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.
- Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011)
- Long, E.B. and Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 656-59
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.
- Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011)
- Long, E.B. and Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 652-56
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.
- Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011)
- Long, E.B. and Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 649-52
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.
- Long, E.B. and Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 645-49
Thursday, February 23
Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard issued a proclamation urging the residents of Charlotte, North Carolina to volunteer their slave labor to “destroy and obstruct” roads to the city. Beauregard feared that Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal Army of the West would follow up the fall of Wilmington with an attack on Charlotte. However, Sherman only intended a feint toward Charlotte while instead joining Major John M. Schofield’s Federals to the east. As Sherman’s Federals moved closer to North Carolina from the south, heavy rains began causing delays.
Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston received orders to command all troops in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, as well as the Army of Tennessee. Johnston was to “concentrate all available forces and drive back Sherman.” President Jefferson Davis opposed Johnston’s reinstatement, but Johnston reluctantly accepted the command. General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee told Davis that Confederate forces in South Carolina were scattered, “but by diligence & boldness they can be united.” Lee expressed confidence in Johnston’s ability to unite them.
Lee responded to Beauregard’s “grand proposal” submitted two days ago. Beauregard had proposed that the Confederacy concentrate 35,000 men to defeat Sherman in North Carolina, then march north to defeat U.S. General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia, and then invade Washington to force peace negotiations. Lee stated, “The idea is good, but the means are lacking.”
Grant wrote to Congressman Elihu Washburne of Illinois, “Everything looks like the dissolution of the South. A few more days of success with Sherman will put us where we can crow loud.”
Minnesota ratified the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. A Federal expedition took place from Yorktown to West Point, Virginia. Other Federal scouts began from Salem and Licking in Missouri.
Friday, February 24
Robert E. Lee wrote to the Confederate War Department expressing concern about the “alarming number of desertions that are now occurring in the army.”
A Federal scout began from Helena, Arkansas. Skirmishing occurred among William T. Sherman’s Federals in South Carolina under heavy rain. Other skirmishing occurred in Missouri.
Saturday, February 25
Joseph E. Johnston reported to Charlotte and assumed command of all troops in the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and the Army of Tennessee. He began gathering the scattered forces, but he informed Robert E. Lee that he could only muster 25,000 men: “In my opinion, these troops form an army far too weak to cope with Sherman.” He proposed joining forces with Confederate General Braxton Bragg in North Carolina.
Skirmishing occurred in South Carolina and Kentucky.
Sunday, February 26
A portion of Sherman’s Federal army reached Hanging Rock, South Carolina, but hard rain delayed other units.
A Federal expedition began from Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
Monday, February 27
Major General Philip Sheridan’s 10,000-man Federal army left Winchester, Virginia in a final southward advance through the Shenandoah Valley. Ulysses S. Grant had ordered Sheridan to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad and either join forces with William T. Sherman in North Carolina or return to Winchester. Opposing Sheridan was a meager Confederate force under General Jubal Early.
Skirmishing occurred in South Carolina, Georgia, and Missouri.
Tuesday, February 28
Skirmishing occurred in South Carolina.
Wednesday, March 1
Wisconsin ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, but New Jersey rejected it.
Federal expeditions began from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Gravelly Springs, Alabama.
Philip Sheridan’s Federal cavalry skirmished near Mount Crawford, Virginia. William T. Sherman’s Federals skirmished at Wilson’s Store, South Carolina. Other skirmishing occurred in Tennessee.
- Long, E.B. and Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 643-45
Thursday, February 16
Lead units of Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal Army of the West reached the Congaree River, across from the South Carolina capital of Columbia. Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard (commanding the region) informed General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee that the city’s fall could not be prevented. Confederate cavalry looted Columbia to feed the troops on the assumption that the Federals would pillage the city anyway.
By nightfall, Beauregard’s 10,000 Confederates withdrew toward Chester, leaving Confederates at Charleston vulnerable to attack. Confederate General William Hardee, commanding at Charleston, planned to evacuate that city and join Beauregard.
Friday, February 17
Mayor T.J. Goodwyn surrendered Columbia to Federal troops. A white flag appeared on the City Hall steeple, bands played, flags waved, and Federal soldiers marched to Capitol square. Some gathered in the new state capitol building and held a mock session of the “state legislature.”
Cotton bales left by retreating Confederates began burning, and by nightfall, flames engulfed Columbia. Sherman blamed the Confederates for starting the blaze, but residents blamed drunken Federal troops, blacks, and released prisoners. Sherman stated, “Though I never ordered it, and never wished it, I have never shed any tears over it, because I believe that it hastened what we all fought for—the end of the war.”
Meanwhile, William Hardee began withdrawing Confederate forces from Charleston. Troops burned buildings, warehouses, storage facilities holding cotton, arsenals, railroad bridges, and shipyard vessels. The evacuation of Charleston necessitated the abandonment of Fort Sumter, which Confederates had defended against Federal conquest since the war began.
Saturday, February 18
The fires died down in Columbia after destroying two-thirds of the city or 84 of its 124 blocks. William T. Sherman added to the ruin by destroying all buildings, railroads, and material considered useful to the Confederate war effort. Columbia suffered the worst fate of any city in the war, and southerners viewed this as a symbol of Federal depredation and atrocity.
The Charleston mayor surrendered the city to Federal troops at 9 a.m. A northern reporter called it a “city of ruins–silent, mournful, in deepest humiliation… The band was playing ‘Hail, Columbia,’ and the strains floated through the desolate city, awakening wild enthusiasm in the hearts of the colored people…”
U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ordered “a national salute” fired from “every fort arsenal and army headquarters of the United States, in honor of the restoration of the flag of the Union upon Fort Sumter.” Most black Charlestonians welcomed the occupying Federal troops, while most white residents abandoned the city. Federals burned cotton bales and war supplies. The twin falls of Columbia and Charleston devastated the South, and regarding Fort Sumter, Confederate President Jefferson Davis acknowledged, “This disappointment to me is extremely bitter.”
Confederate General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee wrote to Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge, “I fear it may be necessary to abandon all our cities, and preparation should be made for this contingency.”
Radical Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked a vote on admitting the reconstructed state of Louisiana to the U.S. The Radicals sought to impose a more punitive reconstruction plan on the conquered states instead of President Abraham Lincoln’s moderate policy.
Federal expeditions began from Prince William County and Camp Averell, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina and Kentucky.
Sunday, February 19
Federals advanced on the Confederate defenses west of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. Confederates abandoned Fort Anderson under heavy fire from Admiral David D. Porter’s Federal fleet and some 8,000 Federal troops. This threatened Wilmington, the Confederacy’s last significant seaport city.
Robert E. Lee wrote to John C. Breckinridge, “(Sherman) seems to have everything his own way. I do not know where his (Beauregard’s) troops are, or on what lines they are moving… Should his strength give way, there is no one on duty in the department that could replace him, nor have I anyone to send there. Genl (Joseph E.) Johnston is the only officer whom I know who has the confidence of the army and the people, and if he was ordered to report to me I would place him there on duty…”
Monday, February 20
Two Federal armies now advanced on North Carolina: Major General John Schofield’s from Tennessee and William T. Sherman’s from South Carolina. Federals outflanked Confederate defenders west of the Cape Fear River, leaving Wilmington open for conquest.
U.S. General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant assigned Major General Philip Sheridan to close the potential escape route for Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia from Petersburg and Richmond. Sheridan was to leave the Shenandoah Valley, wreck railroads supplying Lee’s army, then join William T. Sherman’s Federals in North Carolina.
President Lincoln wrote to Governor Thomas C. Fletcher of Missouri that although there was no organized Confederate military in the state, “destruction of property and life is rampant every where.” Lincoln called for citizens to control the situation.
The Confederate House of Representatives approved recruiting slaves as soldiers after long debate. Robert E. Lee supported this plan, arguing that blacks could be just as good soldiers as whites if induced into enlisting with the promise of freedom after their service. This could also counter the international view of northerners as liberators. Slaveholders had long tried stopping this measure from passing, even though only about 250,000 southerners actually owned slaves.
Federal expeditions began from Nashville and Greeneville, Tennessee. Skirmishing occurred in Florida and Missouri.
Tuesday, February 21
Confederate General Braxton Bragg (commanding in North Carolina) ordered the evacuation of Wilmington as numerically superior Federal forces closed in. The Confederates destroyed or transferred most of their supplies before slipping away under fire.
President Davis wrote to Mobile newspaper editor John Forsyth, “It is now becoming daily more evident to all reflecting persons that we are reduced to choosing whether the negroes shall fight for us or against us…” The Confederate Senate delayed debate on the House-passed bill recruiting slaves as soldiers.
Robert E. Lee shared a plan with John C. Breckinridge to abandon Petersburg and Richmond if necessary. Under the plan, Lee’s army would move westward toward Burkeville and link with other Confederate armies in the South.
P.G.T. Beauregard shared a plan with Davis and Lee: “I earnestly urge a concentration of at least 35,000 infantry and artillery at (Salisbury, North Carolina), if possible, to give him battle there, and crush him, then to concentrate all forces against Grant, and then to march to Washington and dictate a peace…” Meanwhile, Lee requested that Joseph E. Johnston report for command in the Carolinas due to rumors of Beauregard’s failing health.
Lee wrote to his wife, expecting Ulysses S. Grant “to move against us soon,” and William T. Sherman in South Carolina and John Schofield in North Carolina “are both advancing & seem to have everything their own way…” Nevertheless, he vowed “to fight to the last.”
The 55th Massachusetts, a black regiment, received a joyous welcome to Charleston by the city’s black residents. Most white citizens had abandoned the city.
Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet and Federal Major General E.O.C. Ord met between the Petersburg lines to discuss picket fraternization and prisoner exchange. The talks turned to overall peace, with Ord suggesting that since the Hampton Roads conference had failed, then perhaps the generals could negotiate an end to the war. Longstreet brought the proposition to Lee, who forwarded it to Richmond. Ord brought the proposition to Grant, who forwarded it to Washington.
Confederate guerrillas raided the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and captured Major General George Crook (recently promoted to command the Federal Department of West Virginia) and his top subordinate, Brigadier General B.F. Kelley at Cumberland, Maryland. The generals were exchanged through special arrangement with Lincoln administration officials, and the event became an embarrassment to the U.S.
A Federal expedition began from Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Skirmishing occurred in Maryland and Florida.
Wednesday, February 22
Federals entered Wilmington without opposition after John Schofield’s successful two-pronged attack. Federal losses since 11 February numbered 200 while they captured 66 pieces of light and heavy artillery. Some 8,000 Confederates withdrew toward North Carolina’s interior. Capturing Wilmington was intended to open another base of supply for operations against Richmond. This also freed Schofield to join William T. Sherman for a northward march across the Roanoke River, the last strong defensive line south of the Appomattox River in Virginia.
Robert E. Lee issued official orders assigning Joseph E. Johnston to command the Confederate Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, as well as the Department of Tennessee and Georgia. Lee and the Confederate Congress had insisted on Johnston’s reinstatement over President Davis’s objections. The Confederacy now had formidable leaders in the Carolinas in Johnston, P.G.T. Beauregard, William Hardee, Wade Hampton, and Braxton Bragg. But they lacked men.
William T. Sherman’s forces continued advancing toward North Carolina with fighting at several points. Sherman appeared to be moving toward Charlotte, but it was just a feint; his real target was Goldsboro farther east.
Robert E. Lee wrote to James Longstreet that if forced to withdraw through Amelia Court House to Burkeville, the Army of Northern Virginia could perhaps strike Grant or Sherman before they could unite.
Lee wrote to Davis that any attempt to “unite with (Johnston) in a blow against Sherman” would “necessitate the abandonment of our position on the James River, for which contingency every preparation should be made.”
Tennessee voters approved the new state constitution, which included abolishing slavery and repudiating all Confederate debts. Kentucky rejected the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. Operations occurred in Arkansas and Florida.
- Long, E.B. and Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 639-43
Thursday, February 9
Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal advance into South Carolina continued, as Major General Henry Slocum’s wing crossed the Salkehatchie River and fighting erupted at several points. Although Sherman’s goal was Columbia, the editor of the South Carolinian in that city assured readers there was “no real tangible cause” for worrying the Federals would target Columbia.
Major General Quincy A. Gillmore replaced Major General John G. Foster as commander of the Federal Department of the South. Major General John Schofield was given command of the Federal Department of North Carolina. Schofield’s forces were advancing from Tennessee to Wilmington, North Carolina where they were to join with Sherman’s Army of the West.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee assumed the role of general-in-chief; he issued a general order stating he would rely on field commanders and that manpower was of supreme importance. He proposed to pardon all deserters if they returned to their ranks within 30 days.
A mass meeting took place at the African Church in Richmond to boost southern morale. Robert M.T. Hunter, who had attended last week’s Hampton Roads conference, declared that U.S. President Abraham Lincoln had “turned from propositions of peace with cold insolence.” Secretary of State Judah Benjamin called on slaveholders to provide 20,000 slaves as soldiers to prove their loyalty to the Confederacy. President Jefferson Davis boasted that “Sherman’s march through Georgia would be his last” and predicted the Federals would seek peace terms by summer. The massive crowd cheered approval.
The pro-U.S. Virginia legislature ratified the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. A Federal expedition began from Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee.
Friday, February 10
In South Carolina, fighting increased at Charleston, where Confederates under General William Hardee defended against a portion of William T. Sherman’s advancing column as well as Federal naval forces in the harbor. Meanwhile, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard established headquarters at Columbia. Learning that Federals had wrecked the railroad connecting Charleston and Augusta, Beauregard wired General D.H. Hill to abandon Augusta and bring his troops to Columbia.
All troops in the Federal Departments of Kentucky and the Cumberland were placed under command of Major General George Thomas, except for posts protecting the Mississippi River.
President Lincoln reported the results of the Hampton Roads conference to Congress. Radicals expressed relief that Lincoln did not give up emancipation as a condition of peace, and most members of Congress praised Lincoln for standing firm.
Confederate Captain Raphael Semmes was promoted to rear admiral and given command of the James River Squadron.
Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens left Richmond for his home at Crawfordville, Georgia. Effectively resigning, Stephens said he would “neither make any speech, nor even make known to the public in any way of the general condition of affairs, but quietly abide the issue of fortune.”
The legislatures of Ohio and Missouri ratified the Thirteenth Amendment. Federal expeditions began from Brashear City and Thibodeaux, Louisiana. Skirmishing occurred in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia.
Saturday, February 11
William T. Sherman’s advancing Federals divided the Confederate defenders between Charleston on the east and Augusta on the west, with fighting erupting at several points. Confederates abandoned Branchville as Federals wrecked the railroad between Branchville and Charleston.
President Davis wrote William Hardee expressing optimism that if the troops could concentrate, they could repel Sherman from Charleston. However, P.G.T. Beauregard favored evacuating Charleston because the Confederacy could not afford to lose Hardee’s army. They were still unaware that Sherman only feigned an attack on Charleston while truly targeting Columbia.
Robert E. Lee issued a general order pardoning all deserters who returned to the ranks within 20 days. The order included an address to Confederate troops declaring the choice had narrowed “between war and abject submission,” and “to such a proposal brave men with arms in their hands can have but one answer… Let us then oppose constancy to adversity, fortitude to suffering, and courage to danger, with the firm assurance that He who gave freedom to our fathers will bless the efforts of their children to preserve it.”
A Federal expedition began from Bermuda Hundred, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in Arkansas and Virginia.
Sunday, February 12
Congress confirmed the northern votes cast by the electoral college in the presidential election of last November and declared President Lincoln the winner with 212 votes against George B. McClellan’s 21.
President Lincoln expressed concern that provost marshals in Missouri were selling confiscated property. A Federal expedition began from Forts Riley and Larned, Kansas. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri, Arkansas, and Alabama.
Monday, February 13
Robert E. Lee rejected a petition signed by Vice President Stephens and 17 prominent Confederate senators to reinstate Joseph E. Johnston as commander of the Army of Tennessee. Lee asserted, “The three corps of that army have been ordered to South Carolina and are now under the command of Genl Beauregard. I entertain a high opinion of Genl Johnston’s capacity, but think a continual change of commanders is very injurious to any troops and tends greatly to their disorganization…”
A west Tennessee group expressed objections to military interference in civil affairs. President Lincoln told officers in the region that “the object of the war being to restore and maintain the blessings of peace and good government, I desire you to help, not hinder, every advance in that direction.”
In London, Foreign Minister Lord John Russell protested to U.S. commissioners against the St. Albans raid of 19 October 1864, its aftermath in Canada, and activity on the Great Lakes. A Federal expedition began from Camp Russell, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in Florida and Missouri.
Tuesday, February 14
William T. Sherman’s Federals crossed the Congaree River and turned more toward Columbia “without wasting time or labor on Branchville or Charleston,” as Sherman reported. Fighting erupted at several points.
President Davis again urged William Hardee to hold Charleston if possible, but left the final decision to Hardee and P.G.T. Beauregard. Arriving at Charleston, Beauregard persuaded Hardee to evacuate before preparing written orders and returning to Columbia this evening.
A Federal expedition began from Donaldsonville, Louisiana.
Wednesday, February 15
William T. Sherman’s Federals approached Columbia and prepared to cross the Congaree River as residents began evacuating the city. Despite inclement weather, high waters, and Confederate resistance, the Federals had advanced an average of 10 miles per day since launching their offensive from Georgia.
William Hardee informed P.G.T. Beauregard that President Davis had urged him to hold Charleston if possible. Beauregard wired peremptory orders for Hardee to evacuate before it was too late.
Delegates at the Missouri constitutional convention voted 29 to 19 in favor of drafting a new state constitution aimed at excluding voters opposed to the abolitionist party. Federal expeditions began from Nashville, Tennessee and Fairfax Court House, Virginia.
- Long, E.B. and Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 636-38