The U.S. Grand Review

May 23, 1865 – The “Grand Armies of the Republic” staged a triumphant review through Washington to celebrate the Federal victory.

Based on the recommendation of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, President Andrew Johnson had issued orders for the Federal Armies of the Potomac and the West to march down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House. The White House flag flew at full mast for the first time since Abraham Lincoln’s death, though the Capitol was still draped in black to mourn Lincoln and the fallen troops. Johnson sat with General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant, Chief of Staff Henry W. Halleck, and Stanton in a presidential reviewing stand near the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. Federal troops guarded the stand.[1]

It took two days for the 150,000 Federal conquerors to march through the capital. Thousands of spectators lined the street as the Army of the Potomac began the review on the 23rd. Major General George G. Meade led his well-dressed and disciplined soldiers down the avenue, then joined the dignitaries in the presidential box as the troops passed over the next several hours. Children showered the troops with flowers and serenaded them with patriotic songs.[2]

The Grand Review at Washington | Image Credit: Flickr.com

The Grand Review at Washington | Image Credit: Flickr.com

The next day, Major General William T. Sherman led his looser, dirtier Army of the West through the capital, greatly contrasting with Meade’s precise army. Former slaves followed Sherman’s “bummers,” who marched with southern prizes such as dogs, goats, mules, raccoons, gamecocks, and even a monkey. Men wore ragged uniforms and hung chickens and hams from their bayonets to the crowd’s delight.[3]

Sherman halted at the presidential box and shook hands with each dignitary except for Secretary of War Stanton, who had enraged Sherman by intimating the general had committed treason by offering too generous surrender terms to Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston. Sherman’s men proceeded in review for six hours.[4]

By the next day, most Federal army units disbanded as troops began returning home. Although pockets of Confederate resistance remained in various locales, the Grand Review represented a symbolic end to the terrible conflict.[5]

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[1] Murphy, Richard W., The Nation Reunited: War’s Aftermath (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 8-15; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 689; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 393

[2] Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 225; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Locations 21385-21405; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 689; Murphy, Richard W., The Nation Reunited: War’s Aftermath (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 8-15

[3] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 689-90; Murphy, Richard W., The Nation Reunited: War’s Aftermath (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 8-15

[4] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Locations 21434-54; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 689-90

[5] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 690

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3 thoughts on “The U.S. Grand Review

  1. […] troops west of the Mississippi. Although Sheridan expressed disappointment at having to miss the Grand Review, Grant explained to him that he would not only be forcing Smith’s surrender but also discouraging […]

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  2. […] General George G. Meade’s Federal Army of the Potomac marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in a grand […]

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  3. […] General George G. Meade’s Federal Army of the Potomac marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in a grand […]

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