Part 11 out of 43
to the enemy. Besides, he was confronting all that he had had to
confront in his previous march up to that point, reinforced by the
garrisons along the road and by what remained of Hood's army. Frantic
appeals were made to the people to come in voluntarily and swell the
ranks of our foe. I presume, however, that Johnston did not have in all
over 35,000 or 40,000 men. The people had grown tired of the war, and
desertions from the Confederate army were much more numerous than the
There was some fighting at Averysboro on the 16th between Johnston's
troops and Sherman's, with some loss; and at Bentonville on the 19th and
21st of March, but Johnston withdrew from the contest before the morning
of the 22d. Sherman's loss in these last engagements in killed,
wounded, and missing, was about sixteen hundred. Sherman's troops at
last reached Goldsboro on the 23d of the month and went into bivouac;
and there his men were destined to have a long rest. Schofield was
there to meet him with the troops which had been sent to Wilmington.
Sherman was no longer in danger. He had Johnston confronting him; but
with an army much inferior to his own, both in numbers and morale. He
had Lee to the north of him with a force largely superior; but I was
holding Lee with a still greater force, and had he made his escape and
gotten down to reinforce Johnston, Sherman, with the reinforcements he
now had from Schofield and Terry, would have been able to hold the
Confederates at bay for an indefinite period. He was near the sea-shore
with his back to it, and our navy occupied the harbors. He had a
railroad to both Wilmington and New Bern, and his flanks were thoroughly
protected by streams, which intersect that part of the country and
deepen as they approach the sea. Then, too, Sherman knew that if Lee
should escape me I would be on his heels, and he and Johnson together
would be crushed in one blow if they attempted to make a stand. With
the loss of their capital, it is doubtful whether Lee's army would have
amounted to much as an army when it reached North Carolina. Johnston's
army was demoralized by constant defeat and would hardly have made an
offensive movement, even if they could have been induced to remain on
duty. The men of both Lee's and Johnston's armies were, like their
brethren of the North, as brave as men can be; but no man is so brave
that he may not meet such defeats and disasters as to discourage him and
dampen his ardor for any cause, no matter how just he deems it.
ARRIVAL OF THE PEACE COMMISSIONERS--LINCOLN AND THE PEACE COMMISSIONERS
--AN ANECDOTE OF LINCOLN--THE WINTER BEFORE PETERSBURG--SHERIDAN DESTROYS
THE RAILROAD--GORDON CARRIES THE PICKET LINE--PARKE RECAPTURES THE LINE
--THE LINE OF BATTLE OF WHITE OAK ROAD.
On the last of January, 1865, peace commissioners from the so-called
Confederate States presented themselves on our lines around Petersburg,
and were immediately conducted to my headquarters at City Point. They
proved to be Alexander H. Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy,
Judge Campbell, Assistant-Secretary of War, and R. M. T. Hunt, formerly
United States Senator and then a member of the Confederate Senate.
It was about dark when they reached my headquarters, and I at once
conducted them to the steam Mary Martin, a Hudson River boat which was
very comfortably fitted up for the use of passengers. I at once
communicated by telegraph with Washington and informed the Secretary of
War and the President of the arrival of these commissioners and that
their object was to negotiate terms of peace between he United States
and, as they termed it, the Confederate Government. I was instructed to
retain them at City Point, until the President, or some one whom he
would designate, should come to meet them. They remained several days
as guests on board the boat. I saw them quite frequently, though I have
no recollection of having had any conversation whatever with them on the
subject of their mission. It was something I had nothing to do with,
and I therefore did not wish to express any views on the subject. For
my own part I never had admitted, and never was ready to admit, that
they were the representatives of a GOVERNMENT. There had been too great
a waste of blood and treasure to concede anything of the kind. As long
as they remained there, however, our relations were pleasant and I found
them all very agreeable gentlemen. I directed the captain to furnish
them with the best the boat afforded, and to administer to their comfort
in every way possible. No guard was placed over them and no restriction
was put upon their movements; nor was there any pledge asked that they
would not abuse the privileges extended to them. They were permitted to
leave the boat when they felt like it, and did so, coming up on the bank
and visiting me at my headquarters.
I had never met either of these gentlemen before the war, but knew them
well by reputation and through their public services, and I had been a
particular admirer of Mr. Stephens. I had always supposed that he was a
very small man, but when I saw him in the dusk of the evening I was very
much surprised to find so large a man as he seemed to be. When he got
down on to the boat I found that he was wearing a coarse gray woollen
overcoat, a manufacture that had been introduced into the South during
the rebellion. The cloth was thicker than anything of the kind I had
ever seen, even in Canada. The overcoat extended nearly to his feet,
and was so large that it gave him the appearance of being an
average-sized man. He took this off when he reached the cabin of the
boat, and I was struck with the apparent change in size, in the coat and
out of it.
After a few days, about the 2d of February, I received a dispatch from
Washington, directing me to send the commissioners to Hampton Roads to
meet the President and a member of the cabinet. Mr. Lincoln met them
there and had an interview of short duration. It was not a great while
after they met that the President visited me at City Point. He spoke of
his having met the commissioners, and said he had told them that there
would be no use in entering into any negotiations unless they would
recognize, first: that the Union as a whole must be forever preserved,
and second: that slavery must be abolished. If they were willing to
concede these two points, then he was ready to enter into negotiations
and was almost willing to hand them a blank sheet of paper with his
signature attached for them to fill in the terms upon which they were
willing to live with us in the Union and be one people. He always
showed a generous and kindly spirit toward the Southern people, and I
never heard him abuse an enemy. Some of the cruel things said about
President Lincoln, particularly in the North, used to pierce him to the
heart; but never in my presence did he evince a revengeful disposition
and I saw a great deal of him at City Point, for he seemed glad to get
away from the cares and anxieties of the capital.
Right here I might relate an anecdote of Mr. Lincoln. It was on the
occasion of his visit to me just after he had talked with the peace
commissioners at Hampton Roads. After a little conversation, he asked
me if I had seen that overcoat of Stephens's. I replied that I had.
"Well," said he, "did you see him take it off?" I said yes. "Well,"
said he, "didn't you think it was the biggest shuck and the littlest ear
that ever you did see?" Long afterwards I told this story to the
Confederate General J. B. Gordon, at the time a member of the Senate.
He repeated it to Stephens, and, as I heard afterwards, Stephens laughed
immoderately at the simile of Mr. Lincoln.
The rest of the winter, after the departure of the peace commissioners,
passed off quietly and uneventfully, except for two or three little
incidents. On one occasion during this period, while I was visiting
Washington City for the purpose of conferring with the administration,
the enemy's cavalry under General Wade Hampton, passing our extreme left
and then going to the south, got in east of us. Before their presence
was known, they had driven off a large number of beef cattle that were
grazing in that section. It was a fair capture, and they were
sufficiently needed by the Confederates. It was only retaliating for
what we had done, sometimes for many weeks at a time, when out of
supplies taking what the Confederate army otherwise would have gotten.
As appears in this book, on one single occasion we captured five
thousand head of cattle which were crossing the Mississippi River near
Port Hudson on their way from Texas to supply the Confederate army in
One of the most anxious periods of my experience during the rebellion
was the last few weeks before Petersburg. I felt that the situation of
the Confederate army was such that they would try to make an escape at
the earliest practicable moment, and I was afraid, every morning, that I
would awake from my sleep to hear that Lee had gone, and that nothing
was left but a picket line. He had his railroad by the way of Danville
south, and I was afraid that he was running off his men and all stores
and ordnance except such as it would be necessary to carry with him for
his immediate defence. I knew he could move much more lightly and more
rapidly than I, and that, if he got the start, he would leave me behind
so that we would have the same army to fight again farther south and the
war might be prolonged another year.
I was led to this fear by the fact that I could not see how it was
possible for the Confederates to hold out much longer where they were.
There is no doubt that Richmond would have been evacuated much sooner
than it was, if it had not been that it was the capital of the so-called
Confederacy, and the fact of evacuating the capital would, of course,
have had a very demoralizing effect upon the Confederate army. When it
was evacuated (as we shall see further on), the Confederacy at once
began to crumble and fade away. Then, too, desertions were taking
place, not only among those who were with General Lee in the
neighborhood of their capital, but throughout the whole Confederacy. I
remember that in a conversation with me on one occasion long prior to
this, General Butler remarked that the Confederates would find great
difficulty in getting more men for their army; possibly adding, though I
am not certain as to this, "unless they should arm the slave."
The South, as we all knew, were conscripting every able-bodied man
between the ages of eighteen and forty-five; and now they had passed a
law for the further conscription of boys from fourteen to eighteen,
calling them the junior reserves, and men from forty-five to sixty to be
called the senior reserves. The latter were to hold the necessary
points not in immediate danger, and especially those in the rear.
General Butler, in alluding to this conscription, remarked that they
were thus "robbing both the cradle and the grave," an expression which I
afterwards used in writing a letter to Mr. Washburn.
It was my belief that while the enemy could get no more recruits they
were losing at least a regiment a day, taking it throughout the entire
army, by desertions alone. Then by casualties of war, sickness, and
other natural causes, their losses were much heavier. It was a mere
question of arithmetic to calculate how long they could hold out while
that rate of depletion was going on. Of course long before their army
would be thus reduced to nothing the army which we had in the field
would have been able to capture theirs. Then too I knew from the great
number of desertions, that the men who had fought so bravely, so
gallantly and so long for the cause which they believed in--and as
earnestly, I take it, as our men believed in the cause for which they
were fighting--had lost hope and become despondent. Many of them were
making application to be sent North where they might get employment
until the war was over, when they could return to their Southern homes.
For these and other reasons I was naturally very impatient for the time
to come when I could commence the spring campaign, which I thoroughly
believed would close the war.
There were two considerations I had to observe, however, and which
detained me. One was the fact that the winter had been one of heavy
rains, and the roads were impassable for artillery and teams. It was
necessary to wait until they had dried sufficiently to enable us to move
the wagon trains and artillery necessary to the efficiency of an army
operating in the enemy's country. The other consideration was that
General Sheridan with the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac was
operating on the north side of the James River, having come down from
the Shenandoah. It was necessary that I should have his cavalry with me,
and I was therefore obliged to wait until he could join me south of the
Let us now take account of what he was doing.
On the 5th of March I had heard from Sheridan. He had met Early between
Staunton and Charlottesville and defeated him, capturing nearly his
entire command. Early and some of his officers escaped by finding
refuge in the neighboring houses or in the woods.
On the 12th I heard from him again. He had turned east, to come to
White House. He could not go to Lynchburg as ordered, because the rains
had been so very heavy and the streams were so very much swollen. He
had a pontoon train with him, but it would not reach half way across
some of the streams, at their then stage of water, which he would have
to get over in going south as first ordered.
I had supplies sent around to White House for him, and kept the depot
there open until he arrived. We had intended to abandon it because the
James River had now become our base of supplies.
Sheridan had about ten thousand cavalry with him, divided into two
divisions commanded respectively by Custer and Devin. General Merritt
was acting as chief of cavalry. Sheridan moved very light, carrying
only four days' provisions with him, with a larger supply of coffee,
salt and other small rations, and a very little else besides ammunition.
They stopped at Charlottesville and commenced tearing up the railroad
back toward Lynchburg. He also sent a division along the James River
Canal to destroy locks, culverts etc. All mills and factories along the
lines of march of his troops were destroyed also.
Sheridan had in this way consumed so much time that his making a march
to White House was now somewhat hazardous. He determined therefore to
fight his way along the railroad and canal till he was as near to
Richmond as it was possible to get, or until attacked. He did this,
destroying the canal as far as Goochland, and the railroad to a point as
near Richmond as he could get. On the 10th he was at Columbia. Negroes
had joined his column to the number of two thousand or more, and they
assisted considerably in the work of destroying the railroads and the
canal. His cavalry was in as fine a condition as when he started,
because he had been able to find plenty of forage. He had captured most
of Early's horses and picked up a good many others on the road. When he
reached Ashland he was assailed by the enemy in force. He resisted
their assault with part of his command, moved quickly across the South
and North Anna, going north, and reached White House safely on the 19th.
The time for Sherman to move had to be fixed with reference to the time
he could get away from Goldsboro where he then was. Supplies had to be
got up to him which would last him through a long march, as there would
probably not be much to be obtained in the country through which he
would pass. I had to arrange, therefore, that he should start from
where he was, in the neighborhood of Goldsboro on the 18th of April, the
earliest day at which he supposed he could be ready.
Sherman was anxious that I should wait where I was until he could come
up, and make a sure thing of it; but I had determined to move as soon as
the roads and weather would admit of my doing so. I had been tied down
somewhat in the matter of fixing any time at my pleasure for starting,
until Sheridan, who was on his way from the Shenandoah Valley to join
me, should arrive, as both his presence and that of his cavalry were
necessary to the execution of the plans which I had in mind. However,
having arrived at White House on the 19th of March, I was enabled to
make my plans.
Prompted by my anxiety lest Lee should get away some night before I was
aware of it, and having the lead of me, push into North Carolina to join
with Johnston in attempting to crush out Sherman, I had, as early as the
1st of the month of March, given instructions to the troops around
Petersburg to keep a sharp lookout to see that such a movement should
not escape their notice, and to be ready strike at once if it was
It is now known that early in the month of March Mr. Davis and General
Lee had a consultation about the situation of affairs in and about and
Petersburg, and they both agreed places were no longer tenable for them,
and that they must get away as soon as possible. They, too, were
waiting for dry roads, or a condition of the roads which would make it
possible to move.
General Lee, in aid of his plan of escape, and to secure a wider opening
to enable them to reach the Danville Road with greater security than he
would have in the way the two armies were situated, determined upon an
assault upon the right of our lines around Petersburg. The night of the
24th of March was fixed upon for this assault, and General Gordon was
assigned to the execution of the plan. The point between Fort Stedman
and Battery No. 10, where our lines were closest together, was selected
as the point of his attack. The attack was to be made at night, and the
troops were to get possession of the higher ground in the rear where
they supposed we had intrenchments, then sweep to the right and left,
create a panic in the lines of our army, and force me to contract my
lines. Lee hoped this would detain me a few days longer and give him an
opportunity of escape. The plan was well conceived and the execution of
it very well done indeed, up to the point of carrying a portion of our
Gordon assembled his troops under the cover of night, at the point at
which they were to make their charge, and got possession of our
picket-line, entirely without the knowledge of the troops inside of our
main line of intrenchments; this reduced the distance he would have to
charge over to not much more than fifty yards. For some time before the
deserters had been coming in with great frequency, often bringing their
arms with them, and this the Confederate general knew. Taking advantage
of this knowledge he sent his pickets, with their arms, creeping through
to ours as if to desert. When they got to our lines they at once took
possession and sent our pickets to the rear as prisoners. In the main
line our men were sleeping serenely, as if in great security. This plan
was to have been executed and much damage done before daylight; but the
troops that were to reinforce Gordon had to be brought from the north
side of the James River and, by some accident on the railroad on their
way over, they were detained for a considerable time; so that it got to
be nearly daylight before they were ready to make the charge.
The charge, however, was successful and almost without loss, the enemy
passing through our lines between Fort Stedman and Battery No. 10. Then
turning to the right and left they captured the fort and the battery,
with all the arms and troops in them. Continuing the charge, they also
carried batteries Eleven and Twelve to our left, which they turned
toward City Point.
Meade happened to be at City Point that night, and this break in his
line cut him off from all communication with his headquarters. Parke,
however, commanding the 9th corps when this breach took place,
telegraphed the facts to Meade's headquarters, and learning that the
general was away, assumed command himself and with commendable
promptitude made all preparations to drive the enemy back. General
Tidball gathered a large number of pieces of artillery and planted them
in rear of the captured works so as to sweep the narrow space of ground
between the lines very thoroughly. Hartranft was soon out with his
division, as also was Willcox. Hartranft to the right of the breach
headed the rebels off in that direction and rapidly drove them back into
Fort Stedman. On the other side they were driven back into the
intrenchments which they had captured, and batteries eleven and twelve
were retaken by Willcox early in the morning.
Parke then threw a line around outside of the captured fort and
batteries, and communication was once more established. The artillery
fire was kept up so continuously that it was impossible for the
Confederates to retreat, and equally impossible for reinforcements to
join them. They all, therefore, fell captives into our hands. This
effort of Lee's cost him about four thousand men, and resulted in their
killing, wounding and capturing about two thousand of ours.
After the recapture of the batteries taken by the Confederates, our
troops made a charge and carried the enemy's intrenched picket line,
which they strengthened and held. This, in turn, gave us but a short
distance to charge over when our attack came to be made a few days
The day that Gordon was making dispositions for this attack (24th of
March) I issued my orders for the movement to commence on the 29th.
Ord, with three divisions of infantry and Mackenzie's cavalry, was to
move in advance on the night of the 27th, from the north side of the
James River and take his place on our extreme left, thirty miles away.
He left Weitzel with the rest of the Army of the James to hold Bermuda
Hundred and the north of the James River. The engineer brigade was to
be left at City Point, and Parke's corps in the lines about Petersburg.
Ord was at his place promptly. Humphreys and Warren were then on our
extreme left with the 2d and 5th corps. They were directed on the
arrival of Ord, and on his getting into position in their places, to
cross Hatcher's Run and extend out west toward Five Forks, the object
being to get into a position from which we could strike the South Side
Railroad and ultimately the Danville Railroad. There was considerable
fighting in taking up these new positions for the 2d and 5th corps, in
which the Army of the James had also to participate somewhat, and the
losses were quite severe.
This was what was known as the Battle of White Oak Road.
INTERVIEW WITH SHERIDAN--GRAND MOVEMENT OF THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC
--SHERIDAN'S ADVANCE ON FIVE FORKS--BATTLE OF FIVE FORKS--PARKE AND
WRIGHT STORM THE ENEMY'S LINE--BATTLES BEFORE PETERSBURG.
Sheridan reached City Point on the 26th day of March. His horses, of
course, were jaded and many of them had lost their shoes. A few days of
rest were necessary to recuperate the animals and also to have them shod
and put in condition for moving. Immediately on General Sheridan's
arrival at City Point I prepared his instructions for the move which I
had decided upon. The movement was to commence on the 29th of the
After reading the instructions I had given him, Sheridan walked out of
my tent, and I followed to have some conversation with him by himself
--not in the presence of anybody else, even of a member of my staff. In
preparing his instructions I contemplated just what took place; that is
to say, capturing Five Forks, driving the enemy from Petersburg and
Richmond and terminating the contest before separating from the enemy.
But the Nation had already become restless and discouraged at the
prolongation of the war, and many believed that it would never terminate
except by compromise. Knowing that unless my plan proved an entire
success it would be interpreted as a disastrous defeat, I provided in
these instructions that in a certain event he was to cut loose from the
Army of the Potomac and his base of supplies, and living upon the
country proceed south by the way of the Danville Railroad, or near it,
across the Roanoke, get in the rear of Johnston, who was guarding that
road, and cooperate with Sherman in destroying Johnston; then with these
combined forces to help carry out the instructions which Sherman already
had received, to act in cooperation with the armies around Petersburg
I saw that after Sheridan had read his instructions he seemed somewhat
disappointed at the idea, possibly, of having to cut loose again from
the Army of the Potomac, and place himself between the two main armies
of the enemy. I said to him: "General, this portion of your
instructions I have put in merely as a blind;" and gave him the reason
for doing so, heretofore described. I told him that, as a matter of
fact, I intended to close the war right here, with this movement, and
that he should go no farther. His face at once brightened up, and
slapping his hand on his leg he said: "I am glad to hear it, and we can
Sheridan was not however to make his movement against Five Forks until
he got further instructions from me.
One day, after the movement I am about to describe had commenced, and
when his cavalry was on our extreme left and far to the rear, south,
Sheridan rode up to where my headquarters were then established, at
Dabney's Mills. He met some of my staff officers outside, and was
highly jubilant over the prospects of success, giving reasons why he
believed this would prove the final and successful effort. Although my
chief-of-staff had urged very strongly that we return to our position
about City Point and in the lines around Petersburg, he asked Sheridan
to come in to see me and say to me what he had been saying to them.
Sheridan felt a little modest about giving his advice where it had not
been asked; so one of my staff came in and told me that Sheridan had
what they considered important news, and suggested that I send for him.
I did so, and was glad to see the spirit of confidence with which he was
imbued. Knowing as I did from experience, of what great value that
feeling of confidence by a commander was, I determined to make a
movement at once, although on account of the rains which had fallen
after I had started out the roads were still very heavy. Orders were
Finally the 29th of March came, and fortunately there having been a few
days free from rain, the surface of the ground was dry, giving
indications that the time had come when we could move. On that date I
moved out with all the army available after leaving sufficient force to
hold the line about Petersburg. It soon set in raining again however,
and in a very short time the roads became practically impassable for
teams, and almost so for cavalry. Sometimes a horse or mule would be
standing apparently on firm ground, when all at once one foot would
sink, and as he commenced scrambling to catch himself all his feet would
sink and he would have to be drawn by hand out of the quicksands so
common in that part of Virginia and other southern States. It became
necessary therefore to build corduroy roads every foot of the way as we
advanced, to move our artillery upon. The army had become so accustomed
to this kind of work, and were so well prepared for it, that it was done
very rapidly. The next day, March 30th, we had made sufficient progress
to the south-west to warrant me in starting Sheridan with his cavalry
over by Dinwiddie with instructions to then come up by the road leading
north-west to Five Forks, thus menacing the right of Lee's line.
This movement was made for the purpose of extending our lines to the
west as far as practicable towards the enemy's extreme right, or Five
Forks. The column moving detached from the army still in the trenches
was, excluding the cavalry, very small. The forces in the trenches were
themselves extending to the left flank. Warren was on the extreme left
when the extension began, but Humphreys was marched around later and
thrown into line between him and Five Forks.
My hope was that Sheridan would be able to carry Five Forks, get on the
enemy's right flank and rear, and force them to weaken their centre to
protect their right so that an assault in the centre might be
successfully made. General Wright's corps had been designated to make
this assault, which I intended to order as soon as information reached
me of Sheridan's success. He was to move under cover as close to the
enemy as he could get.
It is natural to suppose that Lee would understand my design to be to
get up to the South Side and ultimately to the Danville Railroad, as
soon as he had heard of the movement commenced on the 29th. These roads
were so important to his very existence while he remained in Richmond
and Petersburg, and of such vital importance to him even in case of
retreat, that naturally he would make most strenuous efforts to defend
them. He did on the 30th send Pickett with five brigades to reinforce
Five Forks. He also sent around to the right of his army some two or
three other divisions, besides directing that other troops be held in
readiness on the north side of the James River to come over on call. He
came over himself to superintend in person the defence of his right
Sheridan moved back to Dinwiddie Court-House on the night of the 30th,
and then took a road leading north-west to Five Forks. He had only his
cavalry with him. Soon encountering the rebel cavalry he met with a
very stout resistance. He gradually drove them back however until in
the neighborhood of Five Forks. Here he had to encounter other troops
besides those he had been contending with, and was forced to give way.
In this condition of affairs he notified me of what had taken place and
stated that he was falling back toward Dinwiddie gradually and slowly,
and asked me to send Wright's corps to his assistance. 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 to assault
when the proper time came, and was besides a long distance from him; but
the 2d (Humphreys's) and 5th (Warren's) 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.
Accordingly orders were sent to Warren to move at once that night (the
31st) to Dinwiddie Court House and put himself in communication with
Sheridan as soon as possible, and report to him. He was very slow in
moving, some of his troops not starting until after 5 o'clock next
morning. When he did move it was done very deliberately, and on
arriving at Gravelly Run he found the stream swollen from the recent
rains so that he regarded it as not fordable. Sheridan of course knew
of his coming, and being impatient to get the troops up as soon as
possible, sent orders to him to hasten. He was also hastened or at
least ordered to move up rapidly by General Meade. He now felt that he
could not cross that creek without bridges, and his orders were changed
to move so as to strike the pursuing enemy in flank or get in their
rear; but he was so late in getting up that Sheridan determined to move
forward without him. However, Ayres's division of Warren's corps
reached him in time to be in the fight all day, most of the time
separated from the remainder of the 5th corps and fighting directly
Warren reported to Sheridan about 11 o'clock on the 1st, but the whole
of his troops were not up so as to be much engaged until late in the
afternoon. Griffin's division in backing to get out of the way of a
severe cross fire of the enemy was found marching away from the
fighting. This did not continue long, however; the division was brought
back and with Ayres's division did most excellent service during the
day. Crawford's division of the same corps had backed still farther
off, and although orders were sent repeatedly to bring it up, it was
late before it finally got to where it could be of material assistance.
Once there it did very excellent service.
Sheridan succeeded by the middle of the afternoon or a little later, in
advancing up to the point from which to make his designed assault upon
Five Forks itself. He was very impatient to make the assault and have
it all over before night, because the ground he occupied would be
untenable for him in bivouac during the night. Unless the assault was
made and was successful, he would be obliged to return to Dinwiddie
Court-House, or even further than that for the night.
It was at this junction of affairs that Sheridan wanted to get
Crawford's division in hand, and he also wanted Warren. He sent staff
officer after staff officer in search of Warren, directing that general
to report to him, but they were unable to find him. At all events
Sheridan was unable to get that officer to him. Finally he went
himself. He issued an order relieving Warren and assigning Griffin to
the command of the 5th corps. The troops were then brought up and the
assault successfully made.
I was so much dissatisfied with Warren's dilatory movements in the
battle of White Oak Road and in his failure to reach Sheridan in time,
that I was very much afraid that at the last moment he would fail
Sheridan. He was a man of fine intelligence, great earnestness, quick
perception, and could make his dispositions as quickly as any officer,
under difficulties where he was forced to act. But I had before
discovered a defect which was beyond his control, that was very
prejudicial to his usefulness in emergencies like the one just before
us. He could see every danger at a glance before he had encountered it.
He would not only make preparations to meet the danger which might
occur, but he would inform his commanding officer what others should do
while he was executing his move.
I had sent a staff officer to General Sheridan to call his attention to
these defects, and to say that as much as I liked General Warren, now
was not a time when we could let our personal feelings for any one stand
in the way of success; and if his removal was necessary to success, not
to hesitate. It was upon that authorization that Sheridan removed
Warren. I was very sorry that it had been done, and regretted still
more that I had not long before taken occasion to assign him to another
field of duty.
It was dusk when our troops under Sheridan went over the parapets of the
enemy. The two armies were mingled together there for a time in such
manner that it was almost a question which one was going to demand the
surrender of the other. Soon, however, the enemy broke and ran in every
direction; some six thousand prisoners, besides artillery and small-arms
in large quantities, falling into our hands. The flying troops were
pursued in different directions, the cavalry and 5th corps under
Sheridan pursuing the larger body which moved north-west.
This pursuit continued until about nine o'clock at night, when Sheridan
halted his troops, and knowing the importance to him of the part of the
enemy's line which had been captured, returned, sending the 5th corps
across Hatcher's Run to just south-west of Petersburg, and facing them
toward it. Merritt, with the cavalry, stopped and bivouacked west of
This was the condition which affairs were in on the night of the 1st of
April. I then issued orders for an assault by Wright and Parke at four
o'clock on the morning of the 2d. I also ordered the 2d corps, General
Humphreys, and General Ord with the Army of the James, on the left, to
hold themselves in readiness to take any advantage that could be taken
from weakening in their front.
I notified Mr. Lincoln at City Point of the success of the day; in fact
I had reported to him during the day and evening as I got news, because
he was so much interested in the movements taking place that I wanted to
relieve his mind as much as I could. I notified Weitzel on the north
side of the James River, directing him, also, to keep close up to the
enemy, and take advantage of the withdrawal of troops from there to
promptly enter the city of Richmond.
I was afraid that Lee would regard the possession of Five Forks as of so
much importance that he would make a last desperate effort to retake it,
risking everything upon the cast of a single die. It was for this
reason that I had ordered the assault to take place at once, as soon as
I had received the news of the capture of Five Forks. The corps
commanders, however, reported that it was so dark that the men could not
see to move, and it would be impossible to make the assault then. But we
kept up a continuous artillery fire upon the enemy around the whole line
including that north of the James River, until it was light enough to
move, which was about a quarter to five in the morning.
At that hour Parke's and Wright's corps moved out as directed, brushed
the abatis from their front as they advanced under a heavy fire of
musketry and artillery, and went without flinching directly on till they
mounted the parapets and threw themselves inside of the enemy's line.
Parke, who was on the right, swept down to the right and captured a very
considerable length of line in that direction, but at that point the
outer was so near the inner line which closely enveloped the city of
Petersburg that he could make no advance forward and, in fact, had a
very serious task to turn the lines which he had captured to the defence
of his own troops and to hold them; but he succeeded in this.
Wright swung around to his left and moved to Hatcher's Run, sweeping
everything before him. The enemy had traverses in rear of his captured
line, under cover of which he made something of a stand, from one to
another, as Wright moved on; but the latter met no serious obstacle. As
you proceed to the left the outer line becomes gradually much farther
from the inner one, and along about Hatcher's Run they must be nearly
two miles apart. Both Parke and Wright captured a considerable amount of
artillery and some prisoners--Wright about three thousand of them.
In the meantime Ord and Humphreys, in obedience to the instructions they
had received, had succeeded by daylight, or very early in the morning,
in capturing the intrenched picket-lines in their front; and before
Wright got up to that point, Ord had also succeeded in getting inside of
the enemy's intrenchments. The second corps soon followed; and the
outer works of Petersburg were in the hands of the National troops,
never to be wrenched from them again. When Wright reached Hatcher's
Run, he sent a regiment to destroy the South Side Railroad just outside
of the city.
My headquarters were still at Dabney's saw-mills. As soon as I received
the news of Wright's success, I sent dispatches announcing the fact to
all points around the line, including the troops at Bermuda Hundred and
those on the north side of the James, and to the President at City
Point. Further dispatches kept coming in, and as they did I sent the
additional news to these points. Finding at length that they were all
in, I mounted my horse to join the troops who were inside the works.
When I arrived there I rode my horse over the parapet just as Wright's
three thousand prisoners were coming out. I was soon joined inside by
General Meade and his staff.
Lee made frantic efforts to recover at least part of the lost ground.
Parke on our right was repeatedly assaulted, but repulsed every effort.
Before noon Longstreet was ordered up from the north side of the James
River thus bringing the bulk of Lee's army around to the support of his
extreme right. As soon as I learned this I notified Weitzel and
directed him to keep up close to the enemy and to have Hartsuff,
commanding the Bermuda Hundred front, to do the same thing, and if they
found any break to go in; Hartsuff especially should do so, for this
would separate Richmond and Petersburg.
Sheridan, after he had returned to Five Forks, swept down to Petersburg,
coming in on our left. This gave us a continuous line from the
Appomattox River below the city to the same river above. At eleven
o'clock, not having heard from Sheridan, I reinforced Parke with two
brigades from City Point. With this additional force he completed his
captured works for better defence, and built back from his right, so as
to protect his flank. He also carried in and made an abatis between
himself and the enemy. Lee brought additional troops and artillery
against Parke even after this was done, and made several assaults with
very heavy losses.
The enemy had in addition to their intrenched line close up to
Petersburg, two enclosed works outside of it, Fort Gregg and Fort
Whitworth. We thought it had now become necessary to carry them by
assault. About one o'clock in the day, Fort Gregg was assaulted by
Foster's division of the 24th corps (Gibbon's), supported by two
brigades from Ord's command. The battle was desperate and the National
troops were repulsed several times; but it was finally carried, and
immediately the troops in Fort Whitworth evacuated the place. The guns
of Fort Gregg were turned upon the retreating enemy, and the commanding
officer with some sixty of the men of Fort Whitworth surrendered.
I had ordered Miles in the morning to report to Sheridan. In moving to
execute this order he came upon the enemy at the intersection of the
White Oak Road and the Claiborne Road. The enemy fell back to
Sutherland Station on the South Side Road and were followed by Miles.
This position, naturally a strong and defensible one, was also strongly
intrenched. Sheridan now came up and Miles asked permission from him to
make the assault, which Sheridan gave. By this time Humphreys had got
through the outer works in his front, and came up also and assumed
command over Miles, who commanded a division in his corps. I had sent
an order to Humphreys to turn to his right and move towards Petersburg.
This order he now got, and started off, thus leaving Miles alone. The
latter made two assaults, both of which failed, and he had to fall back
a few hundred yards.
Hearing that Miles had been left in this position, I directed Humphreys
to send a division back to his relief. He went himself.
Sheridan before starting to sweep down to Petersburg had sent Merritt
with his cavalry to the west to attack some Confederate cavalry that had
assembled there. Merritt drove them north to the Appomattox River.
Sheridan then took the enemy at Sutherland Station on the reverse side
from where Miles was, and the two together captured the place, with a
large number of prisoners and some pieces of artillery, and put the
remainder, portions of three Confederate corps, to flight. Sheridan
followed, and drove them until night, when further pursuit was stopped.
Miles bivouacked for the night on the ground which he with Sheridan had
carried so handsomely by assault. I cannot explain the situation here
better than by giving my dispatch to City Point that evening:
BOYDTON ROAD, NEAR PETERSBURG, April 2, 1865.--4.40 P.M.
COLONEL T. S. BOWERS, City Point.
We are now up and have a continuous line of troops, and in a few hours
will be intrenched from the Appomattox below Petersburg to the river
above. Heth's and Wilcox's divisions, such part of them as were not
captured, were cut off from town, either designedly on their part or
because they could not help it. Sheridan with the cavalry and 5th corps
is above them. Miles's division, 2d corps, was sent from the White Oak
Road to Sutherland Station on the South Side Railroad, where he met
them, and at last accounts was engaged with them. Not knowing whether
Sheridan would get up in time, General Humphreys was sent with another
division from here. The whole captures since the army started out
gunning will amount to not less than twelve thousand men, and probably
fifty pieces of artillery. I do not know the number of men and guns
accurately however. * * * I think the President might come out and pay
us a visit tomorrow.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
During the night of April 2d our line was intrenched from the river
above to the river below. I ordered a bombardment to be commenced the
next morning at five A.M., to be followed by an assault at six o'clock;
but the enemy evacuated Petersburg early in the morning.
THE CAPTURE OF PETERSBURG--MEETING PRESIDENT LINCOLN IN PETERSBURG--THE
CAPTURE OF RICHMOND--PURSUING THE ENEMY--VISIT TO SHERIDAN AND MEADE.
General Meade and I entered Petersburg on the morning of the 3d and took
a position under cover of a house which protected us from the enemy's
musketry which was flying thick and fast there. As we would
occasionally look around the corner we could see the streets and the
Appomattox bottom, presumably near the bridge, packed with the
Confederate army. I did not have artillery brought up, because I was
sure Lee was trying to make his escape, and I wanted to push immediately
in pursuit. At all events I had not the heart to turn the artillery
upon such a mass of defeated and fleeing men, and I hoped to capture
Soon after the enemy had entirely evacuated Petersburg, a man came in
who represented himself to be an engineer of the Army of Northern
Virginia. He said that Lee had for some time been at work preparing a
strong enclosed intrenchment, into which he would throw himself when
forced out of Petersburg, and fight his final battle there; that he was
actually at that time drawing his troops from Richmond, and falling back
into this prepared work. This statement was made to General Meade and
myself when we were together. I had already given orders for the
movement up the south side of the Appomattox for the purpose of heading
off Lee; but Meade was so much impressed by this man's story that he
thought we ought to cross the Appomattox there at once and move against
Lee in his new position. I knew that Lee was no fool, as he would have
been to have put himself and his army between two formidable streams
like the James and Appomattox rivers, and between two such armies as
those of the Potomac and the James. Then these streams coming together
as they did to the east of him, it would be only necessary to close up
in the west to have him thoroughly cut off from all supplies or
possibility of reinforcement. It would only have been a question of
days, and not many of them, if he had taken the position assigned to him
by the so-called engineer, when he would have been obliged to surrender
his army. Such is one of the ruses resorted to in war to deceive your
antagonist. My judgment was that Lee would necessarily have to evacuate
Richmond, and that the only course for him to pursue would be to follow
the Danville Road. Accordingly my object was to secure a point on that
road south of Lee, and I told Meade this. He suggested that if Lee was
going that way we would follow him. My reply was that we did not want
to follow him; we wanted to get ahead of him and cut him off, and if he
would only stay in the position he (Meade) believed him to be in at that
time, I wanted nothing better; that when we got in possession of the
Danville Railroad, at its crossing of the Appomattox River, if we still
found him between the two rivers, all we had to do was to move eastward
and close him up. That we would then have all the advantage we could
possibly have by moving directly against him from Petersburg, even if he
remained in the position assigned him by the engineer officer.
I had held most of the command aloof from the intrenchments, so as to
start them out on the Danville Road early in the morning, supposing that
Lee would be gone during the night. During the night I strengthened
Sheridan by sending him Humphreys's corps.
Lee, as we now know, had advised the authorities at Richmond, during the
day, of the condition of affairs, and told them it would be impossible
for him to hold out longer than night, if he could hold out that long.
Davis was at church when he received Lee's dispatch. The congregation
was dismissed with the notice that there would be no evening service.
The rebel government left Richmond about two o'clock in the afternoon of
At night Lee ordered his troops to assemble at Amelia Court House, his
object being to get away, join Johnston if possible, and to try to crush
Sherman before I could get there. As soon as I was sure of this I
notified Sheridan and directed him to move out on the Danville Railroad
to the south side of the Appomattox River as speedily as possible. He
replied that he already had some of his command nine miles out. I then
ordered the rest of the Army of the Potomac under Meade to follow the
same road in the morning. Parke's corps followed by the same road, and
the Army of the James was directed to follow the road which ran
alongside of the South Side Railroad to Burke's Station, and to repair
the railroad and telegraph as they proceeded. That road was a 5 feet
gauge, while our rolling stock was all of the 4 feet 8 1/2 inches gauge;
consequently the rail on one side of the track had to be taken up
throughout the whole length and relaid so as to conform to the gauge of
our cars and locomotives.
Mr. Lincoln was at City Point at the time, and had been for some days.
I would have let him know what I contemplated doing, only while I felt a
strong conviction that the move was going to be successful, yet it might
not prove so; and then I would have only added another to the many
disappointments he had been suffering for the past three years. But
when we started out he saw that we were moving for a purpose, and
bidding us Godspeed, remained there to hear the result.
The next morning after the capture of Petersburg, I telegraphed Mr.
Lincoln asking him to ride out there and see me, while I would await his
arrival. I had started all the troops out early in the morning, so that
after the National army left Petersburg there was not a soul to be seen,
not even an animal in the streets. There was absolutely no one there,
except my staff officers and, possibly, a small escort of cavalry. We
had selected the piazza of a deserted house, and occupied it until the
About the first thing that Mr. Lincoln said to me, after warm
congratulations for the victory, and thanks both to myself and to the
army which had accomplished it, was: "Do you know, general, that I have
had a sort of a sneaking idea for some days that you intended to do
something like this." Our movements having been successful up to this
point, I no longer had any object in concealing from the President all
my movements, and the objects I had in view. He remained for some days
near City Point, and I communicated with him frequently and fully by
Mr. Lincoln knew that it had been arranged for Sherman to join me at a
fixed time, to co-operate in the destruction of Lee's army. I told him
that I had been very anxious to have the Eastern armies vanquish their
old enemy who had so long resisted all their repeated and gallant
attempts to subdue them or drive them from their capital. The Western
armies had been in the main successful until they had conquered all the
territory from the Mississippi River to the State of North Carolina, and
were now almost ready to knock at the back door of Richmond, asking
admittance. I said to him that if the Western armies should be even
upon the field, operating against Richmond and Lee, the credit would be
given to them for the capture, by politicians and non-combatants from
the section of country which those troops hailed from. It might lead to
disagreeable bickerings between members of Congress of the East and
those of the West in some of their debates. Western members might be
throwing it up to the members of the East that in the suppression of the
rebellion they were not able to capture an army, or to accomplish much
in the way of contributing toward that end, but had to wait until the
Western armies had conquered all the territory south and west of them,
and then come on to help them capture the only army they had been
Mr. Lincoln said he saw that now, but had never thought of it before,
because his anxiety was so great that he did not care where the aid came
from so the work was done.
The Army of the Potomac has every reason to be proud of its four years'
record in the suppression of the rebellion. The army it had to fight
was the protection to the capital of a people which was attempting to
found a nation upon the territory of the United States. Its loss would
be the loss of the cause. Every energy, therefore, was put forth by the
Confederacy to protect and maintain their capital. Everything else
would go if it went. Lee's army had to be strengthened to enable it to
maintain its position, no matter what territory was wrested from the
South in another quarter.
I never expected any such bickering as I have indicated, between the
soldiers of the two sections; and, fortunately, there has been none
between the politicians. Possibly I am the only one who thought of the
liability of such a state of things in advance.
When our conversation was at an end Mr. Lincoln mounted his horse and
started on his return to City Point, while I and my staff started to
join the army, now a good many miles in advance. Up to this time I had
not received the report of the capture of Richmond.
Soon after I left President Lincoln I received a dispatch from General
Weitzel which notified me that he had taken possession of Richmond at
about 8.15 o'clock in the morning of that day, the 3d, and that he had
found the city on fire in two places. The city was in the most utter
confusion. The authorities had taken the precaution to empty all the
liquor into the gutter, and to throw out the provisions which the
Confederate government had left, for the people to gather up. The city
had been deserted by the authorities, civil and military, without any
notice whatever that they were about to leave. In fact, up to the very
hour of the evacuation the people had been led to believe that Lee had
gained an important victory somewhere around Petersburg.
Weitzel's command found evidence of great demoralization in Lee's army,
there being still a great many men and even officers in the town. The
city was on fire. Our troops were directed to extinguish the flames,
which they finally succeeded in doing. The fire had been started by some
one connected with the retreating army. All authorities deny that it
was authorized, and I presume it was the work of excited men who were
leaving what they regarded as their capital and may have felt that it
was better to destroy it than have it fall into the hands of their
enemy. Be that as it may, the National troops found the city in flames,
and used every effort to extinguish them.
The troops that had formed Lee's right, a great many of them, were cut
off from getting back into Petersburg, and were pursued by our cavalry
so hotly and closely that they threw away caissons, ammunition,
clothing, and almost everything to lighten their loads, and pushed along
up the Appomattox River until finally they took water and crossed over.
I left Mr. Lincoln and started, as I have already said, to join the
command, which halted at Sutherland Station, about nine miles out. We
had still time to march as much farther, and time was an object; but the
roads were bad and the trains belonging to the advance corps had blocked
up the road so that it was impossible to get on. Then, again, our
cavalry had struck some of the enemy and were pursuing them; and the
orders were that the roads should be given up to the cavalry whenever
they appeared. This caused further delay.
General Wright, who was in command of one of the corps which were left
back, thought to gain time by letting his men go into bivouac and trying
to get up some rations for them, and clearing out the road, so that when
they did start they would be uninterrupted. Humphreys, who was far
ahead, was also out of rations. They did not succeed in getting them up
through the night; but the Army of the Potomac, officers and men, were
so elated by the reflection that at last they were following up a
victory to its end, that they preferred marching without rations to
running a possible risk of letting the enemy elude them. So the march
was resumed at three o'clock in the morning.
Merritt's cavalry had struck the enemy at Deep Creek, and driven them
north to the Appomattox, where, I presume, most of them were forced to
On the morning of the 4th I learned that Lee had ordered rations up from
Danville for his famishing army, and that they were to meet him at
Farmville. This showed that Lee had already abandoned the idea of
following the railroad down to Danville, but had determined to go
farther west, by the way of Farmville. I notified Sheridan of this and
directed him to get possession of the road before the supplies could
reach Lee. He responded that he had already sent Crook's division to
get upon the road between Burkesville and Jetersville, then to face
north and march along the road upon the latter place; and he thought
Crook must be there now. The bulk of the army moved directly for
Jetersville by two roads.
After I had received the dispatch from Sheridan saying that Crook was on
the Danville Road, I immediately ordered Meade to make a forced march
with the Army of the Potomac, and to send Parke's corps across from the
road they were on to the South Side Railroad, to fall in the rear of the
Army of the James and to protect the railroad which that army was
repairing as it went along.
Our troops took possession of Jetersville and in the telegraph office,
they found a dispatch from Lee, ordering two hundred thousand rations
from Danville. The dispatch had not been sent, but Sheridan sent a
special messenger with it to Burkesville and had it forwarded from
there. In the meantime, however, dispatches from other sources had
reached Danville, and they knew there that our army was on the line of
the road; so that they sent no further supplies from that quarter.
At this time Merritt and Mackenzie, with the cavalry, were off between
the road which the Army of the Potomac was marching on and the
Appomattox River, and were attacking the enemy in flank. They picked up
a great many prisoners and forced the abandonment of some property.
Lee intrenched himself at Amelia Court House, and also his advance north
of Jetersville, and sent his troops out to collect forage. The country
was very poor and afforded but very little. His foragers scattered a
great deal; many of them were picked up by our men, and many others
never returned to the Army of Northern Virginia.
Griffin's corps was intrenched across the railroad south of Jetersville,
and Sheridan notified me of the situation. I again ordered Meade up
with all dispatch, Sheridan having but the one corps of infantry with a
little cavalry confronting Lee's entire army. Meade, always prompt in
obeying orders, now pushed forward with great energy, although he was
himself sick and hardly able to be out of bed. Humphreys moved at two,
and Wright at three o'clock in the morning, without rations, as I have
said, the wagons being far in the rear.
I stayed that night at Wilson's Station on the South Side Railroad. On
the morning of the 5th I sent word to Sheridan of the progress Meade was
making, and suggested that he might now attack Lee. We had now no other
objective than the Confederate armies, and I was anxious to close the
thing up at once.
On the 5th I marched again with Ord's command until within about ten
miles of Burkesville, where I stopped to let his army pass. I then
received from Sheridan the following dispatch:
"The whole of Lee's army is at or near Amelia Court House, and on this
side of it. General Davies, whom I sent out to Painesville on their
right flank, has just captured six pieces of artillery and some wagons.
We can capture the Army of Northern Virginia if force enough can be
thrown to this point, and then advance upon it. My cavalry was at
Burkesville yesterday, and six miles beyond, on the Danville Road, last
night. General Lee is at Amelia Court House in person. They are out of
rations, or nearly so. They were advancing up the railroad towards
Burkesville yesterday, when we intercepted them at this point."
It now became a life and death struggle with Lee to get south to his
Sheridan, thinking the enemy might turn off immediately towards
Farmville, moved Davies's brigade of cavalry out to watch him. Davies
found the movement had already commenced. He attacked and drove away
their cavalry which was escorting wagons to the west, capturing and
burning 180 wagons. He also captured five pieces of artillery. The
Confederate infantry then moved against him and probably would have
handled him very roughly, but Sheridan had sent two more brigades of
cavalry to follow Davies, and they came to his relief in time. A sharp
engagement took place between these three brigades of cavalry and the
enemy's infantry, but the latter was repulsed.
Meade himself reached Jetersville about two o'clock in the afternoon,
but in advance of all his troops. The head of Humphreys's corps
followed in about an hour afterwards. Sheridan stationed the troops as
they came up, at Meade's request, the latter still being very sick. He
extended two divisions of this corps off to the west of the road to the
left of Griffin's corps, and one division to the right. The cavalry by
this time had also come up, and they were put still farther off to the
left, Sheridan feeling certain that there lay the route by which the
enemy intended to escape. He wanted to attack, feeling that if time was
given, the enemy would get away; but Meade prevented this, preferring to
wait till his troops were all up.
At this juncture Sheridan sent me a letter which had been handed to him
by a colored man, with a note from himself saying that he wished I was
there myself. The letter was dated Amelia Court House, April 5th, and
signed by Colonel Taylor. It was to his mother, and showed the
demoralization of the Confederate army. Sheridan's note also gave me the
information as here related of the movements of that day. I received a
second message from Sheridan on the 5th, in which he urged more
emphatically the importance of my presence. This was brought to me by a
scout in gray uniform. It was written on tissue paper, and wrapped up
in tin-foil such as chewing tobacco is folded in. This was a precaution
taken so that if the scout should be captured he could take this
tin-foil out of his pocket and putting it into his mouth, chew it. It
would cause no surprise at all to see a Confederate soldier chewing
tobacco. It was nearly night when this letter was received. I gave Ord
directions to continue his march to Burkesville and there intrench
himself for the night, and in the morning to move west to cut off all
the roads between there and Farmville.
I then started with a few of my staff and a very small escort of
cavalry, going directly through the woods, to join Meade's army. The
distance was about sixteen miles; but the night being dark our progress
was slow through the woods in the absence of direct roads. However, we
got to the outposts about ten o'clock in the evening, and after some
little parley convinced the sentinels of our identity and were conducted
in to where Sheridan was bivouacked. We talked over the situation for
some little time, Sheridan explaining to me what he thought Lee was
trying to do, and that Meade's orders, if carried out, moving to the
right flank, would give him the coveted opportunity of escaping us and
putting us in rear of him.
We then together visited Meade, reaching his headquarters about
midnight. I explained to Meade that we did not want to follow the
enemy; we wanted to get ahead of him, and that his orders would allow
the enemy to escape, and besides that, I had no doubt that Lee was
moving right then. Meade changed his orders at once. They were now
given for an advance on Amelia Court House, at an early hour in the
morning, as the army then lay; that is, the infantry being across the
railroad, most of it to the west of the road, with the cavalry swung out
still farther to the left.
BATTLE OF SAILOR'S CREEK--ENGAGEMENT AT FARMVILLE--CORRESPONDENCE WITH
GENERAL LEE--SHERIDAN INTERCEPTS THE ENEMY.
The Appomattox, going westward, takes a long sweep to the south-west
from the neighborhood of the Richmond and Danville Railroad bridge, and
then trends north-westerly. Sailor's Creek, an insignificant stream,
running northward, empties into the Appomattox between the High Bridge
and Jetersville. Near the High Bridge the stage road from Petersburg to
Lynchburg crosses the Appomattox River, also on a bridge. The railroad
runs on the north side of the river to Farmville, a few miles west, and
from there, recrossing, continues on the south side of it. The roads
coming up from the south-east to Farmville cross the Appomattox River
there on a bridge and run on the north side, leaving the Lynchburg and
Petersburg Railroad well to the left.
Lee, in pushing out from Amelia Court House, availed himself of all the
roads between the Danville Road and Appomattox River to move upon, and
never permitted the head of his columns to stop because of any fighting
that might be going on in his rear. In this way he came very near
succeeding in getting to his provision trains and eluding us with at
least part of his army.
As expected, Lee's troops had moved during the night before, and our
army in moving upon Amelia Court House soon encountered them. There was
a good deal of fighting before Sailor's Creek was reached. Our cavalry
charged in upon a body of theirs which was escorting a wagon train in
order to get it past our left. A severe engagement ensued, in which we
captured many prisoners, and many men also were killed and wounded.
There was as much gallantry displayed by some of the Confederates in
these little engagements as was displayed at any time during the war,
notwithstanding the sad defeats of the past week.
The armies finally met on Sailor's Creek, when a heavy engagement took
place, in which infantry, artillery and cavalry were all brought into
action. Our men on the right, as they were brought in against the
enemy, came in on higher ground, and upon his flank, giving us every
advantage to be derived from the lay of the country. Our firing was
also very much more rapid, because the enemy commenced his retreat
westward and in firing as he retreated had to turn around every time he
fired. The enemy's loss was very heavy, as well in killed and wounded
as in captures. Some six general officers fell into our hands in this
engagement, and seven thousand men were made prisoners. This engagement
was commenced in the middle of the afternoon of the 6th, and the retreat
and pursuit were continued until nightfall, when the armies bivouacked
upon the ground where the night had overtaken them.
When the move towards Amelia Court House had commenced that morning, I
ordered Wright's corps, which was on the extreme right, to be moved to
the left past the whole army, to take the place of Griffin's, and
ordered the latter at the same time to move by and place itself on the
right. The object of this movement was to get the 6th corps, Wright's,
next to the cavalry, with which they had formerly served so harmoniously
and so efficiently in the valley of Virginia.
The 6th corps now remained with the cavalry and under Sheridan's direct
command until after the surrender.
Ord had been directed to take possession of all the roads southward
between Burkesville and the High Bridge. On the morning of the 6th he
sent Colonel Washburn with two infantry regiments with instructions to
destroy High Bridge and to return rapidly to Burkesville Station; and he
prepared himself to resist the enemy there. Soon after Washburn had
started Ord became a little alarmed as to his safety and sent Colonel
Read, of his staff, with about eighty cavalrymen, to overtake him and
bring him back. Very shortly after this he heard that the head of Lee's
column had got up to the road between him and where Washburn now was,
and attempted to send reinforcements, but the reinforcements could not
get through. Read, however, had got through ahead of the enemy. He
rode on to Farmville and was on his way back again when he found his
return cut off, and Washburn confronting apparently the advance of Lee's
army. Read drew his men up into line of battle, his force now
consisting of less than six hundred men, infantry and cavalry, and rode
along their front, making a speech to his men to inspire them with the
same enthusiasm that he himself felt. He then gave the order to charge.
This little band made several charges, of course unsuccessful ones, but
inflicted a loss upon the enemy more than equal to their own entire
number. Colonel Read fell mortally wounded, and then Washburn; and at
the close of the conflict nearly every officer of the command and most
of the rank and file had been either killed or wounded. The remainder
then surrendered. The Confederates took this to be only the advance of
a larger column which had headed them off, and so stopped to intrench;
so that this gallant band of six hundred had checked the progress of a
strong detachment of the Confederate army.
This stoppage of Lee's column no doubt saved to us the trains following.
Lee himself pushed on and crossed the wagon road bridge near the High
Bridge, and attempted to destroy it. He did set fire to it, but the
flames had made but little headway when Humphreys came up with his corps
and drove away the rear-guard which had been left to protect it while it
was being burned up. Humphreys forced his way across with some loss,
and followed Lee to the intersection of the road crossing at Farmville
with the one from Petersburg. Here Lee held a position which was very
strong, naturally, besides being intrenched. Humphreys was alone,
confronting him all through the day, and in a very hazardous position.
He put on a bold face, however, and assaulted with some loss, but was
not assaulted in return.
Our cavalry had gone farther south by the way of Prince Edward's Court
House, along with the 5th corps (Griffin's), Ord falling in between
Griffin and the Appomattox. Crook's division of cavalry and Wright's
corps pushed on west of Farmville. When the cavalry reached Farmville
they found that some of the Confederates were in ahead of them, and had
already got their trains of provisions back to that point; but our
troops were in time to prevent them from securing anything to eat,
although they succeeded in again running the trains off, so that we did
not get them for some time. These troops retreated to the north side of
the Appomattox to join Lee, and succeeded in destroying the bridge after
them. Considerable fighting ensued there between Wright's corps and a
portion of our cavalry and the Confederates, but finally the cavalry
forded the stream and drove them away. Wright built a foot-bridge for
his men to march over on and then marched out to the junction of the
roads to relieve Humphreys, arriving there that night. I had stopped
the night before at Burkesville Junction. Our troops were then pretty
much all out of the place, but we had a field hospital there, and Ord's
command was extended from that point towards Farmville.
Here I met Dr. Smith, a Virginian and an officer of the regular army,
who told me that in a conversation with General Ewell, one of the
prisoners and a relative of his, Ewell had said that when we had got
across the James River he knew their cause was lost, and it was the duty
of their authorities to make the best terms they could while they still
had a right to claim concessions. The authorities thought differently,
however. Now the cause was lost and they had no right to claim
anything. He said further, that for every man that was killed after
this in the war somebody is responsible, and it would be but very little
better than murder. He was not sure that Lee would consent to surrender
his army without being able to consult with the President, but he hoped
I rode in to Farmville on the 7th, arriving there early in the day.
Sheridan and Ord were pushing through, away to the south. Meade was
back towards the High Bridge, and Humphreys confronting Lee as before
stated. After having gone into bivouac at Prince Edward's Court House,
Sheridan learned that seven trains of provisions and forage were at
Appomattox, and determined to start at once and capture them; and a
forced march was necessary in order to get there before Lee's army could
secure them. He wrote me a note telling me this. This fact, together
with the incident related the night before by Dr. Smith, gave me the
idea of opening correspondence with General Lee on the subject of the
surrender of his army. I therefore wrote to him on this day, as
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE U. S., 5 P.M., April 7, 1865.
GENERAL R. E. LEE Commanding C. S. A.
The result of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of
further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this
struggle. I feel that it is so, and regard it as my duty to shift from
myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood, by asking of
you the surrender of that portion of the Confederate States army known
as the Army of Northern Virginia.
U. S. GRANT, Lieut.-General.
Lee replied on the evening of the same day as follows:
April 7, 1865.
GENERAL: I have received your note of this day. Though not
entertaining the opinion you express on the hopelessness of further
resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia, I reciprocate
your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood, and therefore before
considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer on condition
of its surrender.
R. E. LEE, General.
LIEUT.-GENERAL U. S. GRANT, Commanding Armies of the U. S.
This was not satisfactory, but I regarded it as deserving another letter
and wrote him as follows:
April 8, 1865.
GENERAL R. E. LEE, Commanding C. S. A.
Your note of last evening in reply to mine of same date, asking the
condition on which I will accept the surrender of the Army of Northern
Virginia is just received. In reply I would say that, peace being my
great desire, there is but one condition I would insist upon, namely:
that the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified for taking
up arms again against the Government of the United States until properly
exchanged. I will meet you, or will designate officers to meet any
officers you may name for the same purpose, at any point agreeable to
you, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the
surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received.
U. S. GRANT, Lieut.-General.
Lee's army was rapidly crumbling. Many of his soldiers had enlisted
from that part of the State where they now were, and were continually
dropping out of the ranks and going to their homes. I know that I
occupied a hotel almost destitute of furniture at Farmville, which had
probably been used as a Confederate hospital. The next morning when I
came out I found a Confederate colonel there, who reported to me and
said that he was the proprietor of that house, and that he was a colonel
of a regiment that had been raised in that neighborhood. He said that
when he came along past home, he found that he was the only man of the
regiment remaining with Lee's army, so he just dropped out, and now
wanted to surrender himself. I told him to stay there and he would not
be molested. That was one regiment which had been eliminated from Lee's
force by this crumbling process.
Although Sheridan had been marching all day, his troops moved with
alacrity and without any straggling. They began to see the end of what
they had been fighting four years for. Nothing seemed to fatigue them.
They were ready to move without rations and travel without rest until
the end. Straggling had entirely ceased, and every man was now a rival
for the front. The infantry marched about as rapidly as the cavalry
Sheridan sent Custer with his division to move south of Appomattox
Station, which is about five miles south-west of the Court House, to get
west of the trains and destroy the roads to the rear. They got there
the night of the 8th, and succeeded partially; but some of the train men
had just discovered the movement of our troops and succeeded in running
off three of the trains. The other four were held by Custer.
The head of Lee's column came marching up there on the morning of the
9th, not dreaming, I suppose, that there were any Union soldiers near.
The Confederates were surprised to find our cavalry had possession of
the trains. However, they were desperate and at once assaulted, hoping
to recover them. In the melee that ensued they succeeded in burning one
of the trains, but not in getting anything from it. Custer then ordered
the other trains run back on the road towards Farmville, and the fight
So far, only our cavalry and the advance of Lee's army were engaged.
Soon, however, Lee's men were brought up from the rear, no doubt
expecting they had nothing to meet but our cavalry. But our infantry
had pushed forward so rapidly that by the time the enemy got up they
found Griffin's corps and the Army of the James confronting them. A
sharp engagement ensued, but Lee quickly set up a white flag.
NEGOTIATIONS AT APPOMATTOX--INTERVIEW WITH LEE AT MCLEAN'S HOUSE--THE
TERMS OF SURRENDER--LEE'S SURRENDER--INTERVIEW WITH LEE AFTER THE
On the 8th I had followed the Army of the Potomac in rear of Lee. I was
suffering very severely with a sick headache, and stopped at a farmhouse
on the road some distance in rear of the main body of the army. I spent
the night in bathing my feet in hot water and mustard, and putting
mustard plasters on my wrists and the back part of my neck, hoping to be
cured by morning. During the night I received Lee's answer to my letter
of the 8th, inviting an interview between the lines on the following
morning. (*43) But it was for a different purpose from that of
surrendering his army, and I answered him as follows:
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE U. S., April 9, 1865.
GENERAL R. E. LEE, Commanding C. S. A.
Your note of yesterday is received. As I have no authority to treat on
the subject of peace, the meeting proposed for ten 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. The terms upon which peace can be had are well understood. 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. Sincerely hoping that all our difficulties
may be settled without the loss of another life, I subscribe myself,
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
I proceeded at an early hour in the morning, still suffering with the
headache, to get to the head of the column. I was not more than two or
three miles from Appomattox Court House at the time, but to go direct I
would have to pass through Lee's army, or a portion of it. I had
therefore to move south in order to get upon a road coming up from
When the white flag was put out by Lee, as already described, I was in
this way moving towards Appomattox Court House, and consequently could
not be communicated with immediately, and be informed of what Lee had
done. Lee, therefore, sent a flag to the rear to advise Meade and one
to the front to Sheridan, saying that he had sent a message to me for
the purpose of having a meeting to consult about the surrender of his
army, and asked for a suspension of hostilities until I could be
communicated with. As they had heard nothing of this until the fighting
had got to be severe and all going against Lee, both of these commanders
hesitated very considerably about suspending hostilities at all. They
were afraid it was not in good faith, and we had the Army of Northern
Virginia where it could not escape except by some deception. They,
however, finally consented to a suspension of hostilities for two hours
to give an opportunity of communicating with me in that time, if
possible. It was found that, from the route I had taken, they would
probably not be able to communicate with me and get an answer back
within the time fixed unless the messenger should pass through the rebel
Lee, therefore, sent an escort with the officer bearing this message
through his lines to me.
April 9, 1865.
GENERAL: 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 request an interview in accordance with the offer
contained in your letter of yesterday for that purpose.
R. E. LEE, General.
LIEUTENANT-GENERAL U. S. GRANT Commanding U. S. Armies.
When the officer reached me I was still suffering with the sick
headache, but the instant I saw the contents of the note I was cured. I
wrote the following note in reply and hastened on:
April 9, 1865.
GENERAL R. E. LEE, Commanding C. S. Armies.
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 road to
the Farmville and Lynchburg road. I am at this writing 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.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
I was conducted at once to where Sheridan was located with his troops
drawn up in line of battle facing the Confederate army near by. They
were very much excited, and expressed their view that this was all a
ruse employed to enable the Confederates to get away. They said they
believed that Johnston was marching up from North Carolina now, and Lee
was moving to join him; and they would whip the rebels where they now
were in five minutes if I would only let them go in. But I had no doubt
about the good faith of Lee, and pretty soon was conducted to where he
was. I found him at the house of a Mr. McLean, at Appomattox Court
House, with Colonel Marshall, one of his staff officers, awaiting my
arrival. The head of his column was occupying a hill, on a portion of
which was an apple orchard, beyond a little valley which separated it
from that on the crest of which Sheridan's forces were drawn up in line
of battle to the south.
Before stating what took place between General Lee and myself, I will
give all there is of the story of the famous apple tree.
Wars produce many stories of fiction, some of which are told until they
are believed to be true. The war of the rebellion was no exception to
this rule, and the story of the apple tree is one of those fictions
based on a slight foundation of fact. As I have said, there was an apple
orchard on the side of the hill occupied by the Confederate forces.
Running diagonally up the hill was a wagon road, which, at one point,
ran very near one of the trees, so that the wheels of vehicles had, on
that side, cut off the roots of this tree, leaving a little embankment.
General Babcock, of my staff, reported to me that when he first met
General Lee he was sitting upon this embankment with his feet in the
road below and his back resting against the tree. The story had no
other foundation than that. Like many other stories, it would be very
good if it was only true.
I had known General Lee in the old army, and had served with him in the
Mexican War; but did not suppose, owing to the difference in our age and
rank, that he would remember me, while I would more naturally remember
him distinctly, because he was the chief of staff of General Scott in
the Mexican War.
When I had left camp that morning I had not expected so soon the result
that was then taking place, and consequently was in rough garb. I was
without a sword, as I usually was when on horseback on the field, and
wore a soldier's blouse for a coat, with the shoulder straps of my rank
to indicate to the army who I was. When I went into the house I found
General Lee. We greeted each other, and after shaking hands took our
seats. I had my staff with me, a good portion of whom were in the room
during the whole of the interview.
What General Lee's feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much
dignity, with an impassible face, it was impossible to say whether he
felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the
result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were
entirely concealed from my observation; 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.
General Lee was dressed in a full uniform which was entirely new, and
was wearing a sword of considerable value, very likely the sword which
had been presented by the State of Virginia; at all events, it was an
entirely different sword from the one that would ordinarily be worn in
the field. In my rough traveling suit, the uniform of a private with
the straps of a lieutenant-general, I must have contrasted very
strangely with a man so handsomely dressed, six feet high and of
faultless form. But this was not a matter that I thought of until
We soon fell into a conversation about old army times. He remarked that
he remembered me very well in the old army; and I told him that as a
matter of course I remembered him perfectly, but from the difference in
our rank and years (there being about sixteen years' difference in our
ages), I had thought it very likely that I had not attracted his
attention sufficiently to be remembered by him after such a long
interval. 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. I said that I
meant merely that his army should lay down their arms, not to take them
up again during the continuance of the war unless duly and properly
exchanged. He said that he had so understood my letter.
Then we gradually fell off again into conversation about matters foreign
to the subject which had brought us together. This continued for some
little time, when General Lee again interrupted the course of the
conversation by suggesting that the terms I proposed to give his army
ought to be written out. I called to General Parker, secretary on my
staff, for writing materials, and commenced writing out the following
APPOMATTOX C. H., VA.,
Ap 19th, 1865.
GEN. R. E. LEE, Comd'g C. S. A.
GEN: 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.
Very respectfully, U. S. GRANT, Lt. Gen.
When I put my pen to the paper I did not know the first word that I
should make use of in writing the terms. I only knew what was in my
mind, and I wished to express it clearly, so that there could be no
mistaking it. As I wrote on, the thought occurred to me that the
officers had their own private horses and effects, which were important
to them, but of no value to us; also that it would be an unnecessary
humiliation to call upon them to deliver their side arms.
No conversation, not one word, passed between General Lee and myself,
either about private property, side arms, or kindred subjects. He
appeared to have no objections to the terms first proposed; or if he had
a point to make against them he wished to wait until they were in
writing to make it. When he read over that part of the terms about side
arms, horses and private property of the officers, he remarked, with
some feeling, I thought, that this would have a happy effect upon his
Then, after a little further conversation, General Lee remarked to me
again that their army was organized a little differently from the army
of the United States (still maintaining by implication that we were two
countries); that in their army the cavalrymen and artillerists owned
their own horses; and he asked if he was to understand that the men who
so owned their horses were to be permitted to retain them. I told him
that as the terms were written they would not; that only the officers
were permitted to take their private property. He then, after reading
over the terms a second time, remarked that that was clear.
I then said to him that I thought this would be about the last battle of
the war--I sincerely hoped so; and I said further I took it that most of
the men in the ranks were small farmers. The whole country had been so
raided by the two armies that it was doubtful whether they would be able
to put in a crop to carry themselves and their families through the next
winter without the aid of the horses they were then riding. The United
States did not want them and I would, therefore, instruct the officers I
left behind to receive the paroles of his troops to let every man of the
Confederate army who claimed to own a horse or mule take the animal to
his home. Lee remarked again that this would have a happy effect.
He then sat down and wrote out the following letter:
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, April 9, 1865.
GENERAL:--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.
R. E. LEE, General. LIEUT.-GENERAL U. S. GRANT.
While duplicates of the two letters were being made, the Union generals
present were severally presented to General Lee.
The much talked of surrendering of Lee's sword and my handing it back,
this and much more that has been said about it is the purest romance.
The word sword or side arms was not mentioned by either of us until I
wrote it in the terms. There was no premeditation, and it did not occur
to me until the moment I wrote it down. If I had happened to omit it,
and General Lee had called my attention to it, I should have put it in
the terms precisely as I acceded to the provision about the soldiers
retaining their horses.
General Lee, after all was completed and before taking his leave,
remarked that his army was in a very bad condition for want of food, and
that they were without forage; that his men had been living for some
days on parched corn exclusively, and that he would have to ask me for
rations and forage. I told him "certainly," and asked for how many men
he wanted rations. His answer was "about twenty-five thousand;" and I
authorized him to send his own commissary and quartermaster to
Appomattox Station, two or three miles away, where he could have, out of
the trains we had stopped, all the provisions wanted. As for forage, we
had ourselves depended almost entirely upon the country for that.
Generals Gibbon, Griffin and Merritt were designated by me to carry into
effect the paroling of Lee's troops before they should start for their
homes--General Lee leaving Generals Longstreet, Gordon and Pendleton for
them to confer with in order to facilitate this work. Lee and I then
separated as cordially as we had met, he returning to his own lines, and
all went into bivouac for the night at Appomattox.
Soon after Lee's departure I telegraphed to Washington as follows:
HEADQUARTERS APPOMATTOX C. H., VA., April 9th, 1865, 4.30 P.M.
HON. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War, Washington.
General Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia this afternoon on
terms proposed by myself. The accompanying additional correspondence
will show the conditions fully.
U. S. GRANT, Lieut.-General.
When news of the surrender first reached our lines our men commenced
firing a salute of a hundred guns in honor of the victory. I at once
sent word, however, to have it stopped. The Confederates were now our
prisoners, and we did not want to exult over their downfall.
I determined to return to Washington at once, with a view to putting a
stop to the purchase of supplies, and what I now deemed other useless
outlay of money. Before leaving, however, I thought I (*44) would like
to see General Lee again; so next morning I rode out beyond our lines
towards his headquarters, preceded by a bugler and a staff-officer
carrying a white flag.
Lee soon mounted his horse, seeing who it was, and met me. We had there
between the lines, sitting on horseback, a very pleasant conversation of
over half an hour, in the course of which Lee said to me that the South
was a big country and that we might have to march over it three or four
times before the war entirely ended, but that we would now be able to do
it as they could no longer resist us. He expressed it as his earnest
hope, however, that we would not be called upon to cause more loss and
sacrifice of life; but he could not foretell the result. I then
suggested to General Lee that there was not a man in the Confederacy
whose influence with the soldiery and the whole people was as great as
his, and that if he would now advise the surrender of all the armies I
had no doubt his advice would be followed with alacrity. But Lee said,
that he could not do that without consulting the President first. I
knew there was no use to urge him to do anything against his ideas of
what was right.
I was accompanied by my staff and other officers, some of whom seemed to
have a great desire to go inside the Confederate lines. They finally
asked permission of Lee to do so for the purpose of seeing some of their
old army friends, and the permission was granted. They went over, had a
very pleasant time with their old friends, and brought some of them back
with them when they returned.
When Lee and I separated he went back to his lines and I returned to the
house of Mr. McLean. Here the officers of both armies came in great
numbers, and seemed to enjoy the meeting as much as though they had been
friends separated for a long time while fighting battles under the same
flag. For the time being it looked very much as if all thought of the
war had escaped their minds. After an hour pleasantly passed in this
way I set out on horseback, accompanied by my staff and a small escort,
for Burkesville Junction, up to which point the railroad had by this
time been repaired.
MORALE OF THE TWO ARMIES--RELATIVE CONDITIONS OF THE NORTH AND SOUTH
--PRESIDENT LINCOLN VISITS RICHMOND--ARRIVAL AT WASHINGTON--PRESIDENT
LINCOLN'S ASSASSINATION--PRESIDENT JOHNSON'S POLICY.
After the fall of Petersburg, and when the armies of the Potomac and the
James were in motion to head off Lee's army, the morale of the National
troops had greatly improved. There was no more straggling, no more rear
guards. The men who in former times had been falling back, were now, as
I have already stated, striving to get to the front. For the first time
in four weary years they felt that they were now nearing the time when
they could return to their homes with their country saved. On the other
hand, the Confederates were more than correspondingly depressed. Their
despondency increased with each returning day, and especially after the
battle of Sailor's Creek. They threw away their arms in constantly
increasing numbers, dropping out of the ranks and betaking themselves to
the woods in the hope of reaching their homes. I have already instanced
the case of the entire disintegration of a regiment whose colonel I met
at Farmville. As a result of these and other influences, when Lee
finally surrendered at Appomattox, there were only 28,356 officers and
men left to be paroled, and many of these were without arms. It was
probably this latter fact which gave rise to the statement sometimes
made, North and South, that Lee surrendered a smaller number of men than
what the official figures show. As a matter of official record, and in
addition to the number paroled as given above, we captured between March
29th and the date of surrender 19,132 Confederates, to say nothing of
Lee's other losses, killed, wounded and missing, during the series of
desperate conflicts which marked his headlong and determined flight.
The same record shows the number of cannon, including those at
Appomattox, to have been 689 between the dates named.
There has always been a great conflict of opinion as to the number of
troops engaged in every battle, or all important battles, fought between
the sections, the South magnifying the number of Union troops engaged
and belittling their own. Northern writers have fallen, in many
instances, into the same error. I have often heard gentlemen, who were
thoroughly loyal to the Union, speak of what a splendid fight the South
had made and successfully continued for four years before yielding, with
their twelve million of people against our twenty, and of the twelve
four being colored slaves, non-combatants. I will add to their
argument. We had many regiments of brave and loyal men who volunteered
under great difficulty from the twelve million belonging to the South.
But the South had rebelled against the National government. It was not
bound by any constitutional restrictions. The whole South was a
military camp. The occupation of the colored people was to furnish
supplies for the army. Conscription was resorted to early, and embraced
every male from the age of eighteen to forty-five, excluding only those
physically unfit to serve in the field, and the necessary number of
civil officers of State and intended National government. The old and
physically disabled furnished a good portion of these. The slaves, the
non-combatants, one-third of the whole, were required to work in the
field without regard to sex, and almost without regard to age. Children
from the age of eight years could and did handle the hoe; they were not
much older when they began to hold the plough. The four million of
colored non-combatants were equal to more than three times their number
in the North, age for age and sex for sex, in supplying food from the
soil to support armies. Women did not work in the fields in the North,
and children attended school.
The arts of peace were carried on in the North. Towns and cities grew
during the war. Inventions were made in all kinds of machinery to
increase the products of a day's labor in the shop, and in the field.
In the South no opposition was allowed to the government which had been
set up and which would have become real and respected if the rebellion
had been successful. No rear had to be protected. All the troops in
service could be brought to the front to contest every inch of ground
threatened with invasion. The press of the South, like the people who
remained at home, were loyal to the Southern cause.
In the North, the country, the towns and the cities presented about the
same appearance they do in time of peace. The furnace was in blast, the
shops were filled with workmen, the fields were cultivated, not only to
supply the population of the North and the troops invading the South,
but to ship abroad to pay a part of the expense of the war. In the
North the press was free up to the point of open treason. The citizen
could entertain his views and express them. Troops were necessary in
the Northern States to prevent prisoners from the Southern army being
released by outside force, armed and set at large to destroy by fire our
Northern cities. Plans were formed by Northern and Southern citizens to
burn our cities, to poison the water supplying them, to spread infection
by importing clothing from infected regions, to blow up our river and
lake steamers--regardless of the destruction of innocent lives. The
copperhead disreputable portion of the press magnified rebel successes,
and belittled those of the Union army. It was, with a large following,
an auxiliary to the Confederate army. The North would have been much
stronger with a hundred thousand of these men in the Confederate ranks
and the rest of their kind thoroughly subdued, as the Union sentiment
was in the South, than we were as the battle was fought.
As I have said, the whole South was a military camp. The colored
people, four million in number, were submissive, and worked in the field
and took care of the families while the able-bodied white men were at
the front fighting for a cause destined to defeat. The cause was
popular, and was enthusiastically supported by the young men. The
conscription took all of them. Before the war was over, further
conscriptions took those between fourteen and eighteen years of age as
junior reserves, and those between forty-five and sixty as senior
reserves. It would have been an offence, directly after the war, and
perhaps it would be now, to ask any able-bodied man in the South, who
was between the ages of fourteen and sixty at any time during the war,
whether he had been in the Confederate army. He would assert that he
had, or account for his absence from the ranks. Under such
circumstances it is hard to conceive how the North showed such a
superiority of force in every battle fought. I know they did not.
During 1862 and '3, John H. Morgan, a partisan officer, of no military
education, but possessed of courage and endurance, operated in the rear
of the Army of the Ohio in Kentucky and Tennessee. He had no base of
supplies to protect, but was at home wherever he went. The army
operating against the South, on the contrary, had to protect its lines
of communication with the North, from which all supplies had to come to
the front. Every foot of road had to be guarded by troops stationed at
convenient distances apart. These guards could not render assistance
beyond the points where stationed. Morgan Was foot-loose and could
operate where, his information--always correct--led him to believe he
could do the greatest damage. During the time he was operating in this
way he killed, wounded and captured several times the number he ever had
under his command at any one time. He destroyed many millions of
property in addition. Places he did not attack had to be guarded as if
threatened by him. Forrest, an abler soldier, operated farther west,
and held from the National front quite as many men as could be spared
for offensive operations. It is safe to say that more than half the
National army was engaged in guarding lines of supplies, or were on
leave, sick in hospital or on detail which prevented their bearing arms.
Then, again, large forces were employed where no Confederate army
confronted them. I deem it safe to say that there were no large
engagements where the National numbers compensated for the advantage of
position and intrenchment occupied by the enemy.
While I was in pursuit of General Lee, the President went to Richmond in
company with Admiral Porter, and on board his flagship. He found the
people of that city in great consternation. The leading citizens among
the people who had remained at home surrounded him, anxious that
something should be done to relieve them from suspense. General Weitzel
was not then in the city, having taken offices in one of the neighboring
villages after his troops had succeeded in subduing the conflagration
which they had found in progress on entering the Confederate capital.
The President sent for him, and, on his arrival, a short interview was
had on board the vessel, Admiral Porter and a leading citizen of
Virginia being also present. After this interview the President wrote an
order in about these words, which I quote from memory: "General Weitzel
is authorized to permit the body calling itself the Legislature of
Virginia to meet for the purpose of recalling the Virginia troops from
the Confederate armies."
Immediately some of the gentlemen composing that body wrote out a call
for a meeting and had it published in their papers. This call, however,
went very much further than Mr. Lincoln had contemplated, as he did not
say the "Legislature of Virginia" but "the body which called itself the
Legislature of Virginia." Mr. Stanton saw the call as published in the
Northern papers the very next issue and took the liberty of
countermanding the order authorizing any meeting of the Legislature, or
any other body, and this notwithstanding the fact that the President was
nearer the spot than he was.
This was characteristic of Mr. Stanton. He was a man who never
questioned his own authority, and who always did in war time what he
wanted to do. He was an able constitutional lawyer and jurist; but the
Constitution was not an impediment to him while the war lasted. In this
latter particular I entirely agree with the view he evidently held. The
Constitution was not framed with a view to any such rebellion as that of
1861-5. While it did not authorize rebellion it made no provision
against it. Yet the right to resist or suppress rebellion is as
inherent as the right of self-defence, and as natural as the right of an
individual to preserve his life when in jeopardy. The Constitution was
therefore in abeyance for the time being, so far as it in any way
affected the progress and termination of the war.
Those in rebellion against the government of the United States were not
restricted by constitutional provisions, or any other, except the acts
of their Congress, which was loyal and devoted to the cause for which
the South was then fighting. It would be a hard case when one-third of
a nation, united in rebellion against the national authority, is
entirely untrammeled, that the other two-thirds, in their efforts to
maintain the Union intact, should be restrained by a Constitution
prepared by our ancestors for the express purpose of insuring the
permanency of the confederation of the States.
After I left General Lee at Appomattox Station, I went with my staff and
a few others directly to Burkesville Station on my way to Washington.
The road from Burkesville back having been newly repaired and the ground
being soft, the train got off the track frequently, and, as a result, it
was after midnight of the second day when I reached City Point. As soon
as possible I took a dispatch-boat thence to Washington City.
While in Washington I was very busy for a time in preparing the
necessary orders for the new state of affairs; communicating with my
different commanders of separate departments, bodies of troops, etc.
But by the 14th I was pretty well through with this work, so as to be
able to visit my children, who were then in Burlington, New Jersey,
attending school. Mrs. Grant was with me in Washington at the time, and
we were invited by President and Mrs. Lincoln to accompany them to the
theatre on the evening of that day. I replied to the President's verbal
invitation to the effect, that if we were in the city we would take
great pleasure in accompanying them; but that I was very anxious to get
away and visit my children, and if I could get through my work during
the day I should do so. I did get through and started by the evening
train on the 14th, sending Mr. Lincoln word, of course, that I would not
be at the theatre.
At that time the railroad to New York entered Philadelphia on Broad
Street; passengers were conveyed in ambulances to the Delaware River,
and then ferried to Camden, at which point they took the cars again.
When I reached the ferry, on the east side of the City of Philadelphia,
I found people awaiting my arrival there; and also dispatches informing
me of the assassination of the President and Mr. Seward, and of the
probable assassination of the Vice President, Mr. Johnson, and
requesting my immediate return.
It would be impossible for me to describe the feeling that overcame me
at the news of these assassinations, more especially the assassination
of the President. I knew his goodness of heart, his generosity, his
yielding disposition, his desire to have everybody happy, and above all
his desire to see all the people of the United States enter again upon
the full privileges of citizenship with equality among all. I knew also
the feeling that Mr. Johnson had expressed in speeches and conversation
against the Southern people, and I feared that his course towards them
would be such as to repel, and make them unwilling citizens; and if they
became such they would remain so for a long while. I felt that
reconstruction had been set back, no telling how far.
I immediately arranged for getting a train to take me back to Washington
City; but Mrs. Grant was with me; it was after midnight and Burlington
was but an hour away. Finding that I could accompany her to our house
and return about as soon as they would be ready to take me from the
Philadelphia station, I went up with her and returned immediately by the
same special train. The joy that I had witnessed among the people in
the street and in public places in Washington when I left there, had
been turned to grief; the city was in reality a city of mourning. I
have stated what I believed then the effect of this would be, and my
judgment now is that I was right. I believe the South would have been
saved from very much of the hardness of feeling that was engendered by
Mr. Johnson's course towards them during the first few months of his
administration. Be this as it may, Mr. Lincoln's assassination was
particularly unfortunate for the entire nation.
Mr. Johnson's course towards the South did engender bitterness of
feeling. His denunciations of treason and his ever-ready remark,
"Treason is a crime and must be made odious," was repeated to all those
men of the South who came to him to get some assurances of safety so
that they might go to work at something with the feeling that what they
obtained would be secure to them. He uttered his denunciations with
great vehemence, and as they were accompanied with no assurances of
safety, many Southerners were driven to a point almost beyond endurance.
The President of the United States is, in a large degree, or ought to
be, a representative of the feeling, wishes and judgment of those over
whom he presides; and the Southerners who read the denunciations of
themselves and their people must have come to the conclusion that he
uttered the sentiments of the Northern people; whereas, as a matter of
fact, but for the assassination of Mr. Lincoln, I believe the great
majority of the Northern people, and the soldiers unanimously, would
have been in favor of a speedy reconstruction on terms that would be the
least humiliating to the people who had rebelled against their
government. They believed, I have no doubt, as I did, that besides
being the mildest, it was also the wisest, policy.
The people who had been in rebellion must necessarily come back into the
Union, and be incorporated as an integral part of the nation. Naturally
the nearer they were placed to an equality with the people who had not
rebelled, the more reconciled they would feel with their old
antagonists, and the better citizens they would be from the beginning.
They surely would not make good citizens if they felt that they had a
yoke around their necks.
I do not believe that the majority of the Northern people at that time
were in favor of negro suffrage. They supposed that it would naturally
follow the freedom of the negro, but that there would be a time of
probation, in which the ex-slaves could prepare themselves for the
privileges of citizenship before the full right would be conferred; but
Mr. Johnson, after a complete revolution of sentiment, seemed to regard
the South not only as an oppressed people, but as the people best
entitled to consideration of any of our citizens. This was more than
the people who had secured to us the perpetuation of the Union were
prepared for, and they became more radical in their views. The
Southerners had the most power in the executive branch, Mr. Johnson
having gone to their side; and with a compact South, and such sympathy
and support as they could get from the North, they felt that they would
be able to control the nation at once, and already many of them acted as
if they thought they were entitled to do so.
Thus Mr. Johnson, fighting Congress on the one hand, and receiving the
support of the South on the other, drove Congress, which was
overwhelmingly republican, to the passing of first one measure and then
another to restrict his power. There being a solid South on one side
that was in accord with the political party in the North which had
sympathized with the rebellion, it finally, in the judgment of Congress
and of the majority of the legislatures of the States, became necessary
to enfranchise the negro, in all his ignorance. In this work, I shall
not discuss the question of how far the policy of Congress in this
particular proved a wise one. It became an absolute necessity, however,
because of the foolhardiness of the President and the blindness of the
Southern people to their own interest. As to myself, while strongly
favoring the course that would be the least humiliating to the people
who had been in rebellion, I gradually worked up to the point where,
with the majority of the people, I favored immediate enfranchisement.