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Chapter 36.

  • Lincoln's interviews with Campbell
  • -- Withdraws authority for meeting of Virginia legislature -- conference of Davis and Johnston at Greensboro -- Johnston asks for an armistice -- meeting of Sherman and Johnston -- their agreement -- rejected at Washington -- surrender of Johnston -- surrender of other Confederate forces -- end of the rebel Navy -- capture of Jefferson Davis -- surrender of E. Kirby Smith -- number of Confederates surrendered and exchanged -- reduction of Federal army to a peace footing -- grand review of the army
    While in Richmond, Mr. Lincoln had two interviews with John A. Campbell, rebel Secretary of War, who had not accompanied the other fleeing officials, preferring instead to submit to Federal authority. Mr. Campbell had been one of the commissioners at the Hampton Roads conference, and Mr. Lincoln now gave him a written memorandum repeating in substance the terms he had then offered the Confederates. On Campbell's suggestion that the Virginia legislature, if allowed to come together, would at once repeal its ordinance of secession and withdraw all Virginia troops from the field, he also gave permission for its members to assemble for that purpose. But this, being distorted into authority to sit in judgment on the political consequences of the war, was soon withdrawn.

    Jefferson Davis and his cabinet proceeded to Danville, where, two days after his arrival, the rebel President made still another effort to fire the Southern heart, [520] announcing, “We have now entered upon a new phase of the struggle. Relieved from the necessity of guarding particular points, our army will be free to move from point to point to strike the enemy in detail far from his base. Let us but will it and we are free” ; and declaring in sonorous periods his purpose never to abandon one foot of ground to the invader.

    The ink was hardly dry on the document when news came of the surrender of Lee's army, and that the Federal cavalry was pushing southward west of Danville. So the Confederate government again hastily packed its archives and moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, where its headquarters were prudently kept on the train at the depot. Here Mr. Davis sent for Generals Johnston and Beauregard, and a conference took place between them and the members of the fleeing government — a conference not unmixed with embarrassment, since Mr. Davis still “willed” the success of the Confederacy too strongly to see the true hopelessness of the situation, while the generals and most of his cabinet were agreed that their cause was lost. The council of war over, General Johnston returned to his army to begin negotiations with Sherman; and on the following day, April 14, Davis and his party left Greensboro to continue their journey southward.

    Sherman had returned to Goldsboro from his visit to City Point, and set himself at once to the reorganization of his army and the replenishment of his stores. He still thought there was a hard campaign with desperate fighting ahead of him. Even on April 6, when he received news of the fall of Richmond and the flight of Lee and the Confederate government, he was unable to understand the full extent of the national triumph. He admired Grant so far as a man might, short of idolatry, yet the long habit of respect for Lee led him to think he would somehow get away and join [521] Johnston in his front with at least a portion of the Army of Northern Virginia. He had already begun his march upon Johnston when he learned of Lee's surrender at Appomattox.

    Definitely relieved from apprehension of a junction of the two Confederate armies, he now had no fear except of a flight and dispersal of Johnston's forces into guerrilla bands. If they ran away, he felt he could not catch them; the country was too open. They could scatter and meet again, and so continue a partizan warfare indefinitely. He could not be expected, to know that this resolute enemy was sick to the heart of war, and that the desire for more fighting survived only in a group of fugitive politicians flying through the pine forests of the Carolinas from a danger which did not exist.

    Entering Raleigh on the morning of the thirteenth, he turned his heads of column southwest, hoping to cut off Johnston's southward march, but made no great haste, thinking Johnston's cavalry superior to his own, and desiring Sheridan to join him before he pushed the Confederates to extremities. While here, however, he received a communication from General Johnston, dated the thirteenth, proposing an armistice to enable the. National and Confederate governments to negotiate on equal terms. It had been dictated by Jefferson Davis during the conference at Greensboro, written down by S. R. Mallory, and merely signed by Johnston, and was inadmissible and even offensive in its terms; but Sherman, anxious for peace, and himself incapable of discourtesy to a brave enemy, took no notice of its language, and answered so cordially that the Confederates were probably encouraged to ask for better conditions of surrender than they had expected to receive.

    The two great antagonists met on April 17, when [522] Sherman offered Johnston the same terms that had been accorded Lee, and also communicated the news he had that morning received of the murder of Mr. Lincoln. The Confederate general expressed his unfeigned sorrow at this calamity, which smote the South, he said, as deeply as the North; and in this mood of sympathy the discussion began. Johnston asserted that he would not be justified in such a capitulation as Sherman proposed, but suggested that together they might arrange the terms of a permanent peace. This idea pleased Sherman, to whom the prospect of ending the war without shedding another drop of blood was so tempting that he did not sufficiently consider the limits of his authority in the matter. It can be said, moreover, in extenuation of his course, that President Lincoln's despatch to Grant of March 3, which expressly forbade Grant to “decide, discuss, or to confer upon any political question,” had never been communicated to Sherman; while the very liberality of Grant's terms led him to believe that he was acting in accordance with the views of the administration.

    But the wisdom of Lincoln's peremptory order was completely vindicated. With the best intentions in the world, Sherman, beginning very properly by offering his antagonist the same terms accorded Lee, ended, after two days negotiation, by making a treaty of peace with the Confederate States, including a preliminary armistice, the disbandment of the Confederate armies, recognition by the United States Executive of the several State governments, reestablishment of the Federal courts, and a general amnesty. “Not being fully empowered by our respective principals to fulfil these terms,” the agreement truthfully concluded, “we individually and officially pledge ourselves to promptly obtain the necessary authority.” [523]

    The rebel President, with unnecessary formality, required a report from General Breckinridge, his Secretary of War, on the desirability of ratifying this most favorable convention. Scarcely had he given it his indorsement when news came that it had been disapproved at Washington, and that Sherman had been directed to continue his military operations; and the peripatetic government once more took up its southward flight.

    The moment General Grant read the agreement he saw it was entirely inadmissible. The new President called his cabinet together, and Mr. Lincoln's instructions of March 3 to Grant were repeated to Sherman-somewhat tardily, it must be confessed — as his rule of action. All this was a matter of course, and General Sherman could not properly, and perhaps would not, have objected to it. But the calm spirit of Lincoln was now absent from the councils of the government; and it was not in Andrew Johnson and Mr. Stanton to pass over a mistake like this, even in the case of one of the most illustrious captains of the age. They ordered Grant to proceed at once to Sherman's headquarters, and to direct operations against the enemy; and, what was worse, Mr. Stanton printed in the newspapers the reasons of the government for disapproving the agreement, in terms of sharpest censure of General Sherman. This, when it came to his notice some weeks later, filled him with hot indignation, and, coupled with some orders Halleck, who had been made commander of the armies of the Potomac and the James, issued to Meade, to disregard Sherman's truce and push forward against Johnston, roused him to open defiance of the authorities he thought were persecuting him, and made him declare, in a report to Grant, that he would have maintained his truce at any cost of life. Halleck's order, [524] however, had been nullified by Johnston's surrender, and Grant, suggesting that this outburst was uncalled for, offered Sherman the opportunity to correct the statement. This he refused, insisting that his record stand as written, although avowing his readiness to obey all future orders of Grant and the President.

    So far as Johnston was concerned, the war was indeed over. He was unable longer to hold his men together. Eight thousand of them left their camps and went home in the week of the truce, many riding away on the artillery horses and train mules. On notice of Federal disapproval of his negotiations with Sherman, he disregarded Jefferson Davis's instructions to disband the infantry and try to escape with the cavalry and light guns, and answered Sherman's summons by inviting another conference, at which, on April 26, he surrendered all the forces in his command on the same terms granted Lee at Appomattox; Sherman supplying, as did Grant, rations for the beaten army. Thirty-seven thousand men and officers were paroled in North Carolina-exclusive, of course, of the thousands who had slipped away to their homes during the suspension of hostilities.

    After Appomattox the rebellion fell to pieces all at once. Lee surrendered less than one sixth of the Confederates in arms on April 9. The armies that still remained, though inconsiderable when compared with the mighty host under the national colors, were yet infinitely larger than any Washington ever commanded, and capable of strenuous resistance and of incalculable mischief. But the march of Sherman from Atlanta to the sea, and his northward progress through the Carolinas, had predisposed the great interior region to make an end of strife: a tendency which was greatly promoted by the masterly raid of General J. H. Wilson's [525] cavalry through Alabama, and his defeat of Forrest at Selma. An officer of Taylor's staff came to Canby's headquarters on April 19 to make arrangements for the surrender of all the Confederate forces east of the Mississippi not already paroled by Sherman and Wilson, embracing some forty-two thousand men. The terms were agreed upon and signed on May 4, at the village of Citronelle in Alabama. At the same time and place the Confederate Commodore Farrand surrendered to Rear-Admiral Thatcher all the naval forces of the Confederacy in the neighborhood of Mobile-a dozen vessels and some hundreds of officers.

    The rebel navy had practically ceased to exist some months before. The splendid fight in Mobile Bay on August 5, 1864, between Farragut's fleet and the rebel ram Tennessee, with her three attendant gunboats, and Cushing's daring destruction of the powerful Albemarle in Albemarle Sound on October 27, marked its end in Confederate waters. The duel between the Kearsarge and the Alabama off Cherbourg had already taken place; a few more encounters, at or near foreign ports, furnished occasion for personal bravery and subsequent lively diplomatic correspondence; and rebel vessels, fitted out under the unduly lenient “neutrality” of France and England, continued for a time to work havoc with American shipping in various parts of the world. But these two Union successes, and the final capture of Fort Fisher and of Wilmington early in 1865, which closed the last haven for daring blockaderunners, practically silenced the Confederate navy.

    General E. Kirby Smith commanded all the insurgent forces west of the Mississippi. On him the desperate hopes of Mr. Davis and his flying cabinet were fixed, after the successive surrenders of Lee and Johnston had left them no prospect in the east. They imagined [526] they could move westward, gathering up stragglers as they fled, and, crossing the river, join Smith's forces, and there continue the war. But after a time even this hope failed them. Their escort melted away; members of the cabinet dropped off on various pretexts, and Mr. Davis, abandoning the attempt to reach the Mississippi River, turned again toward the east in an effort to gain the Florida coast and escape by means of a sailing vessel to Texas.

    The two expeditions sent in pursuit of him by General Wilson did not allow this consummation, which the government at Washington might possibly have viewed with equanimity. His camp near Irwinville, Georgia, was surrounded by Lieutenant-Colonel Pritchard's command at dawn on May 10, and he was captured as he was about to mount horse with a few companions and ride for the coast, leaving his family to follow more slowly. The tradition that he was captured in disguise, having donned female dress in a last desperate attempt to escape, has only this foundation, that Mrs. Davis threw a cloak over her husband's shoulders, and a shawl over his head, on the approach of the Federal soldiers. He was taken to Fortress Monroe, and there kept in confinement for about two years; was arraigned before the United States Circuit Court for the District of Virginia for the crime of treason, and released on bail; and was finally restored to all the duties and privileges of citizenship, except the right to hold office, by President Johnson's proclamation of amnesty of December 25, 1868.

    General E. Kirby Smith, on whom Davis's last hopes of success had centered, kept up so threatening an attitude that Sherman was sent from Washington to bring him to reason. But he did not long hold his position of solitary defiance. One more needless [527] skirmish took place near Brazos, Texas, and then Smith followed the example of Taylor and surrendered his entire force, some eighteen thousand, to General Canby, on May 26. One hundred and seventy-five thousand men in all were surrendered by the different Confederate commanders, and there were, in addition to these, about ninety-nine thousand prisoners in national custody during the year. One third of these were exchanged, and two thirds released. This was done as rapidly as possible by successive orders of the War Department, beginning on May 9 and continuing through the summer.

    The first object of the government was to stop the waste of war. Recruiting ceased immediately after Lee's surrender, and measures were taken to reduce as promptly as possible the vast military establishment. Every chief of bureau was ordered, on April 28, to proceed at once to the reduction of expenses in his department to a peace footing; and this before Taylor or Smith had surrendered, and while Jefferson Davis was still at large. The army of a million men was brought down, with incredible ease and celerity, to one of twenty-five thousand.

    Before the great army melted away into the greater body of citizens, the soldiers enjoyed one final triumph, a march through the capital, undisturbed by death or danger, under the eyes of their highest commanders, military and civilian, and the representatives of the people whose nationality they had saved. Those who witnessed this solemn yet joyous pageant will never forget it, and will pray that their children may never witness anything like it. For two days this formidable host marched the long stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue, starting from the shadow of the dome of the Capitol, and filling that wide thoroughfare to Georgetown with [528] a serried mass, moving with the easy yet rapid pace of veterans in cadence step. As a mere spectacle this march of the mightiest host the continent has ever seen gathered together was grand and imposing; but it was not as a spectacle alone that it affected the beholder most deeply. It was not a mere holiday parade; it was an army of citizens on-their way home after a long and terrible war. Their clothes were worn and pierced with bullets; their banners had been torn with shot and shell, and lashed in the winds of a thousand battles; the very drums and fifes had called out the troops to numberless night alarms, and sounded the onset on historic fields. The whole country claimed these heroes as a part of themselves. And now, done with fighting, they were going joyously and peaceably to their homes, to take up again the tasks they had willingly laid down in the hour of their country's peril.

    The world had many lessons to learn from this great conflict, which liberated a subject people and changed the tactics of modern warfare; but the greatest lesson it taught the nations of waiting Europe was the conservative power of democracy — that a million men, flushed with victory, and with arms in their hands, could be trusted to disband the moment the need for their services was over, and take up again the soberer labors of peace.

    Friends loaded these veterans with flowers as they swung down the Avenue, both men and officers, until some were fairly hidden under their fragrant burden. There was laughter and applause; grotesque figures were not absent as Sherman's legions passed, with their “bummers” and their regimental pets; but with all the shouting and the laughter and the joy of this unprecedented ceremony, there was one sad and dominant thought which could not be driven from the minds of [529] those who saw it — that of the men who were absent, and who had, nevertheless, richly earned the right to be there. The soldiers in their shrunken companies were conscious of the ever-present memories of the brave comrades who had fallen by the way; and in the whole army there was the passionate and unavailing regret for their wise, gentle, and powerful friend, Abraham Lincoln, gone forever from the house by the Avenue, who had called the great host into being, directed the course of the nation during the four years they had been fighting for its preservation, and for whom, more than for any other, this crowning peaceful pageant would have been fraught with deep and happy meaning.

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