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Chapter 12

I was residing in Lincolnton, North Carolina, in February, 1865, and on the 23d of the month received, by telegraph, instructions from the Administration to report for orders to General Lee, recently appointed general-in-chief. A dispatch from General Lee, in anticipation of such a report from me, was received on the same day. In it he directed me to assume the command of the Army of Tennessee and all troops in the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, and to “concentrate all available forces and drive back Sherman.”

Before assuming the command thus assigned to me, I visited General Beauregard in Charlotte, where his headquarters then were, to ascertain if he had been consulted on the subject, and if my assignment to this command was agreeable to him. He assured me that the feeble and precarious condition of his health made the arrangement a very desirable one to [372] him. He also gave me a copy of a dispatch that he had addressed to General Lee the day before, in which the same feeling was expressed. I therefore accepted the command, confident of the same loyal and cordial support from that distinguished officer, in the final operations of the war, that he had given me at it; commencement. This was done with a full consciousness on my part, however, that we could have no other object, in continuing the war, than to obtain fair terms of peace; for the Southern cause must have appeared hopeless then, to all intelligent and dispassionate Southern men. I therefore resumed the duties of my military grade with no hope beyond that of contributing to obtain peace on such conditions as, under the circumstances, ought to satisfy the Southern people and their Government.

The “available forces” were about five thousand men of the Army of Tennessee, and the troops of the department, amounting to about eleven thousand. Two thousand of the former, commanded by Major-General Stevenson, were near Charlotte. A thousand, under Lieutenant-General Stewart, were near Newberry, approaching Charlotte; and two thousand, under command of Major-General Cheatham, were between Newberry and Augusta, also marching toward Charlotte. The troops of the department, under Lieutenant-General Hardee's command, were moving from Charleston to Cheraw; eleven hundred of them were South Carolina militia and reserves, not expected to leave the State. Major-General Sherman had seventy thousand men in his four corps, and about five thousand cavalry in Kilpatrick's division. [373]

After moving along the Columbia and Charlotte Railroad beyond Winnsboroa, that army had turned to the right toward Cheraw, and had just crossed the Catawba; consequently, it was near the northern edge of the triangle formed by the points at which the three bodies of Confederate troops assigned to me then were; and, by keeping on its way without losing time, it could prevent their concentration in its front. But, even if united before the powerful Federal army, the Confederate forces were utterly inadequate to the exploit of driving it back, being less than a fourth of its number.

In returning from its disastrous expedition against Nashville, the Army of Tennessee had halted in Northeastern Mississippi. A large proportion of these troops were then furloughed by General Hood, and went to their homes. When General Sherman's army invaded South Carolina, General Beauregard ordered those remaining on duty to repair to that State. The first detachment, under Major-General Stevenson, arrived soon enough to oppose the Federal army in its passage of the Edisto, and at Columbia; and had been directed by General Beauregard to march thence to Charlotte. The second, led by Lieutenant-General Stewart, had reached Newberry at this time; and the third, following it, under Major. General Cheathamn, was between the place last named and Augusta. The remaining troops of that army were corning through Georgia in little parties, or individually, unaided by the Government; most of them were united at Augusta afterward, by Lieutenant-General Lee, and conducted by him to the army near Smithfield, N. C. That spirited soldier, [374] although still suffering from a wound received in Tennessee, had taken the field in this extremity. At least two-thirds of the arms of these troops had been lost in Tennessee.1 They had, therefore, depended on the workshops of Alabama and Georgia for muskets, and had received but a partial supply. But this supply, and the additions that the Ordnance Department had the means of making to it, left almost thirteen hundred of that veteran infantry unarmed, and they remained so until the war ended. These detachments were without artillery and baggage-wagons, and consequently were not in condition to operate far from railroads.

In acknowledging General Lee's order, I gave him the substance of the preceding statement; believing, from the terms of that order, that he was not informed of the numbers or positions of the troops with which he expected me to “drive back Sherman.” On assuming command, I found difficulties in the way of prompt movement, besides the dispersed state of the troops. They were due, apparently, to the scarcity of food in General Lee's camps. The officers of the commissariat in North Carolina, upon whom the army in Virginia depended for subsistence, were instructed by the Commissary-General, just then, to permit none of the provisions they collected in that State to be used by the troops serving in it. Similar instructions were sent to me from the War Department. Under them, I was to depend upon the wagons of the army for the collection of provisions during military operations. Such a mode of supplying an army in a thinly-peopled country, made [375] rapid movements, or even the ordinary rate of marching, impossible. These orders indicated excessive caution, at the least; for there were, at that time, rations for sixty thousand men for more than four months, in the principal railroad-depots between Charlotte, Danville, and Weldon, inclusive. The fact was ascertained by taking account of those stores, which was done under the direction of Colonel W. E. Moore; and the very zealous and efficient officer, Major Charles Carrington, who was at the head of the service of collecting provisions in North Carolina, for the army, was increasing the quantity rapidly.

As the wagon-train of the Army of Tennessee had not yet passed through Georgia, on its way from Mississippi, it was perhaps fortunate that so small a part of the troops had arrived. Colonel A. II. Cole's excellent system, with the assistance promptly rendered by Governor Vance, furnished the means of collecting and bringing food to the troops as they arrived, and subsequently, until their own wagons came up.

General Lee's army had many sick and wounded in Charlotte and other towns of North Carolina. There was also an important naval station at Charlotte, containing what we then regarded as large stores of sugar, coffee, tea, and brandy-articles of prime necessity to sick and wounded, but almost forgotten in Confederate hospitals. As we had no longer a navy, and such articles would have been very valuable in the military hospitals, I suggested to the Government their transfer to the army. The Administration, however, thought it necessary to keep them where they were. Soon after the middle of April they were scattered by men of the Virginia [376] army, joined by citizens, but not before the naval officer in command had transferred all that he could control to the military hospital department.

I was equally unsuccessful in an application to the Government for money for the troops, who had received none for many months.

The course of the march of the Federal army from Winnsboroa indicated that it would cross the Cape Fear at Fayetteville, and be joined there by General Schofield, with his forces, believed by us to be at Wilmington. It was a question, on the 1st of March, whether the troops of the department, coming from Charleston, or the Federal army, would reach Cheraw first. The latter, however, was more retarded than the Confederate troops, by the streams, then much swollen by recent heavy rains; for the course of its march crossed the larger streams, while that of the Confederates was parallel to them. Thus General Hardee crossed the Pedee, at Cheraw, on the morning of the 3d, with all the military stores he had the means of transporting-having assembled his forces there on the 2d. His rear-guard was so closely pressed by the leading Federal troops, that it had barely time to destroy the bridge after passing over it. In the march from Winnsboroa, the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps, which formed General Sherman's right wing, crossed the Catawba at Peay's Ferry; the left wing, consisting of the Fourteenth and Twentieth Corps, after destroying the railroad-track as far as Blackstock, crossed the river at Rocky Mount; the Seventeenth Corps crossed Lynch's Creek by Young's Bridge; the Fifteenth, moving farther to their right, sent detachments to Camden to burn [377] the bridge, railroad-depot, and stores, and marched to Cheraw by Tiller's and Kelly's Bridges. The left wing was detained from the 23d to the 26th, in consequence of the breaking of its pontoon-bridge by a flood in the Catawba; and the right wing seems to have been as much delayed; probably by bad roads, produced by the rains that caused the freshet.

Wheeler's division of Confederate cavalry, about three thousand effectives, and Butler's, about one thousand, all commanded by Lieutenant-General Hampton, observed and as much as possible impeded this march. Just before the Federal army turned to the east, Lieutenant-General Hampton placed Butler's division on its right flank. By the change of direction, Wheeler's division, previously in front, was on the left flank, and Butler's in front, in the march from the Catawba to the Pedee. The service expected of this cavalry was, to retard the enemy's progress, and as much as possible to protect the people of the country from exactions of Federal foraging-parties, and robbery by stragglers.

Having received information, on the evening of the 3d, that Stewart's troops had reached the railroad at Chester, and that Cheatham's were near that point; and feeling confident from Lieutenant-General Hardee's reports of his own movements, and Lieutenant-General Hampton's of those of the enemy, that the former had secured the passage of the Pedee at Cheraw; it seemed to me practicable to unite those troops, Stewart's, Cheatham's, and Stevenson's, near Fayetteville, in time to engage one of the enemy's columns while crossing the Cape Fear. The [378] order of march of the Federal army by wings frequently a day's march from each other, and the manner in which those wings had crossed the Catawba and Lynch's Creek, and seemed by their course to be about to cross the Pedee, justified me in hoping to find an opportunity to attack one of those columns in the passage of the Cape Fear when the other was not within supporting distance.

As it had become certain that the first serious opposition to General Sherman's progress was to be in North Carolina, I suggested to the general-in-chief that it was important that the troops of that department should be added to my command. The suggestion was adopted, and the necessary orders given without loss of time. General Lee had previously authorized me to direct the movements of those troops, should my operations bring me near them. They were under General Bragg's command near Goldsboroa, and supposed to amount to six or eight thousand men.

Leaving General Beauregard to protect the line of railroad from Charlotte to Danville, and to send the troops of the Army of Tennessee, as they arrived, to Smithfield by railroad, I transferred my headquarters, on the 4th, from Charlotte to Fayetteville, considering the latter as a better point to obtain quick intelligence of the enemy's movements, and to direct those of the Confederate troops.

On the 6th General Bragg, then at Goldsboroa, informed me that the enemy was approaching Kinston in “heavy force,” and was then but nine miles from the place. He suggested that the troops just [379] arrived at Smithfield from Charlotte could join him in a few hours, and that such a reinforcement might enable him to win a victory. Major-General D. H. Hill, who commanded the troops referred to, was, for the object in view, placed under General Bragg's orders. The troops were united at Kinston on the 7th. Clayton's division, the remnant of it rather, which reached Smithfield during the day, was sent forward also, and joined General Bragg's forces at Kinston next morning.

After receiving these accessions to his force, together less than two thousand men, General Bragg attacked the enemy, supposed to be three divisions under Major-General Cox, with such vigor as to drive them from the field, three miles during the afternoon. Fifteen hundred prisoners and three field-pieces were captured in the engagement and pursuit. In reporting this success by telegraph, at night, General Bragg said: “The number of the enemy's dead and wounded left on the field is large. Our own loss, under Providence, is small. Major--Generals Hill and Hoke exhibited their usual zeal, energy, and gallantry.” The two parties skirmished a little on the 9th, in front of the position taken by the enemy the evening before, which had been intrenched in the mean time. On the following morning General Bragg ordered a demonstration in the enemy's front by one body of his troops, while another attempted to turn the intrenchments. He was unsuccessful. But, although the failure was attended with little loss, the withdrawal, which became necessary, impaired greatly the encouragement which had been given to the troops by their success on the [380] first day. They fell back to Goldsboroa by General Bragg's order.

While General Sherman was moving from Columbia toward Charlotte, General Beauregard instructed Lieutenant-General Hardee to direct his march toward Greensboroa. As soon as it was ascertained that the Federal army was moving upon Fayetteville, orders were sent to Lieutenant-General Hardee to turn directly to that place; but they were not delivered. Acting under his first instructions, therefore, after crossing the Pedee on the 3d, that officer moved toward Greensboroa as far as Rockingham, which his troops reached on the 4th. The instructions to turn toward Fayetteville, repeated, reached him there, and were immediately observed. He also transmitted similar instructions to Lieutenant-General Hampton. That officer had been compelled, by the swollen condition of the Pedee, to diverge with Wheeler's cavalry, far to the left of his direct route, to the fords near and above the grassy islands, and was unable to complete the passage of the river before the afternoon of the 7th. The Federal army had crossed it two days before — the right at Cheraw, and the left at Sneedsboroa — and was continuing the march to Fayetteville in its former order. General Kilpatrick's division of cavalry was apparently on the left of the army.

On the 8th Lieutenant-General Hampton united his two divisions; and, having discovered and reconnoitred General Kilpatrick's camp in the night of the 9th, he surprised him at daybreak on the 10th, drove the troops into a neighboring swamp, and held possession of their artillery and wagons for [381] sometime; but many of the Confederate troops took advantage of the opportunity to plunder, and carried off so many of the captured horses and mules that neither guns nor wagons could be secured. They were made unserviceable, however, by cutting their wheels to pieces. After suffering a good deal, especially in officers, by a spirited fire directed at them by a brigade of infantry or dismounted cavalry, the Confederate troops were withdrawn. Both Lieutenant-General Hampton and Major-General Wheeler thought the Federal loss in killed and wounded much greater than theirs. They brought away five hundred prisoners, and released a hundred and seventy-three that had been captured by the enemy.

The important object of opening the road to Fayetteville, blocked by this camp, was gained by this action; and Lieutenant-General Hampton reached the place at night with his troops by that road. The Federal army was then within seven miles of the town, and Lieutenant-General Hardee's troops in and around it. The latter crossed the Cape Fear River soon after the arrival of their cavalry, which followed next morning, burning the bridge after crossing the river.

In the march from the Catawba to the Cape Fear, the cavalry of the two armies rarely met. In all the encounters that occurred, if all of them came to my knowledge, the Confederates had the advantage. They were: at Mount Elon, where Major-General Butler intercepted and drove back a Federal party sent to destroy the railroad-track near Florence; at Homesboroa on the 4th of March, when General Wheeler attacked the Federal left flank and took fifty [382] prisoners; at Rockingham on the 7th, when the same officer defeated another party, killing and capturing thirty-five; on the 8th, when Lieutenant-General Hampton attacked and defeated a detachment; that of the morning of the 10th, just described; and on the 11th, at Fayetteville, when a large Federal squadron that dashed into the town was routed by Lieutenant-General Hampton with an inferior force.

As it was uncertain whether General Sherman intended to take the route through Goldsboroa or that through Raleigh, General Bragg's troops and those of the Army--of Tennessee were ordered to Smithfield, about midway between the two places; and Lieutenant-General Hardee was instructed to follow the road from Fayetteville to Raleigh, which for thirty miles is also that to Smithfield. On the 11th he halted on that road, five miles from Fayetteville. The South Carolina State troops, eleven hundred in number, being recalled by Governor Magrath, left the army and returned to the State.

Lieutenant-General Hampton placed Wheeler's division on the Raleigh road, and Butler's on that to Goldsboroa. The former was pressed on the 13th, eight or ten miles from Fayetteville, but held its ground; and on the 14th, at Silver Creek, where it was intrenched under General Hampton's direction, it easily drove off the Federal cavalry that felt its position.

During this time, the Fayetteville Arsenal, which had been constructed by the Government of the United States, was destroyed by the Federal army. A quantity of valuable machinery, that had been brought to it from Harper's Ferry, was destroyed [383] with the buildings. As it was impossible that the Confederacy could ever recover it, its destruction was, at the least, injudicious.

On the 15th the Confederate cavalry, on the Raleigh road, was pressed back by the Fourteenth and Twentieth Corps, and at seven o'clock next morning Lieutenant-General Hardee was attacked by those corps in a position four miles south of Averysboroa, that he had intrenched. The enemy compelled him to abandon it, however, by turning his left; but he fell back only four hundred yards, to a better position than that just abandoned. There he was repeatedly attacked during the day, but repelled the assailants without difficulty. In the afternoon he was informed, by Lieutenant-General Hampton, that the enemy had crossed Black River, at various points below, as if to turn his left; he therefore abandoned his position in the night, some hours after the fighting had ceased, and marched toward Smithfield, to Elevation, which he reached about noon of the next day.

In his brief report by telegraph, General Hardee stated that his loss in killed, wounded, and missing, was about five hundred; prisoners taken next day, said that theirs was above three thousand; as reported to General Sherman, it was seventy-seven killed, and four hundred and seven wounded. That report, if correct, proves that the soldiers of General Sherman's army had been demoralized by their course of life on Southern plantations. Those soldiers, when fighting between Dalton and Atlanta, could not have been driven back repeatedly by a fourth of their number, with a loss so utterly insignificant. It is unaccountable, too, that the party fighting under cover [384] and holding its ground should have a hundred and eight men killed, and that unsheltered and repulsed, but seventy-seven.

It was ascertained, on the 17th, that the troops with which Lieutenant-General Hardee was engaged the day before were not marching toward Raleigh; but no precise intelligence of the movements of the Federal forces was gathered during the day. General Hardee remained at Elevation to give his men the rest they needed much. At Smithfield, General Bragg had Hoke's excellent division of North Carolinians, four thousand seven hundred and seventy-five effective men; and Lieutenant-General Stewart thirty-nine hundred and fifty of the Army of Tennessee. The value of the latter was much increased by the comparatively great number of distinguished officers serving among them, who had long been the pride and ornaments of that army.

About daybreak, on the 18th, information came to me from General Hampton, that the Federal army was marching toward Goldsboroa: the right wing, on the direct road from Fayetteville, had crossed Black River; the left wing, on the road from Averysboroa, had not reached that stream, and was more than a day's march from the point in its route opposite to the hamlet of Bentonville, where the two roads, according to the map of North Carolina, were ten or twelve miles apart. The hamlet itself is about two miles from the road and to the north of it, and sixteen from Smithfield. According to the reports of our cavalry, the Federal right wing was about half a day's march in advance of the left; so that there [385] was probably an interval of a day's march between the heads of the two columns.

To be prepared to attack the head of the left Federal column next morning, the troops at Smithfield and at Elevation were ordered to march immediately to Bentonville, and to bivouac that night between the hamlet and the road on which the left Federal column was marching. By the map, the distance from Elevation to Bentonville was but twelve miles; the timely arrival of all the troops seemed to be certain, therefore. The map proved to be very incorrect, and deceived me greatly in relation to the distance between the two roads on which the Federal columns were marching, which it exaggerated very much, and that from Elevation, which it reduced almost as much. General Hardee found it too great for a day's march.

Lieutenant-General Hampton gave all necessary information that night in Bentonville. He described the ground near the road abreast of us as favorable for our purpose. The Federal camp, however, was but four or five miles from that ground, nearer, by several miles, than Hardee's bivouac, and therefore we could not hope for the advantage of attacking the head of a deep column. But Lieutenant-General Hampton had caused some light intrenchments to be thrown up across the road between the Federal camp and the proposed field of battle, by the help of which he expected Butler's division to keep back the enemy until the arrival of Hardee's corps should enable us to attack.

As soon as General Hardee's troops reached Bentonville next morning, we moved by the left flank, [386] Hoke's division leading, to the ground selected by General Hampton, and adopted from his description. It was the eastern edge of an old plantation, extending a mile and a half to the west, and lying principally on the north side of the road, and surrounded, east, south, and north, by dense thickets of blackjack. As there was but one narrow road through the thicket, the deployment of the troops consumed a weary time. Hoke's division was formed with its centre on the road, its line at right angles to it, on the eastern edge of the plantation, and its left extending some four hundred yards into the thicket to the south. His two batteries, our only artillery, were on his right, commanding the ground in front to the extent of the range of the guns. The troops belonging to the Army of Tennessee were formed on the right of the artillery, their right strongly thrown forward, conforming to the edge of the open ground. In the mean time the leading Federal troops appeared and deployed, and, when so much of the Confederate disposition as has been described had been made, their right attacked Hoke's division vigorously, especially its left-so vigorously, that General Bragg apprehended that Hoke, although slightly intrenched, would be driven from his position. He therefore applied urgently for strong reenforcements. Lieutenant-General Hardee, the head of whose column was then near, was directed, most injudiciously, to send his leading division, McLaws's, to the assistance of the troops assailed; the other, Taliaferro's, moving on to its place on the extreme right. McLaws's division, struggling through the thicket, reached the ground to which it was ordered just in time to see [387] the repulse of the enemy by Hoke, after a sharp contest of half an hour, at short range. Soon after the firing on the left ceased, a similar assault was made upon Stewart, whose troops, like those on their left, had already constructed breastworks. This attack was directed mainly against Stewart's own corps, commanded by Loring, and Clayton's division, by which it was received as firmly and repelled as promptly as that just described had been by Hoke's.

Lieutenant-General Hardee was then directed to charge with the right wing-Stewart's troops and Taliaferro's division, as they faced-obliquely to the left; and General Bragg to join in the movement with his brigades successively, from right to left, each making the necessary change of front to the left in advancing.

As it could be seen that the Federal first line, except its right, which was hidden by woods, had thrown up intrenchments like our own, a body of troops was prepared to strike its flank, to lessen the danger of failure. It was a needless precaution, however, for the result of the charge was not for five minutes doubtful. The Confederates passed over three hundred yards of the space between the two lines in quick time, and in excellent order, and the remaining distance in double quick, without pausing to fire until their near approach had driven the enemy from the shelter of their intrenchments, in full retreat, to their second line. After firing a few rounds, the Confederates again pressed forward, and, when they were near the second intrenchment, now manned by both lines of Federal troops, Lieut.-Gen. [388] Hardee, after commanding the double-quick, led the charge, and, with his knightly gallantry, dashed over the enemy's breastworks on horseback, in front of his men. Some distance in the rear there was a very thick wood of young pines, into which the Federal troops were pursued, and in which they rallied and renewed the fight. But the Confederates continued to advance, driving the enemy back slowly, notwithstanding the advantage given to the party on the defensive by the thicket which made united action by the assailants impossible. On the extreme left, however, General Bragg's troops were held in check by the Federal right, which had the aid of breastworks and the thicket of black-jack.

The denseness of the thicket through which Hardee's troops were penetrating made it impossible to preserve their order of battle. They were ordered to halt to reestablish it. This pause seemed to be misunderstood by the enemy; for, before the Confederate lines could be re-formed, a very slow process on such ground, they made a partial attempt to assume the offensive, and assailed Stewart's troops, of the Army of Tennessee, directing their greatest efforts against those commanded by Brigadier-General Pettus; but this attack was easily and quickly repulsed.

Having found it impossible to advance in order through so dense a wood, control the movements of troops, or combine their efforts, I determined not to renew the attack, but only to hold the ground won until all the wounded still upon the field should be removed to the temporary hospitals. When this had been done, some time after nightfall, the Confederate [389] army resumed the position from which it had moved to attack the enemy.

The action really ceased with the repulse of the attack made upon Stewart's corps; but desultory firing was continued until night.

Four pieces of artillery were taken; but, as we had only spare harnessed horses enough to draw off three, one was left on the field.

The impossibility of concentrating the Confederate forces in time to attack the Federal left wing, while in column on the march, made complete success also impossible, from the enemy's great numerical superiority. One important object was gained, however — that of restoring the confidence of our troops, who had either lost it in the defeat at Wilmington, or in those of Tennessee. All were greatly elated by the event.

There was now no object in remaining in presence of the enemy, but that of covering the bearing off of our wounded. The orders necessary for this duty were given without delay; but very bad roads, and the want of comfortable means of transportation, compelled us to devote two days to the operation.

Early in the morning of the 20th Brig.-Gen. Lav, temporarily commanding Butler's division, which was observing the Federal right wing, reported that that wing, which had been following the Fayetteville road to Goldsboroa, had crossed to that from Averysboroa, on which we were, about five miles east of us, and was coming up rapidly upon the rear of Hoke's division. That officer was directed to change front to the left on his right flank, by which his line was formed parallel to and fronting the road, [390] and near enough to command it. In this position the usual light intrenchments were immediately begun and soon finished. Hampton prolonged this line to the left, to Mill Creek, with Butler's division, and Wheeler's, which had come up from the direction of Averysboroa.

The Federal army was united before us about noon, and made repeated attacks, between that time and sunset, upon Hoke's division; the most spirited of them was the last, made upon Kirkland's brigade. In all, the enemy was so effectually driven back, that our infirmary corps brought in a number of their wounded that had been left on the field, and carried them to our field-hospitals.

It was soon ascertained that our left was very far overlapped by the Federal right. Lieut.-Gen. Hardee was therefore requested to detach McLaws's division to Hoke's left. We were so outnumbered, however, that much of the cavalry was deployed as skirmishers on McLaws's left, to show a front equal to that of the enemy.

On the 21st the skirmishing was resumed with spirit by the enemy, with Hoke's and McLaws's divisions, and the cavalry on the left of the latter. To ascertain why our right was unmolested, Stewart's and Taliaferro's skirmishers were thrown forward. They found the Federal troops in their front drawn back and formed obliquely to the general line; the left retired, and intrenched. During the whole afternoon a very brisk fire was directed against our centre and left. About four o'clock the cavalry was so pressed that the little infantry reserves and Taliaferro's division were ordered to the left to support it. [391] A few minutes later Lieutenant-General Hampton reported that the Seventeenth Corps had broken through the mere “skirmish-line” of his left, and was pressing rapidly toward Bentonville, in rear of our centre and on the only route of retreat. Lieutenant-General Hardee was directed to unite the troops then marching to the left, and to oppose this movement with them. But the rapid march of the leading Federal troops, Mower's division, left no time for this union. Fortunately, Lieut.-Gen. Hampton, while leading a cavalry reserve to meet the enemy, saw Cumming's Georgia brigade, commanded by Colonel Henderson, on its way to the left, and directed it toward Bentonvilie. It reached the point in the road toward which the enemy was marching just as he appeared. Lieut.-Gen. Hardee galloped up at the same time, followed by the Eighth Texas cavalry regiment which he had found on the way. He instantly directed Henderson to charge the enemy in front, and the Texans their left flank; Lieut.-Gen. Hampton coming up on the other side with Young's brigade, commanded at the time by Colonel Wright, threw it against Mower's right flank; and Maj.-Gen. Wheeler, at a considerable distance from this point, assailed the rear of the Federal column in flank with a part of Allen's Alabamians. These simultaneous attacks were so skillfully and bravely made, that in spite of the great disparity of numbers, the enemy was defeated in a few minutes, and driven back along the route by which the column had advanced. In the Eighth Texan regiment, Lieut.-Gen. Hardee's only son, a noble youth of sixteen, charging bravely in the foremost rank, fell mortally wounded. [392]

The firing upon our front was sustained until the return of the Seventeenth Corps to its place in line, when it subsided into desultory skirmishing.

At night all the wounded that could bear transportation had been removed; so that we had no object for remaining in a position made very hazardous by the stream behind us, rendered unfordable by recent rain. The army was therefore ordered to cross Mill Creek by the bridge2 at Bentonville before daybreak of the 22d. About eight o'clock they were halted beyond the stream, two miles north of Mill Creek. Soon after Maj.-Gen. Wheeler had posted his rear-guard on our bank of the stream to hold the bridge, the leading Federal troops appeared on the other. They made repeated attempts to force the passage, but failed in all, after brave efforts, in which three color-bearers fell within fifty feet of the Confederate rear-guard.3

At noon the march was resumed, and the troops bivouacked in the evening near Smithfield, but south of the Neuse.

In the action of the 19th, the Confederate force engaged was about fourteen thousand one hundred infantry and artillery. Butler's division of cavalry was employed in observing General Sherman's right column; and Wheeler's, coming from the direction of Averysboroa, approached on the north side of Mill Creek, which recent rains had made impassable, so that he could not join in the action as expected, by falling upon the left flank of the enemy. The Federal army exceeded seventy thousand men; about [393] half of it was present on the 19th, and all of it after noon of the 20th.

The Confederate loss on the 19th, according to the morning reports of the 20th, was one hundred and eighty killed, twelve hundred and twenty wounded, and five hundred and fifteen missing: in all, nineteen hundred and fifteen. On the 20th, it was six killed, ninety wounded, and thirty-one missing; and on the 21st, thirty-seven killed, one hundred and fifty-seven wounded, and one hundred and seven missing: amounting, in the three days, to two hundred and twenty-three killed, fourteen hundred and sixty-seven wounded, and six hundred and fifty-three missing. Most of the latter were captured in rear of the Federal lines, which they passed through in small parties by the intervals caused by the thicket in which the fight ended on the 19th. Several such parties, included in the number of missing reported above, escaped around the flanks of the Federal army, and rejoined their regiments near Smithfield. Our losses were supplied by the arrival, on the 20th and 21st, of about two thousand men of the Army of Tennessee in several detachments. Major-General Cheatham came with one of them.

We captured nine hundred and three prisoners in the three days, but had no means of ascertaining the number of the enemy's killed and wounded; but, as our troops were generally successful, and were covered by intrenchments in a part of the fighting on the 19th, all of that of the 20th, and most of that on the 21st, it must have exceeded ours very much. From the appearance of the field, and the language of Federals, it largely exceeded four thousand. [394]

On the 23d, Major-General Sherman united his own army and that of Major-General Schofield at Goldsboroa. It was uncertain whether his march to Virginia would be through Raleigh, or by the most direct route, that through Weldon. So the Confederate army was placed between the two roads, in order to be able to precede him on either; and, to make the junction of the Army of Northern Virginia with it practicable, should General Lee determine to abandon his intrenchments to fall upon Sherman's army with our united forces. The cavalry was, at the same time placed in close observation of the enemy-Wheeler's division on the north, and Butler's on the west of their camps around Goldsboroa.

We learned, from prisoners captured occasionally, that the United States troops did not expect to resume their march very soon, but to remain in their present camps for some weeks, to rest, and receive such supplies as they needed.

This pause was advantageous to us too; for it gave time for the arrival of several thousand men of the Army of Tennessee coming along the route through Georgia in detachments, to rejoin their corps. Most of them were united into one body in Augusta, by Lieutenant-General S. D. Lee. Many, indeed the greater number of these veterans, were unarmed; and all the exertions of two excellent officers, Lieutenant-Colonel Kennard, chief ordnance-officer, and Captain Vanderford, his assistant, could not procure infantry arms as fast as they were required, the Ordnance Department4 being unable to furnish the number, [395] and on the 10th of April thirteen hundred of this admirable infantry were still unarmed. This inaction gave time for conference with the General-in-Chief with reference to the union of our forces against General Sherman's army, and an officer5 of high rank, the personal friend of both, visited General Lee, for me, on this interesting subject. It also enabled the chief quartermaster and chief commissary to provide for a march by collecting supplies of food and forage.

The press dispatches, received in the morning of April 5th, announced that Richmond was evacuated by the Administration in the night of the 2d. I inferred from this that General Lee was about to abandon the defense of Richmond, to unite our forces. Supposing the Secretary of War to be with the President at Danville, I asked him, in a telegram directed to that place, to give me full information of the movements of the Army of Northern Virginia. This dispatch was acknowledged on the same day by the President, who was unable to give me the information asked for. Telegrams from Brigadier-General H. H. Walker, at Danville, and Colonel Wood, the President's aide-de-camp, at Greensboroa, dated the 7th and 8th respectively, were favorable. One from the Secretary of War dated the 9th, at a railroad-station near the Staunton River, was less so. But there was nothing in any one of the three to suggest the idea that General Lee had been driven from the position held many months with so much skill and resolution. The last indicated, however, that he was encountering [396] the difficulties, in attempting to move southward, that he apprehended when corresponding with me on the subject.

On the 9th, Lieutenant-General Hampton informed me that the country people living near the Federal camps reported that the soldiers expected to march toward Raleigh next morning; and early in the morning of the 10th he reported the march begun. The Confederate forces were ordered to march to Raleigh: Hardee's corps, with Butler's division as rearguard, by the Goldsboroa road, which the Federal army was following; and Stewart's and Lee's, with Wheeler's division as rear-guard, by that crossing the Neuse at Battle's Bridge. Near that bridge, where I encamped that night, at one o'clock in the morning a telegram was received from the President, dispatched from Danville the evening before, conveying the intelligence that an unofficial report had just been brought to that place, to the effect that General Lee had surrendered on Sunday, the 9th.

The three corps reached Raleigh early in the afternoon of that day. In a telegram, dated Greensboroa, 4.30 r. Mr., the President directed me to leave the troops under Lieutenant-General Hardee's command, and report to him there.

Taking the first train, about midnight, I reached Greensboroa about eight o'clock in the morning, on the 12th, and was General Beauregard's guest. His quarters were a burden-car near, and in sight of those of the President. The General and myself were summoned to the President's office in an hour or two, and found Messrs. Benjamin, Mallory, and Reagan, with him. We had supposed that we were to be questioned [397] concerning the military resources of our department, in connection with the question of continuing or terminating the war. But the President's object seemed to be to give, not to obtain information; for, addressing the party, he said that in two or three weeks he would have a large army in the field by bringing back into the ranks those who had abandoned them in less desperate circumstances, and by calling out the enrolled men whom the conscript bureau with its forces had been unable to bring into the army. It was remarked, by the military officers, that men who had left the army when our cause was not desperate, and those who, under the same circumstances, could not be forced into it, would scarcely, in the present desperate condition of our affairs, enter the service upon mere invitation. Neither opinions nor information was asked, and the conference terminated. Before leaving the room we learned that Maj.-Gen. Breckenridge's arrival was expected in the course of the afternoon, and it was not doubted that he would bring certain intelligence of the state of affairs in Virginia.

General Breckenridge came as expected, and confirmed the report of the surrender of the army in Virginia. General Beauregard and myself, conversing together after the intelligence of the great disaster, reviewed the condition of our affairs, and carefully compared the resources of the belligerents, and agreed in the opinion that the Southern Confederacy was overthrown. In conversation with General Breckenridge afterward, I repeated this, and said that the only power of government left in the President's hands was that of terminating the war, and that this [398] power should be exercised without more delay. I also expressed my readiness to suggest to the President the absolute necessity of such action, should an opportunity to do so be given me. General Breckenridge promised to make me this opportunity.

Mr. Mallory came to converse with me on the subject, and showed great anxiety that negotiations to end the war should be commenced, and urged that I was the person who should suggest the measure to the President. I, on the contrary, thought that such a suggestion would come more properly from one of his “constitutional advisers,” but told Mr. Mallory of my conversation with General Breckenridge.

That gentleman fulfilled his engagement promptly; and General Beauregard and myself were summoned to the President's office an hour or two after the meeting of his cabinet there, next morning. Being desired by the President to do it, we compared the military forces of the two parties to the war: ours, an army of about twenty thousand infantry and artillery, and five thousand mounted troops; those of the United States, three armies that could be combined against ours, which was insignificant compared with either-Grant's, of a hundred and eighty thousand men; Sherman's, of a hundred and ten thousand, at least, and Canby's of sixty thousand-odds of seventeen or eighteen to one, which in a few weeks could be more than doubled.

I represented that under such circumstances it would be the greatest of human crimes for us to attempt to continue the war; for, having neither money nor credit, nor arms but those in the hands of our soldiers, nor ammunition but that in their cartridge-boxes, [399] nor shops for repairing arms or fixing ammunition, the effect of our keeping the field would be, not to harm the enemy, but to complete the devastation of our country and ruin of its people. I therefore urged that the President should exercise at once the only function of government still in his possession, and open negotiations for peace.

The members of the cabinet present were then desired by the President to express their opinions on the important question. General Breckenridge, Mr. Mallory, and Mr. Reagan, thought that the war was decided against us; and that it was absolutely necessary to make peace. Mr. Benjamin expressed the contrary opinion. The latter made a speech for war, much like that of Sempronius in Addison's play. The President replied to our suggestion as if somewhat annoyed by it. He said that it was idle to suggest that he should attempt to negotiate, when it was certain, from the attempt previously made, that his authority to treat would not be recognized, nor any terms that he might offer considered by the Government of the United States. I reminded him that it had not been unusual, in such cases, for military commanders to initiate negotiations upon which treaties of peace were founded; and proposed that he should allow me to address General Sherman on the subject. After a few words in opposition to that idea, Mr. Davis reverted to the first suggestion, that he should offer terms to the Government of the United States--which he had put aside; and sketched a letter appropriate to be sent by me to General Sherman, proposing a meeting to arrange the terms of an armistice to enable the civil authorities [400] to agree upon terms of peace. That this course might be adopted at once, I proposed that he should dictate the letter then to Mr. Mallory, who was a good penman, and that I should sign and send it to the Federal commander immediately. The letter, prepared in that way, was sent by me with all dispatch to Lieutenant-General Hampton, near Hillsboroa, to be forwarded by him to General Sherman. It was delivered to the latter next day, the 14th, and was in these terms: “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.”

Lieutenant-General Hardee directed the march of the Confederate army from Raleigh on the 12th, in two columns-Stewart's and Lee's corps and Butler's division, now commanded by that officer himself, by the Hillsboroa road, and the other, his own corps, and Wheeler's division, by that through Chapel Hill. Lieut.-Gen. Hampton had been desired to take measures to discover any movements of the Federal troops by the Pittsboroa road, and all others by which they could turn directly toward Charlotte or Salisbury.

I left Greensboroa on the evening of the 13th, to [401] rejoin the army, and, although detained on the way the greater part of the night by one of the accidents then inevitable on the North Carolina Railroad, met Stewart's column at Hillsboroa early in the morning of the 14th, just as it was beginning the day's march. Reports were there given me from Lieutenant-General Hampton to the effect that the instructions to observe all roads by which the enemy could turn to the left, directly toward Charlotte or Salisbury, had been executed, and that no such movement had been discovered.

The right column reached the Haw River Bridge that afternoon, and encamped there. The left crossed the stream at a ford near Ruffin's Mill. The Federal cavalry did not advance beyond Morrisville or its vicinity.

In the morning of the 16th, when the army was within a few miles of Greensboroa, a reply 6 to the letter of the 13th was received from General Sherman, signifying his assent to the proposal that we should meet for conference in relation to an armistice. Supposing that the President was waiting in Greensboroa to open negotiations should the armistice be agreed upon, I hastened there to show General Sherman's reply, and to receive any instructions he might have to give. He had quitted the town, however, and was on the way to Charlotte.

Having requested Lieutenant-General Hampton, by telegraph, to arrange the time and place of meeting, I went to his headquarters, two or three miles southeast of Hillsboroa. There General Hampton [402] informed me that the conference was to be at noon next day, at a house on the Raleigh road midway between the pickets of the two armies.

General Sherman met me at the time and place appointed — the house being that of a Mr. Bennett. As soon as we were without witnesses in the room assigned to us, General Sherman showed me a telegram from Mr. Stanton, announcing the assassination of the President of the United States. A courier, he told me, had overtaken him with it, after he left the railroad-station from which he had ridden. After reading the dispatch, I told General Sherman that, in my opinion, the event was the greatest possible calamity to the South.

When General Sherman understood what seemed to have escaped him in reading my letter, that my object was to make such an armistice as would give opportunity for negotiation between the “civil authorities” of the two countries, he said that such negotiations were impossible-because the Government of the United States did not acknowledge the existence of a Southern Confederacy; nor, consequently, its civil authorities as such. Therefore he could not receive, for transmission, any proposition addressed to the Government of the United States by those claiming to be the civil authorities of a Southern Confederacy. He added, in a manner that carried conviction of sincerity, expressions of a wish to divert from the South such devastation as the continuance of the war would make inevitable; and, as a means of accomplishing that object, so far as the armies we commanded were concerned, he offered me such terms as those given to General Lee. [403]

I replied that our relative positions were too different from those of the armies in Virginia to justify me in such a capitulation, but suggested that we might do more than he proposed: that, instead of a partial suspension of hostilities, we might, as other generals had done, arrange the terms of a permanent peace, and among other precedents reminded him of the preliminaries of Leoben, and the terms in which Napoleon, then victorious, proposed negotiation to the Archduke Charles; and the sentiment he expressed, that the civic crown earned by preserving the life of one citizen confers truer glory than the highest achievement merely military. General Sherman replied, with heightened color, that he appreciated such a sentiment, and that to put an end to further devastation and bloodshed, and restore the Union, and with it the prosperity of the country, were to him objects of ambition. We then entered into a discussion of the terms that might be given to the Southern States, on their submission to the authority of the United States. General Sherman seemed to regard the resolutions of Congress and the declarations of the President of the United States as conclusive that the restoration of the Union was the object of the war, and to believe that the soldiers of the United States had been fighting for that object. A long official conversation with Mr. Lincoln, on Southern affairs a very short time before, had convinced him that the President then adhered to that view.

In the course of the afternoon we agreed upon the terms expressed in the memorandum drawn up on the 18th, except that General Sherman did not [404] consent to include Mr. Davis and the officers of his cabinet in an otherwise general amnesty.7 Much of the afternoon was consumed in endeavors to dispose of this part of the question in a manner that would be satisfactory both to the Government of the United States and the Southern people, as well as to the Confederate President; but at sunset no conclusion had been reached, and the conference was suspended, to be resumed at ten o'clock next morning. Thinking it probable that the confidential relations of the Secretary of War with Mr. Davis might enable him to remove the only obstacle to an adjustment, I requested him by telegraph to join me as soon as possible.

General Breckenridge and Mr. Reagan came to General Hampton's quarters together, an hour or two before daybreak. After they had received from me as full an account of the discussion of the day before as my memory enabled me to give, and had learned the terms agreed upon, and the difficulty in the way of full agreement, Mr. Reagan proposed to reduce them to writing, to facilitate reconsideration. In doing so, he included the article for amnesty without exceptions, the only one not fully agreed to. This paper, being unfinished when General Breckenridge and myself set out to the place of meeting, was to be sent to me there.

When we met, I proposed to General Sherman that General Breckenridge should be admitted to [405] our discussion, as his personal relations with the President of the Confederacy might enable him to remove the obstacle to agreement that we had encountered the day before. He assented, and that gentleman joined us.

We had conversed on the subject discussed the day before perhaps a half-hour, when the memorandum written by Mr. Reagan was brought. I read this paper to General Sherman, as a basis for terms of peace, pointing out to him that it contained nothing which he had not already accepted, but the language that included the President and cabinet in the terms of amnesty. After listening to General Breckenridge, who addressed him six or eight minutes in advocacy of these conditions of peace, General Sherman wrote very rapidly the memorandum that follows, with the paper presented by me before him. He wrote so rapidly that I thought, at the time, that he must have come to the place prepared to agree to amnesty with no exceptions. His paper differed from mine only in being fuller.

Memorandum, or basis of agreement, made this 18th day of April, A. D. 1865, near Durham's 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.

  • 1. 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 [406] reasonable time-say forty-eight (48) hours-allowed.
  • 2. 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 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.
  • 3. 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.
  • 4. The reestablishment of all the Federal courts in the several States, with powers as defined by the Constitution and laws of Congress.
  • 5. 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.
  • 6. 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, [407] and obey the laws in existence at the place of their residence.
  • 7. 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 distribution 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 fulfill 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 N. C. W. T. Sherman, Major-General commanding Army of the United States in N. C.

As soon as the requisite number of copies of this paper was made and duly signed, one was dispatched to each President, and we separated.

The next day General Sherman published the following orders to his troops:8

“The general commanding announces to the army a suspension of hostilities, and an agreement with General Johnston and high officials which, when formally ratified, will make peace from the Potomac to the Rio Grande. Until the absolute peace is arranged, a line passing through Tyrrell's Mount, Chapel University, Durham's Station, and West Point, on the Neuse River, will separate the two armies. Each army commander will group his camps entirely with a view to comfort, health, and good police. All the details of military discipline [408] must be maintained, and the General hopes and believes that in a very few days it will be his good fortune to conduct you all to your homes. The fame of this army for courage, industry, and discipline, is admitted all over the world. Then let each officer and man see that it is not stained by any act of vulgarity, rowdyism, and petty crime. The cavalry will patrol the front of the line, General Howard will take charge of the district from Raleigh up to the cavalry, General Slocum to the left of Raleigh, and General Schofield in Raleigh, right and rear. Quartermasters and commissaries will keep their supplies up to a light load for the wagons, and the railroad superintendent will arrange a depot for the convenience of each separate army.”

I arrived in Greensboroa, near which the Confederate troops were in bivouac, before daybreak on the 19th. Colonel Archer Anderson, adjutant-general of the army, gave me two papers addressed to me by the President. The first directed me to obtain from Mr. J. N. Hendren, treasury agent, thirty-nine thousand dollars in silver, which was in his hands, subject to my order, and to use it as the military chest of the army. The second, received subsequently by Colonel Anderson, directed me to send this money to the President at Charlotte. This order was not obeyed, however. As only the military part of our Government had then any existence, I thought that a fair share of the fund still left should be appropriated to the benefit of the army, especially as the troops had received no pay for many months. This sum (except twelve hundred dollars which Mr. Hendren said that the Commissary-General had taken) [409] was divided among the troops irrespective of rank, each individual receiving the same share.

As there was reason to suppose that the Confederate Executive had a large sum in specie in its possession, I urged it earnestly, in writing, to apply a part of it to the payment of the army. This letter was intrusted to Lieutenant-Colonel Mason, who was instructed to wait for an answer. Its receipt was acknowledged by telegraph, and an answer promised. After waiting several days to no purpose, Colonel Mason returned without one.

During the conference, Major-General Stoneman, who had come from the West with a large body of cavalry, approached the line of railroad in Middle North Carolina. General Sherman sent him notice of the armistice by Confederate officers, and directed him to suspend hostilities. Before these orders were received, if they were ever delivered to General Stoneman, the railroad bridges over the Catawba between Chesterville and Charlotte, and Charlotte and Lincolnton, and the railroad depot at Salisbury, were destroyed by these troops. Pettus's brigade, sent from Greensboroa to protect the railroad bridge over the Yadkin, arrived in time to repel the large party sent to burn it. The arrival of Brigadier-General Echols with Duke's and Vaughn's brigades of cavalry from Southwestern Virginia removed any apprehension of further damage of the kind.

On the 21st, a dispatch was received from Major-General Cobb, announcing the occupation of Macon by Major-General Wilson's cavalry the day before the Federal commander declining to respect the information of an armistice given by his enemy. [410]

During the military operations preceding the armistice, there were ample supplies of provision and forage for our forces in the railroad-depots of North Carolina. We were forming similar depots in South Carolina, then, and collecting provisions abundantly, in a district that had been thought destitute. Early in March, when the wagons of the Army of Tennessee reached Augusta, their number was so large compared with that of the troops, that the officer in charge of them was directed to employ three hundred in the gaps in the line of railroad across South Carolina; and Colonel W. E. Moore9 was desired to use one hundred in collecting provisions to form a line of depots between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Washington, Georgia. Before the 20th, Colonel Moore reported that more than seven hundred thousand rations had been collected in those depots.

The meeting between General Sherman and myself, and the armistice that followed, produced great uneasiness in the army. It was very commonly believed among the soldiers that there was to be a surrender, by which they would be prisoners of war, to which they were very averse. This apprehension caused a great number of desertions between the 19th and 24th of April--not less than four thousand in the infantry and artillery, and almost as many from the cavalry; many of them rode off artillery horses, and mules belonging to the baggage-trains.

In the afternoon of the 24th, the President of the Confederacy, then in Charlotte, communicated to me, by telegraph, his approval of the terms of the convention of the 17th and 18th, and, within an hour, [411] a special messenger from General Hampton brought me two dispatches from General Sherman. In one of them he informed me that the Government of the United States rejected the terms of peace agreed upon by us; and in the other he gave notice of the termination of the armistice in forty-eight hours from noon that day.

The substance of these dispatches was immediately communicated to the Administration by telegraph,10 instructions asked for, and the disbanding of the army suggested, to prevent further invasion and devastation of the country by the armies of the United States. The reply, dated eleven o'clock P. M., was received early in the morning of the 25th; it suggested that the infantry might be disbanded, with instructions to meet at some appointed place, and directed me to bring off the cavalry, and all other soldiers who could be mounted by taking serviceable beasts from the trains, and a few light field-pieces. I objected, immediately, that this order provided for the performance of but one of the three great duties then devolving upon us — that of securing the safety of the high civil officers of the Confederate Government; but neglected the other two--the safety of the people, and that of the army. I also advised the immediate flight of the high civil functionaries under proper escort.

The belief that impelled me to urge the civil authorities of the Confederacy to make peace, that it would be a great crime to prolong the war, prompted me to disobey these instructions — the last that I received from the Confederate [412] Government. They would have given the President an escort too heavy for flight, and not strong enough to force a way for him; and would have spread ruin over all the South, by leading the three great invading armies in pursuit. In that belief, I determined to do all in my power to bring about a termination of hostilities. I therefore proposed to General Sherman another armistice and conference, for that purpose, suggesting, as a basis, the clause of the recent convention relating to the army. This was reported to the Confederate Government at once. General Sherman's dispatch, expressing his agreement to a conference, was received soon after sunrise on the 26th; and I set out for the former place of meeting, as soon as practicable, after announcing to the Administration that I was about to do so.

We met at noon in Mr. Bennett's house, as before. I found General Sherman, as he appeared in our previous conversation, anxious to prevent further bloodshed, so we agreed without difficulty upon terms putting an end to the war within the limits of our commands, which happened to be coextensive-terms which we expected to produce a general pacification:

Terms of a military convention entered into this twenty-sixth (26th) day of April, 1865, at Bennett's house, near Durham's Station, North Carolina, between General 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. [413]
  • 2. All arms and public property to be deposited at Greensboroa, and delivered to an ordnance-officer of the United States Army. 3. 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 sidearms 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.

(Signed) J. E. Johnston, General commanding Confederate States Forces in N. C. (Signed) W. T. Sherman, Major-General commanding United State. Forces in N. C.

Military convention of April 26, 1865
supplemental terms.

  • 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. [414]
  • 3. Private horses, and other private property of 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 or 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.

(Signed) J. E. Johnston, General commanding Confederate States Forces in N. C. (Signed) J. M. Schofield, Major-General commanding United States Forces in N. C.

General Sherman assured me that he would remove from the department all the troops he had brought into it as soon as practicable, after returning to his headquarters, leaving only those of General Schofield's command, who were thought necessary for the maintenance of law and order. Accordingly, on the 27th (the day after), his order No. 66 of that year was published, announcing a final agreement between us, terminating the war east of the Chattahoochee River; sending his own army to Washington; Major-General Wilson's cavalry back to the Tennessee River, near Decatur; and directing Major-General Stoneman's division to return to East Tennessee.

General Sherman was accompanied on this occasion by several among the most distinguished officers of the United States Army. The impression was [415] made distinctly on my mind that they, and the army generally, desired peace on the conditions of the convention of the 18th, and regretted the rejection of those terms by the President of the United States.

The pacification was announced by me to the States immediately concerned, by the following telegram, addressed to their governors:

The disaster in Virginia, the capture by the enemy of all our workshops for the preparation of ammunition and repairing of arms, the impossibility of recruiting our little army opposed to more than ten times its number, or of supplying it except by robbing our own citizens, destroyed all hope of successful war. I have made, therefore, a military convention with Major-General Sherman, to terminate hostilities in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. I made this convention to spare the blood of this gallant little army, to prevent further sufferings of our people by the devastation and ruin inevitable from the marches of invading armies, and to avoid the crime of waging a hopeless war.

It was also published to the Confederate army, in general orders No. 18 of April 27th, as follows:

By the terms of a military convention made on the 26th instant by Major-General W. T. Sherman, United States Army, and General J. E. Johnston, Confederate States Army, the officers and men of this army are to bind themselves not to take up arms against the United States until properly relieved from that obligation; and shall receive guarantees from the United States officers against molestation by the United States authorities, so long as [416] they observe that obligation and the laws in force where they reside.

For these objects, duplicate muster-rolls will be made immediately, and, after the distribution of the necessary papers, the troops will march under their officers to their respective States, and there be disbanded; all retaining personal property.

The object of the convention is pacification, to the extent of the authority of the commanders who made it.

Events in Virginia, which broke every hope of success by war, imposed on its General the duty of sparing the blood of this gallant army, and of saving our country from further devastation, and our people from ruin.

General Sherman published it to the Federal army, in his field-order No. 66, on the same day:

Hostilities having ceased, the following changes and dispositions of the troops in the field will be made with as little delay as practicable:

Before the Confederate army came to Greensboroa, much of the provisions in depot there had been consumed or wasted by fugitives from the Army of Virginia; still, enough was left for the subsistence of the troops until the end of April. In making the last agreement with General Sherman, I relied upon the depots recently established in [418] South Carolina, for the subsistence of the troops on the way to their homes. A few days before they marched, however, Colonel Moore informed me that those depots had all been plundered by the crowd of fugitives and country-people, who thought, apparently, that, as there was no longer a government, they might assume the division of this property. That at Charlotte had either been consumed by our cavalry in the neighborhood or appropriated by individuals. So we had no other means of supplying the troops on their homeward march, than a stock of cotton yarn, and a little cloth, to be used as money by the quartermasters and commissaries. But this was entirely inadequate; and great suffering would have ensued, both of the troops and the people on their routes, if General Sherman, when informed of our condition, had not given us two hundred and fifty thousand rations, on no other condition than my furnishing the means of transporting them by railroad from Morehead City. This averted any danger of suffering or even inconvenience.

The preparation and signature of the necessary papers occupied the officers of the two armies intrusted with that business until the 2d of May. On that day the three corps and three little bodies of cavalry were ordered to march to their destinations, each under its own commander. And my military connection with those matchless soldiers was terminated by the following order:

General orders no. 22.

In terminating our official relations, I earnestly exhort you to observe faithfully the [419] terms of pacification agreed upon; and to discharge the obligations of good and peaceful citizens, as well as you have performed the duties of thorough soldiers in the field. By such a course, you will best secure the comfort of your families and kindred, and restore tranquillity to our country.

You will return to your homes with the admiration of our people, won by the courage and noble devotion you have displayed in this long war. I shall always remember with pride the loyal support and generous confidence you have given me.

I now part with you with deep regret-and bid you farewell with feelings of cordial friendship; and with earnest wishes that you may have hereafter all the prosperity and happiness to be found in the world.

(Signed) J. E. Johnston, General.
Official: (Signed) Kinlock Falconer, A. A. G.

The United States troops that remained in the Southern States, on military duty, conducted themselves as if they thought that the object of the war had been the restoration of the Union. They treated the people around them as they would have done those of Ohio or New York if stationed among them, as their fellow-citizens.11 Those people supposed, not unnaturally, that if those who had fought against them were friendly, the great body of the Northern people, who had not fought, must be more so. This idea inspired in them a kindlier feeling to the people of the North and the Government of the [420] United States, than that existing ten years before. It created, too, a strong expectation that the Southern States would soon resume their places in the Union. The most despondent apprehended no such “reconstruction” as that subsequently established by Congress.

1 Lieutenant-General Stewart and Brigadier-General Polk, oral statement.

2 The only one.

3 General Wheeler's report.

4 And yet at this time the Confederate Government was so earnest in the scheme of raising negro troops, that I was directed to furnish a cavalry officer of ability, General J. T. Morgan, for that service, in Alabama.

5 Lieutenant-General Holmes.

6 It was dated the 14th, and should have been received twenty-four hours sooner. The delay was by Federal officers. not ours.

7 This consideration was mine, of course. General Sherman did not desire the arrest of these gentlemen. He was too acute not to foresee the embarrassment their capture would cause; therefore he wished them to escape.

8 Special Field Orders, No. 58.

9 At his own suggestion.

10 At six o'clock P. M.

11 This language excludes those of the Freedmen's Bureau.

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