Tag Archives: Edwin M. Stanton

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Jefferson Davis Reaches South Carolina

April 29, 1865 – President Jefferson Davis and his Confederate government-in-exile reached South Carolina, but Federal patrols were closing in on them.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

By this time, Davis had learned that General Joseph E. Johnston had disobeyed him by surrendering all Confederates in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. He also learned of Johnston’s proclamation to the governors of those states blaming “recent events in Virginia for breaking every hope of success by war.”

Davis, who never had a very high opinion of Johnston anyway, deeply resented his decision to surrender. Unlike Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, Johnston’s army had not been surrounded and still had the means to fight when he gave it up. Even worse, Johnston surrendered the troops in the three states that Davis needed to travel through if he hoped to get west of the Mississippi River.

On the 26th, Davis held his last cabinet meeting before leaving Charlotte. Despite the surrender of nearly every Confederate soldier east of the Mississippi, Davis resolved to continue fleeing so he could carry on the struggle out west. He planned to join Lieutenant General Richard Taylor’s small Confederate army in Alabama, and they would then go to Texas and join with Lieutenant General Edmund Kirby Smith’s Trans-Mississippi army. Attorney General George Davis announced that he would not go with the president; he was a North Carolinian and needed to tend to his motherless children in Wilmington.

Lieutenant General Wade Hampton, whose cavalry force was part of the army that Johnston had surrendered, vowed to continue the fight, and he urged Davis to travel under his guard. But then Hampton started having doubts about traveling with the president, as he explained to Johnston: “If I do not accompany him I shall never cease to reproach myself, and if I go with him I may go under the ban of outlawry.”

Meanwhile, First Lady Varina Davis was traveling with her children as part of Lieutenant William H. Parker’s naval escort guarding the Confederate archives and treasury. Their party headed for Abbeville, South Carolina, which was the presumed point where they would rejoin the presidential party. Davis wrote to Varina of an “increasing hazard of desertion among the troops.” However, Hampton “thinks he can force his way across the Mississippi. The route will be too rough and perilous for you and children to go with me.”

From Washington, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton warned Major General George H. Thomas, commanding at Nashville, that Davis was trying to escape to Texas with anywhere from $6 to $13 million in gold and silver. Stanton directed Thomas to “use all possible means to prevent the escape of Davis.”

What remained of the Confederate government left Charlotte that night and stopped at Fort Mill near the South Carolina border. The next day, Davis and the cabinet met again and discussed which route they should take to get to Texas. Treasury Secretary George Trenholm tendered his resignation because he was too sick to continue traveling. Davis thanked Trenholm for his “lofty patriotism and personal sacrifice.” He then transferred Postmaster General John Reagan to the Treasury. Reagan later wrote of the party’s stop on the 28th:

“At Broad River, South Carolina, we stopped on its bank to enjoy a luncheon we had brought along with us, and to take a little rest. While we were there the subject of the condition in which the war left us came up. The property of Secretary (of State Judah P.) Benjamin, situated in Louisiana, and that of Secretary (of War John C.) Breckinridge in Kentucky, was in Federal hands. The fine residence of Secretary (of the Navy Stephen) Mallory at Pensacola, Florida, had been burned by the enemy. My residence in Texas had been wrecked and partly burned, and my property dissipated except a farm of a few hundred acres and some uncultivated land. After we had joked each other about our fallen fortunes the President took out his pocket-book and showed a few Confederate bills, stating that that constituted his wealth. He added that it was a gratification to him that no member of his Cabinet had made money out of his position. We were all financially wrecked except Secretary Trenholm, whose wealth, we thought, might save him. But it afterward turned out that he too was bankrupt.”

Meanwhile, Parker’s naval guard arrived at Abbeville, where Varina wrote to her husband:

“I have seen a great many men who have gone through–not one has talked fight. A stand cannot be made in this country! Do not be induced to try it. As to the trans-Mississippi, I doubt if at first things will be straight, but the spirit is there, and the daily accretions will be great when the deluded of this side are crushed out between the upper and nether millstones…

“I think I shall be able to procure funds enough to enable me to put the two eldest to school. I shall go to Florida if possible, and from thence go over to Bermuda, or Nassau, from thence to England, unless a good school offers elsewhere, and put them to the best school I can find and then with the two youngest join you in Texas–and that is the prospect which bears me up, to be once more with you–once more to suffer with you if need be–but God knows those who obey Him, and I know there is a future for you.”

Parker kept a locomotive at the Abbeville depot in case they needed to flee again. Davis and his group was heading that way, aided by South Carolinians eager to help their exiled leader. And Federal cavalry patrols were getting closer and closer to them all.

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References

Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 472; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 562-64; 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 21110-30, 21149-69; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 588; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 682-83; 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 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.

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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

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

The Confederate Government in Exile

April 22, 1865 – President Jefferson Davis held a cabinet meeting in Charlotte and weighed the Confederacy’s rapidly dwindling options.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: gettysburgdaily.com

Davis and what was left of the Confederate government-in-exile left Greensboro, North Carolina, on the 15th and continued moving south. General Joseph E. Johnston, who had conferred with Davis and his cabinet the previous day, had written to Major General William T. Sherman requesting an armistice to discuss peace. Johnston returned to his headquarters to await Sherman’s answer.

The government officials left Greensboro on horseback, escorted by cavalry, without even informing Johnston. They rode through the night and reached Lexington on the 16th. Meanwhile, Lieutenant William H. Parker led a naval escort that transported the Confederate archives and treasury ahead of Davis’s party; they arrived at Washington, Georgia, on the 17th. That same day, the Davis party reached Salisbury and then continued on before finally stopping to rest at Charlotte on the 18th.

At Charlotte, Davis received word from Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge about the proposed Johnston-Sherman conference. Davis received another message: “President Lincoln was assassinated in the theatre in Washington on the night of April 14. Seward’s house was entered on the same night and he was repeatedly stabbed and is probably mortally wounded.”

Davis handed the telegram to a citizen, who read it to the gathering crowd. Some cheered at the news, but Davis knew better. He said, “Certainly I have no special regard for Mr. Lincoln, but there are a great many men of whose end I would rather hear than his. I fear it will be disastrous to our people, and I regret it deeply.”

Davis also received a letter from Lieutenant General Wade Hampton, commanding the largest remaining Confederate cavalry force. Hampton wrote:

“The military situation is gloomy, I admit, but it is by no means desperate, and endurance and determination will produce a change… Give me a good force of cavalry and I will take them safely across the Mississippi, and if you desire to go in that direction it will give me great pleasure to escort you… I can bring to your support many strong arms and brave hearts–men who will fight to Texas, and who, if forced from that state, will seek refuge in Mexico rather than in the Union.”

While Hampton urged Davis to fight on, General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee offered his assessment of the situation in his final report to the president:

“The apprehensions I expressed during the winter, of the moral (sic) condition of the Army of Northern Virginia, have been realized. The operations which occurred while the troops were in the entrenchments in front of Richmond and Petersburg were not marked by the boldness and decision which formerly characterized them…

“From what I have seen and learned, I believe an army cannot be organized or supported in Virginia, and as far as I know the condition of affairs, the country east of the Mississippi is morally and physically unable to maintain the contest unaided with any hope of ultimate success.

“A partisan war may be continued, and hostilities protracted, causing individual suffering and the devastation of the country, but I see no prospect by that means of achieving a separate independence. It is for Your Excellency to decide, should you agree with me in opinion, what is proper to be done. To save useless effusion of blood, I would recommend measures be taken for suspension of hostilities and the restoration of peace.”

Davis and his cabinet assembled for a meeting at the Bank of North Carolina on the 22nd. By that time, Johnston had forwarded to them Sherman’s peace proposal. Davis asked each minister to provide a written opinion on the matter and share with the group the next day.

In Washington, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton notified Major General John A. Dix that Davis was trying to escape to Mexico with a “very large” amount of gold and silver. He urged Dix to use whatever resources possible to capture Davis before he could leave the country. Navy Secretary Gideon Welles directed Rear Admiral Samuel P. Lee, commanding the Mississippi River Naval Squadron, to be on high alert for a potential crossing by Davis and his party.

Meanwhile, Hampton wrote to Davis, “My only object in seeing you was to assure you that many of my officers and men agree with me in thinking that nothing can be as disastrous to us as a peace founded on the restoration of the Union… My plan is to collect all the men who will stick to their colors, and to get to Texas…”

The cabinet reassembled on the 23rd and unanimously urged Davis to accept the terms offered in the Johnston-Sherman agreement. As Attorney General George Davis explained, “Taken as a whole the convention amounts to this: that the states of the Confederacy shall re-enter the (U.S.) upon the same footing on which they stood before seceding from it.”

Davis was reluctant, but the clauses pertaining to upholding the rights of southern states and citizens appealed to him. He therefore accepted the terms, but if the Federal authorities rejected them, Davis expected Johnston to renew hostilities against Sherman. Davis wrote to Johnston:

“The Secretary of War has delivered to me the copy you handed to him of the basis of an agreement between yourself and General Sherman. Your action is approved. You will so inform General Sherman; and, if the like authority be given by the Government of the United States to complete the arrangement, you will proceed on the basis adopted.

“Further instructions will be given after the details of the negotiation and the methods of executing the terms of agreement when notified by you of the readiness on the part of the General commanding United States forces to proceed with the arrangement.”

All that Davis and his remaining government could do now was continue fleeing southward. He wrote to his wife Varina, who was traveling with their children as part of Lieutenant Parker’s naval escort currently at Washington, Georgia:

“The dispersion of Lee’s army and the surrender of the remnant which remained with him destroyed the hopes I entertained when we parted… Panic has seized the country… The issue is one which it is very painful for me to meet. On one hand is the long night of oppression which will follow the return of our people to the ‘Union’; on the other the suffering of women and children, and courage among the few brave patriots who would still oppose the invader, and who unless the people would rise en masse to sustain them, would struggle but to die in vain.”

Davis hoped for Varina and the children to travel safely “from Mobile for a foreign port or to cross the (Mississippi) River and proceed to Texas, as the one or the other may be more practicable.” Unbeknownst to him, Mobile was now in Federal hands.

He speculated on what the Federals might do with him if captured: “… it may be that our Enemy will prefer to banish me, it may be that a devoted band of Cavalry will cling to me and that I can force my way across the Mississippi. And if nothing can be done there which it will be proper to do, then I can go to Mexico and have the world from which to choose a location.”

Davis concluded, “My love is all I have to offer, and that has the value of a thing long possessed, and sure not to be lost.”

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References

Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 471; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 21938, 22870-78, 22949, 22958-64; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 559-62; 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 20808-18, 21016-26, 21120-40; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 585-86; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 677-81; 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

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