everett died in Boston at age 71. Everett had been a vice presidential candidate in the 1860 election and the main speaker at the dedication of Gettysburg National Cemetery in November 1863.

President Davis wrote to William Hardee in South Carolina, “I hope you will be able to check the advance of the enemy” and added that he was seeking all possible reinforcements to oppose William T. Sherman. He wrote to Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown requesting troops.

16 JAN

President Davis urged Braxton Bragg to retake Fort Fisher if possible. A main magazine in the fort accidentally exploded, causing 104 killed, wounded, or missing. Outnumbered Confederates in the region soon abandoned nearby Fort Caswell, Smithville, and Reeves’ Point to advancing Federals.

Francis P. Blair, Sr. returned to Washington to report the results of his discussion with President Davis. He submitted a lengthy report on the plan for joining forces to conquer Mexico. President Lincoln took the matter under advisement.

The Confederate Senate voted 14 to 2 in favor of appointing Robert E. Lee as general-in-chief of all Confederate armies. The bill including giving P.G.T. Beauregard command of the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, and giving General Joseph E. Johnston command of the Army of Tennessee. President Davis disliked Johnston and resisting approving his reinstatement.

William T. Sherman issued Field Order No. 15, empowering Federal authorities to seize abandoned lands on the Sea Islands and inland tracts in Georgia and South Carolina.

17 JAN

President Lincoln consulted with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, then conveyed a message to President Davis through Francis P. Blair, Sr. “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.” Blair returned to Richmond to deliver Lincoln’s message.

President Davis told South Carolina Governor A.G. Magrath at Charleston, “I am fully alive to the importance of successful resistance to Sherman’s advance, and have called on the Governor of Georgia to give all the aid he can furnish.”

Davis received a dispatch from A. Dudley Mann, the Confederacy envoy in Brussels: “From the Emperor of the French, we never had nor have now, anything favorable to expect. His Imperial Majesty is deaf to international justice and blind to its usages when he conceives that Mexico may possibly be involved in danger…”

18 JAN

William T. Sherman transferred Federal command of the Savannah region to Major General John G. Foster and the Department of the South.

President Davis urged Robert E. Lee to become general-in-chief of all Confederate forces.

19 JAN

President Lincoln asked Ulysses S. Grant to give his son Robert Lincoln a staff position, if available, as a personal favor. Lincoln asked if Robert could be brought into Grant’s “military family with some nominal rank, I, and not the public, furnishing his necessary means?” Lincoln added, “I do not wish to put him in the ranks.” Grant appointed Robert as a captain and assistant adjutant general, mainly escorting visitors to and from Grant’s headquarters at City Point, Virginia.

William T. Sherman issued marching orders for his Federal army to begin the northward advance into South Carolina. The goal was to reach Goldsboro, North Carolina by 15 March. Sherman planned a feint against Charleston while attacking the state capital of Columbia. The Federals were especially anxious to invade South Carolina since it had been the first state to secede.

Robert E. Lee resisted the promotion to general-in-chief, arguing that “with the addition of the immediate command of this army (the Army of Northern Virginia) I do not think I could accomplish any good.” Lee also said, “If I had the ability I would not have the time.” However, President Davis continued pressing Lee to accept the position.

20 JAN

Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton reported his findings on Savannah and Fort Fisher to President Lincoln.

21 JAN

William T. Sherman left Savannah, leaving an occupation force behind.

23 JAN

President Davis signed a bill into law authorizing him to appoint a Confederate general-in-chief. The new rank was created with Robert E. Lee in mind.

Richard Taylor assumed command of the Confederate Army of Tennessee, reporting to P.G.T. Beauregard. The army had dwindled to about 17,000 men after the recent military disasters in Tennessee.

24 JAN

Ulysses S. Grant finally accepted a Confederate request to start a prisoner exchange system. Grant had declined earlier requests to deprive the Confederacy of manpower. He changed his position now that the Confederacy’s defeat seemed imminent.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest was given command of the Confederate District of Mississippi, East Louisiana, and West Tennessee.

26 JAN

Robert E. Lee notified Richmond about the “alarming number of desertions that are now occurring in the army.” Lee stated that rations were “too small for men who have to undergo so much exposure and labor as ours.”

27 JAN

A large fire swept through Savannah, destroying about 200 homes. Federals and Confederates blamed each other, and residents became embittered over the city’s military occupation.

28 JAN

President Davis appointed three envoys to negotiate peace with the U.S.: Vice President Alexander Stephens, former Confederate Secretary of State R.M.T. Hunter, and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John A. Campbell. Davis instructed them, “In conformity with the letter of Mr. Lincoln, of which the foregoing is a copy, you are requested to proceed to Washington City for informal conference with him upon the issues involved in the existing war, and for the purpose of securing peace to the two countries.”

29 JAN

The Confederate peace envoys arrived at Petersburg, where Federals escorted them to Ulysses S. Grant’s headquarters at City Point. U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward was en route to meet the envoys.

30 JAN

President Lincoln issued passes for three Confederate envoys through the Federal lines to Fort Monroe, Virginia. The envoys were quartered on the steamship Mary Martin until William H. Seward could arrive.

Major General John Pope was given command of the new Federal Military Division of the Missouri, which was to oversee the separate Departments of Missouri and Kansas.

31 JAN

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution permanently abolishing slavery, 119 to 56.

The Confederate Senate confirmed the appointment of Robert E. Lee as general-in-chief of all Confederate armies.

President Lincoln instructed Edwin M. Stanton to go to Fort Monroe to present to the Confederate peace envoys Lincoln’s three conditions for peace: 1) The federal government shall be supreme, 2) The abolition of slavery shall be recognized, and 3) Hostilities shall not end until resistance ends.


Last Updated: 2/3/2015


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3 thoughts on “January 1865

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


  2. […] (31) The Legacy of the Civil: January 1865. […]


  3. […] (31) The Legacy of the Civil War: January 1865. […]


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