Tag Archives: Ulysses S. Grant

The Triumphant Grand Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to the New York Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The war was over.

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References

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

Johnston Surrenders to Sherman a Second Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then the amendments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 222-23; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 22971, 23016-24; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 563-64; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 588; Gates, Arnold, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 683; Kallmann, John D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 400-01; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 155-60; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 682-83; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 736; Sherman, William T., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman, Vol. I (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1889, Kindle Edition), Loc 12528-70, 12578-619; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 393; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q265

Grant Visits Sherman in North Carolina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grant reported to Stanton:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 222-23; Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 484-85; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 21938, 22958-64, 22971; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 562-63; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 20957-87; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 587; Gates, Arnold, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 683; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 155-60; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 681; Sherman, William T., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman, Vol. I (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1889, Kindle Edition), Loc 12436-54, 12479-82, 12521; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q265

Washington Rejects the Sherman-Johnston Convention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grant then left for North Carolina.

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References

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

The Lincoln Funeral

April 19, 1865 – Funeral services for Abraham Lincoln took place at the White House.

After the doctors pronounced Lincoln dead on the 15th, bells tolled throughout Washington and the news quickly spread across the country. Lincoln’s body was draped in a flag and brought to the White House, and within an hour government buildings throughout the capital were draped in mourning black. First Lady Mary Lincoln was confined to her room, overwhelmed by grief.

News of Lincoln’s death caused profound sorrow throughout the North, where many revered him as the savior of the Union. According to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles:

“From every part of the country comes lamentation. Every house, almost, has some drapery, especially the homes of the poor. Profuse exhibition is displayed on the public buildings and the dwellings of the wealthy, but the little black ribbon or strip of black cloth from the hovel of the poor negro or the impoverished white is more touching.”

Even those who had criticized his unconstitutional measures expressed shock and condemned the crime. But admiration for Lincoln was not universal, as the London Standard opined the day after his death: “He was not a hero while he lived, and therefore his cruel murder does not make him a martyr.”

The Navy Department ordered the firing of guns every half-hour on the 17th in honor of Lincoln’s memory. Flags on all ships and at all naval installations would fly at half-mast until after the funeral, and all naval officers would wear black mourning badges for six months.

Lincoln became the first president to lie in state in the White House. In the crepe-decorated East Room, the casket was placed upon a platform with four pillars holding a black canopy overhead. An estimated 25,000 people filed past the casket on the 18th.

Some 600 dignitaries including President Andrew Johnson, the cabinet, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, military leaders, and diplomats in full “court dress” attended the funeral at 12 p.m. on the 19th in the East Room. Welles wrote that the service “was imposing, sad, and sorrowful. All felt the solemnity, and sorrowed as if they had lost one of their own household. By voluntary action business was everywhere suspended, and the people crowded the streets.”

Correspondent Noah Brooks noted that Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, standing at the head of the catafalque, “was often moved to tears.” Chairs had been placed at the foot of the catafalque for Lincoln’s family, but only Robert was there; Mrs. Lincoln was too grief-stricken to attend. People throughout the North attended church services in their hometowns.

After Senate Chaplain E.H. Gray delivered the closing invocation, Lincoln’s coffin was placed in a carriage draped in banners. Soldiers escorted the carriage from the White House to the U.S. Capitol, and thousands of people lined Pennsylvania Avenue to watch the procession pass. According to Welles:

“There were no truer mourners, when all were sad, than the poor colored people who crowded the streets, joined the procession, and exhibited their woe, bewailing the loss of him whom they regarded as a benefactor and father. Women as well as men, with their little children, thronged the streets, sorrow, trouble, and distress depicted on their countenances and in their bearing. The vacant holiday expression had given way to real grief.”

The Lincoln Funeral Procession | Image Credit: learnnc.org

Bands played mournful songs, bells tolled, guns boomed, and some 40,000 people filed past Lincoln’s coffin in the Capitol rotunda over two days. On the 21st, Lincoln’s body was placed aboard a special train bound for its final resting place in Springfield, Illinois. Also on the train were the disinterred remains of his son Willie, who had died in 1862.

The train stopped in several northern cities as it nearly retraced the route that Lincoln had taken from Springfield to Washington in 1861. Five men who made that initial journey with Lincoln were on this train: David Hunter, David Davis, Ward Hill Lamon, John Nicolay, and John Hay.

The roofs of many railroad stations had to be torn down to accommodate the massive railroad car designed by George Pullman. The locomotive and other cars were periodically changed to give different railroad companies a chance to take part. A specially built hearse conveyed Lincoln’s casket from the railroad depots to the viewing sites. The casket was opened in larger cities so mourners could see the president.

The funeral train steamed through Maryland into Pennsylvania, where some 30,000 mourners passed the coffin at the state capital of Harrisburg. From there, the train chugged through Lancaster, where former President James Buchanan watched it pass on the way to Philadelphia. The coffin lay in state in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. The double-line to view the body stretched three miles, and several people were injured in a rush to the casket.

The train steamed through New Jersey and was then ferried across the Hudson River into New York City. The hearse was pulled to City Hall by a team of 16 horses wearing black plumes and blankets. Local officials allowed Lincoln’s body to be photographed while lying in state in the City Hall rotunda. Mrs. Lincoln bitterly protested until Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ordered all prints destroyed. One survived.

The next day, the funeral procession went up Broadway. It consisted of 75,000 civilians and 11,000 soldiers. Blacks were required to march in the rear. About a million people witnessed the event. The funeral train left the Hudson River Railroad depot and steamed north to the state capital of Albany. From there it continued on to Buffalo, where mourners included former President Millard Fillmore and future President Grover Cleveland.

The train steamed west into Ohio, with stops at Cleveland and Columbus. In Cleveland, an estimated 50,000 people filed past the coffin in pouring rain. The body lay under a canopy in Monument Square because no public building could hold such a large crowd. The funeral train then proceeded to Columbus and reached Indianapolis by month’s end.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 223-24; Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 479; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 118-19; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 559-64; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 585-86; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 678-81, 683-84; 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. 853; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 386-91; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q265

Action Winds Down in North Carolina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 222-23; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 592; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 22137, 22887-95; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 556-59; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 20343-63, 20808-77, 20897-917; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 583-84; Gates, Arnold, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 683; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 155-60; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 672-79; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 611-12, 652, 736; Sherman, William T., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman, Vol. I (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1889, Kindle Edition), Loc 12158-89, 12196-208, 12204-19, 12228, 12252-74; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks. Kindle Edition, 2012), Q265

The 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

More Assassination Attempts, Washington in Turmoil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lincoln Deathbed

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

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

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 217-19; Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command (Open Road Media. Kindle Edition, 2015), p. 474-75; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Clark, Champ, The Assassination: The Death of the President (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 64-104, 118-19; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 559; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 20690-700, 20760-70; Heintjes, Tom, “Drawing on History, ‘Hogan’s Alley’ #8, 2000” (Cartoonician.com, retrieved 28 Sep 2012); Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 165; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 675-77; McFeely, William S., Grant (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1981), p. 224-25; Steers, Edward, Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (University Press of Kentucky, 2001); Townsend, George Alfred, The Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth (New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, 1865); Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 384-86; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q265

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