previous next

[576]

Chapter 54:


The invitation to General Johnston for a conference, noticed in a previous chapter, was as follows:

Greensboro, North Carolina, April 11, 1865—12 M.
General J. E. Johnston, headquarters, via Raleigh:
The Secretary of War did not join me at Danville. Is expected here this afternoon.

As your situation may render best, I will go to your headquarters immediately after the arrival of the Secretary of War, or you can come here; in the former case our conference must be without the presence of General Beauregard. I have no official report from General Lee. The Secretary of War may be able to add to information heretofore communicated.

The important question first to be solved is, At what point shall concentration be made, in view of the present position of the two columns of the enemy, and the routes which they may adopt to engage your forces before a proposed junction with General Walker and others. Your more intimate knowledge of the data for the solution of the problem deters me from making a specific suggestion on that point.


In compliance with this request, General J. E. Johnston came up from Raleigh to Greensboro, and with General Beauregard met me and most of my Cabinet at my quarters in a house occupied by Colonel J. Taylor Wood's family. Though I was fully sensible of the gravity of our position, seriously affected as it was by the evacuation of the capital, the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, and the consequent discouragement which these events would produce, I did not think we should despair. We still had effective armies in the field, and a vast extent of rich and productive territory both east and west of the Mississippi, whose citizens had evinced no disposition to surrender. Ample supplies had been collected in the railroad depots, and much [577] still remained to be placed at our disposal when needed by the army in North Carolina.

The failure of several attempts to open negotiations with the Federal government, and notably the last by commissioners who met President Lincoln at Hampton Roads, convinced me of the hopelessness under existing circumstances to obtain better terms than were then offered, i.e., a surrender at discretion. My motive, therefore, in holding an interview with the senior generals of the army in North Carolina was not to learn their opinion as to what might be done by negotiation with the United States government, but to derive from them information in regard to the army under their command, and what it was feasible and advisable to do as a military problem.

The members of my Cabinet were already advised as to the object of the meeting, and, when the subject was introduced to the generals in that form, General Johnston was very reserved, and seemed far less than sanguine. His first significant expression was that of a desire to open correspondence with General Sherman, to see if he would agree to a suspension of hostilities, the object being to permit the civil authorities to enter into the needful arrangements to terminate the existing war. Confident that the United States government would not accept a proposition for such negotiations, I distinctly expressed my conviction on that point, and presented as an objection to such an effort that, so far as it should excite delusive hopes and expectations, its failure would have a demoralizing effect both on the troops and on the people. Neither of them had shown any disposition to surrender, or had any reason to suppose that their government contemplated abandoning its trust—the maintenance of the Constitution, freedom, and independence of the Confederate States. From the inception of the war, the people had generally and at all times expressed their determination to accept no terms of peace that did not recognize their independence; the indignation manifested when it became known that Lincoln had offered to our commissioners at Hampton Roads a surrender at discretion as the only alternative to a continuance of the war assured me that no true Confederate was prepared to accept peace on such terms. During the last years of the war the main part of the infantry in the Army of Northern Virginia was composed of men from the farther South. Many of these, before the evacuation of Petersburg and especially about the time of Lee's surrender, had absented themselves to go homeward, and, it was reported, made avowal of their purpose to continue the struggle. I had reason to believe that the spirit [578] of the army in North Carolina was unbroken, for, though surrounded by circumstances well calculated to depress and discourage them, I had learned that they earnestly protested to their officers against the surrender which rumor informed them was then in contemplation. If any shall deem it a weak credulity to confide in such reports, something may be allowed to an intense love for the Confederacy to a thorough conviction that its fall would involve ruin, both material and moral, and to a confidence in the righteousness of our cause, which, if equally felt by my compatriots, would make them do and dare to the last extremity.

But if, taking the gloomiest view, the circumstances were such as to leave no hope of maintaining the independence of the Confederate States—if negotiations for peace must be on the basis of reunion and the acceptance of the war legislation—it seemed to me that certainly better terms for our country could be secured by keeping organized armies in the field than by laying down our arms and trusting to the magnanimity of the victor.

For all these considerations I was not at all hopeful of any success in the attempt to provide for negotiations between the civil authorities of the United States and those of the Confederacy, believing that, even if Sherman should agree to such a proposition, his government would not ratify it; after having distinctly announced my opinion, however, I yielded to the judgment of my constitutional advisers, of whom only one held my views, and consented to permit General Johnston, as he desired, to hold a conference with General Sherman for the purpose above recited.

Then, turning to what I suposed would soon follow, I invited General Johnston to an expression of his choice of a line of retreat toward the southwest. He declared a preference for a different route from that suggested by me, and, yielding the point, I informed him that I would have depots of supplies for his army placed on the route he had selected. Commissary General St. John executed the order, as shown in his report published in the Southern Historical Society Papers.1

Referring to the period which followed the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, General I. M. St. John, Commissary General of the Confederate States Army, writes:

The bureau headquarters were continued in North Carolina until the surrender of that military department. During the interval preparations were made for the westward movement of forces as then contemplated. In these [579] arrangements the local depots were generally found so full and supplied so well in hand, from Charlotte southwest, that the commissary-general was able to report to the Secretary of War that the requisitions for which he was notified to prepare could all be met. The details of this service were executed, and very ably, by Major J. H. Claiborne, then, and until the end, assistant commissary-general.

Major Claiborne, in his report, writes:

Being placed under orders as assistant commissary-general, I forwarded supplies from South Carolina to General J. E. Johnston's army, and also collected supplies at six or seven named points in that State for the supposed retreat of General Johnston's army through the State. This duty, with a full determination at the evacuation of this city [Richmond] to follow the fortunes of our cause, gave me opportunity of ascertaining the resources of the country for my department. The great want was that of transportation, and specially was it felt by all collecting commissaries for a few months before the surrender.

It will thus be seen that my expectations, referred to above, caused adequate provision to be made for the retreat of our army, if that result should become necessary by the failure of the attempt to open negotiations for an honorable peace. I had never contemplated a surrender, except upon such terms as a belligerent might claim, as long as we were able to keep the field, and never expected a Confederate army to surrender while it was able either to fight or to retreat. Lee had surrendered his army only when it was impossible for him to do either one or the other, and had proudly rejected Grant's demand, in the face of overwhelming numbers, until he found himself surrounded and his line of retreat blocked by a force much larger than his own.

After it had been decided that General Johnston should attempt negotiation with General Sherman, he left for his army headquarters; I, expecting that he would soon take up his line of retreat, which his superiority in cavalry would protect from harassing pursuit, proceeded with my Cabinet and staff toward Charlotte, North Carolina. While on the way, a dispatch was received from General Johnston announcing that General Sherman had agreed to a conference, and asking that the Secretary of War, General J. C. Breckinridge, should return to cooperate in it. The application was complied with, and the Postmaster General, John H. Reagan, also went at my request. He, however, was not admitted to the conference.

We arrived at Charlotte on April 18, 1865, and I there received, at the moment of dismounting, a telegram from General Breckinridge announcing, on information received from General Sherman, that President Lincoln had been assassinated. An influential citizen of the town, who had come to welcome me, was standing near me, and, after remarking to him in a low voice that I had received sad intelligence, I [580] handed the telegram to him. Some troopers encamped in the vicinity had collected to see me; they called to the gentleman who had the dispatch in his hand to read it, no doubt supposing it to be army news. He complied with their request, and a few, only taking in the fact, but not appreciating the evil it portended, cheered, as was natural at news of the fall of one they considered their most powerful foe. The man who invented the story of my having read the dispatch with exultation, had free scope for his imagination, as he was not present, and had no chance to know whereof he bore witness, even if there had been any foundation of truth for his fiction.

For an enemy so relentless in the war for our subjugation, we could not be expected to mourn; yet, in view of its political consequences, it could not be regarded otherwise than as a great misfortune to the South. He had power over the Northern people, and was without personal malignity toward the people of the South; his successor was without power in the North, and the embodiment of malignity toward the Southern people, perhaps the more so because he had betrayed and deserted them in the hour of their need. The war had now shrunk into narrow proportions, but the important consideration remained so to conduct it that, if failing to secure our independence, we might obtain a treaty or quasi-treaty of peace which would secure to the Southern states their political rights, and to the people thereof immunity from the plunder of their private property.

I found some cavalry at Charlotte, and soon had the satisfaction to increase them to five brigades. They had been on detached service, and were much reduced in numbers. Among the troopers who assembled there was the remnant of the command which had spread terror north of the Ohio, under the command of their dauntless leader, General John Hunt Morgan. Their present chief, worthy to be the successor of that hero, was General Basil Duke. Among the atrocious, cowardly acts of vindictive malice which marked the conduct of the enemy, none did or could surpass the brutality with which the dying and dead body of Morgan was treated. Hate, the offspring of fear, they might feel for the valorous soldier while he lived, but even the ignoble passion, vengeance, might have been expected to stop when life was extinct.

On April 13, 1865, General Johnston wrote to General Sherman as follows:

The results of the recent campaign in Virginia have changed the relative military condition of the belligerents. I am therefore induced to address you, in this form, the inquiry whether, to stop the further effusion of blood and the devastation of property, you are willing to make a temporary suspension of active [581] operations; . . . the object being to permit the civil authorities to enter into the needful arrangements to terminate the existing war.

General Sherman replied, on the 14th:

I am fully empowered to arrange with you any terms for the suspension of hostilities between the armies commanded by you and those commanded by myself, and will be willing to confer with you to that end. . . .2

In the same volume, at page 327, General Sherman describes an interview with Lincoln, held at City Point on the 27th and 28th of March preceding, in which he says:

Mr. Lincoln 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.

In a letter of D. D. Porter, vice-admiral, written in 1866, giving his recollections of that interview, in the same volume,3 is found the following paragraph:

The conversation between the President and General Sherman, about the terms of surrender to be allowed Joe 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 must be obtained on any terms.

Hence it appears that Sherman was authorized to say that he was fully empowered to arrange for the suspension of hostilities; moreover, that he was instructed by Lincoln to give ‘any terms’ to obtain the surrender of Johnston's army.

In regard to the memorandum or basis of agreement, Sherman states4 that, while in consultation with General Johnston, a messenger brought him a parcel of papers from Reagan, Postmaster General; that Johnston and Breckinridge looked over them, and handed one of them to him, which he found inadmissible, and proceeds:

Then, recalling the conversation with Mr. Lincoln at City Point, I sat down at the table and wrote off the terms which I thought concisely expressed his views and wishes.

But while these matters were progressing, Lincoln had been assassinated, and a vindictive policy had been substituted for his, which avowedly was to procure a speedy surrender of the army upon any terms. His [582] evident wish was to stop the further shedding of blood; that of his successors, like Sherman's, was to extract all which it was possible to obtain. From the memoranda of the interview between Lincoln and Sherman it is clearly to be inferred that, but for the untimely death of Lincoln, the agreement between Generals Sherman and Johnston would have been ratified; the wounds inflicted on civil liberty by the ‘reconstruction’ measures might not have left their shameful scars on the United States.

General Sherman, in his Memoirs,5 referring to a conversation between himself and General Johnston at their first meeting, writes:

I told him I could not believe that he or General Lee, or the officers of the Confederate army, could possibly be privy to acts of assassination, but I would not say as much for Jeff Davis, George Saunders, and men of that stripe.

On this I have but two remarks to make: first, that I think there were few officers in the Confederate army who would have permitted such a slanderous imputation to be made by a public enemy against the chief executive of their government; second, that I could not value the good opinion of the man who, in regard to the burning of Columbia, made a false charge against General Wade Hampton, and, having left it to circulate freely for ten years, then in his published memoirs makes this disgraceful admission:

In my official report of this conflagration, I distinctly charged it to General Wade Hampton, and confess I did so pointedly, to shake the faith of his people in him. . . . Memorandum, or basis of agreement, made this 18th day of April, A. D. 1865, near Durham Station, and in the State of North Carolina, by and between

General Joseph E. Johnston, commanding the Confederate army, and Major-

General W. T. Sherman, commanding the army of the United States in North

Carolina, both present:

1. The contending armies now in the field to maintain their status quo, until notice is given by the commanding General of either one to its opponents, and reasonable time, say forty-eight hours, allowed.

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

3. The recognition by the Executive of the United States of the several State governments, on their officers and Legislatures taking the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States; and, where conflicting State governments [583] have resulted from the war, the legitimacy of all shall be submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States.

4. The reestablishment of all Federal courts in the several States, with powers as defined by the Constitution and laws of Congress.

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

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

7. In general terms, war to cease, a general amnesty, so far as the Executive power of the United States can command, or on condition of the disbandment of the Confederate armies, the distribution of arms, and resumption of peaceful pursuits by officers and men, as hitherto composing said armies. Not being fully empowered by our respective principals to fulfill these terms, we individually and officially pledge ourselves to promptly obtain necessary authority, and to carry out the above programme.

W. T. Sherman, Major-General, etc., etc. J. E. Johnston, General, etc., etc.

The reader will not fail to observe that the proposition for a suspension of hostilities to allow the civil authorities to negotiate, was not even entertained; that the agreement was, in fact, a military convention, in which all reference to the civil authorities was excluded, except by the admission that the negotiators respectively had principals from whom they must obtain authority, i.e., ratification of the agreement into which they had entered. There seemed to be a special dread on the part of the United States officials lest they should do something which would be construed as the recognition of the existence of a government which for four years they had been vainly trying to subdue. Now, as on previous occasions, I cared little for the form, and therefore gave my consideration only to the substance of the agreement. In consideration of the disbandment of our armies it provided for the recognition of the several state governments, guaranteed to the people of the states their political rights and franchises, as well as their rights of person and property as defined by the Constitution of the United States and other states respectively; promised not to disturb any of the people by reason of the late war, and generally indicated that the United States government was to be restricted to the exercise of the powers delegated in the Constitution.

Though this convention, if ratified, would not have all the binding force of a treaty, it secured to our people the political rights and safety from pillage, to obtain which I propose to continue the war. I, [584] therefore, with the concurrence of my constitutional advisers, addressed General Johnston as follows:

The Secretary of War has delivered to me the copy you handed to him of the basis of an agreement between yourself and General Sherman. Your action is approved. You will so inform General Sherman; and, if the like authority be given by the Government of the United States to complete the arrangement, you will proceed on the basis adopted.

Further instructions will be given after the details of the negotiation and the methods of executing the terms of agreement when notified by you of the readiness on the part of the General commanding United States forces to proceed with the arrangement.


From the terms of this letter it will be seen that I doubted whether the agreement would be ratified by the United States government. The opinion I entertained in regard to President Johnson and his venomous Secretary of War, Stanton, did not permit me to expect that they would be less vindictive after a surrender of our army had been proposed than when it was regarded as a formidable body defiantly holding its position in the field. Whatever hope others entertained that the existing war was about to be peacefully terminated, was soon dispelled by the rejection of the basis of agreement on the part of the government of the United States, and a notice from General Sherman of termination of the armistice in forty-eight hours after noon of April 24, 1865.

General Johnston communicated to me the substance of the above information received by him from General Sherman, and asked for instructions. I have neither his telegram nor my reply, but can give it substantially from memory. It was that he should retire with his cavalry, and as many infantry as could be mounted upon draught-horses, and some light artillery, the rest of the infantry to be disbanded, and a place of rendezvous appointed. It was unnecessary to say anything of the route, as that had been previously agreed on, and supplies placed on it for his retreating army. This order was disobeyed, and he sought another interview with Sherman, to renew his attempt to reach an agreement for a termination of hostilities. Meantime General Hampton, commanding the cavalry of Johnston's army, came to me at Charlotte, told me that he feared the army was to be surrendered, and wished permission to withdraw his part of it and report to me. I gave the permission, extending it to all the cavalry, which was in accordance with the instructions I had sent to General Johnston. He returned immediately, but I have since [585] learned from him that the cavalry had been included in a proposition to surrender, before he reached them.

After the expiration of the armistice, I rode out of Charlotte, attended by the members of my Cabinet (except Attorney General Davis, who had gone to see his family, residing in that section, and the Secretary of the Treasury, Trenholm, who was too ill to accompany me), my personal staff, and the cavalry which had been concentrated from different, and some of them distant, fields of detached service. The number was about two thousand, and they represented six brigade organizations; though so much reduced in numbers, they were in a good state of efficiency, and among their officers were some of the best in our service. To the troops of this command, whose gallantry had been displayed on many fields, there is due from me a special acknowledgment for the kind consideration shown to me on the marches from Charlotte, when the dark shadows which gathered round us foretold the coming night. General Hampton finding his troops had been included in the surrender, endeavored to join me to offer his individual service, and to share my fate whatever it might be. He accidentally failed to meet me.

I must now recur to two extraordinary statements made by General J. E. Johnston in regard to me while at Charlotte, North Carolina.6 The first is that at Greensboro, on the 19th of April—

Colonel Archer Anderson, adjutant-general of the army, gave me two papers, addressed to me by the President. The first directed me to obtain from Mr. J. N. Hendren, Treasury Agent, thirty-nine thousand dollars in silver, which was in his hands, subject to my order, and to use it as the military chest of the army. The second, received subsequently by Colonel Anderson, directed me to send this money to the President at Charlotte. This order was not obeyed, however. As only the military part of our Government had then any existence, I thought that a fair share of the fund still left should be appropriated to the benefit of the army.

And so, as revealed in his Narrative, he took the money, and divided it among the troops.

When my attention was called to this statement by one who had read the Narrative, I wrote to Colonel Anderson, referred to book and page, and inquired what letters from me as there described he had received. He responded:

I do not remember anything connected with the subject, except that there was a payment of silver coin to the army at Greensboro, and I have no papers which would afford information.

My letter book contains no such correspondence, but has a letter which [586] renders more than doubtful the assertion that I wrote others such as described. The only letter found in my letter book on the subject of the funds in charge of Hendren is the following:

Sir: You will report to General Beauregard with the treasure in your possession, that he may give to it due protection as a military chest to be moved with his army train. For further instructions you will report to the Secretary of the Treasury.

Jefferson Davis.
Official: F. R. Lubbock, Colonel and A. D. C.

From the above it will be seen that, while I exercised authority to assign officers to their posts or places of duty, I assumed no control over the public treasury; in that connection I referred the subordinate to his chief, the Secretary of the Treasury, by whom alone could warrants be drawn against the public funds. How very improbable it is, then, that I wrote to have the money in the hands of a treasurer sent to me personally! Yet this is what General Johnston claims to have resisted, when without any lawful authority he distributed the money himself. The second statement is:

As there was reason to suppose that the Confederate Executive had a large sum in specie in its possession, I urged it earnestly, in writing, to apply a part of it to the payment of the army. This letter was intrusted to Lieutenant-Colonel Mason, who was instructed to wait for an answer. Its receipt was acknowledged by telegraph, and an answer promised. After waiting several days to no purpose, Colonel Mason returned without one.

Not recollecting to have met Colonel Mason at Charlotte, I wrote to him, calling his attention to the statement, and asking what was the fact. Not receiving a reply, I renewed the inquiry, but, though considerable time has elapsed, he has not answered. It is quite possible that I might have met the gentleman without recollecting it, but not at all probable that I should have received such a letter and have forgotten it. Such intrusion of advice as to what should be done with the money in the treasury, and the speculative opinion as to the amount there, I must suppose would have been very promptly rejected if it had been presented to me. For years there had been irregularity and delay in the payment of the troops, and surely no one regretted it more than myself, or had for years tried more sedulously to correct it; since we expected the army to continue in the field, however, it was indispensable to have the means of obtaining the necessary, supplies for it.

The Secretary of the Treasury, Trenholm, was ill before we reached Charlotte, and quite so during our stay there, but he knew there was [587] not a large sum of specie in the treasury, and with patriotic desire had been using it to supply the troops after Confederate money became unavailable for purchases. He did not contemplate the abandonment of our cause, and it would not have taken him a minute to answer that more than all the money he had would be needed in future military operations.

On the 26th, the day on which the armistice terminated, General Johnston again met General Sherman, who offered the same terms which had been made with General Lee, and he says, ‘General Johnston, without hesitation, agreed to, and we executed the following,’ which was the surrender of General Johnston's troops, with the condition of their being paroled and the officers being permitted to retain their side-arms, private horses, and baggage.

It is true that these were the terms accepted by Lee, but the condition of the two armies was very different. Lee's supplies had been cut off, his men were exhausted by fatigue and hunger; he had no reenforcements in view; notwithstanding the immense superiority in numbers and equipments of the enemy pursuing, he had from point to point fought them in rear and on both flanks, and had, the day before his line of retreat was closed, rejected the demand for surrender, and only yielded to it after his starving little army had been surrounded by masses through which he tried to, but could not, cut his way.

Johnston's line of retreat was open, and supplies had been placed upon it. His cavalry was superior to that of the enemy, as had been proved in every conflict between them. Maury and Forrest and Taylor still had armies in the field—not large, but strong enough to have collected around them the men who had left Johnston's army and gone to their homes to escape a surrender, as well as those who under similar circumstances had left Lee. The show of continued resistance, I then believed, as I still do, would have overcome the depression which was spreading like a starless night over the country, and that the exhibition of a determination not to leave our political future at the mercy of an enemy which had for four years been striving to subjugate the states would have led the United States authorities to do, as Lincoln had indicated—give any terms which might be found necessary speedily to terminate the existing war.

Those who look back upon the period when the states were treated as subject provinces, and the Congress left to legislate at its will— when a war professedly waged to bring the seceding states back to the

Union, with all the rights and privileges guaranteed by the Constitution, [588] was followed by the utter disregard of those rights, and the miscalled peace was a state of vindictive hostility—will probably think continued war was not the greatest of evils.

I quote again from the Memoirs of Sherman.7 Referring to the first interview, he writes:

I then told Johnston that he must be convinced that he could not oppose my army, and that, since Lee had surrendered, he could do the same with honor and propriety. He plainly and repeatedly admitted this, and added that any further fighting would be ‘murder’; but he thought that, instead of surrendering piecemeal, we might arrange terms that would embrace all the Confederate armies.

Sherman further writes that he told Johnston that the terms given to General Lee's army were most generous and liberal which he states Johnston ‘admitted, but always recurred to the idea of a universal surrender, embracing his own army, that of Dick Taylor, in Louisiana and Texas, and of Maury, Forrest, and others, in Alabama and Georgia.’ Considering the character of the authority cited, and the extraordinary proposition to provide for a universal surrender by a district commander, it may be well supposed to require confirmation. I therefore quote from General Richard Taylor:8

Intelligence of the Johnston-Sherman convention reached us, and Canby and I were requested by the officers making it to conform to its terms until the civil authorities acted.

The advice may have been well enough, but, as there was an established channel of communication, and an order of responsibility necessary for effective cooperation in the public service, something more than courtesy required that the executive should have been advised if not consulted. I had left Charlotte with no other sure reliance against any cavalry movement of the enemy than the force which was with me; that, however, I believed to be sufficient for any probable exigency, if the reenforcements hoped for should not join us on the way. We proceeded at easy stages; some of the command thought we went too slow. After making two halts of about half a day each, we reached the Savannah River. I crossed early in the morning of May 4th with a company, which had been detailed as my escort, and rode some miles to a farmhouse, where I halted to get breakfast and have our horses fed. Here I learned that a regiment of the enemy were moving upon Washington, Georgia, which was one of our depots of supplies, and I sent back a courier with a pencil-note addressed to General Vaughn, or the officer commanding the advance, requesting him to come on and join [589] me immediately. After waiting a considerable time, I determined to move on with my escort, trusting that the others would overtake us, and that, if not, we should arrive in Washington in time to rally the citizens to its defense. When I reached there, scouts were sent out on the different roads, and my conclusion was that we had had a false alarm. The Secretary of State, Benjamin, being unaccustomed to traveling on horseback, parted from me at the house where we stopped to breakfast, to take another mode of conveyance and a different route from that which I was pursuing, with intent to rejoin me in the trans-Mississippi Department. At Washington the Secretary of the Navy, Mallory, left me temporarily to attend to the needs of his family. The Secretary of War, Breckinridge, had remained with the cavalry at the crossing of the Savanah River. During the night after my arrival in Washington, he sent in an application for authority to draw from the treasury, under the protection of the troops, enough to make to them a partial payment. I authorized the acting Secretary of the Treasury to meet the requisition by the use of the silver coin in the train. When the next day passed without the troops' coming forward, I sent a note to the Secretary of War, showing the impolicy of my longer delay, having there heard that General Upton had passed within a few miles of the town on his way to Augusta to receive the surrender of the garrison and military materiel at that place, in conformity with orders issued by General Johnston. This was my first positive information of his surrender. Not receiving an immediate reply to the note addressed to the Secretary of War, General Breckinridge, I spoke to Captain Campbell of Kentucky, commanding my escort, and explained to him the condition of affairs; telling him that his company was not strong enough to fight, and too large to pass without observation, I asked him to inquire if there were ten men who would volunteer to go with me without question wherever I should choose. He brought back for answer that the whole company volunteered on the terms proposed. Gratifying as this manifestation was, I felt it would expose them to unnecessary hazard to accept the offer, and told him, in any manner he might think best, to form a party of ten men. With these, Captain Campbell, Lieutenant Barnwell of South Carolina, Colonels F. R. Lubbock, John Taylor Wood, and William Preston Johnston, of my personal staff, I left Washington. Secretary Reagan remained for a short time to transfer the treasury in his hands, except a few thousand dollars, and then rejoined me on the road. This transfer was made to Mr. Semple, a bonded officer of the navy, and his assistant, Mr. Tidball, [590] with instructions, as soon as it could be safely done, to transport it abroad and deliver it to the commercial house which had acted as the financial agent of the Confederate Government, and was reported to have incurred liabilities on its account.

Reagan overtook me in a few hours, but I saw no more of General Breckinridge, and learned subsequently that he was following our route with a view to overtaking me, when he heard of my capture and, turning to the east, reached the Florida coast unmolested. On the way he met J. Taylor Wood, and in an open boat they crossed the straits to the West Indies. No report reached me at that time, or until long afterward, in regard to the cavalry command left at the Savannah River; then it was to the effect that paroled men from Johnston's army brought news of its surrender, and that the condition of returning home and remaining unmolested embraced all the men of the department who would give their parole, and that this had exercised a great influence over the troops, inclining them to accept those terms. Had General Johnston obeyed the order sent to him from Charlotte, and moved on the route selected by himself, with all his cavalry, so much of the infantry as could be mounted, and the light artillery, he could not have been successfully pursued by General Sherman. His force, united to that I had assembled at Charlotte, would, it was believed, have been sufficient to vanquish any troops which the enemy had between us and the Mississippi River.

Had the cavalry with which I left Charlotte been associated with a force large enough to inspire hope for the future, instead of being discouraged by the surrender in their rear, it would probably have gone on and, when united with the forces of Maury, Forrest, and Taylor in Alabama and Mississippi, have constituted an army large enough to attract stragglers and revive the drooping spirits of the country. In the worst view of the case it should have been able to cross the trans-Mississippi Department, and there uniting with the armies of E. K. Smith and Magruder to form an army, which in the portion of that country abounding in supplies, and deficient in rivers and railroads, could have continued the war until our enemy, foiled in the purpose of subjugation, should, in accordance with his repeated declaration, have agreed, on the basis of a return to the Union, to acknowledge the constitutional rights of the states, and by a convention, or quasi-treaty, to guarantee security of person and property. To this hope I persistently clung, and, if our independence could not be achieved, so much, at least, I trusted might be gained. [591]

Those who have endured the horrors of ‘reconstruction,’ who have, under ‘carpetbag rule,’ borne insult, robbery, and imprisonment without legal warrant, can appreciate the value which would have attached to such limited measure of success.

When I left Washington, Georgia, with the small party which has been enumerated, my object was to go to the south far enough to pass below the points reported to be occupied by Federal troops, and then turn to the west, cross the Chattahoochee, and then go on to meet the forces still supposed to be in the field in Alabama. If, as now seemed probable, there should be no prospect of a successful resistance east of the Mississippi, I intended then to cross to the trans-Mississippi Department, where I believed General E. K. Smith and Magruder would continue to uphold our cause. That I was not mistaken in the character of these men, I extract from the order issued by General E. K. Smith to the soldiers of the trans-Mississippi army on April 21, 1865:

Great disasters have overtaken us. The Army of Northern Virginia and our General-in-Chief are prisoners of war. With you rest the hopes of our nation, and upon you depends the fate of our people. . . . Prove to the world that your hearts have not failed in the hour of disaster. . . . Stand by your colors— maintain your discipline. The great resources of this department, its vast extent, the numbers, the discipline, and the efficiency of the army, will secure to our country terms that a proud people can with honor accept.

General Magruder, with like heroic determination, invoked the troops and people of Texas not to despond, and pointed out their ability in the interior of that vast state to carry on the war indefinitely.

General D. H. Maury, after his memorable defense of Mobile, withdrew his forces on April 12th, at the last moment, and moved toward Meridian. Commodore Farrand, commanding our navy at Mobile Bay, withdrew his armed vessels and steamers up the Tombigbee River, and planted torpedoes in the Alabama below. Forrest and Maury had about eight thousand men, but these were veterans, tried in many hard engagements, and trained to the highest state of efficiency. Before Maury withdrew from Mobile, news had been received of Lee's surrender. Taylor says the news was soon disseminated through his army, but that the men remained steadfast, and manifested a determination to maintain to the last the honor of our arms. On pages 224 and 225 of his book, he gives an account of the intelligence received of the Johnston-Sherman convention of April 18th, and of the meeting between Canby and himself to arrange terms for his army, and an agreement that there should be an armistice; he says, however, that two days after that meeting news was received of Johnston's surrender and my capture. The [592] latter was untrue, and he does not say who communicated it, but that he was at the same time notified that the Johnston-Sherman convention had been disavowed by the United States government, and notice given for the termination of the armistice. Under these circumstances he asked General Canby to meet him again, and on May 18th, two days before I was actually captured, but which he supposed had already occurred, he agreed with Canby on terms for the surrender of the land and naval forces in Mississippi and Alabama. These terms were similar to those made between Johnston and Sherman; the mounted men were to retain their horses, being their private property.

On May 26th, the chief of staff of General E. Kirby Smith, and the chief of staff of General Canby, at Baton Rouge, arranged similar terms for the surrender of the troops in the trans-Mississippi Department. On May 1lth, after the last army east of the Mississippi had surrendered, but before Kirby Smith had entered into terms, the enemy sent an expedition from the Brazos Santiago against a little Confederate encampment some fifteen miles above. The camp was captured and burned, but, in the zeal to secure the fruits of victory, they remained so long collecting the plunder that General J. E. Slaughter heard of the expedition, moved against it, and drove it back with considerable loss, sustaining very little injury to his command. This was, I believe, the last armed conflict of the war, and, though very small in comparison to its great battles, it deserves notice as having closed the long struggle—as it opened—with a Confederate victory.

The total number of prisoners paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina, as reported by General Schofield, was 36,817; in Georgia and Florida, as reported by General Wilson, 52,543; aggregate surrender under the capitulation of General J. E. Johnston, 89,270.9 How many of this last number were men who left General Johnston's army to avoid the surrender, or were on detached service from the armies of Virginia and North Carolina, I have no means of ascertaining.

The total number in the Department of Alabama and Mississippi paroled by General Canby, under the agreement with General Richard Taylor of May 8, 1865, as reported, was 42,293,10 to which may be added of the navy a small force-less than 150. The number surrendered by General E. Kirby Smith, commanding the trans-Mississippi Department, as reported, was 17,686.11 To this small dimension had General Smith's army been reduced when he accepted the terms to [593] which a reference has already been made. This reduction resulted from various causes, but it is believed was mainly due to the reluctance of a large part of his army to accept a parole, preferring to take whatever hazard belonged to absenting themselves without leave and continuing their character of belligerents. A few, but so far as I know very few, even went to the extent of expatriating themselves, and joined Maximilian in Mexico. Against no one as much as me did the hostility of our victorious enemy manifest itself, but I was never willing to seek the remedy of exile, and always advised those who consulted me against that resort. The mass of our people could not go; the few who were able to do so were most needed to sustain the others in the hour of a common adversity. The example of Ireland after the Treaty of Limerick, and of Canada after its conquest by Great Britain, were instructive as to the duty of the influential men to remain and share the burden of a common disaster.

With General E. K. Smith's surrender the Confederate flag no longer floated on the land; only one gallant sailor still unfurled it on the Pacific. Captain Waddell, commanding the Confederate cruiser Shenandoah, swept the ocean from Australia nearly to Behring's Straits, making many captures in the Okhobak Sea and Arctic Ocean. In August, 1865, he learned from the captain of a British ship that the Confederacy, as an independent government, had ceased to exist. With the fall of his government his right to cruise was of course terminated; he therefore sailed for the coast of England, entered the Mersey, and on November 6, 1865, and in due form, surrendered his vessel to the British government. She was accepted and subsequently transferred to the United States.

After leaving Washington in the manner and for the purpose heretofore described, I overtook a commissary and quartermaster's train, having public papers of value in charge, and, finding that they had no experienced woodsman with it, I gave them four of the men of my small party, and went on with the rest. On the second or third day after leaving Washington, I heard that a band of marauders, supposed to be stragglers and deserters from both armies, were in pursuit of my family, whom I had not seen since they left Richmond, but of whom I heard, at Washington, that they had gone with my private secretary and seven paroled men, who generously offered their services as an escort, to the Florida coast. Their route was to the east of that I was pursuing, but I immediately changed direction and rode rapidly across the country to overtake them. About nightfall the horses of my escort gave out, [594] but I pressed on with Secretary Reagan and my personal staff. It was a bright moonlight night, and just before day, as the moon was sinking below the tree-tops, I met a party of men in the road, who answered my questions by saying they belonged to an Alabama regiment; that they were coming from a village not far off, on their way homeward. Upon inquiry being made, they told me they had passed an encampment of wagons, with women and children, and asked me if we belonged to that party. Upon being answered in the affirmative, they took their leave. After a short time I was hailed by a voice which I recognized as that of my private secretary, who informed me that the marauders had been hanging around the camp, and that he and others were on post around it, and were expecting an assault as soon as the moon went down. A silly story had got abroad that it was a treasure train, and the auri sacra fames had probably instigated these marauders, as it subsequently stimulated General J. H. Wilson, to send out a large cavalry force to capture the same train. For the protection of my family I traveled with them two or three days, when, believing that they had passed out of the region of marauders, I determined to leave their encampment at nightfall, to execute my original purpose. My horse and those of my party proper were saddled preparatory to a start, when one of my staff, who had ridden into the neighboring village, returned and told me he had heard that a marauding party intended to attack the camp that night. This decided me to wait long enough to see whether there was any truth in the rumor, which I supposed would be ascertained in a few hours. My horse remained saddled and my pistols in the holsters, and I lay down, fully dressed, to rest. Nothing occurred to rouse me until just before dawn, when my coachman, a free colored man, who faithfully clung to our fortunes, came and told me there was firing over the branch, just behind our encampment. I stepped out of my wife's tent and saw some horsemen, whom I immediately recognized as cavalry, deploying around the encampment. I turned back and told my wife these were not the expected marauders, but regular troopers. She implored me to leave her at once. I hesitated, from unwillingness to do so, and lost a few precious moments before yielding to her importunity. My horse and arms were near the road on which I expected to leave, and down which the cavalry approached; it was therefore impracticable to reach them. I was compelled to start in the opposite direction. As it was quite dark in the tent, I picked up what was supposed to be my ‘raglan,’ a waterproof, light overcoat, without sleeves; it was subsequently found to be my wife's, so very like my own as to [595] be mistaken for it; as I started, my wife thoughtfully threw over my head and shoulders a shawl. I had gone perhaps fifteen or twenty yards when a trooper galloped up and ordered me to halt and surrender, to which I gave a defiant answer and, dropping the shawl and raglan from my shoulders, advanced toward him; he leveled his carbine at me, but I expected, if he fired, he would miss me, and my intention was in that event to put my hand under his foot, tumble him off on the other side, spring into his saddle, and attempt to escape. My wife, who had been watching when she saw the soldier aim his carbine at me, ran forward and threw her arms around me. Success depended on instantaneous action, and, recognizing that the opportunity had been lost, I turned back and, the morning being damp and chilly, passed on to a fire beyond the tent. Our pursuers had taken different roads, and approached our camp from opposite directions; they encountered each other and commenced firing, both supposing they had met our armed escort, and some casualties resulted from their conflict with an imagiary body of Confederate troops. During the confusion, while attention was concentrated upon me, except by those who were engaged in pillage, one of my aides, Colonel J. Taylor Wood, with Lieutenant Barnwell, walked off unobserved. His daring exploits on the sea had made him, on the part of the Federal government, an object of special hostility, and rendered it quite proper that he should avail himself of every possible means of escape. Colonel Pritchard went over to their battlefield, and I did not see him for a long time, surely more than an hour after my capture. He subsequently claimed credit, in a conversation with me, for the forbearance shown by his men in not shooting me when I refused to surrender.

Wilson and others have uttered many falsehoods in regard to my capture, which have been exposed in publications by persons there present—by Secretary Reagan, by the members of my personal staff, and by the colored coachman, Jim Jones, which must have been convincing to all who were not given over to believing a lie. For this reason I will postpone, to some other time and more appropriate place, any further notice of the story and its variations, all the spawn of a malignity that shames the civilization of the age. We were, when prisoners, subjected to petty pillage (as described in the publications referred to, and in others) and to annoyances such as military gentlemen never commit or permit.

On our way to Macon we received the proclamation of President

Andrew Johnson offering a reward for my apprehension as an [596] accomplice in the assassination of the late President A. Lincoln. Some troops by the wayside had the proclamation, which was displayed with vociferous demonstrations of exultation over my capture. When we arrived at Macon I was conducted to the hotel where General Wilson had his quarters. A strong guard was in front of the entrance, and when I got down to pass in, it opened ranks, facing inward, and presented arms.

A commodious room was assigned to myself and family. After a while the steward of the hotel called and inquired whether I would dine with General Wilson or have dinner served with myself and family in my room. I chose the latter. After dinner I received a message from General Wilson, asking whether he should wait upon me, or whether I would call upon him. I rose and accompanied the messenger to General Wilson's presence. We had met at West Point when he was a cadet, and I a commissioner sent by the Congress to inquire into the affairs of the Academy. After some conversation in regard to former times and our common acquaintance, he referred to the proclamation offering a reward for my capture. Taking it for granted that any significant remark of mine would be reported to his government, and fearing that I might never have another opportunity to give my opinion to A. Johnston, I told him there was one man in the United States who knew that proclamation to be false. He remarked that my expression indicated a particular person. I answered that I did, and the person was the one who signed it, for he at least knew that I preferred Lincoln to himself. Some other conversation then occurred in regard to the route on which we were to be carried. Having several small children, one of them an infant, I expressed a preference for the easier route by water, supposing then, as he seemed to do, that I was to go to Washington city. He manifested a courteous, obliging temper, and, either by the authority with which he was invested or by obtaining it from a higher power, my preference as to the route was accorded. I told him that some of the men with me were on parole, and that they all were riding their own horses—private property—that I would be glad if they should be permitted to retain them, and I have a distinct recollection that he promised me it should be done; I have since learned that they were all deprived of their horses, and some who were on parole, viz., Major Moran, Captain Moody, Lieutenant Hathaway, Midshipman Howell, and Private Messec, who had not violated their obligations of parole, but had been captured because they were found voluntarily traveling with my family to protect them from marauders, were sent with me as prisoners of war, and all incarcerated, in disregard of the [597] protection promised when they surrendered. At Augusta we were put on a steamer, and there met Vice-President Stephens, Hon. C. C. Clay (who had voluntarily surrendered himself upon learning that he was included in the proclamation for the arrest of certain persons charged with complicity in the assassination of Lincoln), General Wheeler, the distinguished cavalry officer, and his adjutant, General Ralls. My private secretary, Burton N. Harrison, had refused to be left behind, and though they would not allow him to go in the carriage with me, he was resolved to follow my fortunes, as well from sentiment as from the hope of being useful. His fidelity was rewarded by a long and rigorous imprisonment. At Port Royal we were transferred to a seagoing vessel, which, instead of being sent to Washington city, was brought to anchor at Hampton Roads. One by one all my companions in misfortune were sent away, we knew not whither, leaving on the vessel only Clay, his wife, me and my family. After some days' detention, Clay and I were removed to Fortress Monroe, and there incarcerated in separate cells. Not knowing that the government was at war with women and children, I asked that my family might be permitted to leave the ship and go to Richmond or Washington city, or to some place where they had acquaintances, but this was refused. I then requested that they might be permitted to go abroad on one of the vessels lying at the Roads. This was also denied; finally, I was informed that they must return to Savannah on the vessel by which we came. This was an old transport ship, hardly seaworthy. My last attempt was to get for them the privilege of stopping at Charleston, where they had many personal friends. This also was refused—why, I did not then know, have not learned since, and am unwilling to make a supposition, as none could satisfactorily account for such an act of inhumanity. My daily experience as a prisoner shed no softer light on the transaction, but served only to intensify my extreme solicitude. Bitter tears have been shed by the gentle, and stern reproaches have been made by the magnanimous, on account of the needless torture to which I was subjected, and the heavy fetters riveted upon me, while in a stone casemate and surrounded by a strong guard; all these were less excruciating than the mental agony my captors were able to inflict. It was long before I was permitted to hear from my wife and children; this, and things like this, were the powers which education added to savage cruelty; I do not propose now and here to enter upon the story of my imprisonment, however, or more than merely to refer to other matters which concern me personally, as distinct from my connection with the Confederacy.

1 Vol. VIII, pp. 103-107.

2 Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman, Vol. II, pp. 346, 347.

3 Ibid., p. 330.

4 Ibid., p. 353.

5 Vol. II, p. 349.

6 Johnston's Narrative, pp. 408, 409.

7 Vol. II, p. 349.

8 Destruction and Reconstruction, p. 224.

9 Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman, Vol. II, p. 370.

10 Annual Cyclopaedia, 1865, p. 77.

11 Ibid.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Charlotte (North Carolina, United States) (16)
United States (United States) (15)
North Carolina (North Carolina, United States) (8)
Greensboro (North Carolina, United States) (8)
Alabama (Alabama, United States) (5)
Washington (United States) (4)
Hampton Roads (Virginia, United States) (4)
Washington, Ga. (Georgia, United States) (2)
Texas (Texas, United States) (2)
South Carolina (South Carolina, United States) (2)
Savannah (Mississippi, United States) (2)
Raleigh (North Carolina, United States) (2)
Macon (Georgia, United States) (2)
Georgia (Georgia, United States) (2)
Fortress Monroe (Virginia, United States) (2)
England (United Kingdom) (2)
City Point (Virginia, United States) (2)
Augusta (Georgia, United States) (2)
West Point (Georgia, United States) (1)
West Indies (1)
Tombigbee River (United States) (1)
Savannah (Georgia, United States) (1)
Port Royal (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Mobile, Ala. (Alabama, United States) (1)
Mobile Bay (Alabama, United States) (1)
Mississippi (United States) (1)
Mexico (Mexico, Mexico) (1)
Meridian (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Louisiana (Louisiana, United States) (1)
Limerick Plantation, S. C. (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Kentucky (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Florida (Florida, United States) (1)
Durham (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Danville (Virginia, United States) (1)
Columbia (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Canada (Canada) (1)
Baton Rouge (Louisiana, United States) (1)
Australia Island (Louisiana, United States) (1)
Arctic Ocean (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: