Chapter 63: the journey to Greensborough.—the surrender of Johnston.
The President and his party moved to Greensborough
The President telegraphed to General Johnston
had surrendered, and on arriving at Greensborough
, conditionally requested him to meet him there for conference, where General Beauregard
had his headquarters.
wrote in substance of the meeting:
In compliance with my request, General Johnston came to Greensborough, N. C., and with General Beauregard met me and most of my Cabinet there.
Though sensible of the effect of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, and the consequent discouragement which these two events would produce, I did not despair.
We had effective armies in the field, and a rich and productive territory both east and west of the Mississippi, whose citizens had shown no desire to surrender.
Ample supplies had been collected in the railroad depots, and much still remained to be placed at our disposal when needed.
At the first conference of the members of the Cabinet and the generals, General Johnston expressed a desire to open a correspondence with General Sherman, with a view to suspend hostilities, and thereby to permit the civil authorities to enter into the needful arrangements to end the war. As long as we were able to keep the field, I had never contemplated a surrender, except upon the terms of a belligerent, and never expected a Confederate army to surrender while it was able either to fight or to retreat.
Lee had surrendered only when it was impossible for him to do either, and had proudly rejected Grant's demand until he found himself surrounded and his line of retreat cut off. I was not hopeful of 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 opinions, I yielded to the judgment of my constitutional advisers, and consented to permit Johnston to hold a conference with Sherman.
Johnston left for his army headquarters, and 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 to Charlotte,
N. C. On the way, a despatch was received from him, stating that Sherman had agreed to a conference, and asking that the Secretary of War, General Breckinridge, should return to co-operate in it.
When we arrived at Charlotte, on April 18, 1865, we received a telegram announcing the assassination of President Lincoln.
A vindictive policy was speedily substituted for his, which avowedly was to procure a surrender of our forces in the field upon any terms, to stop the further effusion of blood.
On the same day, Sherman and Johnston united on a basis of agreement, which contained the following provisions:
I notified General Johnston that I approved of his last action, but in doing so doubted whether the agreement would be ratified by the United States Government.
The opinion entertained in regard to President Johnson and Stanton, his venomous Secretary of War, 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 in the field.
Whatever hope others entertained that the war was about to be peacefully ended, was soon dispelled by the rejection of the basis of the agreement by the Government of the United States, and a notice from Sherman of the termination of the armistice in forty-eight hours after noon of April 24th.
On the 26th General Johnston again met General Sherman, who offered the same terms which had been made with General Lee.
Johnston accepted the terms, and the surrender was made, his troops being paroled, and the officers
being permitted to retain their side-arms, baggage, and private horses.
The total number of prisoners thus paroled at Greensborough, N. C., as reported by General Schofield, was 36,817; in Georgia and Florida, as reported by General Wilson, 52,543; in all under General Johnston, 89,360.
General Lee had succumbed to the inevitable.
Some persons, with probably a desire to pay a weak tribute to Lee's kind heart, or to rob Grant of his claims to magnanimity il the matter of the surrender, have said that General Lee had only surrendered to stop the effusion of blood.
This is not true.
He had no weaknesses where his plain duty was concerned.
He surrendered to overwhelming force and insurmountable difficulties.
In Grant's treatment of his prisoners, let him have all the credit that can attach to him. The surrender of Johnston was a different affair.
Johnston's line of retreat, as chosen by himself through South Carolina, was open and had supplies placed upon it at various points.
He had a large force, of which over 36,000 were paroled at Greensborough, N. C. We had other forces in the field, and we were certainly in a position to make serious resistance.
This was all the more important, as such ability would have
been of service in securing better terms in bringing the war to an end.
It might have been possible to have made some arrangements that would have secured the political rights of the States, and their immunity from the terrible calamities that afterward fell upon them.
General Johnston had these matters and the details of a plan for his proposed movement fully placed before him, with orders to execute it. He disobeyed the order and surrendered his army, and put every thing at the mercy of the conquerors, without making a movement to secure terms that might have — availed to protect the political rights of the people and preserve their property from pillage when it was in his power.
felt that General Johnston
's failure to attempt what might have turned out to be his most valuable service to the people of the South
, should have tempered the violence of his assaults upon some others who were exerting themselves in behalf of the South
On May 8th, General Richard Taylor
agreed with General Canby
for the surrender of the land and naval forces in Mississippi
, on terms similar to those made between Johnston
On May 26th, the Chiefs of Staff of Generals
and General Canby
arranged similar terms for the surrender of the troops in the trans-Mississippi Department.
The total number thus paroled by General Canby
in the Department of Alabama
was 42,293, to which may be added less than 150 of tlie navy; while the number surrendered by General Kirby Smith
, of the trans-Mississippi Department, was 17,--686.
Extract from a letter written at this time:
. ... .It was at Salisbury where I first encountered Mr. Davis during that sad time, and I had found very pleasant quarters at the home of the Episcopal clergyman, rector of that charge.
About sunset, Mr. Davis, General Cooper, Colonel William Preston Johnston (I think), and one or two others of the President's staff, came to the same house.
At tea and after tea, Mr. Davis was cheerful, pleasant, and inclined to talk.
I remember we sat upon the porch until about ten o'clock, the President with an unlighted cigar in his mouth, talking of the misfortune of General Lee's surrender.
On the following morning, at breakfast, Mr. Davis sat at the left hand of the host.
In the midst of the meal the clergyman's little girl, a child of only seven or eight years, came in crying and greatly disturbed.
the table just between the President and her father, and said:
“ Oh, papa, old Lincoln's coming and going to kill us all.”
Mr. Davis at once laid down his knife and fork, and placing his right hand upon the child's head, turned her fearful face toward his own and said, with animation, “Oh, no, my little lady, you need not fear that.
Mr. Lincoln is not such a bad man, he does not want to kill anybody, and certainly not a little girl like you.”
The child was soon pacified.
I shall never forget the kindly expression of the President's face.
At Charlotte, on the 18th, I saw him again, on the day following the assassination of Mr. Lincoln.
The news had reached Charlotte, but was not credited.
Somehow we learned that General Breckinridge would be on the train that afternoon, and with several other Kentuckians I went to the depot.
His first desire was to see the President, so we went with him to Mr. Davis.
We found him sitting in a chair in the door which opened on the sidewalk.
After shaking hands with General Breckinridge, he asked immediately:
“ Is it true, General, that Mr. Lincoln was killed?”
“Yes, sir,” replied General Breckinridge
(who had just come from the front).
“General Sherman received a telegram this morning that he was shot in Ford's theatre, at Washington, last night.”
Mr. Davis said promptly, and with feeling, “ I am sorry to learn it. Mr. Lincoln was a much better man than his successor will be, and it will go harder with our people.
It is bad news for us.”
The letter that follows shows General Hampton
's views of the surrender at the time, and his loyal feeling to our cause, which, however, like Mr. Davis
's, were never doubted.