Tag Archives: George G. Meade

The Triumphant Grand Review

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

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

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

Sherman’s troops camped at Alexandria, while the troops under Major General George G. Meade camped at Washington and Georgetown. On the morning of the 23rd, the White House flag flew at full mast for the first time since Abraham Lincoln’s death, though the Capitol was still draped in black to mourn Lincoln and all those who died in the war. A reviewing stand was erected on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House, where President Andrew Johnson sat with Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, Chief of Staff Henry W. Halleck, and Stanton. Troops from the Veteran Reserve Corps guarded the stand.

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

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

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

According to the New York Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The war was over.

—–

References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 225; Castel, Albert, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 319; Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 490-91; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 570-71; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 21385-405, 21434-54; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 592-93; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 579-80; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 689-90; McFeely, William S., Grant (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1981), p. 230-31; Murphy, Richard W., The Nation Reunited: War’s Aftermath (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 8-15; Sherman, William T., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman, Vol. I (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1889, Kindle Edition), Loc 12727-821; Sommers, Richard J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 598; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 393; Welles, Gideon, Diary of Gideon Welles Volumes I & II (Kindle Edition. Abridged, Annotated) Loc 12122

The Army of Northern Virginia Surrenders

April 10, 1865 – Confederate General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee issued a farewell to his Army of Northern Virginia as both sides prepared for a formal surrender ceremony.

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

On the night of the 9th, a message arrived at the War Department in Washington from Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, the overall Federal commander:

“Gen. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Va this afternoon on terms proposed by myself. The accompanying additional correspondence will show the conditions fully.”

It was generally understood that the surrender of the Confederacy’s largest army meant that the end of the war was near. As the news spread, celebrations in Washington that had begun with the fall of Richmond quickly exploded into joyous pandemonium. Decorative gaslights at the U.S. Capitol blazed the message: “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.” Flames from gas jets at the Patent Office spelled “UNION.” Lights burned in almost every window in celebration.

But back at Appomattox Court House, much work needed to be done. A committee made up of Federal and Confederate officers discussed the details of the surrender ceremony, which was to take place on the 12th. Then, on the 10th, the parole process began and Lee requested final reports from his corps commanders on operations from March 29th up to the surrender. Lee would use this material for his final report to President Jefferson Davis.

Confederate Gen R.E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Lee asked his aide, Colonel Charles Marshall, to draft a farewell address to the army and submit it to him by 10 a.m. When Lee learned that Marshall had been unable to meet the deadline, he ordered his aide to go into an ambulance and not return until it was done. A courier then reported that Grant wanted to meet with the Confederate commander once more. Lee accepted.

Meeting on a hill overlooking Appomattox Court House, Grant asked Lee if he would use his influence to persuade the remaining Confederate commanders in the field to surrender their armies. Lee acknowledged that further resistance would be futile, but he felt that urging a wholesale surrender might infringe on President Jefferson Davis’s powers as commander-in-chief. Brigadier General E. Porter Alexander, Confederate artillery chief, later wrote, “I think there is no doubt that Mr. Davis would have considered it a great intrusion.”

Grant then asked Lee if he would be willing to go to Washington and meet with President Abraham Lincoln, but Lee did not think that would be proper. He did express opposition to “extremists on both sides,” and he assured Grant that he would devote his “whole efforts to pacifying the country and bringing the people back to the Union.” Grant was satisfied with Lee’s sincerity.

As Grant and Lee continued their discussion, Lee granted permission to Major General Philip Sheridan and other Federal officers to go into the Confederate camps to look for old friends. The Federals soon returned with Confederate Generals James Longstreet, John B. Gordon, and Henry Heth, all of whom paid their respects to Grant.

Meanwhile, other Federals and Confederates visited with each other at the McLean house in Appomattox. Grant later joined in and “spent an hour pleasantly” with Confederates who had been friends and West Point classmates before the war. The men mingled “very much as if all thought of the war had escaped their minds.”

Later that day, Major General George G. Meade, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, met with his old friend General Lee. Meade’s aide Colonel Theodore Lyman recalled that Lee “gazed vacantly when Meade saluted him. But he recovered himself and said ‘What are you doing with all that gray in your beard?’ ‘That you have a good deal to do with!’ said our General promptly.”

Lee returned to his headquarters, where Marshall had finished the farewell address. Lee issued it as his last order, General Order No. 9:

“After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.

“I need not tell the brave survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them; but feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest. I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.

“By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed; and I earnestly pray that a Merciful God will extend to you His blessing and protection.

“With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your Country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.”

Lee spent most of the 11th gathering the reports from his corps commanders and preparing his own report for Davis. It began, “It is with pain that I announce to Your Excellency the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.” Lee cited the failure of rations to reach the army at Amelia Court House as one of the chief causes of the surrender: “This delay was fatal, and could not be retrieved.”

He also explained that the defeat at Sayler’s Creek was because “General Anderson, commanding Pickett’s and B.R. Johnson’s divisions, became disconnected with Mahone’s division, forming the rear of Longstreet.” Lee then detailed exactly what led to his final decision to surrender:

“I deemed this course the best under all the circumstances by which we were surrounded. On the morning of the 9th, according to the reports of the ordnance officers, there were 7892 organized infantry with arms, with an average of 75 rounds of ammunition per man. The artillery, though reduced to sixty-three pieces, with ninety-three rounds of ammunition, was sufficient. These comprised all the supplies of ordnance that could be relied on in the State of Virginia. I have no accurate report of the cavalry, but believe it did not exceed 2100 effective men. The enemy was more than five times our numbers. If we could have forced our way one day longer, it would have been at a great sacrifice of life, and at its end I did not see how a surrender could have been avoided. We had no subsistence for man or horse, and it could not be gathered in the country. The supplies ordered to Pamplin’s Station from Lynchburg could not reach us, and the men, deprived of food and sleep for many days, were worn out and exhausted.”

Lee then bade farewell to his staff and signed his pledge not to take up arms against the United States again. He would not break camp until the surrender ceremony was over, but he would not participate. Neither would Grant, who had already gone back to the Federal supply base at City Point. He planned to slash Federal army expenses now that the largest enemy army had surrendered.

Gen. J.L. Chamberlain | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

The official surrender took place on the 12th. Federal troops lined both sides of the main road to Appomattox Court House and awaited the Confederates, who were required to come forward, stack their arms, and fold their flags. Brevet Major General Joshua L. Chamberlain, the former Maine professor who had been wounded twice and became the hero of Little Round Top at Gettysburg, presided over the ceremony. He recalled, “Grant wished the ceremony to be as simple as possible, and that nothing should be done to humiliate the manhood of the Southern soldiers.”

At 9 a.m., the Confederates formed ranks and marched down the street, with Major General John B. Gordon’s corps in the lead. The Stonewall Brigade headed the corps; this legendary outfit now consisted of just 210 men in five regiments. The small number of men contrasted with the large number of battle flags, prompting Chamberlain to note that “the whole column seemed crowned with red.”

Gordon led the men with “his chin drooped to his breast, downhearted and dejected in appearance.” Chamberlain suddenly ordered the Federals to carry arms, thus saluting Confederate honor. Gordon later wrote:

“One of the knightliest soldiers of the Federal army, General Joshua L. Chamberlain of Maine, who afterward served with distinction as governor of his State, called his troops into line, and as my men marched in front of them, the veterans in blue gave a soldierly salute to those vanquished heroes–a token of respect from Americans to Americans, a final and fitting tribute from Northern to Southern chivalry.”

According to Chamberlain:

“Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of the manual,–honor answering honor. On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!”

Thus, the two armies ended four years of terrible warfare with “honor answering honor” for a “mutual salutation and farewell.” And the legendary Army of Northern Virginia was no more.

—–

References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 555-57; Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 470, 472; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 557; 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 18903-23, 20037-67, 20077-87; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 583; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 8986-97, 9021-33; Kennedy, Frances H. (ed.), The Civil War Battlefield Guide (William C. Davis, The Conservation Fund, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990), p. 284-86; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 133-60; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 670-75; McFeely, William S., Grant: A Biography (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1981), p. 220-21; 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. 849-50; Thomas, Emory M., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 432, 735-36; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 538, 598-99

Lee Surrenders to Grant

April 9, 1865 – Federal Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant received the surrender of Confederate General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee and the last of his Army of Northern Virginia.

Lee waited for Grant in the parlor of Wilmer McLean, in the village of Appomattox Court House. With Lee was his aide Colonel Charles Marshall and Grant’s aide Colonel Orville Babcock. Lee was impeccably dressed in a new full-dress uniform, scarlet sash, and sword with a jewel-studded hilt.

Grant rode into the village a half hour later with several officers, including Major Generals Philip Sheridan (cavalry commander) and E.O.C. Ord (Army of the James commander), and Brigadier General George A. Custer. Grant’s aide-de-camp, Colonel Eli Parker, rode with him as well. They all stopped outside the McLean house and waited outside while Grant went in.

Grant wore a basic, muddy uniform and no sword; his baggage had not caught up with him yet. Grant later wrote, “In my rough travelling suit, the uniform of a private with the straps of lieutenant-general, I must have contrasted very strangely with a man so handsomely dressed, six feet high and of faultless form.” Lee rose to shake hands with the five-foot-eight Federal commander, and the men engaged in some small talk. Babcock soon appeared in the front doorway and called on the Federal officers waiting outside to come in. They quickly filled the McLean parlor to witness the event.

Grant told Lee, “I met you once before, General Lee, while we were serving in Mexico, when you came over from General Scott’s headquarters to visit Garland’s brigade, to which I then belonged. I have always remembered your appearance, and I think I should have recognized you anywhere.” Lee replied, “Yes, I know I met you on that occasion, and I have often thought of it, and tried to recollect how you looked, but I have never been able to recall a single feature.”

According to Grant:

“Our conversation grew so pleasant that I almost forgot the object of our meeting. After the conversation had run on in this style for some time, General Lee called my attention to the object of our meeting, and said that he had asked for this interview for the purpose of getting from me the terms I proposed to give his army.”

Grant explained that the terms would remain as they were in his letter from the previous day: Confederate officers and men in the Army of Northern Virginia would lay down their arms and be allowed to return to their homes, and they would be disqualified from taking up arms against the United States again until properly exchanged. Lee then suggested that the terms be put in writing, and Grant agreed. While Lee sat at his table, Parker brought up a second table for Grant to use. Grant opened his order book and wrote:

“In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th inst., I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of N. Va. on the following terms, to wit:

“Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate. One copy to be given to an officer designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged, and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officer appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.”

Lee Surrenders to Grant | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Grant exceeded his authority with the last sentence, which guaranteed that the Confederates would not be punished for rebelling against the Federal government. Nevertheless, the book was passed to Lee, who laid it on the table, polished his spectacles, put them on, and read it. Scanning the second page, Lee said, “After the words ‘until properly’ the word ‘exchanged’ seems to be omitted. You doubtless intended to use that word.”

Grant said, “Why, yes. I thought I had put in the word ‘exchanged.’” Lee replied, “I presumed it had been omitted inadvertently, and, with your permission, I will mark where it should be inserted.” Grant said, “Certainly.” Marshall gave Lee his pencil, and Lee twirled it in his fingers and tapped it on the table as he finished reading. He noted the section allowing officers to keep their horses and side arms and said, “This will have a very happy effect upon my army.”

Lee then said, “General, our cavalrymen furnish their own horses; they are not Government horses, some of them may be, but of course you will find them out–any property that is public property, you will ascertain that, but it is nearly all private property, and these men will want to plough ground and plant corn.” Grant told Lee that the terms did not allow for the rank and file to keep their horses, and Lee replied that this was clear.

Then Grant reconsidered. He said that he hoped this would be the final battle of the war, and presuming that most of the Confederates were small farmers, they would be allowed to keep their horses as well. Lee repeated that such an allowance would have a happy effect on the men. Lee wrote a reply to Grant’s written terms:

“I received your letter of this date containing the terms of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia as proposed by you. As they are substantially the same as those expressed in your letter of the 8th inst., they are accepted. I will proceed to designate the proper officers to carry the stipulations into effect.”

At around 3:45 p.m., this letter was placed in an envelope and sealed. Grant took the envelope and handed it to Parker without reading it; he said that Lee’s word was sufficient for the surrender to take effect. Parker wrote out copies of Grant’s surrender order, and Grant introduced Lee to all the Federal officers in the parlor. When Lee came to Parker (who was a Seneca Indian), he said, “I am glad to see one real American here.” Parker replied, “We are all Americans.”

Grant asked Sheridan if his troopers had any rations they could share with the remaining Confederates, many of whom were nearly starved to death. Sheridan said that he had some from the Confederate trains his men had captured the previous day. Grant asked Lee if 25,000 rations would be enough, and Lee replied, “Plenty, plenty; an abundance.”

Lee left the McLean house, accompanied by Babcock and Marshall. The general stood on the porch steps and silently pounded his right fist into his left palm as he waited for his orderly to bring up his horse. As Lee mounted the horse, Grant emerged from the McLean house and raised his hat in salute. All Federal officers present did the same. Lee returned the salute and rode off slowly.

As Lee returned to his surrendered army, weeping troops swarmed him and urged him to carry on the fight. Lee told them, “I have done for you all that it was in my power to do. You have done all your duty. Leave the result to God. Go to your homes and resume your occupations. Obey the laws and become as good citizens as you were soldiers.”

Grant left the house next, accompanied by Colonel Horace Porter. When Porter asked if Grant would notify Washington, Grant admitted that he had forgotten about that. He stopped at the roadside and scribbled a hasty message for the telegraph.

An officer present later recalled that after Grant and Lee left the McLean house, “Relic-hunters, charged down upon the manor house and began to bargain for the numerous pieces of furniture.” Some men tried to pay McLean, but he refused. The men took the furniture anyway.

Meanwhile, word quickly spread among the Federals that Lee had surrendered. The men shouted, cheered, and fired their weapons in celebration. When gunners started firing their cannon in salute, Grant ordered them to stop. He told them, “The war is over. The Rebels are our countrymen again, and the best sign of rejoicing after the victory will be to abstain from all demonstrations.” He later wrote:

“What General Lee’s feelings were I do not know… but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.”

Grant’s order did not reach the troops outside Appomattox Court House, and they staged wild celebrations. Major General George G. Meade, commanding the Army of the Potomac, rode down the lines waving his hat and shouting, “It’s all over, boys! Lee’s surrendered! It’s all over!” An officer wrote his wife: “Notwithstanding the privations and hardships I have endured, and the great suffering I have undergone, the glory of this day more than compensates me for all.” A soldier recalled:

“The air is black with hats and boots, coats, knapsacks, shirts and cartridge boxes, blankets and shelter tents, canteens and haversacks. They fall on each others’ necks and laugh and cry by turns. Huge, lumbering, bearded men embrace and kiss like school-girls, then dance and sing and shout, stand on their heads and play at leapfrog with each other… All the time, from the hills around, the deep-mouthed cannon give their harmless thunders, and at each hollow boom the vast concourse rings out its joy anew that murderous shot and shell no longer follow close the accustomed sound.”

The celebrations would increase as news of the surrender reached Washington and then the rest of the North.

—–

References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 555-56; Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 215-17; Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 460-69; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 55; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 557; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 581; Kennedy, Frances H. (ed.), The Civil War Battlefield Guide (William C. Davis, The Conservation Fund, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990), p. 284-85; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 18-19; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 670-71; Maddox, Robert J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 464; McFeely, William S., Grant: A Biography (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1981), p. 217-18, 220; 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. 848-49; Rhodes, James Ford, History of the Civil War, 1861-1865 (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1917 [Kindle Edition, Reservoir House, 2016], Loc 5645; Thomas, Emory M., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 735-36; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 377-81; 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

Lee Agrees to Discuss Surrender

April 9, 1865 – General Robert E. Lee was compelled to ask Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant for a meeting to discuss surrendering the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

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

At 5 a.m. on Palm Sunday, Confederate infantry under Major General John B. Gordon and cavalry under Major General Fitzhugh Lee advanced as planned. They hoped to break through Major General Philip Sheridan’s cavalry blocking their escape route to the west while Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s corps held off the Federals closing in from the east.

The Confederates initially drove Sheridan’s troopers back, pushing forward to the crest of a hill near Appomattox Court House. But they did not know that Sheridan was only pulling his men back so the infantry could get into the fight, and beyond the crest lay XXIV Corps from the Army of the James and V Corps from the Army of the Potomac. The Federals surged forward, and Gordon told one of Lee’s aides, “My old corps is reduced to a frazzle, and, unless I am supported by Longstreet heavily, I do not think we can do anything more.”

But Longstreet was busy trying to fend off II and VI corps from the Army of the Potomac, three miles northeast. When the aide delivered Gordon’s message to Lee, he realized he now had no hope of continuing southwest to join with General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederates in North Carolina. His army was surrounded on three sides (with the fourth side useless to them) and outnumbered five-to-one. After four years of fighting, the Army of Northern Virginia now faced annihilation. Lee said, “Then there is nothing left me to do but to go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths.”

Lee met with Longstreet and Brigadier General E. Porter Alexander, army artillery chief. Alexander proposed disbanding the army and allowing the troops to continue the struggle as guerrilla fighters. Lee demurred, arguing that the hungry men “would become mere bands of marauders, and the enemy’s cavalry would pursue them and overrun many sections they may never (otherwise) have occasion to visit. We would bring on a state of affairs it would take the country years to recover from.”

Lee rode out about 8:30 a.m. to the place where he had proposed meeting with Grant to discuss peace terms. But he soon received a message from Grant telling him that the meeting would not take place:

“I have no authority to treat on the subject of peace; the meeting proposed for 10 a.m. to-day could lead to no good. I will state however, general, that I am equally anxious for peace with yourself, and the whole North entertains the same feeling. By the South laying down their arms they will hasten that most desirable event, save thousands of human lives, and hundreds of millions of property not yet destroyed. Seriously hoping that all our difficulties may be settled without the loss of another life, I subscribe myself, &c. U.S. Grant, Lieutenant General.”

Annoyed by this rejection, Lee told his aide, “Well, write a letter to General Grant and ask him to meet me to deal with the question of the surrender of my army.” It read:

“I received your note of this morning on the picket line, whither I had come to meet you and ascertain definitely what terms were embraced in your proposal of yesterday with reference to the surrender of this army. I now ask an interview in accordance with the offer contained in your letter of yesterday for that purpose.”

At that time, Grant was riding with II and VI corps coming in from the east. After he left that sector to meet with Sheridan, a courier under a white flag (actually a towel) delivered Lee’s message, where it was received by Major General George G. Meade, commanding the Army of the Potomac. Meade forwarded the message to Grant but refused to suspend hostilities: “I have no sort of authority to grant such suspension. General Lee has already refused the terms of General Grant.”

When told that the Federals would attack, Lee wrote a second note to Grant: “I ask a suspension of hostilities pending the adjustment of the terms of the surrender of this army, in the interview requested in my former communication today.” Meade was finally persuaded to halt his attack.

Brigadier General John Rawlins, Grant’s chief of staff, received Lee’s message, read it, and handed it to the commander. Grant had been suffering from a migraine, or “a sick headache” as he described it, but “the instant I saw the contents of the note I was cured.” Grant quickly replied:

“Your note of this date is but this moment (11:50 A.M.) received, in consequence of my having passed from the Richmond and Lynchburg roads to the Farmville and Lynchburg road. I am writing this about four miles west of Walker’s Church, and will push forward to the front for the purpose of meeting you. Notice sent to me on this road where you wish the interview to take place will meet me.”

Grant then met with Sheridan and informed him that Lee wanted to surrender. Sheridan was “suspicious about the whole business, feared that there might be a plan to escape, that he had Lee at his feet and wanted to end the business by going in and forcing an absolute surrender by capture.” But Grant had “no doubt about the good faith of Lee,” and both sides ceased firing until Grant and Lee could talk.

Federals and Confederates dropped their guns and started mingling between the lines. A Pennsylvanian wrote that he went to the nearest Confederate regiment and “as soon as I got among these boys I felt and was treated as well as if I had been among our own boys, and a person would of thought we were of the same Army and had been Fighting under the Same Flag.” Another Federal soldier recalled:

“I remember how we sat there and pitied and sympathized with these courageous Southern men who had fought for four long and dreary years all so stubbornly, so bravely and so well, and now, whipped, beaten, completely used up, were fully at our mercy–it was pitiful, sad, hard, and seemed to us altogether too bad.”

Colonel Orville Babcock of Grant’s staff delivered the general’s message to Lee, who received it near 1 p.m. He dispatched Colonel Charles Marshall of his staff to find a meeting place for the two commanders. Marshall and Babcock rode into the village of Appomattox Court House and met with a resident named Wilmer McLean, who reluctantly allowed them to use the front parlor of his home. Ironically, McLean had moved away from Manassas to escape the war after his home had been damaged during the Battle of Bull Run in 1861. The McLean family settled in this peaceful village, “where the sound of battle would never reach them.”

According to Marshall: “Colonel Babcock told his orderly that he was to meet General Grant, who was coming on the road, and turn him in when he came along. So General Lee, Babcock and myself sat down in McLean’s parlour and talked in the most friendly and affable way.”

Federal officers waited for Grant on the road to Appomattox Court House, including Sheridan and Major General E.O.C. Ord, commanding the Army of the James. Grant looked ahead to the village and asked Sheridan, “Is Lee up there?” Sheridan said yes. Grant replied, “Very well. Let’s go up.” A nearby Federal band played “Auld Lang Syne” as the officers rode by.

—–

References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 541; Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 215-17; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 566; Catton, Bruce, The Army of the Potomac: A Stillness at Appomattox (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1953), p. 375-80; Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 460-69; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 55; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 22451-78; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 557; 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 19697-707, 19727-37; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 581; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 8768-81, 8825-47; Kennedy, Frances H. (ed.), The Civil War Battlefield Guide (William C. Davis, The Conservation Fund, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990), p. 284-85; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 133-55; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 18-19; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 670-71; Maddox, Robert J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 464; McFeely, William S., Grant: A Biography (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1981), p. 217-18, 220; 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. 848-49; Rhodes, James Ford, History of the Civil War, 1861-1865 (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1917 [Kindle Edition, Reservoir House, 2016], Loc 5645; Thomas, Emory M., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 735-36; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 377-81; 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

The Dinwiddie Court House Engagement

March 31, 1865 – Confederates repelled a Federal advance in the southwestern sector of the Petersburg siege lines, but the Federals would not be denied for long.

Confederate Gen R.E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

The heavy rains had finally stopped by the morning of the 31st. Confederate infantry and cavalry from the Army of Northern Virginia held Five Forks, a key intersection protecting the South Side Railroad west of Petersburg. General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate army, ordered this force to move south and drive Major General Philip Sheridan’s Federal cavalry corps out of Dinwiddie Court House. This would secure Five Forks and isolate Sheridan from infantry support to the east.

As Lee inspected the lines, he saw a gap between Sheridan and Major General Gouverneur Warren’s V Corps. He therefore ordered Lieutenant General Richard H. Anderson’s Fourth Corps, which by now consisted of just a single division, to attack and turn Warren’s left (west) flank away from Sheridan. In all, about 19,000 Confederates opposed some 50,000 Federals in the southwestern sector of the Petersburg lines.

Warren’s Federals held the Boydton Plank Road. To their right (east) was Major General Andrew A. Humphreys’s II Corps. Warren informed Humphreys:

“I cannot take up any regular line of battle on account of the woods and swamps, but have assembled each division at a point so they can fight in any direction with the line refused… I don’t think your left could be turned, even if I moved away, without you having full information.”

Major General George G. Meade, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, notified Warren, “Owing to the weather, no change will today be made in the present position of the troops. Three days’ rations of subsistence and forage will be brought up and issued to the troops and the artillery, and every one authorized to accompany them.” The Federals were unaware that a Confederate attack was imminent.

Maj Gen Philip Sheridan | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Meanwhile, Sheridan planned an attack of his own, as Brigadier General Thomas C. Devin, known as “Sheridan’s hard hitter,” advanced his division north toward Five Forks. The Federals were unexpectedly met by a Confederate assault from their left, led by Major General George Pickett. Devin’s men gradually fell back across the rain-soaked ground, as Devin notified Sheridan that both his flanks were under threat and Dinwiddie might have to be abandoned.

Sheridan brought up his other two divisions and secured a defense line about a mile north of Dinwiddie. The Confederates charged around dusk, but the Federals held firm as Sheridan instructed all regimental bands to come up to the front and play joyful music as loud as possible to jar enemy morale.

Sheridan then ordered Brigadier General George A. Custer to lead his division in a counterattack, telling Custer, “You understand? I want you to give it to them!” However, this effort came to nothing as the men and horses became tangled in the mud. Both sides fell back out of firing range as the sun set.

Three miles east, Warren ordered his lead division under Major General Romeyn B. Ayres to seize the White Oak Road because this was “essentially necessary to the safety of our position.” The Federals were suddenly met by Anderson’s charging Confederates. Ayres reported: “As the troops arrived within about fifty yards of the White Oak road, the enemy’s lines of battle rose up in the woods and moved forward across the road into the open. I saw at once that they had four or five to my one.”

Ayres tried holding his ground, but some Confederates moved around and attacked his left flank, thus forcing him to fall back into Major General Samuel W. Crawford’s division. Crawford’s men broke as well, and the Federals retreated to a branch of Gravelly Run. Warren ordered them to hold there while he brought up his last division, under Major General Charles Griffin.

Griffin’s men, led by Brigadier General Joshua L. Chamberlain’s brigade, advanced and slowly regained all lost ground. The Federals ultimately seized the White Oak Road, which cut Anderson’s men off from Pickett’s to the west. Also, Warren dispatched a brigade westward to threaten Pickett’s left flank as he confronted Sheridan. Meade reported to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, the overall Federal commander, that Warren had stopped the Confederate advance, and Humphreys was sending a division to Warren’s support. Grant asked:

“If the enemy has been checked in Warren’s front, what is to prevent him from pitching in with his whole corps and attacking before giving him time to entrench or return in good order to his old entrenchments? I do not understand why Warren permitted his corps to be fought in detail. When Ayres was pushed forward he should have sent other troops to their support.”

By nightfall, Pickett had won a tactical victory, but the Confederates had failed to drive Sheridan out of Dinwiddie or prevent the Federal cavalry and infantry from joining forces. Recognizing the danger of his position, Pickett fell back to protect Five Forks. His infantry held the line to the left while Major General Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry held the right. There was still a three-mile gap between this force and Anderson’s to the east.

The Petersburg Front, 29-31 Mar 1865 | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Sheridan planned a frontal assault on Pickett and Fitzhugh Lee the next day. In conjunction, he wanted infantry to march through the gap and come up on Pickett’s left and rear. The nearest infantry was Warren’s V Corps, but Sheridan wanted Major General Horatio G. Wright’s VI Corps, which had served under him in the Shenandoah Valley, to join him. Sheridan wrote Grant on the night of the 31st: “If the ground would permit I could, with the Sixth Corps, turn the enemy’s right, or break through his lines; but I would not like the Fifth Corps to make such an attempt.” Grant later wrote:

“I replied to him that it was impossible to send Wright’s corps because that corps was already in line close up to the enemy, where we should want him to assault when the proper time came, and was besides a long distance from him; but the 2d and 5th corps were on our extreme left and a little to the rear of it in a position to threaten the left flank of the enemy at Five Forks, and that I would send Warren… and put himself in communication with Sheridan as soon as possible, and report to him.”

Just as the men of V Corps settled down from the all-day fight, Warren received orders to march them westward all night to link with Sheridan by dawn. This proved extremely difficult, not only because the troops were exhausted, but because they would have to move in darkness across swollen creeks, swamps, and mud. They also had to stop and build a 40-foot bridge to span Gravelly Run. Warren informed Meade of the delay, but this was not forwarded to Sheridan, who wrote Warren at 3 a.m. on the 1st:

“I am holding in front of Dinwiddie Court-House, on the road leading to Five Forks, for three-fourths of a mile, with General Custer’s division… I understand you have a division at J. Boisseau’s; if so, you are in rear of the enemy’s line and almost on his flank. I will hold on here. Possibly they may attack Custer at daylight; if so, have this division attack instantly and in full force.”

Sheridan did not receive any specific details as to where Warren was or when he might arrive. He also knew nothing about the difficulties Warren’s men faced in trying to reach Sheridan’s line. Moreover, Sheridan did not trust Warren, so if there was to be any delay in arriving in time for the next day’s fight, Warren would get the blame.

—–

References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 214; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 574; Catton, Bruce, The Army of the Potomac: A Stillness at Appomattox (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1953), p. 346-49; Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 441-43; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 22419; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 552; 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 17855-95, 18091-101; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 572-73; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 8312-36; Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (New York: Da Capo Press, 1982 [original 1885, republication of 1952 edition]), p. 533; Kennedy, Frances H. (ed.), The Civil War Battlefield Guide (Christopher M. Calkins, The Conservation Fund, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990), p. 273-75; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 658-61; 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. 845; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 487-88; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 219-20, 261-62, 821

The Lincoln Visit Continues

March 26, 1865 – An ugly incident occurred at a military review as President Abraham Lincoln continued his visit with the Federal armies besieging Richmond and Petersburg.

Pres. Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

President and Mrs. Lincoln were quartered on the steamboat River Queen near the headquarters of Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, the overall Federal commander. Their son Robert, who was serving on Grant’s staff, came aboard to have breakfast with his parents on the morning of the 25th. They could hear the fight at Fort Stedman taking place just eight miles away, and after Robert explained what was happening, Lincoln telegraphed Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton: “Robert just now tells me there was a little rumpus up the line this morning, ending about where it began.”

Although the fight was an easy Federal victory, Robert informed his father that the military review scheduled for that morning had to be postponed. Lincoln instead went to Grant’s headquarters and asked to visit the Fort Stedman battlefield. Grant initially refused to allow the president to be exposed to enemy fire, but he quickly reconsidered. The men took the military railroad to the headquarters of Major General George G. Meade, commanding the Army of the Potomac.

Meade and his staff greeted Lincoln and took him on a tour of the battlefield, where men were still attending to the dead and wounded. Lincoln and Grant rode together on horseback and watched Federal troops from VI Corps drive off Confederate pickets.

The next morning, the presidential party took a steamboat up the James River to review part of Major General E.O.C. Ord’s Army of the James at Malvern Hill. Lincoln watched Federal cavalry cross the James en route to fighting at Petersburg and told their commander, “Little Phil” Sheridan, that “when this peculiar war began I thought a cavalryman should be at least six feet four inches high, but I have changed my mind. Five feet four will do in a pinch.”

First Lady Mary Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

When the steamboat docked, Lincoln and most of the men rode to the review on horseback while Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Grant shared an ambulance. The rutted, muddy roads made the ride very uncomfortable; one bump even caused the passengers to hit their heads on the carriage ceiling. Mrs. Lincoln complained about the ride to Colonel Horace Porter, a member of Grant’s staff assigned to accompany the ladies.

The first lady was in a foul mood, possibly because she was out of her element among all the generals’ wives who had been living near headquarters and knew each other well. When Mrs. Lincoln arrived at the review, it had already started and she was enraged to see Mrs. Ord riding on horseback beside the president. Mrs. Grant tried calming the first lady, who snapped at her: “I suppose you think you’ll get to the White House yourself, don’t you?”

When Mrs. Ord tried joining the ladies, Mrs. Lincoln berated her until she cried. The first lady continued her tirade that night at a dinner for Grant and his staff aboard the River Queen. She scolded her husband and demanded that he remove Ord from command. Mrs. Lincoln spent most of the rest of the trip in her cabin before returning to Washington. Lincoln stayed behind to witness what would become the final phase of the war in Virginia.

—–

References

Catton, Bruce, The Army of the Potomac: A Stillness at Appomattox (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1953), p. 338; Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 434-35; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 551; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 12206-17, 12228-38; 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 17549-69, 17706-56, 17875-95; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 709-10; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 656-58; McFeely, William S., Grant: A Biography (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1981), p. 211

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.

—–

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 Battle of Hatcher’s Run Ends

February 7, 1865 – The fighting in the southwestern sector of the Petersburg lines ended inconclusively, which by this time meant Federal victory because the dwindling Confederate Army of Northern Virginia could no longer afford to just hold off the enemy.

By the 7th, heavy fighting in the woods around the Boydton Plank Road had driven Federal forces back. Most of the Federals belonged to Major General Gouverneur Warren’s V Corps, with some under Major General Andrew A. Humphreys’s II Corps and Brigadier General David M. Gregg’s cavalry division. The Federals held the road, but they were south of Hatcher’s Run.

Major General George G. Meade, commanding the Army of the Potomac, wrote to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, the overall Federal commander: “The ignorance I am under of the exact moral condition of Warren’s corps, and his losses from stragglers has restrained me from giving him positive orders to attack; but I have directed him to push out strong reconnaissances,” and Warren would decide “whether to attack or not.”

Meade then directed Warren to send one of his divisions out to renew the attack on the Confederates. In bitterly cold, wet weather, the Federals probed but found no substantial opposition. The ensuing skirmish resulted in the wounding of Confederate Brigadier General Moxley Sorrel. The Federals abandoned their vulnerable position on the Boydton Plank Road and moved southwest to occupy the Vaughan Road crossing of Hatcher’s Run.

Fighting involving Warren’s corps | Image Credit: Harper’s Weekly, Vol. IX, No. 426, 25 Feb 1865

Warren reported at 5:30 p.m. that “we have regained most of the ground we held yesterday, and drawn the artillery fire from the enemy’s works, and we can hold the south side of Hatcher’s Run toward Dabney’s Mill so long as may be required.” In this three-day fight, the Federals sustained 1,512 casualties (170 killed, 1,160 wounded, and 182 missing) out of some 35,000 engaged; the Confederates had about 14,000 engaged with casualties unknown.

Like all Federal offensives during the Petersburg campaign thus far, this ended with a Confederate repulse. However, the Federals were now three miles closer to the South Side Railroad, the last railway supplying the Confederates in Petersburg. This meant that the Confederate commander, General Robert E. Lee, now had to defend 37 miles of trench lines with only 46,398 men “present for duty.” And this number included many who were too sick for active service. Lee wrote to Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge on the 8th:

“All the disposable force of the right wing of the army has been operating against the enemy beyond Hatcher’s Run since Sunday. Yesterday, the most inclement day of the winter, they had to be retained in line of battle, having been in the same condition the two previous days and nights. I regret to be obliged to state that under these circumstances, heightened by assaults and fire of the enemy, some of the men had been without meat for three days, and all were suffering from reduced rations and scant clothing, exposed to battle, cold, hail, and sleet.

“I have directed Colonel Cole, chief commissary, who reports that he has not a pound of meat at his disposal, to visit Richmond and see if nothing can be done. If some change is not made and the commissary department reorganized, I apprehend dire results. The physical strength of the men, if their courage survives, must fail under this treatment. Our cavalry has to be dispersed for want of forage… Taking these facts in connection with the paucity of our numbers, you must not be surprised if calamity befalls us.”

—–

References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Civil War Trust: Battle of Hatcher’s Run; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 529; 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 16422-42; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 551; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 8098; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 20, 24-31; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 635-36; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 350, 577-79; Wikipedia: Battle of Hatcher’s Run

The Battle of Hatcher’s Run

February 5, 1865 – Fighting erupted over Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant’s effort to extend his Federal siege line around Petersburg, Virginia.

After the Federal Army of the Potomac had seized the Weldon Railroad south of Petersburg last year, Grant believed that the Boydton Plank Road had become the Confederates’ main supply line. The Federals had tried moving beyond the Confederate left flank to seize this road in October but failed. But Grant was wrong: the Confederates had abandoned the road because it became too dangerous to defend. Nevertheless, Grant renewed his plan to retake the road, hoping not only to cut a key enemy supply line but to block the enemy’s westward escape route.

Peace talks were taking place at Hampton Roads, but President Abraham Lincoln told Grant not to let them “cause any change, hindrance or delay, of your military plans or operations.” Grant therefore moved forward with his planned assault. He wrote to Major General George G. Meade, commanding the Army of the Potomac on the southwestern sector of the siege line, on the 4th:

“I would like to take advantage of the present good weather to destroy or capture as much as possible of the enemy’s wagon train, which it is understood is being used in connection with the Weldon railroad to partially supply the troops about Petersburg. You may get the cavalry ready to do this as soon as possible. I think the cavalry should start at 3 a.m. either tomorrow or the following day, carrying one and a half days’ forage and three days’ rations with them. They should take no wagons and but few ambulances. Let the Second Corps move at the same time, but independent of the cavalry, as far south as Stony Creek Station, to remain there until the cavalry has done the enemy all the harm it can and returns to that point.”

Brigadier General David M. Gregg’s cavalry division would ride west to the Boydton Plank Road, supported by Major General Gouverneur Warren’s V Corps and two divisions of Major General Andrew A. Humphreys’s II Corps. The infantry would move west along parallel roads, but Meade modified Grant’s plan by placing Warren’s corps to the south instead of Humphreys’s. The expedition would involve 35,000 Federals.

At 3 a.m. on the 5th, Gregg’s cavalry headed out in bitter cold and rain. They rode west to Ream’s Station on the Weldon Railroad, turned south, and then turned west again, sporadically skirmishing with Confederate patrols before arriving at Dinwiddie Court House around noon. Warren’s V Corps crossed Rowanty Creek and stopped on the Vaughan Road to cover Gregg’s right flank. Humphreys’s Federals moved down the Vaughan Road to Hatcher’s Run and covered Warren’s right flank.

Humphreys deployed his troops about 1,000 yards in front of the Confederate defenses. The defenses were manned by Major General Henry Heth’s division and part of Major General John B. Gordon’s Second Corps recently returned from the Shenandoah Valley. The Confederates were caught off guard and offered little resistance at first. The Confederates finally came out of their trenches around 5 p.m. and advanced to drive the Federals off.

Both sides stood their ground and exchanged fire for about a half-hour, but then the Federal line started wavering. Some men joined to sing “The Battle Cry of Freedom,” which rallied the troops. They formed a new line and withstood three Confederate charges before both sides disengaged for the night.

When Grant received word of this engagement, he saw an opportunity to seize not only the Boydton Plank Road but the vital South Side Railroad beyond. He wrote Meade, “If we can follow the enemy up, although it was not contemplated before, it may lead to getting the South Side road, or a position from which it can be reached.” Meanwhile, Federals from Gregg’s and Warren’s commands reinforced Humphreys during the night, and the Federal line now extended south of Hatcher’s Run.

Confederate Brig Gen John Pegram | Image Credit: civilwardailygazette.com

Warren’s Federals scouted the Confederate positions near Gravelly Run and Dabney’s Mill on the 6th. The Confederates fell back to their main defenses, and Gordon dispatched Brigadier General John Pegram’s division to probe the Dabney’s Mill area, east of the Boydton Plank Road. Federals and Confederates met during their respective probing actions, and a fierce Confederate attack in a small area of about 500 yards drove the Federals back to their main force.

Gordon sent in Brigadier General Clement A. Evans’s division on Pegram’s left. Evans’s Confederates drove the Federals back until two brigades came forward to stabilize the line and push the Confederates back. Major General Joseph Finegan’s Confederate division arrived next and attacked, causing the Federal line to buckle. During this assault, Pegram was killed by a Federal sharpshooter. Pegram had been a promising young officer who was just married last month in Richmond’s society event of the year.

Nevertheless, the Confederate assault began overwhelming the Federals, and many fled the field. Only nightfall and freezing rain prevented a Federal rout. The Confederates halted and took coats from dead soldiers for warmth, and the Federals fell back to the line beside Humphreys’s divisions. The Federals still held the south bank of Hatcher’s Run. Meade reported to Grant:

“Warren’s troops were compelled to retire in considerable confusion. They enemy was, however, checked before reaching the position occupied this morning, Vaughan road was recalled when the others were forced back. The troops are now formed in the lines occupied this morning. The fighting has been determined, principally in dense woods, and the losses considerable, particularly in the column compelled to retire. I am not able at present to give an estimate of them.”

—–

References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Civil War Trust: Battle of Hatcher’s Run; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 527-29; 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 16416-33; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 550-51; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 8098; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 27-31; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 634-35; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 483-84; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 350; Wikipedia: Battle of Hatcher’s Run

The 1864 Elections: Aftermath

November 10, 1864 – President Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech to serenaders after his reelection was confirmed.

Although all returns had not yet been received on the 9th, word spread throughout North and South that Lincoln had most likely won a second presidential term. Republicans and National Unionists rejoiced; George Templeton Strong wrote in his diary:

Laus Deo! The crisis has been past, and the most momentous popular election ever held since ballots were invented has decided against treason and disunion… The American people can be trusted to take care of the national honor.”

Major General George G. Meade, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, wrote his wife that the army vote totaled 13,500 for Lincoln and 5,500 for the beloved former army commander George B. McClellan. Meade also stirred up a minor controversy when it was reported that he did not vote himself. He wrote:

“It is probable that some zealous partisan has watched to see what I did. I cannot but be flattered that so much importance is attached to my action, particularly as nearly all other general officers, including Grant, did the same–that is, not vote.”

News of the election reached the Confederacy on the 10th, with an article published in the Richmond Dispatch:

“A well-known citizen of Fredericksburg, who entered the enemy’s lines below Richmond yesterday under flag of truce, was informed by a Yankee officer that Lincoln’s re-election was, beyond a doubt, a fact accomplished… They said Lincoln had been re-elected, and that we might prepare ourselves for four more years of war. Few of our people will be disappointed by the result of this election, since it is only what we have all expected. Had Lincoln allowed himself to have been beaten, he must have been either a fool or a patriot, neither of which his warmest friend nor bitterest foe has ever suspected him of being.”

President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

On the night of the 10th, Lincoln responded to a massive celebration on the White House lawn, speaking from a second floor window. Unlike the impromptu address that Lincoln delivered in the early hours after election night, this evening the president read from a manuscript. The president said:

“It has long been a grave question whether any government, not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its own existence, in great emergencies…

“We can not have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forgo, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us… Human-nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak, and as strong; as silly and as wise; as bad and good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.

“But the election, along with its incidental, and undesirable strife, has done good too. It has demonstrated that a people’s government can sustain a national election, in the midst of a great civil war. Until now it has not been known to the world that this was a possibility.

“But the rebellion continues; and now that the election is over, may not all, having a common interest, re-unite in a common effort, to save our common country? For my own part I have striven, and shall strive to avoid placing any obstacle in the way. So long as I have been here I have not willingly planted a thorn in any man’s bosom.

“While I am deeply sensible to the high compliment of a re-election; and duly grateful, as I trust, to Almighty God for having directed my countrymen to a right conclusion, as I think, for their own good, it adds nothing to my satisfaction that any other man may be disappointed or pained by the result… And now, let me close by asking three hearty cheers for our brave soldiers and seamen and their gallant and skillful commanders.”

As he turned from the window, Lincoln told his secretary John Hay, “Not very graceful, but I am growing old enough not to care much for the manner of doing things.”

Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, the overall Federal commander, congratulated Lincoln: “The election having passed off quietly, no bloodshed or riot throughout the land, is a victory worth more to the country than a battle won.” Grant later assured Lincoln, “All the troops now in the North will be hurried to the field.”

In his cabinet meeting, Lincoln revealed the sealed document he had asked his officers to sign without reading on August 23. This was Lincoln’s acknowledgement that he would likely lose the election, along with a pledge to help the new president-elect between the election and inauguration.

Lincoln’s victory did not stop Federal officials from persecuting political enemies. In Kentucky, a state that George B. McClellan easily won, authorities arrested three of his top supporters for alleged disloyalty. Among them was Lieutenant Governor Richard Jacob, who was banished to the Confederacy. An elector for McClellan and the editor of the Louisville Journal were also apprehended. Lincoln pardoned the latter two and lifted Jacob’s banishment in February 1865.

A Washington newspaper reported on the 17th that Lincoln told a Maryland committee that he was gratified at the election results, which confirmed “the policy he had pursued would be the best and the only one that could save the country.”

—–

References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 11632, 11640; 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 13122-42; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 519; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 664-66; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 595-98; 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), Q464