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Chapter 17:

  • The terms with Johnston
  • -- the first draft made by a Confederate Cabinet officer.

General Sherman sneers at political generals, and then devotes thirty pages of his Memoirs to an inaccurate history of his own political surrender to General Jos. E. Johnston near Raleigh.

The country will never forget its joy over the news from Appomattox, or the chill which shortly after fell upon it when the true character of Sherman's terms became known. If the country at large ever does forget the circumstances attending the latter event, those who were at Raleigh at the time never will.

The real character of these terms was carefully concealed there, even from very prominent officers, and was known first at the North. It was given out at Sherman's Headquarters that the terms granted Johnston were virtually the same as those extended by Grant to Lee, and special stress was laid upon the statement that in no sense had General Sherman recognized the political existence of the Confederacy.

When General Grant arrived and announced the prompt rejection of these terms, their real nature first became known. There was much indignation in consequence at Sherman's course, and many comparisons of views among officers of rank as to his motives. The speedy and successful correction of his great error, and the immediate close of the war, over which the Nation was so busy with its rejoicing, alone saved him from damaging criticism. If it had been made known then that [220] the first draft of Sherman's terms was written by the rebel Postmaster-General at a consultation had between this member of Davis' Cabinet, his Secretary of War, Generals Johnston, and Wade Hampton, it would have made General Sherman's position most uncomfortable before the people. But in view of the services he had rendered, this, and other unpleasant facts did not find their way to the public then. Now that he has so recklessly invited criticism, and published an inaccurate version of these very negotiations, he can not complain if the beliefs which were entertained among prominent officers at Raleigh, find expression, and documents captured soon after the surrender are made public.

The theory of General Sherman's negotiation with General Johnston, as held by many prominent officers, whose opportunities for obtaining knowledge were excellent, was about this:

General Sherman was elated almost beyond measure at his March to the Sea, and northward through the Carolinas. He had rested and refurnished his army at Goldsboro, and had just issued an order for it to march for the purpose of joining the Army of the Potomac, when down came the news, first, of the evacuation of Richmond, and, following close, of the surrender of Lee. General Grant had captured the great army of the Confederacy; all the rest must follow, as a matter of course; Sherman was not in at the death; the war was to close with General Grant its greatest military hero. Then came the proposal for a conference from Johnston. While first writing to Johnston that he would extend the same terms given by Grant to Lee, and immediately writing General Grant that he would ‘be careful not to complicate any points of civil policy;’ yet, doubtless influenced by his own reflections upon the secondary position in which events were leaving him, and by the cunning manipulations of the rebel Cabinet, he conceived the idea, not only of receiving the surrender of the remaining military forces of the rebellion, and declaring ‘peace from the Potomac to the Rio Grande,’ but of [221] becoming the political reconstructor of the Nation, and thus the most prominent character emerging from the war.

Before any pronounce this theory chimerical, let them read the narratives, extracts, and records which follow.

The material points of General Sherman's account of his negotiations with General Johnston are these:

On April 14, 1865, a note was received from Johnston, dated the day before, asking whether, since ‘the results of the recent campaign in Virginia have changed the relative military character of the belligerents,’ General Sherman was willing, in order ‘to stop the further effusion of blood and devastation of property,’ to ask from General Grant a suspension of hostilities for the purpose of permitting ‘the civil authorities to enter into the needful arrangements to terminate the existing war.’

General Sherman wrote Johnston the same day that he had authority to suspend hostilities, that he would meet Johnston to confer upon the subject, and added: ‘that a basis of action may be had, I undertake to abide by the same terms and conditions as were made by Generals Grant and Lee at Appomattox Court House on the 9th inst., relative to our two armies.’

The same evening he wrote General Grant as follows, though this letter is not given in the Memoirs:

‘I send copies of a correspondence begun with General Johnston, which I think will be followed by terms of capitulation. I will grant the same terms as General Grant gave General Lee, and be careful not to complicate any points of civil policy.’

On the 17th the opposing commanders met alone in a farm-house near Durham Station, when, after some conversation over the assassination of Mr. Lincoln, Sherman says:

I then told Johnston that he must be convinced that he could not oppose my army, and that since Lee had surrendered he could do the same with honor and propriety. He plainly and repeatedly admitted this, and added that any further fighting would be “murder,” but he thought that instead of [222] surrendering piecemeal we might arrange terms that would embrace all the Confederate armies. I asked him if he could control other armies than his own. He said not then, but intimated that he could procure authority from Mr. Davis. I then told him that I had recently had an interview with General Grant and President Lincoln, and that I was possessed of their views. * * * * That the terms that General Grant had given to General Lee's army were certainly most generous and liberal. All this he admitted, but always recurred to the idea of a universal surrender, embracing his own army, that of Dick Taylor in Louisiana and Texas, and of Maury, Forrest, and others in Alabama and Georgia. * * * *

‘Our conversation was very general and extremely cordial, satisfying me that it could have but one result, and that which we all desired, viz.: to end the war as quickly as possible; and, being anxious to return to Raleigh before the news of Mr. Lincoln's assassination could be divulged, on General Johnston's saying that he thought that, during the night, he could procure authority to act in the name of all the Confederate armies in existence, we agreed to meet again the next day at noon, at the same place, and parted, he for Hillsboro and I for Raleigh.’

On the 18th the two Generals met again near Durham. The Memoirs give the following account of the interview:

* * * * We again entered Bennett's house and I closed the door. General Johnston then assured me that he had authority over all the Confederate armies, so that they would obey his orders to surrender on the same terms with his own, but he argued that, to obtain so cheaply this desirable result, I ought to give his men and officers some assurance of their political rights after their surrender. I explained to him that Mr. Lincoln's proclamation of amnesty of December 8, 1863, still in force, enabled every Confederate soldier and officer below the rank of colonel to obtain an absolute pardon by simply laying down his arms and taking the common oath of allegiance, and that General Grant, in accepting the surrender of General Lee's army, had extended the same principle to all the officers, General Lee included. Such a pardon, I understood, would restore to them all their rights of citizenship. But he insisted that the officers and men of the Confederate army were unnecessarily alarmed about this matter as a sort of bugbear. He then said that Mr. Breckinridge was near at hand, and he thought that it would be well for him to be present. I objected on the score that he was then in Davis' Cabinet, and our negotiations should be confined strictly to belligerents. He then said Breckinridge was a Major-General in the Confederate army, and might sink his character of Secretary of War. I consented, and he sent one of his staff officers back, who soon returned with Breckinridge, and he entered the room. General Johnston and I then again went over the whole ground, and Breckinridge confirmed what he had said as to the uneasiness of the Southern officers and soldiers about their political rights in case of surrender. While we were [223] in consultation, a messenger came with a parcel of papers, which General Johnston said were from Mr. Reagan, Postmaster-General. He and Breckinridge looked over them, and, after some side conversation, lie handed one of the papers to me. It was in Reagan's handwriting, and began with a long preamble and terms, so general and verbose that I said they were inadmissible. Then recalling the conversation of Mr. Lincoln at City Point, I sat down at the table and wrote off the terms, which, I thought, concisely expressed his views and wishes, and explained that I was willing to submit these terms to the new President, Mr. Johnson, provided that both armies should remain in statu quo until the truce therein declared should expire. I had full faith that General Johnston would religiously respect the truce, which he did; and that I would be the gainer, for, in the few days it would take to send the papers to Washington and receive an answer, I could finish the railroad up to Raleigh, and be the better prepared for a long chase.

‘Neither Mr. Breckinridge nor General Johnston wrote one word of that paper. I wrote it myself, and announced it as the best I could do, and they readily assented.’

General Johnston, in his Narrative, gives the following account of the consultation held at President Davis' quarters at Charlotte, after the news of Lee's surrender was received:

In a telegram dated Greensboro, 4:30 P. M., 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 Greensboro 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 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 Major-General Breckinridge's arrival was expected in the course of the afternoon, and it was not [224] doubted that he would bring certain intelligence of the state of affairs in Virginia.

General Breckinridge 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 Breckinridge 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 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 Breckinridge.

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, 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 Breckinridge, 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 [225] 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 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 Hillsboro, 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.

After mentioning the means taken to secure a meeting, the Narrative continues with an account of the interview, which General Sherman thus indorses:

General Johnston's account of our interview, in his Narrative (page 402, et seq.), is quite accurate and correct, only I do not recall his naming the capitulation of Loeben to which he refers.’

Johnston's statement, thus referred to and indorsed, is as follows:

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 [226] 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.

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 Loeben, 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 consent to include Mr. Davis and the officers of his Cabinet in an otherwise general amnesty. 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. 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 10 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 Breckinridge and Mr. Reagan came to General Hampton's [227] 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 Breckinridge 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 Breckinridge should be admitted to 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 Breckinridge, 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.’

General Sherman gives the following account of his consultations with his principal officers after his first interview with Johnston in regard to the character of terms that should be offered:

‘During the evening of the 17th and morning of the 18th, I saw nearly all the general officers of the army (Schofield, Slocum, Howard, Logan, Blair), and we talked over the matter of the conference at Bennett's house of the day before, and without exception, all advised me to agree to some terms, for they all dreaded the long and harassing march in pursuit of a dissolving and fleeing army; a march that might carry us back again over the thousand miles that we had just accomplished. We all knew that if we could bring Johnston's army to bay, we could destroy it in an hour, but that was simply impossible in the country in which we found ourselves. We discussed all the probabilities, among which was, whether, if Johnston made a point of it, I should assent to the escape from the country of Jeff. Davis and his fugitive Cabinet; and some one of my general officers, either Logan or Blair, insisted that if asked for, we should even provide a vessel to carry them to Nassau from Charleston.’


In Craven's Prison Life of Jeff. Davis, the author gives this version of the circumstances attending the surrender of Johnston, which contains also an allusion to the proposition for Davis' escape, mentioned in the Memoirs. Mr. Craven says:

At Lexington he (Davis) received a dispatch from Johnston requesting that the Secretary of War, (General Breckinridge) should repair to his headquarters near RaleighGeneral Sherman having submitted a proposition for laying down arms which was too comprehensive in its scope for any mere military commander to decide upon. Breckinridge and Postmaster-General Reagan immediately started for Johnston's camp, where Sherman submitted the terms of surrender on which an armistice was declared; the same terms subsequently disapproved by the authorities at Washington.

One of the features of the proposition submitted by General Sherman was a declaration of amnesty to all persons, both civil and military. Notice being called to the fact particularly, General Sherman said: “I mean just that,” and gave as his reason that it was the only way to have perfect peace. He had previously offered to furnish a vessel to take away such persons as Mr. Davis might select, to be freighted with whatever personal property they might want to take with them, and to go wherever it pleased.

General Johnston told Sherman that it was more than useless to carry such a proposition as the last to him (Davis). Breckinridge also informed General Sherman that his proposition contemplated the adjustment of certain matters which even Mr. Davis was not empowered to control. The terms were accepted, however, with the understanding that they should be liberally construed on both sides, and fulfilled in good faith; General Breckinridge adding that certain parts of the terms would require to be submitted to the various State Governments of the Confederacy for ratification.’

These statements of General Sherman and Mr. Davis correspond with those made by General Johnston.

By comparing the accounts of Generals Sherman and Johnston, it will appear that the former officer says he read the draft of terms drawn up by Mr. Reagan, the Confederate Postmaster-General, but found them so general and verbose as not to be admissible. Johnston's account (indorsed as accurate by Sherman) states that the latter wrote his memorandum with Reagan's paper before him, and that it differed from Reagan's only in being fuller. [229]

A copy of this draft was afterward sent to the War Department by General Sherman, indorsed in his own hand as follows: ‘Copy of a project sent by General Johnston, being the production of Mr. Reagan, P. M. General of the Confederates.’

The original of this draft was soon after captured by a Union officer, and below is an exact copy of it and of the attached note transmitting it to General Johnston during the interview:

As the avowed motive of the Government of the United States for the prosecution of the existing war with the Confederate States is to secure a reunion of all the States under one common government, and as wisdom and sound policy alike require that a common government should rest on the consent and be supported by the affections of all the people who compose it, now, in order to ascertain whether it be practicable to put an end to the existing war and to the consequent destruction of life and property, having in view the correspondence and conversation which has recently taken place between Major-General W. T. Sherman and myself, I propose the following points as a basis of pacification:

1. The disbanding of the military forces of the Confederacy; and

2. The recognition of the Constitution and authority of the Government of the United States, on the following conditions:

3. The preservation and continuance of the existing State Governments.

4. The preservation to the people of all the political rights, and rights of person and property, secured to them by the Constitution of the United States and of their several States.

5. Freedom from future persecutions or penalties for their participation in the present war.

‘6. Agreement to a general suspension of hostilities pending these negotiations.’

The above draft of terms was accompanied by the following note:

General Johnston will see that the accompanying memorandum omits all reference to details, and to the necessary action of the States, and the preliminary reference of the proposition to General Grant for his consent to the suspension of hostilities, and to the Government of the United States for its action. He will also see that I have modified the first article, according to his suggestion, by omitting the reference to the consent of the President of the Confederate States, and to his employing his good offices to secure the [230] acquiescence of the several States to this scheme of adjustment and pacification. This may be done at a proper subsequent time.

April 17, 1865.

By comparing the above draft with the one written by General Sherman with Reagan's before him, it will be sees that Johnston is correct in asserting that Sherman's paper differed from his only in being fuller, and that Sherman's principal additions were the provisions restoring the courts, and the submission of questions pertaining to divided States to the Supreme Court:

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 W. T. Sherman, commanding the Army of the United States in North Carolina, both present.

I. (See 6, Reagan's draft.) The contending armies now in tie field to maintain the status quo until notice is given by the Commanding General of any one to his opponent, and reasonable time, say forty-eight hours, allowed.

II. (See 1, Reagan.) 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 authorities. 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 meantime to be used solely to maintain peace and order within the borders of the States respectively.

III. (See 3, Reagan.) 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 Governnents have resulted from the war, the legitimacy of all shall be submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States.

IV. The reestablishment of all Federal courts in the several States, with powers as defined by the Constitution and laws of Congress.

V. (See 4, Reagan.) The people and inhabitants of all 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.

VI. (See 5, Reagan.) The Executive authority of the Government of the United States not to disturb any of the people by reason of the late war, so long as they live in peace and quiet, abstain from acts of armed hostility, and obey the laws in existence at the place of their residence.

Fac-Simile [reduced] of the original draft of Sherman's terms with Johnston as drawn by the rebel post-master General John H. Reagan.


VII. 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.

W. T. Sherman, Major-General Commanding Army of the United States in North Carolina. J. E. Johnston, General Commanding Confederate States Army in North Carolina.

Both the Confederate and National Cabinets held a consultation over Sherman's terms on the same day, the former at Charlotte, North Carolina, and the latter at Washington. All the members of President Davis' Cabinet advised him to accept the terms; all the Cabinet officers at Washington advised that they be rejected.

General Johnston thus relates what occurred at his headquarters upon the receipt of information that the terms had been rejected at Washington:

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, 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 (at 6 P. M.), 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 [232] 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 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 co-extensive-terms which we expected to produce a general pacification.

As will be remembered, Mr. Stanton caused to be made public the following ‘among others,’ as the grounds upon which the original terms were rejected:

First—It was an exercise of authority not vested in General Sherman, and on its face shows that both he and Johnston knew that General Sherman had no authority to enter into any such arrangement.

Second—It was an acknowledgment of the rebel Government.

Third—It is understood to reestablish rebel State Governments that had been overthrown at the sacrifice of many thousands of loyal lives and immense treasure, and placed arms and munitions of war in the hands of rebels at their respective capitals, which might be used as soon as the armies of the United States were disbanded, and used to conquer and subdue loyal States.

Fourth—By the restoration of the rebel authority in their respective States, they would be enabled to reestablish slavery.

Fifth—It might furnish a ground of responsibility by the Federal Government to pay the rebel debt, and certainly subjects loyal citizens of the rebel States to debts contracted by rebels in the name of the States.

Sixth—It put in dispute the existence of loyal State Governments, and the new State of West Virginia, which had been recognized by every department of the United States Government.

Seventh—It practically abolished the confiscation laws, and relieved [233] rebels of every degree who had slaughtered our people, from all pains and penalties for their crimes.

Eighth—It gave terms that had been deliberately, repeatedly, and solemnly rejected by President Lincoln, and better terms than the rebels had ever asked in their most prosperous condition.

Ninth—It formed no basis of true and lasting peace, but relieved the rebels from the pressure of our victories, and left them in condition to renew their effort to overthrow the United States Goverment, and subdue the loyal States, whenever their strength was recruited, and any opportunity should offer.

While waiting to hear from Washington in regard to the fate of his terms, General Sherman, in the course of a letter transmitting some orders to General J. H. Wilson, then operating with cavalry in Georgia, thus expressed his ideas concerning slavery to General Johnston:

headquarters Military division of the Mississippi, in the field, Raleigh, N. C., April 21.
General J. E. Johnston, Commanding Confederate Army.
General: * * * * I shall look for Major Hitchcock back from Washington on Wednesday, and shall promptly notify you of the result. By the action of General Weitzel in relation to the Virginia Legislature, I feel certain we will have no trouble on the score of recognizing existing State Governments. It may be the lawyers will want us to define more minutely what is meant by the guarantee of rights of person and property. It may be construed into a compact for us to undo the past as to the rights of slaves, and ‘leases of plantations’ on the Mississippi, of ‘vacant and abandoned’ plantations. I wish you would talk to the best men you have on these points, and, if possible, let us in our final convention make these points so clear as to leave no room for angry controversy.

I believe, if the South would simply and publicly declare what we all feel, that slavery is dead, that you would inaugurate an era of peace and prosperity that would soon efface the ravages of the past four years of war. Negroes would remain in the South, and afford you abundance of cheap labor, which otherwise will be driven away; and it will save the country the senseless discussions which have kept us all in hot water for fifty years.

Although, strictly speaking, this is no subject of a military convention, yet I am honestly convinced that our simple declaration of a result will be accepted as good as law every where. Of course, I have not a single word from Washington on this or any other point of our agreement, but I know the effect of such a step by us will be universally accepted.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

W. T. Sherman, Major-General U. S. A.


Through the unheralded arrival of General Grant at Raleigh, General Sherman was made acquainted with the primary disapproval of his terms by the former, and their subsequent rejection by the Cabinet. He was also instructed to give-immediate notice of the termination of the truce at the close of the forty-eight hours required by its provision. Such notice was sent forward early on the 24th of April, and on the same day General Sherman notified General Johnston that he was instructed not to attempt civil negotiations, and further, that he demanded the surrender of the Confederate army simply upon the terms extended to Lee.

To these notes General Johnston sent the following replies:

headquarters Army of the Tennessee, in the field, April 25, 1865.
Major-General Sherman, United States Army.
Your dispatch of yesterday is received. I propose a modification of the terms you offer, such terms for the army as you wrote on the 18th, they also modified according to changes of circumstances, and a further armistice to arrange details, and a meeting for that purpose.

J. E. Johnston, General.

in the field, April 26, 1865.
Major-General W. T. Sherman, Commanding United States Forces.
General: I have had the honor to receive your dispatch summoning this army to surrender on the terms accepted by General Lee at Appomattox Court House. I propose, instead of such a surrender, terms based on those drawn up by you on the 18th for the disbandment of this army, and a further armistice and conference to arrange these terms.

The disbandment of General Lee's army has afflicted this country with bands having no means of subsistence but robbery, a knowledge of which would, I am sure, induce you to agree to other terms.

Most respectfully your obedient servant,

J. E. Johnston, General.

At a subsequent meeting, and after a protracted discussion, final terms of surrender, drawn up by General Schofield, not by General Sherman, were agreed upon, approved by General Grant, and forwarded to Washington.

Then arrived the Northern papers containing Mr. Stanton's bulletins in regard to the character of the first terms, the action thereon by the Cabinet, and the orders given by General [235] Halleck, who had been placed in command of the Army of the James, to push on, cut off Johnston's retreat, and pay no attention to orders from Sherman. These awoke that storm of abuse which the latter poured out upon Mr. Stanton and General Halleck.

For his criticisms upon the latter, General Grant so far reprimanded him, as to formally suggest the modification of the report in which he reflected upon that officer. The letter upon this subject was as follows:

headquarters armies of the United States. Washington, D. C., May 25, 1865.
Major-General W. T. Sherman, Comd'g Military Division of the Mississippi.
General: General Grant directs me to call your attention to the part of your report in which the necessity of maintaining your truce, even at the expense of many lives, is spoken of. The General thinks that, in making a truce, the commander of an army can control only his own army, and that the hostile general must make his own arrangements with other armies acting against him.

Whilst independent generals, acting against a common foe, would naturally act in concert, the General deems that each must be the judge of his own duty, and responsible for its execution.

If you should wish, the report will be returned for any change you deem best.

Very respectfully your obedient servant,

T. S. Bowers, Assistant Adjutant-General.

The part of the report thus alluded to was as follows:

headquarters Military division of the Mississippi, in the field, City Point, Va., May 9, 1865.
General: * * * * It now becomes my duty to paint, in justly severe characters, the still more offensive and dangerous matter of General Halleck's dispatch of April 26th, to the Secretary of War, embodied in his to General Dix of April 27th.

General Halleck had been chief of staff of the army at Washington, in which capacity he must have received my official letter of April 18th, wherein I wrote clearly that if Johnston's army about Greensboro were ‘pushed’ it would ‘disperse,’ an event I wished to prevent. About that time he seems to have been sent from Washington to Richmond to command the new Military Division of the James, in assuming charge of which, on the 22d, he defines the limits of his authority to be the ‘Department of Virginia, the Army of the Potomac, and such part of North Carolina as may not be occupied by the command of Major-General Sherman.’ (See his General Orders No. 1.) [236]

Four days later, April 26th, he reports to the Secretary that he has ordered Generals Mead, Sheridan, and Wright to invade that part of North Carolina which was occupied by my command, and pay ‘no regard to any truce or orders of’ mine. They were ordered to ‘push forward, regardless of any orders save those of Lieutenant-General Grant, and cut off Johnston's retreat.’ He knew at the time he penned that dispatch and made those orders that Johnston was not retreating, but was halted under a forty-eight hours truce with me, and was laboring to surrender his command and prevent its dispersion into guerrilla bands, and that I had on the spot a magnificent army at my command, amply sufficient for all purposes required by the occasion.

The plan of cutting off a retreat from the direction of Burksville and Danville is hardly worthy one of his military education and genius. When he contemplated an act so questionable as the violation of a ‘truce’ made by competent authority within his sphere of command, he should have gone himself, and not have sent subordinates, for he knew I was bound in honor to defend and maintain my own truce and pledge of faith, even at the cost of many lives.

When an officer pledges the faith of his Government, he is bound to defend it, and he is no soldier who would violate it knowingly.

As to Davis and his stolen treasure, did General Halleck, as chief of staff or commanding officer of the neighboring military division, notify me of the facts contained in his dispatch to the Secretary? No he did not. If the Secretary of War wanted Davis caught, why not order it, instead of, by publishing in the newspapers, putting him on his guard to hide away and escape? No orders or instructions to catch Davis or his stolen treasure ever came to me; but, on the contrary, I was led to believe that the Secretary of War rather preferred he should effect an escape from the country, if made ‘unknown’ to him. But even on this point, I inclose a copy of my letter to Admiral Dahlgren, at Charleston, sent him by a fleet steamer from Wilmington on the 25th of April, two days before the bankers of Richmond had imparted to General Halleck the important secret as to Davis' movements, designed, doubtless, to stimulate his troops to march their legs off to catch their treasure for their own use.

I know, now, that Admiral Dahlgren did receive my letter on the 26th, and had acted on it before General Halleck had even thought of the matter; but I don't believe a word of the treasure story; it is absurd on its face, and General Halleck or anybody has my full permission to chase Jeff. Davis and Cabinet, with their stolen treasure, through any part of the country occupied by my command.

The last and most obnoxious feature of General Halleck's dispatch is wherein he goes out of his way, and advises that my subordinates, Generals Thomas, Stoneman, and Wilson, should be instructed not to obey ‘Sherman’ commands.

This is too much, and I turn from the subject with feelings too strong for [237] words, and merely record my belief that so much mischief was never before embraced in so small a space as in the newspaper paragraph headed ‘Sherman's Truce Disregarded,’ authenticated as ‘official,’ by Mr. Secretary Stanton, and published in the New York papers of April 28th. * * * *

W. T. Sherman, Major-General commanding.

General Sherman, however, declined to make the change suggested by General Grant, and gave his reasons at length:

headquarters Military division of the Mississippi, Washington, D. C., May 26, 1865.
Colonel T. S. Bowers, Assistant Adjutant-General, Washington, D. C.
Colonel: I had the honor to receive-your letter of May 25th last evening, and hasten to answer. I wish to precede it by renewed assurance of my confidence and respect for the President and Lieutenant-General Grant, and that in all matters I will be most willing to shape my official and private conduct to suit their wishes. The past is beyond my control, and the matters embraced in the operations to which you refer are finished. It is but just the reasons that actuated me, right or wrong, should stand of record, but in all future cases, should any arise, I will respect the decision of General Grant, though I think it wrong. * * * *

In discussing this matter, I would like to refer to many writers on military law, but am willing to take Halleck as the text (see his Chapter No. 27). In the very first article he prefaces that ‘Good Faith’ should always be observed between enemies in war, because when our faith has been pledged to him, as far as the promise extends he ceases to be an enemy. He then defines the meaning of compacts and conventions, and says they are made some times for a general or a partial suspension of hostilities, for the surrender of an army, etc. They may be special, limited to particular places, or to particular forces, but of course can only bind the armies subject to the general who makes the truce, and co-extensive only with the extent of his command.

This is all I ever claimed, and clearly covers the whole case. All of North Carolina was in my immediate command, with General Schofield its department commander, and his army present with me. I never asked the truce to have effect beyond my own territorial command. General Halleck himself, in his Orders No. 1, defines his own limits clearly enough, viz.: ‘Such part of North Carolina as was not occupied by the command of Major-General Schofield.’ He could not pursue and cut off Johnston's retreat toward Saulsbury and Charlotte without invading my command, and so patent was his purpose to defy and violate my truce that Mr. Stanton's publication of the fact, not even yet recalled, modified, or explained, was headed: ‘Sherman's Truce Disregarded,’ that the whole world drew but one inference. It admits of no other. I never claimed that the truce bound Generals Halleck and Canby within the sphere of their respective commands as defined by [238] themselves. It was a partial truce of very short duration, clearly within my limits and rights, justified by events, and, as in the case of prisoners in my custody, or the violation of a safeguard given by me in my own territorial limits, I was bound to maintain ‘Good Faith.’

I prefer not to change my report; but again repeat that in all future cases I am willing to be governed by the interpretation of General Grant, although I again invite his attention to the limits of my command and those of General Halleck at the time, and the pointed phraseology of General Halleck's dispatch to Mr. Stanton, wherein he reports that he had ordered his generals to pay no heed to my orders within the clearly defined area of my own command.

I am, etc.,

W. T. Sherman, Major-General commanding.

The movements of General Halleck, of which General Sherman thus pointedly complained, were made in pursuance of the following order from General Grant:

The truce entered into by Sherman will be ended as soon as I can reach Raleigh. Move Sheridan with his cavalry toward Greensboro, North Carolina, as soon as possible. I think it will be well to send one corps of infantry also, the whole under Sheridan. The infantry need not go further than Danville, unless they receive orders hereafter to do so.

U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General.

General Sherman's report and the subsequent correspondence in relation to it between himself and General Grant, having been brought to the attention of General Halleck, the latter thus reviewed the whole subject:

headquarters Military division of the James, Richmond, Va., June 7, 1865.
Hon. E M. Stanton, Secretary of War.
Sir: I have just received the Army and Navy Gazette of May 30th, containing an official publication of Major-General Sherman's letters of May 9th and 26th, with other papers on the same subject, parts of which had been previously published in the newspapers. In these letters and papers General Sherman has made statements and reflections on my official conduct, which are incorrect and entirely unjustified by the facts of the case.

1st. He charges that I encroached upon his military command, by directing a portion of my troops to march upon Greensboro in North Carolina.

By direction of the President, I was, on the 19th of April last, assigned to the command of the Military Division of the James, which included ‘such [239] parts of North Carolina as were not occupied by the command of Major-General Sherman.’ At the time my troops were ordered to Greensboro, General Sherman's troops did not occupy that part of North Carolina; it was occupied by the enemy, and consequently within my command, as defined by General Orders, No. 71, of the War Department.

But whether or not Greensboro, or any part of North Carolina, was in my command, General Sherman's remarks are equally without justification. On the 22d of April Lieutenant-General Grant notified me that Sherman's arrangements had been disapproved and orders given to resume hostilities, and directed me to move my troops on Danville and Greensboro, precisely as I did move them, there to await his further orders. My instructions to Generals Meade, Sheridan, and Wright were just such instructions as General Grant had directed me to give. The offense, or whatever he may please to call it, if any there was, of marching my troops within territory claimed by General Sherman, was not mine, but General Grant's, and all the abuse which he has directed upon me for that act must fall upon the General-in-Chief.

2d. General Sherman charges that by marching my troops into North Carolina I violated his truce, which he was bound to enforce even at the cost of many lives by a collision of our respective armies.

General Sherman had never sent me his truce; I had never seen it and did not know its terms or conditions. I only knew that his truce or ‘arrangement,’ whatever it was, had been disapproved and set aside by the President, and General Grant in ordering the movement of my troops simply notified me of this fact and of the renewal of hostilities. Even if Sherman's truce had been binding on me, which it was not, I had no knowledge of the clause relating to forty-eight hours notice.

It is strange that he should seek to bind me by conditions of the existence of which I was ignorant, and he had taken no measures to inform me. But even had I known them I could not have acted otherwise than I did. I simply carried out the orders of my superior officer, who had seen the truce and knew its terms. If General Sherman was, under the circumstances, justified in stopping the movements of my troops, even by destroying the commands of General Sheridan and General Wright, the responsbility of this sacrifice of human life must have rested either upon General Sherman or upon General Grant, for I simply obeyed the orders of the latter in regard to these movements.

General Sherman reflects on me for not going in person to violate, as he is pleased to call it, a truce which he ‘was bound in honor to defend and maintain,’ ‘even at the cost of many lives,’ and upon the marching powers of the troops which I sent into North Carolina. In reply to this I can only say that I was not ordered to go with these troops, but to send them under their commanders to certain points, there to await further orders from Lieutenant-General Grant, precisely as I directed. The troops were mostly selected by General Grant, not by me, and as he had commanded them for a year he probably [240] knew something of their capacity for marching, and whether or not they would march their legs off ‘to catch the treasure for their own use.’

3. Again, General Sherman complains that my orders of April 26th to push forward against Johnston's army were given at the very time I knew that that army was surrendering to him.

In making this statement he forgets time and circumstances. He must have known that I did not have, and could not possibly have had at that time, any official information of any new arrangements between him and Johnston for the surrender of the latter's army. Neither General Sherman nor any one else could have sent me such official information otherwise than by sea, which would have required several days. I only knew from General Grant that Sherman's ‘arrangements’ had been disapproved, that orders had been given to resume hostilities, and that I was directed by him to push forward my troops to Greensboro, where they would receive further orders. All other information from North Carolina came from rebel sources.

4th. The burthen of General Sherman's complaint on this subject is, that I ordered Generals Sheridan and Wright to push forward their troops as directed by General Grant, ‘regardless of any orders from any one except General Grant.’

This was simply carrying out the spirit of my instructions from General Grant. He had notified me that orders had been given to resume hostilities, and had directed me to send certain troops to Greensboro to await his further orders. As these troops approached the boundaries of North Carolina, Johnston, Beauregard, and other rebel officers tried, on the alleged grounds of arrangements with Sherman, to stop the movement ordered by General Grant When informed of this, I directed my officers to execute the commands which General Grant had given to me, regardless of orders from any one except Grant himself. I respectfully submit that I could not have done less without neglecting my duty.

5th. General Sherman sneers at my sending troops from the direction of Burkesville and Danville against Davis in North Carolina as ‘hardly worthy of’ my ‘military education and genius.’ However ridiculous General Sherman may consider these movements, they were made precisely as General Grant had directed them.

6th. He complains that I did not notify him in regard to Davis and his stolen treasure. For the reason that I had no communication open to him. My most direct way of communicating with him was through the Department at Washington, and I sent all information to the Department as soon as it was received.

However ‘absurd’ General Sherman may have considered the information, it was given by some of the most respectable and reliable business men in Richmond, through a gentleman whose character and position would prevent me from pronouncing his statements ‘absurd,’ and of saying, without examination, ‘I don't believe a word of the treasure story.’

7th. In order to sustain his position that the movements of my troops [241] ordered by General Grant were in violation of his truce, which I was bound to observe, even without knowing its terms, and that he would have been justified to resent, ‘even at the the cost of many lives,’ General Sherman refers to a chapter of International Law. His reference is most pointedly against his positions and doctrines, and the case given in illustration in paragraph 4 was one of which General Sherman was personally cognizant. In that case a subordinate commander refused to be bound by a truce of his superior commanding another department. General Sherman was not even my superior. I contend that all my orders were justified by the laws of war and military usage, even if they had not been directed by superior authority.

8th. General Sherman says that General Grant ‘reached the Chesapeake in time to countermand General Halleck's orders and prevent his violating my truce.’ This is not true. General Grant neither disapproved nor countermanded any orders of mine, nor was there at that time any truce. It had ceased by General Grant's orders to resume hostilities and the subsequent surrender of Johnston's army of which he then notified me, and recalled a part of the troops which he had directed me to send to Danville and Greensboro.

9th. There is but one other point in General Sherman's official complaint that I deem it necessary to notice. I refer to the suggestion made to you in regard to orders to Generals Thomas and Wilson for preventing the escape of Davis and his Cabinet. Although these officers were under the nominal command of General Sherman, yet after he left Atlanta, they received their instructions and orders from yourself and General Grant direct, not through General Sherman.

This is recognized and provided for by the regulations of the War Department and has been practised for years. I have transmitted hundreds of orders in this way, and General Sherman was cognizant of the fact. The movements of Generals Thomas, Stoneman, Wilson, A. J. Smith, etc., while within General Sherman's general command, have been directed in this way for more than six months. In suggesting that orders be sent to these officers directly and not through General Sherman, I suggested no departure from well established official channels. But even if I had, the responsibility of adopting that course must rest upon the authority who sent the orders.

If his complaint is directed against the form of the suggestions, I can only say that I was innocent of any intended offense. My telegram was hurriedly written, intended for yourself, not the public, and had reference to the state of facts as reported to me. It was reported that orders purporting to come from General Sherman had been received through rebel lines for General Wilson to withdraw from Macon, release his prisoners, and that all hostilities should cease. These orders threw open the doors for the escape of Davis and his party. This I knew was contrary to the wishes and orders of the Government; but I had no means of knowing whether or not Sherman had been so informed. I at the time had no communication with him or with General Grant, and I was not aware that either could communicate with our officers [242] in the West, except through rebel authorities, who, of course, could not be relied on. I repeat that my suggestions had reference only to the facts and wishes of the Government as known to me at the time, and was intended in no respect to reflect upon, or be disrespectful to General Sherman. If I had been able to communicate with General Sherman, or had known at the time the condition of affairs in North Carolina, there would have been no necessity or occasion for any suggestion to you, and most probably none would have been made.

With these remarks, I respectfully submit that General Sherman's report, so far as he refers to me, is unjust, unkind, and contrary to military usage, and that his statements are contrary to the real facts of the case. I beg leave further to remark that I have, in no way, shape, or manner, criticised or reflected upon General Sherman's course in North Carolina, or upon his truce, or as General Grant styles it ‘arrangement’ with Johnston and Breckinridge, but have simply acted upon the orders, instructions, and expressed wishes of my superiors as communicated to me, and as I understand them.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. W. Halleck, Major-General

The same officer who captured the original of Mr. Reagan's draft of the rejected terms, also secured the written opinions of the different members of Mr. Davis' Cabinet, rendered in accordance with his request, made at the session of his Cabinet held on the 21st of April, at Charlotte, N. C. All reviewed the situation at length.

A few extracts from these opinions will serve to show that the rebel Cabinet held substantially the same views of the scope of Sherman's terms as, according to Mr. Stanton, were entertained at Washington.

Mr. Reagan wrote:

* * * * ‘The agreement under consideration secures to our people, if ratified by both parties, the uninterrupted continuance of the existing State Governments; the guarantees of the Federal Constitution, and of the Constitutions of their respective States; the guarantee of their political rights, and of their rights of person, and property, and immunity from future prosecutions, and penalties for their participation in the existing war, on the condition that we accept the Constitution and Government of the United States, and disband our armies by marching the troops to their respective States, and depositing their arms in the State arsenals, subject to the future control of that Government, but with a verbal understanding that they are only to be used for the preservation of peace and order in the respective [243] States. It is also to be observed that the agreement contains no direct reference to the question of slavery; requires no concessions from us in regard to it, and leaves it subject to the Constitution and Laws of the United States and of the several States just as it was before the war.’

Mr. Benjamin, Secretary of State, summed up the terms as follows:

‘The Military Convention made between General Johnston and General Sherman is, in substance, an agreement that if the Confederate States will cease to wage war for the purpose of establishing a separate government, the United States will receive the several States back into the Union, with their State Governments unimpaired, with all their Constitutional rights recognized, with protection for the persons and property of the people, and with a general amnesty.’

Mr. George Davis, Attorney-General, wrote:

‘Taken as a whole, the convention amounts to this, that the States of the Confederacy shall re-enter the old Union upon the same footing on which they stood before seceding from it.’

In the light of these opinions, how unjust does General Sherman's attack upon the memory of Secretary Stanton appear!

General Sherman relates that at the first meeting with Johnston, after the rejection of these terms, the latter, ‘without hesitation agreed to, and we executed’ the final terms. But even these were drawn up by General Schofield, and this officer, during the subsequent absence of General Sherman, also made supplementary terms with Johnston, which were found to be necessary to complete the details of the surrender.

From all of which it appears that the records tell a very different story of the negotiations with General Johnston from that contained in the Memoirs.

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