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Doc. 78. General Thomas' official report.

headquarters Department of the Cumberland, Nashville, June 1, 1865.
General: I have the honor to report the operations of my command from the date of the last report made by me, January 20, as follows :1

General A. J. Smith's corps, at that period, was with me at Eastport, Mississippi; four divisions of General Wilson's cavalry were encamped on the opposite or north bank of the Tennessee river, at Waterloo and Gravelly Springs, Alabama, and the Fourth corps, Major-General Stanley commanding, was stationed at Huntsville, Alabama. This, with the ordinary garrisons of the country, composed my command.

The General-in-chief of the army having given up the intention of my continuing the campaign against the enemy in Mississippi and Alabama, I received an order by telegraph from Major-General Halleck, Chief of Staff, to send General A. J. Smith's command and five thousand of General Wilson's cavalry by river, to report to Major-General Canby, at New Orleans, for the purpose of taking part in an expedition at that time preparing to operate against Mobile. Smith's corps started from Eastport on the sixth of February, and Knipe's division of cavalry left Nashville on the twelfth.

About the period of the departure of Smith's corps information was received, through various sources, to the effect that part of the shattered remnants of Hood's army, viz., Cheatham's and Lee's corps, where on their way from Mississippi to South Carolina, moving via Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, to reinforce that portion of the enemy's army operating against [505] General Sherman. There remained in Central Mississippi, under General Taylor, but one corps of the enemy's infantry, and about seven thousand of Forrest's cavalry, the headquarters of the command being at Meridian, Mississippi.

On the sixth of February a communication was received from Lieutenant-General Grant, directing an expedition, commanded by General Stoneman, to be sent from East Tennessee to penetrate North Carolina, and well down toward Columbia, South Carolina, to destroy the enemy's railroads and military resources in that section, and visit a portion of the State beyond the control or reach of General Sherman's column. As the movement was to be merely for the purpose of destruction, directions were given General Stoneman to evade any heavy engagements with the enemy's forces.

Again, on the thirteenth of February, General Grant telegraphed me to prepare a cavalry expedition, about ten thousand strong, to penetrate Northern Alabama, acting as a co-operative force to the movement on Mobile by General Canby. Before leaving Eastport, Mississippi, I had directed General Wilson to get his command in readiness for just such a campaign, of which the above was simply an outline — my instructions being for him to move on Tuscaloosa, Selma, and Montgomery, Alabama, and to capture those places if possible, after accomplishing which, he was to operate against any of the enemy's forces in the direction of Mississippi, Mobile, or Macon, as circumstances might demand. The bad state of the roads, combined with the condition of the horses of his command after completing the severe campaign in pursuit of Hood, prevented any movement for the time being, and it was only on the twenty-second of March that General Wilson, with Upton's, Long's, and McCook's divisions, could leave Chickasaw, Alabama. Hatch's division remained at Eastport, Mississippi, and R. W. Johnson's at Pulaski, Tennessee, it not being possible to mount them fully, to hold the country and prevent guerrilla depredations.

When General Sherman was organizing his army for its march to the Atlantic seaboard, in November, he issued an order directing me to assume control of all the forces of the Military Division of the Mississippi not present with him and the main army in Georgia. Based on that order, all the operations of the troops within the limits of the above-mentioned military division have, during the interval, been made under my immediate direction, and I have been held responsible for their faithful execution.

On the thirtieth of March General Wilson's cavalry reached Elyton, after an extremely difficult, toilsome, and exhaustive march, on account of bad roads, swollen streams, and the rough nature of the country, which had also been almost entirely stripped of all subsistence for man or beast. At Elyton Croxton's brigade, of McCook's division, was detached and sent to capture and destroy Tuscaloosa, and then march to rejoin the main body near Selma.

With the remainder of his command, General Wilson pushed rapidly forward to Montevallo, where he destroyed five extensive iron works, and other valuable property. On the outskirts of the town the enemy's cavalry was found in force, attacked, routed, and pursued through Plantersville, leaving in our possession three pieces of artillery and several hundred prisoners. At three P. M. on the second of April General Wilson reached the immediate vicinity of Selma, and rapidly formed Upton's and Long's divisions to attack the defences of the town — Long attacking on the Summerfield road, and Upton across a swamp deemed impassable by the enemy. Dismounting two regiments from each of the brigades of Colonels Miller and Minty, General Long and those two officers gallantly leading their men in person, charged across an open field five hundred yards wide, over a stockade which they tore up as they passed, through the ditch, and over the enemy's parapets, sweeping everything before them. Our loss was forty-six killed and two hundred wounded; Colonel Dodds, Fourth Ohio, among the former, and General Long and Colonels Miller and McCormick among the latter. General Upton met with less resistance than Long — entered the enemy's works and the town, capturing many prisoners. In the darkness and confusion following the assault Generals Forrest, Buford, Adams, Armstrong, and others, made their escape. Lieutenant-General Dick Taylor had left earlier in the afternoon. As the fruits of the victory, however, there remained twenty-six guns and two thousand seven hundred prisoners, besides large amounts of ordnance and other property of great value. Twenty-five thousand bales of cotton had already been destroyed by the enemy.

General Wilson remained at Selma from the second to the tenth of April, resting his command and completing the destruction of the immense workshops, arsenals, and foundries, and waiting for Croxton to rejoin from his expedition to Tuscaloosa, it having been ascertained, through the enemy, that he captured Tuscaloosa, and was moving to Selma via Eutaw. On the tenth General Wilson crossed the Alabama river and moved toward Montgomery, receiving the surrender of that town, without a contest, on the twelfth. The enemy burned eighty-five thousand bales of cotton before evacuating. At Montgomery five steamboats, several locomotives, one armory, and several foundries were destroyed.

On the fourteenth operations were resumed by Upton's division moving through Mount Meigs and Tuskegee toward Columbus, Georgia, and Colonel La Grange, with three regiments of his brigade, of McCook's division, marching along the railroad to West Point, via Opelika.

On the sixteenth, General Upton, with about four hundred dismounted men, assaulted and carried the breastworks of Columbus, saving, by the impetuosity of his attacks, the bridges over [506] the Chattahochee, and capturing fifty-two field guns in position, besides twelve hundred prisoners. The rebel ram “Jackson,” nearly ready for sea, and carrying an armament of six seven-inch guns, fell into our hands and was destroyed, as well as the navy-yard, foundries, the arsenal and the armory, sword and pistol factory, accoutrements, shops, paper-mills, four cotton factories, fifteen locomotives, two hundred cars, and an immense amount of cotton, all of which were burned. The same day, the sixteenth of April, La Grange captured Fort Taylor, at West Point, above Columbus, on the Chattahochee, after assaulting it on three sides, the defence being stubborn. Three hundred prisoners, three guns, and several battle-flags were taken, besides a large quantity of supplies.

On the eighteenth the march toward Macon was resumed, Minty's (late Long's) division leading. By a forced march, the bridges across Flint river, fifty-four miles from Columbus, were secured, compelling the abandonment by the enemy of five field-guns and a large amount of machinery; forty prisoners were captured, and two cotton factories destroyed.. At six P. M. on the twentieth of April, the authorities of Macon, under protest, surrendered the city to the Seventeenth Indiana, Colonel Minty's advance regiment, claiming, under the provisions of an armistice then reported existing between the forces of Generals Sherman and Johnston, that the capture was contrary to the usages of war. General Wilson, not being at hand when the surrender was made, when the case was reported to him, with admirable good judgment, declined to recognize the validity of the claim asserted, as the city had been taken possession of by one of his subordinates before he (General Wilson) could be advised of the existence of an armistice, and he therefore held as prisoners of war Major-Generals Howell Cobb and G. W. Smith, and Brigadier-Generals Mackall, Robertson, and Mercer. On the twenty-first, General Wilson was notified by General Sherman, from Raleigh, North Carolina, over the enemy's telegraph wires, and through the headquarters of General Joseph Johnston, that the reported armistice was a reality, and that he was to cease further operations.

To return to General Stoneman's expedition from East Tennessee. Owing to the difficulty of procuring animals for his command, and the bad condition of the roads, General Stoneman was only enabled to start from Knoxville about the twentieth of March, simultaneously with General Wilson's departure from Chickasaw, Alabama. In the meantime General Sherman had captured Columbia, South Carolina, and was moving northward into North Carolina. About this period reports reached me of the possibility of the evacuation of Lee's army at Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia, and in that event, of his forcing a passage through East Tennessee via Lynchburg and Knoxville. To guard against that contingency, Stoneman was sent toward Lynchburg to destroy the railroad and military resources of that section, and of Western North Carolina. The Fourth Army Corps was ordered to move from Huntsville, Alabama, as far up into East Tennessee as it could supply itself, repairing the railroad as it advanced, forming, in conjunction with Tilson's division of infantry, a strong support for General Stoneman's column, in case it should find more of the enemy than it could conveniently handle, and be obliged to fall back.

With three brigades, Brown's, Miller's, and Palmer's, commanded by General Gillem, General Stoneman moved via Morristown, Bull Gap, and thence eastward up the Watauga, and across Iron mountain to Boone, North Carolina, which he entered on the first of April, after killing or capturing about seventy-five home guards. From Boone, he crossed the Blue Ridge, and went to Wilkesboroa, on the Yadkin, where supplies were obtained in abundance, after which he changed his course toward South-western Virginia.

A detachment was sent to Wytheville, and another to Salem, to destroy the enemy's depots at those places, and the railroad, while the main body marched on Christianburg and captured the place. The railroad to the eastward and westward of the town was destroyed for a considerable distance. The party sent to Wytheville captured that place after some fighting, and burned the railroad bridges over New river and several creeks, as well as the depots of supplies. The detachment sent to Salem did the same, and proceeded to within four miles of Lynchburg, destroying as they advanced.

A railroad was never more thoroughly dismantled than was the East Tennesse and Virginia railroad, from Wytheville to near Lynchburg.

Concentrating his command, General Stoneman returned to North Carolina, via Jacksonville and Taylorsville, and went to Germantown, whence Palmer's brigade was sent to Salem, North Carolina, to destroy the large cotton factories located there, and burn the bridges on the railroad betwen Greensboroa and Danville, and between Greensboroa and the Yadkin river, which was most thoroughly accomplished, after some fighting, by which we captured about four hundred prisoners.

At Salem, seven thousand bales of cotton were burned by our forces.

From Germantown the main body moved south to Salisbury, where they found about three thousand of the enemy defending the place, and drawn up in line of battle behind Grant's creek, to await Stoneman's attack. Without hesitation, a general charge was made by our men, resulting in the capture of all the enemy's artillery, fourteen pieces, and one thousand three hundred and sixty-four prisoners. The remainder scattered, and were pursued.

During the two days following, the troops were engaged destroying the immense depots of supplies of all kinds in Salisbury, and burning [507] all the bridges for several miles on all the railroads leading out of the town.

On the afternoon of April thirteenth, the command moved westward to Statesville and Lenoir, at which latter point General Stoneman left the troops to be disposed of by General Gillem, and proceeded with the prisoners and captured artillery to East Tennessee, reporting his arrival, on the nineteenth, at Greenville, and detailing the disposition of his troops, which was as follows: Palmer's brigade, with headquarters at Lincolnton, North Carolina, to scout down the Catawba river toward Charlotte; Brown's brigade, with headquarters at Morgantown, to connect with Palmer, down the Catawba, and Miller's brigade, with General Gillem, was to take post at Ashville, with directions to open up communication through to Greenville, East Tennessee. The object in leaving the cavalry on the other side of the mountains being to obstruct, intercept, or disperse any troops of the enemy going south, and to capture trains.

General Gillem followed the directions given him, and marched on Ashville, with Miller's brigade, but was opposed at Swannano Gap by a considerable force of the enemy.

Leaving sufficient of his force to amuse them, with the balance he moved by way of Howard's Gap, gained the enemy's rear, and surprised and captured his artillery; after which he made his appearance in front of Ashville, where he was met by a flag of truce on the twenty-third, with the intelligence of the truce existing between Generals Sherman and Johnston, and bearing an order from General Sherman to General Stoneman, for the latter to go to the railroad station at Durham's, or Hillsboroa, nearly two hundred miles distant, whereas the distance to Greenville, East Tennessee, was but sixty. Coming to the conclusion that the order was issued by General Sherman, under the impression that the cavalry division was still at Salisbury or Statesville, General Gillem determined to move to Greenville. The rebel General Martin, with whom he communicated under flag of truce, demanded the rendition of the artillery captured, which, of course, could not be granted, and in return General Gillem requested the rebel commander to furnish his troops with three days rations, as by the terms of the armistice they were required to withdraw. Had it not been for this, Ashville and its garrison would have fallen into our hands.

Up to that period I had not been officially notified of the existence of any armistice between the forces of Generals Sherman and Johnston, and the information only reached me through my sub-commanders, Generals Wilson and Stoneman, from Macon, Georgia, and Greenville, East Tennessee, almost simultaneously. The question naturally arose in my mind, whether the troops acting under my direction by virtue of General Sherman's Special Field Orders No. 105, Series of 1864, directing me to assume control of all the forces of the Military Division of the Mississippi “not absolutely in the presence of the General-in-chief,” were to be bound by an armistice or agreement made at a distance of several hundred miles from where those troops were operating, and of which they were advised through an enemy, then in such straightened circumstances, that any ruse, honorable, at least in war, was likely to be practised by him to relieve himself from his difficult position.

Then, again, General Sherman was operating with a movable column beyond the limits of his territorial command, viz., the Military Division of the Mississippi, and far away from all direct communication with it, whereas “the troops not absolutely in the presence of the General-in-chief” were operating under special instructions, and not even in co-operation with General Sherman against Johnston; but, on the contrary, General Stoneman was dismantling the country to obstruct Lee's retreat, and General Wilson was moving independently in Georgia or co-operating with General Canby.

Before I could come to any conclusion how I should proceed under the circumstances, and without disrespect to my superior officer, General Sherman, Mr. Secretary Stanton telegraphed to me from Washington on the twenty-seventh of April, and through me to my subcommanders, to disregard all orders except those coming from General Grant or himself, and to resume hostilities at once, sparing no pains to press the enemy firmly, at the same time notifying me that General Sherman's negotiations with Johnston had been disapproved.

Based on that notification the following dispositions were made with a view of capturing President Davis and party, who, on the cessation of the armistice, had started south from Charlotte, North Carolina, with an escort variously estimated at from five hundred to two thousand picked cavalry, to endeavor to make his way to the trans-Mississippi.

General Stoneman was directed to send the brigades of Miller, Brown, and Palmer, then in Western North Carolina, to concentrate at Anderson, South Carolina, and scout down the Savannah river to Augusta, Georgia, if possible, in search of the fugitives. General Gillem being absent, Colonel Palmer, Fifteenth Pennsylvania cavalry, took command of the expedition. By rapid marching they succeeded in reaching and crossing the Savannah river in advance of Davis, and so disposed the command as to effectually cut off his retreat toward Mississippi, and forced him to alter his route toward the Atlantic coast. General Wilson, at Macon, Georgia, was also notified of the action taken at Washington on General Sherman's negotiations with Johnston, and he was directed to resume hostilities at once — especially to endeavor to intercept Davis.

Scarcely were the above orders issued and in process of execution, when notification reached me of the surrender by Johnston of all the enemy's forces east of the Chattahoochee river. General Wilson received similar notification from General Sherman direct, through the [508] enemy's territory, and immediately took measures to receive the surrender of the enemy's establishments at Atlanta and Augusta, and to occupy those points, detailing for that purpose Brevet Major-General Upton, with his division. General McCook was sent with a force to occupy Tallahassee, Florida, and to receive the surrender of the troops in that vicinity. Thus a cordon of cavalry, more or less continuous, was extended across the State of Georgia from northwest to south-east, and communication established through the late so-called Southern Confederacy. With characteristic energy, Generals Wilson and Palmer had handbills printed and profusely circulated in all directions throughout the country, offering the President's reward for the apprehension of Davis, and nothing could exceed the watchfulness exhibited by their commands.

On the third of May, Davis dismissed his escort at Washington, Georgia, and accompanied by about half a dozen followers, set out to endeavor to pass our lines. Nothing definite was learned of the whereabouts of the fugitives until on the evening of the seventh of May, the First Wisconsin cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Harndon commanding, with one hundred and fifty men, ascertained at Dublin, on the Oconee river, fifty-five miles south-east from Macon, that Davis and party had crossed the river at that point during the day, and had moved out on the Jacksonville road. At daylight on the eighth Colonel Harndon continued the pursuit, finding the camp occupied by Davis on the evening previous, between the forks of Alligator creek, which was reached just four hours after it had been vacated. The trail was pursued as far as the ford over Gum Swamp creek, Pulaski county, when darkness rendered it too indistinct to follow, and the command encamped for the night, having marched forty miles that day.

On the ninth Colonel Harndon pushed on to the Ocmulgee river, crossed at Brown's ferry, and went to Abbeville, where he ascertained Davis' train had left that place at one A. M. that same day, and had gone toward Irwinsville, in Irwin county. With this information Colonel Harndon moved rapidly on toward the latter town, halting within a short distance of it to wait for daylight, in order to make certain of the capture.

Before leaving Abbeville, Colonel Harndon, learning of the approach, from the direction of Hawkinsville, of the Fourth Michigan cavalry, Colonel Pritchard commanding, went to meet that officer, and informed him of his close pursuit of Davis, Colonel Pritchard stating in reply that he had been sent to Abbeville also, to watch for Davis. After Colonel Harndon's departure, Colonel Pritchard, with part of his command, started for Irwinsville by a more direct route than that used by the detachment of the First Wisconsin, arriving at Irwinsville at two A. M. on the tenth, where, on inquiry, it was ascertained that there was a camp about a mile from town on the other road leading to Abbeville. Approaching cautiously, for fear it might be our own men, Colonel Pritchard sent a dismounted party to interpose between it and Abbeville, and then waited for daylight to move forward and surprise the occupants. Daylight appearing, a rapid advance was made, and the encampment surprised, resulting in the capture of Jefferson Davis and family, John H. Reagan, postmaster-general of the so-called Confederacy, two aides-de-camp, the private secretary of Davis, four other officers, and eleven enlisted men.

Almost immediately after the completion of the above movement, Colonel Harndon's men coming down the Abbeville road were hailed by the party sent out during the night by Colonel Pritchard to secure the capture of the camp, and on being challenged answered “Friends,” but fell back, under the impression they had come upon an enemy; whereupon shots were exchanged before the real position of affairs could be ascertained, resulting in the loss on one side of two men killed and one wounded, and of three wounded on the other. Considerable feeling was caused by the manner in which the Fourth Michigan effected the apprehension of Davis, to the detriment of Colonel Harndon's party, but great credit is justly due and should be given to the First Wisconsin cavalry for the persistency of its pursuit, and it is only to be regretted they did not arrive on the ground in time to reap the benefit of their labors. For the full particulars of the operations of both detachments I have the pleasure of referring you to the reports of Lieutenant-Colonel Harndon, First Wisconsin, and Captain Hathaway, Fourth Michigan.

With the surrender of Johnston's army to General Sherman all the detachments of the Confederate armies east of the Chattahoochee signified their willingness to surrender, except a few guerrilla bands who were outlawed, special directions being given to grant all such no quarter. On the seventh of May notification was received by me, via Eastport and Meridian, Mississippi, of the surrender of General Taylor's army to General Canby, at Citronnella, Alabama, on the fourth. No armed force of the enemy east of the Mississippi remaining to interfere, I gave orders for the occupation by my forces of such portions of the reclaimed territory as it was necessary to hold while telegraphic and railroad communication was being restored, to the accomplishment of which the people of the country zealously gave their assistance.

May sixteenth General Grant, through his Chief of Staff, General Rawlins, directed me to order to some point north of the Tennessee river all of Wilson's cavalry except four thousand veterans, who are to remain at Macon, Augusta, and Atlanta, Georgia; those returning to be concentrated at some convenient point in Tennessee or Kentucky, preparatory to being mustered out or otherwise disposed of. All convalescents and others about the hospitals [509] throughout my command not requiring medical treatment have, by virtue of General Orders No. 77, been mustered out of service. The quartermaster, commissary, and ordnance departments have all been reduced to the smallest scale consistent with the demands of the service. During the past three months the defences of all the posts within my command have been thoroughly inspected by Brigadier-General Tower, Inspector of Fortifications, Military Division of the Mississippi, whose reports, with drawings attached, I have the honor to forward herewith.

For detailed accounts of the operations of the commands of Generals Stoneman and Wilson I invite the attention of the Lieutenant-General commanding to the reports of those officers, as well as to those of their subordinates, Generals Gillem, Palmer, and others. They have brought the cavalry arm of the service to a state of efficiency unequalled in other armies, for long and difficult marches through the enemy's country and particularly for self-reliance and fortitude in assaulting strong positions which might well cause hesitation in veteran infantry.

Herewith I have the honor to forward the report of Brevet Brigadier-General J. G. Parkhurst, Provost Marshal General of my command, giving the number of prisoners and deserters registered at his office during the period of which the foregoing treats.

I am, General, respectfully, your obedient servant,

Report of Prisoners of War received at the office of the Provost Marshal General, Department of the Cumberland, from January 21 to May 31, (inclusive,) 1865.

captured. Colonels. Lieutenant-Colonels. Majors. Captains. Lieutenants. surgeons. Assistant-surgeons. Chaplains. non-commissioned officers. privates.
January 1 to 31     1 2 6       5 85
February     1 2 6   3   17 102
March   2 1 3 6 3 1 1 9 93
April 1   3 17 26       61 584
May       3 10       8 60
Total 1 2 6 27 54 3 4 1 100 924
Grand total                   1,122

Report of Rebel Deserters received at Nashville, Tennessee, from January 21 to May 9, (inclusive,) 1865.

received. commissioned officers. enlisted men.
January 21 to 31 18 355
February 23 786
March 23 608
April 18 578
May 1 to 9 8 334
Total 90 2,661
Grand total   2,751

Report of Confederate Officers and Enlisted Men who voluntarily surrendered themselves, and who have taken the oath of allegiance and been allowed to return to their homes, from May 10 to 31, (inclusive,) 1865.

Officers 486
Enlisted men 3,559
Total 4,045

Report of Rebel Deserters received and disposed of at Chattanooga office from January 21 to May 31, (inclusive,) 1865.

received. commissioned officers. enlisted men.
January 1 to 31   21
February 4 103
March 10 422
April 8 519
May 32 1,477
Total 54 2,542
Grand total   2,596

headquarters Department of the Cumberland, Office Provost Marshal General, Nashville June 8, 1865.
Respectfully forwarded for the information of the Major-General Commanding.

J. G. Parkhurst, Brevet Brigadier-General and provost Marshal General, &c. Official:
S. C. Kellogg, Brevet-Major and Aid-de-Camp.

1 See page 359, ante.

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