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.

April 8, 1865: Lee Rejects Guerrilla Warfare

Wednesday, April 8, AD 2015

On April 8, 1865 the last hope of escape for Lee’s army flickered out.  Union cavalry under Custer seized the critical supplies waiting for the Confederates at Appomattox Station.    Lee’s line of march to the west was now blocked as parts of three Union corps were making forced marches to reinforce Custer and would arrive on the morning of the ninth.  On the eighth Grant and Lee exchanged these letters:

APRIL 8, 1865

General R. E. LEE:

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 yell, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received.

U.S. GRANT,
Lieutenant-General.

________
 
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
APRIL 8, 1865

Lieut. Gen. U.S. GRANT:

I received at a late hour your note of to-day. In mine of yesterday I did not intend to propose the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, but to ask the terms of your proposition. To be frank, I do not think the emergency has arisen to call for the surrender of this army, but as the restoration of peace should be the sole object of all, I desired to know whether your proposals would lead to that end. I cannot, therefore, meet you with a view to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia, but as far as your proposal may affect the C. S. forces under my command, and tend to the restoration of peace, I should be pleased to meet you at 10 a.m., to-morrow; on the old stage road to Richmond, between the picket-lines of the two armies.

R. E. LEE,
General.

 

It was becoming clear to the officers of the Army of Northern Virginia that surrender loomed and most of them were heartsick at this fact.

 

We Americans today view the Civil War as part of our history.  If different decisions had been made at the end of that conflict, the Civil War could still be part of our current reality.  Just before the surrender at Appomattox, General Porter Alexander, General Robert E. Lee’s chief of artillery, broached to  Lee a proposal that the Army of Northern Virginia disband and carry out a guerrilla war against the Union occupiers.  Here history balanced on a knife edge.  If Lee had accepted the proposal, I have little doubt the stage would have been set for an unending war between the North and the South which would still be with us.  Douglas Southall Freeman, in his magisterial R. E. Lee, tells what happened next, based upon Alexander’s memoirs, Fighting for the Confederacy :

“Thereupon Alexander proposed, as an alternative to surrender, that the men take to the woods with their arms, under orders to report to governors of their respective states.

“What would you hope to accomplish by that?” Lee queried.

It might prevent the surrender of the other armies, Alexander argued, because if the Army of Northern Virginia laid down its arms, all the others would follow suit, whereas, if the men reported to the governors, each state would have a chance of making an honorable peace. Besides, Alexander went on, the men had a right to ask that they be spared the humiliation of asking terms of Grant, only to be told that U. S. “Unconditional Surrender” Grant would live up to the name he had earned at Fort Donelson and at Vicksburg.

Lee saw such manifest danger in this proposal to become guerillas that he began to question Alexander: “If I should take your advice, how many men do you suppose would get away?”

“Two-thirds of us. We would be like rabbits and partridges in the bushes and they could not scatter to follow us.”

“I have not over 15,000 muskets left,” Lee explained. “Two-thirds of them divided among the states, even if all could be collected, would be too small a force to accomplish anything. All could not be collected. Their homes have been overrun, and many would go to look after their families.

“Then, General,” he reasoned further, “you and I as Christian men have no right to consider only how this would affect us. We must consider its effect on the country as a whole. Already it is demoralized by the four years of war. If I took your advice, the men would be without rations and under no control of officers. They would be compelled to rob and steal in order to live. They would become mere bands of marauders, and the enemy’s cavalry would pursue them and overrun many sections they may never have occasion to visit. We would bring on a state of affairs it would take the country years to recover from. And, as for myself, you young fellows might go bushwhacking, but the only dignified course for me would be to go to General Grant and surrender myself and take the consequences of my acts.”

Lee paused, and then he added, outwardly hopeful, on the strength of Grant’s letter of the previous night, whatever his inward misgivings, “But I can tell you one thing for your comfort. Grant will not demand an unconditional surrender. He will give us as good terms as this army has the right to demand, and I am going to meet him in the rear at 10 A.M. and surrender the army on the condition of not fighting again until exchanged.”

Alexander went away a humbler man. “I had not a single word to say in reply,” he wrote years afterwards. “He had answered my suggestion from a plane so far above it, that I was ashamed of having made it.”

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April 7, 1865: Surrender Correspondence Begins

Tuesday, April 7, AD 2015

Appomattox_Campaign_Overview

 

April 7, 1865 was a day of intense frustration for Robert E. Lee.  Hoping to feed his army with rations waiting at Farmville,  Union troops prevented that, crossing the Appomattox at bridges that Lee had ordered to be burned.  His army had no choice but to continue on its hungry way, the nearest rations being at Appomattox Court House some twenty-five miles away.  Longstreet in his memoirs recalled that dismal day.

 

I heard nothing of the affair at Sailor’s Creek, nor from General Lee, until next morning. Our work at Rice’s Station was not very serious, but was continued until night, when we marched and crossed the Appomattox at Farmville without loss, some of Rosser’s and Mumford’s cavalry following.  We crossed early in the morning and received two days’ rations,–the first regular issue since we left Richmond,–halted our wagons, made fires, got out cooking utensils, and were just ready to prepare a good breakfast. We had not heard of the disasters on the other route and the hasty retreat, and were looking for a little quiet to prepare breakfast, when General Lee rode up and said that the bridges had been fired before his cavalry crossed, that part of that command was cut off and lost, and that the troops should hurry on to position at Cumberland Church.

I reminded him that there were fords over which his cavalry could cross, and that they knew of or would surely find them. Everything except the food was ordered back to the wagons and dumped in.

Meanwhile, the alarm had spread, and our teamsters, frightened by reports of cavalry trouble and approaching fire of artillery, joined in the panic, put whips to their teams as quick as the camp-kettles were tumbled over the tail-boards of the wagons, and rushed through the woods to find a road somewhere in front of them. The command was ordered under arms and put in quick march, but General Lee urged double-quick. Our cavalry was then engaged near Farmville, and presently came a reckless charge of Gregg’s troopers towards parts of Rosser’s and Mumford’s commands. Heth’s division of infantry was sent to support them. As the balance of the command marched, General Lee took the head of the column and led it on the double-quick.

I thought it better to let them pass me, and, to quiet their apprehensions a little, rode at a walk. General Mahone received the attack of part of the enemy’s Second Corps, like Gregg’s cavalry making reckless attack. The enemy seemed to think they had another Sailor’s Creek affair, and part of their attack got in as far as Poague’s battery, but Mahone recovered it, and then drove off an attack against his front. General Gregg and a considerable part of his command were captured by Rosser and Mumford. At Cumberland Church the command deployed on the right of Poague’s battery, but Mahone reported a move by part of Miles’s division to turn his left which might dislodge him. G. T. Anderson’s brigade of Field’s division was sent with orders to get around the threatening force and break it up.  Mahone so directed them through a woodland that they succeeded in over-reaching the threatened march, and took in some three hundred prisoners,[211] the last of our trouble for the day. General Lee stopped at a cottage near my line, where I joined him after night; the trains and other parts of his army had moved on towards Appomattox Court-House.

Just after sunset, a letter from General Grant arrived:

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April 6, 1865: Battle of Sailor’s Creek

Monday, April 6, AD 2015

Appomattox_Campaign_Overview

One last battle between the old adversaries the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia.  While moving towards the Appomattox River to cross it on his march to the west, Lee was intercepted by a large Union force under Sheridan.  Ewell’s corps, the rearguard of the army, was surrounded and after hard fighting surrendered.  Lee lost one quarter of his army.  Union casualties were slightly in excess of 1,000 while Confederate casualties were 7,700, mostly prisoners.

 

 

Major General William Mahone relates this poignant moment with General Lee:

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April 5, 1865: Endgame

Sunday, April 5, AD 2015

 

 

Appomattox_Campaign_Overview

With the fall of Richmond the Civil War was drawing rapidly to a close.  However, Lee still led the remnants of his army and he had a plan:  march to the west and break contact with the Army of the Potomac and head south to join up with Johnston in North Carolina.  It was unlikely that he could accomplish this, but Lee felt duty bound to try.  His main initial problem was to feed his army.  To accomplish this he had the army concentrate at Amelia Court House where he expected to find supplies.  To his astonishment he found plenty of ammunition but no food.  To feed his army he had to draw upon the civilian population:

 

Amelia C. H., April 4, 1865.

To the Citizens of Amelia County, Va.

The Army of Northern Virginia arrived here today, expecting to find plenty of provisions, which had been ordered to be placed here by the railroad several days since, but to my surprise and regret I find not a pound of subsistence for man or horse. I must therefore appeal to your generosity and charity to supply as far as each one is able the wants of the brave soldiers who have battled for your liberty for four years. We require meat, beef, cattle, sheep, hogs, flour, meal, corn, and provender in any quantity that can be spared. The quartermaster of the army will visit you and make arrangements to pay for what he receives or give the proper vouchers or certificates. I feel assured that all will give to the extent of their means.

R. E. Lee, General

The next day Lee found his path south blocked as the Army of the Potomac occupied Jetersville.  General Longstreet in his memoirs gives us the details:

 

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April 4, 1865: Lincoln Visits Richmond

Saturday, April 4, AD 2015

Linoln in Richmond

 

When studying the past one of the primary rules is to remember how different one time is from another.  This rule comes jarringly to mind when we recall Lincoln’s visit to Richmond the day after it fell.  Lincoln was at City Point on the James River, so he was quite close to Richmond.  Lincoln was curious to see the city that had eluded Union armies for such a long time.  Since he wanted to see it, he did, almost with no security.  I cannot possibly imagine any chief of state today taking an informal tour of an enemy capital the day after it fell!  Any chief of security would have a stroke at the time.  John Hay, one of Lincoln’s secretaries, did note after the trip, that anyone who wanted to take a shot at Lincoln in Richmond could have.  Yes, the past is a different country!

 

Admiral David Dixon Porter who accompanied Lincoln in his journey into Richmond later wrote about it in his memoirs:

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April 3, 1865: Fall of Richmond

Friday, April 3, AD 2015

Fall of Richmond

 

After all the blood shed to take Richmond, its fall was anti-climactic.  Grant was moving his army in pursuit of Lee, and entry of Union troops was unopposed, the Confederate military and the civilian government having evacuated the city on the evening of April 2.  The mention of the fall of Richmond receives scant attention from Grant in his memoirs:

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.

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6 Responses to April 3, 1865: Fall of Richmond

  • One minor outcome of the Richmond fire was the erasure of many of the state’s pre-war land records. When the war began the Virginia government ordered all land records moved to Richmond “for safekeeping”, and most towns followed the order. These records all went up in smoke.
    When George Washington was alive he was one of the major landowners in Virginia. So, would it be neat if you could search the records of your home and see if your yard was once owned by him? Yes, it would be, but it is quite out of the question now.

  • Just thank God the Capitol building and, with it, the Houdon statue survived. Both irreplaceable treasures.

  • While the fall of Richmond may have been anti-climactic to General Grant, it certainly wasn’t to the people who lived there. As I have noted before on this blog, a chapter of Jay Winik’s “April 1865” is devoted to a blow-by-blow account of this event, from the order to the Confederate government to evacuate, to the fires and chaos, to the Union troops arriving the next morning, and (spoiler alert) the arrival of Abraham Lincoln himself the day after that, to be greeted by throngs of jubilant, newly liberated slaves.

    I thought when I read this book, and still do, that this event comes about as close as any in American history to being a prefigurement (if that’s the right word) of the Last Judgment. The “last” — the slaves — became first, and the “first” — their owners — became last; the false system of the Confederacy and the evil upon which it was built (slavery) were at last destroyed; and while it was surely terrifying for those who lost their loved ones, their homes, and possessions, there was also unexpected mercy shown by the occupying Union army and by Lincoln himself. Some pictures of the most devastated parts of Richmond are hard to tell apart from pictures of Hiroshima or Nagasaki 80 years later. It must have felt like the end of the world to people who lived there, but since Richmond still survives today, it obviously wasn’t.

  • Mr. McClarey, Today’s front page of the Richmond Times Dispatch is a reprint of the Daily Dispatch’s front page dtd Saturday, April 4, 1865. If you cannot access it online, I could mail it to your office. The 2 inch headline is “FLAMES!”.

  • Appropriate, and one of my favorite songs of the 1960’s.

April 2, 1865: Third Battle of Petersburg

Thursday, April 2, AD 2015

1280px-Petersburg_Apr2

 

 

 

With Union victory at Five Forks, General Lee desperately shifted troops to the west to protect the Southside Railroad.  Grant, realizing that Lee was thinning his lines around Petersburg and Richmond to protect the railroad, ordered a general assault against the Confederate fortifications.

The VI Corps achieved  a major breakthrough up the Boydton Plank Road.  Lee telegraphed Secretary of War Breckenridge:

I see no prospect of doing more than holding our position here until night. I am not certain I can do that. If I can I shall withdraw to-night north of the Appomattox, and, if possible, it will be better to withdraw the whole line to-night from James River. I advise that all preparations be made for leaving Richmond tonight. I will advise you later according to circumstances.

The II Corps to the left of the VI Corps and the XXIV Corps to the right of the VI Corps also achieved breakthroughs.  Union casualties were about 4,000 compared to 5000 Confederate, most of whom were taken prisoner.  The siege of Petersburg and Richmond was at an end as Lee moved his army out of his lines and began the march to the west that would end at Appomattox Court House.

 

 

Here is General Longstreet’s account of the Third Battle of Petersburg in his memoirs:

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5 Responses to April 2, 1865: Third Battle of Petersburg

  • Don, I appreciate how you have tied these battle accounts to our current calendar. I think it really accomplishes the goal you stated in the first article, of relating these events to the passion of Holy Week.

    Some aspects are so sad. My in-laws have a similar event in their history: my wife’s maternal grandmother’s first fiancé died in combat in the U.S. Army on November 10, 1918.

  • Thank you Tom. Being killed in a war is bad enough, being killed when it is almost over is a fathomless tragedy.

  • Unrelated but significant topic – today is the tenth anniversary of the death of Pope St. John Paul II. It’s worth a minute or two of time to sit back and reflect.

  • This post was of particular interest to me because of a bit of family history. My great-grandfather by this time was a senior (possibly THE senior) NCO of the 11th North Carolina Regiment (Heth’s Division, A.P. Hill’s Corps). About 50 years later, he wrote down his memorys of his service and his account of this final Federal assault on the Peterburg line is both vivid and amusing. Evidently, the Federal troops approached so quietly that the Confederates in his portion of the line weren’t aware of the assault until their oppenents were almost on top of them, so they “skedaddled” in a hurry. He recounts that, prompted by a reluctance to finish the war at Point Lookout or some other prison hellhole, he was running so fast that he passed some Yankee bullets going the same way. He and others were consequently out of contact with their unit for a day or two, but rejoined it before the fight a Saylor’s Creek and were present for the capitulation at Appomattox Court House on the 9th.

April 1, 1865: Battle of Five Forks

Wednesday, April 1, AD 2015

 FiveForksCWPTMap-1024x748

 On March 31, 1865 General Pickett, commander of the Confederate forces at Five Forks had launched an attack on Sheridan’s troopers driving them south to just north of Dinwiddie Court House.  However, his left flank being threatened by troops of the V Corps arriving to reinforce Sheridan, Pickett retreated to Five Forks.  Sheridan followed the retreating Pickett, and launched an attack on the Confederate breastworks at 1:00 PM on April 1, with two divisions of dismounted Union cavalry, armed with Sharps repeating rifles.  This intense fire pinned down the Confederates while the infantry of the V Corps massed to attack the Confederate left.  At 4:15 the attack went in , overcoming a stubborn Confederate defense.  Sheridan removed General Warren from command of the V Corps on the grounds of being dilatory in arranging the attack of the V Corps, a decision which was ruled unfounded by an Army court of inquiry in 1883.  Confederate casualties were almost 3,000 many of them prisoners, and Union casualties were 830.  The Confederate right had now been turned, and largely obliterated, and the   Southside Railroad lay exposed to the Union.  Richmond and Petersburg could no longer be held.

 

1280px-Petersburg_Mar29-31

Here is Sheridan’s report of the battle:

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2 Responses to April 1, 1865: Battle of Five Forks

  • Thoughts on Sheridan’s relief of Warren?

    I happen to think that it was unjust, but I am also sympathetic to Bruce Catton’s take: had the leaders of the Army of the Potomac taken the same approach earlier in the war to genuinely dilatory commanders, the war would have been much shorter.

  • “Thoughts on Sheridan’s relief of Warren?”

    In the abstract unjust, but I agree with you and Catton that if Sheridan’s attitude of fast movement and hard fighting had been the order of the day for the Army of the Potomac from its inception, the War might well have ended in 1862.

March 31, 1865: Battle of White Oak Road

Tuesday, March 31, AD 2015

1280px-Petersburg_Mar29-31

 

Realizing that Grant was moving sufficient troops to flank his right, General Lee decided to launch an attack against the troops of the Union V Corps, holding a section of  the White Oak Road and preventing the linking of the Confederate right under Pickett with the rest of Lee’s army.  The Union left was in the air, separated by  three miles from Sheridan’s troopers at Dinwiddie Court House and Lee intended to take full advantage of this fact, massing four brigades to make the attack.

The Confederates routed two Union divisions, chasing them south of Gravelly Run.  At 2:30 PM the Union V Corps counterattacked across Gravelly Run, the attack spearheaded by the First Division of the V Corps.  The spearhead of the spearhead was Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s brigade, still led by Chamberlain although he had been seriously wounded at the battle of Lewis Farm on March 29, 1865.  The Union counterattack was successful,  recovering the lost ground and once again breaking the White Oak Road, separating the Confederate right at Five Forks from the rest of the Confederate army.  Union casualties were approximately 1407 to approximately 800 Confederate.

 

Here is the report of Brigadier General Charles Griffin who commanded the First Division of the V Corps:

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March 30, 1865: Prelude to Five Forks

Monday, March 30, AD 2015

1280px-Petersburg_Mar29-31

By the 30th it became obvious to both sides that the Confederate right at Five Forks was in jeopardy.  Grant discusses this in his memoirs:

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 flank.

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March 29, 1865: Battle of Lewis Farm

Sunday, March 29, AD 2015

General Chamberlain

Battle of Lewis Farm

1280px-Petersburg_Mar29-31

 The Appomattox Campaign began on March 29, 1865, with Grant moving the V and II corps to the west to outflank Lee’s lines, while Sheridan and his troopers were sent south to rip up the rail lines linking Petersburg and Richmond to what remained of the Confederacy.  Lee, with that preternatural sixth sense he seemed to often possess regarding the intentions of his enemies, had moved his cavalry, along with infantry under Major General George Pickett to the west to beat off Union attempts to outflank his army.

The first Union objective was to cut the Boydton Plank Road.  After crossing Gravelley Run stream, the leading brigade of the first division of the V corps ran into Confederate fortifications.  The brigade was led by Brigadier Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the heroic officer who had commanded the 20th Maine during its stand on Little Round Top at Gettysburg. In a fierce action of several hours duration, Chamberlain held his position only falling back as Union reinforcements arrived.  The reinforcements caused the Confederates to retreat to their White Oak Line.  Union casualties were 381 to 371 Confederate.

Late in the afternoon Sheridan’s cavalry occupied Dinwiddie Court House without opposition.  The end of the day saw the vital, for the Confederates, Boydton Plank Road cut in two locations, and the Confederate right dangerously exposed.  Here is Chamberlain’s account of the fighting:

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The Peacemakers

Saturday, March 28, AD 2015

The Peacemakers

 

A historic meeting occurred between Lincoln, Grant and Sherman on March 27-28, 1865 at City Point, Virginia.  Sherman had no idea that President Lincoln was going to be there, he having traveled by sea from North Carolina to coordinate with Grant the final campaign of the War.  This meeting was memorialized in the 1868 painting The Peacemakers, which was suggested by Sherman:

In Chicago about June or July of that year, when all the facts were fresh in my mind, I told them to George P. A. Healy, the artist, who was casting about for a subject for an historical painting, and he adopted this interview. Mr. Lincoln was then dead, but Healy had a portrait, which he himself had made at Springfield some five or six years before. With this portrait, some existing photographs, and the strong resemblance in form of [Leonard Swett], of Chicago, to Mr. Lincoln he made the picture of Mr. Lincoln seen in this group. For General Grant, Admiral Porter, and myself he had actual sittings, and I am satisfied the four portraits in this group of Healy’s are the best extant. The original picture, life-size, is, I believe, now in Chicago, the property of Mr. [Ezra B. McCagg]; but Healy afterwards, in Rome, painted ten smaller copies, about eighteen by twenty-four inches, one of which I now have, and it is now within view. I think the likeness of Mr. Lincoln by far the best of the many I have seen elsewhere, and those of General Grant, Admiral Porter, and myself equally good and faithful. I think Admiral Porter gave Healy a written description of our relative positions in that interview, also the dimensions, shape, and furniture of the cabin of the “Ocean Queen”; but the rainbow is Healy’s—typical, of course, of the coming peace. In this picture I seem to be talking, the others attentively listening. Whether Healy made this combination from Admiral Porter’s letter or not, I cannot say; but I thought that he caught the idea from what I told him had occurred when saying that “if Lee would only remain in Richmond till I could reach Burkesville, we would have him between our thumb and fingers,” suiting the action to the word. It matters little what Healy meant by his historic group, but it is certain that we four sat pretty much as represented, and were engaged in an important conversation during the forenoon of March 28, 1865, and that we parted never to meet again.

The original painting was destroyed in a fire, and what we have now is a copy found in 1922, lying forgotten in a family storehouse in Chicago.  Harry Truman, ironically a proud card carrying member of Sons of Confederate Veterans, purchased the copy of the painting for the White House in 1947.

Here is Sherman’s recollections of the meeting from his Memoirs:

 

The railroad was repaired to Goldsboro’ by the evening of March 25th, when, leaving General Schofield in chief command, with a couple of staff-officers I started for City Point, Virginia, in a locomotive, in company with Colonel Wright, the constructing engineer. We reached Newbern that evening, which was passed in the company of General Palmer and his accomplished lady, and early the next morning we continued on to Morehead City, where General Easton had provided for us the small captured steamer Russia, Captain Smith. We put to sea at once and steamed up the coast, reaching Fortress Monroe on the morning of the 27th, where I landed and telegraphed to my brother, Senator Sherman, at Washington, inviting him to come down and return with me to Goldsboro. We proceeded on up James River to City Point, which we reached the same afternoon. I found General Grant, with his family and staff, occupying a pretty group of huts on the bank of James River, overlooking the harbor, which was full of vessels of all classes, both war and merchant, with wharves and warehouses on an extensive scale. The general received me most heartily, and we talked over matters very fully. After I had been with him an hour or so, he remarked that the President, Mr. Lincoln, was then on board the steamer River Queen, lying at the wharf, and he proposed that we should call and see him. We walked down to the wharf, went on board, and found Mr. Lincoln alone, in the after-cabin. He remembered me perfectly, and at once engaged in a most interesting conversation. He was full of curiosity about the many incidents of our great march, which had reached him officially and through the newspapers, and seemed to enjoy very much the more ludicrous parts-about the “bummers,” and their devices to collect food and forage when the outside world supposed us to be starving; but at the same time he expressed a good deal of anxiety lest some accident might happen to the army in North Carolina during my absence. I explained to him that that army was snug and comfortable, in good camps, at Goldsboro’; that it would require some days to collect forage and food for another march; and that General Schofield was fully competent to command it in my absence. Having made a good, long, social visit, we took our leave and returned to General Grant’s quarters, where Mrs. Grant had provided tea. While at the table, Mrs. Grant inquired if we had seen Mrs. Lincoln. “No,” said the general, “I did not ask for her;” and I added that I did not even know that she was on board. Mrs. Grant then exclaimed, “Well, you are a pretty pair!” and added that our neglect was unpardonable; when the general said we would call again the next day, and make amends for the unintended slight.

Early the next day, March 28th, all the principal officers of the army and navy called to see me, Generals Meade, Ord, Ingalls, etc., and Admiral Porter. At this time the River Queen was at anchor out in the river, abreast of the wharf, and we again started to visit Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln. Admiral Porter accompanied us. We took a small, tug at the wharf, which conveyed us on board, where we were again received most courteously by the President, who conducted us to the after-cabin. After the general compliments, General Grant inquired after Mrs. Lincoln, when the President went to her stateroom, returned, and begged us to excuse her, as she was not well. We then again entered upon a general conversation, during which General Grant explained to the President that at that very instant of time General Sheridan was crossing James River from the north, by a pontoon-bridge below City Point; that he had a large, well-appointed force of cavalry, with which he proposed to strike the Southside and Danville Railroads, by which alone General Lee, in Richmond, supplied his army; and that, in his judgment, matters were drawing to a crisis, his only apprehension being that General Lee would not wait long enough. I also explained that my army at Goldsboro’ was strong enough to fight Lee’s army and Johnston’s combined, provided that General Grant could come up within a day or so; that if Lee would only remain in Richmond another fortnight, I could march up to Burkesville, when Lee would have to starve inside of his lines, or come out from his intrenchments and fight us on equal terms.

Both General Grant and myself supposed that one or the other of us would have to fight one more bloody battle, and that it would be the last. Mr. Lincoln exclaimed, more than once, that there had been blood enough shed, and asked us if another battle could not be avoided. I remember well to have said that we could not control that event; that this necessarily rested with our enemy; and I inferred that both Jeff. Davis and General Lee would be forced to fight one more desperate and bloody battle. I rather supposed it would fall on me, somewhere near Raleigh; and General Grant added that, if Lee would only wait a few more days, he would have his army so disposed that if the enemy should abandon Richmond, and attempt to make junction with General Jos. Johnston in North Carolina, he (General Grant) would be on his heels. Mr. Lincoln more than once expressed uneasiness that I was not with my army at Goldsboro’, when I again assured him that General Schofield was fully competent to command in my absence; that I was going to start back that very day, and that Admiral Porter had kindly provided for me the steamer Bat, which he said was much swifter than my own vessel, the Russia. During this interview I inquired of the President if he was all ready for the end of the war. What was to be done with the rebel armies when defeated? And what should be done with the political leaders, such as Jeff. Davis, etc.? Should we allow them to escape, etc.? He said he was all ready; all he wanted of us was to defeat the opposing armies, and to get the men composing the Confederate armies back to their homes, at work on their farms and in their shops. As to Jeff. Davis, he was hardly at liberty to speak his mind fully, but intimated that he ought to clear out, “escape the country,” only it would not do for him to say so openly. As usual, he illustrated his meaning by a story:

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4 Responses to The Peacemakers

  • I have a young friend, with a master’s in history who writes a history blog. Here him tell it, our Founding Fathers were racists and Lincoln the least honorable of men. This perversion of history is not new, but reading this recalls what injustice is being done to the memory of good men by our illiberal, progressive liberals.

  • Donald, I have spent the last week (literally day & night) helping to pass a bill through the AR Senate Ed Committee that will require relevant review of the origins of our country to the year 1890 at the high school level. The goal of the bill is provision for instruction in high school social studies/history classes in proper context & for mastery. It allows for the complete freedom of individual classroom teachers to meet the needs of their students/classes as they see fit. Our AR Dept of Ed has created social studies standards, for implementation across the state in July of this year, that literally allow for the teaching of the beginnings of US History to the year 1890 in the 5th Grade. Then 4-7 years later, they ask high school students to use analysis, comparison & contrast, & synthesis level thinking based on those same concepts. Of course the bureaucrats at large are responding to a push from the liberal college level down into the high school level that is an attempt to decrease any emphasis the great things that made our country free and how it continues to (relatively) be free–anywhere they possibly can. The usual suspects in the liberal media have gone beserk spreading misinformation even to the point of posting links to the wrong bill. They are doing all they can to kill the bill. The state educational bureaucrats are livid that we want our children learning things such as what you have posted here in context and for mastery. They have explicitly stated that they “want to teach modern American history.” An ADE assistant commissioner was reduced to blubbering over & over to the Sen Ed Committee, “what do you want us to leave out? There is too much to teach!” expecting us to accept that in the last 8 years it has suddenly become impossible for high school teachers to teach all of American history. And we know why that is. One liberal has specified on line that she does not want American Exceptionalism taught–won’t define for me what that term means for her but wants to be sure that the horrid genecidal things our country has done is taught to our students so there is what she calls balance. Anyway, I am preaching to the choir. Pray for us, please in our fight to give future Arkansans enough knowledge to maintain their freedoms. The bill goes to the full senate tomorrow and then on to the House Ed Committee which is a true lions den. The ADE has agreed to put any changes of educational standards up to public comment in the future, however Ibwould not hold my breath waiting for that to happen. Thank you for this beautiful post about the Civil War period. I thouroughly enjoyed it.

  • Barbara, Please come to Colorado and get elected to the legislature!

  • Harry Truman proud member of SCV…
    .
    …When Harry’s mother (Mama) first came to the White House, she was very concerned that she would have to sleep in the Lincoln Room, (as her other son Vivian had erroneously told her). Told Harry that she would sleep on the floor before she’d occupy the same bed as Lincoln.
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    BTW, I was gonna post all that until Barbara’s post, which made everything else seem so small. But, oh well, there it is.

Grant Plans His Attack

Friday, March 27, AD 2015

General Ulysses Grant

 Grant, a failure all of his life except for war, marriage and his last valiant race with the Grim Reaper to finish his memoirs and provide for the financial security of his family;  seemingly a dull plodder, but possessed of iron determination and an uncanny ability to never let the trees obscure the forest;  happily married and a firm believer in God, but subject to bouts of depression, usually when his wife was absent, when he would grasp for the bottle;  the shabby little man who won the greatest war in American history. 

 

 

On March 24, 1865 Grant sent out his movement order for the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James.  Grant planned a vast move to the west to force Lee to come out of his entrenchments to avoid Grant outflanking him on his right.  While this was going on, Sheridan would strike with the Union cavalry to sever the rail lines linking Richmond and Petersburg to the dwindling remainder of the Confederacy.  Grant planned for the movement to begin on March 29, 1865, taking advantage of the good weather that had dried the roads.  The Appomattox campaign was about to begin.

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One Response to Grant Plans His Attack

  • Longstreet, who knew Grant well, told Lee that he would fight him everyday. Some men seem made for a purpose. And Grant was a superb horseman and a good mathematician. Just a country boy from Ohio.