- Interview with President Davis and Secretary Mallory -- my command organized as a Brigade of artillery -- Brigade marches to Greensboroa, North Carolina -- capitulation between General Joseph E. Johnston and Sherman -- dispersion of Johnston's troops -- author returns home, and is arrested -- conclusion.
My memoirs are drawing to a close, for the career of the Confederacy, as well as my own, is nearly ended. I found, at Danville, President Davis, and a portion of his cabinet—the Secretary of the Navy among the rest. Here was temporarily established the seat of Government. I called on the President and Secretary, who were staying at the same house, at an early hour on the morning after my arrival, and reported for duty. They were both calm in the presence of the great disaster which had befallen them and the country. Mr. Mallory could scarcely be said now to have a portfolio, though he still had the officers, and clerks of his Department around him. It was at once arranged between him, and the President, that my command should be organized as a brigade of artillery, and assigned to the defences around Danville. The question of my rank being discussed, it was settled by Mr. Davis, that I should act in the capacity of a brigadier-general. My grade being that of a rear-admiral, I was entitled to rank, relatively, with the officers of the army, as a major-general, but it was folly, of course, to talk of rank, in the circumstances in which we were placed, and so I contented myself by saying pleasantly to the President, that I would waive the matter of rank, to be discussed hereafter, if there should ever be occasion to discuss it. ‘That is the right spirit,’ said he, with a smile playing over his usually grave features. I did not see him afterward. He moved soon to Charlotte, in North Carolina, and in a few weeks afterward, he fell into  the hands of the enemy. The reader knows the rest of his history; how the enemy gloated over his captivity; how he was reviled, and insulted, by the coarse and brutal men into whose power he had fallen; how lies were invented as to the circumstances of his capture, to please and amuse the Northern multitudes, eager for his blood; and finally, how he was degraded by imprisonment, and the manacles of a felony His captors and he were of different races—of different blood. They had nothing in common. He was the ‘Cavalier,’ endowed by nature with the instincts and refinement of the gentleman. They were of the race of the Roundheads, to whom all such instincts and refinements were offensive. God has created men in different moulds, as he has created the animals. It was as natural that the Yankee should hate Jefferson Davis, as that the cat should arch its back, and roughen its fur, upon the approach of the dog. I have said that the American war had its origin in money, and that it was carried on throughout, ‘for a consideration.’ It ended in the same way. The ‘long-haired barbarian’—see Gibbon's ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’—who laid his huge paw upon Jefferson Davis, to make him prisoner, was paid in money for the gallant deed. A President of the United States had degraded his high office, by falsely charging Mr. Davis with being an accomplice in the murder of President Lincoln, and offered a reward for his apprehension; thus gratifying his malignant nature, by holding him up to the world as a common felon. All men now know this charge to be false, the libeller among the rest. Gentlemen retract false charges, when they know them to be such. The charge made by Andrew Johnson against Jefferson Davis has not been retracted. Upon leaving the presence of the President, and Secretary of the Navy, I sought out my old friend, Captain Sydney Smith Lee, of the Navy, the Assistant Secretary, who had accompanied Mr. Mallory, and arranged with him, and afterward with General Cooper, the Adjutant-General of the Army, the transformation of my sailors into soldiers. There were a great many other naval officers, besides those under my command, fugitives in Danville, and the President and Secretary had been kind enough to authorize me to employ such of them in  my new organization, as I might desire. But the difficulty was not in the want of officers; it was the want of men. Already my command of five hundred had dwindled down to about four hundred on my retreat from Richmond, and since my arrival in Danville. I broke these into skeleton regiments, so as to conform to the Brigade organization, and appointed Dunnington, late Captain of my flag-ship, the Colonel of one of them, and Johnston, late Captain of the Richmond, Colonel of the other. My youngest son, who had been a midshipman on board the School-ship at Richmond, and who had retreated thence with the School, on the night before the surrender, was ordered by Captain Lee to report to me, and I assigned him to a position on my staff, with the rank of a second lieutenant. Mr. Daniel, my secretary, became my other aide de-camp, and Captain Butt, late commander of the Nansemond, was appointed Assistant Adjutant-General. We remained in the trenches before Danville ten days; and anxious, and weary days they were. Raiding parties were careering around us in various directions, robbing and maltreating the inhabitants, but none of the thieves ventured within reach of our guns. Lee abandoned his lines, on the 3d of April, and surrendered his army, or the small remnant that was left of it, to Grant, on the 9th, at Appomattox Court-House. The first news we received of his surrender, came to us from the stream of fugitives which now came pressing into our lines at Danville. It was heart-rending to look upon these men, some on foot, some on horseback, some nearly famished for want of food, and others barely able to totter along from disease. It was, indeed, a rabble rout, Hopes had been entertained that Lee might escape to Lynchburg, or to Danville, and save his army. The President had entertained this hope, and had issued a proclamation of encouragement to the people, before he left Danville. But the fatal tidings came at last, and when they did come, we all felt that the fate of the Confederacy was sealed. A new impetus was given to desertions, and before I reached Greensboroa, North Carolina, to which point I was now removed by the orders of General Joseph E. Johnston, my command had dwindled to about 250 men. Commissioned officers  slunk away from me one by one, and became deserters! I was ashamed of my countrymen. Johnston, by reason of his great, personal popularity, and of the confidence which the troops had in his ability, was enabled to gather around him the fragments of several armies, whilst Grant had been pressing Lee; and but for Lee's disaster would soon have been able to hold Sherman in check very effectually. But the moment the news of Lee's surrender reached him, there was a stampede from his army. It melted away like a hillock of snow before the sunshine. Whole companies deserted at a time. Still, many true men remained with him, and with these he stood so defiantly before Sherman, that the latter was glad to enter into negotiations with him for the dispersion of his troops. The reader will be pleased to pay attention to this expression. Johnston dispersed his troops, under the capitulation which will presently be spoken of. He never surrendered them as prisoners to the enemy. The country is familiar with what occurred at Greensboroa, between Johnston and Sherman, and I do not propose to rehearse it here. Sherman, yielding to the impulses of Johnston's master-mind, entered into an agreement with the latter, which would have achieved more fame for him in the future than all his victories, if he had had the courage and ability to stand up to his work. This agreement was that the Southern States should be regarded as ipso facto, on the cessation of the war, restored to their rights in the Union. The stroke was one of a statesman. It is in times of great revolutions that genius shows itself. The Federal Government, at the time that this convention was made, was prostrate beneath the foot of the soldier, and a military man of genius might have governed it with the crook of his finger. If such a one had arisen, he might have applied the scourge to the back of the Northern people, and they would have yelped under it as submissively as any hound. They had yelped under the scourging of Abraham Lincoln. But Sherman was not the man to conceive the emergency, or to avail himself of it. He, on the contrary, permitted himself to be scourged by a creature like Stanton, the Federal Secretary of War, and if he did not yelp under the scourging, he at least submitted to it with most admirable docility. Stanton insolently rejected  the convention which had been entered into between the two generals, and, reminding Sherman that he was nothing but a soldier, told him to attend to his own business. Stanton knew his man, and Sherman did, afterward, attend to his own business; for he now entered into a purely military convention with Johnston. The main features of that convention were, that Johnston should disperse his army, and Sherman should, in consideration thereof, guarantee it against molestation by the Federal authorities. It was in the interval between these two conventions, that my camp was astounded one morning, by the report that Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, was dead. He had gone to a small theatre in the city of Washington, on the evening of Good Friday, and had been shot by a madman! It seemed like a just retribution that he should be cut off in the midst of the hosannas that were being shouted in his ears, for all the destruction and ruin he had wrought upon twelve millions of people. Without any warrant for his conduct, he had made a war of rapine and lust against eleven sovereign States, whose only provocation had been that they had made an effort to preserve the liberties which had been handed down to them by their fathers. These States had not sought war, but peace, and they had found, at the hands of Abraham Lincoln, destruction. As a Christian, it was my duty to say, ‘Lord, have mercy upon his soul!’ but the d—l will surely take care of his memory. The last days of April, and the first days of May, were employed, by General Johnston, in dispersing his army according to agreement. Commissioners, appointed by the two Generals to arrange the dispersion, and provide the dispersed troops with the guaranties that had been agreed upon, met in the village of Greensboroa, on the 1st of May, 1865. On the previous evening, I had called at the headquarters of General Johnston, where I had met Beauregard, Wade Hampton, Wheeler, D. H. Hill, and a host of other gallant spirits, who formed the galaxy by which he was surrounded. He was kind enough to give me precedence, in the matter of arranging for my departure with the Federal Commissioner. Accordingly, on the morning of the 1st of May, accompanied by my staff; I  rode into Greensboroa, and alighted at the Britannia Hotel, where the Commissioners were already assembled. They were Brevet Brigadier General Hartsuff, on the part of the Federals, and Colonel. Mason, on the part of the Confederates. Each guaranty of non-molestation had been prepared, beforehand, in a printed form, and signed by Hartsuff, and only required to be filled up with the name and rank of the party entitled to receive it, and signed by myself to be complete. Upon being introduced to General Hartsuff, we proceeded at once to business. I produced the muster-roll of my command, duly signed by my Assistant Adjutant-General; and General Hartsuff and myself ran our eyes over the names together, and when we had ascertained the number, the General counted out an equal number of blank guaranties, and, handing them to me, said: ‘You have only to fill up one of these for each officer and soldier of your command, with his name and rank, and sign it and hand it to him. I have already signed them myself. You can fill up the one intended for yourself in like manner.’ ‘With regard to the latter,’ I replied, ‘I prefer, if you have no objection, to have it filled up and completed here in your presence.’ ‘Oh! that makes no difference,’ he replied. ‘Very well,’ said I, ‘if it makes no difference, then you can have no objection to complying with my request.’ He now called an aide-de-camp, and desiring him to be seated at the table where we were, told him to fill up my guaranty after my dictation. I gave him my titles separately, making him write me down a ‘Rear-Admiral in the Confederate States Navy, and a Brigadier-General in the Confederate States Army, commanding a brigade.’ When he had done this, he handed me the paper; I signed it, and put it in my pocket, and, turning to the General, said, ‘I am now satisfied.’ The following is a copy of the paper:—
It was well I took the precautions above described, in dealing with the enemy, for, when I was afterward arrested, as the reader will presently see, the Yankee press, howling for my blood, claimed that I had not been paroled at all! that I had deceived the paroling officer, and obtained my parole under false pretences; the said paroling officer not dreaming, when he was paroling one Brigadier-General Semmes, that he had the veritable ‘pirate’ before him. I dispersed my command, on the same afternoon, and with my son, and half a dozen of my officers, a baggage-wagon, and the necessary servants, made my way to Montgomery, in Alabama, and, at that point, took steamer for my home, in Mobile, which I reached in the latter days of May. Andrew Johnson, the Vice-President of the United States, had succeeded Mr. Lincoln as President. He was a Southern man, born in the State of North Carolina, and a citizen of Tennessee. He had been elected to the Senate of the United States, a short time before the breaking out of the war. He had belonged to the Democratic party, and had arisen from a very low origin—his father having belonged to the common class of laborers, and he having learned the trade of a tailor, which he practised after he had grown to man's estate. Gifted by nature with a strong intellect, he studied the law, and afterward embarked in politics. The word ‘embark’ expresses my idea precisely, for, from this time onward, he became a mere politician. As a rule, it requires an unscrupulous and unprincipled man to succeed in politics in America. Honorable men do, sometimes, of course, make their way to high places; but these form the exceptions, not the  rule. Andrew Johnson succeeded in politics. In the earlier stages of our troubles, he spoke and wrote like a Southern man, demanding, in behalf of the South, some security for the future, in the way of additional guaranties. But when these were all denied, and it became evident that his State would secede, and that he would be stripped of his senatorial honors, so recently won, if he abided by his former record, and went with his State, he abjured his record, and abandoned his State. Like all renegades, he became zealous in the new faith which he had adopted, and proved himself so good a Radical, that President Lincoln sent him back to Tennessee as a satrap, to govern, with a rod of iron, under military rule, the Sovereign State for which he had so recently demanded additional securities. Still growing in favor with his new party, he was elected Vice-President, upon the re-election of Mr. Lincoln, in the fall of 1864. The Presidential mantle having fallen upon him, by the tragical death of Mr. Lincoln, he retained the cabinet of his predecessor, and made his zeal still more manifest to his party, by insisting on the necessity of making ‘treason odious’ —the same sort of treason enjoined upon the States by Jefferson in his Kentucky Resolutions of ‘98 and ‘99, which formed the basis of the creed of the Democratic party, to which Mr. Johnson had belonged—and punishing ‘traitors.’ A grand jury in Norfolk, Va., found an indictment for treason against General Lee, and but for the interposition of General Grant, he would have been tried, under Mr. Johnson's administration; and probably tried by a packed jury that would have hung him. Mr. Davis was already in close and ignominious confinement, as has been related. Captain Wurz, of the late Confederate States Army, who had been, for a short time, in charge of the prison at Andersonville, was tried by a Military Commission, in the city of Washington, under the shadow of the President's chair, convicted, and executed, notwithstanding he was a paroled prisoner of war. Another Military Commission, in time of peace, had convicted and executed a woman—Mrs. Surratt—on the false charge, as is now admitted by the whole country, that she was an accomplice in Mr. Lincoln's assassination. Mr. Johnson signed her death-warrant. It was under these circumstances, that on the night of the  15th of December, 1865, or seven months and a half after I had received the guaranty of General Sherman, at Greensboroa, North Carolina, that I should not be molested by the United States authorities, that a lieutenant of the Marine Corps, with a guard of soldiers, surrounded my house and arrested me, on an order signed by Mr. Gideon Welles, without the process of any court. I was torn from my family, under guard—the thieving soldiery committing some petty thefts about my premises—and hurried off to Washington. Arrived here, I was imprisoned, first, in the Navy Yard, and then in the Marine Barracks. I was kept a close prisoner, with a sentinel at my door, for nearly four months; the gentlemen about the barracks, however, doing everything in their power to render my confinement more endurable. It was the intention of the Government to throw me, as it had thrown Wurz, as a sop to the extreme Radicals of the New England States, whose commerce I had destroyed; and I was only saved by the circumstances which will be presently related. But before I relate these circumstances, I deem it pertinent to give to the reader the following letter addressed by me to President Johnson, from my place of confinement, charging his Government with breach of faith in arresting me.
At the time of my arrest, there was a newspaper called the ‘Republican,’ published in the city of Washington, in the interests of President Johnson. There had been some little struggle between Congress and the President, as to who should take the initiative in the wholesale hanging of ‘traitors’ which had been resolved upon. The ‘Republican,’ speaking for President Johnson, declares, in the article which will be found below, his readiness to act. He is only waiting, it says, for Congress to move in the matter. Here is the article:—
There is an old adage which says, ‘When rogues fall out, honest men get their rights.’ Fortunately for the ‘traitors’ of the South, Andrew Johnson, and the Congress quarrelled. Johnson undertook to reconstruct the Southern States, in his interests, and Congress claimed the right to reconstruct them in its interests. The Constitution of the United States was equally disregarded by them both. Johnson had no more respect for it than Congress. His Mode of reconstruction equally violated it, with that of Congress. It was a struggle between usurpers, which should be master—that was all. Johnson, with a single stroke of the pen, struck down all the State governments, called conventions of the people, and told the conventions what they should do. Congress might go a little further, but its violation of the Constitution could not, well, be more flagrant. The breach widened from day to day, and the quarrel at last became bitter. Neither party, opposed by the  other, could afford to become the hangman of the Southern people, and the very pretty little programme, which, according to the ‘Republican’ newspaper, had been arranged between the rogues, naturally fell to the ground. Johnson finding that his quarrel with Congress had ruined him with his party, now set about constructing a new one— a Johnson party. His scheme was to ignore both the Democratic, and the Republican parties. If he could succeed in reconstructing the Southern States, to the exclusion of Congress, he might hope to get the votes of those States in the next Presidential election. But to conciliate these States, it would not do to hang ‘five hundred of the military and political leaders of the rebel Government,’ as a mere ‘beginning.’ He must pursue a different policy. He now issued first one amnesty proclamation, and then another—doling out amnesty, grudgingly, in broken doses—until he had issued three of them. By the last of these proclamations, the writer of these pages, who was true to his State, was ‘graciously pardoned’ by Andrew Johnson, who had not only been a traitor to his State, but had betrayed, besides, two political parties. A glorious opportunity presented itself for him to show himself a statesman. He has proved a charlatan instead. He cowered in his struggle with Congress, and that body has shorn him of his prerogatives, and reduced him to the mere position of a clerk. This is the second act of the drama, the first act of which was the secession of the Southern States. The form of government having been changed by the revolution, there are still other acts of the drama to be performed. the end.