Battle of Five Forks


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, April 15, 1865

This site features online editions of newspapers published during the Civil War. These newspapers have stories and pictures that allow you to watch the war unfold just as people alive at the time saw it. We hope you find this resource useful in your studies of the conflict.

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General Canby

General Canby

Richmond Fall

Fall of Richmond

General Winthrop

Death of General Winthrop

Sherman South Carolina

Sherman's March Through South Carolina

Five Forks

Battle of Five Forks

Prison Camps

Civil War Prison Camps

Lincoln Cartoon

Last Lincoln Cartoon


Black River

Battle of Black River

Fort Steadman

Battle of Fort Steadman


Battle of Bentonsville






[APRIL 15, 1865.



GENERAL LEE'S attack on GRANT'S right, south of the Appomattox, on Saturday the 25th of March, was the beginning of a series of battles which have resulted in the capture of Richmond and the abandonment by the rebel army of an intrenched line of works, the strongest, with the single exception of the line of works opposed to them, that were ever held by any army in any war. Though LEE made the first attack, Grant had made the first move. The alternative was clearly forced upon General LEE either to break GRANT'S lines or to abandon his own. And it would not be long that even this alternative would be left him. On the midnight of Friday, the 24th, he knew that he must make his choice immediately, or he would soon have no choice at all that to await GRANT'S combinations against him would be to insure the capture of his army. These combinations were now nearly perfected but not quite. SHERMAN had not made his final move, but he was on the point of making it. THOMAS and STEADMAN had not quite come up on his westward and southern lines of retreat but they were swiftly coming up. SHERIDAN had not yet, in conjunction with GRANT'S army, gained a position on the Southside Railroad but he would directly gain that position. LEE knew that GRANT'S army was already massed on the left for that very move.

" At this moment," thought LEE, " there is a single chance that I may by one move save my king from checkmate just one move, and that must decide every thing. GRANT is comparatively weak on his right, this side of City Point, on the Appomattox, at a point held by the Ninth Army Corps : close up to the river is Fort M'Ilvrey, then comes Steadman, then Haskell. This position at Hare's Hill is strong by nature so much the better for me if by surprise and with overpowering numbers I can take it. Just beyond it runs GRANT'S military railroad from City Point, completely commanded by the position. Fortunately, too, this Hare's Hill is just under my very nose there are not more than two hundred yards between it and my own lines. If then, tonight I can mass a strong force at this point, there is so short a space to be traversed by the assailing columns that the surprise will be quite complete. GRANT'S different army corps are scattered along a long line from within half a dozen miles of Richmond to Hatcher's Run, and it will be a difficult matter for him to bring up reinforcements in time to be available. Success at the outset is quite certain success followed up may be fatal to the enemy. And even a partial success, maintained, may disturb GRANT'S calculations on my right."

In accordance with this plan the attack was made. At the first blush Fort Steadman was taken but that was all. Even so much could not be maintained. The fort was recaptured by the Ninth Corps,, and not less than 1800 prisoners, including forty or fifty officers, and thirteen or fourteen battle flags were captured at the same time. The attack of the rebels, and the recapture of the fort, and the coming in of the prisoners we have illustrated on pages 232 and 233.

LEE'S movement had utterly failed ; and instead of disturbing GRANT'S calculations on LEE'S right had given an opportunity for the National troops to advance in that very direction. Immediately General LEE saw that he must leave Richmond and his intrenched camp at Petersburg. That he would now attempt to do this General GRANT knew, and hurried up SHERIDAN, withdrew the greater portion of ORD'S army from the north side of the James, and prepared to move the main portion of his army against the Southside Road. This movement found LEE in full strength and before he had actually begun to remove his army from its intrenchments. Thus what LEE intended should be a quiet evacuation was transformed into a disastrous retreat with GRANT and SHERIDAN on his flank and rear. It was absolutely necessary for him to fight.

There was no delay in GRANT'S movements. SHERIDAN had scarcely newly shod his horses before he was off on the 29th with a large force of infantry in co-operation. Away past GRANT'S extreme left rode General SHERIDAN to Dinwiddie Court House, with the Fifth Corps, under General WARREN, on his right. On Friday, the 31st, the Fifth Corps, having gained on the previous day a position on the Boydton Road, advanced against the White Oak Road farther to the west, found the rebels in force on Gravelly Run, and was driven back to the plank road again. Later in the day the ground lost was recovered. The repulse, however, in the forenoon, had given SHERIDAN no little trouble, and it was only at great sacrifice that he held the field against the enemy. SHERIDAN'S force consisted of two corps under Generals DEVIN and CUSTER, CROOK'S division of cavalry, and a cavalry brigade under General MACKENZIE. On Saturday these, with the Fifth Corps, were placed under SHERIDAN'S command. On that day was fought the successful battle of Big Five Forks. The greater part of the day was consumed in driving the divisions of PICKET and BUSHROD JOHNSON into their breast works, and as soon as this had been accomplished, the Fifth Corps came in upon the rebel left, and after a desperate conflict six thousand of the enemy surrendered. Eight thousand muskets were taken, and twenty-eight battle flags, with several pieces of artillery.

This success exposed LEE'S flank on the Appomattox, and at the same time permitted the destruction of the Southside Road. As soon as GRANT had intelligence of SHERIDAN'S victory he ordered an advance on his right along the whole line. This was at 9 P.M. on Saturday. ORD and WRIGHT and PARKE had, ere an hour, passed the picket line, and cast themselves en masse upon the enemy's lines before Petersburg. The rebel line was carried by assault. On Sunday night the national troops rested in the rebel intrenchments, their line extending from the Appomattox above Petersburg to the same river below. That night Petersburg itself was abandoned. The next morning GRANT started in pursuit toward Burkesville. The distance of Burkesville from Richmond is 52 miles.

The news of the capture of Petersburg had scarcely reached the War Department before it was followed by the announcement that, at 8.15 A.M. on Monday morning, General WEITZEL had entered Richmond with the troops left on the north side of the James. Thus, after three days of hard fighting, the Confederacy was left without a capital, and its great army was put to flight.

In connection with the events of the past week, the sketch which we give on our first page of General GRANT'S Head-Quarters at City Point has a peculiar interest.


WE continue this week our illustrations of General SHERMAN'S march through the Carolinas. Not the least interesting of these are those engraved on pages 229 and 237, representing the actions at Averysborough and Bentonsville.

SHERMAN started from Fayetteville for Goldsborough on the 14th. The successes already gained by General SCHOFIELD had made the Neuse River immediately available as a base of operations. The enemy in his front was now stronger than he had been at any other stage of the march. BRAGG and HARDEE had joined JOHNSTON, to whom had been assigned the conduct of the campaign in North Carolina on the part of the Confederates. It was probable, therefore, that, in the march to the Neuse, SHERMAN would have to measure his strength against JOHNSTON, and he made his arrangements with a view to that event. The main portion of the army, with the wagon trains, were dispatched on the road to Goldsborough. Another column, headed by KILPATRICK, and consisting of two divisions of the Twentieth and two of the Fourteenth corps, advanced on the road to Raleigh, the other two divisions of SLOCUM'S command being between this column and HOWARD. KILPATRICK met the enemy's cavalry about five miles from Fayetteville on the evening of the 15th. His infantry supports coming up, he attacked and drove the enemy from his advanced line, capturing three guns and 200 prisoners. The Confederates fell back to Moore's Cross Roads, near Averysborough, where they held a strong position, between Cape Fear and Black rivers, with a stream in front. On the 16th there was fighting all day, which made such an impression upon the enemy that during the night he abandoned his line. Thus the way was uncovered for the army to advance on Goldsborough. SHERMAN'S loss in the battle of Averysborough was estimated as less than 800; JOHNSTON states his as 450, and extravagantly surmises SHERMAN'S to have been 3300. 327 of the enemy's dead and wounded were left on the field. Among the prisoners captured was Colonel RHETT, son of the prominent South Carolina secessionist.

Another battle was fought near Bentonsville, 12 miles from the Neuse. Here the enemy was found strongly intrenched on the 19th. In an attempt to flank this position a portion of the Twentieth Corps sustained a repulse, taking advantage of which the enemy succeeded in pushing back the whole line. A new line was formed, behind hasty intrenchments. The enemy made five charges against this line, and was each time repulsed. At night he retired, just as at Averysborough. SHERMAN'S loss was less than 2000, while JOHNSTON'S is estimated at 3000. On the 20th SHERMAN attacked with his whole army, and the enemy that night fell back to Smithfield, and SHERMAN the next day was at Goldsborough, which SCHOFIELD had already occupied. TERRY'S column had also come up from Wilmington. The three armies had formed a junction on the very day appointed by SHERMAN.

In connection with our illustrations from General SHERMAN'S army we take this opportunity to make amends to our excellent artist, Mr. WILLIAM WAUD, for an error in our last week's issue, in attributing to another artist three of his sketches, viz. : "The Fifteenth Corps crossing the South Edisto ;" "Raising the Stars and Stripes over the Capitol at Columbia ;" and " The Charge of Weaver's Brigade across the Salkehatchie."


THE National Government has, since last July, confined a large number of its prisoners of war in an encampment formed at Elmira, in the State of New York, distant 277 miles from New York City, on the Erie Railroad. We give on page 236 a view of this encampment, taken from the " Observatory," lately built upon the public road outside the camp, which is daily visited by a multitude of curious persons, who pay the proprietor of the Observatory at the rate of ten cents a head for permission to have a peep at the formidable captives. The inclosure within which these prisoners are confined is a space of some twenty acres of ground, with a broad river running in the rear, and high walls on every side. Here about 10,000 of the rebel soldiers who have been made prisoners of war are kept in safe custody, lodging in the wooden huts or in the canvas tents shown in our engraving. Sentries are posted all round on the walls, in such a position that they can have a clear view of every thing within the camp, while the movements of the sentries themselves can not be watched by the prisoners. At night the whole place is lighted up with kerosene oil lamps. A number of spies are employed to mix with the prisoners and inform the Commandant of any plots which they may form to escape. Notwithstanding these precautions, an attempt was made, at the end of November, by about 300 of them, to dig a trench underground, from one of the hospitals to the wall, intending to pass under the wall, and get out beyond. This scheme was, however, detected, and their escape prevented, on the night which they had fixed. The prisoners at Elmira are well fed and clothed, and there is an efficient medical staff to attend to the sick. They amuse themselves with reading and writing, or making toys and other small articles for sale.


GOD help the poor who on this wintry morn

Come forth of alleys dim and courts obscure. God help the poor pale girl who droops forlorn,

And meekly her affliction doth endure.

God help the outcast lamb ! she trembling stands, All wan her lips, and frozen red her hands; Her mournful hands are modestly down cast; Her night-black hair streams on the fitful blast; Her bosom, passing fair, is half revealed, And oh! so cold the snow lies there congealed; Her feet benumbed, her shoes all rent and worn. God help thee, outcast lamb, who standst forlorn !

God help the poor!

God help the poor! another have I found, A bow'd and venerable man is he;

His slouched hat with faded crape is bound ;

His coat is gray, and threadbare, too, I see; "The rude winds" seem " to mock his hoary hair," His shirtless bosom to the blast is bare.

Anon he turns and casts a wistful eye,

And with scant napkin wipes the blinding spray, And looks again as if he fain would spy

Friends he hath feasted in his better day.

Ah, some are dead, and some have long forborne To know the poor ; and he is left forlorn,

God help the poor !


THE 16th of October, 1712, a fete-day in the little town of St. Barnabe, near Marseilles, was, moreover, a day of reconciliation in the family of the Sieur de Salis, a retired officer of distinction, inhabiting a handsome villa just beyond the town.

This gentleman's family consisted of seven children, viz. : two daughters (professed nuns) and five sons : Antoine (a lieutenant in the navy), Jean-Baptiste, Francois-Guillaume, Etienne-Gayetan (in the army), and Louis-Cesar, a Iad of thirteen.

M. de Salis, at forty, had married a woman twenty-two years his junior—very beautiful, but of a violent, implacable temper. Their married life had consequently been one series of bitter quarrels and hollow reconciliations. In all these Madame de Salis had never lost sight of one especial object—that of weakening the bonds of duty and affection between the children and their father, and attaching the former exclusively to herself ; an aim in which, as will be seen, she had been but too successful.

On the day above-mentioned, M. de Salle had been induced to forgive his second son, Jean-Baptiste, a grave dereliction of duty, in having married, without consent, the pretty penniless daughter of M. Senelon, curate of the parish.

The reconciliation was, however, complete ; and the old gentleman had insisted upon his son's remaining to dinner, though engaged to partake of that meal with his father-in-law.

The dinner had passed off with unwonted good humor and cordiality, and Madame de Salle had withdrawn to her own apartment, when, Francois-Guillaume, intending to go to the fete, applied to his father for some money for the purpose. Now it was one of the mother's plans for maintaining her ascendency with the children, to be herself their purse-bearer. Her husband, therefore, unprepared for his son's request, and having, indeed, but little to spare, tendered him a coin of such modest value that the latter conceived himself insulted.

This may seem a trifling cause for anger. In point of fact, it was but the breaking forth of that hidden fire which had never ceased to smoulder in the hearts of all the sons against their unhappy father.

The latter becoming irritated in his turn, words rose higher and higher ; others (especially the newly-pardoned Jean-Baptiste) joined in the quarrel; and finally, Madame de Saris, rushing in, and taking the part of her sons, increased their fury ten-fold. At length Francois-Guillaume, not content with vituperating his father, in his maniacal rage drew his sword.

At this last outrage M. de Salis started from his seat, and summoning a Turkish servant—one Hassan-Ali—bade him saddle a horse, loudly declaring his intention to proceed straight to Marseilles and lodge a formal complaint against his unnatural children.

Not reflecting that the parent who threatens most loudly is often the slowest to execute, and completely blinded by passion, Madame de Salle exhorted her sons to oppose their father's exit, assuring them that, should he do as he had threatened, their ruin was inevitable.

The old gentleman persisting, a desperate struggle commenced, the maddened woman actually dragging him back by the hair of his head, while the sons secured his arms and legs. Thus over-powered, he was flung to the ground, and, in falling, received on the forehead a wound so severe as almost to render him unconscious. Rallying a little, the unhappy father appealed in touching terms to his cowardly assailants :

"What have I done to you, boys, that you treat me as though I were your deadly enemy? If you have ceased to obey and honor me as a father, at least remember that we are still united in a common humanity. Look at these gray hairs ! Will my own children be my murderers ?"

Finding his remonstrances produce no effect, M. de Sails now uttered a loud, lamentable cry ; and it was probably in attempting to stifle this that Jean-Baptiste grasped him so tightly by the throat as to reduce him to complete insensibility. In fact, whether or not he died at this instant was never fully known. What is certain is, that the guilty band felt they had now gone too far to recede ; and, with clutching, convulsive hands, and—it was said —the sword of Francois-Guillaume, made their horrible work complete.

During the frightful scene the younger son, Louis-Cesar, had crouched weeping in a corner, longing, but not daring, to succor his father. For a similar reason the Turkish servant had remained

inactive. The only other domestic, Susanne Borelli, was absent at the fete.

No sooner was the parricide consummated than dismay succeeded. The actors in this tragedy, disordered, breathless, flecked with blood, stood gaping in each other's white faces, as though they wist not what next to do. The bright autumn sun streamed in full upon the recumbent figure of their victim. They almost recoiled before the mute inquisitor; but as yet there was no voice of vengeance. " Patient, because eternal," says Tertullian.

The instinct of self-preservation soon aroused them to action ; and she whose influence had brought about the deed was the first to regain sufficient self-command to take measures for averting its consequences. Aware that the chief danger lay in the chance of some one of the party, in the first horror of what had passed, involuntarily betraying him-self and the rest, she assumed a calmness she was far from feeling, and affected to treat the matter in the light of a mere misadventure.

She had the firmness to search her husband's pockets, and take his keys and money. Of the latter she gave a portion to Francois-Guillaume, de-siring him to go, as he had proposed, to the fete; but to return early, and help in " putting things to rights."

She ordered Jean-Baptiste and Hassan-Ali to convey the body to a chamber on the top floor, and bring the key to her.

Her next step was a bold one. She sent Louis-Cesar to the curate, M. Senelon, requesting his attendance; and, on his arrival, quietly informed him that his son-in-law Jean-Baptiste and Francois-Guillaume had killed their father.

Madame de Salle had judged M. Senelon aright. Horror-stricken as he was, he could not bring him-self to denounce the husband of his child. Compelled, therefore, to aid the concealment of that atrocious crime, he suggested that the body should be placed in bed, and that it should be given out that M. de Salis had died of apoplexy.

On learning, however, that the marks of violence were too apparent for this explanation, the curate proposed that the body should be let fall from an upper window into the garden, dressed as it was, and with the finger still retaining the ring of a bird-cage which usually hung outside, and in striving to reach which it might be surmised that M. de Salis had overbalanced himself and fallen. Having, as it were, forced himself to give this advice, the en-rate turned to withdraw ; but passing on the thresh-old, spoke a parting word :

" Though I have consented—against my con-science and my duty—to aid in the present concealment of this unnatural and horrible deed, be sure that no human craft or caution will secure your permanent safety. Prepare yourselves, by your future lives, for the inevitable judgment, even of man. Preserve your secret with what fidelity you may, mark my warning—it will out!"

Now was seen a curious feature of humanity. Jean-Baptiste, who had been foremost in the murderous assault, trembled from head to foot at the very thought of the fresh indignity he was called on to inflict upon the senseless corpse. He at first positively refused to lay a finger on the body ; and it required all his mother's influence to overcome his repugnance. As it was, he was seized with a deadly sickness in the act ; and the dishonored frame that fell prone among the crushed flowers was hardly more livid and corpse-like than he who dropped it there. As for Madame de Salis, who had by this time regained all her natural self-possession, she neglected nothing that might further the deceit. She threw her husband's hat into the garden; and then going down to her hen-house, killed some fowls, and sprinkled the blood about the prostrate body.

In a few minutes shrieks and cries warned the neighbors that something had happened at the house of De Salle ; and these, rushing in, found the family in the act of lifting up the body from the earth. It was placed upon the nearest couch, amidst tears and plaints; and every means for restoring animation resorted to with well-acted assiduity. These exhausted, Madame de Salle gave herself up to the wildest grief, tearing her hair, and exhibiting every token of despair; the rest, each according to his several gift, imitating as best they might.

A magistrate now arrived, and, attended by two surgeons, examined the body. Not the slightest suspicion of foul play visited their minds. The medical men reported that M. de Salis had died from injuries received in an accidental fall; and the bereaved family were quickly left to the free indulgence of their sorrow.

This satisfactory proceeding removed a great source of anxiety. The whole party, excepting the young Louis-Cesar, assembled at supper with renewed courage, the mother assuring them that,were they but true to themselves, their future life would be far happier and more peaceful than hitherto.

Matters did go on for some months with a tranquillity hitherto foreign enough to that unhappy home, when a little cloud made its appearance above their horizon. M. de Salis had possessed but slender means beyond the provision he received from government. The family soon began to feel the pressure of poverty ; and, finding their resources all but exhausted, the sons--with the exception of Antoine, already provided for—wrote a joint letter to their uncle, the Count de Salis, describing in touching terms their destitute position, and entreating his influence to ameliorate it. In answer to their application, the count conferred on the family a pension of six hundred livres a year.

In this interval, certain suspicions having arisen in the minds of the two absent sons, Antoine the sailor and Etienne-Gayetan the soldier, these two arranged a joint visit to their home; and, taking their youngest brother apart, subjected the lad to so close and searching an examination, that he ended by divulging the horrible secret, and describing minutely the tragedy of which he had been a witness.. Them followed a family consultation, in which fresh pledges for the concealment of the secret were exchanged; and these would probably have been observed had not the allowance granted by the count proved a source of fatal division. Ma-




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