Tag Archives: Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson’s Presidential Restoration Plan

May 29, 1865 – President Andrew Johnson issued two proclamations designed to continue Abraham Lincoln’s plan to restore the Confederates states to the U.S. This began what would ultimately become a bitter feud between the president and the Radical Republicans in Congress.

17th U.S. President Andrew Johnson | Image Credit: learnnc.org

The “Amnesty Proclamation” granted “amnesty and pardon” to “all persons who have, directly or indirectly, participated in the existing rebellion” if they pledged to fully support, protect, and defend the U.S. Constitution, abide by Federal laws, and acknowledge the end of slavery. Those eligible for amnesty were required to take the following oath:

“I, (name), do solemnly swear, (or affirm,) in presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the union of the States thereunder; and that I will, in like manner, abide by, and faithfully support all laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves. So help me God.”

This generally followed the model Lincoln had established, but while Lincoln had created six classes of southerners ineligible for amnesty, Johnson added eight more. Disqualified southerners included those who:

  1. Held civil or diplomatic offices in the Confederacy
  2. Resigned from a Federal judgeship to join the Confederacy
  3. Served in the Confederate military with a rank above colonel in the army or lieutenant in the navy
  4. Resigned from the U.S. Congress to join the Confederacy
  5. Resigned from the U.S. military “to evade duty in resisting the rebellion”
  6. Mistreated Federal prisoners of war
  7. Left the U.S. to support the Confederacy
  8. Had been educated at West Point or the U.S. Naval Academy before joining the Confederacy
  9. Served as governor of a Confederate state
  10. Left their homes in loyal states to live in Confederate states
  11. Engaged in destroying U.S. commerce on the high seas or raiding the U.S. from Canada
  12. Were held in custody by Federal officials, whether tried or not
  13. Supported the Confederacy while owning more than $20,000 in taxable property
  14. Violated prior loyalty oaths

The $20,000 exclusion was part of Johnson’s effort to punish aristocrats–especially wealthy slaveholders–whom he believed had persuaded impressionable poor southerners to support secession. Besides these exclusions, Johnson restored all property to southerners except for slaves. Voting rights would be restored when voters swore loyalty to the U.S. and accepted the end of slavery.

Johnson declared that “special application may be made to the President for pardon by any person belonging to the excepted classes; and such clemency will be liberally extended as may be consistent with the facts of the case and the peace and dignity of the United States.”

A second proclamation, drafted by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, restored civil government in North Carolina and named William W. Holden as provisional governor. Holden would temporarily rule the state while Federal duties such as tariff collection, mail delivery, and interstate trade resumed.

Holden was authorized to organize and schedule an election of delegates to assemble and draft a new state constitution. The election would take place once 10 percent of the state’s eligible voters (according to the 1860 census) had sworn loyalty to the U.S. The delegates would be chosen among the eligible voters. Since blacks had been ineligible to vote in 1860, they were disqualified from becoming voters or delegates.

The convention delegates were required to:

  • Reject the ordinance of secession
  • Repudiate the Confederate debt
  • Ratify the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery

They also determined requirements for permanent voting and office-holding rights, which had traditionally been state, not Federal, prerogatives. Once the new constitution was drafted, it would take effect when a majority of the registered voters approved it in a general election. Once the constitution was approved, elections would be held to fill local, state, and Federal offices.

The “North Carolina Proclamation” violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of a republican form of government for each state because Holden was not a popularly elected governor, and 10 percent of the voters dictated how the other 90 would be governed. Nevertheless, Lincoln had used this plan to restore Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arkansas to the Union, and Johnson also used it to restore the remaining conquered states (South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas) during the summer of 1865.

Most congressional Radicals found Johnson’s terms too generous. They especially opposed the exclusion of blacks in forming the new state governments. The Radicals argued that the former Confederate states had surrendered their rights by seceding and should therefore be reconstructed like conquered provinces. But Johnson disagreed:

“There is no such thing as reconstruction. These States have not gone out of the Union, therefore reconstruction is not necessary… The States had brought Congress into existence, and now Congress proposed to destroy the States. It proposed to abolish the original and elementary principle of its being. It was as if the creature turned round on the creator and attempted to destroy him.”

Johnson recommended that black men who were literate or owned more than $250 in property be allowed to vote in the southern states, but he adhered to the principle that the states must ultimately decide for themselves how best to govern their citizens, without Federal interference. No southern state governments acted upon Johnson’s recommendation.

Johnson hoped to restore the former Confederate states to the Union by the time the new Congress gathered in December. But the Radicals had other ideas, and their delicate political alliance with Johnson after Lincoln’s death quickly succumbed to full-scale political warfare, which ultimately led to Johnson’s impeachment in 1868. Like the war itself, reconstruction would prove more costly in terms of life, liberty, and property than anybody had anticipated.

—–

References

Bowers, Claude G., The Tragic Era: The Revolution After Lincoln (Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press, 1929), p. 11; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; CivilWarHome.com/presidentalreconstructionpartII.html (2002); Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 572; Ferrell, Claudine L., Reconstruction (Greenwood, 2003), p. 18-19; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 593-94; Guelzo, Allen C., Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America (New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2004), p. 267; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 690-91; Murphy, Richard W., The Nation Reunited: War’s Aftermath (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 32; Napolitano, Andrew P., Dred Scott’s Revenge: A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America (Thomas Nelson, Kindle Edition, 2009); Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M., The Almanac of American History (Greenwich, CT: Brompton Books Corp., 1993), p. 294; Schweikart, Larry and Allen, Michael, A Patriot’s History of the United States (New York: Penguin Books, 2004), p. 361; Stewart, David O., Impeached (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2009), p. 17; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 618; Woods, Jr., Thomas E., The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2004), p. 78

The Triumphant Grand Review

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

Based on the recommendation of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, President Andrew Johnson directed the adjutant general to issue Special Order No. 239, mandating a review of the victorious Federal armies in Washington. The troops would march down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House in a two-day procession designed for spectators to watch and cheer the heroes who won the war.

Men from the Army of the Potomac were already stationed at or near Washington, while Major General William T. Sherman’s Federals marched north from North Carolina through Virginia to get there. As in their march to the sea and then through the Carolinas, the army moved in two wings, with the left (west) wing passing through Culpeper Court House and Manassas Junction and the right (east) wing moving up the main road from Fredericksburg. Sherman moved between the wings to visit as many northern Virginia battlefields as possible along the way.

Sherman’s troops camped at Alexandria, while the troops under Major General George G. Meade camped at Washington and Georgetown. On the morning of the 23rd, 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 all those who died in the war. A reviewing stand was erected on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House, where President Andrew Johnson sat with Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, Chief of Staff Henry W. Halleck, and Stanton. Troops from the Veteran Reserve Corps guarded the stand.

Thousands of spectators lined the street as the Army of the Potomac began the review on the 23rd. These were the veterans of such battles as Bull Run, Ball’s Bluff, Yorktown, Williamsburg, Seven Pines, the Seven Days, Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Bristoe Station, Mine Run, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Richmond, Sayler’s Creek, and Appomattox.

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

Meade led his troops down the avenue, then stopped at the presidential reviewing stand to join the dignitaries in watching his men march by. It took several hours for all 80,000 cavalrymen, infantrymen, artillerymen, engineers, pioneers, and other military personnel to pass. Women and children showered the troops with flowers as the crowd sung patriotic songs.

According to the New York Times:

“Every circumstance has combined to make it a complete success. The weather has been magnificent; the air, delightfully tempered by the rains of the past week, is cool and fragrant, and dust is for the time subdued… Washington has been filled as it never was filled before; the hotel-keepers assert that the pressure upon their resources never was so great, and thousands of people have been nightly turned away to seek a place of rest where best they might…”

Sherman was invited to join the dignitaries at the presidential reviewing stand. He later wrote:

“The day was beautiful, and the pageant was superb. Washington was full of strangers, who filled the streets in holiday-dress, and every house was decorated with flags. The army marched by divisions in close column around the Capitol, down Pennsylvania Avenue, past Johnson and cabinet, who occupied a large stand prepared for the occasion, directly in front of the White House.”

The precision and discipline of these eastern soldiers caused Sherman concern. His westerners were not as well-equipped or disciplined, and he told Meade, “I’m afraid my poor taddermalion corps will make a poor appearance tomorrow when contrasted with yours.” Grant later wrote in his memoirs: “Sherman’s troops had been in camp on the south side of the Potomac. During the night of the 23d he crossed over and bivouacked not far from the Capitol.”

The signal gun fired at 9 a.m. on the 24th, and Sherman put his 65,000 men in motion. These were the veterans of Belmont, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Iuka, Corinth, Perryville, Stones River, Tullahoma, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Resaca, Peachtree Creek, Jonesboro, Atlanta, Franklin, Nashville, Savannah, Columbia, Wilmington, Averasboro, Bentonville, and Raleigh.

This western army was looser and leaner than Meade’s precise easterners, and it sparked “something almost fierce in the fever of enthusiasm” among the spectators. Former slaves followed Sherman’s “bummers,” who marched down Pennsylvania Avenue with southern prizes such as dogs, goats, mules, raccoons, gamecocks, and even a monkey. The men wore ragged uniforms and hung chickens and hams from their bayonets to the crowd’s delight. The bands played the same songs they had played when they began the march to the sea, including “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “Marching through Georgia,” and “John Brown’s Body.” Sherman wrote in his memoirs:

“When I reached the Treasury-building, and looked back, the sight was simply magnificent. The column was compact, and the glittering muskets looked like a solid mass of steel, moving with a regularity of a pendulum… we rode on steadily past the President, saluting with our swords. All on his stand arose and acknowledged the salute. Then, turning into the gate of the presidential grounds, we left our horses with orderlies… I shook hands with the President, General Grant, and each member of the cabinet. As I approached Mr. Stanton, he offered me his hand, but I declined it publicly, and the fact was universally noticed.”

Stanton had enraged Sherman by suggesting he was a traitor for offering what he considered overly generous surrender terms to Joseph E. Johnston last month. Sherman’s troops proceeded in review until the last regiment finally passed the presidential reviewing stand at 4:30 p.m. Sherman wrote:

“It was, in my judgment, the most magnificent army in existence–sixty-five thousand men, in splendid physique, who had just completed a march of nearly two thousand miles in a hostile country, in good drill, and who realized that they were being closely scrutinized by thousands of their fellow-countrymen and by foreigners… when the rear of the column had passed by, thousands of spectators still lingered to express their sense of confidence in the strength of a Government which could claim such an army.”

The mustering-out process began the next day, as army units quickly began dispersing and soldiers began heading home. The Army of the Potomac passed out of existence on the 28th, and on the 30th Sherman issued Special Field Orders No. 76 disbanding his army:

“The general commanding announces to the Armies of the Tennessee and Georgia that the time has come for us to part. Our work is done, and armed enemies no longer defy us… Your general now bids you farewell, with the full belief that, as in war you have been good soldiers, so in peace you will make good citizens; and if, unfortunately, new war should arise in our country, ‘Sherman’s army’ will be the first to buckle on its old armor, and come forth to defend and maintain the Government of our inheritance.”

A newspaper correspondent wrote: “In a few weeks this army of two or three hundred thousand men melted back into the heart of the people from whence it came, and the great spectacle of the Grand Army of the Republic on review disappeared from sight.”

The war was over.

—–

References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 225; Castel, Albert, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 319; Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 490-91; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 570-71; 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 21385-405, 21434-54; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 592-93; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 579-80; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 689-90; McFeely, William S., Grant (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1981), p. 230-31; Murphy, Richard W., The Nation Reunited: War’s Aftermath (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 8-15; Sherman, William T., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman, Vol. I (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1889, Kindle Edition), Loc 12727-821; Sommers, Richard J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 598; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 393; Welles, Gideon, Diary of Gideon Welles Volumes I & II (Kindle Edition. Abridged, Annotated) Loc 12122

Jefferson Davis Arrives Off Virginia

May 19, 1865 – The ocean vessel conveying former Confederate President Jefferson Davis and other captured members of his government arrived at Fortress Monroe, on the tip of Virginia’s York-James Peninsula.

The William P. Clyde had left Port Royal three days ago carrying Davis, Vice President Alexander Stephens, Treasury Secretary John Reagan, General Joseph Wheeler, and former Texas Governor Francis Lubbock. Also aboard were Davis’s wife, children, and servants, and other Confederate officials, including Senator Clement C. Clay and his wife Virginia. Mrs. Clay later wrote:

“Our journey on the Clyde, though sorrowful, apprehensive as we were concerning the fate to which the prisoners were being led, was otherwise uneventful. Mr. Davis was exceedingly depressed, and moved restlessly about, seeming scarcely ever to desire to sit down. Always an intellectual cosmopolite, however, he made observations on the natural phenomena about us, commenting from time to time on the beauty of sea or sky. Our meals, which were served at a table reserved for the prisoners, by no means represented the fare of the coastwise steamers of to-day, but few of us were in a mood to take note of culinary deficiencies.”

The Clyde was originally ordered to bring the prisoners up Chesapeake Bay to Washington, but Federal Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant had persuaded Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to imprison Davis at Fort Monroe under the command of Brigadier General Nelson A. Miles, “the object being to put an officer at Fortress Monroe who will by no possibility (allow) the escape of the prisoners to be confined there.”

The prisoners remained confined aboard the Clyde for three days while arrangements were made to accommodate them. Stanton, worried about political intrigue, wanted the preparations to remain secret. Navy Secretary Gideon Welles explained that “the papers would have the arrivals announced in their next issue,” and “he could not stop the mails, nor passenger-boats, and twenty-four hours would carry the information to Baltimore and abroad in that way.”

Stanton wrote out the orders for dealing with the prisoners, and according to Welles:

“In framing his dispatch, he said, with some emphasis, the women and children must be sent off. We did not want them. ‘They must go South,’ and he framed his dispatch accordingly. When he read it I remarked, ‘The South is very indefinite, and you permit them to select the place. Mrs. Davis may designate Norfolk, or Richmond.’ ‘True,’ said Grant with a laugh. Stanton was annoyed, but, I think, altered his telegram.”

Stephens and Reagan would be placed aboard the warship U.S.S. Tuscarora and sent to Fort Warren in Boston Harbor, while Wheeler, Lubbock, and presidential aide William P. Johnston would go to Fort Delaware in Philadelphia. Davis and Clay would be confined within Fort Monroe. Mrs. Clay remembered:

“On the morning of May 22d a sultry, drizzling rain fell. It was a day exactly calculated to induce melancholy even in the stoutest-hearted. To us, eagerly alert to learn what we might of our fate, it was unspeakably distressful. Shortly after breakfast my husband came quietly into our stateroom. ‘There is no longer any doubt,’ he said, ‘that this fort is the one destined for Davis and me! I have just been notified that we are expected to take a ride on a tug. I am convinced we shall be taken to Fortress Monroe. I can’t imagine why they do not come out boldly and tell us so, but be sure this is our farewell, my wife!’ We took leave of each other in our stateroom, nor did I leave it to follow Mr. Clay to the deck. I stood, instead, at the fourteen-inch window of my cabin, alone with my thoughts.”

The Davises son Jeff wailed upon learning that he would be taken from his father. A soldier told him, “Don’t cry, Jeff. They ain’t going to hang your pa!” Little Jeff replied, “When I get to be a man, I’m going to kill every Yankee I see!” He then ran to his mother and cried, “They say they have come for father, beg them to let us go with him.” Davis confirmed the news and told Varina, “Try not to cry. They will gloat over your grief.”

Davis and Clay were put aboard a tug to take them to the fort, and as Mrs. Davis recalled, “he stood with bared head between the files of undersized German and other foreign soldiers on either side of him, and as we looked, as we thought, our last upon his stately form and knightly bearing, he seemed a man of another and higher race, upon whom ‘shame would not dare to sit.’”

Back aboard the Clyde, Federal troops rummaged through the Davises’ trunks and took whatever they wanted. Tugs carrying curiosity-seekers came out to visit the Clyde, and Mrs. Davis wrote, “They steamed around the ship, offering, when one of us met their view, such insults as were transmissible at a short distance.” When Federals tried getting into Mrs. Clay’s room, she admonished them, “Gentlemen, do not look in here, it is a ladies’ state-room.” One Federal remarked, “There are no ladies here,” to which she replied, “There certainly are no gentlemen there.”

Davis and Clay were confined in subterranean casemates that had been hastily converted into prison cells. Davis later wrote:

“Not knowing that the Government was at war with women and children, I asked that my family might be permitted to leave the ship and go to Richmond or Washington City, or to some place where they had acquaintances, but this was refused… I was informed that they must return to Savannah on the vessel by which we came… why, I did not then know, have not learned since, and am unwilling to make a supposition, as none could satisfactorily account for such an act of inhumanity.”

The New York Herald reported on the 23rd:

“At about 3 o’clock yesterday, ‘all that is mortal’ of Jeff’n Davis, late so-called ‘President of the alleged Confederate States,’ was duly, but quietly and effectively, committed to that living tomb prepared within the impregnable walls of Fortress Monroe… No more will Jeff’n Davis be known among the masses of men. He is buried alive.”

Alfred Waud sketch of Jefferson Davis jailed at Fort Monroe | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Federal guards allowed Davis just the clothes he wore and a small-print Bible. General Miles received orders from the War Department “to place manacles and fetters upon the hands and feet of Jefferson Davis… whenever he may think it advisable in order to render imprisonment more secure.” Davis forcibly resisted being shackled, but the guards overcame him and placed him in chains.

Northern protests soon compelled Miles to remove the shackles. But Davis continued to be subjected to other methods of punishment, including having guards continuously march past his cell, burning lamps around the clock, and exposing him to illnesses brought on by confinement below sea level. Davis’s health declined as sympathetic northerners raised funds to provide him with legal counsel.

Federal authorities considered trying Davis for treason; Davis welcomed such a charge because it would give him the opportunity to argue for the legality of his cause. Fearing he might win, officials opted not to try him. They also lacked evidence to implicate Davis in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, which they had accused him of when they set out to capture him in the first place.

In 1867, Davis was released on a $100,000 bond, which was financed by such prominent northerners as Horace Greeley (editor of the New York Tribune) and Gerrit Smith (one of the financial backers for John Brown’s raid of Harpers Ferry in 1859). In 1868, President Andrew Johnson issued a “pardon and amnesty” to “every person who directly or indirectly participated in the late insurrection or rebellion,” including the former president of the Confederate States of America.

—–

References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 570; 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 21337-57, 21791-831; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 592; 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. 18-24; 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

Reconstruction Efforts of May 1865

May 9, 1865 – President Andrew Johnson continued efforts to quickly restore the Union by approving the installment of Virginia’s new pro-U.S. government.

17th U.S. President Andrew Johnson | Image Credit: learnnc.org

The process of restoring the conquered states to the Union began accelerating this month with the surrender of most Confederate troops. In Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana, restoration was already well under way in accordance with former President Abraham Lincoln’s Ten-Percent Plan. The plan was also implemented in Missouri, where delegates to the state constitutional convention voted 43 to 5 to replace all significant state employees with those “loyal” to the U.S. Consequently, Governor Thomas Fletcher bypassed legislative and popular approval by replacing the state supreme court and some 800 other state officials.

Early this month, a Pennsylvania delegation met with Johnson to discuss his restoration policy now that Lincoln was gone. The delegation was dominated by Radical Republicans seeking harsh retribution against the South. The Radicals had initially been pleased by Johnson’s condemnation of “treasonous” southerners, but they were disappointed by Johnson’s clarification that while he intended to punish Confederate leaders, he also intended to offer leniency to Confederate soldiers whom he felt had been forced into service by Confederate draft laws.

The Radicals were further displeased to learn that Johnson intended to carry on Lincoln’s Ten-Percent Plan to restore the Union. He started off by formally recognizing the new governments of Arkansas and Louisiana, and on the 9th he issued an “Executive order to reestablish the authority of the United States, and execute the laws within the geographical limits known as the State of Virginia.” This included the proclamation:

“That, to carry into effect the guarantee of the Federal Constitution of a republican form of State government, and afford the advantage of the security of domestic laws, as well as to complete the reestablishment of the authority of the laws of the United States and the full and complete restoration of peace within the limits aforesaid, Francis H. Pierpont, Governor of the State of Virginia, will be aided by the Federal Government, so far as may be necessary, in the lawful measures which he may take for the extension and administration of the State government throughout the geographical limits of said State.”

Pierpont had been the provisional governor of a quasi-Virginia state government loyal to the U.S. while the popularly elected government in Richmond had allied with the Confederacy. Under Johnson’s order, no state official who had been part of the pro-Confederate government could serve in the new regime, and all those serving had to swear allegiance to the U.S.

The next day, Johnson issued a proclamation that “armed resistance to the authority of this Government (from) the said insurrectionary States may be regarded as virtually at an end…” The Federal naval blockade was gradually lifted, and the military was slowly demobilized. This despite there being one last major Confederate army still in the field: General Edmund Kirby Smith’s west of the Mississippi River.

Also this month, Johnson appointed Major General Oliver O. Howard to head the new Freedmen’s Bureau, which was to provide government aid to newly freed slaves. On the 22nd, Johnson announced that all seaports except for some in Texas would be opened for commerce, and all commercial activity east of the Mississippi River would resume. Five days later, Johnson ordered the liberation of those imprisoned by military authorities for various offenses, including protesting the war. By month’s end, Johnson prepared to issue his official plan for restoring all conquered states.

—–

References

Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 16947-65; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 568, 570; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 290; Ferrell, Claudine L., Reconstruction: Greenwood Guides to Historic Events, 1500-1900 (Greenwood, 2003), p. 18; 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 21343-67, 21743-53; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 590-93; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 686-89; 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 Booth Conspirators on Trial

May 1, 1865 – President Andrew Johnson authorized the formation of a military commission to try the eight people accused of conspiring with John Wilkes Booth to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.

17th U.S. President Andrew Johnson | Image Credit: learnnc.org

Johnson issued an executive order:

“Whereas, the Attorney-General of the United States hath given his opinion: That the persons implicated in the murder of the late President, Abraham Lincoln, and the attempted assassination of the Honorable William H. Seward, Secretary of State, and in an alleged conspiracy to assassinate other officers of the Federal Government at Washington City, and their aiders and abettors, are subject to the jurisdiction of, and lawfully triable before, a Military Commission; It is ordered:

“1st. That the Assistant Adjutant-General detail nine competent military officers to serve as a Commission for the trial of said parties, and that the Judge Advocate General proceed to prefer charges against said parties for their alleged offenses, and bring them to trial before said Military Commission; that said trial or trials be conducted by the said Judge Advocate General, and as recorder thereof, in person, aided by such Assistant and Special Judge Advocates as he may designate; and that said trials be conducted with all diligence consistent with the ends of justice: the said Commission to sit without regard to hours.

“2d. That Brevet Major-General Hartranft be assigned to duty as Special Provost Marshal General, for the purpose of said trial, and attendance upon said Commission, and the execution of its mandates.

“3d. That the said Commission establish such order or rules of proceeding as may avoid unnecessary delay, and conduce to the ends of public justice.”

Assistant Adjutant General Edward D. Townsend appointed nine loyal Republicans to preside over the military tribunal: Major General Lew Wallace, Brigadier Generals Robert S. Foster, Thomas M. Harris, Albion P. Howe, and August Kautz, Colonels James A. Ekin and Charles H. Tompkins, and Lieutenant Colonel David Ramsay Clendenin. Major General David Hunter presided over the commission as judge advocate general.

Brigadier General Joseph Holt, the judge advocate general of the army, headed the prosecution team. Holt was an old friend of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton who had established controversial commissions to prosecute citizens accused of “disloyal practices” during the war. In a conflict of interest, Holt would also serve as legal counsel to the commission. Congressman John A. Bingham would examine witnesses, and Major Henry L. Burnett rounded out Holt’s prosecution team.

Although it was unconstitutional to try civilians by a military court where civil courts functioned, Attorney General James Speed argued that if the defendants acted as “public enemies,” they “ought to be tried before a military tribunal.” The tribunal was to establish the trial rules. While a civil court required a unanimous jury verdict for conviction, the tribunal only needed a simple majority. Only a two-thirds majority was required to sentence the defendants to death.

Evidence requirements tended to be less stringent in a military tribunal, and punishment tended to be more severe. If convicted, the defendants could appeal to no one except President Johnson. Lincoln’s former attorney general, Edward Bates, declared, “If the offenders are done to death by that tribunal, however truly guilty, they will pass for martyrs for half the world.”

The eight defendants were:

  • David E. Herold, who had accompanied Booth out of Washington after the assassination before surrendering to Federal authorities
  • Lewis Powell (or Paine), who had attempted to assassinate Secretary of State William H. Seward
  • George Atzerodt, who had been assigned to assassinate then-Vice President Johnson but lost his nerve
  • Edward “Ned” Spangler, who had held Booth’s horse outside Ford’s Theatre during Lincoln’s assassination
  • Dr. Samuel Mudd, who had set Booth’s broken leg and had known Booth prior to the assassination
  • Michael O’Laughlen, who had been Booth’s friend since childhood and allegedly conspired to kidnap Lincoln
  • Samuel Arnold, who had allegedly been involved in the kidnap plot
  • Mary Surratt, who had run the boardinghouse where the conspirators plotted the assassination

Federal officials held the men in shackles in Washington’s Old Arsenal Penitentiary, with hoods over their heads. The hoods were padded to prevent the prisoners from hearing anything or ramming their heads against the walls. Small slits were cut for air and food. Officials did not require Mrs. Surratt to wear a hood or shackles. Federal authorities had never treated defendants so harshly in American history.

Hoods worn by the Lincoln conspirators | Image Credit: Flickr.com

The commission assembled on the 8th in a new 45-foot-by-30-foot courtroom on the third floor of the Old Penitentiary. General Hantranft went to each defendant’s cell to read the charges against them. He recalled, “I had the hood (of each prisoner) removed, entered the cell alone with a lantern, delivered the copy, and allowed them time to read it, and in several instances, by request read the copy to them, before replacing the hood.”

Authorities removed the hoods from the male prisoners before they entered the courtroom. The commission issued its specific charges against the defendants:

“That David E. Harold, Edward Spangler, Lewis Payne, John H. Surratt, Michael O’Loughlin, Samuel Arnold, George A. Atzerott, Samuel A. Mudd, and Mary E. Surratt, did on April 15, 1865, combine, confederate, and conspire together to murder President Abraham Lincoln, Vice-President Andrew Johnson, Lieutenant-General U. S. Grant, and Secretary of State William H. Seward.”

These charges reflected the general assumption throughout the North that the defendants had conspired with the Confederate government to murder high-level Federal officials as a means of prolonging the war. Upon learning that the defendants had not been allowed legal counsel yet, the commission adjourned to grant it to them. Pleas and testimony would begin on the 12th.

—–

References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 139-58; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 19876-86; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 564, 567-68; 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 21762-72; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 588, 590; law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/lincolnconspiracy/lincolnaccount.html; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 684-86; Pittman, Benn, The Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators (U.S. Army, Military Commission, Cincinnati and New York: Moore, Wilstach & Boldwin, 1865), p. 406; Steers, Edward, Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (University Press of Kentucky, 2001);  “The Trial of the Lincoln Assassination Conspirators” (Law.umkc.edu, archived from original 12 May 2011, retrieved 28 May 2011)

The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth: Aftermath

April 27, 1865 – Federal officials brought the body of John Wilkes Booth back to Washington as the alleged accomplices to his scheme were rounded up and jailed.

Following Booth’s death near Bowling Green, Virginia, troopers of the 16th New York Cavalry sewed his body into a saddle blanket. It was to be taken to Washington for examination and then burial. The troopers rode to Belle Plain with Booth’s corpse and two prisoners: David E. Herold (Booth’s accomplice who had surrendered before Booth was killed) and Sergeant Boston Corbett, who had shot Booth in defiance of orders to take him alive.

At Belle Plain, the prisoners and body were loaded onto the steamer John S. Ide and taken to the Washington Navy Yard. Once there, they were transferred to the gunboat U.S.S. Montauk, where Herold was confined to the ship’s hold. Also aboard were all the others who had been arrested for suspected complicity in the conspiracy to kill Abraham Lincoln and members of his administration, except for Mrs. Mary Surratt.

As word spread that Booth’s body was on board, a crowd gathered on shore, and at least 10 people who had known Booth positively confirmed that the body was his. Identifying features included a tattoo on his left hand with his initials J.W.B., and a scar on the back of his neck.

Medical examiners performed an autopsy and concluded that Booth had died of “asphyxiation,” brought on by the bullet severing the spinal cord and causing “general paralysis.” Booth’s body was placed in a gun box and entombed in the brick flooring of the Old Arsenal Penitentiary. It was later interred in the family plot at Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore.

Examination of Booth’s body | Image Credit: Harper’s Weekly; May 13, 1865; Vol. IX, No. 437

On the night of the 27th, Federal authorities took the imprisoned suspects off the Montauk. They were hooded and flanked by two rows of soldiers as they were brought to the Old Arsenal Penitentiary. This would be their new home until they stood trial for conspiring to murder Lincoln and attempting to murder Secretary of State William H. Seward. Ultimately eight defendants went to trial:

  • Herold, Booth’s prime accomplice
  • Lewis Paine (or Powell), who had attempted to murder Seward and several others in Seward’s home
  • George Atzerodt, who had been assigned to assassinate then-Vice President Andrew Johnson but lost his nerve
  • Edward “Ned” Spangler, a stagehand at Ford’s Theatre who had opened the back door for Booth and allegedly arranged to have a horse waiting for him
  • Dr. Samuel Mudd, who had set Booth’s broken leg and had known Booth prior to the assassination
  • Michael O’Laughlen, who had been Booth’s friend since childhood and allegedly conspired to kidnap Lincoln
  • Samuel Arnold, who had allegedly written a suspicious letter to Booth regarding the kidnap plot
  • Mary Surratt, who had run the boardinghouse where the conspirators plotted the assassination scheme

The male prisoners were shackled to balls and chains, and an iron bar held their hands in place. They were fitted with canvas hoods over their heads and face, with just a small opening for air, food, and water. Mrs. Surratt was given her own cell without having to wear chains or a hood. They could do nothing but sit and await trial, but Federal officials first had to decide how the trial would be conducted.

Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton argued that the suspects should be tried by a military tribunal because they were accused of a treasonous act. Navy Secretary Gideon Welles wrote that Stanton “said it was his intention that the criminals should be tried and executed before President Lincoln was buried.” But many, including Welles and Lincoln’s former attorney general Edward Bates, argued that trying civilians before a military commission was unconstitutional.

President Andrew Johnson asked current Attorney General James Speed to write a legal opinion on the matter. Speed wrote that assassinating the commander-in-chief during a rebellion against the national authority could be considered an act of war against the United States, especially if rumors of involvement by Jefferson Davis and the Confederate government were true. Thus, Speed wrote that the War Department should be allowed to proceed with placing the suspects before a military tribunal.

The trial would begin in early May. While there was much government secrecy and inefficiency due to the hysteria surrounding the Lincoln assassination, most historians generally agree that John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators committed the crimes without the knowledge of Jefferson Davis or any other Confederate officials.

—–

References

Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 132-40; 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; Freilberger, Edward, “Grave of Lincoln’s Assassin Disclosed at Last,” The New York Times (February 26, 1911, retrieved February 10, 2009); Kauffman, Michael W., American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies (New York: Random House, 2004), p. 393-94; Kunhardt, Dorothy and Philip, Jr., Twenty Days (North Hollywood, CA: Newcastle, 1965), p. 181-82; law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/lincolnconspiracy/lincolnaccount.html; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 682-83; Smith, Gene, American Gothic: The Story of America’s Legendary Theatrical Family, Junius, Edwin, and John Wilkes Booth (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), p. 239-41; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 440-41; Townsend, George Alfred, The Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth (New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, 1865, 1977 ed.), p. 38

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.

—–

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

The Inauguration of Andrew Johnson

April 15, 1865 – Abraham Lincoln’s death meant that a southern Democrat would become the next U.S. president, much to the dismay of northerners hoping to punish the South.

17th U.S. President Andrew Johnson | Image Credit: learnnc.org

In the 1864 election campaign, the Republicans had joined with pro-war Democrats to form a “National Union” party. To solidify this new alliance, they nominated Andrew Johnson, leader of the pro-war Democrats, as Lincoln’s vice president. Johnson had been the only congressman from the Confederate states to stay loyal to the U.S. He co-authored the Crittenden-Johnson Resolution of July 1861, and later Lincoln appointed him military governor of Tennessee.

The Republican majority in Congress viewed Johnson with suspicion because of his southern roots. This was especially true for the Radical Republicans, who favored harsh retribution against the defeated South. However, this distrust was tempered by Johnson’s history of denouncing the southern aristocracy, as well as many Republicans’ disapproval of Lincoln’s lenient approach toward bringing the southern states back into the Union.

The Congressional Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, dominated by the Radicals, held a caucus on the day of Lincoln’s death. Wasting no time to mourn, they discussed “the necessity of a new cabinet and a line of policy less conciliatory than that of Mr. Lincoln.” George Julian of Indiana stated that–

“–aside from his known tenderness to the rebels, Lincoln’s last public avowal, only three days before his death, of adherence to the plan of reconstruction he had announced in December 1863, was highly repugnant… while everybody was shocked at his murder, the feeling was nearly universal that the accession of Johnson to the Presidency would prove a Godsend to the country.”

Shortly after Lincoln was pronounced dead, members of his cabinet requested that Johnson take the oath of office and become the new president. At 10 a.m., Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase administered the oath in Suite 68 of Washington’s Kirkwood Hotel, Johnson’s current residence. Johnson became the sixth vice president to ascend to the presidency, and the third to ascend due to death.

The Johnson Inauguration | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

A dozen members of Congress and other government officials witnessed the ceremony, which Johnson followed with a brief speech: “Gentlemen, I have been almost overwhelmed by the announcement of the sad event which has so recently occurred… The duties have been mine; the consequences are God’s.” A New England senator noted, “Johnson seemed willing to share the glory of his achievements with his Creator, but utterly forgot that Mr. Lincoln had any share of credit in the suppression of the rebellion.” This encouraged the Radicals, along with the fact that Johnson had taken his oath on a Bible opened to the vengeful Book of Ezekiel.

Influential Radical Senators Charles Sumner of Massachusetts and Benjamin Wade of Ohio visited Johnson on the night of the 15th. Both men had worked with Johnson in the Senate and were sure that his policy would be harsher than Lincoln’s. Wade told him, “Mr. Johnson, I thank God that you are here. Mr. Lincoln had too much of the milk of human kindness to deal with these damned rebels. Now they will be dealt with according to their desserts.” The Radicals’ first order of business was to clear the executive branch of Lincoln’s influence, and Johnson would be the man to do it for them.

The new president held his first cabinet meeting on the 16th. He asked all members to stay in their positions for now and trust in him based on his record: “The course which I have taken in the past, in connection with this rebellion, must be regarded as a guaranty for the future.” Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton reported that Federal troops were pursuing John Wilkes Booth and Jefferson Davis, and the reconstruction of the South had begun.

Johnson later met with Stanton and Radical leaders at the War Department, where Chief Justice Chase agreed to tour the South and lobby the new Unionist state governments to grant former slaves the right to vote. Moderates had argued that slaves should be educated before immediately starting to vote, but Radicals wanted black suffrage because it would create a solid Republican voting bloc that would end the Democratic Party’s domination of the South.

Sumner, one of the loudest champions of black suffrage, supported Chase’s mission but doubted that “the work could be effectively done without federal authority.” Johnson’s tough talk about punishing Confederate leaders gave Sumner hope that he might use his new presidential powers to force the southern states to allow freed slaves the right to vote.

Meanwhile Lincoln’s cabinet (now Johnson’s) quickly began moving to impose a harsher reconstruction plan than Lincoln had intended. Stanton reissued his proposal of the 14th which would place the South under military rule. Lincoln had not commented on the plan at the time, but Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant argued that Lincoln’s idea for reconstruction was based on a “desire to have everybody happy, and above all his desire to see all people of the United States enter again upon the full privileges of citizenship with equality among all.”

This did not deter Stanton, who presented his plan to influential Radicals in a meeting to which Johnson had not been invited. The men generally agreed with the idea of treating the South as a conquered province, but, according to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, “Mr. Sumner declared he would not move a step–not an inch if the right of the colored man to vote was not secured.”

At the Treasury Department, Johnson met with members of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, including its chairman, Wade. Johnson had been a former committee member himself, and Wade reiterated his support for him: “Johnson, we have faith in you. By the gods, there will be no trouble now in running the government.”

Johnson declared: “I hold that robbery is a crime; rape is a crime; murder is a crime; treason is a crime–and crime must be punished. Treason must be made infamous, and traitors must be impoverished.” This satisfied the committee, but that satisfaction quickly dimmed when Johnson later clarified his statement: “I say to the (Confederate) leaders, punishment. I also say leniency, reconciliation and amnesty to the thousands whom they have misled and deceived.”

—–

References

Bowers, Claude G., The Tragic Era: The Revolution After Lincoln (The Riverside Press, Cambridge, MA, 1929), p. 3-7; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 118-19; 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 20760-99; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 585; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 151-52; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 677-78; McFeely, William S., Grant (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1981), p. 226-27; Murphy, Richard W., The Nation Reunited: War’s Aftermath (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 16-18, 20; 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

More Assassination Attempts, Washington in Turmoil

April 14, 1865 – As President Abraham Lincoln was shot, both Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward were targeted for assassination as well.

U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Around the same time that John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre, Booth’s co-conspirator Lewis Paine (or Powell) attempted to assassinate Seward. Paine went to the secretary’s home on Lafayette Square, having been brought there by fellow accomplice David E. Herold. Paine approached the door alone and told a servant that he was delivering medicine to Seward, who had suffered a broken arm and jaw in a recent carriage accident. When the servant hesitated to let him in, Paine forced his way inside and rushed upstairs toward sounds he assumed were coming from Seward’s bedroom.

Seward’s son Frederick tried to stop Paine at the top of the stairs. Paine pulled out a revolver and, when it failed to fire, broke Frederick’s skull with the heavy weapon and charged into the bedroom. Paine cut the nurse with a Bowie knife, then jumped on Seward’s bed and slashed at the secretary’s neck and face. A soldier on duty and Seward’s other son Augustus pulled Paine off, and the assailant raced out of the house.

Seward was badly wounded, but his plaster arm cast and the splint fitted to his broken jaw had fended off enough slashes for him to survive. Herold ran off when he heard screams coming from the house, leaving Paine to fend for himself. Unfamiliar with Washington, he wandered the streets for two days before finally arriving at the boardinghouse of Mary Surratt, where Booth and his conspirators had hatched their plot.

Another Booth conspirator, George Atzerodt, had been tasked with killing Vice President Johnson, who was living at the Kirkwood Hotel. Atzerodt drank at the Kirkwood bar and contemplated his assignment until he finally lost his nerve and left. Authorities arrived soon afterward to notify Johnson of the assassination attempts on Lincoln and Seward, and to guard him from a similar fate.

Meanwhile, Lincoln had been carried out of Ford’s Theatre and brought across the street to a rear bedroom in the boardinghouse of William Petersen. He was arranged diagonally across a bed that was too small for his six foot-four inch frame. Having already concluded that Lincoln could not survive, the doctors focused mainly on making him as comfortable as possible.

Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia had been advertised to go to Ford’s Theatre with the Lincolns, but they had taken a train to see their children in New Jersey instead. They stopped at Bloodgood’s Hotel in Philadelphia for the night, and around midnight Grant received a telegram from Major Thomas Eckert, head of the War Department telegraph office:

“The President was assassinated at Ford’s Theater at 10:30 tonight and cannot live. The wound is a pistol shot through the head. Secretary Seward and his son Frederick were also assassinated at their residence and are in a dangerous condition. The Secretary of War desires that you return to Washington immediately. Please answer on receipt of this.”

Grant sent word that he was on his way back. Then, around 12:50 a.m., he received a telegram from Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana: “Permit me to suggest to you to keep close watch on all persons who come near you in the cars or otherwise; also, that an engine be sent in front of the train to guard against anything being on the track.” When Grant shared the news with Julia, she wept and asked, “This will make Andy Johnson president, will it not?” Grant said, “Yes, and… I dread the change.”

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

News of the attacks on Lincoln and Seward sparked hysterical rumors of a citywide Confederate killing spree. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton arrived at the Petersen house and became de facto president by stopping traffic on the Potomac River bridges, authorizing Grant to take command of capital defenses, and alerting border authorities to watch for suspicious crossings. When witnesses identified Booth as Lincoln’s assassin, Stanton directed Federal troops to track down both him and anyone who may have conspired with him.

First Lady Mary Lincoln was at her husband’s bedside, but grief eventually overwhelmed her. She moaned, “How can it be so? Do speak to me!” She then began screaming hysterically until Stanton ordered, “Take that woman out of here and do not let her in here again!” The Lincolns’ oldest son Robert arrived after midnight; he took his mother aside and they grieved together.

People shuffled in and out of the little bedroom throughout the night as the president’s breathing grew steadily fainter. Dozens of physicians took turns caring for Lincoln, but they all agreed that he could not recover.

Finally, at 7:22:10 on the morning of April 15, a doctor pronounced, “He is gone. He is dead.” The men who had crowded into the small room knelt around the bed in silent prayer, and Stanton declared, “Now he belongs to the angels.” Several men carried Lincoln’s body out, and army medical illustrator Hermann Faber was brought in to sketch the boardinghouse bedroom for posterity.

The Lincoln Deathbed

Lincoln became the first president to ever be murdered, and he died exactly four years after calling for the Federal invasion of the Confederacy. The telegraph quickly spread the news of Lincoln’s death throughout both North and South. Northern celebrations that had been taking place ever since the fall of Richmond suddenly stopped as the joy turned into mourning and grief. In Washington, bells tolled as Lincoln’s body was wrapped in a flag and taken by guarded hearse back to the White House. According to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles:

“There was a cheerless cold rain and everything seemed gloomy. On the Avenue in front of the White House were several hundred colored people, mostly women and children, weeping and wailing their loss. This crowd did not appear to diminish through the whole of that cold, wet day; they seemed not to know what was to be their fate since their great benefactor was dead, and their hopeless grief affected me more than almost anything else, though strong and brave men wept when I met them.”

—–

References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 217-19; Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 474-75; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 64-104, 118-19; 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 20690-700, 20760-70; Heintjes, Tom, “Drawing on History, ‘Hogan’s Alley’ #8, 2000” (Cartoonician.com, retrieved 28 Sep 2012); Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 165; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 675-77; McFeely, William S., Grant (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1981), p. 224-25; Steers, Edward, Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (University Press of Kentucky, 2001); Townsend, George Alfred, The Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth (New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, 1865); Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 384-86; 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 Second Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln

March 4, 1865 – Abraham Lincoln began a second term as U.S. president in Washington, D.C.

Much had changed since Lincoln’s first inaugural just four years ago. Lincoln had begun his presidency when the country was on the brink of war, and now he was beginning his second term when the country was on the brink of peace. As part of the ceremony, Lincoln left the White House escorted by military bands and a cavalry guard. They rode to the Capitol, where the new dome had been under construction in 1861. It was now finally completed.

The ceremony began in the Senate chamber, where Andrew Johnson replaced Hannibal Hamlin as vice president. Notable attendees included Major General Joseph Hooker (representing the army), Rear Admiral David G. Farragut (representing the navy), the governors of most northern states, Lincoln’s cabinet members, and the nine Supreme Court justices. Lincoln sat in front between the justices and the cabinet.

Hamlin began by delivering a farewell speech. He was followed by Johnson, who delivered a rambling, barely coherent inaugural address; he had taken whiskey to relieve his typhoid fever and the room was overheated. Johnson repeatedly cited his poor upbringing and reminded the stunned audience that they too were “creatures of the people.” Hamlin pulled on Johnson’s coattails but could not stop him.

The officials then proceeded to the east portico of the Capitol for the presidential inaugural ceremony at 12 p.m. An estimated 50,000 people gathered to witness the proceedings, an unexpectedly large number considering that it was a rainy and dismal day. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton placed sharpshooters at every window and rooftop for safety. Guests invited to attend the ceremony included famous actor John Wilkes Booth, who had an excellent view of the podium where Lincoln would speak. The sun appeared between the clouds as the president began.

Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inauguration | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Lincoln’s address, the shortest since George Washington’s second inaugural in 1793, lasted less than five minutes and contained just 703 words on a single sheet of paper. Lincoln did not discuss future policies; he instead focused on restoring the Union, blaming the southern states for starting the war, and expressing his belief that the war had been God’s punishment for the sin of slavery.

When the speech concluded, U.S. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase summoned the Court clerk to present the open-faced Bible. Lincoln placed his hand on top, and Chase administered the oath of office. The crowd cheered, cannons fired a salute, and bands played as the ceremony ended. Lincoln returned to the White House with his 10 year-old son Tad, no longer feeling the need to use the security escort that had surrounded him during his first inaugural.

Lincoln takes the oath of office | Image Credit: Harper’s Weekly, Vol. IX, No. 429, 18 Mar 1865

The White House gates opened to the public for a three-hour reception at 8 p.m., which became one of the largest gatherings ever held in the Executive Mansion. Lincoln greeted an estimated 6,000 people, with some cutting fabric from the expensive draperies for souvenirs. When Lincoln learned that White House guards had barred civil rights leader Frederick Douglass from participating, he ordered them to escort Douglass into the East Room where Lincoln could meet him.

The Inaugural Ball took place two nights later at the Patent Office building. Tickets cost $10 per person and were sold to 4,000 guests, with the proceeds going to aid the families of fallen military personnel. The midnight supper included beef, veal, poultry, oysters, salads, jellies, cakes, chocolate, and coffee.

Once Lincoln settled back down to business after the inaugural festivities, his cabinet underwent some changes. William P. Fessenden resigned as treasury secretary to reclaim his seat in the U.S. Senate. Lincoln tried to replace him with New York Senator Edwin D. Morgan, but Morgan declined, so Lincoln then picked Hugh McCulloch of Indiana. McCulloch was the current comptroller of the currency with good experience in the Treasury.

Interior Secretary John P. Usher then resigned, citing the tradition that a president should not have more than one man from the same state in his cabinet (McCulloch and Usher were both Indianans). Lincoln, who did not think highly of Usher, quickly accepted his resignation and replaced him with Senator John Harlan of Iowa. Harlan had been one of Lincoln’s strongest supporters in Congress, and Harlan’s daughter was engaged to the Lincolns’ son Robert.

These changes, combined with the inauguration process and the stress of wartime, pushed Lincoln to the brink of exhaustion. He was bedridden for several days, which led many to question whether he would remain healthy enough to serve four more years.

—–

References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 214; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 42-45; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 542, 545; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 11729-40, 12126; 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 16952-92, 17022-43, 17062-82; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 562-63; Gates, Arnold, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 441; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 697-99; Kauffman, Michael W., American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies (New York: Random House, 2004); Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 647-49; Murphy, Richard W., The Nation Reunited: War’s Aftermath (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 16; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 360-61; 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), Q165