A page containing quotes Volume Three of The Civil War: A Narrative from the late Shelby Foote, American writer and historian. Volume Three covers events from Spring 1864 until the end of the war.
"By way of possible
extenuation, in response to complaints that it took me five times longer
to write the war than the participants took to fight it, I would point
out that there were a good many more of them than there was of me. However
that may be, the conflict is behind me now, as it is for you and it was
a hundred-odd years ago for them."
- Shelby Foote, closing out the third volume
~ Volume Three: Red
River to Appomattox
~ Chapter 1: Another Grand Design
~ Chapter 2: The Forty Days — The Wilderness
~ Chapter 3: Red Clay Minuet
~ Chapter 4: War Is Cruelty...
~ Chapter 5: ...You Cannot Refine It
~ Chapter 6: A Tightening Noose
~ Chapter 7: Victory, And Defeat
~ Chapter 8: Lucifer In Starlight
~ Return to Volume
One: Fort Sumter to Perryville
~ Return to Volume Two: Fredericksburg to Meridian
# VOLUME THREE: Red River to Appomattox
[#1 Another Grand Design]
Meade was one of the
problems that would have to be dealt with by Grant before other, larger
problems could be tackled. Specifically, the question was whether to keep
him where he was, a prima donna commander of a prima donna army, or remove
him. His trouble, aside from his a hair-trigger temper... was that he lacked
the quality which Grant not only personified himself but also prized highest
in a subordinate: the killer instinct. At Gettysburg eight months ago,
after less than a week in command, Meade had defeated and driven the rebel
invaders from his native Pennsylvania, but then, with his foe at bay on
the near bank of a flooded, bridgeless river, had flinched from delivering
the coup de grace which Lincoln, for one, was convinced would have ended
...Before coming down to Brandy, Grant had rather inclined to the belief that the removal of Meade was prerequisite... But Meade showed Grant a side of himself that proved not only disarming but attractive. He began by saying that he supposed Grant would want to replace him with some general who had served with him before and was therefore familiar with his way of doing things... If so, Meade delcared, he hoped there would be no hesitation on his account, since (as Grant paraphrased it afterwards) "the work before us was of such vast importance to the whole nation that the feeling or wishes of no one person should stand in the way of selecting the right men for all positions. For himself, he would served to the best of his ability wherever placed." Grant was impressed. The offer he said, gave him "even a more favorable opinion of Meade than did his great victory at Gettysburg," and he assured him, then and there, that he had "no thought of substituting anyone for him," least of all Sherman, who "could not be spared from the West." Now it was Meade who was impressed.
As for Grant's method of employing that continuous hammering which he believed was the surest if not the only way to bring the South to her knees, the key would be found in orders presently issues to the commanders involved: "So far as practicable all the armies were to move together, and toward one common center." This was to be applied in two stages, West and East, there would be separate but simultaneous convergences upon respective goals, Atlanta and Richmond, by all the mobile forces within each theater... The units charged with the occupation of captured territory and the prevention of rebel incursions into the North "could perform this service just as well by advancing as by remaining still, abd by advancing they would compel the enemy to keep detachments to hold them back." Lincoln saw the point as once, having urged it often in the past, although with small success. "Those not skinning can hold a leg," he said.
Grant was assisted greatly by a command arrangement allowed for in the War Department order appinting him general-in-chief in place of Halleck, who was relieved "at his own request" and made chief of staff, an office created to provide a channel of communication between Grant and his 19 department heads, particularly in administrative matters. The work would be heavy for Old Brains, the glory slight; Hooker sneered that his situation was like that of a man who had married with the understanding that he would not sleep with his wife. But Halleck thereby freed Grant from the need for attending to a great many routine distractions.
"That man will fight
us every day and every hour till the end of the war."
- James Longstreet, as Grant takes charge
"Smash 'em up, smash 'em up!" General Phillip H. Sheridan would say as he toured the camps, smacking his palm with his fist for emphasis, and then ride off on his hard-galloping horse, a bullet-headed little men with close-cropped hair and a black moustache and imperial, bandy-legged, long in the arms, all Irish but with a Mongol look to his face and form, as if something had gone strangely wrong somewhere down the line in Ireland... "One of those long-armed fellows with short legs," Lincoln remarked of him, "that can scratch his shins without having to stoop over." Mounted, he looked about as tall and burly as the next man, so that when he got down from his horse his slightness came as a shock.
"It is easy to die
here, and there are many ways of doing it."
- A Union sailor, on the Red River
While the Federals got to work improving the Confederate-dug intrenchments (around Camden), semicircular in design and anchored at both ends to the Ouachita, above and below, Price came up and made a leisurely investment of the place. Steele was beseiged: besieged by greatly inferior numbers: self-besieged, so to speak.
General Dick Taylor's rage had made him as blind to the virtues as others as he was perceptive as others. To refer to the just-ended campaign as a "hideous failure", simply because it had not yielded all that he had hoped for, was to overlook its fruits, which in fact were far from slight. Inflicting more than 8000 casualties on Steele and Banks, at a cost to Price and Taylor of 6500, Smith had captured or caused the destruction of 57 pieces of artillery, along with a thousand wagons, most of them loaded with valuable supplies, and more than 3500 mules and horses... It made a sorry end, this falling-out by the victors, after all the glory than had been garnered up the Red and on the Saline.
Davis had troubles
by then, and differences enough to attempt to compose, without the added
problem of trying to heal this latest split between two of his friends,
one of whom was among the nation's ranking field commanders, while the
other was his first wife's younger brother. Down in Georgia, for example,
Governor Joseph E. Brown addressed the state legislature... What he had
to say, in essence, was that the war had been a failure. This was not only
because it was now to be waged on his doorstep, so to speak, but also because,
as he saw it, the authorities in Richmond had abandoned the principles
embodied in the Delcaration of Independence, including "all self-government
and the sovereignty of the States."
Brown's solution, as set forth in his address, was for the Confederacy to dissolve itself into its components, thus calling a halt to discord and bloodshed: after which, in an atmosphere of peace and fellowship, a convention of northern and southern governors would assemble... and each state, North as well as South, would "determine for herself what shall be her future connection, and who her future allies." In other words, he would stop and start anew, this time without taking so many wrong turnings in the pursuit of happiness along the path that led to independence. Brown was careful, in the course of his speech, not to propose that Georgia rejoin the Union. That would have amounted to outright treason. He proposed, rather, that the Union rejoin Georgia.
...Among the governor's firmest supporters was Alexander H. Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy. Stephens not only gave the speech his full approval but arrived in person six days later to reinforce it with one of his own, twice as long and twice as bitter, in which he lashed out at the national authorities for their betrayal of the secessionist cause by adopting conscription and suspending the writ of habeas corpus. "Better in my judgment," he declared, "that Richmond should fall and that the enemy's armies should sweep our whole country from the Potomac to the Gulf than that our people should submissively yield to one of these edicts."
...Where personal freedom was concerned Stephens rejected all arguments as to expediency. "Away with the idea of getting our independence first, and looking after liberty afterward!" he cried. "Our liberties, once lost, may be lost forever." If he had to be ruled by a despot, he said darkly, he preferred that it be a northern one.
Stephens continued to fulminate, in letters and interviews, against the government of which he was nominally a part and the man whose place he would take in case of death or the impeachment he appeared to recommanded. Reproached by a constituent for having "allowed your antipathy to Davis to mislead your judgment," Stephens denied that he harbored any such enmity in his bosom. "I have regarded him as aa man of good intentions," he replied, "weak and vacillating, petulant, peevish, obstinate but not firm," having gone so far, however, he then revoked the disclaimer by adding: "Am now beginning to doubt his good intentions."
"Serene upon the frigid
heights of infallible egotism... Affable, kind and subservient to his enemies...
Haughty, austere, and unbending to his friends... An amalgam of malice
- Edward A. Polland, editor of the Richmond Examiner on Jefferson Davis
Thoroughly familiar with the American proclivity for blaming national woes on the national leader, Davis had engaged in the practice too often himself not to expect it to be turned against him. He viewed it as an occupational hazard, one that more or less went with his job.
Wherever Davis looked her perceived that the Confederacy's attempts to "conquer a peace" were doomed to failure. And this applied most obviously to the three most obvious fields for aggressive endeavor, whereby the South might attempt to force its will upon its mortal adversary: (1) by entering upon negotiations with representatives from the North to obtain acceptable peace terms, (2) by mounting and sustaining a military offensive which would end with the imposition of such terms, or (3) by securing the foreign recognition and assistance which would afford the moral and physical strength now lacking to achieve the other two.
If three blood-drenched years of war, and three aborted invasions of the North had taught anything, they had taught that, however the conflict was going to end, it was not going to end this way... The war, if it was to be won at all by southern arms, would have to be won on southern ground.
The securing of foreign recognition and assitance had long been the cherished hope of Confederate statesmen: especially Davis, who had uttered scarcely a public word through the first 20 months of the war that did not look toward intervention by one or another of the European powers. However as time wore on it became clearer that nothing was going to come of such efforts and expectations — Russia had been pro-Union from the start, and France, whatever her true desires might be, could not act without England, where the Liberals in power took their cue from voters who were predominantly anti-slavery and therefore, in accordance with Lincoln's persuasions, anti-Confederate.
The South, engaged in what its people liked to think of as the Second American Revolution, would have no help from Europe in its struggle for independence. And what made this especially bitter to accept was a general historical agreement that in the original Revolution, with the Colonists in much the same position as the Confederates were in now — unable, on the face it, either to enforce or to negotiate a peace — such help had made the difference between victory and defeat. "This war is ours; we must fight it out ourselves," Davis had warned.
Militarily, the handwriting on the wall was all too clear. In late November, within five months of the staggering midsummer news from Gettysburg and Vicksburg that Lee's army had been crippled and Pemberton's abolished, Bragg was flung bodily off Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, impregnable though both positions had been said to be. and harried southward into Georgia. With these defeats in mind, it was no wonder that every Sunday at Saint Paul's in Richmond the congregation recited the Litany with special fervour when it reached the words, "From battle and murder, and from sudden death, good Lord, deliver us." The good Lord might, at that. For though military logic showed that the South could not win an offensive war, fought beyond the Potomac or the Ohio, there was still a chance that it could win a defensive one, fought on its own territory. It could win, in short, because the North could lose.
"It is a pertinent
question often asked in the mind privately, and from one to the other:
When is the war to end? Surely I feel as deep an interest in this question
as anyone can, but I do not wish to name a day, or month or a year when
it is to end. I do not wish to run any risk of seeing the time come, without
our being ready for the end, and for fear of disappointment because the
time had come and not the end. We accepted this war for an object, a worthy
object, and the war will end when that object is attained. Under God, I
hope it never will until that time."
- Abraham Lincoln
[#2 The Forty Days — The Wilderness Campaign]
Grant was determined not to yield the tactical initiative to an opponent with a reputation for making the most of it on all occasions. If this meant the abandonment of his original intention to get into, through, and out of the Wilderness in the shortest possible time, then that just had to be. His primary talent had always been instinctive, highly improvisatorial at its best, and though there was little about him that could be described as Napoleonic, he trusted, like Napoleon, in his star. The overriding fact, as Grant saw it, was that the rebels were there in the tangled brush, somewhere off to the west, and he was determined to hit them. He was determined, in Sheridan's phrase, to smash them up at every opportunity.
"Battle be damned.
It ain't no battle, it's a worse riot than Chickamauga! At Chickamauga
there was at least a rear, but here there ain't neither front nor rear.
It's all a damned mess! And our two armies ain't nothing but howling mobs."
- A Confederate describes a Wilderness battle
Tactically, Grant was in far worse shape than he or anyone else in the Lacy meadow seemed to know. In addition to the unmanned gap across his center, he had both flanks in the air. No blue army had ever remained long in any such attitude, here in Virginia, without suffering grievously at the hands of Lee for having been so neglectful or inept.
When long-range shots began to fall in the vicinity (of Grant's headquarters), an anxious staffer, fearful that the meadow was about to be overrun, suggested that it would be prudent to shift the command post rearward. "It strikes me it would be better to order up some artillery, and defend the present location," Grant said quietly.
"Longstreet, always grand in battle, never shone as he did here," a First Corps artillerist said of the general in his conduct of this morning's fight on the right. Within three hours of his arrival he introduced tactics into a battle which, up to then, had been little more than a 20-hour slugging match, with first one side then the other surging forward through the brush, only to fall back when momentum was lost and the enemy took his turn at going over to the offensive. All attacks had been frontal except for chance encounters... Old Peter was always at his calmest when the conflict roared its loudest.
This second day of the battle in the Wilderness had been Grant's hardest since the opening day at Shiloh, where his army and his reputation had also been threatened with destruction. Here as there, however — so long, at least, as the fighting was in progress — he bore the strain unruffled... Internally, a brief sequel was to show, he was a good deal more upset than he appeared but outwardly he seemed altogether imperturbable.
Not only was Grant's personal collapse resisted until after the damage to both flanks had been repaired and the tactical danger had passed, it also occured in the privacy of his quarters, rather than in the [resence of his staff or gossip-hungry visitors. "When all proper measures had been taken," Rawlins confided, "Grant went into his tent, threw himself face downward on his cot, and gave way to the greatest emotion." He wept... However violent the breakdown, the giving way to hysteria at this point, it appeared that Grant wept more from the relief of tension (after all, both flanks were well shored up by then) than out of continuing desperation. In any case it was soon over... Unlike Hooker, who broke inside as a result of similar frustrations, Grant broke outside, and then only in the privacy of his tent. He cracked, but the crack healed so quickly that it had no effect whatever on the military situation, then or later. Whereas Hooker had reacted by falling back across the river, such a course was no more in Grant's mind now than it had been that morning, before sunup.
Grant opposed by Lee in Virginia, Sylvanus Cadwallader perceived, was the same Grant he had known in Mississippi and Tennessee, where Pemberton and Bragg had been defeated. "It was the grandest mental sunburst of my life," he delcared years later, looking back on the effect this abrupt realization had had on his state of mind from that time forward.
In the course of the nest 20 hours or so — May 7 now, a Saturday — the whole army experienced a like sequence of reactions, from utter doubt to mental sunburst. Reconaissance parties, working their way along and across the charred, smoky corridors last night's fires had left, found the rebels "fidgety and quick to shoot" but content, it seemed, to stay tightly buttoned up in the breastworks they had built or improved since yesterday. Lee preferred receiving to delivering an attack, and Grant apparently felt the same.
The Chancellorsville parallel was obvious, it was also, at this stage, disturbingly apt... In the three-way assessment of casualties, Hooker's and Lee's, along with Grant's, that the comparison became less flattering. Grant lost 17,666 killed and wounded, captured and missing — about 400 more than Hooker — while Lee, whose victory a year ago had cost him nearly 13,000 casualties, was losing a scant 7800, considerably fewer than half the number he inflicted... In plain fact, up to the point of obliging Grant to throw in the sponge and pull back across the river, Lee had never beaten an adversary so soundly as he had beaten this one in the course of the past two days. What it all boiled down to was that Grant was whipped, and soundly whipped, if he would only admit it by retreating: which in turn was only a way of saying that he had not been whipped at all... No more willing to accept a stalemate than he was to accept defeat, Grant would shift his ground, and in doing so he would hold to the offensive; he would move, not north toward Washington, but south toward Richmond, obliging Lee to conform if he was to protect the capital in his rear. Grant thus clung to the initiative Lee surrendered when he ahd exhausted all chances for surprise. Now it was Grant's turn to try again for a surprise.
Rebel marksmen, equipped
with imported Whitworth rifles mounting telescopic sights, were quick to
draw a bead on anything blue than moved, especially if it had a glint of
brass about the shoulders. Moreover, in addition to this lack of repsect
for rank, they seemed to have none for the supposed reduction of accuracy
by distance, with the result that there was a good deal of ducking and
dodging on the Union, even though the range was sometimes as great as half
a mile. This was not only interfered with work, it was also thought to
be detrimental to discipline and morale. John Sedgwick looked at it that
way, for one, and reproved his troops for flinching from a danger so remote.
"What? Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they
open fire along the whole line? I am asahmed of you. They couldn't hit
an elephant at this distance." The soldiers wanted to believe him, partly
because they admired him so but the flesh, thus exposed, was weak; they
continued to flinch at the crack of the sharpshooter's rifle, even though
it was a good 800 yards away... Next time the glass-sighted Whitworth cracked,
a couple of minutes later, Sedgwick's chief of staff was startled to see
the 50-year-old general stiffen, as if in profound surprise, and slowly
turn his head to show blood spurting from a half-inch hole just under the
left eye... Sedgwick smiled strangely, as if to acknowledge the dark humor
of what had turned out to be his last remark, and did not speak again.
Within a few minutes he was dead.
Sudden as it was, his death was a knee-buckling shock to the men of his corps, who made him the best-loved general in the army.
Studded with guns at critical points throughout its convex three-mile length, Lee's Spotsylvania line was constructed, Meade's chief of staff declared, "in a manner unknown to European warfare, and indeed, in a manner new to warfare in this country." Actually, it was not so much the novelty of the inidividual engineering techniques that made this log-and-dirt barrier so forbidding; it was the combination of them into a single construction of interlocking parts, the canny use of natural features of the terrain, and the speed with which the butternut veterans, familiar by now with the fury of Grant's assaults, had accomplished their intricate task. Traverses zigzagged to provide cover against enfilade fire from artillery, and head logs, chocked a few inches anove the hard-packed spoil on the enemy side of the trench, affored riflemen a protected slit through which they could take unruffled aim at whatever came their way.
Directed by Grant, through Meade, to "cut loose from the Army of the Potomac, pass around Lee's army, and attack his cavalry and communications," Sheridan was determined not only to make the most of the opportunity, but also to do so in a style that was in keeping with his claim that, left to the devices he had been urging all along, he could whip Jeb Stuart out of his boots... The 12,000 blue troopers comprised a column 13 miles in length... Not much concerned with deception, and even less with speed, Sheridan's dependence was on power, the ability of his three combined divisions to ride through or over whatever got in their path. Previous raiders had sought to avoid the fast-moving rebel horsemen, lest they be delayed or thwarted in their attempt to reach their assigned objectives; but Sheridan's objective, so to speak, was just such a confrontation... When the head of the column ran into brisk fire from an enemy outpost line and stopped to ponder the situation, Little Phil, as his troopers had taken to calling him, came riding up and asked what was the matter. Skirmishers, he was told, apparently in strength. "Cavalry or infantry?" he demanded, and on being informed that they were cavalry, barked impatiently: "Keep moving boys. We're going on through. There isn't cavalry enough in all the Southern Confederacy to stop us."
Leaving Spotsylvania on May 21, after 16 unrelenting, unavailing days of combat (waged at an average cost of 2300 casualties a day, as compared to Lee's 1100) the blue marchers had been discouraged by this second tacit admission that, despite their advantage in numbers and equipment and supplies, whenever the tactical situation was reduced to a direct confrontation, face to face, it was they and not their ragged, underfed adversaries who broke off the contest and shifted ground for another try, with the same disheartening result.
Fixed in position east of Atlee, Lee had by now received 10,000 reinforcements. This amounted to half his lossed so far in the campaign: whereas Grant had received some 40,000, roughly the number he had lost in battle. Such disproportionate attrition could have but one result, and Lee implied as much that afternoon to Jefferson Davis, who rode out from the capital to see him for the first time since the opening of the Federal offensive.
Never before, in this
or perhaps in any other war, had so large a body of troops been exposed
to such a concentration of firepower; "It had the fury of the Wilderness
musketry, with the thunders of the Gettysburg artillery superadded," an
awed cannoneer observed from his point of vantage in the Union rear.
- Describing the Cold Harbor assault
[#3 Red Clay Minuet]
Airline, the hundred-mile distance from Chattanooga to Atlanta was the same as that from Washington to Richmond, and so were the respective size of the armies, which in each paired case gave the Union commander a roughly two-to-one numerical advantage. But there for the most part the resemblance stopped. Meade and Sherman (or for that matter Grant and Sherman, since that was what it came to) were as different from each other as were Lee and Johnston, two very different men indeed, and so too — despite the fact that down in Georgia, as in Virginia, the rivers mainly ran athwart the projected lines of advance and retreat — was the terrain, flat or gently rolling in the East, but mountainous in the West and therefore eminently defensible, at any rate in theory.
"Georgia has a million
of inhabitants. If they can live, we should not starve."
- Willian T. Sherman
"I'm going to move on Joe Johnston the day Grant telegraphs me he is going to hit Bobby Lee," he told a quartermaster officer. "And if you don't have my army supplied, and keep it supplied, we'll eat your mules up, sir!"
Thus Sherman; a violent-talking man whose bite at times measured up to his bark, and whose commitment was to total war.
Despite the setbacks the rebels had suffered East and West in the past year, hard fighting lay ahead and Sherman knew it. "No amount of poverty or adversity seems to shake their faith," he marveled; "niggers gone, wealth and luxury gone, money worthless, starvation in view... yet I see no sign of let up — some few deserters, plenty tired of war, but the masses determined to fight it out." What they needed was more violent persuasion, he believed, and he was prepared to give it in full measure.
With May now ended... both commanders could take a backward look at what the four-week "running skirmish", uninterrupted by anything approaching either the dignity or the carnage of a full-scale battle, had cost them. Sherman's loss throughout the month of May was 9299, including nearly 2000 killed and missing; Johnston's, less precisely tabulated, was about 8500, three thousand of them captured or otherwise missing, left behind on his retrogade movement from Dalton to Dallas. Not even the larger of the two was a shudder-provoking figure at this stage of the war but Sherman was getting edgy, all the same, over his inability to come to grips with his opponent on any terms except those that would clearly involve self-slaughter.
June ended, bringing with it another pause for a backward look at the casualty count in each of the two armies. In both cases they were lower than they had been the month before, and they were similar in another way as well. Just as New Hope Church and Pickett's Mill, engagements fought near the bottom of the previous calendar leaf, had reversed the May tally, rising Sherman's losses above Johnston's, which had been higher than his opponents before the clashes around Dallas, so now did Kennesaw Mountain reverse the count for June, which had been lower for the Union up till then. Sherman's loss for the past month was 7500, Johnston's 6000. This brought their respective totals for the whole campaign to just under 17,000 and just over 14,000. Roughly speaking, to put it another way, one out of every four Confederates had been shot or captured, as compared to one out of seven Federals.
Atlanta, with its rolling mill and foundries, its munitions plants and factories, its vital rail connections and vast store of military supplies, was the combined workshop and warehouse of the Confederate West, and as Sherman closed down upon it, Davis later wrote, the threat of its loss "produced intense anxiety far and wide. From many quarters, including such as had urged his assignment, came delegations, petitions and letters," insisting that the present army commander be replaced by one who would fight to save the city, not abandon it to the fate which Johnston seemed to consider unavoidable without outside help.
"Old Joe Johnston had
taken command of the Army of the Tennessee when it was crushed and broken,
at a time when no other man on earth could have united it. He found it
in rags and tatters, hungry and broken-hearted, the morale of the men gone,
their manhood vanished to the winds, their pride a thing of the past. Through
his instrumentality and skillful manipulation, all these had been restored...
Farewall, old fellow! We privates loved you because you made us love ourselves."
- A Tennessee private pays tribute to his replaced general
[#4 War is Cruelty]
Eastward, with lee at last outfoxed, the blue tide ran swift and steady, apparently inexorable as it surged toward the gates of the cpital close in his rear. But then, at the full, the outlying Richmond bulwarks held; Beauregard, as he had been wont to do from the outset — first at Sumter, three years back, then again two years ago at Corinth, and once more last year in Charleston harbor — made the most of still another 'finest hour' by holding Petersburg against the longest odds ever faced by a major commander on either side in this lengthening, long-odds war.
Grant's crossing of James River went like clockwork, and the clock itself was enormous... While Hancock crossed (by ferry), the engineers got to work on the pontoon bridge, two miles downriver, by which the three other corps of the Army of the Potomac were to march in order to reinforce Smith and Hancock in their convergence on Petersburg, the rail hub whose loss, combined with the loss of the Virginia Central would mean that Richmond's defenders, north as well as south of the James, would have to abandon the city for lack of subsistence, or else choose between starvation and surrender. In high spirits at the prospect, Grant was delighted to recover the mobility that had characterized the opening of the final phase of his Vicksburg campaign, which the current operation so much resembled. Now as then, he was crossing a river miles downstream from his objective in order to sever its lines of supply and come upon it from the rear. Whether it crumpled under a sudden assault, as he intended, or crumbled under a siege, which he hoped to avoid, the result would be the same; Richmond was doomed, if he could only achieve here in Virginia the concert of action he had enjoyed last year in Mississippi.
...The old army had
suffered a subtraction of 11,386 killed, wounded or captured from its ranks
since it crossed the James. That brought the grand total of Grant's losses,
including Butler's, to nearly 75,000 men — more than Lee and Beauregard
had had in both of their armies at the start of the campaign. Of these,
a precisely tabulated 66,315 were from the five corps under Meade and that
was only part of the basis for the statement by its historian, William
Swinton, that at this juncture, "the Army of the Potomac, shaken in its
structure, its valor quenched in blood, and thousands of its ablest officers
killed and wounded, was the Army of the Potomac no more."
Much the same thing could be said of the army in the Petersburg intrenchments. Though its valor was by no means 'quenched', it was no longer the Army of Northern Virginia in the old aggressive sense, ready to lash out at the first glimpse of a chance to strike an unwary adversary; nor would it again see that part of the Old Dominion where its proudest victories had been won and from which it took its name.
Grant was not given to intensive speculation on possible future disasters; he preferred to meet them when they came, having long since discovered that few of them ever did.
Despite setbacks, such as Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and this recent gray eruption on the near bank of the Potomac, Lincoln was convinced that he had found in Grant the men to win the war. But that was somewhat beside the point, which was whether or not the people could be persuaded, between now and November, to believe it too — and whether or not, believing it, they would agree that the prize was worth the additional blood, the additional money, the additional drawn-out anguish it was clearly going to cost. They, like Grant, would have to 'face the arithmetic', and keep on facing it, to the indeterminate end.
"Only half a million
more! Oh that is nothing. Continue this Administration in power and we
can all go to war, Canada or to hell before 1868."
- A Wisconsin editor, on Lincoln's call for 500,000 more 'volunteers'
Fremont was something of a joke as as opponent, though not as a siphon for drawing off the Radical votes that would be needed if Lincoln was to prevail against the Democrats, who were scheduled to convene in Chicago in late August to adopt a platform and select a candidate for November. The platform would be strong for peace, and the candidate, it was believed, would be George McClellan: a formidable combination, it was believed, one that might well snare both the anti-war and the soldier vote, not to mention the votes of the disaffected, likely to go to almost any rival of the present national leader.
Lincoln foresaw trouble for his opponents, once they came out in the open, where he had spent the past four years, a target for whatever mud was flung. The old Democratic rift, which had made him President in the first place, was even wider that it had been four years ago, except that now the burning issue was the war itself, not just slavery, which many said had caused it, and Lincoln expected the rift to widen further when a platform was adopted and a candidate named to stand on it... As Lincoln saw the outcome, platform and man were likely to be mismatched, with the result that half the opposition would be disappointed with one or the other... "They must nominate a Peace Democrat on a war platform, or a War Democrat on a peace platform," he told a friend, "and personally I can't say I care much which they do." He was right.
"Everybody has taken
it into their heads that one ship can whip a dozen and if the trial is
not made, we who are in her are damned for life; consequently, the trial
must be made. So goes the world."
- Admiral Franklin Buchanan, on hopes for the ironclad CSS Tennessee
Afloat, as ashore. throughout this critical span of politics and war, there were desperate acts by desperate men intent on winning a reputation before it was too late.
The result was bedlam,
a Bedlam in flames.
- Describing the Battle of the Crater
Burnside left, hard
on the heels of a violent argument with Meade, an exchange of recriminations
which a staff observer said "went far toward confirming one's belief in
the wealth and flexibility of the English language as a medium of personal
dispute." Meade wanted the ruff-whiskered general court martialed for incompetence,
but Grant, preferring a quieter procedure, sent him home on leave. "He
will never return whilst I am here," Meade fumed. Nor did he. Resigning
from the service, Ambrose Everett Burnside, forty years old, returned to
his business pursuits in Rhode Island, where he not only prospered but
also recovered the geniality he had lost in the course of a military career
that required him to occupy positions he himself had testified he was unqualified
to fill. In time he went into politics, serving three terms as governor,
and would die well into his second term as a US Senator, twenty years after
the war began. Tactically speaking, Lee no doubt regratted Burnside's departure.
He would miss him, much as he missed McClellan, now in retirement, and
John Pope and Joe Hooker, who had been shunted to outlying regions where
their ineptitudes would be less costly to the cause they served.
- Describing the repercussions of the Crater debacle
"Hancock the Superb", newsmen had called Winfield Scott Hancock ever since the Seven Days; Hancock — who had broken Pickett's Charge, stood firm amid the chaos of the Wilderness and cracked the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania.
In a letter to one of his sons, Lee had said of Grant, with a touch of aspersion: "His talent and strategy consists in accumulating overwhelming numbers." Now he was faced with the product of that blunt, inelegant strategy — that 'talent' — which included not only the loss of the final stretch of the Weldon Railroad, but also the necessity for extending his undermanned Petersburg works another two miles westward to match the resultant Federal extension beyond Globe Tavern.
By ordinary standards, Grant's gain in this third of his pendulum strikes at the Richmond-Petersburg defenses — a rather useless rebel earthwork plus a brief stretch of country road — was incommensurate with his loss of just over 6000 men, a solid half of them captives already on their way to finish out the struggle in Deep South prison camps, as compared to just under 3000 for Lee, most of them wounded and soon to return to the gray ranks. But with the presidential contest barely five weeks off, this was no ordinary juncture. Ordinary standards did not apply. What did apply was that Lincoln supporters now had something they could point to, down around the Confederate seat of government itself, which seemed to indicate, along with recent developments in Atlanta and the Shenandoah Valley, that the war was by no means the failure it had been pronounced by the opposition in Chicago, five weeks back. In recognition of this, Democrats lately had shifted their emphasis from the conduct to the nature of the war; "The Constitution as it is, the Union as it was," was now their cry. How effective this would prove was not yet known, for all its satisfying ring.
"Either whip the enemy
or get whipped yourself."
- General Jubal Early, impatient with subordinate Alfred Torbert
Three months ago, Early had hovered defiantly on the outskirts of the northern capital. Indeed, the brightness of that midsummer exploit only served to deepen, by contrast, the shadows that gathered in this dark autumn of the Confederacy, which some were already saying would be its last. In the past 30 days Early had fought three full-scale battles, and all three had turned out to be full-scale routs. It mattered little to his critics that he had obliged Grant to lessen the pressure on Lee by detaching a veteran corps from Meade and rerouting another in order to meet his threat, first on the far and then on the near side of the Potomac. Nor did it matter that in the course of his follow-up campaign in the Valley, where he was outnumbered roughly three-to-one from start to finish, he inflicted a total of 16,292 casualties on his adversary at a cost of less than 10,000 of his own. What mattered in the public's estimation was that, here on the field of Stonewall Jackson's glory, Early had been whipped three times running, each more soundly than before.
Sherman announced on
September 8 that the "city of Atlanta, being exclusively reserved for warlike
purposes, will at once be evacuated by all except the armies of the United
States." He foresaw charges of inhumanity, perhaps from friends as well
as foes, but he was determined neither to feed the citizens nor to "see
them starve under our eyes... If the people raise a howl against my barbarity
or cruelty," he told Halleck, "I will answer that war is war and not popularity-seeking."
Sure enough, when Mayor Calhoun protested that the suffering of the sick and the aged, turned out homeless with the winter coming on, would be "appalling and heart-rending," Sherman replied that while he gave "full credit to your statement of the distress that will be occasioned," he would not revoke his orders for immediate resettlement. "They were not designed to meet the humanities of the case, but to prepare for the future struggle... You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it... You might as well appeal against the thunder storm as against these terrible hardships of war... now you must go," he said in closing, "and take with you your old and feeble, feed and nurse them, and build for them, in more quiet places, proper habitations to shield them against the weather until the mad passions of men cool down and allow the Union and peace once more to settle over your old homes at Atlanta. Yours in haste."
Hood attacked as usual, head down, and full tilt, in response to a suggestion for a truce to permit the removal southward, through the lines of the unhappy remnant of the city's population. He had, he said, no choice except to accece, but he added: "Permit me to say that the unprecedented measure you propose transcends, in studied and ingenious cruelty, all acts ever brought to my attention in the dark history of war. In the name of God and humanity, I protest."
"In the name of common sense," Sherman fired back, "I ask you not to appeal to a just God in such a sacrilegious manner. You who, in the midst of peace and prosperty, have plunged a nation into war, who dared and badgered us into battle, insulted our flag, seized our forts and arsenals." There followed an arm-long list of Confederate outrages, ending: "Thus talk to our marines, but not to me, who have seen these things... If we must be enemies, let us be men and fight it out as we propose to do, and not deal in such hypocritical appeals to God and humanity. God will judge us in due time, and he will pronounce whether it be more humane to fight with a town full of women and the families of a brave people at our backs, or to remove them to places of safety among their own friends."
Informed of Jefferson Davis's late-September prediction that the fate that crumpled Napoleon in Russia now awaited Sherman outside Atlanta, he thought it over briefly, then inquired: "Who is to furnish the snow for this Moscow retreat?"
"I cannot guess Hood's
movements as I could those of Johnston, who was a sensible man and only
did sensible things."
- William T Sherman
Regardless of the outcome,
Lincoln found consolation in two aspects of the bitter political struggle
through which the country had just passed, and he mentioned both, two nights
later, in responding to another group of serenaders. One was that the contest,
for all "its incidental and undesirable strife," had demonstrated to the
world "that a people's government can sustain a national election in the
midst of a great civil war." This was much, but the other aspect was more
complex, involving as it did the providence of an example distant generations
could look back on when they came to be tested in their turn:
"The strife of the election is but human nature practically applied to the facts of the case. What has occurred in this case must ever recur in similar cases. Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us therefore study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged."
[#5 You Cannot Refine It]
Richmond and Petersburg, semi-beleagured at opposite ends of the line, were barely twenty crow-flight miles apart, but the intrenchments covering and connecting them had stretched by now to nearly twice that length. From White Oak Swamp on the far left, due east of the capital, these outer works (as distinguished from the 'inner' works, two miles in the rear) ran nine miles south, in a shielding curve, to Chaffin's Bluff on the James; there they crossed and contined for four gun-studded miles along the river's dominant right bank to a westward loop where the Howlett line began its five-miles run across Bermuda Neck to the Appomattox, then jogged another four miles south, up the left bank of that stream, to connect with the trenches covering Petersburg at such close range that its citizens had grown adept at dodging Yankee sheels. The first four miles of these trans-Appomattox installations — disfigured about midway by the red yawn of the Crater — defined the limits of the original blue assault as far south as the Jerusalen Plank Road, where both sides had thrown up imposing and opposing fortifications. Officially dubbed Fort Sedgwick and Mahone, but known respectively by their occupants as Fort Hell and Fort Damnation, these were designed to serve as south-flank anchors, back in June, for the two systems winding northward out of sight. Since that time, however, as a result of Grant's four all-out pendulum strikes (costing him some 25,000 casualties, all told, as compared to Lee's 10,000) the gray line had been extended nine miles to the west and southwest... All these segments brought the Confederate total to 35 miles of earthworks, not including cavalry extensions reaching up to the Chickahominy on the left and down past Burgess Mill to Gravelly Run on the right. Lee's basic problem, with only about half as many troops as he opposed, was that his line was not only longer, it was also more continuous than Grant's, who, having no national capital or indispensable railroad junction close in his rear, had less to fear from a breakthrough at any given point. Another problem was food; or rather the lack of it. Badly as Lee needed men he saw now way of feeding substansial reinforcements even if they had been available, which they were not... The trench-bound men were losing weight and strength at an alarming rate... Nor was the outer man, in his butternut rags, any better served than the inner. The shortage of shoes was acute.
Outnumbered and outgunned, ill-clad, ill-shod and invariably hungry, Lee's veterans fought now less for a cause than they did for a tradition. And if, in the past six months, this had become a tradition not so much of victory as of undefeat, it had nonetheless been strengthened by the recent overland campaign and now was being sustained in the current stalemate... Mainly though, Lee's veterans fought for Lee, or at any rate for the pride they felt when they watched him ride among them.
"It must have been
the sense of having done his whole duty, and expended upon the cause every
energy of his being, which enabled him to meet the approaching catastrophe
with a calmness which seemed to those around him almost sublime."
- A Confederate staff officer describes Robert E. Lee
Glad as Lee was at the reassembling of his army, however shrunken it might be at all levels, he was also saddened by the knowledge that this had been accomplished at the price of abandoning hope of going over to the offensive. Not since Chancellorsville and the death of Stonewall Jackson, close to 20 months ago, had he won the kind of brilliant, large-scale victort that brought him and his lean, caterwaulling veterans the admiration of the world.
"As we lay there watching
the bright stars, many a soldier asked himself the same question: What
is it all about? Why is it that 200,000 men of one blood and one tongue,
believing as one man in the fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood
of man, should in the 19th century of the Christian era be thuse armed
with all the improved appliances of modern warfare and seeking one another's
lives? We could settle our differences by compromising, and all be at home
in ten days."
- A veteran Confederate officer during the siege
"Atlanta was soon lost
behind the screen of trees, and became a thing of the past. Around it clings
many a thought of desperate battle, of hope and fear, that now seem like
the memory of a dream... I have never seen the place since."
- A Union veteran recalls the Sherman's pullout from Atlanta
"If the enemy burn
forage and corn in our route, houses, barns and cotton gins must also be
burned to kepe them company."
- William T Sherman, in advance of his 'March to the Sea'
"There is no God in
war. It is merciless, cruel, vindictive, un-Christian, savage, relentless.
It is all that devils could wish for."
- A Union veteran, on the journey and battles of the 'March to the Sea'
That was the kind of battle Franklin was, first for one side, then the other, combining the grisliest features of Pickett's Charge and Spotsylvania's Bloody Angle.
"Men seemed to be afraid
to *be* afraid where he was."
- Confederate soldiers recall General Pat Cleburne, killed at the Battle of Franklin
"Where this division
defended, no odds broke its line; where it attacked, no numbers resisted
its onslaught, save only once; and there is the grave of Cleburne."
- William Hardee, describing Cleburne's division
"We have shown to our
countrymen that we can carry any position occupied by our enemy."
- General Hood, after the Battle of Franklin
...Perhaps the battle did show that; perhaps it also settled in Hood's mind, at last, the question of whether the Army of the Tennessee would charge breastworks. But, if so, the demonstration had been made at so high a cost that, when it was over, the army was in no condition, either in body or spirit, to repeat it. Paradoxically, in refuting the disparagement, the troops who fell confirmed it for the future.
General Schofield was generous in his estimate of the defeated Army of the Tennessee's fighting qualities, especially as he had observed them during the long-odds Battle of Nashville, where fewer than 25,000 graybacks held out for two days against better than 50,000 bluecoats massed for the most part of their flank. "I doubt if any soldiers in the world ever needed so much cumulative evidence to convince them they were beaten," he delcared. This was not to say they weren't throughly convinced in the end. They were indeed, and they showed it through both stages of the long retreat: first, as one said, while "making tracks for the Tennessee River at a quickstep known to Confederate tactics as 'double distance on half-rations'," and then on the foollow-up march beyond.
"Like a man who has
walked a narrow plank, I look back and wonder if I really did it."
- Sherman, on his March to the Sea
"If forced to choose
between the penitentiary and the White House... I would say the penitentiary,
- Sherman, declining a career in politics
much of the West had been on the rampage for the past three years, seeing
in the white man's preoccupation with his tribal war back East an opportunity
for the red man to return to his old free life, and perhaps exact, as he
did so, a measure of bloody satisfaction for the loss of his land in exchange
for promises no sooner made than broken. When John Pope took over in Minnesota
two years ago, he put down one such uprising by the Santee Sioux, in which
more than 400 soldiers and settlers had been killed, and had the survivors
arraigned before a drumhead court that sentenced 303 of them to die for
murder, rape and arson... Lincoln cut the list to 38 of "the more guility
and influential of the culprits." Hanged at Mankato on the day after Christmas,
1862, these 38 comprised the largest mass executions the country had ever
staged. Now two years later, farther west in Colorado, there was another
— a good deal less formal, lacking even a scaffold, let alone a trial,
but larger and far bloodier — in which the President had no chance to interfere,
since it was over before he had any way of knowing it was in progress.
Colonel John M Chivington, a former Methodist preacher and a veteran of the New Mexico campaign, rode out of Denver in mid-November with 600 Colorado Volunteers, raised for the sole purpose, as he said, of killing Indians "whenever and wherever found." The pickings were rather slim until he reached Fort Lyon, 60 miles from the Kansas border, and learned that 600 Cheyennes and Araphoes were camped on Sand Creek, 40 miles northeast. They had gathered there the month before, after a parley with the governor, and had been promised security by the fort commander on their word, truthful or not, that they had taken no part in the recent depradations elsewhere in the territory. Chivington did not believe them, but it would not have mattered if he had. "I have come to kill Indians," he announced on arrival, "and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God's heaven to kill Indians." Asked if this included women, he replied that it did. And children? "Nits make lice," he said.
...A body count showed 28 men dead, including three chiefs, and 105 women and children. The attackers lost 9 killed and 39 wounded, most of them hit in the crossfire... The attackers pulled out. Behind them, the surviving Indians scattered on the plains, some to die of their wounds and exposure, others to spend what remained of their lives killing white men. This too — the Sand Creek Massacre — was part of America's Civil War, and as such, like so much else involved, would have its repercussions down the years. For one thing, Chivington's coup discredited every Cheyenne or Araphoe chief (and for that matter, every Sioux or Kiowa or Comanche) who had spoken for peace with the white men... Moreover, when the buffalo-hunting braves returned and saw the mutilations practiced by the soldiers on their people, they swore to serve their enemy in the same fashion when the tables were turned, as they soon would be, in the wake of a hundred skirmishes and ambuscades. Nor was that the only emulation. There were those in and out of the region who approved of Chivington's tactics as the best, if not indeed the only, solution to the problem of clearing the way for the settlers and the railrods.
[#6 A Tightening Noose]
A government report of goods run into Wilmington and Charleston during the last nie week of 1864 — practically all into the North Carolina port, for Charleston was tightly blockaded — amounted to "8,632,000 pounds of meat; 1,507,000 pounds of lead; 1,933,000 pounds of saltpeter; 546,000 pairs of shoes; 316,000 pairs of blankets; 520,000 pounds of coffee; 69,000 rifles; 97 packages of revolvers; 2939 packages of medicines; 43 cannon," and much else.
"If hell is what it
is said to be, then the interior of Fort Fisher is a fair comparison."
- A Confederate manning the Wilmington defenses under Union assault
The 13th Amendment to the Constitutiona abolished slavery, rather than assuring its continuance, as a direct result of secession. Six weeks before Sumter, both the Senate and the House had passed by a two-thirds vote a proposed 13th Amendment stating flatly that Congress could never be given "the power to abolish or interfere within any State with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State." Buchanan signed it on the eve of Lincoln's inauguration, but the measure was forgotten when the issue swung to war. On the other hand, if the departed Southerners had remained in Washington they and their northern friends, whose influence would have been for peace, could almost certainly have secured the requisite three-fourths ratification by their respective states. Charles Sumner, well aware of this, wasted no time in consolidating the victory he had worked so hard to win. He appeared before the Supmere Court the next day. February 1, to move that a fellow lawyer, John S. Rock of Boston, be admitted to practice before it. Embraced by the Chief Justice, who had prepared his colleagues, the motion carried. Here indeed was a change; for Rock was a Negro, the first of his race to address that high tribunal, which less than a decade ago had denied that Dred Scott, a non-citizen, even had the right to be represented there.
"This amendment is
a King's cure for all the evils. It winds the whole thing up."
- Abraham Lincoln
Ratification, once it came, would give the nation all that Lincoln maintained. Yet the dimensions of the victory depended altogether on the dimensions of the country when the amendment was adopted, and this in turn depended — more or less as had been the case, over the past two years, in the application of the Emancipation Proclamation — on the progress, between now and then, of Union arms. In short, it depended on whether Grant's close-out plan succeeded. Sherman's part was the critical one, at least in the early stages, and by coincidence he set out in earnest, this same February 1, on his march north through the Carolinas to gain Lee's rear.
A proposal that the
women of the South cut off their hair for sale in Europe, thereby bringing
an estimated 40,000,000-dollar windfall to the cause, had gained widespread
approval by the turn of the year, despite some protests — chiefly from
men, who viewed the suggested disfigurement with less favor than did their
wives and sweethearts — that the project was impractical. After the fall
of Fort Fisher, however, the Confederacy's last port east of the Mississippi
was no longer open to blockade runners, coming or going, and the plan was
abandoned... Like so many other proposals, farfetched but by no means impossible
if they had been adopted sooner, this one came too late.
Another was a return to the suggestion advanced informally by Pat Cleburne the previous winter, soon after Missionary Ridge, that the South free its slaves and enlist them in its armies. Hastily suppressed at the time as "revolting to Southern sentiment, Southern pride, and Southern honor", the proposition seemed far less "monstrous" now than it had a year ago, when Grant was not at the gates of Richmond and Sherman had not made his march through Georgia... In early Januaru, Governor William Smith proposed that Virginia and the other states, not central government, carry out the plan for black recruitment. Appealed to, Lee replied that he favored the measure... Opinions differed: not so much along economic lines, as might have been expected but rather as a result of opposition from die-hard political leaders, who contended that no government, state or central, whatever its desperation under the threat of imminent extinction, had the right to interfere in matters involving social institutions: especially slavery... As a result, after intense discussion, Virginia's General Assembly voted to permit the arming of slaves but included no provision for their emancipation, either before or after military service. Little or nothing came of that.
In the end, of the nearly 180,000 Negroes who served in the Union ranks, 134,111 were recruited in states that had stars in the Confederate battle flag.
Jefferson Davis was a military realist, in his way, and as such he knew that, far more important than the loss of any battle was the possible loss of the will to fight by those behind the lines. There was where wars were ultimately won or lost, and already there were signs that this will, though yet unbroken, was about to crumble. "It is not unwillingness to oppose the enemy," Governor Magrath informed him from threatened South Carolina, "but a chilling apprehension of the futility of doing so which affects the people."
"Mr. President, if
we understand you correctly, you think that we of the Confederacy have
committed treason; that we are traitors to your government; that we have
forfeited our rights, and are proper subjects for the hangman. Is that
not about what your words imply?"
"Yes. You have stated the proposition better than I did. That is about the size of it."
"...Well, Mr Lincoln, we have about concluded that we shall not be hanged as long as you are President: if we behave ourselves."
- Exchange from discussions between Lincoln and Southerner Senator Robert Hunter
The most Lincoln offered was a promise to use Executive clemency when the time came, so far at least as Congress would allow it... The three Confederate commissioners came back in something resembling a state of shock from having learned that negotiations were to follow, not precede, capitulation. Davis, however, was far from disappointed at the outcome. His double-barreled purpose — to discredit the submissionists and unite the country nehind him by having them elicit the northern leader's terms for peace — had been fulfilled.
Editors formerly critical of practically everything Davis did or stood for, especially during the 20 months since Gettysburg and the fall of Vicksburg, now swung abruptly to full support of his administration, as if in admission of their share in reducing public morale to so low a point that Lincoln felt he could afford to spurn all overtures for peace except on terms amounting to unconditional surrender.
[#7 Victory, And Defeat]
"Eating out the vitals
of South Carolina."
- Grant, describing Sherman's march
For some time now, particularly since the death of her middle and favorite son, 11-year-old Willie, Mary Lincoln had been displaying symptoms of the mental disturbance that would result, a decade later, in a medical judgment of her case of one of insanity. Her distress, though great, was scarcely greater than her family misfortunes — exclusive of the greatest, still to come. Four of her five Kentucky brothers had gone with the South, and three of them died at Shiloh, Baton Rouge and Vicksburg. Similarly, three of her four sisters were married to Confederates, one of whom fell at Chickamauga.
Lincoln was satisfied that victory was at last within reach. But it seemed to him, from what had been just pointed out (in his high-level conference with Grant, Sherman and Porter), that all this squeezing and maneuvering was leading to a high-loss confrontation, an Armageddon that would serve no purpose on either side except to a foregone conclusion. "Must more blood be shed?" he asked. "Cannot this last bloody battle be avoided?" Both generals thought not. In any case, that was up to the enemy; Lee being Lee, there was likely to be "one more desperate and bloody battle."
"Of all the men I ever
met, he seemed to possess more of the elements of greatness, combined with
goodness, than any other."
- William T Sherman, assessing Lincoln
Since early February, forseesing that the end of winter meant the end of Richmond, men of substance had been sending their wives and children to outlying estates, north and west of the threatened capital, or to North Carolina towns and cities so far spared a visit from Sherman. All through March the railway stations were crowded with well-off 'refugees' boarding trains to avoid the holocaust at hand. Having no choice, those with nowhere to go (and no money either to pay the far or live on when they got there) remained, as did the heads of families whose government duties or business interests required their presence; with the result that by the time the First Lady Varina Davis started packing, alerted for a sudden removal to Charlotte, where Davis had rented a house for her and her children, Richmond's population was predominantly black and poor and male.
"The day you make soldiers
of Negroes is the beginning of the end of the revolution. If slaves will
make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong."
- Howell Cobb
"If we are right in
passing this measure, we were wrong in denying the old government the right
to interfere with the institution of slavery and to emancipate slaves."
- Senator Robert Hunter, opposing plans by Congress to arm slaves
Negro soldiers were to receive the same pay, rations and clothing as other troops, no mention was made of emancipation as a reward for military service.
Though the army, by and large, had favored adoption of the measure, the legislation failed in the application: not so much because of the shortness of "time for organization and instruction", of which Davis had complained, as because of a lack of support by the owners of prospective black recruits — and possibly by the slaves themselves, though of the latter there was little chance to judge. Some few came or were sent forward to Richmond before the end of March; new gray uniforms were somehow found for them, and there was even a drill ceremony in Capitol Square, performed to the shrill of fifes and throb of drums; but that was all. Small boys jeered and threw rocks at the paraders, not one of whom reached the firing line while there was still a firing line to reach.
"The saddest of many
of the sad sights of war — a city undergoing pillage at the hands of its
own mob, while the standards of an empire were being taken from its capitol
and the tramp of a victorious enemy could be heard at its gates."
- A witness describes the Fall of Richmond
"Duncan is in his grave;
After life's fitful fever he sleeps well;
Treasons has done his worst: nor steel, nor poison,
Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing can touch him further."
- Lincoln quotes a scene from Macbeth after his return from Richmond
What had begun as a retreat the previous Sunday night, when Lee abandoned Petersburg and Richmond with the intention of marching southwest beyond the Roanoke, developed all too soon into a race against Grant and starvation, which in turn became a harrassed flight that narrowed the dwindling army's fate to slow or sudden death.
"The Confederacy was
considered as 'gone up', and every man felt it his duty, as well as his
privilege, to save himself."
- A veteran describes the flight from Richmond
At the close of a march of nearly 40 miles in about as many hours, with nothing to eat but what they happened to have with them at the outset or could scrounge along the way, Lee had 33,000 soldiers — the number to which his army, including reservists, had been reduced in the past 10 days by its losses at Fort Stedman and Five Forks and during the Sunday breakthrough, each of which had cost hum just under or over 5000 men — converging on a lonely trackside village, Amelia Courthouse, where not a single ration could be drawn.
Straggling was heavy, and many who kept going simply dropped their rifles as they hobbled along, too weak to carry them any farther, or else planted them by the roadside, bayonet down, each a small monument to determination and defeat... Many staggered drunkenly, and some found, when they tried to talk, that their speech was incoherent.
"Night way day. Day
was night. There was no stated time to sleep, eat or rest, and the events
of the morning became strangely intermingled with the events of evening.
Breakfast, dinner and supper were merged into 'something to eat', whenever
and wherever it could be found."
- Another veteran describes the flight from Richmond
This was Grant's doind, the outcome of his steadiness and simplicity of purpose, designed to accomplish in short order the destruction of his opponent now that he had flushed him out of his burrow, into the open field, and had him on the run. He became again, in brief, the Grant of Vicksburg... A staff colonel afterwards declared: "He commanded Lee's army as much as he did ours; caused and knew beforehand every movement that Lee made, up to the actual surrender..."
Including 2000 cannoneers available to serve the remaining 61 guns, Lee had by no some 12,500 effectives in his ranks — fewer in all than Sheridan had in bivouac just to the west and south, their horses tethered athwart his one escape route, and only about one third of the skeleton force that began its withdrawal from Richmond, Bermuda Hundred and Petersburg, a week ago tonight. Nearly as many more were present or scattered roundabout in various stages of collapse from hunger and exhaustion, but that was the number still fit to fight and still with weapons in their hands.
"What are you doing
with all that gray in your beard?"
"You have to answer for most of it."
- Generals Lee and Meade greet each other before the surrender
"Why do men fight who
were born to be brothers?"
- James Longstreet, looking back on his reunion with Grant at the surrender
[#8 Lucifer in Starlight]
In regard to the new state government in Loiusiana, which had the support of only 10% of the electorate, Lincoln acknowledged the validity of the criticism that it was scantly based and did not give the franchise to the Negro... All the same, he did not believe these shortcomings invalidated the present arrangement, which in any case was better than no arrangement at all. "Concede that the new government of Loiusiana is only to what it should be as the egg is to the fowl, we shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg than smashing it."
"Bad promises are better broken than kept...
Wherever I shall be convinced that keeping it is adverse to the public
- Abraham Lincoln, defending a broken promise to Virginia politicians
Beauregard told Davis of Johnston's hurried evacuation from Smithfield, under pressure from Sherman, and of his present withdrawal toward the state capital, which he did not plan to defend against a force three times his size. In short, Beauregard said, the situation was hopeless. Davis disagreed. Lee's surrender had not been confirmed; some portion of his army might have escaped and could soon be combined with Johnston's, as originally intended. The struggle would continue, whatever the odds, even if it had to be done on the far side of the Mississippi. Beauregard was amazed, but by no means converted from his gloom...
Both Johnston and Beauregard were convinced not only that they were right and Davis was wrong about the military outlook, but also that he would presently be obliged to admit it; if not to them, then in any case to Grant and Sherman... In point of fact... On this fourth anniversary of the day Beauregard opened fire on Sumter, Lee's man — not part: all — were formally laying down their arms at Appomattox Courthouse, just over a hundred miles away... Sherman was closing on Raleigh, whose occupation tomorrow would make it the ninth of the eleven seceded state capitals to feel the tread of the invader; all this is, but Austin and Tallahassee, whose survival was less the result of their ability to resist than it was of Federal oversight or disinterest.
Grant's terms at Appomattox had assured that non member of the surrendered army, from Lee on down, would ever be prosecuted by the government for treason or any other crime, so long as he observed the conditions of his parole and the laws in force where he resided.
"I suppose, Mr President," William Dennison half-inquired, half-suggested, "that you would not be sorry to have them [the civilian leaders] escape out of the country?" Lincoln thought it over. "Well, I should not be sorry to have them out of the country," he replied, "but I should be for following them up pretty close to make sure of their going."
Then it come, a half-muffled explosion, somewhere
between a boom and a thump, loud but by no means so loud as it sounded
in the theater, then a boil and bulge of bluish smoke in the presidential
box, an exhalation as of brimstone from the curtained mouth, and a man
coming on through the bank and swirl of it, white-faced and dark-haired
in a black sack suit and riding boots, eyes aglitter, brandishing a knife.
He mounted the ledge, presented his back to the rows of people seated below,
and let himself down by the handrail for the 10-foot drop to the stage.
Falling as he turned, he caught the spur of his right boot in the folds
of a flag draped over the lower front of the high box. It ripped but offered
enough resistance to bring all the weight of his fall on his left leg,
which buckled and pitched him forward onto his hands. He rose, thrust the
knife overhead in a broad theatrical gesture, and addressed the outward
darkness of the pit. "Sic semper tyrannis," he said in a voice so low and
projected with so little clarity that few recognized the state motto of
Virginia or could later agree that he had spoken in Latin. "Revenge for
the South!" or "The South is avenged," some thought they heard him cry,
while others said that he simply muttered "Freedom." In any case he then
turned again, hobbled left across the stage past the lone actor standing
astonished in its centre, and vanished into the wings.
- Lincoln's Assassination
In this, as in other accounts concerning other rumored victims — Grant, for one, and Andrew Johnson for another, until word came that the general was safe in Philadelphia and the Vice President himself showed up unhurt — there was much confusion. Edwin Stanton understood on his own the task of sifting and setting the contradictions straight, in effect taking over as head of the headless government. "[He] instantly assumed charge of everything near and remote, civil and military," a subordinate observed, "and began issuing orders in that autocratic manner so superbly necessary to the occasion." Among other precuations, he stopped traffic on the Potomac and the railroads, warned the Washington Fire Brigade to be ready for mass arson, summoned Grant back to take charge of the capital defenses, and alerted guards along the Canadian border, as well as in all major eastern ports, to be on the lookout for suspicious persons attempting to leave the country. In short, "he continued throughout the night acting as president, secretary of war, secretary of state, commander in chief, comforter and dictator," all from a small sitting room adjacent to the front parlor of the tailor's house on 10th Street, which he turned into an interrogation chamber for grilling witnesses to find out just what had happened in the theater across the street.
Bells were tolling all over Washinton by the time Lincoln's body, wrapped in a flag and placed in a closed hearse, was on its way back to the White House, escorted (as he had not been when he left, twelve hours before) by an honor guard of soldiers and preceded by a group of officers walking bareheaded in the rain. He would lie in state, first in the East Room, then afterwards in the Capitol rotunda, preparatory to the long train ride back to Springfield, where he would at last be laid to rest. "Nothing touches the tired spot," he had said often in the course of the past four years. Now Booth's derringer had reached it.
"Certainly I have no special regard for Mr
Lincoln, but there are a great many men of whose end I would rather hear
than his. I fear it will be disastrous to our people, and I regret it deeply...
He had power over the Northern people, and was without personal malignity
toward the people of the South."
- Jefferson Davis, after hearing of Lincoln's death
On April 26, the day of Booth's death and
Johntson's renegotiated surrender, Davis met for the last time with his
full cabinet and decided to end his week-long stay in Charlotte by pressing
on at once to the southwest. He had not been surprised at Washington's
rejection of the Sherman-Johnson "Basis of Agreement", which he himself
had approved two days before... What did surprise and anger him, some time
later, was the news that Johnston, ignoring the suggestion that he fall
back with the mobile elements of his army to draw Sherman after him, had
laid down his arms without so much as a warning note to his superiors he
knew were in flight for their lives. Davis's indignation was heightened
all the more when he learned that the Virginian, in his last general order,
had blamed "recent events in Virginia for breaking every hope of success
by war." Lee had fought until he was virtually surrounded and a breakout
attempt had failed; whereas Johnston not only had not tried for the getaway
auggested and expected, but had also, by a stroke of the pen, ended all
formal resistance in three of the states through which his fugitive superiors
would be traveling in their attempt to reach Dick Taylor or Kirby Smith,
on this or the far side of the Mississippi River.
Hope for escape by that route had been encouraged by a series of dispatches from Wade Hampton, who did not consider himself bound by the surrender negotiations then in progress... His notion was that the struggle should continue wherever there was ground to stand on, in or out of the country, whatever the odds... Davis was heartened by this stalwart reassurance from the South Carolina grandee, whose views — delusions, some would say — were in accordance with his own.
"The issue is one which it is very painful
for me to meet. On one hand is the long night of the oppression which will
follow the return of our people to the 'Union'; on the other, the suffering
of the women and children, and carnage among the few brave patriots who
would still oppose the invader, and who, unless the people would rise en
masse to sustain them, would struggle but to die in vain."
- Jefferson Davis, as the Confederacy enters its final days
What the country was undergoing wasn't panic,
they [Davis's remaining military commanders] informed their chief, but
exhaustion. Any attempt to prolong the war, now that the means of supporting
it were gone, "would be a cruel injustice to the people of the South,"
while for the soldiers the consequences would be even worse; "for if they
persisted in a conflict so hopeless they would be treated as brigands and
would forfeit all chance of returning to their homes." Breaking a second
silence, Davis asked why then, if all hope was exhausted, they were still
in the fields. To assist his escape they replied, adding that they "would
ask our men to follow us until safety was assured, and would risk them
in battle for that purpose, but would not fire another shot in an effort
to continue hostilities."
...Now it was flight, pure and simple — flight for flight's sake, so to speak — with no further thought of a rally until and unless he reached the Transmississippi... Davis said, as he had said before — unaware that, even as he spoke, Dick Taylor was meeting with Canby at Citronelle to surrender the last gray army east of the Mississippi — that he could not leave Confederate soil while a single Confederate regiment clung to its colors.
"Chaplain, do you suppose we shall be able
to forget anything in heaven? I would like to forget those three years."
- George H. Wood, killed in April'65 after three years at war
Afloat, whether on salt water or fresh, the wind-down of the rebellion seemed likely to prove a good deal more erratic and explosive than on land, depending as it would on the attitude and nature of the individual skipper operating on his own, as so many did in the Confederate navy, up lonely rivers or far out to sea. "Don't give up the ship" — a proud tradition sometimes taken to irrational extremes: as in duels to the death, with 8-inch guns at ranges of 8 feet — might apply no less at the finish than at the start.
Other hardships continued in force, including
the constant presence of two sentries under order to keep tramping back
and forth at all hours, a lamp that burned day night, even while he slept
or tried to, and the invariable dampness resulting from the fact that the
floor of his cell was below the level of the water in the adjoining moat.
- Jefferson Davis's capitivity as 'Lucifer in Starlight'
All things end, and by ending not only find
continuance in the whole, but also assure continuance by contributing their
droplets, clear or murky, to the stream of history... So it was for the
Confederacy, and so one day will it be for the other nations of earth,
if not for earth itself. Appomattox was one of several endings... But at
what cost — if not in suffering, which was immeasurable, then at any rate
in blood — had the war been won and lost?
In round numbers, 2 million blue-clad soldiers and sailors were diminished by 640,000 casualties — more than a fourth — while the 750,000 in gray, all told, lost 450,000 — well over half. Of the former, 111,000 had been killed in battle, as compared to 94,000 of the latter... The butcher's bill thus came to no less than 1,094,453 for both sides, in and out of more than 10,000 military actions, including 76 full-scale battles, 310 engagements, 6337 skirmishes, and numerous sieges, raids, expeditins, and the like.
Out of 583 Union generals, 47 were killed in action, whereas of the 425 Confederate generals, 77 fell — roughty 1 in 12 as opposed to 1 in 5... Approximately 1 out of 10 able-bodied Northerners were dead or incapacitated, while for the South it was 1 out of 4, including her noncombatant Negroes.
Not secession but the war itself, and above all the memories recurrent through the peace that followed — such as it was — created a Solid South, more firmly united in defeat than it had been during the brief span when it claimed independence. Voided, the claim was abandoned, but the pride remained: pride in the segment reabsorbed, as well as in the whole, which now for the first time was truly indivisible.
"You could not stand up say after day, in
those indecisive contests where overwhelming victory was impossible because
neither side would run as they ought when beaten, without getting at last
something of the same brotherhood for the enemy that the north pole of
a magnet has for the south, each working in an opposite sense to the other,
but unable to get along without the other."
- Oliver Wendell Holmes (Union veteran)
No wonder then, if they looked back on that four-year holocaust — which in a sense was begun by one madman, John Brown, and ended by another, John Wilkes Booth — with something of the feeling shared by men who have gone through, and survived, some cataclysmic phenomenon; a hurricane or an earthquake say, or a horrendous railway accident. Memory smoothed the crumpled scroll, abolished fear, leached pain and grief, and removed the sting from death.
"Virginia has need of all her sons," Robert E Lee had replied when asked by veterans what he thought of their going elsewhere to escape the strictures of poverty and Reconstruction, and he himself had set them an example by serving, at a salary of $1500 a year, as president of Washington College, a small, all but bankrupt institution out in the Shenandoah Valley. He aged greatly in the five years left him after Appomattox, suffering from the heart ailment which his doctors now could see had been what plauged him through much of the war, when the symptoms were diagnosed as rheumatism.
"In asserting the right of secession, it
has not been my wish to incite to its exercise: I recognize the fact that
the war showed it to be impracticable, but this not prove it to be wrong.
And now that it may not again be attempted, and that the Union may promote
the general welfare, it is needful that the truth, the whole truth, should
be known, so that crimination and recrimination may forever cease, and
then, on the basis of fraternity and faithful regard for the rights of
the States, there may be written on the arch of the Union, 'Esto petua'."
- Jefferson Davis, concluding his "Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government"
"I stand before you a man without a country,
for my ambition lies buried in the grave of the Confederacy. The faces
I see before me are those of young men... Men in whose hands the destinies
of our Southland lie, for love of her I break my silence to speak to you
a few words of respectful admonition. The past is dead; let it bury its
dead, its hopes and aspirations. Before you lies the future, a future full
of golden promise, a future of expanding national glory, before which all
the world shall stand amazed. Let me beseech you to lay aside all rancor,
all bitter sectional feeling, and to take your place in the ranks of those
who will bring about a consummation devoutly to be wished — a reunited
- Jefferson Davis, addresing young Southerners in his last public speech
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