Johnston Surrenders to Sherman: Part 2

April 21, 1865 – New President Andrew Johnson and his cabinet flatly rejected Major General William T. Sherman’s surrender document, thus renewing hostilities with the Confederate army under General Joseph E. Johnston.

Generals W.T. Sherman and J.E. Johnston | Image Credit: Bing public domain

Generals W.T. Sherman and J.E. Johnston | Image Credit: Bing public domain

When Johnson received Sherman’s signed surrender document on the 21st, he referred it to General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant. Grant reviewed it with Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who urged Johnson to call an emergency cabinet meeting that evening. Johnson shared the document with his cabinet members; many expressed outrage at the provisions guaranteeing full rights to southerners after they simply deposited their arms in the local arsenals with no mention of the fate of the slaves.[1]

Stanton strongly denounced the agreement, declaring that Sherman had practically recognized the Confederacy as an independent nation by reestablishing the secessionist state governments and leaving the defeated Confederates able to renew their resistance to Federal authority at any time. Stanton even suggested that Sherman had committed treason by so grossly overstepping his authority. Grant, a close friend of Sherman’s, angrily denied the charge.[2]

The cabinet unanimously rejected the document, and Johnson instructed Grant to go to Sherman’s headquarters and help draft acceptable surrender terms. Before Grant arrived, Sherman sensed that his agreement would be rejected. He sent a bundle of northern newspapers to Johnston that seethed with rage over Abraham Lincoln’s murder, and wrote to Johnston: “I fear much the assassination of the President will give such a bias to the popular mind, which, in connection with the desires of the politicians, may thwart our purpose of recognizing ‘existing local governments.’”[3]

Grant reached Sherman’s headquarters on April 24 and instructed him to give Johnston 48 hours to agree to revised peace terms, or else hostilities would resume. Sherman bitterly denied charges of treason by Stanton and various reporters, claiming that he merely acted upon Lincoln’s wishes as he understood them. Nevertheless, Sherman notified Johnston in compliance with Grant’s order.[4]

Meanwhile, Jefferson Davis approved the surrender agreement, knowing it would be rejected by Washington. Soon after Davis’s approval, Johnston received word from Sherman that a new agreement needed to be reached. Davis instructed Johnston to reject the new terms, disperse his men, then reassemble somewhere farther south and continue the war. But the Army of Tennessee had already begun disbanding, and after rejecting advice from Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge to withdraw into Georgia, Johnston defied his commander-in-chief by requesting a meeting with Sherman for April 26.[5]

The two commanders met at the Bennett House once again and signed a second surrender document. This granted Johnston the same terms that Grant had given to Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. Confederate soldiers would surrender their arms at Greensboro and be paroled when they pledged not to take up arms again. Officers could retain their sidearms and baggage. All Confederates were allowed to return to their homes.[6]

Johnston’s signature eliminated the second largest army in the Confederacy. Johnston also surrendered the other troops in his department stationed in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, for a total of about 89,000 men. This ended the war east of the Alleghenies and left two remaining Confederate armies in the field: Richard Taylor’s in Alabama and Mississippi, and E. Kirby Smith’s west of the Mississippi.[7]

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[1] Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 594; 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 20937-20967; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 155-60

[2] Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 594; 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 20937-20967; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 155-60

[3] 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 20957-20967

[4] Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 594; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 155-60; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 681

[5] Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 222-23; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 155-60; White, Howard Ray (2012-12-18). Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks. Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 58777-58780

[6] Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 155-60; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 682-83

[7] Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 222-23; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 155-60; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 682-83

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5 thoughts on “Johnston Surrenders to Sherman: Part 2

  1. […] the 26th, Davis learned that Johnston had disobeyed orders and negotiated a new surrender agreement. Davis expressed dismay that Johnston gave up before he had even been […]

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  2. […] Davis met with his cabinet at Charlotte to consider the surrender agreement between Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and Federal Major General William T. […]

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  3. […] Davis met with his cabinet at Charlotte to consider the surrender agreement between Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and Federal Major General William T. […]

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  4. […] military department based on the same terms that Grant had given Lee and Sherman had given Johnston in their second surrender negotiation: the Confederate soldiers would be paroled, officers would retain their sidearms, and Taylor could […]

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  5. […] that Smith surrender under the same terms that Ulysses S. Grant had given Lee and William T. Sherman had given to Joseph E. Johnston. Two days later, Smith reported that most of his soldiers had simply stopped fighting and went […]

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