In the mean time, I had dispatched by land to Wilmington a train of refugees who had followed the army all the way from Columbia, South Carolina, under an escort of two hundred men, commanded by Major John A. Winson (One Hundred and Sixteenth Illinois Infantry), so that we were disencumbered, and prepared for instant battle on our left and exposed flank.
In person I accompanied General Slocum, and during the night of March 15th was thirteen miles out on the Raleigh road. This flank followed substantially a road along Cape Fear River north, encountered pretty stubborn resistance by Hardee's infantry, artillery, and cavalry, and the ground favored our enemy; for the deep river, Cape Fear, was on his right, and North River on his left, forcing us to attack him square in front. I proposed to drive Hardee well beyond Averysboro', and then to turn to the right by Bentonville for Goldsboro'. During the day it rained very hard, and I had taken refuge in an old cooper-shop, where a prisoner of war was brought to me (sent back from the skirmish-line by General Kilpatrick), who proved to be Colonel Albert Rhett, former commander of Fort Sumter. He was a tall, slender, and handsome young man, dressed in the most approved rebel uniform, with high jackboots beautifully stitched, and was dreadfully mortified to find himself a prisoner in our hands. General Frank Blair happened to be with me at the moment, and we were much amused at Rhett's outspoken disgust at having been captured without a fight. He said he was a brigade commander, and that his brigade that day was Hardee's rear-guard; that his command was composed mostly of the recent garrisons of the batteries of Charleston Harbor, and had little experience in woodcraft; that he was giving ground to us as fast as Hardee's army to his rear moved back, and during this operation he was with a single aide in the woods, and was captured by two men of Kilpatrick's skirmish-line that was following up his retrograde movement. These men called on him to surrender, and ordered him, in language more forcible than polite, to turn and ride back. He first supposed these men to be of Hampton's cavalry, and threatened to report them to General Hampton for disrespectful language; but he was soon undeceived, and was conducted to Kilpatrick, who sent him back to General Slocum's guard.
The rain was falling heavily, and, our wagons coming up, we went into camp there, and had Rhett and General Blair to take supper with us, and our conversation was full and quite interesting. In due time, however, Rhett was passed over by General Slocum to his provost-guard, with orders to be treated with due respect,—and was furnished with a horse to ride.
The next day (the 16th) the opposition continued stubborn, and near Averysboro' Hardee had taken up a strong position, before which General Slocum deployed Jackson's division (of the Twentieth Corps), with part of Ward's. Kilpatrick was on his right front. Coming up, I advised that a brigade should make a wide circuit by the left, and, if possible, catch this line in flank. The movement was completely successful, the first line of the enemy was swept away, and we captured the larger part of Rhett's brigade, two hundred and seventeen men, including Captain Macbeth's battery of three guns, and buried one hundred and eight dead.
The deployed lines (Ward's and Jackson's) pressed on, and found Hardee again intrenched; but the next morning he was gone, in full retreat toward Smithfield. In this action, called the battle of Averysboro', we lost twelve officers and sixty-five men killed, and four hundred and seventy-seven men wounded; a serious loss, because every wounded man had to be carried in an ambulance. The rebel wounded (sixty-eight) were carried to a house near by, all surgical operations necessary were performed by our surgeons, and then these wounded men were left in care of an officer and four men of the rebel prisoners, with a scanty supply of food, which was the best we could do for them. In person I visited this house while the surgeons were at work, with arms and legs lying around loose, in the yard and on the porch; and in a room on a bed lay a pale, handsome young fellow, whose left arm had just been cut off near the shoulder. Some one used my name, when he asked, in a feeble voice, if I were General Sherman. He then announced himself as Captain Macbeth, whose battery had just been captured; and said that he remembered me when I used to visit his father's house, in Charleston. I inquired about his family, and enabled him to write a note to his mother, which was sent her afterward from Goldsboro'. I have seen that same young gentleman since in St. Louis, where he was a clerk in an insurance-office.
While the battle of Averysboro' was in progress, and I was sitting on my horse, I was approached by a man on foot, without shoes or coat, and his head bandaged by a handkerchief. He announced himself as the Captain Duncan who had been captured by Wade Hampton in Fayetteville, but had escaped; and, on my inquiring how he happened to be in that plight, he explained that when he was a prisoner Wade Hampton's men had made him "get out of his coat, hat, and shoes," which they appropriated to themselves. He said Wade Hampton had seen them do it, and he had appealed to him personally for protection, as an officer, but Hampton answered him with a curse. I sent Duncan to General Kilpatrick, and heard afterward that Kilpatrick had applied to General Slocum for his prisoner, Colonel Rhett, whom he made march on foot the rest of the way to Goldsboro', in retaliation. There was a story afloat that Kilpatrick made him get out of those fine boots, but restored them because none of his own officers had feet delicate enough to wear them. Of course, I know nothing of this personally, and have never seen Rhett since that night by the cooper-shop; and suppose that he is the editor who recently fought a duel in New Orleans.
From Averysboro' the left wing turned east, toward Goldsboro', the Fourteenth Corps leading. I remained with this wing until the night of the 18th, when we were within twenty-seven miles of Goldsboro' and five from Bentonsville; and, supposing that all danger was over, I crossed over to join Howard's column, to the right, so as to be nearer to Generals Schofield and Terry, known to be approaching Goldsboro'. I overtook General Howard at Falling-Creek Church, and found his column well drawn out, by reason of the bad roads. I had heard some cannonading over about Slocum's head of column, and supposed it to indicate about the same measure of opposition by Hardee's troops and Hampton's cavalry before experienced; but during the day a messenger overtook me, and notified me that near Bentonsville General Slocum had run up against Johnston's whole army. I sent back orders for him to fight defensively to save time, and that I would come up with reenforcements from the direction of Cog's Bridge, by the road which we had reached near Falling-Creek Church. The country was very obscure, and the maps extremely defective.
By this movement I hoped General Slocum would hold Johnston's army facing west, while I would come on his rear from the east. The Fifteenth Corps, less one division (Hazen's), still well to the rear, was turned at once toward Bentonsville; Hazen's division was ordered to Slocum's flank, and orders were also sent for General Blair, with the Seventeenth Corps, to come to the same destination. Meantime the sound of cannon came from the direction of Bentonsville.
The night of the 19th caught us near Falling-Creek Church; but early the next morning the Fifteenth Corps, General C. R. Woods's division leading, closed down on Bentonsville, near which it was brought up by encountering a line of fresh parapet, crossing the road and extending north, toward Mill Creek.
After deploying, I ordered General Howard to proceed with due caution, using skirmishers alone, till he had made junction with General Slocum, on his left. These deployments occupied all day, during which two divisions of the Seventeenth Corps also got up. At that time General Johnston's army occupied the form of a V, the angle reaching the road leading from Averysboro' to Goldsboro', and the flanks resting on Mill Creek, his lines embracing the village of Bentonsville.
General Slocum's wing faced one of these lines and General Howard's the other; and, in the uncertainty of General Johnston's strength, I did not feel disposed to invite a general battle, for we had been out from Savannah since the latter part of January, and our wagon-trains contained but little food. I had also received messages during the day from General Schofield, at Kinston, and General Terry, at Faison's Depot, approaching Goldsboro', both expecting to reach it by March 21st. During the 20th we simply held our ground and started our trains back to Kinston for provisions, which would be needed in the event of being forced to fight a general battle at Bentonsville. The next day (21st) it began to rain again, and we remained quiet till about noon, when General Mower, ever rash, broke through the rebel line on his extreme left flank, and was pushing straight for Bentonsville and the bridge across Mill Creek. I ordered him back to connect with his own corps; and, lest the enemy should concentrate on him, ordered the whole rebel line to be engaged with a strong skirmish-fire.
I think I made a mistake there, and should rapidly have followed Mower's lead with the whole of the right wing, which would have brought on a general battle, and it could not have resulted otherwise than successfully to us, by reason of our vastly superior numbers; but at the moment, for the reasons given, I preferred to make junction with Generals Terry and Schofield, before engaging Johnston's army, the strength of which was utterly unknown. The next day he was gone, and had retreated on Smithfield; and, the roads all being clear, our army moved to Goldsboro'. The heaviest fighting at Bentonsville was on the first day, viz., the 19th, when Johnston's army struck the head of Slocum's columns, knocking back Carlin's division; but, as soon as General Slocum had brought up the rest of the Fourteenth Corps into line, and afterward the Twentieth on its left, he received and repulsed all attacks, and held his ground as ordered, to await the coming back of the right wing. His loss, as reported, was nine officers and one hundred and forty-five men killed, eight hundred and sixteen wounded, and two hundred and twenty-six missing. He reported having buried of the rebel dead one hundred and sixty-seven, and captured three hundred and thirty-eight prisoners.
The loss of the right wing was two officers and thirty-five men killed, twelve officers and two hundred and eighty-nine men wounded, and seventy missing. General Howard reported that he had buried one hundred of the rebel dead, and had captured twelve hundred and eighty-seven prisoners.
Our total loss, therefore, at Bentonsville was: 1,604
General Johnston, in his "Narrative" (p. 392), asserts that his entire force at Bentonsville, omitting Wheeler's and Butler's cavalry, only amounted to fourteen thousand one hundred infantry and artillery; and (p. 393) states his losses as: 2,343
Wide discrepancies exist in these figures: for instance, General Slocum accounts for three hundred and thirty-eight prisoners captured, and General Howard for twelve hundred and eighty-seven, making sixteen hundred and twenty-five in all, to Johnston's six hundred and fifty three—a difference of eight hundred and seventy-two. I have always accorded to General Johnston due credit for boldness in his attack on our exposed flank at Bentonville, but I think he understates his strength, and doubt whether at the time he had accurate returns from his miscellaneous army, collected from Hoke, Bragg, Hardee, Lee, etc. After the first attack on Carlin's division, I doubt if the fighting was as desperate as described by him, p. 385, et seq. I was close up with the Fifteenth Corps, on the 20th and 21st, considered the fighting as mere skirmishing, and know that my orders were to avoid a general battle, till we could be sure of Goldsboro', and of opening up a new base of supply. With the knowledge now possessed of his small force, of course I committed an error in not overwhelming Johnston's army on the 21st of March, 1865. But I was content then to let him go, and on the 22d of March rode to Cog's Bridge, where I met General Terry, with his two divisions of the Tenth Corps; and the next day we rode into Goldsboro', where I found General Schofield with the Twenty-third Corps, thus effecting a perfect junction of all the army at that point, as originally contemplated. During the 23d and 24th the whole army was assembled at Goldsboro'; General Terry's two divisions encamped at Faison's Depot to the south, and General Kilpatrick's cavalry at Mount Olive Station, near him, and there we all rested, while I directed my special attention to replenishing the army for the next and last stage of the campaign. Colonel W. W. Wright had been so indefatigable, that the Newbern Railroad was done, and a locomotive arrived in Goldsboro' on the 25th of March.
Thus was concluded one of the longest and most important marches ever made by an organized army in a civilized country. The distance from Savannah to Goldsboro' is four hundred and twenty-five miles, and the route traversed embraced five large navigable rivers, viz., the Edisto, Broad, Catawba, Pedee, and Cape Fear, at either of which a comparatively small force, well-handled, should have made the passage most difficult, if not impossible. The country generally was in a state of nature, with innumerable swamps, with simply mud roads, nearly every mile of which had to be corduroyed. In our route we had captured Columbia, Cheraw, and Fayetteville, important cities and depots of supplies, had compelled the evacuation of Charleston City and Harbor, had utterly broken up all the railroads of South Carolina, and had consumed a vast amount of food and forage, essential to the enemy for the support of his own armies. We had in mid-winter accomplished the whole journey of four hundred and twenty-five miles in fifty days, averaging ten miles per day, allowing ten lay-days, and had reached Goldsboro' with the army in superb order, and the trains almost as fresh as when we had started from Atlanta.
It was manifest to me that we could resume our march, and come within the theatre of General Grant's field of operations in all April, and that there was no force in existence that could delay our progress, unless General Lee should succeed in eluding General Grant at Petersburg, make junction with General Johnston, and thus united meet me alone; and now that we had effected a junction with Generals Terry and Schofield, I had no fear even of that event. On reaching Goldsboro, I learned from General Schofield all the details of his operations about Wilmington and Newbern; also of the fight of the Twenty-third Corps about Kinston, with General Bragg. I also found Lieutenant Dunn, of General Grant's staff, awaiting me, with the general's letter of February 7th, covering instructions to Generals Schofield and Thomas; and his letter of March 16th, in answer to mine of the 12th, from Fayetteville.
These are all given here to explain the full reasons for the events of the war then in progress, with two or three letters from myself, to fill out the picture.
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, February 7, 1865
Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding Military Division of the Mississippi.
GENERAL: Without much expectation of it reaching you in time to be of any service, I have mailed to you copies of instructions to Schofield and Thomas. I had informed Schofield by telegraph of the departure of Mahone's division, south from the Petersburg front. These troops marched down the Weldon road, and, as they apparently went without baggage, it is doubtful whether they have not returned. I was absent from here when they left. Just returned yesterday morning from Cape Fear River. I went there to determine where Schofield's corps had better go to operate against Wilmington and Goldsboro'. The instructions with this will inform you of the conclusion arrived at.
Schofield was with me, and the plan of the movement against Wilmington fully determined before we started back; hence the absence of more detailed instructions to him. He will land one division at Smithville, and move rapidly up the south side of the river, and secure the Wilmington & Charlotte Railroad, and with his pontoon train cross over to the island south of the city, if he can. With the aid of the gunboats, there is no doubt but this move will drive the enemy from their position eight miles east of the city, either back to their line or away altogether. There will be a large force on the north bank of Cape Fear River, ready to follow up and invest the garrison, if they should go inside.
The railroads of North Carolina are four feet eight and one-half inches gauge. I have sent large parties of railroad-men there to build them up, and have ordered stock to run them. We have abundance of it idle from the non-use of the Virginia roads. I have taken every precaution to have supplies ready for you wherever you may turn up. I did this before when you left Atlanta, and regret that they did not reach you promptly when you reached salt-water....
Alexander Stephens, R. M. T. Hunter, and Judge Campbell, are now at my headquarters, very desirous of going to Washington to see Mr. Lincoln, informally, on the subject of peace. The peace feeling within the rebel lines is gaining ground rapidly. This, however, should not relax our energies in the least, but should stimulate us to greater activity.
I have received your very kind letters, in which you say you would decline, or are opposed to, promotion. No one world be more pleased at your advancement than I, and if you should be placed in my position, and I put subordinate, it would not change our personal relations in the least. I would make the same exertions to support you that you have ever done to support me, and would do all in my power to make our cause win.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, January 81, 1865.
Major-General G. H. THOMAS, commanding Army of the Cumberland.
GENERAL: With this I send you a letter from General Sherman. At the time of writing it, General Sherman was not informed of the depletion of your command by my orders. It will, be impossible at present for you to move south as he contemplated, with the force of infantry indicated. General Slocum is advised before this of the changes made, and that for the winter you will be on the defensive. I think, however, an expedition from East Tennessee, under General Stoneman might penetrate South Carolina, well down toward Columbia, destroying the railroad and military resources of the country, thus visiting a portion of the State which will not be reached by Sherman's forces. He might also be able to return to East Tennessee by way of Salisbury, North Carolina, thus releasing home our prisoners of war in rebel hands.
Of the practicability of doing this, General Stoneman will have to be the judge, making up his mind from information obtained while executing the first part of his instructions. Sherman's movements will attract the attention of all the force the enemy can collect, thus facilitating the execution of this.
Three thousand cavalry would be a sufficient force to take. This probably can be raised in the old Department of the Ohio, without taking any now under General Wilson. It would require, though, the reorganization of the two regiments of Kentucky Cavalry, which Stoneman had in his very successful raid into Southwestern Virginia.
It will be necessary, probably, for you to send, in addition to the force now in East Tennessee, a small division of infantry, to enable General Gillem to hold the upper end of Holston Valley, and the mountain-passes in rear of Stevenson.
You may order such an expedition. To save time, I will send a copy of this to General Stoneman, so that he can begin his preparations without loss of time, and can commence his correspondence with you as to these preparations.
As this expedition goes to destroy and not to fight battles, but to avoid them when practicable, particularly against any thing like equal forces, or where a great object is to be gained, it should go as light as possible. Stoneman's experience, in raiding will teach him in this matter better than he can be directed.
Let there be no delay in the preparations for this expedition, and keep me advised of its progress. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, January 81, 1865.
Major-General J. M. SCHOFIELD, commanding army of the Ohio.
GENERAL: I have requested by telegraph that, for present purposes, North Carolina be erected into a department, and that you be placed in command of it, subject to Major-General Sherman's orders. Of course, you will receive orders from me direct until such time as General Sherman gets within communicating distance of you. This obviates the necessity of my publishing the order which I informed you would meet you at Fortress Monroe. If the order referred to should not be published from the Adjutant-General's office, you will read these instructions as your authority to assume command of all the troops in North Carolina, dating all official communications, "Headquarters Army of the Ohio." Your headquarters will be in the field, and with the portion of the army where you feel yourself most needed. In the first move you will go to Cape Fear River.
Your movements are intended as cooperative with Sherman's movement through the States of South and North Carolina. The first point to be obtained is to secure Wilmington. Goldsboro' will then be your objective point, moving either from Wilmington or Newbern, or both, as you may deem best. Should you not be able to reach Goldsboro', you will advance on the line or lines of railway connecting that place with the sea-coast, as near to it as you can, building the road behind you. The enterprise under you has two objects: the first is, to give General Sherman material aid, if needed, in his march north; the second, to open a base of supplies for him on the line of his march. As soon, therefore, as you can determine which of the two points, Wilmington or Newbern, you can best use for throwing supplies from to the interior, you will commence the accumulation of twenty days rations and forage for sixty thousand men and twenty thousand animals. You will get of these as many as you can house and protect, to such point in the interior as you may be able to occupy.
I believe General Innis N. Palmer has received some instructions directly from General Sherman, on the subject of securing supplies for his army. You can learn what steps he has taken, and be governed in your requisitions accordingly. A supply of ordnance-stores will also be necessary.
Make all your requisitions upon the chiefs of their respective departments, in the field, with me at City Point. Communicate with me by every opportunity, and, should you deem it necessary at any time, send a special boat to Fortress Monroe, from which point you can communicate by telegraph.
The supplies referred to in these instructions are exclusive of those required by your own command.
The movements of the enemy may justify you, or even make it your imperative duty, to cut loose from your base and strike for the interior, to aid Sherman. In such case you will act on your own judgment, without waiting for instructions. You will report, however, what you propose doing. The details for carrying out these instructions are necessarily left to you. I would urge, however, if I did not know that you are already fully alive to the importance of it, prompt action. Sherman may be looked for in the neighborhood of Goldsboro' any time from the 22d to the 28th of February. This limits your time very materially.
If rolling-stock is not secured in the capture of Wilmington, it can be supplied from Washington: A large force of railroad-men has already been sent to Beaufort, and other mechanics will go to Fort Fisher in a day or two. On this point I have informed you by telegraph.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, March 16, 1865.
Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding military Division of the Mississippi.
GENERAL: Your interesting letter of the 12th inst. is just received. I have never felt any uneasiness for your safety, but I have felt great anxiety to know just how you were progressing. I knew, or thought I did, that, with the magnificent army with you, you would come out safely somewhere.
To secure certain success, I deemed the capture of Wilmington of the greatest importance. Butler came near losing that prize to us. But Terry and Schofield have since retrieved his blunders, and I do not know but the first failure has been as valuable a success for the country as the capture of Fort Fisher. Butler may not see it in that light.
Ever since you started on the last campaign, and before, I have been attempting to get something done in the West, both to cooperate with you and to take advantage of the enemy's weakness there—to accomplish results favorable to us. Knowing Thomas to be slow beyond excuse, I depleted his army to reinforce Canby, so that he might act from Mobile Bay on the interior. With all I have said, he has not moved at last advices. Canby was sending a cavalry force, of about seven thousand, from Vicksburg toward Selma. I ordered Thomas to send Wilson from Eastport toward the same point, and to get him off as soon after the 20th of February as possible. He telegraphed me that he would be off by that date. He has not yet started, or had not at last advices. I ordered him to send Stoneman from East Tennessee into Northwest South Carolina, to be there about the time you would reach Columbia. He would either have drawn off the enemy's cavalry from you, or would have succeeded in destroying railroads, supplies, and other material, which you could not reach. At that time the Richmond papers were full of the accounts of your movements, and gave daily accounts of movements in West North Carolina. I supposed all the time it was Stoneman. You may judge my surprise when I afterward learned that Stoneman was still in Louisville, Kentucky, and that the troops in North Carolina were Kirk's forces! In order that Stoneman might get off without delay, I told Thomas that three thousand men would be sufficient for him to take. In the mean time I had directed Sheridan to get his cavalry ready, and, as soon as the snow in the mountains melted sufficiently, to start for Staunton, and go on and destroy the Virginia Central Railroad and canal. Time advanced, until he set the 28th of February for starting. I informed Thomas, and directed him to change the course of Stoneman toward Lynchburg, to destroy the road in Virginia up as near to that place as possible. Not hearing from Thomas, I telegraphed to him about the 12th, to know if Stoneman was yet off. He replied not, but that he (Thomas) would start that day for Knoxville, to get him off as soon as possible.
Sheridan has made his raid, and with splendid success, so far as heard. I am looking for him at "White House" to-day. Since about the 20th of last month the Richmond papers have been prohibited from publishing accounts of army movements. We are left to our own resources, therefore, for information. You will see from the papers what Sheridan has done; if you do not, the officer who bears this will tell you all.
Lee has depleted his army but very little recently, and I learn of none going south. Some regiments may have been detached, but I think no division or brigade. The determination seems to be to hold Richmond as long as possible. I have a force sufficient to leave enough to hold our lines (all that is necessary of them), and move out with plenty to whip his whole army. But the roads are entirely impassable. Until they improve, I shall content myself with watching Lee, and be prepared to pitch into him if he attempts to evacuate the place. I may bring Sheridan over—think I will —and break up the Danville and Southside Railroads. These are the last avenues left to the enemy.
Recruits have come in so rapidly at the West that Thomas has now about as much force as he had when he attacked Hood. I have stopped all who, under previous orders, would go to him, except those from Illinois.
Fearing the possibility of the enemy falling back to Lynchburg, and afterward attempting to go into East Tennessee or Kentucky, I have ordered Thomas to move the Fourth Corps to Bull's Gap, and to fortify there, and to hold out to the Virginia line, if he can. He has accumulated a large amount of supplies in Knoxville, and has been ordered not to destroy any of the railroad west of the Virginia Hue. I told him to get ready for a campaign toward Lynchburg, if it became necessary. He never can make one there or elsewhere; but the steps taken will prepare for any one else to take his troops and come east or go toward Rome, whichever may be necessary. I do not believe either will.
When I hear that you and Schofield are together, with your back upon the coast, I shall feel that you are entirely safe against any thing the enemy can do. Lee may evacuate Richmond, but he cannot get there with force enough to touch you. His army is now demoralized and deserting very fast, both to us and to their homes. A retrograde movement would cost him thousands of men, even if we did not follow.
Five thousand men, belonging to the corps with you, are now on their way to join you. If more reenforcements are necessary, I will send them. My notion is, that you should get Raleigh as soon as possible, and hold the railroad from there back. This may take more force than you now have.
From that point all North Carolina roads can be made useless to the enemy, without keeping up communications with the rear.
Hoping to hear soon of your junction with the forces from Wilmington and Newborn, I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI IN THE FIELD, COX'S BRIGADE, NEUSE RIVER, NORTH CAROLINA, March 22, 1865
Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, Commander-in-Chief, City Point, Virginia.
GENERAL: I wrote you from Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Tuesday, the 14th instant, that I was all ready to start for Goldsboro', to which point I had also ordered General Schofield, from Newborn, and General Terry, from Wilmington. I knew that General Jos. Johnston was supreme in command against me, and that he would have time to concentrate a respectable army to oppose the last stage of this march. Accordingly, General Slocum was ordered to send his main supply-train, under escort of two divisions, straight for Bentonsville, while he, with his other four divisions, disencumbered of all unnecessary wagons, should march toward Raleigh, by way of threat, as far as Averysboro'. General Howard, in like manner, sent his trains with the Seventeenth Corps, well to the right, and, with the four divisions of the Fifteenth Corps, took roads which would enable him to come promptly to the exposed left flank. We started on the 16th, but again the rains set in, and the roads, already bad enough, became horrible.
On Tuesday, the 16th, General Slocum found Hardee's army, from Charleston, which had retreated before us from Cheraw, in position across the narrow, swampy neck between Cape Fear and North Rivers, where the road branches off to Goldsboro'. There a pretty severe fight occurred, in which General Slocum's troops carried handsomely the advanced line, held by a South Carolina brigade, commanded by a Colonel Butler. Its Commander, Colonel Rhett, of Fort Sumter notoriety, with one of his staff, had the night before been captured, by Kilpatrick's scouts, from his very skirmish-line. The next morning Hardee was found gone, and was pursued through and beyond Averysboro'. General Slocum buried one hundred and eight dead rebels, and captured and destroyed three guns. Some eighty wounded rebels were left in our hands, and, after dressing their wounds, we left them in a house, attended by a Confederate officer and four privates, detailed out of our prisoners and paroled for the purpose.
We resumed the march toward Goldsboro'. I was with the left wing until I supposed all danger had passed; but, when General Slocum's head of column was within four miles of Bentonsville, after skirmishing as usual with cavalry, he became aware that there was infantry in his front. He deployed a couple of brigades, which, on advancing, sustained a partial repulse, but soon rallied, when he formed a line of the two leading divisions (Morgan's and Carlin's) of Jeff. C. Davis's corps. The enemy attacked these with violence, but was repulsed. This was in the forenoon of Sunday, the 19th. General Slocum brought forward the two divisions of the Twentieth Corps, hastily disposed of them for defense, and General Kilpatrick massed his cavalry on the left.
General Jos. Johnston had, the night before, marched his whole army (Bragg, Cheatham, S. D. Lee, Hardee, and all the troops he had drawn from every quarter), determined, as he told his men, to crash one of our corps, and then defeat us in detail. He attacked General Slocum in position from 3 P. M. on the 19th till dark; but was everywhere repulsed, and lost heavily. At the time, I was with the Fifteenth Corps, marching on a road more to the right; but, on hearing of General Slocum's danger, directed that corps toward Cox's Bridge, in the night brought Blair's corps over, and on the 20th marched rapidly on Johnston's flank and rear. We struck him about noon, forced him to assume the defensive, and to fortify. Yesterday we pushed him hard, and came very near crushing him, the right division of the Seventeenth Corps (Mower's) having broken in to within a hundred yards of where Johnston himself was, at the bridge across Mill Creek. Last night he retreated, leaving us in possession of the field, dead, and wounded. We have over two thousand prisoners from this affair and the one at Averysboro', and I am satisfied that Johnston's army was so roughly handled yesterday that we could march right on to Raleigh; but we have now been out six weeks, living precariously upon the collections of our foragers, our men dirty, ragged, and saucy, and we must rest and fix up a little. Our entire losses thus far (killed, wounded, and prisoners) will be covered by twenty-five hundred, a great part of which are, as usual, slight wounds. The enemy has lost more than double as many, and we have in prisoners alone full two thousand.
I limited the pursuit, this morning, to Mill Creek, and will forthwith march the army to Goldsboro', there to rest, reclothe, and get some rations.
Our combinations were such that General Schofield entered Goldsboro' from Newborn; General Terry got Cox's Bridge, with pontoons laid, and a brigade across Neuse River intrenched; and we whipped Jos. Johnston—all on the same day.
After riding over the field of battle to-day, near Bentonsville, and making the necessary orders, I have ridden down to this place (Cox's Bridge) to see General Terry, and to-morrow shall ride into Goldsboro.
I propose to collect there my army proper; shall post General Terry about Faison's Depot, and General Schofield about Kinston, partly to protect the road, but more to collect such food and forage as the country affords, until the railroads are repaired leading into Goldsboro'.
I fear these have not been pushed with the vigor I had expected; but I will soon have them both going. I shall proceed at once to organize three armies of twenty-five thousand men each, and will try and be all ready to march to Raleigh or Weldon, as we may determine, by or before April 10th.
I inclose you a copy of my orders of to-day. I would like to be more specific, but have not the data. We have lost no general officers nor any organization. General Slocum took three guns at Averysboro', and lost three others at the first dash on him at Bentonsville. We have all our wagons and trains in good order.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI IN THE FIELD, COX'S BRIGADE, GOLDSBORO', NORTH CAROLINA, March 23, 1865.
Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, commanding the Armies of the United States, City Point, Virginia.
GENERAL: On reaching Goldsboro' this morning, I found Lieutenant Dunn awaiting me with your letter of March 18th and dispatch of the 17th. I wrote you fully from Cox's Bridge yesterday, and since reaching Goldsboro' have learned that my letter was sent punctually to Newborn, whence it will be dispatched to you.
I am very glad to hear that General Sheridan did such good service between Richmond and Lynchburg, and hope he will keep the ball moving, I know that these raids and dashes disconcert our enemy and discourage him much.
General Slocum's two corps (Fourteenth and Twentieth) are now coming in. I will dispose of them north of Goldsboro', between the Weldon road and Little River. General Howard to-day is marching south of the Nenae, and to-morrow will come in and occupy ground north of Goldsboro', extending from the Weldon Railroad to that leading to Kinston.
I have ordered all the provisional divisions, made up of troops belonging to the regular corps, to be broken up, and the men to join their proper regiments and organizations; and have ordered General Schofield to guard the railroads back to Newborn and Wilmington, and to make up a movable column equal to twenty-five thousand men, with which to take the field. His army will be the centre, as on the Atlanta campaign. I do not think I want any more troops (other than absentees and recruits) to fill up the present regiments, and I can make up an army of eighty thousand men by April 10th. I will post General Kilpatrick at Mount Olive Station on the Wilmington road, and then allow the army some rest.
We have sent all our empty wagons, under escort, with the proper staff-officers, to bring up from Kinston clothing and provisions. As long as we move we can gather food and forage; but, the moment we stop, trouble begins.
I feel sadly disappointed that our railroads are not done. I do not like to say there has been any neglect until I make inquiries; but it does seem to me the repairs should have been made ere this, and the road properly stocked. I can only hear of one locomotive (besides the four old ones) on the Newbern road, and two damaged locomotives (found by General Terry) on the Wilmington road. I left Generals Easton and Beckwith purposely to make arrangements in anticipation of my arrival, and have heard from neither, though I suppose them both to be at Morehead City.
At all events, we have now made a junction of all the armies, and if we can maintain them, will, in a short time, be in a position to march against Raleigh, Gaston, Weldon, or even Richmond, as you may determine.
If I get the troops all well planed, and the supplies working well, I may run up to see you for a day or two before diving again into the bowels of the country.
I will make, in a very short time, accurate reports of our operations for the past two months. Yours truly,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI IN THE FIELD, COX'S BRIGADE, GOLDSBORO', NORTH CAROLINA, March 24, 1865.
Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, City Point, Virginia.
GENERAL: I have kept Lieutenant Dunn over to-day that I might report farther. All the army is now in, save the cavalry (which I have posted at Mount Olive Station, south of the Nenae) and General Terry's command (which—to-morrow will move from Cog's Ferry to Faison's Depot, also on the Wilmington road). I send you a copy of my orders of this morning, the operation of which will, I think, soon complete our roads. The telegraph is now done to Morehead City, and by it I learn that stores have been sent to Kinston in boats, and that our wagons are loading with rations and clothing. By using the Neuse as high up as Kinston, hauling from there twenty-six miles, and by equipping the two roads to Morehead City and Wilmington, I feel certain we can not only feed and equip the army, but in a short time fill our wagons for another start. I feel certain, from the character of the fighting, that we have got Johnston's army afraid of us. He himself acts with timidity and caution. His cavalry alone manifests spirit, but limits its operations to our stragglers and foraging-parties. My marching columns of infantry do not pay the cavalry any attention, but walk right through it.
I think I see pretty clearly how, in one more move, we can checkmate Lee, forcing him to unite Johnston with him in the defense of Richmond, or to abandon the cause. I feel certain, if he leaves Richmond, Virginia leaves the Confederacy. I will study my maps a little more before giving my positive views. I want all possible information of the Roanoke as to navigability, how far up, and with what draught.
We find the country sandy, dry, with good roads, and more corn and forage than I had expected. The families remain, but I will gradually push them all out to Raleigh or Wilmington. We will need every house in the town. Lieutenant Dunn can tell you of many things of which I need not write. Yours truly,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI IN THE FIELD, COX'S BRIGADE, GOLDSBORO', NORTH CAROLINA, April 5,1865
Major-General George H. Thomas, commanding Department of the Cumberland.
DEAR GENERAL: I can hardly help smiling when I contemplate my command—it is decidedly mixed. I believe, but am not certain, that you are in my jurisdiction, but I certainly cannot help you in the way of orders or men; nor do I think you need either. General Cruft has just arrived with his provisional division, which will at once be broken up and the men sent to their proper regiments, as that of Meagher was on my arrival here.
You may have some feeling about my asking that General Slocum should have command of the two corps that properly belong to you, viz., the Fourteenth and Twentieth, but you can recall that he was but a corps commander, and could not legally make orders of discharge, transfer, etc., which was imperatively necessary. I therefore asked that General Slocum should be assigned to command "an army in the field," called the Army of Georgia, composed of the Fourteenth and Twentieth Corps. The order is not yet made by the President, though I have recognized it because both, General Grant and the President have sanctioned it, and promised to have the order made.
My army is now here, pretty well clad and provided, divided into three parts, of two corps each—much as our old Atlanta army was.
I expect to move on in a few days, and propose (if Lee remains in Richmond) to pass the Roanoke, and open communication with the Chowan and Norfolk. This will bring me in direct communication with General Grant.
This is an admirable point—country open, and the two railroads in good order back to Wilmington and Beaufort. We have already brought up stores enough to fill our wagons, and only await some few articles, and the arrival of some men who are marching up from the coast, to be off.
General Grant explained to me his orders to you, which, of course, are all right. You can make reports direct to Washington or to General Grant, but keep me advised occasionally of the general state of affairs, that I may know what is happening. I must give my undivided attention to matters here. You will hear from a thousand sources pretty fair accounts of our next march. Yours truly,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
[LETTER FROM ADMIRAL DAHLGREN]
SOUTH ATLANTIC SQUADRON FLAG-SHIP PHILADELPHIA, CHARLESTON, April 20, 1865
Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding Armies of the Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi.
Mr DEAR GENERAL: I was much gratified by a sight of your handwriting, which has just reached me from Goldsboro'; it was very suggestive of a past to me, when these regions were the scene of your operations.
As you progressed through South Carolina, there was no manifestation of weakness or of an intention to abandon Charleston, until within a few hours of the fact. On the 11th of February I was at Stono, and a spirited demonstration was made by General Schimmel-pfennig and the vessels. He drove the rebels from their rifle-pits in front of the lines, extending from Fort Pringle, and pushed them vigorously. The next day I was at Bull's Bay, with a dozen steamers, among them the finest of the squadron. General Potter had twelve to fifteen hundred men, the object being to carry out your views. We made as much fuss as possible, and with better success than I anticipated, for it seems that the rebs conceived Stono to be a feint, and the real object at Bull's Bay, supposing, from the number of steamers and boats, that we had several thousand men. Now came an aide from General Gillmore, at Port Royal, with your cipher-dispatch from Midway, so I steamed down to Port Royal to see him. Next day was spent in vain efforts to decipher-finally it was accomplished. You thought that the state of the roads might force you to turn upon Charleston; so I went there on the 15th, but there was no sign yet of flinching. Then I went to Bull's Bay next day (16th), and found that the troops were not yet ashore, owing to the difficulties of shoal water. One of the gunboats had contrived to get up to within shelling range, and both soldiers and sailors were working hard. On the evening of the 18th I steamed down to Stono to see how matters were going there. Passing Charleston, I noticed two large fires, well inside—probably preparing to leave. On the 17th, in Stono, rumors were flying about loose of evacuation. In course of the morning, General Schimmelpfennig telegraphed me, from Morris Island, that there were symptoms of leaving; that he would again make a push at Stono, and asked for monitors. General Schimmelpfennig came down in the afternoon, and we met in the Folly Branch, near Secessionville. He was sore that the rebs would be off that night, so he was to assault them in front, while a monitor and gunboats stung their flanks both sides. I also sent an aide to order my battery of five eleven-inch guns, at Cumming's Point, to fire steadily all night on Sullivan's Island, and two monitors to close up to the island for the same object. Next morning (18th) the rascals were found to be off, and we broke in from all directions, by land and water. The main bodies had left at eight or nine in the evening, leaving detachments to keep up a fire from the batteries. I steamed round quickly, and soon got into the city, threading the streets with a large group of naval captains who had joined me. All was silent as the grave. No one to be seen but a few firemen.
No one can question the excellence of your judgment in taking the track you did, and I never had any misgivings, but it was natural to desire to go into the place with a strong hand, for, if any one spot in the land was foremost in the trouble, it was Charleston.
Your campaign was the final blow, grand in conception, complete in execution; and now it is yours to secure the last army which rebeldom possesses. I hear of your being in motion by the 9th, and hope that the result may be all that you wish.
Tidings of the murder of the President have just come, and shocked every mind. Can it be that such a resort finds root in any stratum of American opinion? Evidently it has not been the act of one man, nor of a madman. Who have prompted him?
I am grateful for your remembrance of my boy; the thought of him is ever nearest to my heart. Generous, brave, and noble, as I ever knew him to be, that he should close his young life so early, even under the accepted conditions of a soldier's life, as a son of the Union, would have been grief sufficient for me to bear; but that his precious remains should have been so treated by the brutes into whose hands they fell, adds even to the bitterness of death. I am now awaiting the hour when I can pay my last duties to his memory.
With my best and sincere wishes, my dear general, for your success and happiness, I am, most truly, your friend,
J. A. DAHLGREN.
[General Order No. 50.]
WAR DEPARTMENT, ADJUTANT-GENERAL'S OFFICE WASHINGTON, March 27, 1865
Ordered—1. That at the hour of noon, on the 14th day of April, 1885, Brevet Major-General Anderson will raise and plant upon the ruins of Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, the same United States flag which floated over the battlements of that fort during the rebel assault, and which was lowered and saluted by him and the small force of his command when the works were evacuated on the 14th day of April, 1861.
2. That the flag, when raised, be saluted by one hundred guns from Fort Sumter, and by a national salute from every fort and rebel battery that fired upon Fort Sumter.
3. That suitable ceremonies be had upon the occasion, under the direction of Major-General William T. Sherman, whose military operations compelled the rebels to evacuate Charleston, or, in his absence, under the charge of Major-General Q. A. Gilmore, commanding the department. Among the ceremonies will be the delivery of a public address by the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher.
4. That the naval forces at Charleston, and their commander on that station, be invited to participate in the ceremonies of the occasion.
By order of the President of the United States,
EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
[General Order No. 41.]
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH HILTON HEAD, SOUTH CAROLINA, April 10, 1865
Friday next, the 14th inst., will be the fourth anniversary of the capture of Fort Sumter by the rebels. A befitting celebration on that day, in honor of its reoccupation by the national forces, has been ordered by the President, in pursuance of which Brevet Major- General Robert Anderson, United States Army, will restore to its original place on the fort the identical flag which, after an honorable and gallant defense, he was compelled to lower to the insurgents in South Carolina, in April, 1861.
The ceremonies for the occasion will commence with prayer, at thirty minutes past eleven o'clock a.m.
At noon precisely, the flag will be raised and saluted with one hundred guns from Fort Sumter, and with a national salute from Fort Moultrie and Battery Bee on Sullivan's Island, Fort Putnam on Morris Island, and Fort Johnson on James's Island; it being eminently appropriate that the places which were so conspicuous in the inauguration of the rebellion should take a part not less prominent in this national rejoicing over the restoration of the national authority.
After the salutes, the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher will deliver an address.
The ceremonies will close with prayer and a benediction.
Colonel Stewart L. Woodford, chief of staff, under such verbal instructions as he may receive, is hereby charged with the details of the celebration, comprising all the arrangements that it may be necessary to make for the accommodation of the orator of the day, and the comfort and safety of the invited guests from the army and navy, and from civil life.
By command of Major-General Q. A. Gillmore, W. L. M. BURGER, Assistant Adjutant-General.
Copy of Major ANDERSON's Dispatch, announcing the Surrender of Fort Sumter, April 14, 1861.
STEAMSHIP BALTIC, OFF SANDY HOOK April 10, 1861, 10.30 a.m. via New York
Honorable S. Cameron, Secretary of War, Washington
Having defended Fort Sumter for thirty-four hours, until the quarters were entirely burned, the main gates destroyed by fire, the gorge-walls seriously injured, the magazine surrounded by flames, and its door closed from the effect of heat, four barrels and three cartridges of powder only being available, and no provisions remaining but pork, I accepted terms of evacuation offered by General Beauregard, being the same offered by him on the 11th inst., prior to the commencement of hostilities, and marched out of the fort, Sunday afternoon, the 14th inst., with colors flying and drums beating, bringing away company and private property, and saluting my flag with fifty guns.
ROBERT ANDERSON, Major First Artillery, commanding.
END OF THE WAR—FROM GOLDSBORO' TO RALEIGH AND WASHINGTON.
APRIL AND MAY, 1865.
As before described, the armies commanded respectively by Generals J. M. Schofield, A. H. Terry, and myself, effected a junction in and about Goldsboro', North Carolina, during the 22d and 23d of March, 1865, but it required a few days for all the troops and trains of wagons to reach their respective camps. In person I reached Goldsboro' on the 23d, and met General Schofield, who described fully his operations in North Carolina up to that date; and I also found Lieutenant Dunn, aide-de-camp to General Grant, with a letter from him of March 16th, giving a general description of the state of facts about City Point. The next day I received another letter, more full, dated the 22d, which I give herewith.
Nevertheless, I deemed it of great importance that I should have a personal interview with the general, and determined to go in person to City Point as soon as the repairs of the railroad, then in progress under the personal direction of Colonel W. W. Wright, would permit:
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, March 22, 1865
Major-General SHERMAN, Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi.
GENERAL: Although the Richmond papers do not communicate the fact, yet I saw enough in them to satisfy me that you occupied Goldsboro' on the 19th inst. I congratulate you and the army on what may be regarded as the successful termination of the third campaign since leaving the Tennessee River, less than one year ago.
Since Sheridan's very successful raid north of the James, the enemy are left dependent on the Southside and Danville roads for all their supplies. These I hope to cut next week. Sheridan is at White House, "shoeing up" and resting his cavalry. I expect him to finish by Friday night and to start the following morning, raid Long Bridge, Newmarket, Bermuda Hundred, and the extreme left of the army around Petersburg. He will make no halt with the armies operating here, but will be joined by a division of cavalry, five thousand five hundred strong, from the Army of the Potomac, and will proceed directly to the Southside and Danville roads. His instructions will be to strike the Southside road as near Petersburg as he can, and destroy it so that it cannot be repaired for three or four days, and push on to the Danville road, as near to the Appomattox as he can get. Then I want him to destroy the road toward Burkesville as far as he can; then push on to the Southside road, west of Burkesville, and destroy it effectually. From that point I shall probably leave it to his discretion either to return to this army, crossing the Danville road south of Burkesville, or go and join you, passing between Danville and Greensboro'. When this movement commences I shall move out by my left, with all the force I can, holding present intrenched lines. I shall start with no distinct view, further than holding Lee's forces from following Sheridan. But I shall be along myself, and will take advantage of any thing that turns up. If Lee detaches, I will attack; or if he comes out of his lines I will endeavor to repulse him, and follow it up to the best advantage.
It is most difficult to understand what the rebels intend to do; so far but few troops have been detached from Lee's army. Much machinery has been removed, and material has been sent to Lynchburg, showing a disposition to go there. Points, too, have been fortified on the Danville road.
Lee's army is much demoralized, and great numbers are deserting. Probably, from returned prisoners, and such conscripts as can be picked up, his numbers may be kept up. I estimate his force now at about sixty-five thousand men.
Wilson started on Monday, with twelve thousand cavalry, from Eastport. Stoneman started on the same day, from East Tennessee, toward Lynchburg. Thomas is moving the Fourth Corps to Bull's Gap. Canby is moving with a formidable force on Mobile and the interior of Alabama.
I ordered Gilmore, as soon as the fall of Charleston was known, to hold all important posts on the sea-coast, and to send to Wilmington all surplus forces. Thomas was also directed to forward to Newbern all troops belonging to the corps with you. I understand this will give you about five thousand men, besides those brought east by Meagher.
I have been telegraphing General Meigs to hasten up locomotives and cars for you. General McCallum, he informs me, is attending to it. I fear they are not going forward as fast as I world like.
Let me know if you want more troops, or any thing else.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
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 state- room, 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:
A man once had taken the total-abstinence pledge. When visiting a friend, he was invited to take a drink, but declined, on the score of his pledge; when his friend suggested lemonade, which was accepted. In preparing the lemonade, the friend pointed to the brandy-bottle, and said the lemonade would be more palatable if he were to pour in a little brandy; when his guest said, if he could do so "unbeknown" to him, he would "not object." From which illustration I inferred that Mr. Lincoln wanted Davis to escape, "unbeknown" to him.
I made no notes of this conversation at the time, but Admiral Porter, who was present, did, and in 1866 he furnished me an account thereof, which I insert below, but the admiral describes the first visit, of the 27th, whereas my memory puts Admiral Porter's presence on the following day. Still he may be right, and he may have been with us the day before, as I write this chiefly from memory. There were two distinct interviews; the first was late in the afternoon of March 27th, and the other about noon of the 28th, both in the after-cabin of the steamer River Queen; on both occasions Mr. Lincoln was full and frank in his conversation, assuring me that in his mind he was all ready for the civil reorganization of affairs at the South as soon as the war was over; and he distinctly authorized me to assure Governor Vance and the people of North Carolina that, as soon as the rebel armies laid down their arms, and resumed their civil pursuits, they would at once be guaranteed all their rights as citizens of a common country; and that to avoid anarchy the State governments then in existence, with their civil functionaries, would be recognized by him as the government de facto till Congress could provide others.
I know, when I left him, that I was more than ever impressed by his kindly nature, his deep and earnest sympathy with the afflictions of the whole people, resulting from the war, and by the march of hostile armies through the South; and that his earnest desire seemed to be to end the war speedily, without more bloodshed or devastation, and to restore all the men of both sections to their homes. In the language of his second inaugural address, he seemed to have "charity for all, malice toward none," and, above all, an absolute faith in the courage, manliness, and integrity of the armies in the field. When at rest or listening, his legs and arms seemed to hang almost lifeless, and his face was care-worn and haggard; but, the moment he began to talk, his face lightened up, his tall form, as it were, unfolded, and he was the very impersonation of good-humor and fellowship. The last words I recall as addressed to me were that he would feel better when I was back at Goldsboro'. We parted at the gangway of the River Queen, about noon of March 28th, and I never saw him again. Of all the men I ever met, he seemed to possess more of the elements of greatness, combined with goodness, than any other.
ADMIRAL PORTER'S ACCOUNT OF THE INTERVIEW WITH Mr. LINCOLN.
The day of General Sherman's arrival at City Point (I think the 27th of March, 1866), I accompanied him and General Grant on board the President's flagship, the Queen, where the President received us in the upper saloon, no one but ourselves being present.
The President was in an exceedingly pleasant mood, and delighted to meet General Sherman, whom he cordially greeted.
It seems that this was the first time he had met Sherman, to remember him, since the beginning of the war, and did not remember when he had seen him before, until the general reminded him of the circumstances of their first meeting.
This was rather singular on the part of Mr. Lincoln, who was, I think, remarkable for remembering people, having that kingly quality in an eminent degree. Indeed, such was the power of his memory, that he seemed never to forget the most minute circumstance.
The conversation soon turned on the events of Sherman's campaign through the South, with every movement of which the President seemed familiar.
He laughed over some of the stories Sherman told of his "bummers," and told others in return, which illustrated in a striking manner the ideas he wanted to convey. For example, he would often express his wishes by telling an apt story, which was quite a habit with him, and one that I think he adopted to prevent his committing himself seriously.
The interview between the two generals and the President lasted about an hour and a half, and, as it was a remarkable one, I jotted down what I remembered of the conversation, as I have made a practice of doing during the rebellion, when any thing interesting occurred.
I don't regret having done so, as circumstances afterward occurred (Stanton's ill conduct toward Sherman) which tended to cast odium on General Sherman for allowing such liberal terms to Jos. Johnston.
Could the conversation that occurred on board the Queen, between the President and General Sherman, have been known, Sherman would not, and could not, have been censored. Mr. Lincoln, had he lived, would have acquitted the general of any blame, for he was only carrying out the President's wishes.
My opinion is, that Mr. Lincoln came down to City Point with the most liberal views toward the rebels. He felt confident that we would be successful, and was willing that the enemy should capitulate on the most favorable terms.
I don't know what the President would have done had he been left to himself, and had our army been unsuccessful, but he was than wrought up to a high state of excitement. He wanted peace on almost any terms, and there is no knowing what proposals he might have been willing to listen to. His heart was tenderness throughout, and, as long as the rebels laid down their arms, he did not care how it was done. I do not know how far he was influenced by General Grant, but I presume, from their long conferences, that they must have understood each other perfectly, and that the terms given to Lee after his surrender were authorized by Mr. Lincoln. I know that the latter was delighted when he heard that they had been given, and exclaimed, a dozen times, "Good!" "All right!" "Exactly the thing!" and other similar expressions. Indeed, the President more than once told me what he supposed the terms would be: if Lee and Johnston surrendered, he considered the war ended, and that all the other rebel forces world lay down their arms at once.
In this he proved to be right. Grant and Sherman were both of the same opinion, and so was everyone else who knew anything about the matter.
What signified the terms to them, so long as we obtained the actual surrender of people who only wanted a good opportunity to give up gracefully? The rebels had fought "to the last ditch," and all that they had left them was the hope of being handed down in history as having received honorable terms.
After hearing General Sherman's account of his own position, and that of Johnston, at that time, the President expressed fears that the rebel general would escape south again by the railroads, and that General Sherman would have to chase him anew, over the same ground; but the general pronounced this to be impracticable. He remarked: "I have him where he cannot move without breaking up his army, which, once disbanded, can never again be got together; and I have destroyed the Southern railroads, so that they cannot be used again for a long time." General Grant remarked, "What is to prevent their laying the rails again?" "Why," said General Sherman, "my bummers don't do things by halves. Every rail, after having been placed over a hot fire, has been twisted as crooked as a ram's-horn, and they never can be used again."
This was the only remark made by General Grant during the interview, as he sat smoking a short distance from the President, intent, no doubt, on his own plans, which were being brought to a successful termination.
The conversation between the President and General Sherman, about the terms of surrender to be allowed Jos. Johnston, continued. Sherman energetically insisted that he could command his own terms, and that Johnston would have to yield to his demands; but the President was very decided about the matter, and insisted that the surrender of Johnston's army most be obtained on any terms.
General Grant was evidently of the same way of thinking, for, although he did not join in the conversation to any extent, yet he made no objections, and I presume had made up his mind to allow the best terms himself.
He was also anxious that Johnston should not be driven into Richmond, to reenforce the rebels there, who, from behind their strong intrenchments, would have given us incalculable trouble.
Sherman, as a subordinate officer, yielded his views to those of the President, and the terms of capitulation between himself and Johnston were exactly in accordance with Mr. Lincoln's wishes. He could not have done any thing which would have pleased the President better.
Mr. Lincoln did, in fact, arrange the (so considered) liberal terms offered General Jos. Johnston, and, whatever may have been General Sherman's private views, I feel sure that he yielded to the wishes of the President in every respect. It was Mr. Lincoln's policy that was carried out, and, had he lived long enough, he would have been but too glad to have acknowledged it. Had Mr. Lincoln lived, Secretary Stanton would have issued no false telegraphic dispatches, in the hope of killing off another general in the regular army, one who by his success had placed himself in the way of his own succession.
The disbanding of Jos. Johnston's army was so complete, that the pens and ink used in the discussion of the matter were all wasted.
It was asserted, by the rabid ones, that General Sherman had given up all that we had been fighting for, had conceded every thing to Jos. Johnston, and had, as the boys say, "knocked the fat into the fire;" but sober reflection soon overruled these harsh expressions, and, with those who knew General Sherman, and appreciated him, he was still the great soldier, patriot, and gentleman. In future times this matter will be looked at more calmly and dispassionately. The bitter animosities that have been engendered during the rebellion will have died out for want of food on which to live, and the very course Grant, Sherman, and others pursued, in granting liberal terms to the defeated rebels, will be applauded. The fact is, they met an old beggar in the road, whose crutches had broken from under him: they let him have only the broken crutches to get home with!
I sent General Sherman back to Newbern, North Carolina, in the steamer Bat.
While he was absent from his command he was losing no time, for he was getting his army fully equipped with stores and clothing; and, when he returned, he had a rested and regenerated army, ready to swallow up Jos. Johnston and all his ragamuffins.
Johnston was cornered, could not move without leaving every thing behind him, and could not go to Richmond without bringing on a famine in that destitute city.
I was with Mr. Lincoln all the time he was at City Point, and until he left for Washington. He was more than delighted with the surrender of Lee, and with the terms Grant gave the rebel general; and would have given Jos. Johnston twice as much, had the latter asked for it, and could he have been certain that the rebel world have surrendered without a fight. I again repeat that, had Mr. Lincoln lived, he would have shouldered all the responsibility.
One thing is certain: had Jos. Johnston escaped and got into Richmond, and caused a larger list of killed and wounded than we had, General Sherman would have been blamed. Then why not give him the full credit of capturing on the best terms the enemy's last important army and its best general, and putting an end to the rebellion.
It was a finale worthy of Sherman's great march through the swamps and deserts of the South, a march not excelled by any thing we read of in modern military history.
D. D. PORTER, Vice-Admiral.
(Written by the admiral in 1866, at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., and mailed to General Sherman at St. Louis, Mo.)
As soon as possible, I arranged with General Grant for certain changes in the organization of my army; and the general also undertook to send to North Carolina some tug-boat and barges to carry stores from Newbern up as far as Kinston, whence they could be hauled in wagons to our camps, thus relieving our railroads to that extent. I undertook to be ready to march north by April 10th, and then embarked on the steamer Bat, Captain Barnes, for North Carolina. We steamed down James River, and at Old Point Comfort took on board my brother, Senator Sherman, and Mr. Edwin Stanton, son of the Secretary of War, and proceeded at once to our destination. On our way down the river, Captain Barnes expressed himself extremely obliged to me for taking his vessel, as it had relieved him of a most painful dilemma. He explained that he had been detailed by Admiral Porter to escort the President's unarmed boat, the River Queen, in which capacity it became his special duty to look after Mrs. Lincoln. The day before my arrival at City Point, there had been a grand review of a part of the Army of the James, then commanded by General Ord. The President rode out from City Point with General Grant on horseback, accompanied by a numerous staff, including Captain Barnes and Mrs. Ord; but Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Grant had followed in a carriage.
The cavalcade reached the review-ground some five or six miles out from City Point, found the troops all ready, drawn up in line, and after the usual presentation of arms, the President and party, followed by Mrs. Ord and Captain Barnes on horseback, rode the lines, and returned to the reviewing stand, which meantime had been reached by Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Grant in their carriage, which had been delayed by the driver taking a wrong road. Mrs. Lincoln, seeing Mrs. Ord and Captain Barnes riding with the retinue, and supposing that Mrs. Ord had personated her, turned on Captain Barnes and gave him a fearful scolding; and even indulged in some pretty sharp upbraidings to Mrs. Ord.
This made Barne's position very unpleasant, so that he felt much relieved when he was sent with me to North Carolina. The Bat was very fast, and on the morning of the 29th we were near Cape Hatteras; Captain Barnes, noticing a propeller coming out of Hatteras Inlet, made her turn back and pilot us in. We entered safely, steamed up Pamlico Sound into Neuse River, and the next morning,—by reason of some derangement of machinery, we anchored about seven miles below Newbern, whence we went up in Captain Barnes's barge. As soon as we arrived at Newbern, I telegraphed up to General Schofield at Goldsboro' the fact of my return, and that I had arranged with General Grant for the changes made necessary in the reorganization of the army, and for the boats necessary to carry up the provisions and stores we needed, prior to the renewal of our march northward.
These changes amounted to constituting the left wing a distinct army, under the title of "the Army of Georgia," under command of General Slocum, with his two corps commanded by General Jeff. C. Davis and General Joseph A. Mower; the Tenth and Twenty-third Corps already constituted another army, "of the Ohio," under the command of Major-General Schofield, and his two corps were commanded by Generals J. D. Cox and A. H. Terry. These changes were necessary, because army commanders only could order courts-martial, grant discharges, and perform many other matters of discipline and administration which were indispensable; but my chief purpose was to prepare the whole army for what seemed among the probabilities of the time—to fight both Lee's and Johnston's armies combined, in case their junction could be formed before General Grant could possibly follow Lee to North Carolina.
General George H. Thomas, who still remained at Nashville, was not pleased with these changes, for the two corps with General Slocum, viz., the Fourteenth and Twentieth, up to that time, had remained technically a part of his "Army of the Cumberland;" but he was so far away, that I had to act to the best advantage with the troops and general officers actually present. I had specially asked for General Mower to command the Twentieth Corps, because I regarded him as one of the boldest and best fighting generals in the whole army. His predecessor, General A. S. Williams, the senior division commander present, had commanded the corps well from Atlanta to Goldsboro', and it may have seemed unjust to replace him at that precise moment; but I was resolved to be prepared for a most desperate and, as then expected, a final battle, should it fall on me.
I returned to Goldsboro' from Newbern by rail the evening of March 30th, and at once addressed myself to the task of reorganization and replenishment of stores, so as to be ready to march by April 10th, the day agreed on with General Grant.
The army was divided into the usual three parts, right and left wings, and centre. The tabular statements herewith will give the exact composition of these separate armies, which by the 10th of April gave the following effective strength:
Infantry ................... 80,968 Artillery .................. 2,448 Cavalry .................... 5,587
Aggregate ............ 88,948 Total number of guns, 91
The railroads to our rear had also been repaired, so that stores were arriving very fast, both from Morehead City and Wilmington. The country was so level that a single locomotive could haul twenty-five and thirty cars to a train, instead of only ten, as was the case in Tennessee and Upper Georgia.
By the 5th of April such progress had been made, that I issued the following Special Field Orders, No. 48, prescribing the time and manner of the next march
[Special Field Orders, No. 48.]
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI IN THE FIELD, GOLDSBORO', NORTH CAROLINA, April 5, 1865.
Confidential to Army Commanders, Corps Commanders, and Chiefs of Staff Departments:
The next grand objective is to place this army (with its full equipment) north of Roanoke River, facing west, with a base for supplies at Norfolk, and at Winton or Murfreesboro' on the Chowan, and in full communication with the Army of the Potomac, about Petersburg; and also to do the enemy as much harm as possible en route:
1. To accomplish this result the following general plan will be followed, or modified only by written orders from these headquarters, should events require a change:
(1.) On Monday, the 10th of April, all preparations are presumed to be complete, and the outlying detachments will be called in, or given directions to meet on the next march. All preparations will also be complete to place the railroad-stock back of Kinston on the one road, and below the Northeast Branch on the other.
(2.) On Tuesday, the 11th, the columns will draw out on their lines of march, say, about seven miles, and close up.
(3.) On Wednesday the march will begin in earnest, and will be kept up at the rate, say, of about twelve miles a day, or according to the amount of resistance. All the columns will dress to the left (which is the exposed flank), and commanders will study always to find roads by which they can, if necessary, perform a general left wheel, the wagons to be escorted to some place of security on the direct route of march. Foraging and other details may continue as heretofore, only more caution and prudence should be observed; and foragers should not go in advance of the advance-guard, but look more to our right rear for corn, bacon, and meal.
2. The left wing (Major-General Slocum commanding) will aim straight for the railroad-bridge near Smithfield; thence along up the Neuse River to the railroad-bridge over Neuse River, northeast of Raleigh (Powell's); thence to Warrenton, the general point of concentration.