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[628] rail barricades, which were swept before us as chaff, and by ten A. M. of the eleventh the Fourteenth corps entered Smithfield, the Twentieth corps close at hand. Johnston had rapidly retreated across the Neuse river, and, having his railroad to lighten up his trains, could retreat faster than we could pursue. The rains had also set in, making the resort to corduroy absolutely necessary to pass even ambulances. The enemy had burned the bridge at Smithfield, and as soon as possible Major-General Slocum got up his pontoons and crossed over a division of the Fourteenth corps. We there heard of the surrender of Lee's army at Appomattox Court-house, Virginia, which was announced to the armies in orders, and created universal joy. Not an officer or soldier of my armies but expressed a pride and satisfaction that it fell to the lot of Armies of the Potomac and James so gloriously to overwhelm and capture the entire army that held them so long in check, and their success gave new impulse to finish up our task. Without a moment's hesitation we dropped our trains and marched rapidly in pursuit to and through Raleigh, reaching that place at 7:30 A. M. of the thirteenth in a heavy rain. The next day the cavalry pushed on through the rain to Durham's station, the Fifteenth corps following as far as Morrisville station, and the Seventeenth corps to Jones' station. On the supposition that Johnston was tied to his railroad as a line of retreat, by Hilsboroa, Greensboroa, Salisbury, Charlotte, &c., I had turned the other columns across the bend of that road toward Ashboroa (See Special Field Orders number fifty-five.) The cavalry. Brevet Major-General J. Kilpatrick commanding, was ordered to keep up a show of pursuit to the “Company's shops,” in Alamance county; Major-General O. O. Howard to turn to the left by Hackney's cross-roads, Pittsboroa, St. Lawrence and Ashboroa; Major-General H. W. Slocum to cross Cape Fear river at Aven's ferry, and move rapidly by Carthage, Caledonia, and Cox's Mills; Major-General J. M. Schofield was to hold Raleigh and the road back, and with his spare force to follow an intermediate route.

By the fifteenth, though the rains were incessant and the roads almost impracticable, Major-General Slocum had the Fourteenth corps, Brevet Major-General Davis commanding, near Martha's Vineyard, with a pontoon bridge laid across Cape Fear river at Aven's ferry, with the Twentieth corps, Major-General Mower commanding, in support. and Major General Howard had the Fifteenth and Seventeenth corps stretched out on the roads toward Pittsboroa, while General Kilpatrick held Durham's Station and Chapel Hill University.

Johnston's army was retreating rapidly on the roads from Hilsboroa to Greensboroa, he himself at Greensboroa. Although out of place as to time, I here invite all military critics who study the problems of war to take their maps and compare the position of my army on the fifteenth and sixteenth of April, with that of General Halleck about Burksville and Petersburg, Virginia, on the twenty-sixth of April, when, according to his telegram to Secretary Stanton, he offered to relieve me of the task of “cutting off Johnston's retreat.” Major-General Stoneman at the time was at Statesville, and Johnston's only line of retreat was by Salisbury and Charlotte. It may be that General Halleck's troops can outmarch mine, but there is nothing in their past history to show it, or it may be that General Halleck can inspire his troops with more energy of action. I doubt that also, save and except in this single instance, when he knew the enemy was ready to surrender or disperse, as advised by my letter of April eighteen, addressed to him when Chief of Staff at Washington city, and delivered at Washington on the twenty-first instant by Major Hitchcock, of my staff.

Thus matters stood at the time I received General Johnston's first letter and made my answer of April fourteenth, copies of which were sent with all expedition to Lieutenant-General Grant and the Secretary of War, with my letter of April fifteenth. I agreed to meet General Johnston in person at a point intermediate between our pickets on the seventeenth at noon, provided the position of the troops remained statu quo. I was both willing and anxious thus to consume a few days, as it would enable Colonel Wright to finish our railroad to Raleigh.

Two bridges had to be built and twelve miles of new road made. We had no iron except by taking up that on the branch from Goldsboroa to Weldon. Instead of losing by time I gained in every way, for every hour of delay possible was required to reconstruct the railroad to our rear and improve the condition of our wagon-roads to the front, so desirable in case the negotiations failed, and we be forced to make the race of nearly two hundred miles to head off or catch Johnston's army, then retreating toward Charlotte.

At noon of the day appointed I met General Johnston for the first time in my life, although we had been interchanging shots constantly since May, 1863.

Our interview was frank and soldier-like, and he gave me to understand that further war on the part of the Confederate troops was folly; that the cause was lost; and that every life sacrificed after the surrender of Lee's army was the highest possible crime. He admitted that the terms conceded to General Lee were magnanimous and all he could ask, but he did want some general concessions that would enable him to allay the natural fears and anxiety of his followers, and enable him to maintain his control over them until they could be got back to the neighborhood of their homes, thereby saving the State of North Carolina the devastations inevitably to result from turning his men loose and unprovided on the spot, and our pursuit across the State.

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