May 10, 1865: Jefferson Davis Captured

Sunday, May 10, AD 2015

Wonder how Jefferson Davis
Feels, down there in Montgomery, about Sumter.
He must be thinking pretty hard and fast,
For he’s an able man, no doubt of that.
We were born less than forty miles apart,
Less than a year apart–he got the start
Of me in age, and raising too, I guess,
In fact, from all you hear about the man,
If you set out to pick one of us two
For President, by birth and folks and schooling,
General raising, training up in office,
I guess you’d pick him, nine times out of ten
And yet, somehow, I’ve got to last him out.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

Jefferson Davis, first and last president of the Confederacy, was captured by Union cavalry near Irwinville, Georgia one hundred and fifty years ago.  Secretly he is happy about this turn of events.  He expects to be tried for treason and looks forward to defending himself on Constitutional grounds.  Instead, he will spend two years incarcerated, and then be released on bail, never to have his day in court.  He would have the misfortune to survive the War for almost a quarter of a century, and to become involved in many querulous debates with former Confederates who sought to blame him for the loss of the War.  Far better for Davis if he had been killed by the Union troopers and died, the martyr of the Lost Cause.  Instead, he was fated to endure the worst fate for a loser of a great historical turning point:  a long life in which to play the role of scapegoat.

Robert E. Lee I think had it right when he said that he could think of no one who could have done as well as Davis as President.  A great man who almost led his nation to victory, Davis had the misfortune to be opposed by a greater man leading a stronger nation.  In response to his critics, he produced a two volume turgid defense entitled The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (1881), published, ironically, by a New York publishing house.  At 1500 pages it is one of the great unread books of American history, the province of only the most obsessive of Civil War scholars, although Oscar Wilde, strangely enough, proclaimed it a literary masterpiece, although even he admitted that he skimmed the military portions.   In recent decades Davis, who had his slaves run his plantation along with their own court system, has been often portrayed as a devil stick figure, as if he had invented slavery, a sort of anti-Lincoln.  This is ahistoric rubbish.  Davis was a fascinating, and often contradictory, man and the scholarship devoted to him has been sadly lacking.  The man who came so close to changing the course of the nation deserves better from the servants of Clio.

T. H. Peabody, a member of the Union cavalry unit that captured Davis gave this account:

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When Johnny Comes Marching Home

Saturday, May 2, AD 2015

 

Something for the weekend:  When Johnny Comes Marching Home.  One hundred and fifty years ago as soldiers North and South were returning to their homes this song was being played.  Written by composer Patrick Gilmore, bandmaster of the 24th Massachusetts in 1863 to comfort his sister who was praying for her fiancée to return safe from the War, it proved immensely popular both North and South with the troops and was sung and played endlessly by them with varied lyrics, all centered upon their dearest hope:  to go home after what they usually called this cruel War was over.  Gilmore set the tune to another popular song of the day:  Johnny Fill Up the Bowl.

The song retained its popularity in subsequent American wars as demonstrated by these renditions of the song by Glenn Miller and the Andrew Sisters:

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Sherman: Telegraphs and Railroads

Thursday, April 30, AD 2015

 

Sherman at the end of his memoirs has a chapter on the military lessons of the war.  Two of the most prescient listed by him are the impact of the telegraph and railroads on the War:

For the rapid transmission of orders in an army covering a large space of ground, the magnetic telegraph is by far the best, though habitually the paper and pencil, with good mounted orderlies, answer every purpose. I have little faith in the signal-service by flags and torches, though we always used them; because, almost invariably when they were most needed, the view was cut off by intervening trees, or by mists and fogs. There was one notable instance in my experience, when the signal-flags carried a message. of vital importance over the heads of Hood’s army, which had interposed between me and Allatoona, and had broken the telegraph-wires–as recorded in Chapter XIX.; but the value of the magnetic telegraph in war cannot be exaggerated, as was illustrated by the perfect concert of action between the armies in Virginia and Georgia during 1864. Hardly a day intervened when General Grant did not know the exact state of facts with me, more than fifteen hundred miles away as the wires ran. So on the field a thin insulated wire may be run on improvised stakes or from tree to tree for six or more miles in a couple of hours, and I have seen operators so skillful, that by cutting the wire they would receive a message with their tongues from a distant station. As a matter of course, the ordinary commercial wires along the railways form the usual telegraph-lines for an army, and these are easily repaired and extended as the army advances, but each army and wing should have a small party of skilled men to put up the field-wire, and take it down when done. This is far better than the signal-flags and torches. Our commercial telegraph-lines will always supply for war enough skillful operators.

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Sic Transit John Wilkes Booth

Tuesday, April 28, AD 2015

Death of Booth

 

 

Judging from his melodramatic “Sic, Semper Tyrannis!” at Ford’s Theater after murdering Lincoln, Booth perceived his role of assassin as  being his greatest role, a chance to play in real life a doomed Romantic hero, an avenger of a wronged people.  The last twelve days of his life, as he eluded capture must have been disappointing for him, as the newspapers he read, including those who had been highly critical of Lincoln, universally condemned his action.  Perhaps he perceived that instead of  being a hero, he was fated to be cast as a minor villain, remembered solely due to his slaying of a great hero.  Booth wrote in his diary, “With every man’s hand against me, I am here in despair. And why; For doing what Brutus was honored for … And yet I for striking down a greater tyrant than they ever knew am looked upon as a common cutthroat.”

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4 Responses to Sic Transit John Wilkes Booth

  • Yesterday’s WSJ published a reveiw of a recent book on the US Cavalry trooper (that had been paroled from Andersonville Prison) that shot Booth.
    .

  • Sadly, Booth coming through Maryland in this escape route, visited a doctor to set his broken leg. That doctor, doing his medical duty and not recognizing Booth who was in disguise, was Dr. Samuel Mudd. Later Dr. Mudd, a civilian, was tried by a military court and found guilty of planning the conspiracy. He was a Catholic. He was not murdered but sent to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas off Key West. His health was ruined there. Later on he was ‘pardoned’ but not declared innocent. The term “Your name will be Mudd” comes from this event.

    People were out for blood and even hung Booth’s land lady, Mrs. Surratt who was also a Catholic and daily communicant and almost certainly had nothing to do with the conspiracy.

  • Mudd knew who Booth was and had met him three times prior to the assassination:

    http://rogerjnorton.com/Lincoln29.html

    The expression “your name is mud” was long in vogue prior to Dr. Mudd:

    http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/your-name-is-mud.html

  • In thinking of John Wilkes Booth, one cannot but recollect the words of Lamartine on Charlotte Corday, the assassin of Marat, the People’s Friend.

    “In the face of murder, history dares not praise, and in the face of heroism, dares not condemn her. The appreciation of such an act places us in the terrible alternative of blaming virtue or applauding assassination… There are deeds of which men are no judges, and which mount, without appeal, direct to the tribunal of God. There are human actions so strange a mixture of weakness and strength, pure intent and culpable means, error and truth, murder and martyrdom, that we know not whether to term them crime or virtue. The culpable devotion of Charlotte Corday is among those acts which admiration and horror would leave eternally in doubt, did not morality reprove them.”

April 27, 1865: Sultana: Death on the Mississippi

Monday, April 27, AD 2015

After the massive bloodletting of the Civil War, one would have hoped that Death would have taken at least a brief holiday in the US.  Such was not the case.  On April 27th 1865, the SS Sultana, a Mississipi paddlewheeler steamer, constructed in 1863 for the cotton trade, was serving as a transport.  Its cargo was appoximately 2500 Union soldiers, many of them former POWS, some of them survivors of Andersonville.  The Union soldiers boarded at Vicksburg.  The Sultana while in port at Vicksburg had a patch put on its steam boiler.  The repair was clearly inadequate, a new  boiler being needed. 

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April 21, 1865: Stanton to Grant: Hostilities to Be Resumed

Tuesday, April 21, AD 2015

 

 

 

 

 

Sherman and Johnston

 

For all his world weary cynicism, General Sherman was a complete innocent when it came to political matters, in which he had little interest.  He demonstrated this by the terms of the memorandum of agreement which he entered into with General Johnston on April 18, 1865:

T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.

HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI
IN THE FIELD, RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA, April 18, 1865.

Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, or Major-General HALLECK, Washington, D. C.

GENERAL: I inclose herewith a copy of an agreement made this day between General Joseph E. Johnston and myself, which, if approved by the President of the United States, will produce peace from the Potomac to the Rio Grande. Mr. Breckenridge was present at our conference, in the capacity of major-general, and satisfied me of the ability of General Johnston to carry out to their full extent the terms of this agreement; and if you will get the President to simply indorse the copy, and commission me to carry out the terms, I will follow them to the conclusion.

You will observe that it is an absolute submission of the enemy to the lawful authority of the United States, and disperses his armies absolutely; and the point to which I attach most importance is, that the dispersion and disbandment of these armies is done in such a manner as to prevent their breaking up into guerrilla bands. On the other hand, we can retain just as much of an army as we please. I agreed to the mode and manner of the surrender of arms set forth, as it gives the States the means of repressing guerrillas, which we could not expect them to do if we stripped them of all arms.

Both Generals Johnston and Breckenridge admitted that slavery was dead, and I could not insist on embracing it in such a paper, because it can be made with the States in detail. I know that all the men of substance South sincerely want peace, and I do not believe they will resort to war again during this century. I have no doubt that they will in the future be perfectly subordinate to the laws of the United States. The moment my action in this matter is approved, I can spare five corps, and will ask for orders to leave General Schofield here with the Tenth Corps, and to march myself with the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Seventeenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-third Corps via Burkesville and Gordonsville to Frederick or Hagerstown, Maryland, there to be paid and mustered out.

The question of finance is now the chief one, and every soldier and officer not needed should be got home at work. I would like to be able to begin the march north by May 1st.

I urge, on the part of the President, speedy action, as it is important to get the Confederate armies to their homes as well as our own.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.

Memorandum, or Basis of agreement, made this 18th day of April, A. D. 1865, near Durham’s Station, in the State of North Carolina, by and between General Joseph E. JOHNSTON, commanding the Confederate Army, and Major-General William T. SHERMAN, commanding the army of the United States in North Carolina, both present:

1. The contending armies now in the field to maintain the statu quo until notice is given by the commanding general of any one to its opponent, and reasonable time–say, forty-eight hours–allowed.

2. The Confederate armies now in existence to be disbanded and conducted to their several State capitals, there to deposit their arms and public property in the State Arsenal; and each officer and man to execute and file an agreement to cease from acts of war, and to abide the action of the State and Federal authority. The number of arms and munitions of war to be reported to the Chief of Ordnance at Washington City, subject to the future action of the Congress of the United States, and, in the mean time, to be needed solely to maintain peace and order within the borders of the States respectively.

3. The recognition, by the Executive of the United States, of the several State governments, on their officers and Legislatures taking the oaths prescribed by the Constitution of the United States, and, where conflicting State governments have resulted from the war, the legitimacy of all shall be submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States.

4. The reestablishment of all the Federal Courts in the several States, with powers as defined by the Constitution of the United States and of the States respectively.

5. The people and inhabitants of all the States to be guaranteed, so far as the Executive can, their political rights and franchises, as well as their rights of personal property, as defined by the Constitution of the United States and of the States respectively.

6. The Executive authority of the Government of the United States not to disturb any of the people by reason of the late war, so long as they live in peace and quiet, abstain from acts of armed hostility, and obey the laws in existence at the place of their residence.

7. In general terms–the war to cease; a general amnesty, so far as the Executive of the United States can command, on condition of the disbandment of the Confederate armies, the distribution of the arms, and the resumption of peaceful pursuits by the officers and men hitherto composing said armies.

Not being fully empowered by our respective principals to fulfill these terms, we individually and officially pledge ourselves to promptly obtain the necessary authority, and to carry out the above programme.

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding Army of the United States in North Carolina.

J. E. JOHNSTON, General,
Commanding Confederate States Army in North Carolina.

The agreement had been masterminded by Breckenridge, a canny politician and former Vice-President of the United States.  If accepted, the agreement would have short-circuited Reconstruction and basically re-established state governments in the Confederate States as if the War had never occurred.  Lincoln would not have accepted this, and in the wake of his assassination the terms were angrily repudiated by Washington as indicated by this letter from Stanton to Grant:

 

War Department, Washington City, April 21, 1865

Lieutenant-General Grant.

General:

The memorandum or basis agreed upon between General Sherman and General Johnston having been submitted to the President, they are disapproved.  You will give notice of the disapproval to General Sherman, and direct him to resume hostilities at the earliest moment.

The instructions given to you by the late President, Abraham Lincoln, on the 3d of March, by my telegraph of that date, addressed to you, express substantially the views of President Andrew Johnson, and will be observed by General Sherman.  A copy is herewith appended.

The President desires that you proceed immediately to the headquarters of Major-General Sherman, and direct operations against the enemy.

Yours truly,
Edwin M. Stanton,
Secretary of War.

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April 20, 1865: Lee’s Final Report

Monday, April 20, AD 2015

imagesUSIUCBQ2

 

 

Although he had no idea where the fugitive President of the Confederacy precisely was, Robert E. Lee on April 20, 1865 wrote his final report to Davis which contained a plea for peace instead of partisan warfare:

 

Robert E. Lee
to
Jefferson Davis

Richmond, Virginia
April 20, 1865

Mr. President

The apprehensions I expressed during the winter, of the moral [sic] condition of the Army of Northern Virginia, have been realized.   The operations which occurred while the troops were in the entrenchments in front of Richmond and Petersburg were not marked by the boldness and decision which formerly characterized them.   Except in particular instances, they were feeble; and a want of confidence seemed to possess officers and men.   This condition, I think, was produced by the state of feeling in the country, and the communications received by the men from their homes, urging their return and the abandonment of the field.   The movement of the enemy on the 30th March to Dinwiddie Court House was consequently not as strongly met as similar ones had been.   Advantages were gained by him which discouraged the troops, so that on the morning of the 2d April, when our lines between the Appomattox and Hatcher’s Run were assaulted, the resistance was not effectual:   several points were penetrated and large captures made.   At the commencement of the withdrawal of the army from the lines on the night of the 2d, it began to disintegrate, and straggling from the ranks increased up to the surrender on the 9th.   On that day, as previously reported, there were only seven thousand eight hundred and ninety-two (7892) effective infantry.   During the night, when the surrender became known, more than ten thousand men came in, as reported to me by the Chief Commissary of the Army.   During the succeeding days stragglers continued to give themselves up, so that on the 12th April, according to the rolls of those paroled, twenty-six thousand and eighteen (26,018) officers and men had surrendered.   Men who had left the ranks on the march, and crossed James River, returned and gave themselves up, and many have since come to Richmond and surrendered.   I have given these details that Your Excellency might know the state of feeling which existed in the army, and judge of that in the country.   From what I have seen and learned, I believe an army cannot be organized or supported in Virginia, and as far as I know the condition of affairs, the country east of the Mississippi is morally and physically unable to maintain the contest unaided with any hope of ultimate success.   A partisan war may be continued, and hostilities protracted, causing individual suffering and the devastation of the country, but I see no prospect by that means of achieving a separate independence.   It is for Your Excellency to decide, should you agree with me in opinion, what is proper to be done.   To save useless effusion of blood, I would recommend measures be taken for suspension of hostilities and the restoration of peace.

I am with great respect, yr obdt svt
R. E. Lee
Genl

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April 19, 1865: Funeral Sermon on Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, April 19, AD 2015

images3J7J183T

 

Although it was a  Wednesday, many contemporary observers in the United States thought that April 19, 1865 felt like a Sunday.  Funeral rites were being conducted for Abraham Lincoln at the White House and a national holiday, a national day of mourning, was proclaimed.  After the funeral service at the White House, Lincoln’s body began its long trek back to Springfield, where it would pass through 180 cities with the people of the country given an opportunity to pass by Lincoln’s coffin.  The funeral sermon was preached by Dr. Phineas D. Gurley, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington that Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln attended.  He had been close to both Lincolns, the Lincolns had chosen him to preach the funeral sermon when their son Willie died, and he would accompany the body back to Springfield and preach the final funeral sermon there.  His sermon at the White House was a powerful effort and reflected a willingness to see the Hand of God in all things, a common sentiment at that time, that most of us today, even those of us who are religious, lack, especially when something terrible occurs.  God is relegated, in much contemporary religious thought, to being either a divine Santa Claus, or an ineffectual, albeit well meaning, divinity, who stands apart from the frequently terrible things that occur in this vale of tears and weeps with us.  I think Gurley is closer to the truth, even with his patina of Calvinism, as to the nature of I AM who created the universe. Here is the text of the sermon:

 

 

AS WE STAND HERE TODAY, MOURNERS AROUND THIS COFFIN AND AROUND THE LIFELESS REMAINS OF OUR BELOVED CHIEF MAGISTRATE, WE RECOGNIZE AND WE ADORE THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD. His throne is in the heavens, and His kingdom ruleth over all. He hath done, and He hath permitted to be done, whatsoever He pleased. “Clouds and darkness are round about Him; righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne.” His way is in the sea, and His path in the great waters, and His footsteps are not known. “Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? Deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea. If He cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder Him? For He knoweth vain men; he seeth wickedness also; will He not then consider it?”–We bow before His infinite majesty. We bow, we weep, we worship.

“Where reason fails, with all her powers,
There faith prevails, and love adores.”

It was a cruel, cruel hand, that dark hand of the assassin, which smote our honored, wise, and noble President, and filled the land with sorrow. But above and beyond that hand there is another which we must see and acknowledge. It is the chastening hand of a wise and a faithful Father. He gives us this bitter cup. And the cup that our Father hath given us, shall we not drink it?

God of the just, Thou gavest us the cup:
We yield to thy behest, and drink it up.”

“Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.” O how these blessed words have cheered and strengthened and sustained us through all these long and weary years of civil strife, while our friends and brothers on so many ensanguined fields were falling and dying for the cause of Liberty and Union! Let them cheer, and strengthen, and sustain us to-day. True, this new sorrow and chastening has come in such an hour and in such a way as we thought not, and it bears the impress of a rod that is very heavy, and of a mystery that is very deep. That such a life should be sacrificed, at such a time, by such a foul and diabolical agency; that the man at the head of the nation, whom the people had learned to trust with a confiding and a loving confidence, and upon whom more than upon any other were centered, under God, our best hopes for the true and speedy pacification of the country, the restoration of the Union, and the return of harmony and love; that he should be taken from us, and taken just as the prospect of peace was brightly opening upon our torn and bleeding country, and just as he was beginning to be animated and gladdened with the hope of ere long enjoying with the people the blessed fruit and reward of his and their toil, and care, and patience, and self-sacrificing devotion to the interests of Liberty and the Union–O it is a mysterious and a most afflicting visitation! But it is our Father in heaven, the God of our fathers, and our God, who permits us to be so suddenly and sorely smitten; and we know that His judgments are right, and that in faithfulness He has afflicted us. In the midst of our rejoicings we needed this stroke, this dealing, this discipline; and therefore He has sent it. Let us remember, our affliction has not come forth out of the dust, and our trouble has not sprung out of the ground. Through and beyond all second causes let us look, and see the sovereign permissive agency of the great First Cause. It is His prerogative to bring light out of darkness and good out of evil. Surely the wrath of man shall praise Him, and the remainder of wrath He will restrain. In the light of a clearer day we may yet see that the wrath which planned and perpetuated the death of the President, was overruled by Him whose judgements are unsearchable, and His ways are past finding out, for the highest welfare of all those interests which are so dear to the Christian patriot and philanthropist, and for which a loyal people have made such an unexampled sacrifice of treasure and of blood. Let us not be faithless, but believing.

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6 Responses to April 19, 1865: Funeral Sermon on Abraham Lincoln

  • “The friends of Liberty and of the Union will repair to it in years and ages to come, to pronounce the memory of its occupant blessed, and, gathering from his very ashes, and from the rehearsal of his deeds and virtues, fresh incentives to patriotism, they will there renew their vows of fidelity to their country and their God.”

    Thank you for posting this, Don.

    Words such as those in this sermon are what I was thinking about when I worked to pass legislation this spring that would make sure high school students in our state had needed instruction on the origins of American history up through the Civil War. I believe this period of time is being excluded from public high school level instruction because of the religious faith, liberty concepts, and limited govt views of our leaders during these periods of time. We have so much work to do. FYI. The link to the bill we passed is below. It is not nearly enough.

    http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2015/2015R/Pages/BillInformation.aspx?measureno=SB1007

  • If I remember right about 6 or 7 years ago, our current president was hoping to draw positive comparisons between himself and Abraham Lincoln (as well as FDR). He or his advisors gave up on that (Lincoln) idea.
    Wouldn’t it be great if he would read this sermon from Lincoln’s pastor, and think about it.

  • “He browses among the lilies” Man is facing his mortality every instance of his life. Atheists are dying. Catholics are dying. Agnostics are dying. Only atheists are recognized and acknowledged in the public square in America, Canada and Great Britain. Persons, as citizens, are denied their relationship with their Creator in the hour of their death, wherever and whenever the person’s death comes due.
    .
    The state does not have authentic authority to deprive any person of his God at the hour of his death.
    .
    If atheism, the absence of God is imposed, the taxpayers are being taxed without representation. Hell is being purveyed and heaven is being denied to the persons experiencing their final agony. Separation of church and state has been obliterated. If the state wants to go to hell, then, let the state go to hell. I want to go to heaven whenever or where ever I must. Abraham Lincoln was free to pray in a public place in his death throes. You and I are prohibited from the free exercise thereof and then make compliance to sound normal.
    .
    Abraham Lincoln died in vain. This beautiful sermon (especially about the soul) would not be allowed in a public place today.

  • “Abraham Lincoln died in vain.” that breaks my heart Mary my friend. You are right this beautiful sermon would not be heard today.
    So much that tempts us to be discouraged. It does seem like the worst of times.
    Though so much has been lost in this last diabolic century the greatness of some past leaders can still have an effect.
    .
    But it’s not over til it’s over- We must keep that “…steady enduring confidence in God, and in the complete ultimate success of the cause of God,,,,” just like the preacher said.

  • Anzlyne: “If this president were to read [the Lincoln funeral sermon] and think about it…”
    Sorry to observe but this president doesn’t seem to read much at all—there is nothing for a revolutionary to learn in books, books are about the past.

    Increasingly—esp. if you saw the photos published of him at his press conference Saturday 4/18/15—he has that demonic, glazed look in his eyes as he goes after his enemies, because he knows, even for a revolutionary, there is only so much time left ot him. And it is growing short.

Mourning Lincoln

Saturday, April 18, AD 2015

 

My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

Lincoln’s Farewell to Springfield, February 11, 1861

 

 

 

Something for the weekend.  The Funeral March of President Lincoln.  One hundred and fifty years ago the North was convulsed in grief, as it mourned the commander in chief who just had successfully concluded the bloodiest war in American history.  Lincoln belongs to the entire nation, but Illinois has always taken pardonable pride in her favorite son.  On May 1-May 3, 2015 Springfield, Illinois will be commemorating the funeral of Lincoln:

 

Mary Todd Lincoln, prostrated with grief, angrily resisted all suggestions and pleas that Lincoln be buried in Washington, and brought him home to Illinois, along with the body of their son Willie.

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April 17, 1865: Sherman Meets With Johnston

Friday, April 17, AD 2015

Sherman and Johnston

 

 

One hundred and fifty years ago news traveled slowly outside of areas with operating telegraphs, and so it was that news of Lincoln’s assassination reached General Sherman in North Carolina on April 17, as he was on his way to discuss with General Joseph E. Johnston the surrender of Johnston’s army.  Here is the portion of Sherman’s memoirs where he discussed what happened at the meeting:

Just as we were entering the car, the telegraph-operator, whose office was up-stairs in the depot-building, ran down to me and said that he was at that instant of time receiving a most important dispatch in cipher from Morehead City, which I ought to see. I held the train for nearly half an hour, when he returned with the message translated and written out. It was from Mr. Stanton, announcing the assassination of Mr. Lincoln, the attempt on the life of Mr. Seward and son, and a suspicion that a like fate was designed for General Grant and all the principal officers of the Government. Dreading the effect of such a message at that critical instant of time, I asked the operator if any one besides himself had seen it; he answered No! I then bade him not to reveal the contents by word or look till I came back, which I proposed to do the same afternoon. The train then started, and, as we passed Morris’s Station, General Logan, commanding the Fifteenth Corps, came into my car, and I told him I wanted to see him on my return, as I had something very important to communicate. He knew I was going to meet General Johnston, and volunteered to say that he hoped I would succeed in obtaining his surrender, as the whole army dreaded the long march to Charlotte (one hundred and seventy-five miles), already begun, but which had been interrupted by the receipt of General Johnston’s letter of the 13th. We reached Durham’s, twenty-six miles, about 10 a.m., where General Kilpatrick had a squadron of cavalry drawn up to receive me. We passed into the house in which he had his headquarters, and soon after mounted some led horses, which he had prepared for myself and staff. General Kilpatrick sent a man ahead with a white flag, followed by a small platoon, behind which we rode, and were followed by the rest of the escort. We rode up the Hillsboro’ road for about five miles, when our flag bearer discovered another coming to meet him: They met, and word was passed back to us that General Johnston was near at hand, when we rode forward and met General Johnston on horseback, riding side by side with General Wade Hampton. We shook hands, and introduced our respective attendants. I asked if there was a place convenient where we could be private, and General Johnston said he had passed a small farmhouse a short distance back, when we rode back to it together side by side, our staff-officers and escorts following. We had never met before, though we had been in the regular army together for thirteen years; but it so happened that we had never before come together. He was some twelve or more years my senior; but we knew enough of each other to be well acquainted at once. We soon reached the house of a Mr. Bennett, dismounted, and left our horses with orderlies in the road. Our officers, on foot, passed into the yard, and General Johnston and I entered the small frame-house. We asked the farmer if we could have the use of his house for a few minutes, and he and his wife withdrew into a smaller log-house, which stood close by.

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3 Responses to April 17, 1865: Sherman Meets With Johnston

Now He Belongs to the Ages

Thursday, April 16, AD 2015

imagesBMB46NL6

 

Now he belongs to the ages.”  So said Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, who had kept vigil at Lincoln’s deathbed, after Lincoln died from an assassin’s bullet.

In hundreds of posts since 2008 at The American Catholic and Almost Chosen People, I have examined various facets of the public life of Abraham Lincoln.  Of course, the most important part of Lincoln’s life came, as it will for each of us, after his death when he stood before God for the particular judgment.  In this life the outcome of that judgment is unknown to us.  However, I think  the record is well-established that during the Civil War Lincoln found his mind and his heart turning increasingly towards God.

Lincoln throughout his life had read the Bible and effortlessly used scriptural quotes in his speaking and writing, both in public and in private.  Lincoln had the Bible in his bones, and often turned to it.  Lincoln’s religious opinions are not simple to discern, however, as Mark Noll in a perceptive article skillfully points out.

In 1846 when Lincoln ran successfully for Congress against a well known Protestant minister, Peter Cartwright, he was attacked as an “infidel” and a scoffer against religion.  In a pamphlet Lincoln responded:  “That I am not a member of any Christian church is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or of any denomination of Christians in particular… I do not think I could myself be brought to support a man for office whom I knew to be an open enemy of, or scoffer at, religion.”  Before the election campaign Lincoln went to one of the revival meetings of Cartwright, probably to scope out the opposition.  During the meeting Cartwright asked all those who were intent on going to Heaven to stand, and Lincoln remained seated.  Cartwright then asked all those who were intent on going to Hell to stand, and Lincoln once again remained seated.  Cartwright then inquired of Lincoln directly where Lincoln intended to go since he stood neither for Heaven nor Hell.  Lincoln responded that he intended to go to Congress.

I have always thought that Mary Todd Lincoln, his wife and most perceptive observer, best understood Lincoln’s religious views:  “From the time of the death of our little Edward, I believe my husband’s heart was directed towards religion & as time passed on – when Mr. Lincoln became elevated to Office – with the care of a great Nation, upon his shoulders – when devastating war was upon us then indeed to my knowledge – did his great heart go up daily, hourly, in prayer to God – for his sustaining power When too – the overwhelming sorrow came upon us, our beautiful bright angelic boy, Willie was called away from us, to his Heavenly Home, with God’s chastising hand upon us – he turned his heart to Christ.”

Certainly Mr. Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address gives strong evidence that Lincoln had thought long and very hard about God and human affairs.  Lincoln occasionally gave hints that indicated that he was thinking about his own destiny in the hereafter.  In August of 1864 it looked as if Lincoln was headed to electoral defeat.  A group of Wisconsin politicians visiting the White House suggested that perhaps Lincoln’s prospects would improve if he would agree to drop the Emancipation Proclamation in exchange for the Confederate states returning to the Union.  Lincoln responded briskly:

“I should be damned in time and in eternity were I to do that.  I will keep faith with the gallant black soldiers who have fought and died for this nation at Port Hudson and Olustee. The Proclamation sticks.”

As for the Bible, Lincoln gave frequent public and private comments that indicated his great respect for the book of books.  When Lincoln received the gift of a Bible from freed slaves in Maryland he made the following statement:  “In regard to this great book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.

In the summer of 1864 Lincoln spent an evening with perhaps his closest friend Joshua F. Speed.  When Speed arrived Lincoln was reading the Bible.  Speed recounted the incident as follows:  “As I entered the room near night, [Lincoln] was sitting near a window reading his Bible. Approaching him, I said, ‘I am glad to see you profitably engaged.’ ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘I am profitably engaged.’ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘if you have recovered from your skepticism I am sorry to say that I have not!’ Looking me earnestly in the face, and placing his hand upon my shoulder, he said: ‘You are wrong Speed; take all of this book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith and you will live and die a happier and better man.’”

Very significant evidence as to the impact on Lincoln of the death of his son Willie and the war is given by Phineas Gurley, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington that Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln regularly attended.  In response to an inquiry as to whether Lincoln was a scoffer, Gurley replied as follows:  ” I do not believe a word of it. It could not have been true of him while here, for I have had frequent and intimate conversations with him on the Subject of the Bible and the Christian religion, when he could have had no motive to deceive me, and I considered him sound not only on the truth of the Christian religion but on all its fundamental doctrines and teachings. And more than that, in the latter days of his chastened and weary life, after the death of his son Willie, and his visit to the battlefield of Gettysburg, he said, with tears in his eyes, that he had lost confidence in everything but God, and that he now believed his heart was changed, and that he loved the Savior, and, if he was not deceived in himself, it was his intention soon to make a profession of religion.”

So much for the historical record.  When it comes to something of the heart and soul like religion, prose and facts can take us only so far.  Time to call on a poet.

Stephen Vincent Benet 87, four score and seven, years ago wrote an epic poem on the American Civil War, John Brown’s Body.  Courtesy of Project Gutenberg, it is available on line here.  In this section of the poem I think he gets close to the truth of Abraham Lincoln and his turning to God during the war.  Lincoln is sitting in the telegraph office at the War Department anxiously awaiting news of the battle of Antietam:

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8 Responses to Now He Belongs to the Ages

  • Stephen Mansfield’s book “Lincoln’s Battle With God” makes a decent case that our 16th President was a believing Christian before he died.

    It presents all of the evidence, pro and con, including a frank acknowledgment that Honest Abe was a “scoffer” and a virulent atheist at one point in his life. But the man who wrote the Second Inaugural Address and wanted to visit the “Holy Land” to see “where the Savior trod” right before he was murdered was no deist, much less an agnostic.

  • Thank you Mary.

    “Stephen Mansfield’s book “Lincoln’s Battle With God””

    It is a first rate study of Lincoln’s religious faith Dale, and I am surprised that it has not received more notice.

  • Oh, I understand why it hasn’t: Mansfield is an evangelical who makes no bones about it. Being one of “Them,” it’s simply dismissed as propaganda.

    Despite the fact his amassing and interpretation of the evidence is reasonable and within the realm of honest scholarly interpretation. Thus, I happily recommend it to anyone interested in the issue.

  • Why did Lincoln read the Bible, yet he did not bother going to church? Perhaps he preferred praying alone. As James Hilton once observed, “Every man his own priest” is only a few steps away from becoming “Every man his own church.”

    Of course, attending church is not a guarantee that you believe in God.

  • Lincoln did attend church regularly in the latter part of his life.

  • If Abraham Lincoln did not make it to Heaven, then what chance have we? What chance have I? Excellent post. Thank you.

  • Mr. Hilton, it is human nature to be turned off to organized religion once someone encounters a mean, nasty or corrupt clergyman. I’m not saying this happened to President Lincoln but I know of others to who this has happened.

    Ultimately it is up to God to allow us into heaven at our final judgment. I know not how President Lincoln was judged. If faced with the same situations, I am sure I could not have done any better than President Lincoln.

April 14, 1865: Toward an Indefinite Shore

Tuesday, April 14, AD 2015

 Final Cabinet Meeting

On Friday April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln and his wife planned to go to Ford’s Theater in the evening.  But first, Lincoln had a day of work ahead of him, which included a cabinet meeting.

Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, made this notation in his diary regarding the cabinet meeting that occurred at noon:

Inquiry had been made as to army news on the first meeting of the Cabinet, and especially if any information had been received from Sherman. None of the members had heard anything, and Stanton, who makes it a point to be late, and who has the telegraph in his Department, had not arrived. General Grant, who was present, said he was hourly expecting word. The President remarked it would, he had no doubt, come soon, and come favorably, for he had last night the usual dream which he had preceding nearly every great and important event of the War. Generally the news had been favorable which succeeded this dream, and the dream itself was always the same. I inquired what this remarkable dream could be. He said it related to your (my) element, the water; that he seemed to be in some singular, indescribable vessel, and that he was moving with great rapidity towards an indefinite shore; that he had this dream preceding Sumter, Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, Stone River, Vicksburg, Wilmington, etc. General Grant said Stone River was certainly no victory, and he knew of no great results which followed from it. The President said however that might be, his dream preceded that fight.

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One Response to April 14, 1865: Toward an Indefinite Shore

  • So many events of the Civil War seem to show a hint of Providence and Divine Purpose, but just a hint, nothing more.

    Where are such hints today? Centrifuges spin, asteroids fall, Christians burn, and our leaders seem less concerned with possible failure in our future than Stephen Douglas and the other myopics and legal jugglers of his generation did of his. Does anyone graced with social standing or authority see an indefinite shore anywhere, or it is all just ambition?

Lincoln’s Last Speech

Monday, April 13, AD 2015

 

On April 11, 1865, Abraham Lincoln made his last speech.  It was to a jubilant crowd that had gathered at the White House in celebration of the surrender of Lee.  The speech was an impromptu effort and clearly indicated that Lincoln was shifting gears from the War to the problems of Reconstruction.  Here is the text of that speech:

We meet this evening, not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart. The evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, and the surrender of the principal insurgent army, give hope of a righteous and speedy peace whose joyous expression can not be restrained. In the midst of this, however, He from whom all blessings flow, must not be forgotten. A call for a national thanksgiving is being prepared, and will be duly promulgated. Nor must those whose harder part gives us the cause of rejoicing, be overlooked. Their honors must not be parcelled out with others. I myself was near the front, and had the high pleasure of transmitting much of the good news to you; but no part of the honor, for plan or execution, is mine. To Gen. Grant, his skilful officers, and brave men, all belongs. The gallant Navy stood ready, but was not in reach to take active part.

By these recent successes the re-inauguration of the national authority — reconstruction — which has had a large share of thought from the first, is pressed much more closely upon our attention. It is fraught with great difficulty. Unlike a case of a war between independent nations, there is no authorized organ for us to treat with. No one man has authority to give up the rebellion for any other man. We simply must begin with, and mould from, disorganized and discordant elements. Nor is it a small additional embarrassment that we, the loyal people, differ among ourselves as to the mode, manner, and means of reconstruction.

As a general rule, I abstain from reading the reports of attacks upon myself, wishing not to be provoked by that to which I can not properly offer an answer. In spite of this precaution, however, it comes to my knowledge that I am much censured for some supposed agency in setting up, and seeking to sustain, the new State government of Louisiana. In this I have done just so much as, and no more than, the public knows. In the Annual Message of Dec. 1863 and accompanying Proclamation, I presented a plan of re-construction (as the phrase goes) which, I promised, if adopted by any State, should be acceptable to, and sustained by, the Executive government of the nation. I distinctly stated that this was not the only plan which might possibly be acceptable; and I also distinctly protested that the Executive claimed no right to say when, or whether members should be admitted to seats in Congress from such States. This plan was, in advance, submitted to the then Cabinet, and distinctly approved by every member of it. One of them suggested that I should then, and in that connection, apply the Emancipation Proclamation to the theretofore excepted parts of Virginia and Louisiana; that I should drop the suggestion about apprenticeship for freed-people, and that I should omit the protest against my own power, in regard to the admission of members to Congress; but even he approved every part and parcel of the plan which has since been employed or touched by the action of Louisiana. The new constitution of Louisiana, declaring emancipation for the whole State, practically applies the Proclamation to the part previously excepted. It does not adopt apprenticeship for freed-people; and it is silent, as it could not well be otherwise, about the admission of members to Congress. So that, as it applies to Louisiana, every member of the Cabinet fully approved the plan. The message went to Congress, and I received many commendations of the plan, written and verbal; and not a single objection to it, from any professed emancipationist, came to my knowledge, until after the news reached Washington that the people of Louisiana had begun to move in accordance with it. From about July 1862, I had corresponded with different persons, supposed to be interested, seeking a reconstruction of a State government for Louisiana. When the message of 1863, with the plan before mentioned, reached New-Orleans, Gen. Banks wrote me that he was confident the people, with his military co-operation, would reconstruct, substantially on that plan. I wrote him, and some of them to try it; they tried it, and the result is known. Such only has been my agency in getting up the Louisiana government. As to sustaining it, my promise is out, as before stated. But, as bad promises are better broken than kept, I shall treat this as a bad promise, and break it, whenever I shall be convinced that keeping it is adverse to the public interest. But I have not yet been so convinced.

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April 12, 1864: Surrender Ceremony at Appomatox

Sunday, April 12, AD 2015

 

 

 

 

Last Salute

 

The choice of the two officers to oversee the surrender ceremony at Appomattox, Union General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Confederate General John Brown Gordon, was quite appropriate.  In a War where the vast majority of soldiers were volunteers and not regular soldiers, both these Generals were volunteers, not professional soldiers.  They both during the War saw more combat than most professional soldiers see in an  entire career.  After the War both became active in politics and both often spoke of the need for love of the reunited nation and a forgetting of the angry passions of the Civil War, while ever remembering the courage of the men who had fought it, especially the courage of those who never came back from the War.

 

 

Chamberlain helped begin the healing of the dreadful wounds to the nation caused by the War  at Appomattox.  As the Confederates passed by, Chamberlain ordered a salute to them by the Union troops. He explained why he did this:

“I resolved to mark it by some token of recognition, which could be no other than a salute of arms. Well aware of the responsibility assumed, and of the criticisms that would follow, as the sequel proved, nothing of that kind could move me in the least. The act could be defended, if needful, by the suggestion that such a salute was not to the cause for which the flag of the Confederacy stood, but to its going down before the flag of the Union. My main reason, however, was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond;–was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?”

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The Last Stand of the Black Horse Troop

Saturday, April 11, AD 2015

Something for the weekend.  I Am a Rebel Soldier sung by Waylon Jennings.  Stephen Vincent Benet in his epic poem on the Civil War, John Brown’s Body, follows, in part of his poem, a Confederate Georia cavalry unit in the Army of Northern Virginia, the Black Horse Troop.  On the way to Appomattox they met their destiny guarding the rear of their expiring Army.  I have always thought this was a fitting tribute to the men of that Army who endured to the end.

Wingate wearily tried to goad
A bag of bones on a muddy road
Under the grey and April sky
While Bristol hummed in his irony
“If you want a good time, jine the cavalry!
Well, we jined it, and here we go,
The last event in the circus-show,
The bareback boys in the burnin’ hoop
Mounted on cases of chicken-croup,
The rovin’ remains of the Black Horse Troop!
Though the only horse you could call real black
Is the horsefly sittin’ on Shepley’s back,
But, women and children, do not fear,
They’ll feed the lions and us, next year.
And, women and children, dry your eyes,
The Southern gentleman never dies.
He just lives on by his strength of will
Like a damn ole rooster too tough to kill
Or a brand-new government dollar-bill
That you can use for a trousers-patch
Or lightin’ a fire, if you’ve got a match,
Or makin’ a bunny a paper collar,
Or anythin’ else–except a dollar.

Old folks, young folks, never you care,
The Yanks are here and the Yanks are there,
But no Southern gentleman knows despair.
He just goes on in his usual way,
Eatin’ a meal every fifteenth day
And showin’ such skill in his change of base
That he never gets time to wash his face
While he fights with a fury you’d seldom find
Except in a Home for the Crippled Blind,
And can whip five Yanks with a palmleaf hat,
Only the Yanks won’t fight like that.

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3 Responses to The Last Stand of the Black Horse Troop

  • And with these things, bury the purple dream
    Of the America we have not been,
    The tropic empire, seeking the warm sea,
    The last foray of aristocracy
    Based not on dollars or initiative
    Or any blood for what that blood was worth
    But on a certain code, a manner of birth,
    A certain manner of knowing how to live,
    The pastoral rebellion of the earth
    Against machines, against the Age of Steam,
    The Hamiltonian extremes against the Franklin mean,
    The genius of the land
    Against the metal hand,
    The great, slave-driven bark,
    Full-oared upon the dark,
    With gilded figurehead,
    With fetters for the crew
    And spices for the few,
    The passion that is dead,
    The pomp we never knew,
    Bury this, too.

  • It is a crime Tom that a great poet like Stephen Vincent Benet is almost completely forgotten today.

  • Don, I am greatly indebted to you.

    I had no idea of who Stephen Vincent Benet was until you posted this here. I found the entire poem online here (http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks07/0700461.txt) and read about half of it – I will read it in its entirety later. I did some more research on him and found he had written By the Waters of Babylon. I was stunned! I had read that short story when I was nine or ten, and while it made an immense impression on me I did not recall the title or the author. I now have it on my kindle – thanks to you.

April 10, 1865: Lee’s Farewell to the Army of Northern Virginia

Friday, April 10, AD 2015

Starving army,
Who, after your best was spent and your Spring lay dead,

Yet held the intolerable lines of Petersburg
With deadly courage.
                    You too are a legend now
And the legend has made your fame and has dimmed that fame,
–The victor strikes and the beaten man goes down
But the years pass and the legend covers them both,
The beaten cause turns into the magic cause,
The victor has his victory for his pains–
So with you–and the legend has made a stainless host
Out of the dusty columns of footsore men
Who found life sweet and didn’t want to be killed,
Grumbled at officers, grumbled at Governments.
That stainless host you were not.  You had your cowards,
Your bullies, your fakers, your sneaks, your savages.
You got tired of marching.  You cursed the cold and the rain.
You cursed the war and the food–and went on till the end.
And yet, there was something in you that matched your fable.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

 

It was fitting that one of the great armies of American history would go out of that history with a salute from its commander, Robert E. Lee.

Against high odds Lee and his army had come close to creating a new nation.  Always outnumbered, with troops often dressed in rags, ill-fed, ill-supplied, he led his men to magnificent victories in the Seven Days, Second Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.  Fighting another great general, Grant, he achieved a stalemate in 1864 against an army that had more than a two-to-one advantage, and prolonged the life of his country by almost a year.  A fighting general with a propensity for taking huge risks, he was also a humane man with unfailing courtesy for both friend and foe.  In this final order he told the men who loved him, how much he loved them:

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7 Responses to April 10, 1865: Lee’s Farewell to the Army of Northern Virginia

  • From ” Appomattox, The Passing of the Armies”, by Joshua Chamberlain who ” . . . sought no authority nor asked forgiveness.”
    .

    “The momentous meaning of this occasion impressed me deeply. I resolved to mark it by some token of recognition, which could be no other than a salute of arms. Well aware of the responsibility assumed, and of the criticisms that would follow, as the sequel proved, nothing of that kind could move me in the least. The act could be defended, if needful, by the suggestion that such a salute was not to the cause for which the flag of the Confederacy stood, but to its going down before the flag of the Union. My main reason, however, was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond;—was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?
    .

    “Instructions had been given; and when the head of each division column comes opposite our group, our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole line from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, gives the soldier’s salutation, from the “order arms” to the old “carry”—the marching salute. Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of the manual,—honor answering honor. On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!”

  • T Shaw- i may have read a similar excerpt in J.L.C’ s book- the 20th Maine-and i believe it is in Gordon’s reminiscences of the civil war pg 444-445 too – it impressed me then as now as perhaps one of the most magnificent moments in all of depicted history – to envision Gordon’s horse rearing up and descending, he with his sabre extended to the boot toe, returning the unexpected grand gesture /salute from Brevet Gen’l Chamberlain – these two armies salute one another!! it is finished. silently…. not a murmur but perhaps some weeping. on both sides. [ny times, may 4,1901

  • I recall the beginning of one of the Civil War episodes, the one about Gettysburg. The Confederates marched into south central Pennsylvania, which was not far from Virginia, with the goal to take Harrisburg and seize the rail lines there. Confederate troops seized free blacks and sent them South into slavery.

    It was not bad enough to secede from the Unites States and set up a government that permanently preserved slavery within its own borders. Kidnapping free American men from their homes and selling them as slaves is a special kind of evil. General Lee led that campaign. While he showed considerable wisdom in refusing to fight a guerrella war, his refusal – and that of his subordinates – to see that the Confederate cause was a lost one cost countless lives on both sides.

    The South never had any real chance to win. All they could do was make the North tired of war and want to quit. Instead they fought on to a crushing defeat and left much of the South in ruins and in depression for generations, with the enactment of Jim Crow laws that institutionalized segregation for 100 years.

  • “The South never had any real chance to win. All they could do was make the North tired of war and want to quit. Instead they fought on to a crushing defeat and left much of the South in ruins and in depression for generations, with the enactment of Jim Crow laws that institutionalized segregation for 100 years.”

    What you have said is, of course, true; but history, because it is the chronicle of the lives of poor sinners, is inherently messy. This is my problem with the way history is generally written and taught. For all his faults, and they were many, Lee had freed his own slaves years before Appomatox. Grant kept his former slaves “by indenture” and had “house darkies” in his home in NYC long after the war ended.

    Until the day she died, our family did not publicly celebrate July 4, because my granny’s father was killed that day in the Fall of Vicksburg. With your allusion to the South’s former segregationism and Jim Crow laws, may I remind you that the 2 largest klaverns of the KKK were in New Jersey and Indiana? Where I live, we Catholics had it far worse than many African-Americans simply because most of them were at least protestants. Black Catholics had it especially hard, even here in Cajun Catholic South Louisiana. After his land was taken from him during Reconstruction, my great-grandfather became a share cropper on what had formerly been his own farm. My dad’s godparents were the black foreman of that same farm and his wife — my grandparents’ next door neighbors, French-speaking Black Catholics. This was in 1932. History is so much more complicated when you consider that it was lived by real people with real lives. God bless!

  • “Grant kept his former slaves “by indenture” and had “house darkies” in his home in NYC long after the war ended.”

    Grant freed the only slave he ever owned in 1859. This was a slave he purchased from his brother-in-law Frederick Dent in 1858. This was at a time when he could ill-afford the financial loss that emancipating William Jones entailed. (Jones would have fetched a 1000-1500 dollars. During the Civil War privates earned $14.00 per month.) Painting Grant as a friend of slavery is ahistoric rubbish.

  • Fr. Frank, the Klan was never limited to the South. My grandmother, who died two years ago, remembered the Klan marching through the streets of her Greene County, Pennsylvania home town as a child. The Klan hated Catholics and Jews as much as blacks.

  • Bury the bygone South.
    Bury the minstrel with the honey-mouth,
    Bury the broadsword virtues of the clan,
    Bury the unmachined, the planters’ pride,
    The courtesy and the bitter arrogance,
    The pistol-hearted horsemen who could ride
    Like jolly centaurs under the hot stars.
    Bury the whip, bury the branding-bars,
    Bury the unjust thing
    That some tamed into mercy, being wise,
    But could not starve the tiger from its eyes
    Or make it feed where beasts of mercy feed.
    Bury the fiddle-music and the dance,
    The sick magnolias of the false romance
    And all the chivalry that went to seed
    Before its ripening.

April 9, 1865: Lee Surrenders

Thursday, April 9, AD 2015

 

 

And so the Civil War ended.  Oh, not immediately.  The surrender process throughout the Confederacy would take until June, and skirmishes would be fought.  But with the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, no one, except perhaps Jefferson Davis, north or south, doubted that the Civil War had ended with a Union victory.  At Appomattox Lee and Grant, with the ways in which they both behaved at this all important event in American history, planted the seeds of American reunification.

Lee, as ever noble, viewed surrender as a painful duty, and trusted in Grant to give just terms.  Grant, who would forbid the firing of cannon salutes in celebration of the surrender, gave as his main term that the Confederates simply go home and get on with their lives, agreeing to them taking with them a horse if they claimed one to help with the spring planting, and specifying that Confederate officers would retain their side arms so that he would not have to accept Lee’s sword in token of surrender.

The best account of the surrender is Grant’s, contained in his memoirs:

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 afterwards.   
  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. 

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16 Responses to April 9, 1865: Lee Surrenders

  • Well that was certainly considerate of Grant to allow them to keep their horses.After reading the book “Killer Angels” I got the impression Gen. Lee knew the war was lost after the battle of Gettysburg. Would you agree with that assessment, Donald?

  • I think that Lee from the onset of the War was skeptical about the chances of the Confederacy. However, he was enough of a soldier to know that nothing was certain in War. My guess is that after the re-election of Lincoln, Lee, like most Confederates, thought the War was lost.

    At the time of the Gettysburg Campaign Lee noted in a letter to Davis the rising power of the Northern peace movement and recommended attempting to start negotiations, assuming that once such negotiations started it would be hard to restart the War. If Lee had shattered the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, I think that is the path history might have taken, with a despairing North overruling Lincoln’s determination to carry on with the War.

    The Civil War is an endless field of might have beens.

  • Thanks, I was not aware of everything going on in the background. In his book, Michael Shaara describes Lee as one resigned to accepting God’s will if he were to lose at Gettysburg.

  • I’m a southern girl (Virginian) living in Alaska and we always considered General Lee our most revered leader. I was just telling my husband that it’s a testament to his personal character and military acumen that he’s admired even by those who beat him.

    I was very sheltered about the Civil War, growing up in southwestern Virginia. It wasn’t until I went to college with “Yankees” from Pennsylvania and New York that I realized many outside the south saw the “War of Northern Aggression” as a battle between the immoral southern slave owners and the virtuous northern liberators. To us, the war was always about states’ rights and self-determination; VMI’s 1861 class ring has “Let Virginia choose” inscribed prominently on it. Given the disturbingly unfettered power of our federal government today, I find myself wishing that the Confederacy had had the foresight to take the moral high ground of its own volition…can you imagine what would have happened if the south had issued the Emancipation Proclamation?

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane with these letters…it’s always cool to read the original sources. My 5 kids and I read them tonight while enjoying BBQ chicken, baked macaroni and cheese, fried pickles, and buttermilk biscuits in memory of the 150th anniversary of the surrender.

  • BTW, I recently read that Pius IX actually supported the Confederacy and sent Jefferson Davis a letter of support and a signed photograph of himself. And that Lee kept a framed picture of the pontiff in his home until death, saying that the Vatican was “one of the Confederacy’s only friends in the world.” Have you ever heard of this? I’m an adult convert to the Church and would love to confirm this if it’s true.

  • Pius IX may have privately leaned to the Confederacy, thinking, erroneously, that it was an illiberal state (actually it was more liberal, in the 19th century use of the term, slavery aside, than any other state in the world except for the US), but he never publically supported the Confederacy. Pio Nono sent Davis a framed picture of himself after the War when he was in captivity. Lee did keep a framed picture of Pius IX in his house and probably did say he was the only foreign head of state who had been friendly to the Confederacy. The posts linked below have more information:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2010/08/13/jefferson-davis-and-pio-nono/

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2010/08/03/jefferson-davis-and-the-crown-of-thorns/

  • Dawn, point was, the federal government had no authority to suppress a practice that was viewed as immoral but nevertheless accepted by a number of states.

    It would be like today, if the federal government believed that abortion was wrong (and it *is*), moral disapproval of a state law is not a constitutional rationale to authorize invading states to get rid of the law.

    Lincoln clearly knew he had no constitutional authority to “abolish slavery” and had to rely on the “Union forever” rationale to justify invading states. Only later, when war support in the North was flagging, did Lincoln advance abolition as a war aim. Since he knew abolition was unconstitutional as a war justification, it was clearly a political decision to advance abolition as a war aim (even though Lincoln clearly personally did oppose slavery).

    We have to be careful to cede to the federal government authority to impose its moral views on states by force. We’ve already seen it happen with abortion; it was no more justified then than it is now.

    Pius IX likely viewed favorably the Catholic notion of subsidiarity represented in the South ordering its own affairs; the South’s religious tolerance as opposed to the Knownothing anti-Catholic intolerance pervasive in the North; and the agrarian nature of their society (as opposed to the often dehumanizing emerging industrialization movement in the North).

  • “Pius IX likely viewed favorably the Catholic notion of subsidiarity represented in the South ordering its own affairs; the South’s religious tolerance as opposed to the Knownothing anti-Catholic intolerance pervasive in the North; and the agrarian nature of their society (as opposed to the often dehumanizing emerging industrialization movement in the North).”

    No, he simply viewed the Confederates as opposed to the Liberals who were toppling his rule of the Papal States. He was wrong in that, but acuity in secular matters was never a strong point for Pio Nono. When he first came to the Papal throne he was regarded as a liberal. Metternich stated at the time he had planned for everything except a liberal Pope! When liberals began to agitate for reforms greater than he was willing to tolerate, Pio Nono embraced his inner reactionary. Pio Nono knew little about conditions in America, as attested by American clerics serving at the Vatican during his long reign.

  • Thanks so much for clarification… I don’t know what was more enjoyable to me–reading your other blog post or reading the spirited comments about it!

  • The South was not the primary destination for most of the Irish, Italian, German and Slavic Europe Catholic immigration of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It therefore stands to reason that there would be more Southerners who have a connection to the Civil War than those in the North.

    Arguing about the causes of the War will never end, but I have a hard time sharing the admiration of General Lee simply for the cause he supported and fought for.

    The federal government we endure today is something I consider to be an effort first started by Wilson and accelerated by FDR, who used the Great Depression as an opportunity to expand federal government power and that is just what he did.

    The South had the better generals but could never match the North in manpower or industrial output. Great Britain was not going to recognize the Confederacy as she had abolished slavery in its Empire and besides, Lincoln threatened the UK with an invasion of Canada if the UK got involved.

  • Saying that you can’t admire General Lee because he fought for the side that supported self determination re: slavery would seem to make it difficult to admire anyone outside of modern, fully enlightened Catholics. After all, I don’t recall St. Paul openly stating that slavery is a mortal sin against the inherent dignity of the person enslaved, so perhand he’s not to be admired, either? What about all of the Old Testament prophets and saints like Abraham, who owned slaves themselves? Given Lee’s lack of experience with the darkest horrors of American slavery, I can’t see why his support for his home state–to retain an institution that he erroneously believed to be moral as long as the masters followed Paul’s exhortation to be fair and generous with their slaves–this doesn’t, to me, negate the man’s overall integrity and by virtually all accounts of those who knew him, honorable character. I suppose I don’t subscribe to the idea that one has to have believed and lived with complete righteousness to be someone I admire…especially since we are all sinners. I also tend to make allowances for those not blessed with the gift of sacramental grace; if more is expected of those to whom more (grace) is given, then it seems reasonable to make allowances for men like Lee and Jackson, who arguably lived more righteous lives than many of us do today who are blessed with access to the sacraments and a more enlightened understanding of the Gospel.

  • Dawn, your argument is a straw man. It appears that you have taken almost as a personal slap in the face my criticisms of General Lee and by extension the Confederate Army. I stand by my statement that General Lee’s incursion into Pennsylvania where the Confederate Army kidnapped free black American men and sold them into slavery is an inexcusable evil.

    I’m from Western Pennsylvania, not southern Virginia. Neither the Revolutionary War nor the Civil War made their ways here. As far as I know the first ancestor of mine that made it to the US came to Allegany County, Maryland (Cumberland) in 1866 (a rarity – a Catholic Scot) so I have no ancestors who fought in the Civil War. I grew up in Ohio and Ohio does not commemorate General Sherman at all. There is no General Sherman Day.

    I am 100% sure that General Lee, Jackson, Longstreet, Pickett and Johnston lived far more moral personal lives than, for example, the overblown dimwits who end up on the covers of celebrity rags that infest supermarket checkout lines.

    I don’t care that St. Paul did not write opposition to slavery in his letters and that didn’t make it right for the Confederacy to make slavery an institution.

    Queen Isabel the Catholic, the greatest Catholic queen ever short of the Queen of Heaven, despised slavery and forbid it in Castille and in the realms discovered by Columbus. This was almost 400 years before the Civil War.

    I understand the point of view of Virginians (mostly those outside of the Washington suburbs that I escaped) who cherish their Commonwealth’s past and its most famous men – Washington, Jefferson, Lee and others.

    General Lee has nothing on Jan III Sobieski and Josef Pilsudski. Lee fought the Union Army and lost. Sobieski crushed invading Turks and Pilsudski whipped the Soviet Army.

    Lee did do the right thing by reaffirming his allegiance to the United States after the war. So did Longstreet.

    As we approach Divine Mercy Sunday, I wish all of “yunz” “sto lat”.

  • Penguins Fan, I really don’t take anything criticizing Lee et al personally. I’m not related to the man, just find much to admire about him. I don’t in any way condone the sins committed by Lee or any human being. I simply don’t think that his mistakes eclipse his admirable qualities. You’re free to disagree, of course, but I do challenge the idea that anyone who supported slavery is by necessity to be dismissed and/or reviled.

  • “Queen Isabel the Catholic, the greatest Catholic queen ever short of the Queen of Heaven, despised slavery and forbid it in Castille and in the realms discovered by Columbus. This was almost 400 years before the Civil War.”

    Of course she also expelled the Jews from Spain and was a big supporter of the Inquisition. I happen to admire her greatly, but the historical record is the historical record. The same with Lee. Compared to most Southerners of his day he was enlightened in his views regarding slavery which he regarded as an unmitigated evil. He regarded secession as nothing but rebellion. He was a good man just as Isabella was a good woman. They were also both children of their times just as we are children of ours. Future generations will probably condemn and praise current prominent figures about issues that might well surprise us if we could see centuries from now. In assessing people of the past it is often best to use the standards of their time and place, while not forgetting to mention both the good and evil of those times and places, but not ascribing to one man or woman the invention of either the good or the evil. Rare indeed are the pure saints or pure monsters of history, and common indeed are flawed, sinful men and women, usually striving to do their best and often failing. When someone achieves greatness despite these flaws, and shows nobility, that deserves remembrance and celebration.

  • I plead guilty to partial thread drift in bringing up one of my favorite historical leaders, Queen Isabel. We can debate the expulsion of Jews and the Inquisition another time.

    Back to General Lee – no doubt he was likely the most skilled military mind of his time anywhere in the world. His troops loved him. His leadership caused the South to fight on even after he likely realized it was a lost cause, which probably happened after Gettysburg.

    His cause is something I find wrong.

  • “His cause is something I find wrong.”

    As do I PF, although one should recall that Lee said after the War that he rejoiced in the ending of slavery as a result of the War and acted in a manner that it was clear that those were not mere words. Additionally he constantly admonished Southerners to lay aside all rancor and become good citizens of the one nation. Lee was an American hero and not merely because of his military genius.