The City Point Conference

March 27, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln met with his top field commanders to discuss plans for what they hoped would be the last campaign of the war.

Major General William T. Sherman, commanding all Federals armies in the West, and Rear Admiral David D. Porter, commanding the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, met at the headquarters of General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant at City Point, Virginia. Before arriving from North Carolina, Sherman had summed up the meeting: “I’m going up to see Grant for five minutes and have it all chalked out for me, and then come back and pitch in.”[1]

Old friends Sherman and Grant embraced upon seeing each other, having been apart ever since their respective campaigns in Virginia and Georgia had begun last April. After Sherman shared stories about his campaign through the Carolinas, the commanders boarded the steamer River Queen, where President Lincoln awaited them. Lincoln had come down from Washington at Grant’s request, and this marked the first meeting between the president and his top commanders. The March 27 discussions were largely social, with Sherman informing Lincoln of his campaign. The commanders agreed that “one more bloody battle was likely to occur before the close of the war.”[2]

The City Point Conference | Image Credit: Wikipedia

The City Point Conference | Image Credit: Wikipedia

In the next day’s meeting in the upper saloon of River Queen, Lincoln outlined his post-war policy. He urged a fast end to the war with as little loss of life as possible. According to Sherman, Lincoln expressed desire to quickly disband the Confederate armies so the men of those armies could return to their homes and become productive citizens once more. Sherman also claimed that Lincoln wanted to re-establish civil governments in the seceded states as soon as possible.[3]

Regarding surrender, Lincoln said, “Let them (the Confederates) once surrender and reach their homes, they won’t take up arms again. Let them 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.” As soon as the fighting ended, southerners “would at once be guaranteed all their rights” as citizens of the U.S.[4]

Lincoln also expressed hope that high-ranking Confederates, including Jefferson Davis, would flee the country. He instructed his commanders to handle military issues only, leaving political issues to Lincoln and his administration. This meeting set the tone for how the Federal commanders would handle the Confederates in upcoming engagements.[5]

—–

[1] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), Kindle Locations 17539-17549

[2] Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 712-13; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 76; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 658

[3] Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 592; Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, p. 712-13; Korn, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles, p. 76-77; Long with Long, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 658-59

[4] Korn, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles, p. 76-77

[5] Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 213-14; Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, p. 712-13; Korn, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles, p. 76-77

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One thought on “The City Point Conference

  1. […] based his authority to negotiate such an agreement on the conference he had with President Lincoln at City Point the previous month. But Lincoln’s conciliatory attitude toward the South died with him on April […]

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