Category Archives: North Carolina

Johnston Surrenders to Sherman a Second Time

April 26, 1865 – General Joseph E. Johnston considered dispersing his Confederate army and waging guerrilla warfare, but he ultimately decided to surrender just as Robert E. Lee had done at Appomattox.

Confederate General J.E. Johnston | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Johnston had orders from President Jefferson Davis to disband his Confederate army and reorganize it farther south so it could protect the fleeing Confederate government and continue the fight. But Johnston disregarded those orders and instead asked Federal Major General William T. Sherman to meet him again at the Bennett house. Sherman agreed. Johnston later explained why he disobeyed the order of his commander in chief:

“I objected, immediately, that this order provided for the performance of but one of the three great duties then devolving upon us–that of securing the safety of the high civil officers of the Confederate Government; but neglected the other two–the safety of the people, and that of the army. I also advised the immediate flight of the high civil functionaries under proper escort.

“The belief that impelled me to urge the civil authorities of the Confederacy to make peace, that it would be a great crime to prolong the war, prompted me to disobey these instructions–the last that I received from the Confederate Government. They would have given the President an escort too heavy for flight, and not strong enough to force a way for him; and would have spread ruin over all the South, by leading the three great invading armies in pursuit. In that belief, I determined to do all in my power to bring about a termination of hostilities.”

Johnston and Sherman met once more on the 26th. Sherman had told Johnston that he must surrender on the same terms that Ulysses S. Grant had given Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. However, Johnston objected because “the disbanding of General Lee’s army has afflicted this country with numerous bands having no means of subsistence but robbery, a knowledge of which would, I am sure, induce you to agree to other conditions.”

Sherman could offer no other conditions because he had been ordered by Grant to offer nothing more than what had been offered to Lee. Major General John Schofield, commanding the Department of North Carolina, then intervened and suggested that since the surrender would take place within his jurisdiction, if Johnston agreed in principle to the same terms as Lee, Schofield could offer unofficial amendments to the agreement. The Federals then wrote out the terms, beginning with the official portion:

“Terms of a Military Convention, entered into this 26th day of April, 1865, at Bennett’s House, near Durham’s Station., North Carolina, between General JOSEPH E. JOHNSTON, commanding the Confederate Army, and Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding the United States Army in North Carolina:

  1. All acts of war on the part of the troops under General Johnston’s command to cease from this date.
  2. All arms and public property to be deposited at Greensboro, and delivered to an ordnance-officer of the United States Army.
  3. Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate; one copy to be retained by the commander of the troops, and the other to be given to an officer to be designated by General Sherman. Each officer and man to give his individual obligation in writing not to take up arms against the Government of the United States, until properly released from this obligation.
  4. The side-arms of officers, and their private horses and baggage, to be retained by them.
  5. This being done, all the officers and men will be permitted to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by the United States authorities, so long as they observe their obligation and the laws in force where they may reside.

Then the amendments:

  1. The field transportation to be loaned to the troops for their march to their homes, and for subsequent use in their industrial pursuits. Artillery horses may be used in field transportation, if necessary.
  2. Each brigade or separate body to retain a number of arms equal to one-seventh of its effective strength, which, when the troops reach the capitals of their States, will be disposed of as the general commanding the department may direct.
  3. Private horses, and other private property of both officers and men, to be retained by them.
  4. The commanding general of the Military Division of West Mississippi, Major-General Canby, will be requested to give transportation by water, from Mobile or New Orleans, to the troops from Arkansas and Texas.
  5. The obligations of officers and soldiers to be signed by their immediate commanders.
  6. Naval forces within the limits of General Johnston’s command to be included in the terms of this convention.

Johnston agreed to surrender everything under his authority–nearly 90,000 Confederates in the Army of Tennessee and those stationed in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. The only Confederates still operating east of the Mississippi River were small units commanded by Generals Richard Taylor, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and Dabney Maury in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. But most people in both North and South conceded that Johnston’s surrender effectively ended the war east of the Mississippi.

Johnston read the terms, said, “I believe that is the best we can do,” and signed the document. Sherman signed as well. Johnston later wrote to the governors of the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida:

“The disaster in Virginia, the capture by the enemy of all our workshops for the preparation of ammunition and repairing of arms, the impossibility of recruiting our little army opposed to more than 10 times its number, or of supplying it except by robbing our own citizens, destroyed all hope of successful war. I have made, therefore, a military convention with Major-General Sherman, to terminate hostilities in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. I made this convention to spare the blood of this gallant little army, to prevent further sufferings of our people by the devastation and ruin inevitable from the marches of invading armies, and to avoid the crime of waging a hopeless war.”

Federal Maj Gen W.T. Sherman | Image Credit: collaborationnation.wikispaces.com

Sherman returned to his Raleigh headquarters, where Grant was waiting. Grant read the surrender documents and approved. Major Henry Hitchcock of Sherman’s staff wrote to his wife describing the Federal celebrations that took place that night:

“I wish you could look in at the scene here tonight at our Headquarters,–the Governor’s mansion. Quite a crowd of officers have been sitting and standing all the evening on the portico in front; a fine brass band playing in a large yard in front of the house since 8 o’clock; and a little while ago, looking through the front window of the right hand parlor, from the portico, one could see Grant and Sherman sitting at the center table, both busy writing, or stopping now and then to talk earnestly with the other general officers in the room–Howard, Schofield, ‘Johnny Logan,’ and Meigs.”

Grant left the next day to return to Washington with the new surrender documents. Schofield would preside over the Confederate surrender in North Carolina, while Major General James H. Wilson, whose cavalry command had recently captured Mobile and Montgomery, would handle surrenders in Georgia.

The northern newspapers arriving at Sherman’s headquarters, most notably the New York Times, described Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton’s condemnation of Sherman’s attempt to negotiate on political matters with Johnston. Stanton accused Sherman of insubordination and implied that his order to Major General George Stoneman’s cavalry to fall back to Raleigh would allow Jefferson Davis and other high-ranking Confederate officials to escape “to Mexico or Europe.”

Sherman believed he had authority to discuss political matters with the enemy because Stanton had authorized him to do so while occupying Savannah. Also, Sherman was unaware that President Abraham Lincoln had reversed his decision to allow the Virginia legislature to assemble and repudiate secession; this had formed the basis of the Sherman-Johnston agreement. Moreover, Grant had never sent Sherman the message from Lincoln restricting generals to military matters only.

Sherman raged against what he believed was Stanton’s treachery. Staff officers described how Sherman paced “like a caged lion, talking to the whole room with furious invective.” He called Stanton “a mean, scheming, vindictive politician” who refused to accept that what Sherman tried to do had been “right, honest, and good.”

Sherman protested to Grant that the Times article gave “very erroneous impressions.” He explained that Stoneman had been ordered to Raleigh because “I would have had a mounted force greatly needed for Davis’s capture, and other purposes.” He angrily denied being insubordinate: “I have never in my life questioned or disobeyed an order, though many and many a time have I risked my life, health, and reputation, in obeying orders, or even hints to execute plans and purposes, not to my liking…” Sherman demanded that this letter be printed as a rebuttal to Stanton’s condemnation, and he would never forgive Stanton for what he believed was a personal insult.

As for the Federals, they would soon move north from Raleigh to Richmond, and from there to Washington. Federal officials requested the services of 150 bakers from New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore to have bread ready for the troops’ triumphant arrival. After four long years, the war along the eastern seaboard was over.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 222-23; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 22971, 23016-24; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 563-64; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 588; Gates, Arnold, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 683; Kallmann, John D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 400-01; 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; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 736; Sherman, William T., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman, Vol. I (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1889, Kindle Edition), Loc 12528-70, 12578-619; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 393; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q265

Grant Visits Sherman in North Carolina

April 24, 1865 – Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant arrived at the headquarters of Major General William T. Sherman to inform him that the peace agreement he reached with Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston had been rejected by Washington.

Federal General U.S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikispaces.org

Grant, the overall Federal commander, went to Fort Monroe on the tip of the Virginia Peninsula on the 22nd. From there he intended to continue south to meet with Sherman, who commanded Federal forces in North Carolina. Grant wanted to personally deliver the bad news that President Andrew Johnson and his cabinet had unanimously rejected his treaty with Johnston.

The danger of Johnston’s army breaking up and waging guerrilla warfare throughout the countryside worried the Federal high command. This danger would increase once Johnston learned that Washington had rejected the peace terms. To prevent this, Grant wrote to Major General Henry W. Halleck, now commanding Federal forces in Virginia:

“The truce entered into by General Sherman will be ended as soon as I can reach Raleigh. Move (General Philip) Sheridan with his cavalry toward Greensborough as soon as possible. I think it will be well to send one corps of infantry with the cavalry. The infantry need not go farther than Danville unless they receive orders hereafter.”

Maj Gen W.T. Sherman | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Meanwhile, Sherman continued corresponding with Johnston as he waited for word from Washington. Sherman had initially been confident that the peace agreement would be approved, but the northern newspapers arriving at his Raleigh headquarters began reporting deep resentment toward the South following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Sherman voiced his concern about this in a letter to Johnston:

“I fear much the assassination of the President will give such a bias to the popular mind which, in connection with the desire of our politicians, may thwart our purpose of recognizing ‘the existing local governments.’… I believe this assassination of Mr. Lincoln will do the cause of the South more harm than any event of the war, both at home and abroad, and I doubt if the Confederate military authorities had any more complicity with it than I had.”

Sherman also learned that Federal officials had barred the Virginia legislature from assembling. He and Johnston had based their peace agreement on the fact that Lincoln had allowed the legislators to gather and repudiate secession. But Lincoln had changed his mind and refused to recognize the legitimacy of pro-Confederate state governments. This led Sherman to believe that the agreement might not get approved after all.

Grant reached Beaufort on the 23rd and telegraphed Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “Have just reached here and will start for Raleigh as soon as a train can be obtained. No news here from Sherman. I shall not telegraph to him that I am on the way.” Grant was traveling in secret, hoping to cause his good friend Sherman the least amount of embarrassment in the press.

Grant reached Sherman’s headquarters at Raleigh around 6 a.m. the next morning. He handed Sherman the official letter he had written and explained that the peace agreement had been rejected. Sherman did not seem annoyed by the rejection, but he was clearly upset that some officials (especially Stanton) and the northern press had accused him of having treasonous motives. Nevertheless, Sherman complied with Grant’s instructions and wrote to Johnston:

“You will take notice that the truce or suspension of hostilities agreed to between us will cease in 48 hours after this is received at your lines, under the first of the articles of agreement. I have replies from Washington to my communications of April 18th. I am instructed to limit my operations to your immediate command, and not to attempt civil negotiations. I therefore demand the surrender of your army on the same terms as were given to General Lee at Appomattox, April 9th instant, purely and simply.”

Grant reported to Stanton:

“I reached here this morning and delivered to Gen. Sherman the reply to his negociations with Johnston. He was not surprised but rather expected this rejection. Word was immediately sent to Johnston terminating the truce and information that civil matters could not be entertained in any convention between army commanders.

“Gen. Sherman has been guided in his negociations with Johnston entirely by what he thought was precedents authorized by the President. He had before him the terms given by me to Lee’s army and the call of the Rebel legislature of Va., authorized by Weitzel, as he supposed with the sanction of the President and myself. At the time of the Agreement Sherman did not know of the withdrawal of authority for the meeting of that legislature. The moment he learned through the papers that authority for the meeting of the Va. legislature had been withdrawn he communicated the fact to Johnston as having bearing on the negociations here.”

Sherman also wrote to Stanton explaining that he used Grant’s terms to Lee and Major General Godfrey Weitzel’s interactions with the Virginia legislature as the basis for his peace agreement. Referring Stanton to their meeting in Savannah in January, Sherman added:

“I admit my folly in embracing in a military convention any civil matters, but, unfortunately, such is the nature of our situation that they seem inextricably united, and I understood from you at Savannah that the financial state of the country demanded military success, and would warrant a little bending to policy.”

He assured Stanton that he had no intention of involving himself in political matters, but he concluded, “I still believe the General Government of the United States has made a mistake, but that is none of my business–mine is a different task…”

Meanwhile, Johnston received word that President Jefferson Davis and his cabinet had approved the Sherman-Johnston agreement, but only if Washington would approve as well. An hour later, Johnston received Sherman’s message that the convention had been rejected. He notified Davis, who instructed him to do just what Grant and Sherman feared most: disperse the army so it could be reorganized farther south and continue the fight.

Johnston had a momentous decision to make: should he obey his commander in chief and wage guerrilla warfare, or should he admit defeat and surrender as Lee had done?

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 222-23; Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 484-85; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 21938, 22958-64, 22971; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 562-63; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 20957-87; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 587; Gates, Arnold, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 683; 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; Sherman, William T., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman, Vol. I (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1889, Kindle Edition), Loc 12436-54, 12479-82, 12521; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q265

Washington Rejects the Sherman-Johnston Convention

April 21, 1865 – The peace agreement between William T. Sherman and Joseph E. Johnston arrived in Washington, and it quickly became apparent that administration officials would not endorse such a magnanimous document.

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

Following the funeral of President Abraham Lincoln, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, the overall Federal commander, received a dispatch from Major General William T. Sherman dated the 17th. Sherman told Grant that General Joseph E. Johnston seemed willing to surrender and added, “Johnston evidently seeks to make terms for Jeff Davis and his cabinet.”

Sherman also acknowledged that “there is great danger that the Confederate armies will dissolve and fill the whole land with robbers and assassins, and I think this is one of the difficulties Johnston labors under. The assassination of Mr. Lincoln shows one of the elements in the Rebel army which will be almost as difficult to deal with as the main armies.”

Once Sherman and Johnston signed their peace agreement, Sherman dispatched Major Henry Hitchcock to personally deliver the documentation to Washington. Hitchcock went to Morehead City and boarded a steamer bound for the capital. Sherman demanded that he maintain strict secrecy and show the documents to nobody except Grant, Chief of Staff Henry W. Halleck, or Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.

While Sherman waited for a response, he sent newspapers to Johnston reporting that “in Virginia the State authorities are acknowledged and invited to resume their lawful functions.” This was consistent with the peace agreement, but Sherman did not know that Lincoln had changed his mind and issued orders prohibiting the Virginia legislature from assembling.

Sherman assured Johnston that “we will have no trouble on the score of recognizing existing State governments.” He also saw no problem with restoring civil, political, and property rights to former Confederates, but he conceded that “lawyers will want us to define more minutely what is meant by the guarantee of rights of person and property.” Sherman opined:

“I believe if the south would simply and publicly declare what we all feel, that slavery is dead, that you would inaugurate an era of peace and prosperity that would soon efface the ravages of the past four years of war. Negroes would remain in the south, and afford you abundance of cheap labor, which otherwise will be driven away; and it will save the country the senseless discussions which have kept us all in hot water for 50 years.”

On the 20th, Hitchcock arrived at Fort Monroe and wired Grant that he was on his way. Grant postponed a weekend trip with his family in New Jersey and awaited Hitchcock, who arrived the following afternoon and presented the “Memorandum, or Basis of Agreement” to him.

In a cover letter, Sherman wrote that this agreement, “if approved by the President of the United States, will produce peace from the Potomac to the Rio Grande… You will observe that it is an absolute submission of the enemy to the lawful authority of the United States, and disperses his armies absolutely, and the point to which I attach most importance is that the dispersion and disbandment of these armies is done in such a manner as to prevent their breaking up into guerrilla bands.”

Grant immediately saw that these accords went far beyond President Lincoln’s directive prohibiting generals from addressing political and civil issues such as amnesty, restoration of rights, and reconstruction with Confederates. He sought to discuss the agreement with his superiors before responding and therefore sent a message to Stanton:

“I have received and just completed reading the dispatches brought by special messenger from General Sherman. They are of such importance that I think immediate action should be taken on them and that it should be done by the President in council with his whole cabinet. I would respectfully suggest whether the President should not be notified, and all his cabinet, and the meeting take place tonight.”

The cabinet assembled at the White House by 8 p.m., and Grant read the peace agreement to them. The reaction was decidedly hostile. Lincoln’s recent death had also killed off any hope of a benevolent reconciliation. The administration wanted to exact harsh retribution on the South, and an agreement allowing Confederates to simply return their weapons to state arsenals and go home as if nothing ever happened was completely unacceptable.

U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton | Image Credit: Flickr.com

President Andrew Johnson and his cabinet unanimously rejected the agreement. Stanton angrily denounced it and insisted that Sherman give Johnston the same terms that Grant had given Robert E. Lee. Stanton even intimated that Sherman had committed treason by overstepping his bounds as an army commander. Grant strongly defended his close friend and fellow officer, but he agreed that Sherman’s proposal could not be approved.

Once the meeting adjourned, Grant wrote an official letter that he would personally deliver to Sherman:

“The basis of agreement entered into between yourself and General J. E. Johnston for the disbandment of the Southern army and the extension of the authority of the General Government over all the territory belonging to it, sent for the approval of the President, is received. I read it carefully myself before submitting it to the President and Secretary of War and felt satisfied that it could not possibly be approved. My reasons for these views I will give you at another time in a more extended letter. Your agreement touches upon questions of such vital importance that as soon as read I addressed a note to the Secretary of War notifying him of their receipt and the importance of immediate action by the President, and suggested in view of their importance that the entire cabinet be called together that all might give an expression of their opinions upon the matter.

“The result was a disapproval by the President of the basis laid down, a disapproval of the negotiations altogether, except for the surrender of the army commanded by General Johnston, and directions to me to notify you of this decision… Please notify General Johnston immediately on receipt of this of the termination of the truce and resume hostilities against his army at the earliest moment you can, acting in good faith.”

Grant then left for North Carolina.

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References

Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 594; Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 479-83; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 20937-67; Gates, Arnold, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 683; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 155-60; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 736; McFeely, William S., Grant (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1981), p. 229; Sherman, William T., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman, Vol. I (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1889, Kindle Edition), Loc 12367-76

Johnston Surrenders to Sherman

April 18, 1865 – Both Joseph E. Johnston and William T. Sherman exceeded their authority by agreeing in principle to a peace between not only their own armies but all other armies still in the field.

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

Major General William T. Sherman returned to the Bennett house at noon on the 18th to resume the peace talks that had begun yesterday with Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston. When Johnston arrived, he reiterated that he had authority from the Confederate government to negotiate a peace on behalf of all remaining armies, not just his own. However, Johnston wanted some kind of assurance that the Confederates would regain their rights as American citizens.

Sherman referred Johnston to President Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, issued in December 1863 as a guarantee that Confederate rights would be respected. He also cited the terms that Ulysses S. Grant had given to Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. Johnston asked to bring Confederate Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge into the discussion, but Sherman objected to having a civilian involved. Sherman relented when Johnston assured him that Breckinridge, a major general, would negotiate from a military, not a political, point of view.

Sherman wrote out the terms he was willing to offer Johnston and the Confederates. He later admitted that they reflected his fear of driving “General Johnston’s army into bands of armed men.” In the wake of Lincoln’s assassination, Federal commanders were terrified that the Confederate armies would disperse and wage guerrilla warfare throughout the South. Sherman’s terms were also inspired by the conference he had with Lincoln, Grant, and Rear Admiral David D. Porter at City Point in late March, in which Lincoln expressed a desire for leniency toward the Confederates.

With Johnston offering more than Sherman had expected, Sherman reciprocated by proposing better terms than Grant had given Lee. In fact, the terms exceeded anything Sherman had permission to offer. The document, called “Memorandum, or Basis of Agreement,” contained seven paragraphs:

  • All armies would stop fighting
  • All Confederate soldiers would surrender their arms at local arsenals
  • All Confederates would agree to stop making war and accept Federal authority
  • The president would recognize existing state governments when their officials swore allegiance to the U.S.
  • Federal courts would resume operations in the South
  • Southerners would be guaranteed the rights of person and property
  • Federal authorities would not disturb southerners if they lived in peace
  • All Confederates would receive a general amnesty

Ironically, the Federal commander responsible for the most destruction in the South offered the most generous peace terms to the Confederates. On the other side, Johnston’s surrender of all armies completely disregarded President Jefferson Davis’s instructions to only suspend hostilities until civil authorities could negotiate a peace. It was one thing for Lee to surrender because his army was trapped; Johnston was surrendering all remaining armies even though they all could still operate.

This agreement proved very controversial because Federal generals had only been authorized to discuss military matters with the enemy, not political issues such as restoring states to the U.S. or granting amnesty. Lincoln made this clear in a message to Grant in early April, but Grant had not shared that message with Sherman. Therefore, Sherman’s document went well beyond Grant’s terms by calling for readmitting the conquered states to the Union with the people retaining full citizenship rights without prosecution.

At the City Point conference, Lincoln had impressed Sherman with his desire to make the Confederates fellow countrymen again. But while Sherman attempted to carry out Lincoln’s wishes by showing as much benevolence as possible, Lincoln’s assassination had sparked a firestorm of rage and vindictiveness against the South in Washington.

The signatories to this agreement acknowledged that it would require approval from the civil authorities before it could go into effect. Sherman and Johnston agreed to honor their ceasefire until that approval was granted. In the meantime, Sherman recommended that Breckinridge beat a hasty retreat because, being such a high-ranking Confederate politician (as well as a former U.S. vice president), he might face execution if captured.

Sherman sent the signed document to Washington requesting approval and even adding: “If you can get the President to simply indorse the copy and commission me to carry out the terms, I will follow them to the conclusion.” But both Sherman and Johnston would soon be disappointed by the Federal response.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 222-23; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 592; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 22942-49, 23038; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 560; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 20897-917; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 585-86; Gates, Arnold, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 683; Kallmann, John D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 400-01; 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. 678-79; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 736; McFeely, William S., Grant (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1981), p. 228; Sherman, William T., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman, Vol. I (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1889, Kindle Edition), Loc 12347-67; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Loc 58777-58780

Sherman and Johnston Meet for the First Time

April 17, 1865 – Longtime rivals Joseph E. Johnston and William T. Sherman met face-to-face for the first time as they discussed the surrender of Johnston’s Confederate army.

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

Sherman boarded a train to take him to the halfway point between the main Federal and Confederate armies in North Carolina. He was scheduled to meet with Johnston there. Before the train left, a courier delivered a message from the Federal base at Morehead City. It was from Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, written two days ago:

“President Lincoln was murdered about 10 o’clock last night in his private box at Ford’s Theatre in this city, by an assassin who shot him through the head by a pistol ball… I have no time to add more than to say that I find evidence that an assassin is also on your track, and I beseech you to be more heedful than Mr. Lincoln was to such knowledge.”

Sherman ordered the messenger not to divulge this news to his troops. If they knew that Lincoln had been killed, they might destroy Raleigh along with any efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement with Johnston. The men would not be told until Sherman returned from the conference.

The train stopped at Durham’s Station, about 26 miles northwest of Raleigh. Sherman and his accompanying officers rode five miles before meeting Johnston and Lieutenant General Wade Hampton. This was the first personal meeting between Sherman and Johnston, “although we had been interchanging shots constantly since May, 1863.” The men exchanged formalities, and the combined party rode to a nearby farmhouse owned by James Bennett. Sherman and Johnston went into the house alone, where Sherman showed Johnston the telegram announcing Lincoln’s death. According to Sherman:

“The perspiration came out in large drops on his forehead, and he did not attempt to conceal his distress. He denounced the act as a disgrace to the age, and hoped I did not charge it to the Confederate Government. I told him I could not believe that he or General Lee, or the officers of the Confederate army, could possibly be privy to acts of assassination; but I would not say as much for Jeff. Davis… I explained to him that I had not yet revealed the news to my own personal staff or to the army, and that I dreaded the effect when made known in Raleigh. Mr. Lincoln was peculiarly endeared to the soldiers, and I feared that some foolish woman or man in Raleigh might say something or do something that would madden our men, and that a fate worse than that of Columbia would befall the place.”

Johnston conceded that continuing the war would be “murder,” but Sherman refused to defer to civil authorities, which had been President Jefferson Davis’s requirement for Johnston to negotiate. Johnston then exceeded Davis’s instructions by offering to make “one job of it” (with Davis’s permission) by settling “the fate of all armies to the Rio Grande.” The men agreed to continue the talks and hopefully arrange a peace the next day.

Sherman returned to Raleigh and announced Lincoln’s assassination in Special Field Orders No. 56:

“The general commanding announces, with pain and sorrow, that on the evening of the 14th instant, at the theatre in Washington city, his Excellency the President of the United States, Mr. Lincoln, was assassinated by one who uttered the State motto of Virginia. At the same time, the Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, while suffering from a broken arm, was also stabbed by another murderer in his own house, but still survives, and his son was wounded, supposed fatally. It is believed, by persons capable of judging, that other high officers were designed to share the same fate. Thus it seems that our enemy, despairing of meeting us in open, manly warfare, begins to resort to the assassin’s tools.

“Your general does not wish you to infer that this is universal, for he knows that the great mass of the Confederate army world scorn to sanction each acts, but he believes it the legitimate consequence of rebellion against rightful authority.

“We have met every phase which this war has assumed, and must now be prepared for it in its last and worst shape, that of assassins and guerrillas; but woe onto the people who seek to expend their wild passions in such a manner, for there is but one dread result!”

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References

Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 22870; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 559; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 20828-38, 20848-77; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 585; Gates, Arnold, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 683; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 678; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 736; Sherman, William T., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman, Vol. I (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1889, Kindle Edition), Loc 12274-336; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q265

Action Winds Down in North Carolina

April 16, 1865 – Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston received a message from Federal Major General William T. Sherman that had the potential to end most hostilities east of the Mississippi River.

Maj Gen W.T. Sherman | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

As April began, Sherman’s Federals remained at Goldsboro reorganizing and preparing for their next major march. On the 5th, Sherman issued Special Orders No. 48, instructing his men that they would soon be moving north of the Roanoke River, poised to reinforce the Federal armies under Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia. The plan changed the next day when Sherman received word that Petersburg and Richmond had fallen.

Sherman now directed his forces to move directly for Raleigh and confront the Confederates under General Joseph E. Johnston before they could be reinforced by General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Grant notified Sherman that Lee was headed for Danville, and a Lee-Johnston merger must be prevented at all costs. Grant concluded, “Rebel armies now are the only strategic points to strike at.”

Sherman had nearly 100,000 men to stop Johnston’s force of less than 35,000. The Federals began moving out on the 10th in three columns led by (from left to right) Major Generals Henry W. Slocum, John Schofield, and Oliver O. Howard. In addition, a Federal cavalry force under Major General George Stoneman raided western North Carolina.

As Johnston began pulling back from Smithfield to Raleigh, a portion of Stoneman’s force attacked a Confederate supply train at Salisbury. The Federals charged some 3,000 Confederate defenders at Grant’s Creek, taking about 1,300 prisoners along with 10,000 small arms and 14 cannon. Had the Federals attacked Greensboro instead, they would have captured Jefferson Davis and the remnants of his Confederate government in exile. Nonetheless, the Federal attack deprived Davis of the ability to escape via the railroads.

Meanwhile, Johnston learned that Lee had surrendered to Grant, thereby making his tattered force the last significant Confederate army east of the Mississippi River. When Johnston arrived at the North Carolina capital of Raleigh, he urged Governor Zebulon Vance to negotiate a ceasefire with Sherman while Johnston got instructions from Davis on whether to surrender or fight.

By the time the Federals reached Raleigh’s outskirts, Sherman had learned of Lee’s surrender. He passed the news along to his men in Special Field Orders No. 54:

“The general commanding announces to the army that he has official notice from General Grant that General Lee surrendered to him his entire army, on the 9th inst., at Appomattox Court-House, Virginia.

“Glory to God and our country, and all honor to our comrades in arms, toward whom we are marching!

“A little more labor, a little more toil on our part, the great race is won, and our Government stands regenerated, after four long years of war.”

The men cheered and celebrated as they prepared to destroy Raleigh just like they had destroyed the capitals of South Carolina and Georgia. However, Vance dispatched former Governors William A. Graham and David L. Swain to meet with Sherman. The formally attired emissaries were “dreadfully excited” after passing dangerously close to a cavalry fight on their way to the meeting. They pleaded with Sherman to spare Raleigh from destruction; Sherman appreciated their effort to avoid bloodshed and agreed.

Vance and other state officials fled the capital before the Federals jubilantly entered in pouring rain on the 13th. Raleigh became the 9th of 11 Confederate state capitals to fall; only Austin and Tallahassee remained unconquered. Sherman directed that military police keep a strict guard to prevent looting, and as a result Raleigh did not suffer the same fate as other cities on Sherman’s march such as Atlanta, Savannah, and Columbia. Sherman also allowed civic officials to continue business as usual until he was instructed otherwise by his superiors.

The Federals at Raleigh received news from Commander William H. Macomb, commanding naval forces on the Roanoke River, that–

“–the rebels have evacuated Weldon, burning the bridge, destroying the ram at Edward’s Ferry, and throwing the guns at Rainbow Bluff into the river. Except for torpedoes, the river is therefore clear for navigation. The floating battery, as I informed you in my No. 144, has got adrift from Halifax and been blown up by one of their own torpedoes.”

Federals skirmished in heavy rain around Raleigh and Morrisville as Sherman planned to advance on Johnston’s main force near Greensboro. Johnston had no hope of matching Sherman in open battle, but Sherman now feared that Johnston might disperse his army to wage guerrilla warfare, which could go on indefinitely.

Meanwhile, Johnston conferred with President Davis and obtained permission to talk with Sherman, but only if those talks could result in peace negotiations between the U.S. and Confederate civil authorities. Johnston sent a message through the lines, which Sherman received on the morning of the 14th:

“The results of the recent campaign in Virginia have changed the relative military condition of the belligerents. I am, therefore, induced to address you in this form the inquiry whether, to stop the further effusion of blood and devastation of property, you are willing to make a temporary suspension of active operations, and to communicate to Lieutenant-General Grant, commanding the armies of the United States, the request that he will take like action in regard to other armies, the object being to permit the civil authorities to enter into the needful arrangements to terminate the existing war.”

Despite the political ramifications of such a request (President Abraham Lincoln had directed his generals to only discuss surrender, not peace terms, with Confederate army commanders), Sherman quickly replied:

“I have this moment received your communication of this date. I am fully empowered to arrange with you any terms for the suspension of farther hostilities between the armies commanded by you and those commanded by myself, and will be willing to confer with you to that end. I will limit the advance of my main column, to-morrow, to Morrisville, and the cavalry to the university, and expect that you will also maintain the present position of your forces until each has notice of a failure to agree.

“That a basis of action may be had, I undertake to abide by the same terms and conditions as were made by Generals Grant and Lee at Appomattox Court-House, on the 9th instant, relative to our two armies; and, furthermore, to obtain from General Grant an order to suspend the movements of any troops from the direction of Virginia. General Stoneman is under my command, and my order will suspend any devastation or destruction contemplated by him. I will add that I really desire to save the people of North Carolina the damage they would sustain by the march of this army through the central or western parts of the State.”

Johnston received Sherman’s reply on the 16th, and the two commanders planned to meet between the lines at noon the next day.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 222-23; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 592; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 22137, 22887-95; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 556-59; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 20343-63, 20808-77, 20897-917; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 583-84; Gates, Arnold, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 683; 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. 672-79; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 611-12, 652, 736; Sherman, William T., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman, Vol. I (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1889, Kindle Edition), Loc 12158-89, 12196-208, 12204-19, 12228, 12252-74; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks. Kindle Edition, 2012), Q265

The Fall of Goldsboro

March 22, 1865 – Major General William T. Sherman’s Federals ended their devastating march through the Carolinas by arriving at Goldsboro, North Carolina.

Federal Maj Gen W.T. Sherman | Image Credit: collaborationnation.wikispaces.com

Since entering the state, Sherman had planned to lead his 60,000 men to Goldsboro, where they could be resupplied and united with Major General John Schofield’s Army of North Carolina. Following the Battle of Bentonville, Sherman learned that General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate army was falling back northwest toward Smithfield. This left the northeastern path to Goldsborough open, and one of Schofield’s corps under Major General Jacob D. Cox had entered the town on the 21st.

Sherman’s left wing, commanded by Major General Henry W. Slocum, took the lead on the march to Goldsboro. They were followed by the right wing, commanded by Major General Oliver O. Howard. The Federals were slowed by sandy and muddy roads, but they reached the town on the 22nd. Sherman issued a congratulatory order to his troops:

“After a march of the most extraordinary character, nearly 500 miles over swamps and rivers deemed impassable to others, at the most inclement season of the year, and drawing our chief supplies from a poor and wasted country, we reach our destination in good health and condition.”

Sherman met with Schofield on the 23rd, just three days behind the schedule they had drafted in January. In the past 50 days, Sherman’s men had advanced 425 miles through harsh terrain and foul weather, crossing high rivers and “impenetrable” swamps. They cut a swath of destruction 45 miles wide between Savannah and Goldsboro, winning battles at Averasboro and Bentonville on the way. Sherman later wrote, “Were I to express my measure of the relative importance of the march to the sea and of that from Savannah northward, I would place the former at one and the latter at 10 or the maximum.”

Schofield’s Federals had captured Wilmington and won a battle at Kinston. They worked around the clock to restore the railroad line from Goldsboro to New Bern, thus assuring that the troops would be well supplied by the naval vessels on the Atlantic coast. The combined forces of Sherman and Schofield included six army corps totaling 88,948 men. They now dominated North Carolina.

In contrast, Johnston had no more than 20,000 men left in his makeshift Confederate army. Despite this, Johnston took the time to write to General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee to dispel rumors that the proud Army of Tennessee refused to fight any longer: “Troops of Tennessee army have fully disproved slanders that have been published against them.”

Johnston informed Lee that Sherman had linked with Schofield at Goldsboro, and then conceded, “Sherman’s course cannot be hindered by the small force I have. I can do no more than annoy him. I respectfully suggest that it is no longer a question of whether you leave present position; you have only to decide where to meet Sherman. I will be near him.”

Johnston’s Confederates crossed the Neuse River and took positions on the roads leading to Raleigh and Weldon. Johnston expected Sherman to target one of those towns next on his way to join with the Federal Armies of the Potomac and the James laying siege to Petersburg. These were also solid linkage points with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia if Lee abandoned Petersburg and Richmond. Weldon was particularly important because the railroad ran north from that town to Petersburg and, according to a Confederate deserter, “All of the forage for General Lee’s army passes through Weldon.”

Sherman seemed in no hurry to resume his advance. His exhausted men needed rest and supplies, and he needed time to plan his next move. Federal Major George Nicholls summed it up: “Our army (needs) not only to be reclothed, but to gain the repose it needs. Mind, as well as body, requires rest after the fatigues of rapid campaigns like these. These ragged, bareheaded, shoeless, brave, jolly fellows of Sherman’s legions, too, want covering for their naked limbs.”

With his planning still in the preliminary phase, Sherman wrote to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, the overall Federal commander, on the 24th: “I think I see pretty clearly how, in one more move, we can checkmate Lee, forcing him to unite Johnston with him in defense of Richmond, or, by leaving Richmond, to abandon the cause. I feel certain if he leaves Richmond, Virginia leaves the Confederacy.”

Sherman assured Grant that he would be able to field “an army of 80,000 men by April 10. If I get the troops all well placed, and the supplies working well, I might run up to see you for a day or two before diving again into the bowels of the country.”

The next day, supplies began arriving in Goldsboro from the restored railroad to New Bern. This included much-needed new clothing. No more would the troops live off southern civilians. The men were particularly excited when over 500 bags of mail arrived for them, as many had not received mail in months.

Sherman became one of the first passengers on the first eastbound train to New Bern. Leaving the Federals under Schofield’s command, he left to meet with Grant in Virginia to discuss future military strategy. Both Sherman and Grant expressed confidence that the next big campaign could end the war.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 22128; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 549-50; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Kindle Locations 17111-21, 17480-510, 17529-49; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 569-70; Kennedy, Frances H. (ed.), The Civil War Battlefield Guide (John G. Barrett, The Conservation Fund, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990), p. 272; 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. 656; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 418-19, 736; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 454; Rhodes, James Ford, History of the Civil War, 1861-1865 (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1917 [Kindle Edition, Reservoir House, 2016], Loc 5479, 5546; Sommers, Richard J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 542