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Chapter 48:


At this stage of the military operations just described the main body of the Federal army, united at Goldsboroa, consisted of its right wing, under General Howard, aggregating 28,834 men; its left wing, under General Slocum, aggregating 28,063 men; its centre, under General Schofield, aggregating 26,392 men, exclusive of the artillery, numbering 2443 men, with 91 guns; and [385] the cavalry division, under General Kilpatrick, with an effective strength of 5659 men; making a grand aggregate of 91,391 men.1 This estimate does not include General Stoneman's force of cavalry, amounting to 4000, then operating around Greensboroa and Salisbury, and which, though not originally belonging to General Sherman's army, was then under his command.2

For about fifteen days after its junction with General Schofield this army remained quiet near Goldsboroa, preparatory, as it appears, to the effort General Sherman was about to make to place it ‘north of Roanoke River, and in full communication with the Army of the Potomac.’3

The small Confederate army, under General Johnston, stood between the two roads leading to Raleigh on the one hand, and to Weldon, on the other, so as to be ahead of the enemy on whichever line of march he might adopt, and in order, also, to be able to unite with the Army of Northern Virginia, in case General Lee should favor such a movement, although it was now, probably, too late to carry it out successfully. The position was wisely selected. Wheeler's cavalry was stationed north, and Butler's south, of the enemy's camps surrounding Goldsboroa.

On the 1st of April, owing to a despatch just received from General Lee, empowering him ‘to assume command of all troops from Western Virginia and Western North Carolina within his reach,’ General Beauregard left Greensboroa for Salisbury. His purpose was, if possible, to confer with Generals Lee and Johnston relative to the actual condition of affairs, and the best disposition to be made of all available troops, from Salisbury to Greensboroa. As Salisbury appeared to be less threatened than Greensboroa by the enemy's cavalry—Stoneman's—reported to be advancing from Mount Airy and Wytheville, in West VirginiaGeneral Beauregard ordered three brigades, under Featherstone, Shelly, and Gowan, with two light batteries, to move, without delay, in the direction of Greensboroa, whither he returned the same evening. Soon afterwards, Stoneman appearing more [386] directly to threaten Danville, which was then defended by a mere handful of troops, under General H. H. Walker, General Beauregard sent him Shelly's brigade, of some six hundred men, three batteries from Hillsboroa, and also ordered thither General Wheeler's cavalry, which had been sent by General Johnston to aid in the projected movement to oppose Sherman.

Just at this time occurred the too long delayed and now inevitable evacuation of Richmond (April 2d), which, in General Johnston's opinion, necessitated the recall of Wheeler's force, as General Sherman, altering his purpose to form a junction with General Grant, might be tempted to march at once upon Smithfield and Raleigh. Colonel J. F. Wheeler's cavalry was allowed, however, to proceed to Danville, where the Confederate Government had now determined to take temporary refuge, supposing— and indeed knowing—that General Lee, upon his retreat from Petersburg, would endeavor to reach Danville with his army.4

The line of our defences around Petersburg was broken on the 2d of April, in the morning, and our troops were compelled to fall back on their inner works, thus making the evacuation of the city a mere question of hours.

General Lee had ‘advised that Richmond should be evacuated simultaneously with the withdrawal of his troops that night ;’5 and President Davis, informed of the disaster, began immediate preparations for his removal and that of the heads of the various State Departments from the capital of the Confederacy. He says: ‘The event had come before Lee had expected it, and the announcement was received by us in Richmond with sorrow and surprise; for, though it had been foreseen as a coming event which might possibly, though not probably, be averted, and such preparation as was practicable had been made to meet the contingency when it should occur, it was not believed to be so near at hand.’6 And here it is appropriate to say that, far from lamenting the abandonment of Richmond, to which it had clung with such blind pertinacity, the Government should have ordered it weeks, if not months, previously, when the military necessity for such a movement was clearly indicated as the best—and perhaps the only—method of salvation. An effort to concentrate, at [387] this late hour, when every avenue of retreat was closed and the enemy had formed his junction and accomplished his purpose, was vain and useless.

When this sad news reached General Beauregard—who on the day previous had received a confidential intimation of it—he was bitterly grieved; all the more, because he saw what the necessary result must now be. He was thoroughly convinced that the present hopeless strait could have been avoided had his counsel prevailed, when he urged the withdrawal of a portion of General Lee's army to strike Sherman's columns, then far from their base; and even later, about the 21st of February, when he again strenuously advised concentration at or near Salisbury, with a reinforcement of twenty thousand men from Generals Lee and Bragg, to defeat Sherman first, and attack Grant afterwards. The battle of Bentonville had proved to General Beauregard that the spirit of the Confederate troops was unbroken, and that, with approximate equality in numbers, those troops could achieve victory. It was now plain that the grand drama which had lasted for four years was fast drawing to an end. But he resolved, nevertheless, not to relax his efforts to uphold the cause until the last hour.

On his return to Greensboroa, General Beauregard was greeted with kindness by its leading citizens, especially ex-Governor Morehead, whose hospitality he accepted, for himself and staff, during the remainder of his stay in that town.

A system of light defensive works was now devised by General Beauregard for the protection of Greensboroa, which had become an important depot of supplies. The troops temporarily detained there were called out to construct these defences, in which he caused to be placed a few field-pieces, procured from Hillsboroa, where they then lay, unsupplied with horses and of no use.

The reports concerning Stoneman's raid indicated that he was moving from Wytheville, along the Virginia and Tennessee railroad, with a force of cavalry, variously estimated at from four to eight thousand men, and some light artillery; that a portion of this force had been thrown well out on his right flank, towards Wilkesboroa, Jonesville, Madison, etc., committing depredations on its way, and threatening the railroad from Salisbury to Danville, via Greensboroa; hence great alarm was felt in all these towns. [388]

On the 4th of April, General Beauregard received a telegram from President Davis, and another on the 5th, both from Danville, making inquiry concerning the movements of the enemy, and approving the forwarding of cavalry, which, he said, would be of special value to that place, with the infantry already on its way to it. He also stated that he had had no news from General Lee for several days. Neither General Johnston nor General Beauregard were better informed as to the movements of the Army of Northern Virginia, concerning which the greatest anxiety prevailed in all quarters. Danville, now the temporary seat of Government, would have been guarded with the utmost care, in order to tranquillize Mr. Davis, had not the enemy's movements, since the fall of Richmond, required the presence of all our available forces with General Johnston. This was explained to the President by a despatch from General Beauregard, dated Greensboroa, April 5th, 1865.

The greatest energy was now used to hurry on the returned troops of Hood's army coming from Chester. Fifteen hundred of them had left that place on the 6th, on their way to Smithfield. And there being, in appearance, no further immediate danger threatening Greensboroa, General Beauregard, upon inquiring whether he should remain there and await other developments, received the following answer:

near Smithfield, April 6th, 1865.
General G. T. Beauregard:
It is not necessary to remain longer. No news from General Lee.

General Beauregard consequently returned, on the 7th, to Raleigh, which was, properly speaking, his headquarters at that time. He was anxious to see and confer with General Johnston about the disastrous events which, from all sides, were now crowding upon the country; and, on the 8th, he started for Smithfield, where he and General Johnston exchanged views. He returned during the same evening to Raleigh.

On the day following this telegram, in cipher, was handed to General Beauregard:

General Walker, commanding here, desires your presence, in view of the probable concentration of forces from Thomas's army against this place at a very early period, and I think your services here will be more useful than at [389] any other point on the railroad line. Please make the greatest possible despatch in coming, as a revision of the defensive lines is desirable.

Jeffn. Davis.

Before General Beauregard had had time to decide upon any course of action a second despatch came to him, in the following words:

The President wishes you to go to Danville immediately, to talk with him of general operations.

This indicated great anxiety on the part of the President; and though he knew that the alleged danger of an attack by General Thomas's army on Danville, at that time, was purely imaginary, General Beauregard took immediate steps to obey Mr. Davis's behest. He was on the point of starting, when he received from Colonel Otey, his Adjutant-General, at Greensboroa, the news of the capitulation of General Lee and his army on that day. The surrender of such an army, under such leaders, must necessarily cause discouragement and despair to settle upon the country. It was easy to see that the remaining Confederate forces, wherever they might be, would soon have to follow the example of General Lee's army, as our resources were small in comparison with those of the enemy, which seemed to be steadily increasing, while ours were no less steadily diminishing. Such were General Beauregard's thoughts, as he journeyed over the road to Greensboroa, on his way to Danville.

Before reaching his destination, and supposing that the news from the Army of Northern Virginia might have caused other dispositions to be taken, he inquired (April 10th) of General Walker, if his presence was still necessary at Danville.The answer he received was an affirmative one; but almost at the same time came the following despatch from Colonel McLean, A. Q. M., in charge of the President's party:

‘The President started for Greensboroa at 10 h. this evening, and would be glad to see you on his arrival. Please give me every information about raiders. Are Greensboroa and road now safe?’

General Beauregard's immediate answer was:

‘Will await here arrival of President. Road between this place and Danville safe. Raiders are at or near Salem.’


He then without delay telegraphed General Ferguson to hurry up with his cavalry brigade, from High Point, as fast as he could. The need of cavalry was greatly felt at that hour, not only to oppose the enemy, but to obtain trustworthy information. General Beauregard had mostly to depend for the latter on the scouting parties, organized by him out of such ‘volunteers’ as he could find, and sent in every direction.

In view of General Beauregard's repeated changes of locality, from Salisbury to Raleigh, and his expected trip to Danville, he had concluded to establish his headquarters, for the future, in a box-car, so as to be always ready to move, at a moment's notice. He gave orders accordingly, and was provided with three boxcars, one of which he used as his office, bedroom, and diningroom, the other for the movable portion of his staff, and the last for the horses.

On arriving at Greensboroa he had these three cars put on a side-track, near the depot. Early in the morning he was informed that the President's train, carrying himself, his Cabinet, and the Government officers, had arrived during the night, and was then close to his own. He crossed over to Mr. Davis's car, and, upon entering it, was struck by the helpless appearance of the gentlemen assembled there. A warm welcome was given to General Beauregard, who could hardly find time to answer the rapid questions that were poured from all sides upon him, especially by the members of the Cabinet, with whom He was but slightly acquainted. The President soon afterwards made his appearance. He also extended a cordial greeting to General Beauregard; and, taking him aside, questioned him closely and anxiously about current military events. The facts were far from encouraging, and General Beauregard had a gloomy account to give.

He stated that Sherman, after the battle of Bentonville, had moved to Goldsboroa, where he had formed a junction with Schofield, and had re-supplied himself with all He required, and was now advancing with fully ninety-one thousand men on Smithfield, where was the greater part of General Johnston's force, amounting to less than twenty thousand infantry, and some four thousand cavalry, which had to be much scattered, in order to cover his front and flanks and protect his communications; that a very strong force of the enemy's cavalry,.under Stoneman, was [391] reported to be moving along the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, having already reached Wytheville, Christiansburg, and Salem, whence he was threatening our lines of communication, from Salisbury to Danville; and that he feared, every moment, to hear of his having broken these lines at some important point; that he, General Beauregard, was collecting at Salisbury, Greensboroa, and Danville all the remnants of the Army of Tennessee, still coming in, in small fractions, to rejoin their commands; that he was endeavoring to assemble the convalescents and furloughed men, as well as all the stragglers and deserters he could reach; that he was in great need of cavalry with which to defend our communications and ascertain the movements of the enemy, all his scouts and couriers being persons too old or too young to be very efficient, who had patriotically offered their services, furnishing their own horses and equipments; that he was, however, daily expecting General Ferguson's brigade of cavalry, which was coming from Augusta, Ga., as rapidly as possible, and, in all likelihood, would reach Graham that day.

General Beauregard, in his conference with the President, also told him that, from Macon, General Cobb reported that the enemy's cavalry had penetrated North Alabama, from the Tennessee River, threatening Tuscaloosa, Selma, and Montgomery; while another force of cavalry, supported by infantry and artillery, was advancing, through North Georgia, on Atlanta, Columbus, and Macon, where He, General Cobb, had but few troops, principally local and State reserves, to oppose to them.

He reported further that General Taylor confirmed the news of the Federal advance on Selma and Montgomery, and feared a movement from the Mississippi River, Memphis, and Vicksburg, through the interior of Mississippi, towards Okalona and Meridian; that a determined attack was soon to be expected on Mobile (as reported by General Maury, commanding there), from New Orleans and Pensacola, where there was a large increase of Federal troops; to oppose which General Maury had but an insignificant force under him.

General Beauregard also said to Mr. Davis that the picture he presented to him was most gloomy, but that he thought it his duty to attempt no concealment of the truth, so that the President might have a clear knowledge of the situation, and be prepared for the inevitable. [392]

President Davis lent an attentive ear to the account thus given of the hopeless condition of the Confederacy, but appeared, nevertheless, undismayed. He said that the struggle could still be carried on to a successful issue, by bringing out all our latent resources; that if the worst came to the worst, we might, by crossing the Mississippi River, with such troops as we could retreat with, unite with Kirby Smith's army, which He estimated at some sixty thousand men, and prolong the war indefinitely. General Beauregard did not expect, and was amazed at, this evidence of visionary hope on the part of the President. He admired his confidence, but inwardly condemned what to him seemed to be a total want of judgment and a misconception of the military resources of the country.

The President on that day (11th April), after his interview with General Beauregard, sent three telegrams to General Johnston, by way of Raleigh; one to General Walker, at Danville; and one to Governor Vance, also at Raleigh. They fully indicate the state of Mr. Davis's mind at the time, and need no commentary:


Greensboroa, N. C., April 11th, 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 prompt7 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.

Jeffn. Davis.


Greensboroa, N. C., April 11th, 1865:3.30 P. M.
General J. E. Johston, Headquarters, via. Raleigh:
The enemy's cavalry, in small force, this morning cut the Danville Railroad, ten miles from here, and, as reported, moved eastwardly. [393]

Lest communication should be lost, I telegraph to say that General Beauregard proposes, after General Walker shall join him, which will be ordered to commence forthwith, to unite with you at the Yadkin, in front of Salisbury. And this seems to me to be the most easy method, if pursued, of effecting the proposed junction.

Jeffn. Davis.


Greensboroa, N. C., April 11th, 1865.
General J. E. Johnston, Headquarters, via Raleigh:
Despatch of 1.30 P. M. received. Secretary of War has not arrived. To save time and have all information it is probably better that you come here. In that event you will give the needful instructions to your second in command, and, if circumstances warrant, suspend the movement suggested in despatch of 3.30 P. M. for a time, which will enable you to communicate from here with that officer, or to indicate that the line has been broken by the enemy, so as to interrupt communication.

Jeffn. Davis.


Greensboroa, N. C., April 11th, 1865.
General H. H. Walker, Danville, Va.:
The movements of the enemy in Eastern North Carolina indicate the necessity for prompt movement on your part to make a junction here with General Beauregard, and then with General Johnston, on the Yadkin, in front of Salisbury. You will keep in communication with General Beauregard, on whose information the supposed necessity for your immediate action is based.

Jeffn. Davis.


Greensboroa, N. C., April 11th, 1865.
Governor Z. B. Vance, Raleigh, N. C.:
I have no official report, but scouts, said to be reliable, and whose statements were circumstantial and corroborative, represent the disaster as extreme.

I have not heard from General Lee since the 6th instant, and have little or no hope from his army as an organized body. I expected to visit you at Raleigh, but am accidentally prevented from executing that design, and would be very glad to see you here, if you can come at once, or to meet you elsewhere in North Carolina at a future time. We must redouble our efforts to meet present disaster. An army holding its position with determination to fight on, and manifest ability to maintain the struggle, will attract all the scattered soldiers and daily rapidly gather strength.

Moral influence is wanting, and I am sure you can do much now to revive the spirit and hope of the people.

Jeffn. Davis.

General Johnston was, just then, busily engaged in removing stores and supplies from Raleigh, and in order to do so with more celerity he asked General Beauregard to send him one hundred cars, which was done. In his telegram, forwarded on that occasion, he also spoke of reinforcements (twelve hundred men of Pettus's brigade), which he was hurrying on to General [394] Beauregard for the additional safety of Greensboroa. The necessity for such a movement was all the more urgent because, on the morning of that day (11th), the raiding cavalry had cut the Danville road, about twelve miles above Greensboroa, and had arrived in the afternoon at High Point and Jamestown, on the Salisbury road. The damage done, however, was not great, and could easily be repaired.

Acting under the powers given him by General Lee, in his despatch of April 1st, already referred to, General Beauregard was now issuing direct orders to Generals Lomax, Walker, and Bradley Johnson. Five hundred men were accordingly sent to Salisbury on the 12th, and minute instructions forwarded to General Lomax as to the best mode of saving supplies and of collecting his own as well as other cavalry commands for the protection of Greensboroa.

General Johnston had also been summoned to Greensboroa by the President. He arrived punctually, and at mid-day, on the 12th, after first consulting with General Beauregard, whose guest he then was, went, in his company, to meet Mr. Davis. The latter was found at his temporary headquarters, with three members of his Cabinet—Messrs. Benjamin, Mallory, and Reagan. After an exchange of formal courtesies, the President, without asking aught of the military condition in General Johnston's Department, or elsewhere, expressed his conviction that, by calling back the absentees and enlisting the men who had not, as yet, been reached by the Conscript Bureau, he could, in a few weeks' time, put a large army in the field, and thus enable us to go on with the struggle. These were very much the same views that he had previously expressed to General Beauregard and to Governor Vance, and which were also embodied in his proclamation of April 5th.8 Generals Johnston and Beauregard differed entirely from him, as neither could see the possibility, at that hour, of bringing these men into the ranks. Here the conference rested, and was postponed to the next day, to await the arrival of the Secretary of War, General Breckinridge, whose presence was deemed necessary before any final action should be taken. He came in the evening, and confirmed the news of General Lee's surrender. Generals Johnston and Beauregard were now more than ever convinced that the [395] prolongation of hostilities with any hope of success was an impossibility; and that the only course left Mr. Davis while still, nominally, the Chief Magistrate of the Confederacy, was to open negotiations for peace. This opinion was urged by General Johnston, in his own and in General Beauregard's name, at the renewal of the conference, on the 13th. After asking the opinion of the members of the Cabinet present—General Breckinridge included —and receiving the assurance from all, except Mr. Benjamin, that they agreed with the two generals, Mr. Davis openly stated his objection, basing it mainly upon his belief that the Federal Government would refuse to treat with him, or accept any proposition he might offer. It was then suggested by General Johnston that the preliminary overtures might be made by himself, and not by the President. This, at last, was agreed to, and a letter, dictated by Mr. Davis, written by Mr. Mallory and signed by General Johnston, was handed to the latter, with authority to forward it to General Sherman.

Thus closed the last official interview held between President Davis, General Johnston, and General Beauregard.9

General Johnston lost no time in causing this letter to be forwarded to General Sherman. It was intrusted to the care of Lieutenant-General Hampton, at or near Hillsboroa, and was, in obedience to his orders, delivered on the succeeding day. It read thus:

‘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, in order to stop the further effusion of blood and devastation of property, you are willing to make a temporary suspension of active operations, and to communicate to Lieutenant-General Grant, commanding the armies of the United States, the request that he will take like action in regard to other armies; the object being to permit the civil authorities to enter into the needful arrangements to terminate the existing war.’

Except some raids of the Federal cavalry, at Salisbury and other minor points, in relation to which General Beauregard was yet issuing orders to Generals Lomax, Bradley Johnson, and Ferguson, [396] nothing of importance occurred from the 14th to the day of the meeting of Generals Johnston and Sherman. The greater part of the Confederate forces, then temporarily under Lieutenant-General Hardee, was marching towards Greensboroa, where General Johnston's headquarters had been established. The army proper was within a few miles of that place on the morning of the 16th.

It is necessary to mention an occurrence of the day before, which, though in itself of no great importance, was the cause somewhat later of much complication and annoyance.

Mr. John N. Hendren, ‘Treasurer, C. S.,’ as he signed himself, had been ordered by the President to turn over to General Beauregard, ‘as a military chest to be moved with his army train,’ certain silver coin, ‘estimated at $39,000,’ with the request that an officer should be designated to take charge of the sum and accompany its transfer to him ‘by a schedule of ex-planation.’ General Beauregard referred the matter to General Johnston, as was plainly the proper course to be pursued by him, and stated in his endorsement that the Secretary of War authorized the use of said coin for the wants of the army, in case of need.10 It appears—owing, no doubt, to General Johnston's absence at the time—that no immediate attention was paid to the matter, which greatly incensed the Treasurer, who thus brought upon himself a rather sharp reprimand from General Beauregard. Further than that, the latter disclaims all personal knowledge of any incident connected with this money, or any other alleged to have been distributed at that period, except that, after the surrender, he and each member of his staff received, as a last payment—and the first for many months—the sum of $1.15, said to have formed part of the above-mentioned $39,000 in silver coin.

General Sherman's answer, dated the 14th, met with some delay, and only reached General Johnston on the 16th. It was as follows:

I have this moment received your communication of this date. I am fully empowered to arrange with you any terms for the suspension of further hostilities between the armies commanded by you and those commanded by myself, and will be willing to confer with you to that end. I will limit the advance of my main column to-morrow to Morrisville, and the cavalry to the [397] University, and expect that you will also maintain the present position of your forces until each has notice of a failure to agree.

‘That a basis of action may be had, I undertake to abide by the same terms and conditions as were made by Generals Grant and Lee, at Appomattox Court-house, on the 9th instant, relative to our two armies; and, furthermore, to obtain from General Grant an order to suspend the movements of any troops from the direction of Virginia. General Stoneman is under my command, and my order will suspend any devastation or destruction contemplated by him. I will add that I really desire to save the people of North Carolina the damage they would sustain by the march of this army through the central or western parts of the State.’

In accordance with this arrangement General Hardee was ordered to halt his command wherever it might be, and to draw his supplies from Greensboroa. The same order to halt was extended to the other commands. The officers to whom it was sent—General Hardee especially—were much concerned as to its meaning, and thought its effect would be detrimental to the troops, if it were not quickly explained. To their inquiries and remarks General Beauregard's answer was, that he could not, just then, inform them of General Johnston's purpose; that the latter would, no doubt, do so himself, on his return from Hillsboroa; and that, meanwhile, the troops should be kept well in hand for rapid movement, at a moment's notice. But that was a difficult task to perform. The men knew they were on the eve of an extraordinary event; that something worse than a battle overhung them; that, like General Lee's forces, they also might at any hour be compelled to surrender; and they feared that they might thus lose their arms and whatever private property they might then be possessed of. This apprehension—which, we must admit, was a natural one—induced many a good and gallant soldier—especially in the cavalry—to abandon the ranks and start for ‘home,’ without first obtaining permission to do so. Indeed, the whole army seemed to understand that they had fought their last fight; that the cause, for which they had so intrepidly struggled, was now lost; and that the sooner they were disbanded the better. Their irregular manner of leaving the army, by hundreds and more at a time, was another argument against the sanguine expectations indulged in by Mr. Davis.

Through General Hampton's instrumentality the time and place of meeting were arranged for the proposed conference between Generals Johnston and Sherman, who met, accordingly, at noon, [398] on the 17th, at Durham Station, some sixteen miles east of Hillsboroa. Nothing definite having been concluded at 2 o'clock P. M. on that day, it was agreed to adjourn until ten o'clock on the morning of the 18th.

Just before the opening of the second day's conference General Beauregard sent to General Johnston the following suggestion, the substance of which we find embodied in article 2d of the terms of agreement about to be submitted to the reader:

Greensboroa, April 18th, 1865:8 A. M.
General J. E. Johnston, near Hillsboroa, N. C.:
Should your negotiations terminate favorably, let me suggest that you secure, if possible, the right to march our troops to their homes, and there muster them duly out of service, depositing their regimental colors in their respective State capitals for preservation.11

General Breckinridge, who had been telegraphed for by General Johnston, was present at the meeting of the 18th, but not in an official capacity, as General Sherman would have objected to that. It was thought by General Johnston that, should the Secretary of War be with him during the negotiation, the Confederate Government would be more apt to ratify whatever terms might be agreed upon.

After a long but courteous discussion, wherein General Breckinridge, more than once, expressed his opinion, the following paper was drawn up, accepted, and signed by the two Commanding Generals:

Memorandum or basis of agreement made this 18th day of April, A. D. 1865, near Durham Station, in the State of North Carolina, by and between General Joseph E. Johnston, commanding the Confederate Army, and Major-General William T. Sherman, commanding the Army of the United States in North Carolina, both present.

1st. The contending armies now in the field to maintain the status quo until notice is given by the Commanding General of any one to its opponent, and reasonable time—say forty-eight (48) hours—allowed.

2d. The Confederate armies now in existence to be disbanded and conducted to their 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 to abide the action of the State and Federal authority. The number of arms and munitions of war to be reported to the Chief of Ordnance, at Washington City, subject to the future [399] 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.

3d. The recognition, by the Executive of the United States of the several State Governments, on their officers and Legislatures taking the oaths prescribed by the Constitution of the United States, and, where conflicting State Governments have resulted from the war, the legitimacy of all shall be submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States.

4th. The re-establishment of all the Federal Courts in the several States, with powers as defined by the Constitution and laws of Congress.

5th. The people and inhabitants of all the 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.

6th. 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 the laws in existence at the place of their residence.

7th. In general terms, the war to cease; a general amnesty, so far as the Executive of the United States can command, on condition of the disbandment of the Confederate armies, the disposition of the arms, and the resumption of peaceful pursuits by the officers and men hitherto composing said armies.

Not being fully empowered by our respective principals to fulfil these terms, we individually and officially pledge ourselves to promptly obtain the necessary authority, and to carry out the above programme.

J. E. Johnston, General Commanding Confederate States Army in North Carolina.

W. T. Sherman, Major-General Commanding Army of the United States in North Carolina.’

General Breckinridge returned to Greensboroa on the 19th, and thence to Salisbury, carrying with him a copy of the liberal agreement to submit to the President, promising an immediate answer, which he hoped would be favorable; but which, nevertheless, was long delayed, owing to some unexplained objection on the part of Mr. Davis, and to the fact of his having gone to Charlotte, without waiting for the conclusion of the conference.

Five days had elapsed since its termination, and still nothing was heard from President Davis. General Johnston had gone back to Greensboroa, and there had published General Orders No. 14, for a suspension of arms pending negotiations between the two Governments. A like order had also been issued by General Sherman. [400]

Unable to account for such procrastination, General Johnston, on the 23d, forwarded the following telegram to General Breckinridge:

General Sherman writes that he expects the return of his officer from Washington to-morrow.’

To this no answer came, but the result was that General Breckinridge saw the President, and also addressed him the following strong and urgent letter:

Charlotte, N. C., April 23d, 1865.
To his Excellency the President:
Sir,—In obedience to your request I have the honor to submit my advice on the course you should take upon the memorandum, or basis of agreement, made on the 18th instant, by and between General J. E. Johnston, of the Confederate States Army, and General W. T. Sherman, of the United States Army, provided that paper should receive the approval of the Government of the United States.

The principal army of the Confederacy was recently lost in Virginia. Considerable bodies of troops not attached to that army have either dispersed or marched towards their homes, accompanied by many of their officers. Five days ago the effective force in infantry and artillery of General Johnston's army was but 14,770 men; and it continues to diminish. That officer thinks it wholly impossible for him to make any head against the overwhelming forces of the enemy. Our ports are closed, and the sources of foreign supply lost to us. The enemy occupy all or the greatest part of Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina, and move almost at will to the east of the Mississippi. They have recently taken Selma, Montgomery, Columbus, Macon, and other important towns, depriving us of large depots of supplies and of munitions of war. Of the small force still at command many are unarmed, and the Ordnance Department cannot furnish 5000 stand of small-arms. I do not think it would be possible to assemble, equip, and maintain an army of 30,000 men at any point east of the Mississippi. The contest, if continued after this paper is rejected, will be likely to lose entirely the dignity of regular warfare. Many of the States will make such terms as they may; in others separate and ineffective hostilities may be prosecuted; while the war, wherever waged, will probably degenerate into that irregular and secondary stage, out of which greater evils will flow to the South than to the enemy.

For these, and for other reasons which need not now be stated, I think we can no longer contend with a reasonable hope of success. It seems to me that the time has arrived when, in a large and clear view of the situation, prompt steps should be taken to put a stop to the war. The terms proposed are not wholly unsuited to the altered condition of affairs. The States are preserved, certain essential rights secured, and the army rescued from degradation.

It may be said that the argreement of the 18th instant contains certain [401] stipulations which you cannot perform. This is true, and it was well understood by General Sherman that only a part could be executed by the Confederate authorities. In any case grave responsibilities must be met and assumed. If the necessity for peace be conceded, corresponding action must be taken. The modes of negotiation which we deem regular, and would prefer, are impracticable. The situation is anomalous, and cannot be solved upon principles of theoretical exactitude. In my opinion you are the only person who can meet the present necessities.

I respectfully advise—

1st. That you execute, so far as you can, the second article of the agreement of the 18th instant.

2d. That you recommend to the several States the acceptance of those parts of the agreement upon which they alone can act.

3d. Having maintained with faithful and intrepid purpose the cause or the Confederate States while the means of organized resistance remained, that you return to the States and the people the trust which you are no longer able to defend.

Whatever course you pursue, opinions will be divided. Permit me to give mine. Should these or similar views accord with your own, I think the better judgment will be that you can have no higher title to the gratitude of your countrymen and the respect of mankind than will spring from the wisdom to see the path of duty at this time, and the courage to follow it, regardless alike of praise or blame.

Respectfully, and truly your friend,

John C. Breckinridge, Secretary of War.

Another telegram from General Johnston to the Secretary of War, following close upon this letter to the President, had, at last, the desired effect; and, on the 24th, from Charlotte, Mr. Davis wrote:

General J. E. Johnston, Greensboroa, N. C.:
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 as to 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 the United States forces to proceed with the arrangement.

Hardly had the foregoing communication been received by General Johnston, when two despatches were brought to him from General Sherman, the purport of which is clearly explained [402] in the following telegram to the Confederate Secretary of War:

Greensboroa, April 24th: 6.30 P. M.
Hon. J. C. Breckinridge, Secretary of War:
I have just received despatches from General Sherman informing me that instructions from Washington direct him to limit his negotiations to my command; demanding its surrender on the terms granted to General Lee, and notifying me of the termination of the truce in forty-eight hours from noon to-day. Have you any instructions? We had better disband this small force, to prevent devastation of country.

J. E. Johnston, General.

This news was disheartening in the extreme; and the stringent measures the Federal Government was now preparing to adopt were perhaps the result of the calamity that had befallen the South, no less than the North, in the assassination of President Lincoln. Throughout every State of the then dying Confederacy there was but one feeling—that of abhorrence of the crime, and outspoken regret for its commission. The idea that any Confederate, whether in the army or out of it, had, through a feeling of vengeance and with the approbation of the country, suggested, countenanced, or planned such an act of barbarism, could only be entertained by those who were ignorant of the history of that period, and of the characteristics of the Southern people. Certainly Mr. Lincoln's sad end can no more be laid to the account of the Confederacy, or of any of those who formed part of its government, than the lamentable death of the late President Garfield can be attributed to the Republican party and its leaders. The South knew that, had President Lincoln's life been spared, he would have ratified the treaty entered upon by the commanders of the two armies then in the field; for, as both General Sherman and Admiral Porter testify, ‘he wanted peace on almost any terms,’ and his greatest desire was ‘to get the men composing the Confederate armies back to their homes, at work on their farms and in their shops.’12 It was the overstrained, embittered zeal of the new Federal Administration—born of a double crime, murder and apostasy—that destroyed in its bud the work of peace and reunion, so ably and liberally prepared —to their honor be it said—by Generals Johnston and Sherman. [403]

Apparently, the Secretary of War did not understand the meaning of General Johnston's last despatch to him; or his views might have been altered by exterior pressure, for he was then at Charlotte, with Mr. Davis, who was still bent on organizing a cavalry force to escort him and his party to the Southwest.

General Breckinridge answered:

Charlotte, N. C., April 24th, 1865:11 P. M.
General J. E. Johnston, Greensboroa, N. C.:
Does not your suggestion about disbanding refer to the infantry and most of the artillery? If it be necessary to disband these, they might still save their small-arms and find their way to some appointed rendezvous. Can you not bring off the cavalry and all the men you can mount from the transportation and other animals, with some light field-pieces? Such a force could march away from Sherman, and be strong enough to encounter anything between us and the Southwest. If this course be possible, carry it out and telegraph your intended route.

John C. Breckinridge, Secretary of War.

This reached General Johnston on the 25th. His reply was prompt and energetic. It deserves attention and respect:

Greensboroa, April 25th: 10 A. M.
Hon. J. C. Breckinridge, Secretary of War:
Your despatch received. We have to save the people, save the blood of the army, and save the high civil functionaries. Your plan, I think, can only do the last.

We ought to prevent invasion, make terms for our troops, and give an escort of our best cavalry to the President, who ought to move without loss of a moment. Commanders believe the troops will not fight again. We think your plan impracticable. Major-General Wilson, U. S. A., has captured Macon, with Major-Generals Cobb and G. W. Smith, Brigadiers Mackall and Mercer, and the garrison. Federal papers announce capture of Mobile, with three thousand prisoners.

J. E. Johnston, General.

No answer was given to this. General Johnston received neither orders nor instructions from Mr. Davis after the latter's communication of the 24th of April. His memory serves him amiss if it suggests otherwise—unless General Breckinridge's telegram of the 25th to General Johnston can be considered as an answer from the President; but that, as must be evident to the reader, was not an answer to the foregoing despatch.

It was because nothing was heard from the President or the Secretary of War that, again, on the 25th, at 11.30 A. M., General Johnston telegraphed as follows: [404]

Hon. J. C. Breckinridge, Secretary of War:
‘I have proposed to General Sherman military negotiations in regard to this army.’

This was done after due consultation with General Beauregard, who thoroughly approved General Johnston's course, and thought it imperative that some positive and immediate step should be taken, to extricate the army and its commanders from the desperate position in which they were placed.

The same unaccountable silence was maintained on the part of what was still called the Government of the Confederate States. General Johnston and General Beauregard were forced to conclude that Mr. Davis was unwilling to assume any further responsibility, and wished to transfer its weight to their shoulders. They were not deterred by this consideration, however, and General Johnston, in harmony with General Beauregard, at 7 A. M., on the 26th, sent a third telegram to the Secretary of War, in these terms: ‘I am going to meet General Sherman at the same place.’

The meeting was held, and the following terms agreed upon by Generals Johnston and Sherman, without any difficulty whatever:

Terms of a military convention entered into this twenty-sixth (26th) day of April, 1865, at Bennett's House, near Durham's Station, N. C., between Joseph E. Johnston, commanding the Confederate army, and Major-General W. T. Sherman, commanding the United States army, in North Carolina.

1. All acts of war on the part of the troops under General Johnston's command to cease from this date.

2. All arms and public property to be deposited at Greensboroa, and delivered to an ordnance officer of the United States army.

Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate; one copy to be retained by the Commander of the troops, and the other to be given to an officer to be designated by General Sherman. Each officer and man to give his individual obligation, in writing, not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly released from this obligation.

4. The side-arms of officers and their private horses and baggage to be retained by them.

5. This being done, all the officers and men will be permitted to return to their homes: not to be disturbed by the United States authorities so long as they observe their obligation and the laws in force where they may reside.

J. E. Johnston, Genl. Comdg. Confed. States forces in N. C. W. T. Sherman, Maj.-Genl. Comdg. United States forces in N. C.


Additional terms were agreed upon the next day between General Johnston and General Schofield, who had been empowered to complete all necessary arrangements relative to the surrender. We ask attention to General Sherman's letter to that effect, in the Appendix.

The supplemental terms were as follows:

1. The field transportation to be loaned to the troops for their march to their homes, and for subsequent use in their industrial pursuits. Artillery horses may be used in field transportation, if necessary.

2. Each brigade or separate body to retain a number of arms equal to one-seventh of its effective strength, which, when the troops reach the capitals of their States, will be disposed of as the General commanding the Department may direct.

3. Private horses, and other private property, for both officers and men, to be retained by them.

4. The Commanding General of the Military Division of West Mississippi, Major-General Canby, will be requested to give transportation by water, from Mobile to New Orleans, to the troops from Arkansas and Texas.

5. The obligations of officers and soldiers to be signed by their immediate commanders.

6. Naval forces within the limits of General Johnston's command to be included in the terms of this convention.

J. E. Johnston, Genl. Comdg. Confed. States forces in N. C. J. M. Schofield, Maj.-Genl. Comdg. United States forces in N. C.

1 General Sherman's ‘Memoirs,’ vol. II., p. 334. Our addition differs from that of General Sherman, though made up from aggregates furnished by him. He finds 88,943—a difference of 2258. It is easy to perceive that the error is not ours.

2 General Sherman's ‘Memoirs.’ See his answer to General Johnston, vol. II., p. 347

3 Ibid., vol. II., p. 341.

4 ‘Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government,’ vol. II., p. 668.

5 Ibid., vol. II., p. 661.

6 Ibid., vol. II., p. 656

7 The telegram in our files has the word ‘prompt,’ as we have given it, instead of ‘proposed,’ as written in Mr. Davis's book. The meaning of the despatch is not altered by the use of either word.

8 ‘Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government,’ vol. II., p. 677.

9 For further and confirmatory details concerning this conference the reader is referred to the Appendix to this chapter, where will be found a letter from General Johnston to General Beauregard (with the latter's endorsement), dated Baltimore, Md., March 30th, 1868.

10 See Appendix for letters of Mr. Hendren, and endorsement on them by General Beauregard.

11 The dotted words were written in cipher.

12 General Sherman's ‘Memoirs,’ vol. II., p. 326. See also ‘Admiral Porter's Account of General Sherman's Interview with Mr. Lincoln,’ Ibid., pp. 328, 329.

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