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Chapter 31

  • After the surrender
  • -- Grant's final conference with Lee -- the dawn of peace -- Grant Avoids a visit to Richmond -- his respect for Religion -- Grant's enthusiastic reception at Washington -- his last interview with Lincoln -- John Wilkes Booth Shadows Grant -- Grant's interrupted Journey -- Lincoln's assassination

Before parting Lee asked Grant to notify Meade of the surrender, fearing that fighting might break out on that front, and lives be uselessly lost. This request was complied with, and two Union officers were sent through the enemy's lines as the shortest route to Meade, some of Lee's officers accompanying them to prevent their being interfered with. A little before four o'clock General Lee shook hands with General Grant, bowed to the other officers, and with Colonel Marshall left the room. One after another we followed, and passed out to the porch. Lee signaled to his orderly to bring up his horse, and while the animal was being bridled the general stood on the lowest step, and gazed sadly in the direction of the valley beyond, where his army lay-now an army of prisoners. He thrice smote the palm of his left hand slowly with his right fist in an absent sort of way, seemed not to see the group of Union officers in the yard, who rose respectfully at his approach, and appeared unaware of everything about [485] [486] him. All appreciated the sadness that overwhelmed him, and he had the personal sympathy of every one who beheld him at this supreme moment of trial. The approach of his horse seemed to recall him from his reverie, and he at once mounted. General Grant now stepped down from the porch, moving toward him, and saluted him by raising his hat. He was followed in this act of courtesy by all our officers present. Lee raised his hat respectfully, and rode off at a slow trot to break the sad news to the brave fellows whom he had so long commanded.

General Grant and his staff then started for the headquarters camp, which, in the mean time, had been pitched near by. The news of the surrender had reached the Union lines, and the firing of salutes began at several points; but the general sent an order at once to have them stopped, using these words: “The war is over; the rebels are our countrymen again; and the best sign of rejoicing after the victory will be to abstain from all demonstrations in the field.” This was in keeping with his order issued after the surrender of Vicksburg: “The paroled prisoners will be sent out of here to-morrow. ... Instruct the commanders to be orderly and quiet as these prisoners pass, and to make no offensive remarks.”

There were present in the room in which the surrender occurred, besides Sheridan, Ord, Merritt, Custer, and the officers of Grant's staff, a number of other officers and one or two citizens, who entered the room at different times during the interview.

Mr. McLean had been charging about in a manner which indicated that the excitement was shaking his nervous system to its center; but his real trials did not begin until the departure of the chief actors in the surrender. Then relic-hunters charged down upon the manor-house, and began to bargain for the numerous [487] pieces of furniture. Sheridan paid the proprietor twenty dollars in gold for the table on which General Grant wrote the terms of surrender, for the purpose of presenting it to Mrs. Custer, and handed it over to her dashing husband, who galloped off to camp bearing it upon his shoulder. Ord paid forty dollars for the table at which Lee sat, and afterward presented it to Mrs. Grant, who modestly declined it, and insisted that Mrs. Ord should become its possessor. General Sharpe paid ten dollars for the pair of brass candlesticks; Colonel Sheridan, the general's brother, secured the stone ink-stand; and General Capehart the chair in which Grant sat, which he gave not long before his death to Captain Wilmon W. Blackmar of Boston. Captain O'Farrell of Hartford became the possessor of the chair in which Lee sat. A child's doll was found in the room, which the younger officers tossed from one to the other, and called the “silent witness.” This toy was taken possession of by Colonel Moore of Sheridan's staff, and is now owned by his son. Bargains were at once struck for nearly all the articles in the room; and it is even said that some mementos were carried off for which no coin of the republic was ever exchanged. The sofa remains in possession of Mrs. Spillman, Mr. McLean's daughter, who now lives in Camden, West Virginia. Colonel Marshall presented the boxwood ink-stand to Mr. Blanchard of Baltimore. Of the three impressions of the terms of surrender made in General Grant's manifold writer, the first and third are believed to have been accidentally destroyed. No trace of them has since been discovered; the second is in the possession of the New York Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion, which purchased it recently from the widow of General Parker. The headquarters flag which had been used throughout the entire Virginia campaign General Grant [488] presented to me. With his assent, I gave a portion of it to Colonel Babcock.

It is a singular historical coincidence that McLean's former home was upon a Virginia farm near the battleground of the first Bull Run, and his house was used for a time as the headquarters of General Beauregard. When it was found that this fight was so popular that it was given an encore, and a second battle of Bull Run was fought the next year on the same ground, Mr. McLean became convinced that the place was altogether lacking in repose, and to avoid the active theater of war he removed to the quiet village of Appomattox, only to find himself again surrounded by contending armies. Thus the first and last scenes of the war drama in Virginia were enacted upon his property.

Before General Grant had proceeded far toward camp he was reminded that he had not yet announced the important event to the government. He dismounted by the roadside, sat down on a large stone, and called for pencil and paper. Colonel Badeau handed his order-book to the general, who wrote on one of the leaves the following message, a copy of which was sent to the nearest telegraph-station. It was dated 4:30 P. M.:

Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War, Washington.
General Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia this afternoon on terms proposed by myself. The accompanying additional correspondence will show the conditions fully.

U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-general.

Upon reaching camp he seated himself in front of his tent, notwithstanding the slight shower which was then falling, and we all gathered about him, curious to hear what his first comments would be upon the crowning event of his life. But our expectations were doomed [489] to disappointment, for he appeared to have already dismissed the whole subject from his mind, and turning to the chief quartermaster, his first words were: “Ingalls, do you remember that old white mule that So-and-so used to ride when we were in the city of Mexico?” “Why, perfectly,” said Ingalls, who was just then in a mood to remember the exact number of hairs in the mule's tail if it would have helped to make matters agreeable. And then the general-in-chief went on to recall the antics played by that animal during an excursion to Popocatepetl. It was not until after supper that he said much about the surrender, when he spoke freely of his entire belief that the rest of the Confederate commanders would follow Lee's example, and that we should have but little more fighting, even of a partizan nature. He then surprised us by announcing his intention of starting for Washington early the next morning. We were disappointed at this, for we wished to see something of the opposing army, now that it had become civil enough, for the first time in its existence, to let us get close up to it, and to meet some of the officers who had been acquaintances in former years. The general, however, had no desire to look at the conquered,--indeed, he had little curiosity in his nature, --and he was anxious above all things to begin the reduction of the military establishment, and diminish the enormous expense attending it, which at this time amounted to nearly four millions of dollars a day. When he considered, however, that the railroad was being rapidly put in condition as far as Burkeville, and that he would lose no time by waiting till noon of the next day, he made up his mind to delay his departure.

About nine o'clock on the morning of April 10, Grant with his staff rode out toward the enemy's lines; but it was found, upon attempting to pass through, that the [490] force of habit is hard to overcome, and that the practice which had so long been inculcated in Lee's army of keeping Grant out of its lines was not to be overturned in a day, and he was politely requested at the picket-lines to wait till a message could be sent to headquarters asking for instructions. As soon as Lee heard that his distinguished opponent was approaching, he was prompt to correct the misunderstanding at the picket-line, and rode out at a gallop to receive him. They met on a knoll that overlooked the lines of the two armies, and saluted respectfully by each raising his hat. The officers present gave a similar salute, and then withdrew out of ear-shot, and grouped themselves about the two chieftains in a semicircle. General Grant repeated to us that evening the substance of the conversation, which was as follows: Grant began by expressing a hope that the war would soon be over; and Lee replied by stating that he had for some time been anxious to stop the further effusion of blood, and he trusted that everything would now be done to restore harmony and conciliate the people of the South. He said the emancipation of the negroes would be no hindrance to the restoring of relations between the two sections of the country, as it would probably not be the desire of the majority of the Southern people to restore slavery then, even if the question were left open to them. He could not tell what the other armies would do, or what course Mr. Davis would now take; but he believed that it would be best for the other armies to follow his example, as nothing could be gained by further resistance in the field. Finding that he entertained these sentiments, General Grant told him that no one's influence in the South was so great as his, and suggested to him that he should advise the surrender of the remaining armies, and thus exert his influence in [491] favor of immediate peace. Lee said he could not take such a course without first consulting President Davis. Grant then proposed to Lee that he should do so, and urge the hastening of a result which was admitted to be inevitable. Lee, however, in this instance was averse to stepping beyond his duties as a soldier, and said the authorities would doubtless soon arrive at the same conclusion without his interference. There was a statement put forth that Grant asked Lee to see Mr. Lincoln and talk with him as to the terms of reconstruction, but this was erroneous. I asked General Grant about it when he was on his death-bed, and his recollection was distinct that he had made no such suggestion. I am of opinion that the mistake arose from hearing that Lee had been requested to go and see the “President” regarding peace, and thinking that this expression referred to Mr. Lincoln, whereas it referred to Mr. Davis. After the conversation had lasted a little more than half an hour, and Lee had requested that instructions be given to the officers left in charge to carry out the details of the surrender, that there might be no misunderstanding as to the form of paroles, the manner of turning over the property, etc., the conference ended. The two commanders lifted their hats and bade each other goodby. Lee rode back to his camp to take a final farewell of his army, and Grant returned to McLean's house, where he sat on the porch until it was time to take his final departure. It will be observed that Grant at no time actually entered the enemy's lines.

Ingalls, Sheridan, and Williams had asked permission to visit the enemy's lines and renew their acquaintance with some old friends, classmates, and former comrades in arms who were serving in Lee's army. They now returned, bringing with them General Cadmus M. Wilcox, who had been one of General Grant's groomsmen; [492] Longstreet, who had also been at his wedding; Heth, who had been a subaltern with him in Mexico, besides Gordon, Pickett, and a number of others. They all stepped up to pay their respects to General Grant, who received them very cordially, and talked frankly and pleasantly with them until it was time to leave. They manifested a deep appreciation of the terms which had been accorded to them in the articles of surrender, but several of them expressed some apprehension as to the civil processes which might ensue, and the measures which might be taken by the government as to confiscation of property and trial for treason.

The hour of noon had now arrived, and General Grant, after shaking hands with all present who were not to accompany him, mounted his horse, and started with his staff for Burkeville. Lee set out for Richmond, and it was felt by all that peace had at last dawned upon the land. The charges were now withdrawn from the guns, the camp-fires were left to smolder in their ashes, the horses were detached from the cannon to be hitched to the plow, and the Army of the Union and the Army of Northern Virginia turned their backs upon each other for the first time in four long, bloody years.

In this campaign, from March 29 to April 9, the Union loss was 1316 killed, 7750 wounded, and 1714 prisoners--a total of 10,780. The enemy lost about 1200 killed, 6000 wounded, and 75,000 prisoners, including the captures at Appomattox.

The repairers of the railroad had thought more of haste than of solidity of construction, and the special train bearing the general-in-chief from Burkeville to City Point ran off the track three times. These mishaps caused much delay, and instead of reaching City Point that evening, he did not arrive until daylight the next morning, April 11. A telegram had been sent to Mrs. [493] Grant, who had remained aboard the headquarters steamboat, telling her that we should get there in time for dinner, and she had prepared the best meal which the boat's larder could afford to help to celebrate the victory. She and Mrs. Rawlins and Mrs. Morgan, who were with her, whiled away the long and anxious hours of the night by playing the piano, singing, and discussing the victory; but just before daylight the desire for sleep overcame them, and they lay down to take a nap. Soon after our tired and hungry party arrived. The general went hurriedly aboard the boat, and ran at once up the stairs to Mrs. Grant's state-room. She was somewhat chagrined that she had not remained up to receive her husband, now more than ever her “Victor” ; but she had merely thrown herself upon the berth without undressing, and soon joined us all in the cabin, and extended to us enthusiastic greetings and congratulations. The belated dinner now served in good stead as a breakfast for our famished party.

The general was asked whether he was going to run up to Richmond on the steamer, and take a look at the captured city, before starting for Washington. He replied: “No; I think it would be as well not to go. I could do no good there, and my visit might lead to demonstrations which would only wound the feelings of the residents, and we ought not to do anything at such a time which would add to their sorrow” ; and then added, “But if any of you have a curiosity to see the city, I will wait till you can take a trip there and back, for I cannot well leave here for Washington anyhow till to-morrow.”

Several of us put our horses aboard a boat, and started up the James. As a portion of the river was supposed to be planted with torpedoes, we sat close to the stern, believing that in case of accident the bow would receive [494] the main shock of the explosion. We reached the lower wharf of Richmond in safety, put our horses ashore, and rode about for an hour, looking at the city upon which we had laid covetous eyes for so many months. The evacuation had been accompanied by many acts of destruction, and the fire which our troops found blazing when they entered had left a third of the place smoldering in ashes. The white population were keeping closely to their houses, while the blacks were running wildly about the streets in every direction.

Upon our return that evening to City Point, we found aboard the headquarters boat a clergyman, a member of the Christian Commission, who was personally acquainted with the general. He had called to see him to tender his congratulations, and during their conversation made the remark: “I have observed, General Grant, that a great many battles in our war have been fought on Sunday. Shiloh occurred on that day, the surrender of Donelson, Chancellorsville, the capture of Petersburg, the surrender at Appomattox, and, I think, some other important military events. How has this happened?” “It is quite true,” replied the general. “Of course it was not intentional, and I think that sometimes, perhaps, it has been the result of the very efforts which have been made to avoid it. You see, a commander, when he can control his own movements, usually intends to start out early in the week so as not to bring on an engagement on Sunday; but delays occur often at the last moment, and it may be the middle of the week before he gets his troops in motion. Then more time is spent than anticipated in maneuvering for position, and when the fighting actually begins it is the end of the week, and the battle, particularly if it continues a couple of days, runs into Sunday.” “It is unfortunate,” remarked the clergyman. “Yes, very [495] unfortunate,” observed the general. “Every effort should be made to respect the Sabbath day, and it is very gratifying to know that it is observed so generally throughout our country.” It was always noticeable that he had a strict regard for the Sabbath, and this feeling continued through life. He never played a game of any kind on that day, nor wrote any official correspondence if he could help it. He had been brought up a Methodist, and regularly attended worship in the Methodist Episcopal Church, but he was entirely non-sectarian in his feelings. He had an intimate acquaintance among clergymen, and counted many of them among his closest friends. He rarely, if ever, spoke about his own religious convictions. It was one of those subjects not to be discussed lightly, and was so purely personal that he naturally shrank from dwelling upon it, for he always avoided talking upon any subject which was personal to himself. There was such a total lack of egotism in his nature that he could not see how anything touching his own personality could be of interest to others. He was imbued with a deep reverence, however, for all subjects of a religious nature, and nothing was more offensive to him than an attempt to make light of serious matters, or to show a disrespect for sacred things. His correspondence makes mention of his recognition of an overruling Providence in all the affairs of this world; and in his speech to Mr. Lincoln accepting the commission of lieutenant-general he closed with the words: “I feel the full weight of the responsibilities now devolving on me, and I know that if they are met it will be due to those armies, and, above all, to the favor of that Providence which leads both nations and men.” He was always a liberal contributor to church work, and in fact to every good cause. His fault was that he was not sufficiently discriminating. [496] Every mail brought begging letters, and he gave away sums out of all proportion to his means. When pay-day came, it took all the persuasion of those about him to prevent him from parting in this way with the greater part of his pay, his only source of revenue.

Preparations were made to break up headquarters, and the next afternoon the party started by steamer for Washington, reached there the morning of the 13th, and took up their quarters at Willard's Hotel. It soon became noised about that the conqueror of the rebellion had arrived in the city, and dense crowds thronged the streets upon which the hotel fronted. During the forenoon the general started for the War Department. His appearance in the street was a signal for an improvised reception, in which shouts of welcome rent the air, and the populace joined in a demonstration which was thrilling in its earnestness. He had the greatest difficulty in making his way over even the short distance between the hotel and the department. At one time it was thought he would have to take to a carriage as a means of refuge, but by the interposition of the police he finally reached his destination.

That afternoon the Secretary of War published an order stating that, “after mature consideration and consultation with the lieutenant-general,” it was decided to stop all drafting and recruiting, curtail the purchases of supplies, reduce the number of officers, and remove restrictions on commerce as far as consistent with public safety. This was a sort of public declaration of peace, and the city gave itself over to rejoicing. Bands were everywhere heard playing triumphant strains, and crowds traversed the streets, shouting approval and singing patriotic airs. The general was the hero of the hour and the idol of the people; his name was on every lip; congratulations poured in upon him, and blessings were heaped upon him by all. [497]

General Grant visited the President, and had a most pleasant interview with him. The next day (Friday) being a cabinet day, he was invited to meet the cabinet officers at their meeting in the forenoon. He went to the White House, receiving the cordial congratulations of all present, and discussed with them the further measures which should be taken for bringing hostilities to a speedy close. In this interview Mr. Lincoln gave a singular manifestation of the effect produced upon him by dreams. When General Grant expressed some anxiety regarding the delay in getting news from Sherman, the President assured him that favorable news would soon be received, because he had had the night before his usual dream which always preceded favorable tidings, the same dream which he had had the night before Antietam, Murfreesboro, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg. He seemed to be aboard a curious-looking vessel moving rapidly toward a dark and indefinite shore. This time, alas! the dream was not to be the precursor of good news.

The President and Mrs. Lincoln invited the general and Mrs. Grant to go to Ford's Theater and occupy a box with them to see “Our American Cousin.” The general said he would be very sorry to have to decline, but that Mrs. Grant and he had made arrangements to go to Burlington, New Jersey, to see their children, and he feared it would be a great disappointment to his wife to delay the trip. The President remarked that the people would be so delighted to see the general that he ought to stay and attend the play on that account. The general, however, had been so completely besieged by the people since his arrival, and was so constantly the subject of outbursts of enthusiasm, that it had become a little embarrassing to him, and the mention of a demonstration in his honor at the theater did not appeal to him as an argument in favor of going. A note was [498] now brought to him from Mrs. Grant expressing increased anxiety to start for Burlington on the four o'clock train, and he told the President that he must decide definitely not to remain for the play. It was probably this declination which saved the general from assassination, as it was learned afterward that he had been marked for a victim. It was after two o'clock when he shook Mr. Lincoln's hand and said good-by to him, little thinking that it would be an eternal farewell, and that an appalling tragedy was soon to separate them forever. Their final leave-taking was only thirteen months after their first meeting, but during that time their names had been associated with enough momentous events to fill whole volumes of a nation's history.

The general went at once to his rooms at the hotel. As soon as he entered Mrs. Grant said to him: “When I went to my lunch to-day, a man with a wild look followed me into the dining-room, took a seat nearly opposite to me at the table, stared at me continually, and seemed to be listening to my conversation.” The general replied: “Oh, I suppose he did so merely from curiosity.” In fact, the general by this time had become so accustomed to having people stare at him and the members of his family that such acts had ceased to attract his attention. About half-past 3 o'clock the wife of General Rucker called with her carriage to take the party to the Baltimore and Ohio railroad-station. It was a two-seated top-carriage. Mrs. Grant sat with Mrs. Rucker on the back seat. The general, with true republican simplicity, sat on the front seat with the driver. Before they had gone far along Pennsylvania Avenue, a horseman who was riding in the same direction passed them, and as he did so peered into the carriage. When Mrs. Grant caught sight of his face she remarked to the general: “That is the same man [499] who sat down at the lunch-table near me. I don't like his looks.” Before they reached the station the horseman turned and rode back toward them, and again gazed at them intently. This time he attracted the attention of the general, who regarded the man's movements as singular, but made light of the matter so as to allay Mrs. Grant's apprehensions.

On their arrival at the station, they were conducted to the private car of Mr. Garrett, then president of the Baltimore and Ohio railway company. Before the train reached Baltimore a man appeared on the front platform of the car, and tried to get in; but the conductor had locked the door so that the general would not be troubled with visitors, and the man did not succeed in entering. The general and Mrs. Grant drove across Philadelphia about midnight from the Broad street and Washington Avenue station to the Walnut street wharf on the Delaware River, for the purpose of crossing the ferry and then taking the cars to Burlington. As the general had been detained so long at the White House that he was not able to get luncheon before starting, and as there was an additional ride in prospect, a stop was made at Bloodgood's Hotel, near the ferry, for the purpose of getting supper. The general had just taken his seat with Mrs. Grant at the table in the supper-room when a telegram was brought in and handed to him. His whereabouts was known to the telegraph people from the fact that he had sent a message to Bloodgood's ordering the supper in advance. The general read the despatch, dropped his head, and sat in perfect silence. Then came another, and still another despatch, but not a word was spoken. Mrs. Grant now broke the silence by saying: “Ulyss, what do the telegrams say? Do they bring any bad news?” “I will read them to you,” the general replied in a voice which betrayed his emotion; [500] “but first prepare yourself for the most painful and startling news that could be received, and control your feelings so as not to betray the nature of the despatches to the servants.” He then read to her the telegrams conveying the appalling announcement that Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Seward, and probably the Vice-President, Mr. Johnson, had been assassinated, and warning the general to look out for his own safety. A special train was at once ordered to take him back to Washington, but finding that he could take Mrs. Grant to Burlington (less than an hour's ride), and return to Philadelphia nearly as soon as his train could be got ready, he continued on, took her to her destination, returned to Philadelphia, and was in Washington the next morning.

It was found that the President had been shot and killed at Ford's Theater by John Wilkes Booth; that Mr. Seward had received severe but not fatal injuries at the hands of Payne, who attempted his assassination; but that no attack had been made on the Vice-President. When the likenesses of Booth appeared, they resembled so closely the mysterious man who had followed the general and Mrs. Grant on their way to the railroad station in Washington, that there remained no doubt that he had intended to be the President's assassin, and was bent upon ascertaining the movements of the general-in-chief. An anonymous letter was afterward received by the general saying that the writer had been designated by the conspirators to assassinate him, and had been ordered by Booth to board the train and commit the deed there; that he had attempted to enter the special car for this purpose, but that it was locked, and he was thus baffled; and that he thanked God that this circumstance had been the means of preventing him from staining his hands with the blood of so great and good a man. [501]

Washington, as well as the whole country, was plunged in an agony of grief, and the excitement knew no bounds. Stanton's grief was uncontrollable, and at the mention of Mr. Lincoln's name he would break down and weep bitterly. General Grant and the Secretary of War busied themselves day and night in pushing a relentless pursuit of the conspirators, who were caught, and were brought to trial before a military commission, except Booth, who was shot in an attempt to capture him. John H. Surratt, who escaped from the country, was captured and tried years later, the jury disagreeing as to his guilt.

I was appointed a member of the court which was to try the prisoners. The defense, however, raised the objection that as I was a member of General Grant's military family, and as it was claimed that he was one of the high officials who was an intended victim of the assassins, I was disqualified from sitting in judgment upon them. The court very properly sustained the objection, and I was relieved, and another officer was substituted. However, I sat one day at the trial, which was interesting from the fact that it afforded an opportunity of seeing the assassins and watching their actions before the court. The prisoners, heavily manacled, were marched into the court-room in solemn procession, an armed sentinel accompanying each of them. The men's heads were covered with thickly padded hoods with openings for the mouth and nose. The hoods had been placed upon them in consequence of Powell, alias Payne, having attempted to cheat the gallows by dashing his brains out against a beam on a gunboat on which he had been confined. The prisoners, whose eyes were thus bandaged, were led to their seats, the sentinels were posted behind them, and the hoods were then removed. As the light struck their eyes, which for several [502] days had been unaccustomed to its brilliancy, the sudden glare gave them great discomfort. Payne had a wild look in his wandering eyes, and his general appearance stamped him as the typical reckless desperado. Mrs. Surratt was placed in a chair at a little distance from the men. She sat most of the time leaning back, with her feet stretched forward. She kept up a piteous moaning, and frequently called for water, which was given her. The other prisoners had a stolid look, and seemed crushed by the situation.

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