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Chapter 18:

General Sherman, in his Memoirs, returns with increased violence to his old attack upon Secretary Stanton, and attempts to hold him chiefly responsible for a course in regard to the Sherman-Johnston terms, which at the time was approved by the President, General Grant, General Halleck, every member of the Cabinet, and by the loyal North.

He attempts to convey the impression that Mr. Stanton exceeded his authority in the matter, by the statement that President Johnson, and nearly all the members of the Cabinet assured him, after his arrival in Washington, that they knew nothing of Mr. Stanton's publications setting forth the nature of his terms and the reasons of the Cabinet for rejecting them. This is an attempt to escape upon a technicality. The President, and every member of the Cabinet, had united in rejecting the terms on the grounds which Mr. Stanton made known. It is doubtless true that none of them, except Mr. Stanton, knew that these reasons were to be made public in the shape they were till they saw them in the newspapers. And, as the Secretary of War ‘offered no word of explanation or apology,’ General Sherman concluded to insult him in public, which he seems to think he afterward did, by refusing to take Mr. Stanton's hand, or as he expresses it, speaking of his own behavior on the stand at the great review, ‘I shook hands with the President, General Grant, and each member of the Cabinet. As I approached Mr. Stanton, he offered me his [245] hand, but I declined it publicly, and the fact was universally noticed’—but how decidedly to the discredit of General Sherman he does not relate in his new capacity of historian.

His main complaint is directed at the reasons assigned by Mr. Stanton for the rejection of his terms. He contends that personally he ‘cared very little whether they were approved, modified, or disapproved in toto,’ only he ‘wanted instructions;’ and yet in a letter to Halleck, quoted in the Memoirs, and written the day these terms were agreed upon, is this appeal:

‘Please give all orders necessary according to the views the Executive may take, and influence him, if possible, not to vary the terms at all, for I have considered every thing, and believe that the Confederate armies once dispersed, we can adjust all else fairly and well.’

It is now known, from documents which might have slept but for General Sherman's revival of this matter, that the members of Jeff. Davis' Cabinet construed the Sherman-Johnston terms exactly as Mr. Stanton and the other members of Lincoln's Cabinet did.

It has already been made to appear that Mr. Reagan, the Confederate Postmaster-General; Mr. Breckinridge, Secretary--of War; Wade Hampton, and General Johnston held a consultation at the headquarters of the latter, late at night, after the first conference with General Sherman. Up to that time no draft of ‘terms’ had been prepared by either side, and Mr. Reagan thereupon drew up outlines, based upon Johnston's conversations with Sherman, and this paper was the next day handed to the latter, and, with it before him, he rote the memorandum, which was afterward signed. This was agreed to, and did not differ in its most important points from the draft prepared by Mr. Reagan.

The latter, therefore, was well qualified to inform Mr. Davis of the character of these terms; and a few days later, when they had been under consideration in the rebel Cabinet, he, in common with his associate members, at the request of Mr. [246] Davis, gave a written opinion upon the terms and the question of accepting them.

This paper, which is now both interesting and pertinent to the questions General Sherman has raised, is as follows:

Views of Postmaster-General Reagan:

Charlotte, N. C., April 22, 1865.
To the President.
Sir—In obedience to your request for the opinions in writing of the members of the Cabinet on the questions: first, as to whether you should assent to the preliminary agreement of the 18th inst., between General Joseph E. Johnston, of the Confederate army, and Major-General W. T. Sherman, of the army of the United States, for the suspension of hostilities and the adjustment of the difficulties between the two countries; and, if so, second, the proper mode of executing this agreement on our part, I have to say that, painful as the necessity is, in view of the relative condition of the armies and resources of the belligerents, I must advise the acceptance of the terms of the agreement

General Lee, the General-in-Chief of our armies, has been compelled to surrender our principal army, heretofore employed in the defense of our capital, with the loss of a very large part of our ordnance, arms, munitions of war, and military stores of all kinds, with what remained of our naval establishment. The officers of the civil government have been compelled to abandon the capital, carrying with them the archives, and thus to close, for the time being at least, the regular operations of its several departments, with no place now open to us at which we can reestablish and put these departments in operation, with any prospect of permanency or security for the transaction of the public business and the carrying on of the Government. The army under the command of General Johnston has been reduced to fourteen or fifteen — infantry and artillery and — cavalry, and this force is, from demoralization and despondency, melting away rapidly by the troops abandoning the army and returning to their homes singly and in numbers large and small; it being the opinion of Generals Johnston and Beauregard that with the men and means at their command they can oppose no serious obstacle to the advance of General Sherman's army. General Johnston is of opinion that the enemy's forces now in the field exceed ours in numbers by probably ten to one. Our forces in the South, though still holding the fortifications at Mobile, have been unable to prevent the fall of Selma and Montgomery in Alabama, and of Columbus and Macon in Georgia, with their magazines, workshops, and stores of supplies.

The army west of the Mississippi is unavailable for the arrest of the victorious career of the enemy east of that river, and is inadequate for the defense of the country west of it. The country is worn down by a brilliant and heroic, but exhausting and bloody struggle of four years. Our ports are [247] closed so as to exclude the hope of procuring arms and supplies from abroad; and we are unable to arm our people if they were willing to continue the struggle. The supplies of quartermaster and commissary stores in the country are very limited in amount, and our railroads are so broken and destroyed as to prevent, to a great extent, the transportation and accumulation of those remaining. Our currency has lost its purchasing power, and there is no other means of supplying the treasury; and the people are hostile to impressments and endeavor to conceal such supplies as are needed for the army from the officers charged with their collection. Our armies, in case of a prolongation of the struggle, will continue to melt away as they retreat through the country. There is danger, and I think I might say certainty, based on the information we have, that a portion, and probably all of the States will make separate terms with the enemy as they are overrun, with the chance that the terms so obtained will be less favorable to them than those contained in the agreement under consideration. And the despair of our people will prevent a much longer continuance of serious resistance, unless they shall be hereafter urged to it by unendurable oppressions.

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 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.

With these facts before us, and under the belief that we can not now reasonably hope for the achievement of our independence, which should be dearer than life if it were possibly attainable, and under the belief that a continuance of the struggle, with its sacrifices of life and property, and its accumulation of sufferings, without a reasonable prospect of success, would be both unwise and criminal, I advise that you assent to the agreement as the best you can now do for the people who have clothed you with the high trust of your position.

In advising this course I do not conceal from myself, nor would I withhold from your Excellency, the danger of trusting the people who drove us to war by their unconstitutional and unjust aggressions, and who will now add the consciousness of power to their love of dominion and greed of gain.

It is right also for me to say that much as we have been exhausted in men [248] and resources, I am of opinion that if our people could be induced to continue the contest with the spirit which animated them during the first years of the war, our independence might yet be within our reach. But I see no reason to hope for that now.

On the second question, as to the proper mode of executing the agreement, I have to say that whatever you may do looking to the termination of the contest by an amicable arrangement which may embrace the extinction of the Government of the Confederate States, must be done without special authority to be found in the Constitution. And yet, I am of opinion that, charged as you are with the duty of looking to the general welfare of the people, and without time or opportunity, under the peculiarity and necessities of the case, to submit the whole question to the States for their deliberation and action without danger of losing material advantages provided for in the agreement; and, as I believe that you, representing the military power and authority of all the States, can obtain better terms for them than it is probable they could obtain each for itself; and, as it is in your power, if the Federal authorities accept this agreement, to terminate the ravages of war sooner than it can be done by the several States, while the enemy is still unconscious of the full extent of our weakness, you should, in case of the acceptance of the terms of this agreement by the authorities of the United States, accept them on the part of the Confederate States, and take steps for the disbanding of the Confederate armies on the terms agreed on. As you have no power to change the government of the country, or to transfer the allegiance of the people, I would advise that you submit to the several States, through their governors, the question as to whether they will, in the exercise of their own sovereignty, accept, each for itself, the terms proposed.

To this it may be said, that after the disbanding of our armies and the abandonment of the contest by the Confederate Government, they would have no alternative but to accept the terms proposed or an unequal and hopeless war, and that it would be needless for them to go through the forms and incur the trouble and expense of assembling a convention for the purpose To such an objection, if urged, it may be answered that we entered into the contest to maintain and vindicate the doctrine of State rights and State sovereignty, and the right of self government, and that we can only be faithful to the Constitution of the United States, and true to the principles in support of which we have expended so much blood and treasure, by the employment of the same agencies to return into the old Union which we employed in separating from it and in forming our present Government; and that if this should be an unwelcome and enforced action by the States, it would not be more so on the part of the States than on the part of the President, if he were to undertake to execute the whole agreement, and while they would have authority for acting lie would have none.

This plan would at least conform to the theory of the Constitution of the United States, and would, in future, be an additional precedent, to which the friends of State rights could point in opposing the doctrine of the [249] consolidation of powers in the central government. And if the future shall disclose a disposition (of which I fear the chance is remote) on the part of the people of the United States to return to the spirit and meaning of the Constitution, then this action on the part of the States might prove to be of great value to the friends of constitutional liberty and good government.

In addition to the terms of agreement, an additional provision should be asked for, which will probably be allowed without objection, stipulating for the withdrawal of the Federal forces from the several States of the Confederacy, except a sufficient number to garrison the permanent fortifications and take care of the public property until the States can call their conventions and take action on the proposed terms.

In addition to the necessity for this course, in order to make their action as free and voluntary as other circumstances will allow, it would aid in softening the bitter memories which must necessarily follow such a contest as that in which we are engaged.

Nothing is said in the agreement about the public debt and the disposition of our public property beyond the turning over of the arms to the State arsenals.

In the final adjustment we should endeavor to secure provisions for the auditing of the debt of the Confederacy, and for its payment in common with the war debt of the United States.

We may ask this on the ground that we did not seek this war, but only sought peaceful separation to secure our people and States from the effects of unconstitutional encroachments by the other States, and because, on the principles of equity, allowing that both parties had acted in good faith, and gone to war on a misunderstanding which admitted of no other solution, and now agree to a reconciliation, and to a burial of the past, it would be unjust to compel our people to assist in the payment of the war debt of the United States, and for them to refuse to allow such of the revenues as we might contribute to be applied to the payment of our creditors. If it should be said that this is a liberality never extended by the conqueror to the conquered, the answer is that if the object of the pacification is to restore the Union in good faith and to reconcile the people to each other, to restore confidence and faith, and prosperity, and homogenity, then it is of the first importance that the terms of reconciliation should be based on entire equity, and that no just ground of grief or complaint should be left to either party. And to both parties, looking not only to the present but to the interest of future generations, the amount of money which would be involved, though large, would be as nothing when compared with a reconciliation entirely equitable, which should leave no sting to honor, and no sense of wrong to rankle in the memories of the people, and lay the foundation for new difficulties and for future wars. It is to this feature, it seems to me, the greatest attention should be given by both sides. It will be of the highest importance to all, for the present as well as for the future, that the frankness, sincerity, and justice of both parties shall be as conspicuous in the adjustment of past difficulties, as their courage and [250] endurance have been during the war, if we would make peace on a basis which would be satisfactory and might be rendered perpetual

In any event provisions should be made which will authorize the Confederate authorities to sell the public property remaining on hand, and to apply the proceeds, as far as they will go, to the payment of our public liabilities, or for such other disposition as may be found advisable.

But if the terms of this agreement should be rejected, or so modified by the Government of the United States as to refuse a recognition of the right of local self-government and our political rights, and rights of persons and property, or as to refuse amnesty for past participation in this war, then it will be our duty to continue the struggle as best we can, however unequal it may be; as it would be better and more honorable to waste our lives and substance in such a contest than to yield both to the mercy of a remorseless conqueror.

I am, with great respect, your Excellency's obedient servant,

John H. Reagan, Postmaster-General.

It will be seen that Mr. Reagan, whose opportunities for being well informed were excellent, looked upon the Sherman terms as ‘preliminary,’ and held, as Mr. Stanton said our Cabinet did, that subsequently a claim might be made that the North should help pay the rebel war debt.

The views of the other members of the Davis Cabinet, submitted in writing at the same time, were as follows:

Views of Mr. Benjamin, Secretary of State:

Charlotte, N. C., 22d April, 1865.
To the President.
Sir: I have the honor to submit this paper as the advice in writing which you requested from the heads of the departments of the Government.

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.

The question is whether, in view of the military condition of the belligerents, the Confederate States can hope for any better result by continuing the war; whether there is any reason to believe that they can establish their independence and final separation from the United States.

To reach a conclusion it is requisite to consider our present condition and the prospect of a change for the better. [251]

The General-in-Chief of the armies of the Confederacy has capitulated, and his army, the largest and finest within our country, is irretrievably lost.

The soldiers have been dispersed and remain at home as paroled prisoners.

The artillery, arms, and munitions of war are lost, and no help can be expected from Virginia, which is at the mercy of the conqueror.

The army next in numbers and efficiency is known as the Army of Tennessee, and is commanded by Generals Johnston and Beauregard.

Its rolls call for more than seventy thousand men. Its last returns show a total present for duty, of all arms, of less than twenty thousand men. This number is daily diminishing by desertions and casualties. In a recent conference with the Cabinet at Greensboro Generals Johnston and Beauregard expressed the unqualified opinion that it was not in their power to resist Sherman's advance, and that as fast as their army retreated, the soldiers of the several States on the line of retreat would abandon the army and go home.

We also hear on all sides, and from citizens well acquainted with public opinion, that the State of North Carolina will not consent to continue the struggle after our armies shall have withdrawn further south, and this withdrawal is inevitable if hostilities are resumed.

This action of North Carolina would render it impossible for Virginia to maintain her position in the Confederacy, even if her people were unanimous in their desire to continue the contest.

In the more southern States we have no army except the forces now defending Mobile and the cavalry under General Forrest. The enemy are so far superior in numbers that they have occupied within the last few weeks Selma, Montgomery, Columbus, and Macon, and could continue their career of devastation through Georgia and Alabama without our being able to prevent it by any forces now at our disposal.

It is believed that we could not at the present moment gather together an army of thirty thousand men by a concentration of all our forces east of the Mississippi River.

Our sea-coast is in possession of the enemy, and we can not obtain arms and munitions — from abroad except in very small quantities and by precarious and uncertain means of transportation.

We have lost possession in Virginia and North Carolina of our chief resources for the supply of powder and lead.

We can obtain no aid from the Trans-Mississippi Department, from which we are cut off by the fleets of gun-boats that patrol the river.

We have not a supply of arms sufficient for putting into the field even ten thousand additional men, if the men themselves were forthcoming.

The Confederacy is, in a word, unable to continue the war by armies in the field, and the struggle can no longer be maintained in any other manner than by a guerrilla or partisan warfare. Such a warfare is not, in my opinion, desirable, nor does it promise any-useful result. It would entail far more suffering on our own people than it would cause damage to the enemy; and [252] the people have been such heavy sufferers by the calamities of the war for the last four years that it is at least questionable whether they would be willing to engage in such a contest, unless forced to endure its horrors in preference to dishonor and degradation.

The terms of the convention imply no dishonor, impose no degradation, exact only what the victor always requires—the relinquishment by his foe of the object for which the struggle was commenced.

Seeing no reasonable hope of our ability to conquer our independence, admitting the undeniable fact that we have been vanquished in the war, it is my opinion that these terms should be accepted, being as favorable as any that we, as the defeated belligerents, have reason to expect or can hope to secure.

It is further my opinion that the President owes it to the States and to the people to obtain for them, by a general pacification, rights and advantages which they would, in all probability, be unable to secure by the separate action of the different States. It is natural that the enemy should be willing to accord more liberal conditions for the purpose of closing the war at once than would be granted if each State should continue the contest till separate terms could be made for itself.

The President is the chief political executive of the Confederacy, as well as the Commander-in-Chief of its armies. In the former capacity he is powerless to act in making peace on any other basis than that of independence. In the latter capacity he can ratify the military convention under consideration, and execute its provisions relative to the disbandment of the army and the distribution of the arms. He can end hostilities.

The States alone can act in dissolving the Confederacy and returning to the Union, according to the terms of the convention.

I think that if this convention be ratified by the United States, the President should, by proclamation, inform the States and the people of the Confederacy of the facts above recited; should ratify the convention so far as he has authority to act as Commander-in-Chief, and should execute the military provisions; should declare his inability, with the means remaining at his disposal, to defend the Confederacy or maintain its independence, and should resign a trust which it is no longer possible to fulfill.

He should further invite the several States to take into immediate consideration the terms of this convention, with a view to their adoption and execution as being the best and most favorable that they could hope to obtain by a continuance of the struggle.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. P. Benjamin, Secretary of State.

Views of Mr. Mallory, Secretary of the Navy:

Charlotte, N. C., 24th April, 1865.
Mr. President: In compliance with your suggestion I have the honor [253] briefly to present the following views upon the propositions discussed in Cabinet council yesterday.

These propositions, agreed upon and signed by General Joseph E. Johnston and W. T. Sherman, may fairly be regarded as providing for the immediate cessation of hostilities, the disbandment of our armies, and the return of our soldiers to the peaceful walks of life; the restoration of the several States of our Confederacy to the old Union, with the integrity of their State Governments preserved; the security of their ‘people and inhabitants’ in their rights of person and property under the Constitution and the Laws of the United States, equally with the people of any other State, guaranteed, and a general amnesty for and on account of any participation in the present war.

The very grave responsibility devolved upon you by these propositions is at once apparent. To enter at all upon their discussion is to admit that independence, the great object of our struggle, is hopeless. I believe and admit this to be the case, and therefore do I advise you to accept these propositions so far as you have the power to do so; and my conviction is that nine-tenths of the people of every State of the Confederacy would so advise if opportunity were presented them. They are weary of the war and desire peace. If they could be rallied and brought to the field, a united and determined people might even yet achieve independence; but many circumstances admonish us that we can not count upon their cordial and united action.

The vast army of deserters and absentees from our military service during the past twelve months, the unwillingness of the people to enter the armies, the impracticability of recruiting them, the present utter demoralization of our troops consequent upon the destruction of the Army of Virginia, the rapid decrease by desertion of General Johnston's army, which as it retreats south, if retreat it can, will retain in its ranks but few soldiers beyond the by-paths and cross-roads which lead to their homes, together with the recent successes of the enemy, the fall of Selma, Montgomery, Columbus, and Macon, his forces in the field and his vast resources, all dictate the admission I have made.

I do not believe that by any possibility we could organize, arm, and equip, and bring into the field this side of the Mississippi fifteen thousand men within the next sixty days, and I am convinced that both General Beauregard and General Johnston are utterly hopeless of continuing the contest. A guerrilla warfare might be carried on in certain portions of our country for a time, perhaps for years, but while such a warfare would be more disastrous to our own people than it could possibly be to the enemy, it would exercise little or no influence upon his military operations, or upon his hold upon the country. Conducted upon our own soil our own people would chiefly feel its evils, and would afford it neither countenance nor support. Guerrilla warfare never has been and never can be carried on by and between peoples of a common origin, language, and institutions. [254]

Our sea-board and our ports being in the enemy's hands we can not rely upon supplies of arms and other munitions of war from abroad, and our means of producing them at home, already limited, are daily decreasing. The loss of Selma and of Columbus, where much valuable machinery for the construction of ordnance and ordnance stores was collected, must materially circumscribe our ability in this respect.

Our currency is nearly worthless, and will become utterly so with further military disasters, and there is no hope that we can improve it.

The arms of the United States have rendered the great object of our struggle hopeless, have conquered a reconstruction of the Union, and it becomes your duty to secure to the people, as far as practicable, life, liberty, and property.

The propositions signed by the opposing generals are more favorable to these great objects than could justly have been anticipated.

Upon you, with a more thorough knowledge of the condition of our country, the character and sentiments of our people, and of our means and resources, than is possessed by others, is devolved the responsibility of promptly accepting or of promptly rejecting them. I advise their acceptance; and that, having notified General Johnston of your having done so, you promptly issue, so soon as you shall learn the acceptance thereof by the authorities of the United States, a proclamation to the people of the Confederate States, setting forth clearly the condition of the country, your inability to resist the enemy's overwhelming numbers, or to protect the country from his devastating and desolating march, the propositions submitted to you, and the reasons which, in your judgment, render their acceptance by the States and the people wise and expedient. You can not, under the Constitution, dissolve the Confederacy and remit the States composing it to the Government of the United States.

But the Confederacy is conquered. Its days are numbered. Virginia is lost to it, and North Carolina must soon follow, and State after State, under the hostile tread of the enemy, must renter the old Union. The occasion, the emergency, the dire necessities and misfortunes of the country, the vast interests at stake, were never contemplated by those who framed the Constitution. They are all outside of it, and in the dissolution of the Confederacy and the wreck of all their hopes, the States and the people will turn to you, whose antecedents and whose present position and powers constitute you, more than any other living man, the guardian of their honor and their interests, and will expect you not to stand upon constitutional limitations, but to assume and exercise all powers which to you may seem necessary and proper to shield them from useless war, and to save from the wreck of the country all that may be practicable of honor, life, and property.

If time were allowed for the observance of constitutional forms I would advise the submission of these propositions to the executives of the several States to the end that, through the usual legislative and conventional action, the wills of the people of the States respectively might be known. But in [255] the present condition of the country such delay as this course would involve would be the death-blow to all hopes founded upon them.

The pacification of the country should be as speedy as practicable, to the end that the authorities of the States may enter upon the establishment and maintenance of law and order. Negotiations for this purpose can more appropriately follow upon the overwhelming disaster of General Lee than at a future time. The wreck of our hopes results immediately from it.

I omit all reference to the details which must be provided for by the contending parties to this agreement for future consideration.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

S. R. Mallory, Secretary of the Navy.

Views of Attorney-General Davis:

Charlotte, N. C., 22d April, 1865.
To the President.
Sir: The questions submitted by you to the members of your Cabinet for their opinions are:

1. Whether the convention agreed upon on the 18th inst., by and between General Johnston, commanding the Confederate forces, and Major-General Sherman, commanding the forces of the United States, in North Carolina, should be ratified by you.

2. If so, in what way should it be done.

The terms of that convention are substantially as follows:

That the armies of the Confederate States shall be disbanded and their arms surrendered.

That the several State Governments shall be recognized by the Executive of the United States, upon their officers and legislatures taking the oaths prescribed by the Constitution of the United States; and where there are conflicting State Governments the question to be referred to the decision of the Supreme Court.

That all political rights and franchises, and all rights of person and property, shall be respected and guaranteed.

That a general amnesty be granted, and no citizen be molested in person or property for any acts done in aid of the Confederate States in the prosecution of the war.

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

These States having, in their several conventions, solemnly asserted their sovereignty and right of self-government, and having established for themselves, and maintained through four years of bloody war a government of their own choosing, no loyal citizen can consent to its abandonment and [256] destruction as long as there remains a reasonable hope of successful resistance to the arms of the United States.

The question, therefore, whether the terms of the military convention should be accepted will depend upon whether the Confederate States are in a condition further to prosecute the war with a reasonable hope of success, and this question will be answered by a brief review of our military situation.

The Army of Northern Virginia, for four years the pride and boast of the Confederacy, under the lead of the General-in-Chief, whose name we have been accustomed to associate with victory, after having been defeated and reduced to a mere remnant by straggling and desertion, has capitulated to the enemy. All who were not embraced in the capitulation have thrown away their arms and disbanded beyond any hope of reorganization.

Our only other army east of the Mississippi, the Army of Tennessee, contains now about thirteen thousand effective men, of infantry and artillery, and is daily melting away by desertion. It is confronted by one of the best armies of the United States, fifty thousand strong. Manifestly it can not fight, and if it retreats, the chances are more than equal that, like the Army of Northern Virginia, it will dissolve, and the remnant be forced to capitulate. If it should retreat successfully, and offer itself as a nucleus for reorganization, it can not be recruited. Volunteering is long since at an end, and conscription has exhausted all its force. East of the Mississippi, scattered through all the States, we have now about forty thousand organized troops. To oppose these the enemy have more than two hundred thousand. Persevering efforts for many months past have failed to overcome the obstacle to the removal of troops from the west to the east of the Mississippi. We can, therefore, look for no accession of strength from that quarter. If a returning sense of duty and patriotism should bring back the stragglers and deserters in sufficient numbers to form a respectable army, we have not the means of arming them. Our supply of arms is very nearly exhausted, our means of manufacturing substantially at an end, and the blockade of our ports prevents their introduction from abroad, except in small quantities, and at remote points. In view of these facts our two generals highest in command in the field have expressed in decided terms our inability longer to continue the struggle. Observation has satisfied me that the States of Virginia and North Carolina are finally lost to our cause. The people of the latter are utterly weary of the war, broken and despairing in spirit, and eager to accept terms far less liberal than the convention proposes. In the absence of a general arrangement they will certainly make terms for themselves. Abandoned by our armies, the people of Virgina will follow their example, and it will be impossible to arrest the process of disintegration thus begun.

This melancholy array of facts leaves open but one conclusion. I am unhesitatingly of the opinion that the convention ought to be ratified.

As to the proper mode of ratification, greater doubt may be reasonably entertained. The Confederate Government is but the agent of the States, and as its chief executive you can not, according to our governmental theory, bind [257] the States to a government which they have not adopted for themselves. Nor can you rightfully, without their consent, dissolve the government which they have established. But there are circumstances so desperate as to over ride all constitutional theories, and such are those which are pressing upon us now. The Government of the Confederate States is no longer potent for good. Exhausted by war in all its resources to such a degree that it can no longer offer a respectable show of resistance to its enemies, it is already virtually destroyed. And the chief duty left for you to peform is to provide as far as possible for the speedy delivery of the people from the horrors of war and anarchy.

I therefore respectfully advise that upon the ratification of the convention by the Executive of the United States, you issue your proclamation, plainly setting forth the circumstances which have induced you to assent to the terms proposed, disbanding the armies of the Confederacy, resigning your office as chief magistrate, and recommending to the people of the States that they assemble in convention and carry into effect the terms agreed on.

Views of Mr. Breckinridge, Secretary of War:

Charlotte, N. C., April 23, 1866.
To His Excellency the President.
Sir: In obedience to your request I have the honor to submit my advice as to the course you should take upon the memorandum or basis of agreement made on the 18th inst. by and between General J. E. Johnston, of the Confederate States Army, and Major-General W. T. Sherman, of the United States Army, provided that paper shall receive the approval of the Government of the United States.

The principal army of the Confederacy was recently lost in Virginia. Considerable bodies of troops not attached to that army have either disbanded or marched toward their homes, accompanied by many of their officers. Five days ago the effective force, in infantry and artillery, of General Johnston's army was but fourteen thousand seven hundred and seventy men, and it continues to diminish. That officer thinks it wholly impossible for him to make any head against the overwhelming forces of the enemy. Our ports are closed, and the sources of foreign supply lost to us. The enemy occupy all or the greater part of Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina, and move almost at will through the other States to the east of the Mississippi.

They have recently taken Selma, Montgomery, Columbus, Macon, and other important towns, depriving us of large depots of supplies and of munitions of war. Of the small force still at command, many are unarmed, and the Ordnance Department can not furnish five thousand stand of small arms.

I do not think it would be possible to assemble, equip, and maintain an army of thirty thousand men at any point east of the Mississippi River. [258]

The contest, if continued after this paper is rejected, will be likely to lose entirely the dignity of regular warfare, many of the States will make such terms as they may, in others separate and ineffective hostilities may be prosecuted, while the war, wherever waged, will probably degenerate into that irregular and secondary stage out of which greater evils will flow to the South than to the enemy.

For these and for other reasons which need not now be stated, I think we can no longer contend with a reasonable hope of success.

It seems to me that the time has arrived when, in a large and clear view of the situation, prompt steps should be taken to put an end to the war.

It may be said that the agreement of the 18th inst. contains certain stipulations which you can not perform.

This is true, and it was well understood by General Sherman that only a part could be executed by the Confederate authorities. In any view of the case grave responsibilities must be met and assumed. If the necessity for peace be conceded, corresponding action must be taken. The mode of negotiation which we deem regular and would prefer is impracticable.

The situation is anomalous and can not be solved upon principles of theoretical exactitude.

In my opinion you are the only person who can meet the present necessities.

I respectfully advise:

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

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

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

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

Respectfully and truly your friend,

John C. Breckinridge, Secretary of War.

General Sherman deserves thanks for bringing to light the above interesting and valuable historical papers.

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