The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the events surrounding the endof the American Civil War. This war was a war of epic proportion. Never beforeand not since have so many Americans died in battle. The American Civil War wastruly tragic in terms of human life. In this document, I will speak mainlyaround those involved on the battlefield in the closing days of the conflict.
Also, reference will be made to the leading men behind the Union and Confederateforces. The war was beginning to end by January of 1865.
By then, Federal(Federal was another name given to the Union Army) armies were spread throughoutthe Confederacy and the Confederate Army had shrunk extremely in size. In theyear before, the North had lost an enormous amount of lives, but had more thanenough to lose in comparison to the South. General Grant became known as the”Butcher” (Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, NewYork: Charles L. Webster & Co.,1894) and many wanted to see him removed.
ButLincoln stood firm with his General, and the war continued. This paper willfollow the happenings and events between the winter of 1864-65 and the surrenderof The Confederate States of America. All of this will most certainly illustratethat April 9, 1865 was indeed the end of a tragedy. CUTTING OFF THE SOUTH InSeptember of 1864, General William T. Sherman and his army cleared the city ofAtlanta of its civilian population then rested ever so briefly. It was fromthere that General Sherman and his army began its famous “march to thesea”. The march covered a distance of 400 miles and was 60 miles wide onthe way. For 32 days no news of him reached the North. He had cut himself offfrom his base of supplies, and his men lived on what ever they could get fromthe country through which they passed. On their route, the army destroyedanything and everything that they could not use but was presumed usable to theenemy. In view of this destruction, it is understandable that Sherman quoted”war is hell” (Sherman, William T., Memoirs of General William T.
Sherman. Westport, Conn.:Greenwood Press, 1972). Finally, on December 20,Sherman’s men reached the city of Savannah and from there Sherman telegraphed toPresident Lincoln: “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city ofSavannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000bales of cotton” (Sherman, William T., Memoirs of General William T.
Sherman. Westport, Conn.:Greenwood Press, 1972). Grant had decided that the onlyway to win and finish the war would be to crunch with numbers. He knew that theFederal forces held more than a modest advantage in terms of men and supplies.
This in mind, Grant directed Sherman to turn around now and start heading backtoward Virginia. He immediately started making preparations to provideassistance to Sherman on the journey. General John M. Schofield and his men wereto detach from the Army of the Cumberland, which had just embarrassinglydefeated the Confederates at Nashville, and proceed toward North Carolina. Hisfinal destination was to be Goldsboro, which was roughly half the distancebetween Savannah and Richmond. This is where he and his 20,000 troops would meetSherman and his 50,000 troops. Sherman began the move north in mid-January of1865. The only hope of Confederate resistance would be supplied by General P.G.T.
Beauregard. He was scraping together an army with every resource he could layhis hands on, but at best would only be able to muster about 30,000 men. This byobvious mathematics would be no challenge to the combined forces of Schofieldand Sherman, let alone Sherman. Sherman’s plan was to march through SouthCarolina all the while confusing the enemy. His men would march in two ranks:One would travel northwest to give the impression of a press against Augusta andthe other would march northeast toward Charleston. However the one trueobjective would be Columbia. Sherman’s force arrived in Columbia on February 16.
The city was burned to the ground and great controversy was to arise. TheConfederates claimed that Sherman’s men set the fires “deliberately,systematically, and atrociously”. However, Sherman claimed that the fireswere burning when they arrived. The fires had been set to cotton bales byConfederate Calvary to prevent the Federal Army from getting them and the highwinds quickly spread the fire. The controversy would be short lived as no proofwould ever be presented. So with Columbia, Charleston, and Augusta all fallen,Sherman would continue his drive north toward Goldsboro. On the way, hisprogress would be stalled not by the Confederate army but by runaway slaves. Theslaves were attaching themselves to the Union columns and by the time the forceentered North Carolina, they numbered in the thousands (Barrett, John G.,Sherman’s March through the Carolinas. Chapel Hill: The University of NorthCarolina Press, 1956). But Sherman’s force pushed on and finally met up withSchofield in Goldsboro on March 23rd. THE END IS PLANNED Sherman immediatelyleft Goldsboro to travel up to City Point and meet Grant to discuss plans ofattack. When he arrived there, he found not only Grant, but also Admiral DavidPorter waiting to meet with President Lincoln. So on the morning of the March28th, General Grant, General Sherman, and Admiral Porter all met with Lincoln onthe river boat “River Queen” to discuss a strategy against General Leeand General Johnston of the Confederate Army. Several times Lincoln asked”can’t this last battle be avoided?” (Angle and Miers, Tragic Years,II) but both Generals expected the Rebels (Rebs or Rebels were a name given toConfederate soldiers) to put up at least one more fight. It had to be decidedhow to handle the Rebels in regard to the upcoming surrender (all were sure of asurrender). Lincoln made his intentions very clear: “I am full of thebloodshed. You need to defeat the opposing armies and get the men composingthose armies back to their homes to work on their farms and in theirshops.” (Sherman, William T., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman.
Westport, Conn.:Greenwood Press, 1972) The meeting lasted for a number of hoursand near its end, Lincoln made his orders clear: “Let them once surrenderand reach their homes, they won’t take up arms again. They will at once beguaranteed all their rights as citizens of a common country. I want no onepunished, treat them liberally all around. We want those people to return totheir allegiance to the Union and submit to the laws.” (Porter, David D.,Campaigning with Grant. New York: The Century Co., 1897) Well with all of theformalities outlined, the Generals and Admiral knew what needed to be done.
Sherman returned to Goldsboro by steamer; Grant and Porter left by train backnorth. Sherman’s course would be to continue north with Schofield’s men and meetGrant in Richmond. However, this would never happen as Lee would surrender toGrant before Sherman could ever get there. THE PUSH FOR THE END General Grantreturned back to his troops who were in the process of besieging Petersburg andRichmond. These battles had been going on for months. On March 24, before themeeting with President Lincoln, Grant drew up a new plan for a flanking movementagainst the Confederates right below Petersburg. It would be the first largescale operation to take place this year and would begin five days later. Twodays after Grant made preparations to move again, Lee had already assessed thesituation and informed President Davis that Richmond and Petersburg were doomed.
Lee’s only chance would be to move his troops out of Richmond and down asouthwestern path toward a meeting with fellow General Johnston’s (Johnston hadbeen dispatched to Virginia after being ordered not to resist the advance ofSherman’s Army) forces. Lee chose a small town to the west named Amelia CourtHouse as a meeting point. His escape was narrow; they (the soldiers) could seeRichmond burn as they made their way across the James River and to the west.
Grant had finally broke through and Richmond and Petersburg were finished on thesecond day of April. LINCOLN VISITS FALLEN RICHMOND On April 4th, after visitingPetersburg briefly, President Lincoln decided to visit the fallen city ofRichmond. He arrived by boat with his son, Tad, and was led ashore by no morethan 12 armed sailors. The city had not yet been secured by Federal forces.
Lincoln had no more than taken his first step when former slaves started formingaround him singing praises. Lincoln proceeded to join with General GodfreyWeitzel who had been place in charge of the occupation of Richmond and taken hisheadquarters in Jefferson Davis’ old residence. When he arrived there, he andTad took an extensive tour of the house after discovering Weitzel was out andsome of the soldiers remarked that Lincoln seemed to have a boyish expression ashe did so. No one can be sure what Lincoln was thinking as he sat in Davis’office. When Weitzel arrived, he asked the President what to do with theconquered people. Lincoln replied that he no longer gave direction in militarymanners but went on to say: “If I were in your place, I’d let ’em up easy,let ’em up easy” (Johnson, Robert Underwood, and Clarence Clough Buel,eds., Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Vol 4. New York: The Century Co.,1887). THE CHASE BEGINS Lee’s forces were pushing west toward Amelia and theFederals would be hot on their tails. Before leaving Richmond, Lee had asked theCommissary Department of the Confederacy to store food in Amelia and the troopsrushed there in anticipation. What they found when they got there however wasvery disappointing. While there was an abundance of ammunition and ordinance,there was not a single morsel of food. Lee could not afford to give up his leadover the advancing Federals so he had to move his nearly starving troops outimmediately in search of food. They continued westward, still hoping to joinwith Johnston eventually, and headed for Farmville, where Lee had been informed,there was an abundance of bacon and cornmeal. Several skirmishes took placealong the way as some Federal regiments would catch up and attack, but theConfederate force reached Farmville. However, the men had no more that startedto eat their bacon and cornmeal when Union General Sheridan arrived and starteda fight. Luckily, it was nearly night, and the Confederate force snuck out undercover of the dark. But not before General Lee received General Grants firstrequest for surrender. NOWHERE TO RUN The Confederates, in their rush to leaveFarmville in the night of April 7th, did not get the rations they so desperatelyneeded, so they were forced to forage for food. Many chose to desert and leavefor home. General Lee saw two men leaving for home and said “Stop youngmen, and get together you are straggling” and one of the soldiers replied”General, we are just going over here to get some water” and Leereplied “Strike for your home and fireside” (Freeman, Douglas Southall,R.E. Lee: A Biography, Vol 3. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1935): theydid. Rebel forces reached their objective, Appomattox Court House, around 3pm onApril 8th. Lee received word that to the south, at Appomattox Station, supplieshad arrived by train and were waiting there. However, the pursuing Union forcesknew this also and took a faster southern route to the station. By 8pm thatevening the Federals had taken the supplies and would wait there for theevening, preparing to attack the Confederates at Appomattox Court House in themorning. Meanwhile, Lee scribbled out a brave response to Grant’s inquiry simplyasking for explanation of the terms to be involved in the surrender. THE FINALBATTLE At daybreak the Confederate battle line was formed to the west ofAppomattox. The Union soldiers were in position in front of the line withcannons. When the Federal cannons started to fire, the Confederate signal forattack was sounded and the troops charged. One soldier later remarked: “Itwas my fortune to witness several charges during the war, but never one somagnificently executed as this one.” (McCarthy, Carlton, Detailed Minutiaeof Soldier Life in the Army of Northern Virginia 1861-1865. Richmond: CarltonMcCarthy, 1882) This Confederate advance only lasted from about 7am to 9am, atwhich time the Rebels were forced back. The Confederates could no longer holdtheir lines and Lee sent word to Grant to meet at 1pm to discuss surrender. Thetwo men met at the now famous McLean House and a surrender was agreed upon. Itwas 2pm on April 9, 1865. Johnston’s army surrendered to General Sherman onApril 26 in North Carolina; General Taylor of Mississippi-Alabama and GeneralSmith of the trans Mississippi-Texas surrendered in May ending the warcompletely. SUMMARY The Civil War was a completely tragic event. Just think, awar in which thousands of Americans died in their home country over nothing morethan a difference in opinion. Yes, slavery was the cause of the Civil War: halfof the country thought it was wrong and the other half just couldn’t let themgo. The war was fought overall in probably 10,000 different places and themonetary and property loss cannot be calculated. The Union dead numbered 360,222and only 110,000 of them died in battle. Confederate dead were estimated at258,000 including 94,000 who actually died on the field of battle. The Civil Warwas a great waste in terms of human life and possible accomplishment and shouldbe considered shameful. Before its first centennial, tragedy struck a newcountry and stained it for eternity. It will never be forgotten but adversitybuilds strength and the United States of America is now a much stronger nation. Bibliography”TheCivil War”, Groliers Encyclopedia, 1995 Catton, Bruce., A Stillness atAppomattox. New York: Doubleday, 1963 Foote, Shelby., The Civil War, Vol. 3. NewYork: Random, 1974 Garraty, John Arthur, The American Nation: A History of theUnited states to 1877, Vol. 1, Eighth Edition. New York: HarperCollins CollegePublishers, 1995 Miers, Earl Schenck, The Last Campaign. Philadelphia: J.B.
Lippincott Co., 1972 Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox, The Last Battles.
Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1987American History
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