The Civil War This Week: Apr 13-19, 1865

April 19, 2015 Leave a comment

Thursday, April 13

Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal army entered the North Carolina capital of Raleigh. Confederates under General Joseph E. Johnston moved from Greensboro to Hillsboro, North Carolina.

U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ordered an end to the military draft and cut military appropriations.

President Abraham Lincoln conferred with General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant, Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, Stanton, and others.

A Federal expedition began from Lexington, Kentucky. Skirmishing occurred at Whistler or Eight Mile Creek Bridge and at Wetumpka, Alabama.


Friday, April 14

Northern officers and dignitaries attended a flag-raising ceremony at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Henry Ward Beecher delivered an oration; President Lincoln had declined an invitation to attend.

William T. Sherman accepted the surrender of Raleigh, North Carolina, as his Federals advanced from Raleigh to Durham Station. Joseph E. Johnston received permission from President Jefferson Davis to ask Sherman if he was “willing to make a temporary suspension of active operations.”

President Lincoln was shot in the head by prominent actor John Wilkes Booth while attending a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington.

Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama.

Saturday, April 15

President Abraham Lincoln died of his gunshot wound at 7:22 a.m. Andrew Johnson became the 17th U.S. president; to the horror of many northerners, Johnson was a southern Democrat.

Fugitives John Wilkes Booth and accomplice David Herold escaped from Washington and stayed at the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd, who set Booth’s broken leg.

Jefferson Davis left Greensboro, North Carolina with a cavalry escort.

Federal expeditions began from Randolph and Pocahontas counties, West Virginia and Bath and Highland, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina and Missouri.

Sunday, April 16

Northerners deeply mourned the death of Abraham Lincoln, and southerners knew that Lincoln’s death would result in vengeance against them.

Federal troops pursued John Wilkes Booth and David Herold, who reached the home of Samuel Cox in Rich Hill, Maryland.

The fleeing Confederate government reached Lexington, North Carolina.

Federal cavalry under General James Wilson captured West Point and Columbus in Georgia.

Skirmishing occurred in Alabama.

Monday, April 17

William T. Sherman and Joseph E. Johnston met at the Bennett House near Durham Station, North Carolina.

Jefferson Davis and his party reached Salisbury, North Carolina en route to Charlotte.

John Wilkes Booth and David Herold hid in a cluster of trees while trying to gain transport across the Potomac River south of Port Tobacco, Maryland.

This evening, the body of President Lincoln was taken from the guest chamber of the White House to the East Room, where it lay in state until the funeral on the 19th.

James Wilson’s Federal cavalry destroyed Columbus, Georgia and the ironclad gunboat C.S.S. Muscogee or Jackson.

A Federal expedition began from Blakely, Alabama. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina.

Tuesday, April 18

William T. Sherman and Joseph E. Johnston signed a “Memorandum, or Basis of Agreement,” which proved highly controversial.

Jefferson Davis and his party continued southward to Concord, North Carolina.

The body of Abraham Lincoln lay in state in the East Room of the White House.

James Wilson’s Federal cavalry skirmished in Georgia. Other skirmishing occurred in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Wednesday, April 19

Funeral services took place for Abraham Lincoln in the White House and later at the U.S. Capitol.

Major General John Pope, commanding the Federal Military Division of the Missouri, wrote to Lieutenant General E. Kirby Smith, commanding the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department, requesting Smith’s surrender based on the terms that Ulysses S. Grant had given to Robert E. Lee.

Major General Henry W. Halleck became commander of the Federal Military Division of the James, which included Virginia and parts of North Carolina not occupied by Sherman’s forces.

Jefferson Davis and his party arrived at Charlotte, North Carolina, where Davis first heard of Lincoln’s assassination. Confederate General Wade Hampton wrote to Davis proposing to cross the Mississippi River and continue the fight.

A Federal expedition began from Memphis, Tennessee and Terre Bonne, Louisiana. Skirmishing occurred in Georgia.


Primary Sources:

The Civil War This Week: Apr 6-12, 1865

April 12, 2015 Leave a comment

Thursday, April 6

The Battle of Sayler’s Creek occurred, in which Federals routed Confederate General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia as it fled west from Petersburg and Richmond.

Federal cavalry under General James H. Wilson and General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates clashed near Lanier’s Mills, Sipsey Creek, and King’s Store in Alabama. Skirmishing occurred in southwest Virginia and West Virginia.


Friday, April 7

Federal General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant sent Robert E. Lee a message “asking of you the surrender of that portion of the C.S Army known as the Army of Northern Virginia.” Lee responded by asking “the terms you will offer on condition of its surrender.”

Tennessee ratified the Thirteenth Amendment and inaugurated abolitionist W.G. “Parson” Brownlow as governor.

Officials of the U.S. and Great Britain opened correspondence over claims arising from depredations of the Confederate commerce raider Alabama.

James H. Wilson and Nathan Bedford Forrest clashed at Fike’s Ferry on the Cahawba River in Alabama. A Federal expedition began from Blakely, Alabama.

Saturday, April 8

Ulysses S. Grant answered Robert E. Lee’s query of yesterday by stating that “the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified from taking up arms again against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged.”

Confederate defenders evacuated Spanish Fort guarding Mobile, Alabama during the night.

A Federal expedition began from Vienna and Fairfax Court House, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina and Missouri.

Sunday, April 9

Robert E. Lee surrendered the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. This virtually sealed the Confederacy’s defeat.

Monday, April 10

Robert E. Lee issued General Order No. 9, his last official order as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia: “After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources…”

Confederate President Jefferson Davis, upon learning of Lee’s surrender, left Danville, Virginia to relocate at Greensboro, North Carolina.

James H. Wilson’s Federals clashed the Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates at Lowndesborough and Benton, Alabama. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and North Carolina.

Tuesday, April 11

Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal Army of the West entered Smithfield, North Carolina, where they learned of Lee’s surrender two days ago.

President Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech to a joyous crowd from a second floor window in the White House. His legalistic explanation of what could be expected in the upcoming reconstruction period dampened spirits a bit.

Wednesday, April 12

James H. Wilson’s Federals occupied the Alabama state capital of Montgomery, which had also been the first Confederate capital.

Jefferson Davis and his cabinet arrived at Greensboro to a cold reception. Davis consulted with General P.G.T. Beauregard on how to continue the fight.

A formal surrender ceremony took place as the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia relinquished its arms.

President Lincoln revoked permission for the pro-Confederate Virginia legislature to assemble at Richmond.

William T. Sherman’s Federals approached Raleigh, North Carolina.

Federal expeditions began from Port Hudson, Louisiana; Tallahassa Mission in the Indian Territory; Dakota City in the Nebraska Territory; and Fort Stanton in the New Mexico Territory.


Primary Sources:

The Civil War This Week: Mar 30-Apr 5, 1865

Thursday, March 30

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, still visiting the Federal supply base at City Point, Virginia, said he should return to Washington, “and yet I dislike to leave without seeing nearer to the end of General (Ulysses S.) Grant’s present movement.”

Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to a friend: “Faction has done much to cloud our prospects and impair my power to serve the country.”

A Federal expedition began from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Skirmishing occurred in Alabama and West Virginia.


Friday, March 31

General James H. Wilson’s Federal cavalry destroyed iron furnaces and collieries around Montevallo, Alabama.

In Virginia, Major General Philip Sheridan’s Federals and Confederates under Major General George Pickett clashed at Dinwiddie Court House. Pickett withdrew to Five Forks this evening.

Federal operations took place around Agua Fria in the New Mexico Territory. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina and Tennessee.

Saturday, April 1

The Battle of Five Forks occurred, in which Federals routed George Pickett’s Confederates and compelled General Robert E. Lee to abandon Petersburg and Richmond.

In a letter to Lee, President Davis noted he had “been laboring without much progress to advance the raising of negro troops.” Davis admitted: “The distrust is increasing and embarrasses in many ways.”

C.S.S. Shenandoah captured four U.S. whalers in Lea Harbor, Ascension Island (now Ponape Island, Eastern Carolines) in the Pacific.

James H. Wilson’s Federal cavalry skirmished with Confederates under General Nathan Bedford Forrest at various points in northern Alabama.

Federal expeditions began from Dalton, Georgia; Licking, Missouri; and Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Federals operated against Native Americans west of Fort Laramie in the Dakota Territory. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee.

Sunday, April 2

President Davis received a message from Robert E. Lee while attending church services that Petersburg and Richmond must be abandoned. Later today, Petersburg fell to Federal forces.

James H. Wilson’s Federal cavalry captured Selma, Alabama. Also in Alabama, Federal forces began laying siege to Fort Blakely in their attempt to capture Mobile.

Federal expeditions began from Thibodeaux, Bayou City, Brashear City, and The Hermitage, Louisiana. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina and Arkansas.

Monday, April 3

The Confederate capital of Richmond fell to Federal forces after four years of brutal warfare in Virginia.

James H. Wilson’s cavalry clashed with Nathan Bedford Forrest at Northport near Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Federal expeditions began from Huntsville, Alabama and Asheville, North Carolina. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Tennessee.

Tuesday, April 4

President Lincoln visited the ruins of Richmond. He also conferred with John A. Campbell, the highest ranking Confederate official still in Richmond, about restoring Virginia to the U.S.

James H. Wilson’s Federals entered Tuscaloosa.

From the temporary Confederate capital of Danville, Virginia, President Davis issued a proclamation “To the People of the Confederate States of America”:

It would be unwise, even if it were possible, to conceal the great moral, as well as material injury to our cause that must result from the occupation of Richmond by the enemy. It is equally unwise and unworthy of us, as patriots engaged in a most sacred cause, to allow our energies to falter, our spirits to grow faint, or our efforts to become relaxed, under reverses however calamitous… Relieved from the necessity of guarding cities, nothing is now needed to render our triumph certain but… our own unquenchable resolve…

Wednesday, April 5

Robert E. Lee’s Confederates arrived at Amelia Court House with no supplies waiting for them as Lee had requested.

President Lincoln conferred with John A. Campbell again and issued a statement about restoring Virginia to the U.S. At 6 p.m., Lincoln received news that Secretary of State William H. Seward had been critically injured in a carriage accident in Washington that afternoon.

Two Federal expeditions began from Charleston and Georgetown, South Carolina, and another began from Huntsville, Alabama. Federals operated against Natives from Camp Bidwell to Antelope Creek, California.


Primary Sources:

The Civil War This Week: Mar 23-29, 1865

March 23, 2015 Leave a comment

Thursday, March 23

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, First Lady Mary Lincoln, son Tad, and aides left Washington to visit the headquarters of General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant at City Point, Virginia. The Lincoln party boarded River Queen and departed from the Sixth Street Arsenal Wharf at 1 p.m.

Federal Major General William T. Sherman met with Major General John M. Schofield at Goldsboro, North Carolina. This completed the junction of Federal forces in the state, as Sherman now had six corps totaling 88,948 men. In contrast, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston had barely 20,000 troops as he withdrew across the Neuse River. Johnston wrote to Confederate General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee: “Sherman’s course cannot be hindered by the small force I have. I can do no more than annoy him…”

A Federal expedition began from Donaldsonville, Louisiana. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina and Alabama.


Friday, March 24

The Lincoln party arrived at City Point late this evening. The Lincolns’ son Robert, serving on Ulysses S. Grant’s staff, reported his family’s arrival to Grant.

Troops from the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia prepared to break out of the siege lines at Petersburg, Virginia. They had chosen Fort Stedman as the best breakout site because it could cut Grant’s supply line at City Point and enable to Confederates to join Joseph E. Johnston in Virginia.

William T. Sherman wrote to Grant, “I think I see pretty clearly how, in one more move, we can checkmate Lee, forcing him to unite Johnston with him in defense of Richmond, or, by leaving Richmond, to abandon the cause. I feel certain if he leaves Richmond, Virginia leaves the Confederacy.”

A Federal expedition began from Bayou Boeuf, Louisiana. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina, Alabama, and Missouri.

Saturday, March 25

The Battle of Fort Stedman occurred as Confederates surprised the Federals and quickly captured the fort. However, Federal reinforcements soon arrived, and the overwhelming numbers drove the Confederates back. By 7:45 a.m., the Federals had regained the fort and all other positions, and the Confederate breakout attempt ended in failure.

Later this morning, President Lincoln accompanied Ulysses S. Grant on a horseback inspection of Federal troops at Petersburg, which included reviewing the Fort Stedman battle site.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis received a warning from Robert E. Lee that Richmond may have to be abandoned after the defeat at Fort Stedman. Davis told his wife Varina: “My headquarters for the future may be in the field, and your presence would embarrass and grieve me instead of giving comfort.” Mrs. Davis pleaded to stay with her husband, but Davis said: “You can do this in but one way: by going yourself and taking the children to a place of safety. If I live, you can come to me when the struggle is ended,” but he did not “expect to survive the destruction of constitutional liberty.” Davis prohibited her from taking any food with her because “the people need it.”

Federal forces under Major General E.R.S. Canby reached Spanish Fort, nine miles east of Mobile, Alabama through hard rain. Despite Mobile’s formidable defenses, the Confederates were hopelessly outnumbered.

William T. Sherman left his Federal army at Goldsboro under John M. Schofield’s command and headed to City Point to confer with Grant. Meanwhile, Federals repaired the railroad from Goldsboro to New Bern, allowing troops to begin receiving food, supplies, and mail from the North.

Two Federal expeditions began from Brashear City, Louisiana. Skirmishing occurred in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia.

Sunday, March 26

President Lincoln reviewed troops at Petersburg and met with Federal Major General Philip Sheridan. An incident occurred in which Mrs. Lincoln became enraged upon seeing the wife of a Federal general sitting horseback beside the president during the troop review. The first lady vented her wrath on both the general’s wife and the wife of Ulysses S. Grant.

Robert E. Lee wrote to President Davis: “I fear now it will be impossible to prevent a junction between Grant and Sherman, nor do I deem it prudent that this army should maintain its position until the latter shall approach too near.” Lee prepared to abandon Petersburg and Richmond and move west to join Johnston in North Carolina.

Ulysses S. Grant issued false orders for Philip Sheridan’s Federals to join William T. Sherman in North Carolina. Sheridan’s true orders, issued in secret, were to lead the upcoming Federal drive to destroy Lee’s army.

Sherman boarded the steamer Russia this morning en route to City Point. He said, “I’m going up to see Grant for five minutes and have it all chalked out for me, and then come back and pitch in.”

Confederate envoy James Mason conferred with the Earl of Donoughmore about the Confederacy’s offer to free the slaves in exchange for British recognition. The earl stated that had the proposal been made before the Battle of Gettysburg, it would have been accepted. But now, Mason said, “He replied that the time had gone by.”

Federals began firing on Spanish Fort outside Mobile, Alabama. A Federal expedition began from Bonnet Carre, Louisiana. Skirmishing occurred in Alabama and Kentucky.

Monday, March 27

William T. Sherman arrived at City Point to meet with President Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and Rear Admiral David D. Porter. The men gathered aboard River Queen in the first meeting between the president and his field commanders. Today’s talks were mainly social, as Sherman shared stories from the Carolinas Campaign. The commanders agreed that “one more bloody battle was likely to occur before the close of the war.”

E.R.S. Canby’s 32,000 Federals began laying siege to Spanish Fort outside Mobile, Alabama. Ironclads in the Gulf of Mexico backed the Federal siege.

Philip Sheridan’s Federals crossed the James and joined the Army of the Potomac. Sheridan had hurried out of fear that Sherman would persuade Grant to send him to North Carolina instead of joining the final drive against Robert E. Lee.

A Federal expedition began from Winchester, Virginia.

Tuesday, March 28

The Federal high command continued talks aboard River Queen this morning. President Lincoln expressed hope that high-ranking Confederates, including Jefferson Davis, would flee the country. Regarding surrender, Lincoln said: “Let them once surrender and reach their homes, they won’t take up arms again. Let them go, officers and all. I want submission and no more bloodshed.” When the fighting stopped, southerners “would at once be guaranteed all their rights as citizens of a common country.” Lincoln said, “I want no one punished, treat them liberally all around. We want those people to return to their allegiance to the Union and submit to the laws.”

The City Point conference set the tone for how the Federal commanders would handle the Confederates in upcoming engagements. Following the talks, William T. Sherman returned to Goldsboro.

Federal troops shifted positions in front of Petersburg in preparation for a scheduled advance tomorrow. Robert E. Lee wrote to his daughter: “Genl Grant is evidently preparing for something & is marshalling & preparing his troops for some movement, which is not yet disclosed…”

Federal expeditions began from Deep Bottom, Virginia and Fort Pike, Louisiana. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee.

Wednesday, March 29

Robert E. Lee shifted Confederate forces to the right of his Petersburg line to counter the growing Federal threat to the Five Forks area. Philip Sheridan began moving forces in that direction to cut the two railroads supplying Confederates in Petersburg and Richmond. Sheridan reached Dinwiddie Court House this afternoon in a movement toward the Southside Railroad.

A Confederate torpedo sunk U.S.S. Osage in the Blakely River, Alabama. Federal expeditions began from Waynesville, Missouri and Stephenson’s Depot, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Missouri.


Primary Sources:

The Civil War This Week: Mar 16-22, 1865

March 16, 2015 Leave a comment

Thursday, March 16

The Battle of Averasboro occurred in North Carolina, as Federals advancing toward Goldsboro attacked General William J. Hardee’s Confederates blocking their way. The Federals turned Hardee’s right flank until the Confederates regrouped and made a stand. But when Hardee learned the Federals were moving to turn his left, he withdrew toward Smithfield. The Federals suffered 682 casualties, while the Confederates lost about 865. Though not a major battle, the engagement at Averasboro proved the Confederates still resisted the Federal advance into the state.

The Confederate Congress issued a rebuttal to President Jefferson Davis’s message of March 13 accusing congressional members of insufficient action: “Nothing is more desirable than concord and cordial cooperation between all departments of Government. Hence your committee regret that the Executive deemed it necessary to transmit to Congress a message so well calculated to excite discord and dissension…”

Federals scouted in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.


Friday, March 17

Major General E.R.S. Canby assembled some 32,000 Federals to capture Mobile, a vital Confederate seaport city on Alabama’s coast. About 2,800 Confederates under Brigadier General R.L. Gibson defended Mobile.

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln addressed the increasing sales of arms to Native Americans by proclaiming that anyone caught conducting such transactions would be arrested and tried by a military tribunal.

In a speech to the 140th Indiana, Lincoln said, “Whenever (I) hear any one, arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” Lincoln also voiced support for the Confederacy’s recent measure recruiting slaves into the Confederate armies: “I am rather in favor of the measure… We have to reach the bottom of the insurgent resources, and that they employ or seriously think of employing the slaves as soldiers gives us glimpses of the bottom…”

Famed actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth developed a plan to kidnap Lincoln and exchange him for Confederate prisoners of war. This evening, Booth and his accomplices put on disguises and rode to the Soldiers Home on the Washington outskirts, where the Lincolns often stayed. Booth learned that Lincoln was not there and soon changed his plot from kidnapping to assassination.

Federal expeditions began in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and from Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina the wake of yesterday’s Averasboro engagement, as William Hardee issued a congratulatory order to his Confederate troops for “giving the enemy the first check he has received since leaving Atlanta.”

Saturday, March 18

The Confederate Congress adjourned with congressional members and President Davis continuing to accuse each other of inactivity; many war measures to improve finances, mobilize subsistence, or enhance army recruiting did not pass. Davis wrote to a friend: “Faction has done much to cloud our prospects and impair my power to serve the country.”

In North Carolina, General Joseph E. Johnston concentrated 20,000 Confederates to oppose Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal advance on Goldsboro. Johnston planned to attack one section of Sherman’s army at a time, thus diminishing Sherman’s numerical superiority. The target was Sherman’s left wing under Generals Henry W. Slocum and Judson Kilpatrick, which numbered about 30,000 men.

Some 1,700 Federal troops advanced from Dauphin Island on the west side of Mobile Bay to deceive the Confederates as to which side would be attacked; the main effort would be to the east. A Federal expedition began from Fort Gibson in the Indian Territory. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

Sunday, March 19

The Battle of Bentonville occurred in North Carolina. Federals fended off cavalry attacks by General Wade Hampton, but then Joseph E. Johnston’s main force advanced. The Confederates routed the Federal left, but a strong stand by Major General Jefferson C. Davis held firm, giving William T. Sherman time to gather reinforcements. Federals repulsed three Confederate assaults, and Johnston fell back to his original position by nightfall. Meanwhile, Sherman hurried his right wing to the scene.

A new battalion of white hospital convalescents and black hospital orderlies began drilling on Richmond’s Capitol Square in accordance with the new Confederate law permitting the recruitment of slaves into the armies.

Major General Philip Sheridan’s Federal cavalry reached White House on the Pamunkey River after wrecking the Virginia Central Railroad and the James River Canal in its march from Winchester to join the Army of the Potomac at Petersburg, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee.

Monday, March 20

In North Carolina, William T. Sherman’s right wing under Major General Oliver O. Howard arrived, and soon Sherman’s entire 100,000-man army took up positions to confront Joseph E. Johnston. Heavy skirmishing ensued as Sherman prepared a general counterattack.

General George Stoneman and some 4,000 Federal cavalrymen left Jonesboro, Tennessee to support Sherman in North Carolina with destruction operations.

U.S. General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant sent a message to President Lincoln: “Can you not visit (Grant’s headquarters at) City Point for a day or two?” Lincoln immediately accepted the invitation. The visit was intended to be part vacation, part observation, and part conference with Grant on future plans.

Grant sent a message to Philip Sheridan at White House, Virginia: “Start for this place as soon as you conveniently can.” Grant instructed Sheridan to wreck the Southside and Danville railroads, “and then either return to this army or go on to Sherman, as you may deem most practicable.” Grant emphasized that “the principal thing being the destruction of the only two roads left to the enemy at Richmond.”

A Federal column advanced on Mobile from Pensacola, Florida. Federal expeditions began from Brashear City, Louisiana; Lexington, Missouri; Kabletown and Harpers Ferry, West Virginia; and Winchester, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina, Georgia, and Arkansas.

Tuesday, March 21

In North Carolina, William T. Sherman increased pressure on Joseph E. Johnston at Bentonville, as Federals moved to cut Johnston’s line of retreat. Confederates repulsed the threat, but Johnston ordered an evacuation this evening after hearing reports that John M. Schofield had captured Goldsboro.

President Davis wrote to Confederate General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee, agreeing with him that Mobile should be held and “all the recent indications are that the purpose of the enemy is to cut off all communication with Richmond…”

Ulysses S. Grant sent a follow-up message from yesterday to Philip Sheridan: “There is now such a possibility, if not probability, of Lee and Johnston attempting to unite that I feel extremely desirous not only of cutting the lines of communication between them, but of having a large and properly commanded cavalry force ready to act with in case such an attempt is made…”

A Federal expedition began from Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Wednesday, March 22

Brigadier General James H. Wilson’s Federals began advancing on Selma, Alabama to not only capture the important communication center, but to divert attention from the major assault planned on Mobile.

At Bentonville, William T. Sherman ended his brief pursuit of Joseph E. Johnston and issued orders to link with John M. Schofield’s Federals at Goldsboro. Some of Sherman’s advance units arrived in the town today. Johnston moved his forces back toward Raleigh and Weldon; Johnston wrote to Robert E. Lee, “Sherman’s course cannot be hindered by the small force I have. I can do no more than annoy him.”

Sherman issued a congratulatory order to his Federal troops: “After a march of the most extraordinary character, nearly 500 miles over swamps and rivers deemed impassable to others, at the most inclement season of the year, and drawing our chief supplies from a poor and wasted country, we reach our destination in good health and condition.”

Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Missouri.


Primary Sources:

The Civil War This Week: Mar 9-15, 1865

Thursday, March 9

Fighting resumed in North Carolina around Kinston, as Confederate General Braxton Bragg continued probing for a weak spot in the Federal lines. Meanwhile, Federal General Jacob D. Cox brought up reinforcements.

This evening, Confederate cavalry under Generals Wade Hampton and Joseph Wheeler surprised General Judson Kilpatrick’s Federal cavalry encamped near Monroe’s Cross Roads in South Carolina. Kilpatrick was nearly captured in bed, but he escaped and rallied his men allegedly without his trousers.

In Virginia, Major General Philip Sheridan’s Federal forces occupied Columbia on their march from Winchester to Petersburg.

Confederate General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee wrote to Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge, stating that the Confederacy’s military situation “is full of peril and requires prompt action. Unless the men and animals can be subsisted, the army cannot be kept together, and our present lines (around Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia) must be abandoned.” But Lee added that if the army could be sustained, “I do not regard the abandonment of our present position as necessarily fatal to our success.” Lee concluded that the people would have to decide whether to sustain the Confederate cause.

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln accepted Interior Secretary John Usher’s resignation without comment. Senator John Harlan of Iowa replaced Usher effective May 15. As a close friend of the Lincolns, Harlan’s daughter was engaged to Lincoln’s son Robert.

Vermont ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery. A Federal expedition began from Fort Larned, Kansas. Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky.


Friday, March 10

In North Carolina, Braxton Bragg’s Confederates withdrew this evening across the Neuse River to Kinston. In fighting since 8 March, Bragg lost 134 men while Jacob Cox lost 1,257 Federals, mostly captured. The engagement temporarily checked the Federal advance on Goldsboro.

At Monroe’s Cross Roads, South Carolina, Judson Kilpatrick’s Federals counterattacked after yesterday’s fighting and drove the Confederates off. Because Kilpatrick’s recklessness made him unpopular among his men, this battle was derisively nicknamed “the Battle of Kilpatrick’s Pants.”

Robert E. Lee wrote to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, advising him to recruit slaves into the Confederate armies as soon as possible: “I attach great importance to the result of the first experiment with these troops…” Meanwhile, Congress reconciled the House and Senate versions of the slave recruitment bill.

Federal expeditions began from Suffolk, Virginia and Little Rock, Arkansas. Skirmishing occurred in Alabama.

Saturday, March 11

In southern North Carolina, the left wing of Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal army occupied Fayetteville, an important city on the Cape Fear River. Sherman dispatched messengers upriver to Wilmington to coordinate joining John M. Schofield’s Federal corps and advancing against General Joseph E. Johnston (commanding all Confederates in the region).

Sherman reported, “Up to this period I had perfectly succeeded in interposing my superior army between the scattered parts of my enemy.” Johnston warned Robert E. Lee that if Sherman and Schofield joined forces, “their march into Virginia cannot be prevented by me.”

President Lincoln proclaimed that soldiers who had deserted would be pardoned if they returned to their units within 60 days. If they did not return, they would lose their citizenship. The U.S. Senate adjourned after a special session to confirm Lincoln’s executive appointments.

In Virginia, Philip Sheridan’s Federals reached Goochland Court House. A Federal expedition began from Fort Monroe, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri and Arkansas.

Sunday, March 12

In North Carolina, Federals at Fayetteville destroyed all buildings and supplies considered useful to the Confederate war effort. A boat arrived from the Cape Fear River to deliver mail to the Federal troops, many of whom had not received news from the outside world since leaving Savannah in January.

William T. Sherman informed Federals at Wilmington and New Berne that he would move on March 15 for Goldsboro after feinting toward Raleigh. Sherman wrote to U.S. General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant, guessing that Joseph E. Johnston would try concentrating his Confederates at Raleigh.

Federal expeditions began from Loudoun County, Virginia; Vicksburg, Mississippi; Lewisburg, Arkansas; and Fort Churchill, Nevada. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Louisiana, and Missouri.

Monday, March 13

President Davis signed the bill into law authorizing recruitment of slaves into the Confederate military. Davis was authorized to recruit up to 300,000 blacks into the armies. The law did not grant freedom to slaves who served the Confederacy, but it was generally understood that they would be freed after their service.

Davis requested that members of the Confederate Congress stay in special session to enact “further and more energetic legislation” for the war effort. Davis accused congressmen of not acting boldly enough to handle the crisis by failing to pass laws facilitating the increase of manpower, supplies, and revenue. This message only alienated many members of Congress.

William T. Sherman’s Federals skirmished at Fayetteville, North Carolina; and Philip Sheridan’s Federals skirmished at Beaver Dam Station, Virginia. Other skirmishing occurred in West Virginia and Georgia.

Tuesday, March 14

In North Carolina, Jacob Cox’s Federals occupied Kinston in his inland advance toward Goldsboro and his junction with William T. Sherman. Meanwhile, John Schofield’s Federals rebuilt the bridges over the Neuse River after three days of work.

Robert E. Lee informed President Davis that Joseph Johnston was uniting forces at Raleigh, and although he was outnumbered in “tone,” Johnston planned to “strike the enemy in detail.” Lee stated, “The greatest calamity that can befall us is the destruction of our armies. If they can be maintained, we may recover our reverses, but if lost we have no resource.”

The Confederate envoy to Great Britain, James Mason, conferred with British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston about whether Britain would recognize the Confederacy as an independent nation. Mason then wrote to Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin that “the most ample concessions on our part in the matter referred to (emancipation) would have produced no change in the course determined by the British government.” The Confederates offered emancipation in exchange for recognition, but it was too late in the war for Britain to accept.

President Lincoln held his weekly cabinet meeting from his bed. Some claimed Lincoln suffered from influenza, but others simply blamed fatigue.

A Federal expedition began from Philippi, West Virginia. Philip Sheridan’s Federals skirmished at the South Anna Bridge in Virginia. Other skirmishing occurred in Georgia.

Wednesday, March 15

In North Carolina, both wings of William T. Sherman’s Federal army crossed the Cape Fear River, moving north to feint against Raleigh before heading to join John Schofield and Jacob Cox at Goldsboro. Meanwhile, General William Hardee’s Confederates entrenched between the Cape Fear River and a swamp near Averasboro, which Sherman’s left wing would have to pass to get to either Raleigh or Goldsboro. This evening, the left wing (commanded by General Henry Slocum) camped about eight miles south of Averasboro.

In Virginia, Philip Sheridan’s Federals reached Hanover Court House near Ashland. A Federal expedition began from Fort Sumner in the New Mexico Territory. Skirmishing occurred in Alabama.


Primary Sources:

The Civil War This Week: Mar 2-8, 1865

Thursday, March 2

The Battle of Waynesboro occurred in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, as a portion of Major General Philip Sheridan’s Federal army routed Confederate forces under General Jubal Early. The Federals captured 200 wagons, 17 battle flags, 11 cannon, and over 1,000 Confederates. Early and some of his men escaped and returned to Richmond. This ended Confederate opposition in the Shenandoah, denying General Robert E. Lee an infantry reserve and allowing Sheridan to disrupt Lee’s supply lines with impunity.

Robert E. Lee wrote to U.S. General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant hoping to reach “a satisfactory adjustment of the present unhappy difficulties by means of a military convention…” The idea of military leaders negotiating a peace had been given to Lee by his subordinate, General James Longstreet.


Friday, March 3

In Washington, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton delivered a message to President Abraham Lincoln from Ulysses S. Grant on Robert E. Lee’s request for a military convention yesterday. Lincoln wrote a message for Stanton to deliver to Grant: “The President directs me to say to you that he wishes you to have no conference with General Lee unless it before the capitulation of Gen. Lee’s army… you are not to decide, discuss, or confer upon any political question. Such questions the President holds in his own hands; and will submit them to no military conferences or conventions. Meantime you are to press to the utmost, your military advantages.”

Among the last-minute bills that President Lincoln signed on Capitol Hill was “an act establishing a Bureau for the Relief of Freedmen and Refugees and Abandoned Lands.” This became known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, which would administer abandoned land and provide temporary food, clothing, and shelter to former slaves and poor southern whites. The act was strongly supported by Radical Republicans such as its sponsor, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to a Confederate congressman, “In spite of the timidity and faithlessness of many who should give tone to the popular feeling and hope to the popular heart, I am satisfied that it is in the power of the good man and true patriots of the country to reanimate the wearied spirit of our people… I expect the hour of deliverance.”

Major General William T. Sherman’s Federals occupied Cheraw, South Carolina. Sherman feinted toward Charlotte while intending to attack Fayetteville. The Federal army already in North Carolina under Major General John M. Schofield would attack Goldsboro.

Federal expeditions began from the Cumberland Gap; Memphis, Tennessee; Bloomfield, Missouri; and Warrenton, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.

Saturday, March 4

The Confederate Congress approved a new version of the Confederate national flag.

The U.S. Congress adjourned at 8 a.m. as President Lincoln signed several last-minute bills into law.

Based on Lincoln’s message yesterday, Ulysses S. Grant informed Robert E. Lee that Grant had “no authority to accede to your proposition… Such authority is vested in the President of the United States alone.” Thus, no conference would be held between the generals to discuss ending the hostilities.

Abraham Lincoln began a second term as U.S. president. First, new Vice President Andrew Johnson’s inauguration took place in the Senate chamber. Johnson had taken liquor for a fever and delivered a rambling, partially incoherent address that shocked many spectators. The procession then moved to the Capitol’s East Portico, where some 50,000 people gathered for Lincoln’s inauguration.

Lincoln’s address, the shortest since George Washington’s second inaugural in 1793, lasted less than five minutes and contained 703 words. He did not mention future policies, instead focusing on restoring the Union and blaming the Confederacy for starting the war. After the speech, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase administered the oath of office. The White House gates were opened to the public from 8 to 11 p.m. as Lincoln greeted an estimated 6,000 people, including prominent civil rights leader Frederick Douglass. Many guests stole decorations from the East Room.

A floating mine (torpedo) destroyed the U.S. transport Thorn in the Cape Fear River below Fort Anderson, North Carolina. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina and Florida.

Sunday, March 5

General Joseph E. Johnston assumed command of all Confederate troops in General Braxton Bragg’s Department of North Carolina. Johnston now had roughly 23,500 men to oppose William T. Sherman’s Federals in the Carolinas.

Federal expeditions began from Fort Monroe, Virginia and Waynesville, Missouri. Skirmishing occurred in Florida.

Monday, March 6

Lincoln appointed Hugh McCulloch of Indiana as the new treasury secretary. McCulloch replaced outgoing William Fessenden, who had been elected to the U.S. Senate from Maine. As former comptroller of the currency, McCulloch had extensive treasury experience.

This evening, the Inaugural Ball was held at the Patent Office. The $10 tickets were sold to 4,000 guests, with proceeds going to families of fallen soldiers and sailors. The midnight supper included beef, veal, poultry, oysters, salads, jellies, cakes, chocolate, and coffee.

Philip Sheridan’s Federals advanced from Charlottesville, Virginia down the Orange & Alexandria Railroad after spending two days destroying track on the Virginia Central. Skirmishing occurred in Florida.

Tuesday, March 7

In North Carolina, a portion of John Schofield’s Federal army under General Jacob D. Cox began moving from Wilmington to a better supply base at New Bern. Federals learned that Joseph E. Johnston was sending Confederate troops to Braxton Bragg at Kinston on the Neuse River. Meanwhile, William T. Sherman’s Federals began entering North Carolina from the south.

President Lincoln issued several orders allowing citizens in the “insurrectionary states” to sell their goods to Treasury-appointed agents within Federal military lines.

Federal expeditions began from Licking and Glasgow in Missouri, and from Jacksonville, Florida. Skirmishing occurred with Native Americans in Kansas; other skirmishing occurred in Virginia North Carolina, and Alabama.

Wednesday, March 8

The Battle of Kinston occurred as Braxton Bragg’s Confederates attacked Jacob Cox’s Federals en route to New Bern. The Confederates took nearly 1,000 prisoners, but the main Federal force held firm and repulsed further Confederate assaults. Bragg intended for this attack to enable Robert E. Lee to escape from Virginia and join Joseph E. Johnston in North Carolina.

The Confederate Senate voted 9 to 8 to recruit blacks as soldiers; the House had approved the measure last month. The Senate version of the bill authorized the president to ask slaveholders to volunteer their slaves for service on condition that nothing would alter the current relationship between master and slave.

Interior Secretary John Usher submitted his resignation to Lincoln on the grounds that Lincoln had appointed Hugh McCulloch, a fellow Indianan, to the cabinet.

General Edmund Kirby Smith, commanding the Confederate Trans-Mississippi District, wrote to President Davis offering to resign due to intense press criticism of his leadership. Davis refused Smith’s offer but expressed regret that Smith had not been more cooperative in sending reinforcements east where they were needed most.

Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, South Carolina, and Tennessee; Federals clashed with Natives in the Idaho Territory.


Primary Sources:


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