Tag Archives: Edwin M. Stanton

The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth

April 17, 1865 – Federal authorities made several arrests in the supposed conspiracy to kill Abraham Lincoln and members of his administration. But John Wilkes Booth himself remained at large.

John Wilkes Booth | Image Credit: cj-worldnews.com

After shooting President Lincoln on the night of the 14th, Booth fled Ford’s Theatre through a back door to the alley, where he rode off on a waiting horse. Booth had shot the president as planned, but he broke his leg jumping out of the balcony. He also missed his chance to kill Ulysses S. Grant, who was not at the theater as advertised. And he did not yet know if Lewis Powell (or Paine) had killed Secretary of State William H. Seward or if George Atzerodt had killed Vice President Andrew Johnson. All he could do now was flee.

Sentry Sergeant Silas Cobb of the 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery guarded the Navy Bridge leading out of Washington, with orders not to let anyone pass after 9 p.m. Booth rode up some time after 10:30 p.m., and Cobb reluctantly let him cross. Less than an hour later, Booth’s accomplice David E. Herold rode up, and Cobb let him pass as well.

Booth and Herold met up on the road and stopped at a tavern in Surrattsville, where they had arranged for tavern owner Mary Surratt and her son John to leave weapons for them. The men stopped for five minutes to grab two carbines and some supplies before continuing southeast.

By 3 a.m., Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton had gathered enough eyewitness testimony to issue a communique naming Booth as Lincoln’s assassin. Stanton declared martial law and authorized Lieutenant Colonel Lafayette Baker of the National Detective Police to lead a cavalry unit in hunting down Booth and his accomplices. Within an hour, authorities were at Mrs. Surratt’s Washington home at 541 High Street, where Booth was known to visit whenever he came to Washington.

Before dawn on the 15th, Booth and Herold sought refuge and medical care at the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd in Bryantown, Maryland, about 25 miles southeast of Washington. Booth had stayed at the doctor’s home before and once bought a horse from him. Mudd set Booth’s broken fibula and fitted him with a wooden splint. Later that day, Herold and Mudd went into town for supplies. Herold tried finding a carriage for Booth, but he hurried back to Mudd’s house upon seeing Federal patrols.

Mudd came home later, apparently having learned in town that Booth had shot Lincoln. He did not tell the Federals where Booth was, but he demanded that both Booth and Herold leave immediately. Before they left, Mudd told them that they might find help from Samuel Cox, who lived near the Potomac River. Booth and Herold struggled through the surrounding swamps and marshes; the excruciating pain of Booth’s leg made it even more grueling. With the help of a black man, they finally made the 20 miles to Cox’s home at Rich Hill in southern Maryland at around 1 a.m. on Easter Sunday.

The men told Cox who they were, and Cox and his son agreed to help them cross the Potomac to safety in Virginia. But since Federal patrols were scouring the area, Booth and Herold would have to wait in the woods until they could be sure to cross without being seen. Meanwhile, Navy Secretary Gideon Welles directed naval authorities to search all vessels and imprison any suspicious persons at the Washington Navy Yard.

Cox’s son contacted nearby Confederate spy Thomas A. Jones, who had experience ferrying operatives across the Potomac undetected. Jones was taken to Booth’s and Herold’s bivouac in the woods, where he offered to help even if it resulted in Federal capture. The assassin, using his flair for the dramatic, declared, “John Wilkes Booth will never be taken alive!” Jones told them it would take a few days to get them across, during which time Cox would keep them fed and hidden. Booth asked for newspapers so he could read the nation’s reaction to his deed.

Booth was shocked to find such a lack of sympathy for him in the press; he thought he would be celebrated for murdering a tyrant. Booth wrote in his journal, “For six months we had worked to capture (Lincoln). But our cause being almost lost, something decisive and great must be done. I struck boldly, and not as the papers say. I can never repent it, though we hated to kill.”

In Washington, hopes were dimming that Booth would be found anytime soon. On the night of the 16th, Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs speculated that those involved had “gone southwest, and will perhaps attempt to escape by water to the Eastern Shore, or to board some vessel waiting for them, or some vessel going to sea.” But if Booth could not be found, Federal authorities would try rounding up those who may have been involved in his scheme.

The next day, investigators led by Major H.W. Smith returned to the home of Mrs. Surratt to arrest her for suspected ties to Booth. Smith later stated that he told the widow, “I come to arrest you and all in your house, and take you for examination… No inquiry whatever was made as to the cause of the arrest.”

As Mrs. Surratt was being interrogated, Lewis Powell came to the house. Being unfamiliar with Washington, it had taken Paine three days to find his way back to Mrs. Surratt’s home after his assassination attempt on Seward. He was carrying a pickaxe and claimed to have been hired to dig a gutter. Mrs. Surratt told one of the investigators, “Before God, sir, I do not know this man, and have never seen him, and I did not hire him to dig a gutter for me.” Paine had no identification except for an oath of allegiance to the U.S. signed by “L. Paine.” He was also detained as a suspect.

Later that day, Seward’s servant positively identified Powell as the man who had rampaged through Seward’s home on the 14th. Meanwhile, Mrs. Surratt admitted that Booth was a friend of her son John, but she claimed to know nothing of the assassination plot. She also maintained that she did not know Paine, which was later proven false. Moreover, she did not divulge that Booth had visited her home on the day of the assassination to arrange for weapons to be ready at her tavern in Surrattsville.

That same day, authorities arrested Edward “Ned” Spangler, who had opened the back door of Ford’s Theatre for Booth after he shot Lincoln. It was alleged that Spangler had Joseph “Peanuts” Burroughs hold a horse for Booth to use for his escape, and Spangler supposedly told a stagehand who watched Booth run off, “Don’t say which way he went.”

Also arrested was Samuel Arnold, who had written a suspicious letter on March 27 that was found in a trunk in Booth’s hotel room. Arnold admitted that he was part of a plot to kidnap Lincoln but contended that he had nothing to do with assassination. He implicated several others in the conspiracy, including Michael O’Laughlen, George Atzerodt, John Surratt, a man known as “Moseby,” and someone else he did not know. O’Laughlen surrendered to authorities in Baltimore.

But Booth remained hidden in the woods along the Potomac.

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References

Balsiger, David and Sellier, Charles Jr., The Lincoln Conspiracy (Buccaneer, 1994), p. 24; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 104-17, 132-39; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 559; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 584-85; Kunhardt, Dorothy and Philip, Jr., Twenty Days (North Hollywood, CA: Newcastle, 1965), p. 178; 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. 677-78; O’Reilly, Bill, Killing Lincoln (Henry Holt & Company, LLC, 2011), p. 215; Pitman, Benn (ed.), The Assassination of President Lincoln and the Trial of the Conspirators (Cincinnati, OH: Moore, Wilstach & Baldwin, 1865), p. vi; Smith, Gene, American Gothic: The Story of America’s Legendary Theatrical Family, Junius, Edwin, and John Wilkes Booth (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), p. 174; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 440-41, 516, 734-35; Steers, Edward, Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (University Press of Kentucky, 2001); Swanson, James, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer (Harper Collins, 2006); 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 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.”

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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

The Nation Reacts to Lincoln’s Death

April 15, 1865 – Northerners mourned the loss of Abraham Lincoln while rumors quickly spread that the assassination attempts had been plotted by a desperate Confederate government.

Almost immediately after John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln and Lewis Paine stabbed William H. Seward, Washington officials accused high-ranking Confederates of orchestrating the attacks. As such, northern sentiment quickly turned from sorrow to rage against the South. Francis Lieber, the political scientist who had developed the codes of ethics that Federal armies were supposed to follow, wrote a frantic letter to Chief of Staff Henry W. Halleck:

“My God! That even this should befall us! It is Slavery, Slavery! Can I do anything? Dispose, my friend, wholly of me, if there be aught I can help to do. The draft ought to go on again, or volunteers be called, to sweep, literally to sweep the South. No coquetting! Drive the fiends from our soil and let Grant be a stern uncompromising man of the sword, and the sword alone, until the masses in the States rise against their own fiends, and hang them or drive them out, and until the masses offer themselves, re-revolutionized, back to the Union, freed from slavery and assassins and secret society… The murder of poor, good Lincoln is no isolated fact. It is all, all one fiendish barbarism.”

Prominent northerners quickly joined Lieber in calling for Federal forces to destroy the South once and for all. In Boston, Reverend W.S. Studley called for hanging Confederates in his Sunday service, adding, “In dealing with traitors, Andrew Johnson’s little finger will be thicker than Abraham Lincoln’s loins. If the old president chastised them with whips, the new president will chastise them with scorpions.”

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

Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton halted southbound passenger trains from Washington, prohibited boats from crossing the Potomac to Virginia, posted guards outside the homes of cabinet members, mobilized the fire brigade, and closed Ford’s Theatre. He also issued a declaration alleging that Jefferson Davis and other high-ranking Confederate officials had sanctioned Lincoln’s assassination.

Stanton authorized Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant to use “adequate force and vigilance” against “the large number of Rebel officers and privates, prisoners of war, and Rebel refugees and deserters that are among us.” Stanton added, “I feel it my duty to ask you to consider yourself specially charged with all matters pertaining to the security and defense of this national capital.”

Grant ordered Major General E.O.C. Ord, commanding Federal occupation forces in Richmond, to arrest Mayor Joseph Mayo and high-ranking Confederate John A. Campbell, who had worked with Lincoln to help bring Virginia back into the Union. Ord balked at the order, writing, “The two citizens I have seen. They are old, nearly helpless, and I think incapable of harm.”

Ord stated that Campbell and Robert Hunter, another Confederate working with Federal authorities, had recently asked him “to send them to Washington to see the President. Would they have done so, if guilty?” Grant answered: “On reflection I will withdraw my dispatch of this date directing the arrest of Campbell, Mayo and others so far as it may be regarded as an order, and leave it in the light of a suggestion, to be executed only so far as you may judge the good of the service demands.”

Lieutenant General Richard Ewell, a corps commander in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and now a prisoner of war at Fort Warren, Massachusetts, spoke for most clear-minded southerners in a letter to Grant:

“You will appreciate, I am sure, the sentiment which prompts me to drop you these lines. Of all the misfortunes which could befall the Southern people, or any Southern man, by far the greatest, in my judgment, would be the prevalence of the idea that they could entertain any other than feelings of unqualified abhorrence and indignation for the assassination of the President of the United States and the attempt to assassinate the Secretary of State. No language can adequately express the shock produced upon myself, in common with all the other general officers confined here with me, by the occurrence of this appalling crime, and by the seeming tendency in the public mind to connect the South and Southern men with it. Need we say that we are not assassins, nor the allies of assassins, be they from the North or from the South, and that coming as we do from most of the states of the South we would be ashamed of our own people were we not assured that they will reprobate this crime.”

Meanwhile, Lincoln was mourned throughout the North. Church bells tolled, and ministers compared the late president to Jesus Christ in their Easter sermons. Even Lincoln’s political opponents acknowledged that his death was a national tragedy. As the nation grieved, officials prepared an elaborate funeral to bid a final farewell to Abraham Lincoln.

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References

Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 475, 478; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 559; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 677-78; 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

Lincoln’s Busy Good Friday

April 14, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln held a cabinet meeting and tended to administrative issues before ending the day with a trip to Ford’s Theatre.

Good Friday opened with Lincoln rising at 7 a.m. He dealt with some paperwork and then met his son Robert for breakfast. Having served on Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant’s staff, Robert shared details about General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House.

Pres. Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

The president then went to his office and received several politicians and petitioners regarding such topics as the western territories, political patronage, and southern property confiscation. When a man requested a pass to go into Virginia, Lincoln wrote, “No pass is necessary now to authorize any one to go to and return from Petersburg and Richmond. People go and return just as they did before the war.”

Lincoln visited the War Department to get the latest telegraphic news regarding the armies. He then returned to the White House for an 11 a.m. cabinet meeting. Secretary of State William H. Seward was still recovering from a carriage accident and did not attend; his son Frederick sat in for him. Grant was scheduled to be there, and the ministers applauded him when he entered the room.

The meeting began with a discussion on how best to lift trade restrictions and resume normal commercial relations in the South. Treasury Secretary Hugh McCulloch recommended firing the treasury agents controlling trade in the southern ports. According to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, Grant “expressed himself very decidedly against them, thought them demoralizing, etc.”

Welles called for a resumption of normal commercial relations along the Atlantic coast. However, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton warned that this might not be feasible because the Federal army was not yet in control of all coastal ports. Grant suggested that regular trade “might embrace all this side of the Mississippi.”

Stanton unveiled a document outlining a punitive military occupation of the former Confederacy. Neither Lincoln nor Grant commented, but all agreed to read the plan so they could discuss it at the next meeting. Lincoln had called for a more conciliatory restoration of the Union, but he did agree with Stanton’s idea that each conquered state should have its own federally-appointed military governor.

Regarding the remaining Confederates, Lincoln said:

“I hope there will be no persecution, no bloody work, after the war is over. No one need expect me to take part in hanging or killing those men, even the worse of them. Frighten them out of the country, open the gates, let down the bars, scare them off. Enough lives have been sacrificed. We must extinguish our resentment if we expect harmony and union. There has been too much of a desire on the part of some of our very good friends to be masters, to interfere with and dictate to those states, to treat the people not as fellow citizens; there is too little respect for their rights. I do not sympathize in these feelings.”

Lincoln appreciated that the newly elected Congress would not assemble until December because it gave him time to start his restoration plan without interference from the Radicals who sought to punish the South. Stanton noted that Lincoln “was more cheerful and happy than I had ever seen him.” He “rejoiced at the near prospect of firm and durable peace at home and abroad, manifested in marked degree the kindness and humanity of his disposition, and the tender and forgiving spirit that so eminently distinguished him.”

The president then announced, “I had this strange dream again last night.” He “seemed to be in some singular, indescribable vessel… moving with great rapidity towards a dark and indefinite shore.” He said this dream had occurred just before every major Federal victory, listing Antietam, Gettysburg, Stones River, Vicksburg, and so on. Grant replied that Stones River was certainly no victory. Some members, including Welles, attributed Grant’s dismissal of Stones River to his disdain for Major General William S. Rosecrans.

Lincoln “looked at Grant curiously and inquiringly” and said they may “differ on that point, and at all events his dream preceded it.” He said that “we shall, judging from the past, have great news very soon. I think it must be from Sherman. My thoughts are in that direction, as are most of yours.” Grant replied that he expected word from Major General William T. Sherman in North Carolina very soon. The cabinet members then asked Grant to share details about Lee’s surrender.

This informal meeting lasted until around 2 p.m. Afterward, Lincoln invited Grant and his wife Julia to go to the theater with him and First Lady Mary Lincoln that night. However, Mrs. Grant had been insulted by Mrs. Lincoln in March, and she sent her husband a note during the meeting urging him to take her to see their children in Burlington, New Jersey, instead. Grant recalled: “Some incident of a trifling nature had made her resolve to leave that evening,” but nevertheless, “I was glad to have the note, as I did not want to go to the theater.”

After the meeting, Lincoln broke away from business long enough to enjoy a carriage ride with the first lady. As they rode, Lincoln told her, “Mary, we have had a hard time of it since we came to Washington; but the war is over, and with God’s blessing we may hope for four years of peace and happiness, and then we will go back to Illinois, and pass the rest of our lives in quiet.”

When the president returned to the White House, he met with fellow Illinoisans Governor Richard J. Oglesby and General Isham Haynie. Lincoln read them excerpts from a book until he was called to dinner. According to Oglesby, “They kept sending for him to come to dinner. He promised each time to go, but would continue reading the book. Finally he got a sort of peremptory order that he must come to dinner at once. It was explained to me by the old man at the door that they were going to have dinner and then go to the theater.”

Lincoln had no particular desire to attend the theater that night, but he said, “It has been advertised that we will be there, and I cannot disappoint the people. Otherwise I would not go. I do not want to go.” Congressman Isaac N. Arnold came to meet with Lincoln just as he was leaving. Lincoln told him, “Excuse me now, I am going to the theater. Come and see me in the morning.”

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References

Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 473-74; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 64-104; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 12616, 12649, 12660-81; 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 20480-90; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 731-37; McFeely, William S., Grant (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1981), p. 222-24; 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 in Virginia: Part 2

April 12, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln rescinded his plan to restore Virginia to the Union after facing heated opposition from his cabinet.

Since visiting Richmond, Lincoln had deliberately refrained from discussing his plans for Virginia with members of his cabinet. But the ministers had an idea of what those plans were anyway because Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana was at City Point, and he informed Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton that Lincoln had conferred with high-ranking Confederate official John A. Campbell.

Finally, Lincoln assembled his cabinet and officially unveiled his plan: Federal authorities would allow the pro-Confederate legislature of Virginia to assemble at Richmond; the legislators would then vote to repudiate secession and return to the Union. Nearly every cabinet member opposed this plan.

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

Stanton led the opposition, declaring “that to place such powers in the Virginia legislature would be giving away the scepter of the conqueror; that it would transfer the result of victory of our arms from the field to the very legislatures which four years before had said, ‘give us war;’ that it would put the Government in the hands of its enemies; that it would surely bring trouble with Congress; (and) that the people would not sustain him.” Stanton argued that “any effort to reorganize the Government should be under Federal authority solely, treating the rebel organizations and government as absolutely null and void.”

Attorney General James Speed and Navy Secretary Gideon Welles also voiced their disapproval. Welles “doubted the policy of convening a Rebel legislature… once convened, they would with their hostile feelings be inclined perhaps, to conspire against us.” Even worse, “the so-called legislature would be likely to propose terms which might seem reasonable, but which we could not accept.” Welles noted that none of the cabinet members thought it wise to risk having the legislators propose reasonable terms for returning to the U.S. just so the administration could reject them.

U.S. Navy Secy Gideon Welles | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Moreover, Welles had “not great faith in negotiating with large bodies of men,” and he reminded Lincoln that Virginia already had a federally-recognized Unionist government led by Francis Pierpont. Lincoln still maintained that if “prominent Virginians” would unite, they would “turn themselves and their neighbors into good Union men.” But after thinking it over, he met with Stanton again the next day.

Stanton repeated his opposition to “allowing the rebel legislature to assemble, or the rebel organizations to have any participation whatever in the business of reorganization.” He warned that allowing former Confederates to govern Virginia would affect “the fate of the emancipated millions” and the legislature, “being once assembled, its deliberations could not be confined to any specific acts.”

Meanwhile, Campbell had written to Major General Godfrey Weitzel, commander of Federal occupation forces in Richmond, about Lincoln’s proposed arrangement. This indicated to Lincoln that Campbell may be helping the legislature exceed its authority. He therefore telegraphed Weitzel from the War Department: “Do not now allow them to assemble; but if any have come, allow them safe-return to their homes.”

Lincoln used legal language to assert that Campbell had wrongly assumed Lincoln had allowed the Virginia legislature to assemble in the first place: “I have done no such thing. I spoke of them not as a Legislature, but as ‘the gentlemen who acted as the Legislature of Virginia in support of the rebellion,’ having power de facto to do a specific thing.”

Thus, Lincoln revoked the order for the legislature to assemble despite his earlier promise to Campbell. Lincoln reasoned that he had encouraged the legislature to assemble primarily to help disperse Confederate forces in Virginia. But because Robert E. Lee had surrendered since Lincoln first suggested it, assembling the legislature was no longer so important. And since he acknowledged that he may have made a mistake, Lincoln felt no need to keep his promise. Stanton agreed that “was exactly right.”

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References

Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 12583-605; 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 20255-85; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 729-30; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 673-75; McFeely, William S., Grant (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1981), p. 222; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 851

The Fall of Petersburg: Part 2

April 3, 1865 – As Federal troops continued pouring into Petersburg, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant made plans to capture General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army.

The fall of both Petersburg and Richmond were imminent by the morning of the 3rd. But Grant, the overall Federal commander, knew that nothing would be won until Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was destroyed. He therefore ordered another artillery bombardment to begin at 5 a.m., followed by another infantry advance to clear out any remaining Confederates in the siege lines outside Petersburg.

The renewed drive proved unnecessary when Federal troops from IX Corps overran the lines, entered Petersburg early on the 3rd, and discovered that the Confederates had retreated across the Appomattox River. Grant rode into Petersburg around 9 a.m. and was greeted by cheering soldiers, blaring bands, and black residents. Most white residents stayed in their homes.

Lt Gen U.S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Soldiers and civilians were not impressed with Petersburg, mainly because it had been under siege for 10 months and had little to offer anyone in the way of food or comfort. Grant set up temporary headquarters at the home of Thomas Wallace on 21 Market Street. An officer noted that Grant stood in a doorway, “as if the work before him was a mere matter of business in which he felt no particular enthusiasm or care.” He had already begun planning his westward hunt for Lee’s army.

Meanwhile, President Abraham Lincoln at City Point received reports of Petersburg’s fall and accepted an invitation to meet Grant in the captured city. Lincoln telegraphed Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton in Washington at 8 a.m.: “Grant reports Petersburg evacuated, and he is confident Richmond also is. He is pushing forward to cut off, if possible, the retreating army. I start to join him in a few minutes.”

Lincoln took a train to the Petersburg outskirts with his son Tad, a White House guard, and Rear Admiral David D. Porter. Lincoln’s older son Robert, serving on Grant’s staff, met his father’s party with horses, and they all rode up Market Street to meet with Grant on the porch of the Wallace house.

Pres. Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Lincoln and Grant shook hands, and the president said, “Do you know, General, that I have had a sort of sneaking idea for some days that you intended to do something like this?” Grant said, “I had a feeling that it would be better to let Lee’s old antagonists give his army the final blow and finish up the job. I have always felt confident that our troops here were amply able to handle Lee.” As Grant later wrote:

“I told him (Lincoln) that I had been very anxious to have the Eastern armies vanquish their old enemy who had so long resisted all their repeated and gallant attempts to subdue them or drive them from their capital… I said to him that if the Western armies should be even upon the field, operating against Richmond and Lee, the credit would be given to them for the capture, by politicians and non-combatants from the section of country which those troops hailed from. It might lead to disagreeable bickerings between members of Congress of the East and those of the West in some of their debates… Mr. Lincoln said he saw that now, but had never thought of it before, because his anxiety was so great that he did not care where the aid came from so the work was done.”

The men conferred on the porch for over an hour, during which time slaves gathered to watch them. Grant hoped to receive word that Richmond had fallen before he had to leave, but no news came. There would be no celebrating; Grant set out to organize the pursuit that he hoped would result in the end of the war. He guessed that Lee would head for the junction of the Richmond & Danville and South Side railroads at Burkeville, 40 miles southwest of Richmond.

Grant, whose westernmost Federals were closer to Burkeville than any of Lee’s Confederates, wanted to assemble his forces at that town and block Lee from any further westward escape. He rode out to direct the movement and stopped at Sutherland Station, west of Petersburg, which was held by Major General John Gibbon’s XXIV Corps from the Army of the James. Grant received a message: “Weitzel entered Richmond this morning at half past eight.” Gibbon’s men cheered wildly upon hearing the news, while Grant quickly put together a plan of pursuit:

  • Major General Philip Sheridan’s cavalry corps and Major General Charles Griffin’s V Corps from the Army of the Potomac would lead the pursuit by heading due west to Burkeville with all possible speed.
  • Major General George G. Meade, commanding the Army of the Potomac, would move west behind Sheridan and Griffin with II and VI corps, led by Major Generals Andrew A. Humphreys and Horatio G. Wright respectively.
  • Gibbon’s corps would move west along the South Side Railroad behind Meade.
  • Major General John G. Parke’s IX Corps from the Army of the Potomac would bring up the rear, guarding the railroad as it went.

Grant notified Sherman of the plan and warned that if Lee got to Burkeville first, “you will have to take care of him with the force you have for a while.” But if Grant got there first, “there will be no special use in you going any farther into the interior. This army has now won a most decisive victory and followed the enemy. This is all it ever wanted to make it as good an army as ever fought a battle.”

Meanwhile, Lincoln reviewed passing troops in Petersburg before returning to City Point. A dispatch from Stanton awaited:

“Allow me to respectfully ask you to consider whether you ought to expose the nation to the consequences of any disaster to yourself in the pursuit of a treacherous and dangerous enemy like the rebel army. If it was a question concerning yourself only I should not presume to say a word. Commanding Generals are in the line of duty running such risks. But is the political head of a nation in the same condition?”

Lincoln replied, “Yours received. Thanks for your caution, but I have already been to Petersburg, staid with Gen. Grant an hour & a half, and returned here. It is certain now that Richmond is in our hands, and I think I will go there tomorrow. I will take care of myself.” Lincoln told Porter, “Thank God I have lived to see this. It seems to me that I have been dreaming a horrid dream for four years, and now the nightmare is gone. I want to see Richmond.”

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References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 526-28; Catton, Bruce, The Army of the Potomac: A Stillness at Appomattox (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1953), p. 364; Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 448-50; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 554; 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 18766-95, 18785-805; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 715-16; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 539-42; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 108-09; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 665-66; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 846; Sommers, Richard J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 177; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 365-68

The Fall of Richmond: Part 2

April 3, 1865 – Federal troops entered the Confederate capital, having captured Richmond after four long, hard years of brutal warfare.

Richmond in ruins | Image Credit: familysearch.org

On the morning of the 3rd, Richmond was still engulfed in the flames that had been sparked the night before. The fires that burned through the city proved more destructive than those that ruined Atlanta or Columbia. According to Sallie A. Brock:

“As the sun rose on Richmond, such a spectacle was presented as can never be forgotten by those who witnessed it. To speed destruction, some malicious and foolish individuals had cut the hose in the city. The fire was progressing with fearful rapidity. The roaring, the hissing, and the crackling of the flames were heard above the shouting and confusion of the immense crowd of plunderers who were moving amid the dense smoke like demons, pushing, rioting and swaying with their burdens to make a passage to the open air…”

Near dawn, the last Confederate troops left Richmond via the Mayo Bridge. After the last man crossed, the bridge was destroyed.

Federal forces in the trench lines east of Richmond cautiously advanced and found the Confederate works, including vital Fort Gilmer, abandoned. Major General Godfrey Weitzel, commanding XXV Corps of the Army of the James, sent in a cavalry detachment under Major Atherton H. Stevens, Jr. of Massachusetts. A Richmond resident wrote, “A single blue jacket rose over the hill,” and then others, “as if rising out of the earth.”

Joseph Mayo, the 80-year-old Richmond mayor, rode out in a carriage to meet the Federal troopers around 7 a.m. Mayo handed them a message bearing the seal of the city:

“To the General Commanding the United States Army in front of Richmond… I respectfully request that you will take possession of (Richmond) with an organizing force, to preserve order and protect women and children and property. Respectfully, Joseph Mayo, Mayor.”

An hour later, Stevens raised a U.S. flag over the former Confederate State House. Weitzel soon arrived and received Richmond’s formal surrender at City Hall. He wired Washington: “We entered Richmond at 8 o’clock this morning.” A female resident later recalled:

“Exactly at eight o’clock the Confederate flag that fluttered above the Capitol came down and the Stars and Stripes were run up. We knew what that meant! The song  ‘On to Richmond!’ was ended–Richmond was in the hands of the Federals. We covered our faces and cried aloud. All through the house was the sound of sobbing. It was as the house of mourning, the house of death… The saddest moment of my life was when I saw that Southern Cross dragged down and the Stars and Stripes run up above the Capitol. I am glad the Stars and Stripes are waving there now. But I am true to my old flag too, and as I tell this my heart turns sick with the supreme anguish of the moment when I saw it torn down from the height where valor had kept it waving for so long and at such cost.”

A woman watched the U.S. flag go up the pole and later wrote, “My heart sickens with indignation to think that we ever should have loved that flag.” As Federal bands played “Yankee Doodle” and the “Star-Spangled Banner,” residents hid in their homes and a woman wrote, “We tried to comfort ourselves by saying in low tones… that the capital was only moved temporarily… that General Lee would make a stand and repulse the daring enemy, and that we would win the battle and the day. Alas, alas, for our hopes.”

The Federals were followed by northern newspaper correspondents. One from the New York Times wrote, “Richmond is indeed most beautiful–in spite of the hideous ruins… left behind. It is a magnificent capital, both old world and new… built like a miniature Rome, upon a number of little hills.” The New York World reporter wrote:

“There is a stillness, in the midst of which Richmond, with her ruins, her spectral roofs… and her unchanging spires, rests beneath a ghastly, fitful glare… We are under the shadows of ruins. From the pavements where we walk… stretches a vista of devastation… The wreck, the loneliness, seem interminable… There is no sound of life, but the stillness of the catacombs, only as our footsteps fall dull on the deserted sidewalk, and a funeral troop of echoes bump… against the dead walls and closed shutters to reply, and this is Richmond. Says a melancholy voice: ‘And this is Richmond.’”

The incoming Federal force included nearly all the black troops serving in the Armies of the Potomac and the James. Ecstatic black residents cheered their arrival, while most whites stayed indoors. Resident Mary Fontaine wrote:

“Then the Infantry came playing ‘The Girl I left behind me,’ that dear old air that we heard our brave men so often play; then the negro troops playing ‘Dixie,’ and they certainly were the blackest creatures I ever saw. I am almost inclined to the belief that they were a direct importation from Africa. Then our Richmond servants were completely crazed, they danced and shouted, men hugged each other, and women kissed, and such a scene of confusion you have never seen. Imagine the streets crowded with these wild people, and troops by the thousands, some loaded with plunder from the burning stores, whole rolls of cloth, bags of corn, etc., chairs, one old woman was rolling a great sofa; dozens of bands trying to drown each other it seemed; gorgeously dressed officers galloping furiously about, men shouting and swearing as I never heard men do before; the fire creeping steadily nearer to us, until houses next to us caught and we prepared to leave; and above all, inconceivably terrible, the 800,000 shells exploding at the laboratory. I say imagine, but you cannot; no one who was not here will ever fully appreciate the horrors of that day.”

The Federals were quickly put to work forcing the remaining residents to help extinguish the fires and restore order to the decimated city. Weitzel later wrote:

“When we entered Richmond we found ourselves in a perfect pandemonium. Fires and explosions in all directions, whites and blacks either drunk or in the highest state of excitement, running to and fro on the streets, apparently engaged in pillage, or in saving some of their scanty effects from the fire. It was a yelling, howling mob… When the mob saw my staff and myself, they rushed around us, hugged and kissed our legs and horses, shouting ‘Hallelujah!’ and ‘Glory!’”

Chester Morris, the first black correspondent for a major U.S. newspaper (the Philadelphia Press), sat at a desk in the Confederate Capitol and wrote out his account of the scene: “Richmond has never before presented such a spectacle of jubilee. What a wonderful change has come over the spirit of Southern dreams.” But some Richmonders remained defiant, as reflected in one of the last editorials in the Richmond Whig: “It is ultimately impossible for the people of the South to embrace the Yankees. Even to recognize them as fellow creatures. An acre of blood separates (us)…”

News of Richmond’s fall reached Washington near noon. Northern newspapers hurried to print special editions, government officials poured out of their offices, and massive celebrations spread throughout the North. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ordered a 300-gun salute to commemorate the capture of Petersburg and another 500 guns for Richmond. After four years of terrible warfare, the prized Confederate capital had finally fallen.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 214-15; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 576; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 54-55; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 554; 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 18636-46, 18666-76, 18883-903; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 576-77; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 716-17 ;Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 108-10, 164-71; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 138; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 665-66; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 846; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 369; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 630-32; Winik, Jay, April 1865: The Month That Saved America (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), p. 111-15

Grant’s Spring Offensive Takes Shape

March 6, 1865 – Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, the overall Federal commander, continued preparing to launch the spring offensive, which looked promising considering the growing number of Confederate desertions.

Lt Gen U.S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The Federal Armies of the Potomac and the James had held General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under partial siege at Richmond and Petersburg since last summer. Grant hurried to mobilize these armies and destroy Lee before he could escape to the southwest and join forces with General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederates in North Carolina.

Grant also planned to launch offensives in other theaters of operations to prevent Lee from being reinforced. In North Carolina, separate Federal armies were joining forces to keep Johnston away from Virginia. Major General E.R.S. Canby and Brigadier General James H. Wilson were moving into Alabama to seize the important factory town of Selma and the port city of Mobile. And Major General George Stoneman was leading a cavalry force into eastern Tennessee.

Grant also needed help from the navy to protect his supply base at City Point, on the James River. Grant sent a message to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles on the 4th: “The James River is very high, and will continue so as long as the weather of the past week lasts. It would be well to have at once all the ironclads that is intended should come here.”

Welles quickly responded by directing Captain Oliver S. Glisson at Hampton Roads to bring ironclads up from Wilmington. Glisson responded early on the 5th: “Your telegram was received at 15 minutes after midnight; blowing a gale of wind at the time, U.S.S. Aries sailed at daylight this morning. The monitors are expected every moment from Cape Fear, and I shall send them up the river immediately.” Rear Admiral John A.B. Dahlgren, commanding the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, was notified to send two ironclads from his command north to City Point as well.

Another part of Grant’s preparation was to bring Major General Philip Sheridan’s Army of the Shenandoah, fresh off their resounding victory at Waynesboro, back to the Federal armies outside Richmond and Petersburg. With the Shenandoah Valley now firmly in Federal hands, Sheridan marched unopposed and arrived at Charlottesville on the 3rd.

Grant had urged Sheridan to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad, which was one of Lee’s main supply lines. The Federals spent two days finally getting this done before heading south toward the James River. Sheridan planned to wreck the James River Canal and then move east to join the spring offensive.

Sheridan’s Federals moved through Goochland Court House, Beaver Dam Station, and Hanover Court House on their way back east. Sheridan reached White House, on the Pamunkey River, on the 19th. Grant arranged for him to pick up fresh horses and supplies, and he wrote to Sheridan that once his force was ready, “Start for this place as soon as you conveniently can.”

Grant explained that he planned to move on Lee’s southwestern flank with 50,000 troops, and Sheridan’s men were needed to destroy the South Side and Danville railroads. Once that was done, Sheridan was to “then either return to this army or go on to Sherman (in North Carolina), as you may deem most practicable.” Whichever option Sheridan chose, “I care but little about, the principal thing being the destruction of the only two roads left to the enemy at Richmond.”

The next day, Grant sent Sheridan a more urgent message:

“I do not wish to hurry you. There is now such a possibility, if not probability, of Lee and Johnston attempting to unite that I feel extremely desirous not only of cutting the lines of communication between them, but of having a large and properly commanded cavalry force ready to act with in case such an attempt is made… I think that by Saturday next you had better start, even if you have to stop here to finish shoeing up.”

Grant also reported on the progress of the other offensives starting this month:

“Stoneman started yesterday from Knoxville with a cavalry force of probably 5,000 men to penetrate southwest Virginia as far toward Lynchburg as possible.… Wilson started at the same time from Eastport toward Selma with a splendidly equipped cavalry force of 12,000 men. Canby is in motion, and I have reason to believe that Sherman and Schofield have formed a junction at Goldsboro.”

Sheridan later wrote:

“The hardships of this march far exceeded those of any previous campaigns by the cavalry. Almost incessant rains had drenched us for sixteen days and nights, and the swollen streams and well nigh bottomless roads east of Staunton presented grave difficulties on every hand, but surmounting them all, we destroyed the enemy’s means of subsistence, in quantities beyond computation, and permanently crippled the Virginia Central railroad, as well as the James River canal, and as each day brought us nearer the Army of the Potomac, all were filled with the comforting reflection that our work in the Shenandoah Valley had been thoroughly done, and every one was buoyed up by the cheering thought that we should soon take part in the final struggle of the war.”

Meanwhile, to further hamper the Confederate war effort, the Federal high command encouraged enemy desertions by offering to pay deserters for bringing their rifles into Federal lines. Grant had asked Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton for permission to enact this program, and Stanton replied, “There is no objection to your paying rebel deserters for their arms, horses, or anything they bring in, a full and fair price. That kind of trade will not injure the service.”

Major General E.O.C. Ord, commanding the Army of the James around Bermuda Hundred, wrote how his troops promoted the program: “On the Bermuda front the order promising pay for arms and horses has been circulated with kites, bows and arrows, and newspapers.” One of Ord’s corps commanders, Major General John Gibbon, asked Ord to “send me more of General Grant’s orders and a man who understands your mode of fixing them to a kite.”

Grant wrote to Stanton on the 19th, “Will you please direct the Ordnance Department to send money here at once to pay for arms brought in by deserters. A great many are coming in now, bringing their arms with them.” Three days later, Chief Ordnance Officer F.H. Parker issued a directive: “It is arranged that you are to pay for arms brought in by deserters. They will be forwarded with their arms or with receipts from the provost-marshal here. Pay them at the rate of $8 per arm…”

Desertions in the Army of Northern Virginia totaled 2,934 between February 15 and March 18, or nearly 10 percent of Lee’s whole army. Some deserted for the money, but most left to ease the suffering of loved ones at home. Major General George G. Meade, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, wrote to Grant, “Twenty-two deserters yesterday; twenty are reported this morning. The whole Confederate army appear to have had two days’ cooked rations and told to be on the alert; I think due more to an expected attack from us than any projected movement on their part.”

Meanwhile, Grant continued planning his offensive, which would start as soon as the Virginia roads were dried enough for his men, horses, and guns.

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References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 517; Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 427, 429; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 542, 546-48; 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 17835-65; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 561, 563-67; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 8134; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 646-47, 654-55

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.

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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

Lee Proposes a Military Convention

March 2, 1865 – Confederate General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee proposed to meet with Federal General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant to discuss the possibility of “a satisfactory adjustment of the present unhappy difficulties by means of a military convention…”

Lt Gen U.S. Grant and Gen R.E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

In late February, Lieutenant General James Longstreet, commander of Lee’s First Corps in the Army of Northern Virginia, met between the lines with Major General E.O.C. Ord, commanding Grant’s Army of the James. Longstreet and Ord were meeting ostensibly to discuss the illicit trading that was going on between the lines. Having been friends before the war, other topics were brought up, among them the subject of peace. The two men agreed that since the political leaders had failed to reach a peace agreement, maybe the military leaders could negotiate a settlement. According to Longstreet:

“(Ord) thought the war had gone on long enough; that we should come together as former comrades and friends and talk a little. He suggested that the work as belligerents should be suspended; that General Grant and General Lee should meet and have a talk; that my wife, who was an old acquaintance and friend of Mrs. Grant in their girlhood days, should go into the Union lines and visit Mrs. Grant with as many Confederate officers as might choose to be with her. Then Mrs. Grant would return the call under escort of Union officers and visit Richmond; that while General Lee and General Grant were arranging for better feeling between the armies, they could be aided by intercourse between the ladies and officers until terms honorable to both sides could be found.”

Longstreet presented this idea to Lee, who forwarded it to President Jefferson Davis. Lee warned Davis that Grant “will consent to no terms unless coupled with the condition of our return to the Union. Whether this will be acceptable to our people yet awhile I cannot say.” Davis had consistently refused any peace agreement that meant reunion, but with the Army of Northern Virginia on the brink of collapse, Davis wrote:

“If you think the statements of General Ord render it probably useful that the Conference suggested should be had, you will proceed as you may prefer, and are clothed with all the supplemental authority you may need in the consideration of any proposition for a Military Convention, or the appointment of a Commissioner to enter into such an arrangement as will cause at least temporary suspension of hostilities.”

Lee wrote to Grant on the 2nd:

“Lieut. Gen. Longstreet has informed me that, in a recent conversation between himself and Maj. Gen. Ord, as to the possibility of arriving at a satisfactory adjustment of the present unhappy difficulties by means of a Military Convention, General Ord stated that if I desired to have an interview with you on the subject, you would not decline, provided I had authority to act.

“Sincerely desirous to leave nothing untried which may put an end to the calamities of War, I propose to meet you at such convenient time and place as you may designate, with the hope that, upon an interchange of view, it may be found practicable to submit the subjects of controversy between the belligerents to a Convention of the kind mentioned. In such event I am authorized to do whatever the result of the proposed interview may render necessary or advisable. Should you accede to the proposition I would suggest that, if agreeable to you, we meet at the place selected by Generals Ord and Longstreet for their interview at 11 a.m. on Monday next (the 6th).”

Grant received Lee’s letter during dinner on the night of the 3rd. He read it and then forwarded it to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton with a covering note: “I have not returned any reply but promised to do so at noon tomorrow. I respectfully request instructions.”

Stanton brought the messages to President Abraham Lincoln, who was at the Capitol signing bills into law before Congress adjourned. Lincoln and Stanton concluded that allowing a military convention to take place would not only undermine the terms Lincoln had given for peace at Hampton Roads, but it would indirectly recognize the Confederacy as an independent nation. Thus, Stanton responded:

“The President directs me to say to you that he wishes you to have no conference with General Lee unless it be for the capitulation of Gen. Lee’s army, or on some minor and purely military matter. He instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss, or confer upon any political question. Such questions the President holds in his own hands; and will submit them to no military conferences or conventions. Meantime you are to press to the utmost your military advantages.”

Grant then responded to Lee:

“In regard to meeting you on the 6th instant, I would state that I have no authority to accede to your proposition for a conference on the subject proposed. Such authority is vested in the President of the United States alone. General Ord could only have meant that I would not refuse an interview on any subject on which I have a right to act, which, of course, would be such as are purely of a military character, and on the subject of exchanges which has been intrusted to me.”

Thus, neither political nor military leaders would negotiate an end to the war. The end would only come on the battlefield.

—–

References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 500-01; Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 423-24; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 541; 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 16923-53; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 560-61; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 8191; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 26-27; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 645-47