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Chapter 35:

  • Grant returns to Washington
  • -- reduction of expenses of government -- rejoicing of country -- assassination of Lincoln -- negotiations between Sherman and Johnston -- manoeuvres of rebels -- Sherman's terms -- disapproved by government -- Grant in North Carolina -- Second arrangement between Sherman and Johnston -- approved by Grant -- excitement of country-grant's friendship for Sherman -- movements of Stoneman -- operations of Canby -- evacuation of Mobile -- operations of cavalry -- surrender of all the rebel armies -- capture of Jefferson Davis -- collapse of the revolt-sagacity of Grant -- Gratitude of rebels -- acclamations of country -- review of Grant's career -- Educated by earlier events for chief command -- his view of situation -- Comprehensiveness of plan -- character and result of Wilderness campaign -- desperation of rebels -- development of general plan -- consummation -- completeness of combinations -- victory not the result of brute force -- faithful support of government -- Executive greatness of Sherman and Sheridan -- characteristics of Meade, Thomas, and Lee -- further traits of Lee -- fitting representative of the rebellion -- characteristics of national and rebel soldiers -- necessity of transcendent efforts -- characteristics of a commander—in—chief in civil war -- nations never saved without a leader -- Grant protects Lee from trial for treason.

The surrender at Appomattox court-house ended the war. The interview with Lee occurred on the 9th of April, and on the 13th Grant arrived at Washington, and at once set about reducing the military expenses of the government. He spent the day with the President and the Secretary of War, and at night the following announcement was made to the country:

War Department, Washington, April 13th, 6 P. M.
The Department, after mature consideration and consultation with the Lieutenant-General upon the results of the recent campaign, has come to the following determinations, which will be carried into [626] effect by appropriate orders to be immediately issued.

First, to stop all drafting and recruiting in the loyal states.

Second, to curtail purchases for arms, ammunition, quartermaster, and commissary supplies, and reduce the military establishment in its several branches.

Third, to reduce the number of general and staff officers to the actual necessities of the service.

‘Fourth, to remove all military restrictions upon trade and commerce, so far as may be consistent with the public safety.’

These important reductions proclaimed the overthrow of the rebellion and the restoration of peace; and enthusiastic rejoicings at once broke out all over the land. In Washington an illumination of all the public and many of the private buildings took place, and on the 14th of April, it was announced in the newspapers that the general-in-chief would accompany the President in the evening to the theatre. But Grant had not seen his children for several months, and, declining the invitation of the President, he started for Burlington, in New Jersey, where his children were at school. That night the President was assassinated—shot by an actor, one of a band of conspirators who, it was afterwards proved, intended also to take the life of Grant. The Secretary of State was wounded in his bed, and doubtless the designs included attacks upon the VicePresi-dent and the Secretary of War, which, however, were not carried into effect. Stanton at once telegraphed to the general-in-chief, who returned the same night to Washington. [627]

The President lingered a few hours, and expired on the morning of the 15th, at the moment of the triumph of that cause of which he had been the devoted servant as well as the indefatigable and beloved leader, and of which he now became the most exalted and lamented martyr. His successor, Andrew Johnson, was inaugurated on the same day.

These astounding events imposed unforeseen and important duties on all connected with the government, and Grant, of course, remained at the capital.

Meanwhile, the expected sequel to the surrender of Lee had come to pass. On the 10th of April, in obedience to Grant's orders to ‘push on and finish the job with Lee and Johnston's armies,’ Sherman advanced against Smithfield, and Johnston at once retreated rapidly through Raleigh, which place Sherman entered on the 13th. On the 14th, he received a message from Johnston, dictated by Jefferson Davis, who was living in a box car on the railroad, at Greensboro, the inhabitants refusing him any other shelter.

The rebels had learned the surrender of Lee, and their communication was to inquire whether Sherman was ‘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 would 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.’

Sherman replied on the same day that he was fully empowered to arrange any terms for the suspension of further hostilities between his own army and that of Johnston, and was willing to confer to [628] that end. He undertook to abide by the same terms and conditions as were allowed by Grant to Lee at Appomattox, and, furthermore, to obtain from Grant an order to suspend the movements of any troops from the direction of Virginia. He also offered to order Stoneman, now in front of Johnston's army, to suspend any devastation or destruction contemplated by him.

No reply to this was received until the 16th, when Johnston agreed to meet Sherman on the following day at a point midway between the two armies. Just before starting for the interview, Sherman received a telegram announcing the assassination of Lincoln, and, as soon as the two commanders were alone, he showed the dispatch to Johnston, who did not attempt to conceal his distress, but declared that the event would prove the greatest possible calamity to the Confederacy.

The discussion of the object of the interview then began. Sherman at once declined to receive any propositions addressed to the government of the United States by those claiming to be civil authorities of a Southern Confederacy; whereupon Johnston proposed that the two generals should themselves arrange the terms of a permanent peace; and the conditions which might be allowed to the rebellious states on their submission to the government were discussed. The terms were not entirely agreed upon, as Sherman desired to be certain of Johnston's authority to speak for ‘all the Confederate armies.’ The conference was therefore suspended until the following day, to give opportunity for Johnston to obtain this authority.

Immediately after the close of the interview [629] Johnston telegraphed to Breckenridge, who had proceeded as far as Charlotte, with the fugitive government. Breckenridge came promptly at the summons, together with Reagan, the Postmaster-General of the rebel cabinet. A memorandum was then drawn up of the terms which Davis and his advisers considered desirable, and, on the 18th, Johnston and Breckenridge repaired together to the place of rendezvous. Sherman, however, objected to the presence of a member of the Richmond cabinet, whereupon Johnston proposed that Breckenridge should be admitted to the interview in his capacity of major-general in the rebel army. To this Sherman consented, and the terms written out by Reagan were presented by Breckenridge and Johnston. Sherman, however, preferred to write his own, which were substantially the same as those proposed by the rebels.1

An armistice was to be established maintaining the status quo, not to be terminated without forty-eight hours notice by either commander. All the rebel armies in existence were to be disbanded and conducted to their state capitals, there to deposit their arms and public property; the arms to be subject to the further action of Congress, and in the mean time to be used solely to maintain peace and order within the borders of the states respectively. The state governments were to be recognized upon their officers and legislatures taking the oath of allegiance to the national government; the United [630] States' courts were to be re-established; the people of all the states to be guaranteed their political rights and franchises, as well as their rights of person and property, and not to be disturbed by reason of the war, so long as they abstained from acts of armed hostility and obeyed the laws. In fine, peace and a general amnesty were to be declared, on condition of the disbandment of the rebel armies, the distribution of arms, and the resumption of peaceful pursuits by the officers and men of those armies.

This memorandum covered a great deal of ground. It included ‘all the Confederate armies in existence’; it defined the future status of the states and populations in rebellion; and conceded every point that the rebels could possibly claim or hope to carry, except the single one of the supremacy of the government. It said nothing, however, about the abolition of slavery, the right of secession, the punishment of past treason, or security against future rebellion.

The concluding paragraph was in these words: ‘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.’

The next day Sherman published an order to his troops, beginning: ‘The general commanding announces to the army a suspension of hostilities, and an agreement with General Johnston and high officials, which, when formally ratified, will make peace from the Potomac to the Rio Grande.’

A messenger was instantly sent to convey these terms to Washington, under cover to Grant. The [631] dispatches were received by the general-in-chief on the night of April 21st. He at once perceived that the terms were such as could not possibly be approved, and accordingly wrote the following note to the Secretary of War: ‘I have received and just completed reading the dispatches brought by the special messenger from General Sherman. They are of such importance that I think immediate action should be taken on them, and that it should be done by the President in council with the whole cabinet. I would respectfully suggest whether the President should not be notified, and all the cabinet, and the meeting take place to-night.’

The cabinet meeting was called before midnight. The President and his ministers were unanimous in condemning the propositions of Sherman. Indeed, their language was so vehement that, Grant, while agreeing fully with them that the terms were inadmissible, yet felt it his duty to his friend and subordinate to defend him against the imputations that were freely made. The President was especially indignant at Sherman's course, and the sympathy with rebels which it was thought to betray; while Stanton did not hesitate to call it treason. But Grant at once declared that the services Sherman had rendered the country during now four years entitled him to the most lenient judgment, and proved that, whatever might be thought of his opinions, his motives should be unquestioned.

Nevertheless, the general-in-chief was instructed to give notice to Sherman of the President's disapproval of the memorandum, and to direct him to resume hostilities at the earliest possible moment. The instructions of Lincoln to Grant on the 3rd of [632] March, communicated by Stanton, were to be observed by Sherman,2 and Grant was ordered to proceed immediately to Sherman's Headquarters and direct in person operations against the enemy. Instructions were also sent in various directions to Sherman's subordinates to disregard his orders.

Grant started before daybreak on the 22nd, and from Fort Monroe, at 3.30 P. M. the same day, he telegraphed to Halleck, who had been placed in command at Richmond: ‘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.’ Arriving at Raleigh on the 24th, he informed Sherman as delicately as possible of the disapproval of his memorandum, and directed him to impose upon Johnston the same terms which had already been laid down to Lee. Sherman was thoroughly subordinate, and at once notified Johnston that their arrangement had not been ratified. ‘I have replies from Washington,’ he said, ‘to my communication of April 18th. I am instructed to limit my operations to your immediate command, and not to attempt civil negotiations. I therefore demand the surrender of your army on the same terms as were given to General Lee at Appomattox, April 9th instant, purely and simply.’ In another [633] dispatch sent at the same time, he gave notice of the termination of the armistice in forty-eight hours. Both these papers were of course submitted to Grant and received his approval before they were forwarded.

Johnston immediately communicated the substance of Sherman's dispatches to Davis, and asked for further instructions. The next morning, April 25th, he was directed to disband the rebel infantry, and bring off his cavalry and all soldiers who could be mounted, with a few light field pieces. He, however, decided to disobey these—the last instructions he received from the rebel government. They were intended, he said, to secure the safety of certain high civil officers, but neglected that of the Southern people and army. He declared that it would be a great crime to prolong the war; while to send a cavalry escort to Davis too heavy for flight, but not strong enough to force a way for him, would spread ruin over the South by leading the great invading armies in pursuit. He, therefore, proposed to Sherman another armistice and conference, suggesting as a basis the clause in the recent convention relating to the army; and reported his action to what had been called the Confederate government. Thus the last blow to the rebel President was dealt by his bitter and personal enemy; and the chagrin of the general who was relieved by Hood was avenged by the anguish of the fallen chief, deserted and disobeyed by the subordinate whom he had wronged.

On the 26th, another interview occurred between Johnston and Sherman, at which no member of the rebel cabinet attended, and terms were agreed upon [634] similar to those arranged between Grant and Lee. All acts of war on the part of Johnston's army were to cease at once; all arms and public property to be delivered to an ordnance officer of the United States, at Greensboro; the officers and men to give their individual obligations not to take up arms against the United States until properly released from this parole; and then to be permitted to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by national authorities so long as they observed their obligations and the laws.

This, it will be seen, was a purely military convention, and referred only to the surrender of Johnston's command. The great civil questions of amnesty, the courts, the state governments, and of political and personal rights and franchises were remitted to the civil authorities. Thirty-one thousand two hundred and forty-three men of Johnston's army were paroled.3

During these negotiations Grant kept himself carefully in the background. He was not present at any interview with Johnston, remaining at Raleigh while Sherman went out to the front, and his name did not appear on any of the papers, except when he wrote, after the signatures of Sherman and Johnston, ‘Approved, U. S. Grant.’ Even this the rebel commander was not aware of, and Grant went [635] back to Washington without allowing his presence to be known to the enemy. He had assumed no command, received no surrender, and manifested, as he felt, no diminution in his respect and regard for Sherman.

Before reaching the capital, however, he found that the Secretary of War had published a remarkable document, denouncing Sherman, and that an intense excitement prevailed among the loyal people at the North. But Grant made it his especial duty to vindicate his great lieutenant, throwing around his friend the shield of his own reputation, and assuring every one that Sherman's loyalty was as unquestionable as his own. The indignation of the country, however, was at first extreme, and nothing but Grant's own popularity, and the persistency with which he defended Sherman, saved that illustrious soldier from insult, and possibly degradation. Before long, however, the feeling changed, and Sherman resumed his natural and appropriate place in the estimation and affection of the people whom he had so nobly served.

The country and posterity will doubtless always hold that Sherman erred in judgment at this crisis. But it was from the generous impulse of a soldier, who sees his enemy defeated and in his power, and would blush to strike a fallen foe. He doubtless also felt a noble ambition to avert any further misery from the land that had suffered so much, and to restore at once to a united country the longab-sent benefits of peace. He had the knowledge of Grant's clemency at Appomattox, and was aware of the charity which had animated Lincoln's great heart. Everything conspired to make him accede too readily [636] to the specious propositions by means of which the wily Confederates sought still to secure all that they had lost by war. The frank and outspoken soldier was no match in diplomatic arts for those who had conspired to betray their country and piloted the sinking cause of the rebellion through desperate and stormy years. He did not perceive the object of the skilful machinations which first suggested the presence of a cabinet officer, and then secured amnesty for the rebel government. He was looking so intently to the respite from war that the precautions of politicians and statesmen were neglected. But the mistake outside of his profession left no blot on his career as a soldier or his reputation as a patriot, and never for one moment disturbed his relations with his chief and friend.4

While these important events were occurring in North Carolina and Virginia, the remaining combinations of the general-in-chief had proceeded to their designed development. The forces of Stoneman [637] and Canby moved on the 20th, and those of Wilson on The 22nd of March. No formidable army opposed either of these commanders, for their expeditions were directed towards the interior of the region which had been stripped bare on account of the exigencies in front of Johnston and Lee.

Stoneman marched from East Tennessee, at first into North Carolina, but soon turned northward, and struck the Tennessee and Virginia railroad at various points, destroying the bridges and pushing on to within four miles of Lynchburg, so that all retreat of Lee in that direction was cut off. Then returning to North Carolina in the rear of Johnston, he captured large amounts of scattered stores, fourteen guns, and several thousand prisoners, but was checked by the news of the surrender of both the great rebel armies.

On the 27th of March, Canby's force arrived before Mobile; it was in three divisions, commanded by A. J. Smith, Gordon Granger, and Steele. Smith and Granger were ordered to attack Spanish Fort, on the eastern side of Mobile bay, while Steele invested Blakely, above the town. Both these places were taken on the 9th of April, Blakely by assault, and after severe and gallant fighting on both sides; and on the 11th, Mobile was evacuated. In these operations two hundred guns were captured, and four thousand prisoners; but the bulk of the garrison, nine thousand in number, escaped.

Wilson's command, consisting of twelve thousand five hundred mounted men, marched south from the Tennessee river into the heart of Alabama. Forrest was in front with a motley force, made up of conscripts and local militia: old men and boys, [638] clergymen, physicians, editors, judges—the people usually left behind in time of war. To these the rebel commander added two or three thousand cavalry-men, and altogether his numbers amounted to seven thousand. On the 1st of April, Wilson encountered this enemy at Ebenezer Church, and drove him across the Cahawba river in confusion. On the 2nd, he attacked and captured the fortified city of Selma, took thirty-two guns and three thousand prisoners, and destroyed the arsenal, armory, machine-shops, and a vast quantity of stores. On the 4th, he captured and destroyed Tuscaloosa. On the 10th, he crossed the Alabama river, and, on the 14th, occupied Montgomery, which the enemy had abandoned. Here he divided his force, sending one portion upon West Point, and the other against Columbus, in Georgia. Both these places were assaulted and captured on the 16th of April, the latter by a gallant night attack, in which Generals Upton and Winslow particularly distinguished themselves. This was the last battle of the war.

On the 21st, Macon was surrendered, with sixty field guns, twelve thousand militia-men, and five generals, including Howell Cobb, who had been a member of Buchanan's cabinet, and afterwards rebel governor of Georgia. At Macon, the cavalry career was checked by news of the armistice between Johnston and Sherman, which included Wilson's command. In twenty-eight days the cavalry had marched five hundred and twenty-five miles, and captured five fortified cities, six thousand two hundred prisoners, two hundred and eighty pieces of artillery, ninety-nine thousand stand of small arms, and whatever else of military advantage was left in the state of [639] Alabama. The country was simply overrun. There was nobody to defend it, and no defense worthy of the name.

In fact, the history of the war after the 9th of April is nothing but an enumeration of successive surrenders. On the 14th of April, Johnston made his first overtures to Sherman; on the 21st, Cobb yielded Macon; on the 4th of May, Richard Taylor surrendered all the rebel forces east of the Mississippi. On the 11th of May, Jefferson Davis, disguised as a woman and in flight, was captured at Irwinsville, Georgia; and on the 26th of the same month, Kirby Smith surrendered his entire command west of the Mississippi river. On that day the last organized rebel force disappeared from the territory of the United States. Every man who had borne arms against the government was a prisoner. One hundred and seventy-four thousand two hundred and twenty-three rebel soldiers were paroled.

This speedy and absolute collapse of the revolt was one of the most remarkable incidents of the war. Not a gun was fired in anger after the surrender of Lee was known. Not a soldier held out; not a guerilla remained in arms. None retreated to a mountain fastness; none refused to give a parole, or even an oath of allegiance to the national authority. Great part of this acquiescence was doubtless due to the terms that had been accorded by Grant. Aware as he was of the exhausted condition of the rebels, that they could hope for no after-success, and yet might prolong the war indefinitely in the interior—holding out in detachments here and there all over the country, coming together again as fast as they [640] were separated, renewing the fight after they seemed subdued—he determined to grant them such terms that there should be neither object nor excuse for further resistance.

The wisdom of his course was proved by the haste which the rebels made to yield everything they had fought for. They were ready not only to give up their arms, but literally to implore forgiveness of the government. They acquiesced in the abolition of slavery. They abandoned the heresy of secession, and waited to learn what else their conquerors would dictate. They dreamed not of political power. They only asked to be let live quietly under the flag they had outraged, and attempt in some degree to rebuild their shattered fortunes. The greatest general of the rebellion asked for pardon.

All proclaimed especially their admiration of Grant's generosity. Lee refused to present his petition for amnesty until he had ascertained in advance that Grant would recommend it. The wife of Jefferson Davis applied to him for the remission of a part of the punishment of her husband; and throughout the entire South his praises were on the lips of his conquered enemies.

While this was the feeling at the South, the North awarded him a unanimity of praise and affection such as no other American had ever received. Houses were presented to him in Philadelphia, Washington, and Galena; military rank was created for him by Congress; cities were illuminated, because he visited them; congregations and audiences rose in his honor; men of every grade and shade of political, religious, and social opinion or position united in these acclamations. [641] Amid them all he preserved the same quiet demeanor, the same simplicity of speech, the same unobtrusive modesty for which he had hitherto been known; and, while he accepted and appreciated the plaudits of the nation, he made haste to escape from the parade and the celebration to the society of his intimates or the retirement of his home. When the war was over, Grant had fought and beaten every important rebel soldier in turn: Buckner at Donelson, Beauregard at Shiloh, Pemberton and Johnston at Vicksburg, Bragg at Chattanooga, Lee in Virginia, and all of them altogether in the last year of the rebellion. From Belmont, the initial battle of his career, he had never been driven from the field, and had never receded a step in any of his campaigns, except at Holly Springs, and then the rebels were in retreat before him, and Grant, unable to follow fast enough to overtake them, withdrew, only to advance on another line. He went on steadily from the start, gaining in reputation and skill, acquiring experience, developing his powers, but manifesting at the beginning many of the traits which were always conspicuous in his generalship. At Belmont, there was the same steadfastness under difficulties, the same sufficiency of resource, the same invention in unexpected emergencies which were afterwards so often displayed; at Donelson, the same daring which attacked superior numbers, and the fortitude undismayed at temporary reverse, as well as the quick intuition which detected the intention of the enemy from apparently insignificant circumstances, like the three days rations in the haversacks; and, above all, the perception that the crisis had come when both armies were [642] nearly exhausted, and whichever first attacked would win; and then he declared: ‘The rebels will have to be very quick, if they beat me.’ At Shiloh, there was the same indomitable perseverance and confidence which made him say to Buell at the darkest moment of the fight, when that commander inquired, ‘What preparations have you made for retreating?’ ‘I haven't despaired of whipping them yet;’ and inspired the orders to Sherman to advance on the morrow, before Buell had arrived. At Vicksburg, he displayed again the untiring persistency, the willingness to try all schemes until the right one was found; then the bold conception of running the batteries and separating his army from its base, plunging into the interior between two hostile forces, contrary to all the rules of the schools and the urgent counsel of his ablest subordinates; and finally the celerity, the audacity, the strategical manoeuvres, the marches, the counter-marches, the five successful battles of the great campaign—except the Appomattox week, the most brilliant episode of the war. At Chattanooga, there came the larger responsibilities, the wider sphere, the varied combinations of the three armies, culminating in the elaborate tactical plans and evolutions of Lookout mountain and Missionary ridge—a meet preparation for the still grander duties he was to assume and the more comprehensive strategy he was to unfold as generalin-chief of the whole.

His entire career was indeed up to this point a prelude and preface for what was to follow. Events were educating him for the position he was destined to occupy. He learned the peculiar characteristics of American war. He found out that [643] many of the rules applicable in European contests would fail him here. He discovered, years before the Germans, the necessity of open order fighting; his troops became proficient in field fortifications; his cavalry was used to the system, afterwards so successfully employed by the Uhlans, of mounted infantry; he limited the use of artillery; he perceived that that the day for cavalry charges was nearly past. He also invented the long campaigns without a base, which astonished the enemy and the world. But above all, he understood that he was engaged in a people's war, and that the people as well as the armies of the South must be conquered, before the war could end. Slaves, supplies, crops, stock, as well as arms and ammunition—everything that was necessary in order to carry on the war, was a weapon in the hands of the enemy; and of every weapon the enemy must be deprived.

This was a view of the situation which Grant's predecessors in chief command had failed to grasp. Most of the national generals in every theatre, prior to him, had attempted to carry on their operations as if they were fighting on foreign fields. They sought to out-manoeuvre armies, to capture posts, to win by strategy pure and simple. But this method was not sufficient in a civil war. The passions were too intense, the stake was too great, the alternatives were too tremendous. It was not victory that either side was playing for, but existence. If the rebels won, they destroyed a nation; if the government succeeded, it annihilated a rebellion. It was not enough at this emergency to fight as men fight when their object is merely to outwit or even outnumber the enemy. This enemy did not yield because he was [644] outwitted or outnumbered. It was indispensable to annihilate armies and resources; to place every rebel force where it had no alternative but destruction or submission, and every store or supply of arms or munitions or food or clothes where it could be reached by no rebel army.

Grant's greatness consisted in his perception of this condition of affairs, and his adaptation of all his means to meeting it. When he became general-in-chief he at once conceived this idea, and understood the terrible nature of the task he must assume. He made all his plans and combinations with this in view. The scope of those plans included the entire republic. The army of the Potomac at the East and Sherman's forces at the West constituted the two great motive powers; but in Virginia, Butler on the James and Sigel in the Valley were to assist Meade on the Rapidan, while at the West, Banks was to meet Sherman, both marching towards Mobile. All were combined and directed with a common purpose and a central aim.

These combinations were sometimes interrupted or thwarted in their development. Grant and Sherman each met many obstacles before either sat down in front of the strategical objective point of his army; Butler and Sigel both failed in their cooperation in Virginia, while Banks failed to cooperate at all before Mobile. Grant himself entered upon an encounter as terrible as that of Christian with Apollyon in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The struggle was prolonged and bitter, and the national commander received as well as inflicted appalling loss; but he persisted in his advance amid carnage and assaults with that awful [645] composure and confidence which to many natures is not only inscrutable but absolutely repelling, but which, nevertheless, was the especial quality which enabled him to succeed. He pushed his army through such a month of ceaseless and seemingly resultless battle as the world has hardly ever seen; dealing, however, as he knew, the blows from which his antagonist would never recover. In the Wilderness the rebellion received its death stroke. It lingered months afterwards, and all the skill and strength of the nation and its soldiers were required to push the blade to the heart, but the iron entered in May, 1864. But for just this terrific strife, just this persistent attack, just this bloody wage, the result would have been deferred or different.

But the rebels felt that this commander could neither be deterred nor avoided; that no skill nor fortitude could elude or withstand the man who wielded such weapons with such unintermitting power. They lost not only force, but heart, in the Wilderness campaign. When the month of war was over and the smoke had cleared away, the nation failed to perceive the actual result, and the government, though determined, was not sanguine. The enemy, too, was still desperate. The rebels, indeed, always hated more bitterly and more passionately than their opponents. As they wished to separate forever, they cared neither to spare nor propitiate those with whom they fought; while the national forces, desiring to bring about the old Union, always spared their adversary when he was down, and constantly strove to propitiate even while injuring; did not regard a rebel as a personal foe, but a misguided countryman; [646] were earnest and determined, but never so frantic as the Southerners. Then, too, they were never so hard pushed; their territory was not invaded, their homes were not burned, their fields were not devastated, their families not impoverished. But the rebels had staked all, and could lose no more than all. They could take every risk, throw away every restraint, incur every danger.

This superior desperation of the enemy was an enhancement of Grant's difficulties, and from June to January another phase of the war went on. Although he had fought it out on the same line, he still had not won. He had reached the position he set out for in May, but had not yet cut the great southern roads leading into Richmond. He had shaken the whole fabric of the rebellion, and shattered, if he had not overthrown, its most powerful armies; but it was necessary to renew his combinations and adapt them to the shifting necessities. There was no change in the general plan or aim. Lee and Johnston's armies were still the principal object of his campaigns, and he still sought to compress and contract and drive to a single focus all the other and subsidiary forces of the rebels; still to destroy their resources, and exhaust their supplies, and annihilate their armies. But the method now was to hold Lee in Richmond, and to sweep all the other rebel forces towards the same point with his wide, encompassing command.

In September, Sherman captured Atlanta, but he still had the army of Hood to contend with; and although he had won a victory, as yet reaped none of its results. On the contrary, by the advance of Hood he was speedily placed in a more precarious [647] position than before Atlanta fell. But his brilliant strategical genius, just fitted to cope with such emergencies, enabled the great manoeuvrer to extricate himself from his difficulties and to reverse the situation, himself threatening rebel lines and attacking rebel rears.

About this time occurred the presumptuous movement of Early, who, however, was speedily repelled from Washington; and then the great fighter sent to the Valley dealt him blow after blow. These two northward advances of Hood and Early gave an appearance of boldness to the rebel strategy, and were calculated to impose on unwary or impatient opponents. Hood and Early both conceived audacious plans, but failed utterly in their accomplishment. They were typical of the whole genius and character of the rebel policy; bold at the outset, dazzling in immediate effect, formidable at first to an adversary; but, when opposed by soldiers like Sherman and Sheridan and Grant, their strength was wasted, their struggles vain, their endurance failed.

Next came Sherman's march and Thomas's defence; then the two attacks on Wilmington; and at last the consummation began to dawn. Out of the chaos men saw streaks of light here and there; and finally, in all quarters the firmament was clear. The great congeries of campaigns and combinations was visible to the dullest comprehension, like the sun above the horizon. Sherman strode across the continent and then marched northward, driving Johnston; Thomas destroyed or scattered Hood; Sheridan had beaten and battered Early's army, literally, into pieces. Only the command in front of Richmond was left. This had been so securely held by [648] Grant that Lee had not dared to dispatch any force to the aid of his endangered subordinates. He remained, as he doubtless felt, only to be the last destroyed.

The rebel chief, it is claimed, desired to leave Richmond during the last few months of the war, but was restrained from this course by the civil authorities, his superiors. These were mere political managers, unable to cope with emergencies that required superlative courage; full of chicanery and subtlety, and the weaker arts of weaker men, but lacking those grand qualities which alone succeed in times of war and revolution. They were afraid, at this juncture, to take the chance of flight, and, like all timid people, suffered more than if they had been brave; submitting to the horrors of assault and the possibilities of capture rather than leave what seemed defenses, but at last were only snares. If Lee perceived this situation, he had not the force to impress it on his coadjutors, and therefore lacked the greatness essential in his position at such a crisis.

When finally all things were ready and the great blow was struck, it was seen how complete had been the preparations and combinations which had preceded the end; how absolute the execution of the scheme devised a year before. Lee surrendered because he had nothing else to do. He could not run away. Johnston and Maury and Richard Taylor and Kirby Smith surrendered for exactly the same reason. The various victories were not hap-hazard; it was not that each man chanced to come out right. All the arrangements were made in advance. Army after army came up to surrender, like the pieces in chess in a complicated game, when the beaten player [649] has only one move for each, and that to give it away. Nor was it only because of Appomattox, or because they had lost heart, that the lesser rebels yielded. Johnston was absolutely surrounded, for Stoneman and Thomas and Wilson were in his rear, while Sherman was in front, and Meade and Sheridan were approaching from the North. The troops that escaped from Mobile were between Canby and the cavalry, and if they had tried could have done no better than their fellows. The rebellion was conquered at all points at the same time. It had no armies except in front of greater ones. It had no supplies except separated from its armies. It had no arsenals, no armories, no railroads left; yet it surrendered a thousand cannon and a hundred and seventy thousand soldiers.

This was not the result of brute force. This was not mere outnumbering or overwhelming. It was the disposition of the national armies, between, around, and among the rebel forces, as well as the incessant blows dealt by those armies, which made it impossible, after Appomattox, for any organized rebel force to make a move in any direction that did not entail upon itself absolute and immediate destruction.

These splendid successes of the general-in-chief, however, could never have been accomplished without the faithful support of the government and the executive ability of subordinate commanders, as well as the peculiar quality of the national soldiers. Not even the appreciation of the situation, the conception of the plan, nor the power to work out the combinations, nor all these altogether would have sufficed. Grant was indeed peculiarly and fortunately placed. [650] He stood between Lincoln and Stanton, the two great men in civil life whom the epoch produced, on one hand, and Sherman and Sheridan, with their eminent executive military genius, on the other. He participated in the authority and the power of the government; he was of its councils and in its confidence; he had to assume responsibilities co-extensive with its own; he was in some of his relations almost a civil officer, and at the same time he shared the executive quality and duties of his great subordinates.

He had, indeed, magnificent men on both sides to deal with: Lincoln, with his exceptional fitness for his place, his political sagacity, his intuitive sympathy with the people, his purity of patriotism, his devotion to the cause; and Stanton, with his energy and directness and earnestness and administrative force; both, too, strong in the confidence of the nation which they served; while no general-in-chief was ever supported by two greater lieutenants than the strategist whose boldness of imagination and infinite resource equaled any ever displayed in war, and that marvelous tactical fighter whose intuitions and judgments in battle were like passions incarnate in arms or arms inspired by intellect.

Grant required a degree of all these traits which his great allies possessed. He did not lack the energy of Stanton nor the sympathy of Lincoln with the people; his strategy was not inferior to that of Sherman, and he proved himself equal to Sheridan in that power of audacious and skillful combination in the presence of the enemy which, above and beyond every other trait, is what is highest and most essential in a general. [651]

There were other soldiers, however, besides the chief and his two greatest subordinates, whose ability was conspicuous and whose aid was important. Meade and Thomas, especially, were excellent commanders; men of the calibre and with many of the characteristics of Lee; soldiers according to rule, and able to do elaborate and efficient service. Any one of the three was admirable in defensive situations. Meade at Gettysburg, Thomas at Chickamauga, Lee in the Wilderness, achieved a splendid fame; but no one of the three possessed in a high degree the talent of the initiative—of forcing the enemy to do his will. No one of the three dared at critical moments to take a terrible aggressive responsibility. Neither would have persisted as Grant did at the Wilderness. Neither would have ventured as Grant did at Vicksburg. Neither would have combined strategical dispositions as Grant did during the last year of the war, or was capable of the accelerated and at the same time elaborate energy which inspired and accomplished the final assaults on Petersburg and the evolutions of the subsequent pursuit, the movements which brought about the battle of Sailors' creek and extricated the troops at Farmville and compelled the concentration which culminated at Appomattox court-house. No one of the three ever rose to the conception that superlative courage in war is an economy of life in the end.

Lee, indeed, always lacked sustained audacity. He never, at least after Grant commanded in his front, succeeded in anything that required that trait. He thought more boldly than he acted. He was driven back in the Wilderness when he attacked in force; and in the policy which he so often essayed [652] before Petersburg, when he sought to overwhelm Grant's left in the extending movements, he invariably failed. All that he ever accomplished in these operations was to annoy, and disturb, and injure his antagonist. He never defeated Grant's aim; he never drove him from a position; he never compelled him to withdraw.

Full, however, of the devices of a wily strategy, the rebel chief was often able to elude a force which he could not withstand; he fled with eminent success; and as a purely defensive fighter was probably never surpassed. The national soldiers had a saying that Lee knew how to feed a fight; he discovered the point where troops were most needed, and there he threw them constantly and continuously. No one would probably have held off the national armies longer than he, and it is doubtful whether an offensive defence would have succeeded better against Grant.

Elaborate, specious, elusive, not free from the besetting sin of the South—a tendency to duplicity —but stubborn, valiant, and arrogant, Lee was on the whole a fitting representative of a cause which, originating in treason, based on the enslavement of a race, and deriving its only chance of success from men who had been false to their military oaths, was, in reality, a rebellion against the rights of man, and a defiance of the instinct and judgment of the civilized world. He fought with the splendid energy of that arch rebel who was expelled from heaven, and his downfall was as absolute.

To overthrow him and his desperate supporters, Grant needed more help than he could get even from the government and his generals. He needed soldiers with many of his own traits. And as any man [653] of surpassing success probably represents and typifies his time, it is not surprising that some of the same qualities which distinguished him as a commander can be detected in the men whom he commanded. The national soldiers were not, as a rule, so brilliant as the rebels in a charge, and no better behind works, but they were more persistent in attack, and better able to perform evolutions under fire. They were not so apt to lose head in battle, and recovered sooner from the effects of disaster. The enemy oftener succeeded by surprise, but seldom reaped the full result of a victory; and rarely won except by a first, impulsive, and unexpected onset. In this the Southerners were like the negroes. But, when it came to sustained, renewed, deliberate assault, it was the national soldiers who bore away the prize.

But, after all, it is only by transcendent effort that transcendent success is ever attained. Excellent people, good soldiers, brave men, careful generals, are not enough in offensive war with determined foes. The troops who do what can neither be expected nor required are the ones who are victorious. The men who, tired, and worn, and hungry, and exhausted, yet push into battle, are those who win. They who persist against odds, against obstacles, against hope, who proceed or hold out unreasonably, are the conquerors.

And for chiefs—there are only two or three in a generation. It is no disparagement of a man that he has not genius. We cannot expect every one to be the exception. There were many admirable tacticians, and strategists, and engineers, as well as loyal subordinates and faithful, heroic patriots in the [654] national army; there could be in the nature of things only two or three supereminent commanders. Only one could be at the top.

In such an one there should be found, above all things, a comprehensive grasp of the situation, of the relations of the various points and events of the field to each other, and to the general purpose; a faculty of retaining the head under unexpected circumstances; not only of planning in advance, but of originating new combinations when the old ones are interrupted; and, as much as anything, a judgment and impulse combined, both audacious yet neither incautious; a decision in acting on this judgment and impulse instantaneously, without waiting to balance chances; and, thereafter, neither doubt nor delay, but only belief and persistence to the end.

Such an one, if simple, honest, unambitious, and magnanimous, might aptly represent the best results of a republic, and worthily command its armies even in those crises when nations are never saved without a leader.

Early in June, 1865, steps were taken with the sanction of the government to procure the indictment of Lee and others for the crime of treason. The former rebel chief at once appealed to Grant, who went in person to the President, and protested verbally and in writing against the measure. Johnson, however, was obstinate, and Grant finally declared that he would resign his commission in the army if the paroles which he had granted should be violated. This determination was conclusive. The proceedings were abandoned, and the communication of this decision was the last official act in the intercourse of Lee and Grant.

1 ‘His paper differed from mine only in being fuller.’—Johnston's Military Narrative, p. 405.

General Johnston's account of our interview in his “Narrative,” (page 402 et seq.) is quite accurate and correct.’—Sherman's Memoirs, vol. II., p. 350.

2 ‘The President directs me to say that he wishes you to have no conference with General Lee, unless it be for the capitulation of Lee's army, or on solely minor and purely military matters. He instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss, or confer upon any political question; such questions the President holds in his own hands, and will submit them to no military conferences or conventions.’ —Stanton to Grant, March 3d. See page 401.

3 Yet General Johnston, one of the most honorable of the rebel commanders, does not hesitate, in his ‘Military Narrative,’ p. 398, to designate the entire remaining rebel command as ‘an army of about 20,000 infantry and artillery and 5,000 mounted troops,’ and to contrast this with what he calls ‘Grant's, of 180,000 men; Sherman's, of 110,000 at least; Canby's, 60,000—odds of seventeen or eighteen to one.’

Over 70,000 rebels were surrendered by Johnston and Richard Taylor alone.

4 I chanced to bear to General Grant in North Carolina the news of the publication of Secretary Stanton's famous memorandum, and I never saw the general-in-chief so much moved as on this occasion. He had hoped that the original excitement displayed at the cabinet meeting would be concealed from the country, and when he discovered the contrary his indignation was extreme. He declared it was ‘infamous’that a man who had done such service as Sherman should be subjected to imputations like these.

Sherman's own resentment was intense, and Grant strove hard to appease it, and to bring about amicable relations between two men so signally important to their country as the great War Minister and the soldier of Atlanta and the March. But it was long before the sense of injustice which Sherman felt could be allayed.

Some very interesting letters on this subject, which I am allowed to publish, will be found in the Appendix, together with all the official documents necessary to the history of the episode.

The rebel account will be found in full in Johnston's ‘Military Narrative.’

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