MILITARY REMINISCENCES OF THE CIVIL WAR
BY JACOB DOLSON COX, A.M., LL.D.
Formerly Major-General commanding Twenty-Third Army Corps_
NOVEMBER 1863-JUNE 1865
JUNCTION WITH SHERMAN AT GOLDSBOROUGH--THE MARCH ON RALEIGH--CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES
Occupation of Kinston--Opening of Neuse River--Rebel ram destroyed--Listening to the distant battle at Bentonville--Entering Goldsborough--Meeting Sherman--Grant's congratulations--His own plans--Sketch of Sherman's march--Lee and Johnston's correspondence--Their gloomy outlook--Am made commandant of Twenty-third Corps--Terry assigned to Tenth--Schofield promoted in the Regular Army--Stanton's proviso--Ill effects of living on the country--Stopping it in North Carolina--Camp jubilee over the fall of Richmond--Changes in Sherman's plans--Our march on Smithfield--House-burning--News of Lee's surrender--Overtures from Governor Vance--Entering Raleigh--A mocking-bird's greeting--Further negotiations as to North Carolina--Johnston proposes an armistice--Broader scope of negotiations--The Southern people desire peace--Terrors of non-combatants assuaged--News of Lincoln's assassination--Precautions to preserve order--The dawn of peace.
Reconnoitring parties sent toward Kinston on the 11th showed that only a rear-guard occupied that town and that we could occupy it when we pleased. General Couch joined us on the 12th, and Hoke having sent in a flag of truce offering to exchange prisoners, of whom we had nearly 400, I sent Major Dow of my staff with General Schofield's answer declining to do so. The major found no enemy on our side of the Neuse. The railroad bridge was burned and the middle part of the wagon bridge destroyed. The roads were so nearly impassable that we could hardly feed the troops where we were, and whilst the railroad building went on, we hastened also the opening of a supply line by water. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. i. pp. 933, 934; pt. ii. pp. 801, 802, 814.] Commander Rhind of the navy efficiently co-operated in this, and we marched to Kinston bridge on the 14th, laid pontoon bridges on the next day, and occupied the town. The Confederate ram had been burnt and her wreck lay a little below the bridge. The transports and their convoying war vessel did not get up till the 18th, but as they then brought a hundred thousand rations, we were able to begin accumulating stores at Kinston as an advanced depot. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. ii. pp. 836-839, 880, 883.] Small additions to our wagon-trains also arrived, and orders were issued to march toward Goldsborough on the 20th. Meanwhile 2000 men had been set at work getting out railroad ties and timber for bridges. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 836, 851.]
During the halt at Kinston we partly reorganized the troops in view of the approaching union with Sherman. The officers and men who belonged to the divisions in Sherman's army were separately organized into a division under General Greene, so that they could easily be transferred to their proper commands. The rest of Palmer's and Carter's divisions were united in one under Carter, and Palmer was assigned to the District of
Beaufort, from which I was relieved. Ruger's division remained in my provisional corps with the other two. General Stiles was assigned to a brigade in Ruger's division. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 839, 895.]
On Monday, the 20th, we were in march for Goldsborough, leaving a brigade to garrison the post at Kinston and protect the growing depot there. On Sunday we had heard all day the very distant artillery firing, which we knew indicated a battle between Sherman and Johnston. It was a scarcely distinguishable sound, like a dull thumping, becoming somewhat more distinct when one applied his ear to the ground. We judged that this final battle in the Carolinas was near Smithfield, and we were not far out of the way, for Bentonville was only a little south, and either place about fifty miles from us. Two days' march took us into Goldsborough with no opposition but skirmishing with the enemy's cavalry. We found the railroad uninjured, except that the bridges were burned; but they were small and would not delay Colonel Wright long when the large one at Kinston should be completed. Captain Twining, General Schofield's engineer and aide, had carried dispatches to Sherman on the 20th, and the latter was now in full possession of the story of our movements since the
fall of Fort Fisher. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. ii. p. 942.] On the 22d Sherman was able to announce in field orders the retreat of Johnston toward Raleigh and our occupation of Goldsborough, whilst Terry had laid his pontoons across the Neuse completing the connection with
Wilmington also. His declaration for the whole army that the "campaign has resulted in a glorious success" was more than justified. [Footnote: _Id._, pt. i. p. 44.]
On Thursday, the 23d, Sherman joined us in person, and we paraded the Twenty-third Corps to honor the march-past of
Slocum's Army of Georgia, the Fourteenth and Twentieth Corps, as they came in from Bentonville. Sherman took his place with us by the roadside, and the formal reunion with the comrades who had fought with us in the Atlanta campaign was an event to stir deep emotions in our hearts. The general did not hesitate to speak out his readiness, now that his army was reunited, to meet the forces of Lee and Johnston combined, if they also should effect a junction and try to open a way southward. The men who had traversed the Carolinas were ragged and dirty, their faces were begrimed by the soot of their camp-fires of pine-knots in the forests, but their arms were in order, and they stepped out with the sturdy swing that marked all our Western troops. Our men were in new uniforms we had lately drawn from the quartermaster, and the tatterdemalions who had made the march to the sea were disposed to chaff us as if we were new recruits or pampered garrison troops. "Well, sonnies!" a regimental wag cried out, "do they issue butter to you regularly now?" "Oh, yes! to be sure!" was the instant retort; "but _we_ trade it off for soap!" The ironical emphasis on the "we" was well understood and greeted with roars of laughter, and learning that our men were really those who had been with them in Georgia and had fought at Franklin and Nashville before making the tour of the North to come by sea and rejoin them in North Carolina, they made the welkin ring again with their greeting cheers.
Keeping close watch of Sherman's movements, as hinted at in the Southern newspapers, [Footnote: Till the
capture of Columbia, the Southern newspapers gave Sherman's movements with satisfactory accuracy, and Grant's information on the subject was chiefly drawn from them. Afterward a more rigid censorship was enforced. Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. ii. pp. 385, 405, 428, 441, 455, 472, 499, etc.] Grant concluded on the 22d that he must have reached Goldsborough, and wrote him congratulations on the same day that Sherman announced to his army the good result. "I congratulate you and the army," said Grant, "in what may be regarded as the successful termination of the third campaign since leaving the Tennessee River less than one year ago." [Footnote: _Id._, p. 948.] He briefly but clearly outlined his own plans.
Sheridan was to start with his cavalry on the 25th, and, passing beyond the left of the lines
before Petersburg, to strike the Southside railroad as near the town as might be, and destroy enough of it to interrupt its use by the enemy for three or four days. This done, he was to push for the Danville Railroad, do the like, and again cut the Southside road near Burkesville. After that Grant would leave Sheridan at liberty to join Sherman or to return to his own army. At the same time he would himself diminish the forces in his investing lines to the smallest that could hold them, and with all the rest crowd to the westward to prevent Lee from following Sheridan. He would attack if Lee should detach part of his army to follow Sheridan or to join Johnston, or would fight a decisive battle if the Confederates came out in force. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. ii. p. 948. See also p. 859.] The general principles which resulted in
Five Forks and the abandonment of Richmond are here clearly evident, and Sherman could plan his own work accordingly.
The latter was also writing on that day to the Lieutenant-General, taking up the thread of his own story from the time he reached Fayetteville and learned that Johnston had been put in command of all the forces opposing him. He sketched the sharp combat between Slocum and
Hardee at Averasborough on March 16th, where the latter had taken a strong position across the narrow swampy neck between Cape Fear River and North River at the forks of the Raleigh and Goldsborough roads. Hardee was working for time, as Johnston was collecting his forces at Smithfield after Bragg's unsuccessful blow at us near Kinston. A day's delay was gained at heavy cost for the Confederates. At Bentonville, on the 19th, Johnston had concentrated his army and struck fiercely at Slocum again, for the almost impassable mud had made it necessary for
Howard's wing to seek roads some miles to the right. Slocum had to give some ground and draw back his advanced division to a better position, on which he formed the rest of his troops, Kilpatrick's cavalry covering his left. Here he repulsed all further efforts of Johnston and held his ground till Sherman could bring forward the right wing, when the enemy was forced to intrench and was put on the defensive. On the 21st Howard's extreme right broke through or turned the line, and nearly reached Johnston's headquarters. The blindly tangled swampy ground prevented full advantage being reaped from this success, and Johnston managed to hold on till night, when he abandoned his lines and retreated on Raleigh. Sherman's casualties of all sorts in the two engagements of Averasborough and Bentonville were 2209. He had buried on the abandoned fields 375 of the Confederate dead, and held 2000 prisoners. Johnston's wounded were 1694 at Bentonville, besides several hundred at Averasborough. [Footnote: Sherman to Grant, Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. ii. p. 949; his report, Id., pt. i. pp. 27, 66, 76; Johnston's do., Id., pp. 1057, 1060.] The last battle in the Carolinas had been fought, Johnston had added to his reputation as a soldier by quick and strong blows skilfully delivered, first at Schofield, then at Sherman; but his numbers were not enough to make either blow successful, and the junction of our armies at Goldsborough made further fighting a mere waste of life, unless he and Lee could unite for a final effort. This Grant would not permit, and Johnston's message to Lee on the 23d was in substance the old one from Pavia, "All is lost but honor." "Sherman's course cannot be hindered by the small force I have. I can do no more than annoy him. I respectfully suggest that it is no longer a question whether you leave your present position; you have only to decide where to meet Sherman. I will be near him." [Footnote: _Id._, p. 1055.]
General Lee, from his own point of view, saw with equal clearness the net that was closing round him. He had telegraphed to Johnston on the 11th, "I fear I cannot hold my position if road to Raleigh is interrupted. Should you be forced back in this direction both armies would certainly starve." [Footnote: _Id._, pt. ii. p. 1372.] On the 15th he repeated, "If you are forced back from Raleigh and we deprived of the supplies from east North Carolina, I do not know how this army can be supported." [Footnote: _Id._, p. 1395.] But while he pointed out the vital importance of repulsing Sherman, he did not urge rashness in giving battle without prospect of success. Supplies in Virginia, he said, were exhausted. The western communication by Danville was now his only reliance. Since sending Hoke, Conner, and Hampton south, his forces were too weak to extend his lines, and he apprehended the very break in the Danville road which Grant was planning to make by Sheridan. "You will therefore perceive," he added, "that if I contract my lines as you propose, with the view of holding Richmond, our only resource for obtaining subsistence will be cut off and the city must be abandoned; whereas, if I take a position to maintain the road, Richmond will be lost." If Sherman could not be checked, "I cannot remain here, but must start out and seek a favorable opportunity for battle. I shall maintain my position as long as it appears advisable, both from the moral and material advantages of holding Richmond and Virginia." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. ii. p. 1395.] Danville, he saw, was his necessary aim if he broke away, and he pointed out the advantages they would have for manoeuvre if Sherman could be kept well to the east, giving them more room and a wider region to live upon after uniting. But Grant saw all this too, and the inexorable tenacity and vigor with which, a few days later, he pushed Lee north of the Danville line and cornered him at Appomattox, showed that his measure of the situation was as accurate as Lee's, and that he knew the quick ending of the war depended on his preventing at all hazards the junction of the Confederate armies. Nothing in military history is more interesting than the comparison of the letters and dispatches of the leaders on both sides in this crisis. Grant was not content with being upon Lee's heels when he abandoned Richmond, as he had promised Sherman he would be. He would do better. Well served by Sheridan's fiery energy, he would out-foot his adversary in the race for Danville, and even block his path on the road to Lynchburg when the junction with Johnston had to be given up.
For us at Goldsborough a day or two was delightfully spent in free conferences with Sherman and in getting from his own lips the story of his wonderful campaigns since we parted from him in Georgia. All the empty wagons of his enormous trains were now sent back to Kinston under escort to bring up clothing and supplies, and he thought a delay of a fortnight might be necessary to get ready for further active movements. He fixed April both as the date for opening a new campaign, and suggested to General Grant that when he had his troops properly placed and the supplies working well, he might "run up and see you for a day or two before diving again into the bowels of the country." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. ii. p. 969.] On the 25th the railroad was running to Goldsborough, and Colonel Wright was anxious to have the general go over the road with him and see for himself its condition and what had been acomplished as well as what was still needed to make its equipment ready for the heavy work of another campaign. Accordingly Sherman put Schofield temporarily in chief command, and after an inspection trip on a locomotive with Colonel Wright, he continued his journey to
City Point in a steamer belonging to the quartermaster's department. [Footnote: _Id._, pt. iii. pp. 19, 20.] His memorable visit to Grant and Lincoln, there, will be considered in connection with the negotiations with Johnston a little later. Having spent the 27th and 28th of March there, he was sent back by
Admiral Porter in a fast vessel of the navy, reached New Berne on the 30th, and rejoined us at Goldsborough the same evening.
His return was a matter of some personal interest to me, for it brought my permanent assignment to the command of the Twenty-third Corps by Presidential order. The other troops under Schofield were organized into a new corps with Terry for commandant, and as changes had vacated the original Tenth Corps organization, that number was given to Terry's. Schofield had asked for these appointments immediately after our occupation of Wilmington, but the letters had not reached
General Grant, and action had not been taken. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. ii. p. 559.] At Goldsborough he had renewed the request which Sherman cordially indorsed, and the latter carried the papers with him to City Point, where the matter was acted upon at once by the President and
General Grant. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 960, 961; pt. iii. pp. 18, 34. See also Appendix C.]
Schofield's promotion to the rank of brigadier-general in the regular army had been recommended by
Grant as a reward for the
capture of Wilmington, with the remark that he ought to have had it from the battle of Franklin. [Footnote: _Id._, pt. ii. pp. 545, 558.]
Mr. Stanton replied that the nomination would be made as requested, "subject, however, to his obedience to orders. I am not satisfied with his conduct in seizing the hospital boat 'Spaulding' to make it his own quarters," he said; adding, "I have directed him to give it up. If he obeys the order promptly, I will send in his nomination; otherwise I will not." [Footnote: _Id._, p. 562.] By an odd coincidence, the order to Schofield with the Secretary's reprimand was written on the same day Grant was making his recommendation for promotion, [Footnote: _Id._, p. 545.] and it well illustrates Stanton's characteristic impulsiveness and hasty temper which made him act on first reports, when a quiet investigation of facts would have changed his view and saved the feelings of his subordinates. An order forbidding the use of hospital boats for other military purposes, diverting them from hospital use, had been issued on February 8th, the day we reached Cape Fear Inlet after our sea voyage, [Footnote: _Id._, p. 342.] and by another coincidence Schofield had made the "Spaulding" his temporary headquarters on the same day. [Footnote: _Id._, pt. i. p. 927.] Not being a clairvoyant, Schofield knew nothing of the order which was then being written in the adjutant-general's office at Washington, and which did not reach him till his temporary use of the vessel had ended. Moreover, as he was as yet without his tents or horses, and as he intended his troops to operate on both sides of Cape Fear River, his prompt progress with the campaign depended on his ready communication with both banks, [Footnote: _Ante_, p. 405.] and the boat had been named as available for the purpose by the quartermaster responsible for the army transports and vessels. As it was a question of successful handling of his forces, the discretion would have belonged to the general commanding the department to make an exception to a rule, if the order had been in his hands instead of being wholly unknown to him. Still again, the use he made of the boat helped instead of hindering its availability as a hospital, for he kept it close to the advancing lines on the river banks so that the wounded were brought to it with greatest ease, and it had in fact no sick or disabled men on board till they were brought there under these circumstances. Lastly, the superior medical officer of the department was a member of Schofield's staff, wholly in accord with his views, and the complaint had been sent by the subordinate surgeon on the boat directly to the surgeon-general at Washington without the knowledge of the department medical director. To have referred it back to the general for his comments, calling his attention to the order, would have been regular and would have resulted in commendation of his action instead of disapproval. When Grant received the Secretary's dispatch, Colonel Comstock had returned from Wilmington, and from him the general got the information which enabled him to remove Stanton's misapprehension, so that the appointment was made before Schofield knew of the complaint. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. ii. pp. 562, 582.] Nearly a month later he made a full statement of the circumstances to put himself personally right with the Secretary. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 832.] The latter had borne no ill-will to Schofield, but even at the closing period of the war had not learned to temper his zeal with considerate patience.
The work which occupied us the ten days of April which we spent at Goldsborough was chiefly that of organizing our trains and collecting supplies in our depots, so that the foraging on the country which had been necessary in Georgia and South Carolina might cease, now that we had railway communication with a safe base on the Atlantic. Sherman had informed his principal subordinates that when he reached North Carolina he would resume the regular issue of supplies as far as possible, and put an end to the indiscriminate seizing of whatever the army needed. It had answered its purpose in the long marches from Atlanta to
Savannah and from Savannah to Goldsborough, where the condition of success was cutting loose from the base; but the tendency to demoralization and loss of discipline in troops which practise it too long, made a return to regular methods very desirable.
As the army had approached the North Carolina line, General Blair, commanding the Seventeenth Corps, had written to Howard, his immediate superior: "Every house that we pass is pillaged, and as we are about to enter the State of North Carolina, I think the people should be treated more considerately. The only way to prevent this state of affairs is to put a stop to foraging. I have enough in my wagons to last to Goldsborough, and I suppose that the rest of the army has also. . . . The system is vicious and its results utterly deplorable. As there is no longer a necessity for it, I beg that an order may be issued to prohibit it. General Sherman said that when we reached North Carolina he would pay for everything brought to us and forbid foraging. I believe it would have an excellent effect upon the country to change our policy in this respect." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. ii. p. 717; pt. iii. pp. 46, 47.] Stringent orders were at once issued to modify the system and prevent the abuses of it, but it was not practicable to stop foraging entirely till the junction of the forces was made at Goldsborough. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. ii. pp. 718, 728, 760, 783.] The regular issue of rations furnished by the government was then resumed, except that long forage for horses and mules could not be obtained in this way and was collected from the country;[Footnote: _Id._, pt. iii. pp. 7-9.] but even then the correction of bad habits in the soldiery was only gradually accomplished.
The evacuation of Richmond and Petersburg on the morning of the 3d of April was not known to Sherman till the 6th, when Grant's letter reached him containing the joyful news. On Saturday, the 8th, it was confirmed, with particulars of Lee's disastrous retreat. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 89, 99, 100, 109.] That night there was a noisy jubilee in our camps. Regular artillery salutes were fired, but the soldiers also extemporized all sorts of demonstrations of their joyfulness. The air resounded with cheers, with patriotic songs, with the beating of drums, with the music of the brass bands, with musket firing; whilst beautiful signal rockets rushed high into the air, dropping their brilliant stars of red, white, and blue from the very clouds. [Footnote: _Id._, pt. i. p. 936.]
So long as Lee held fast at Petersburg, Sherman's plan had been to feint on Raleigh, but make his real movement northward, crossing the Roanoke above Gaston and marching between Johnston and Lee. [Footnote: _Id._, pt. iii. p. 102.] Now, however, as he wrote
Halleck, he would move in force upon Raleigh, repairing the railroad behind him and following the Confederate army close in whatever direction it should move. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 118.] Grant's letter of the 5th, giving his opinion that Lee was making for Danville with an army reduced to about 20,000 men, [Footnote: _Id._, P. 99.] reached Sherman on the 8th, and he immediately answered it, saying: "On Monday [10th] all my army will move straight on Joe Johnston, supposed to be between me and Raleigh, and I will follow him wherever he may go. If he retreats on Danville to make junction with Lee, I will do the same, though I may take a course round him, bending toward Greensborough for the purpose of turning him north.... I wish you could have waited a few days or that I could have been here a week sooner; but it is not too late yet, and you may rely with absolute certainty that I will be after Johnston with about 80,000 men, provided for twenty full days which will last me forty. I will have a small force here at Goldsborough and will repair the road to Raleigh." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 129.]
On Monday we marched,--Slocum with the Army of Georgia straight for Smithfield, Howard with the Army of the Tennessee going north to Pikeville and then turning toward Raleigh, keeping to the right of Slocum and abreast of him on parallel roads. Schofield with our Army of the Ohio moved a little to the left of Slocum in echelon, my corps taking the river road on the left (north) bank of the Neuse to Turner's Bridge, a little below Smithfield, and Terry's going through Bentonville somewhat further to left and rear. Kilpatrick with the cavalry covered the march of this flank. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 123.] It will be seen that this order of movement assumed that Johnston was at or near Smithfield, where our latest information put him. My corps had been somewhat scattered to cover our communications with Kinston and Newberne, and I was ordered to concentrate at Goldsborough on the 10th, advancing-from there on the 11th. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 134.] My old division, which had been commanded by General Reilly since he joined us at Wilmington, was for the rest of the campaign led by General Carter, Reilly's uncertain health making him anticipate the quickly approaching end of the war by resigning. Ruger and Couch continued in command of the first and second divisions respectively. [Footnote: _Id_., pt. i. p. 936.]
My own march was impeded by the slow progress of the pontoon-train which had been sent ahead of my column, where a part of Slocum's supply-train also moved. For this reason we found numbers of stragglers on our way and evidences of pillaging by which I was exasperated. We halted at noon of the 11th near a large house belonging to a Mr. Atkinson, a man of prominence in the region. The mansion had a Grecian portico with large columns the whole height of the building. Part of the furniture and the carpets had been removed, but evidences of refinement and intelligence were seen in the piano and the library with its books. With my staff I rested and ate my lunch in the spacious portico, and moving on when the halt was over, I had hardly ridden half a mile when a pillar of white smoke showed that the house was on fire. I sent back a staff officer in haste to order an instant investigation and the arrest of any authors of this vandalism. The most that could be learned was that some stragglers of another corps had been seen lurking in the house when we moved on, and soon after fire broke out in the second story, having been set, apparently, in a closet connected with one of the chambers. Efforts were made to extinguish it, but it had found its way into the garret and had such headway that the house was doomed. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. i. p. 936.] This was the first instance in my experience where a dwelling had been burned when my troops were passing, and I was greatly disturbed by their apparent responsibility for it. My anger was increased by repetitions of similar outrages during the afternoon. From our camp at Turner's Bridge I issued an order directing summary trial by drum-head court-martial and execution of marauders guilty of such outrages, whether belonging to my own corps or stragglers hanging on at its skirts. [Footnote: _Id._, pt. iii. p. 189.] The evidence seemed conclusive that the crimes were committed by "bummers" who had separated themselves from the army when marching up from Savannah, and were following it for purposes of pillage. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 281.] It was reported that Atkinson was a "conscription agent" of the Confederate government, and this perhaps was the incentive in his case for the outrage. As a precaution, I ordered sentinels to be left at dwellings on our march, to be relieved from the divisions in succession, the last to remain till our trains had passed and then join the rear-guard. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 189.]
In the march of the 12th Howard remained on the east side of the Neuse with a pretty widely extended front, aiming for the crossing of the river due east of Raleigh, at the Neuse Mills and Hinton's Bridge. Slocum crossed at Smithfield and took the roads up the right bank of the Neuse. Schofield crossed at Turner's Bridge, and sought roads further west, intending to reach the main road leading from Elevation to Raleigh. [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 163, 164, 187-189.] At Smithfield we learned that Johnston was at Raleigh, but we did not know that he had heard of Lee's surrender and had no longer a motive to hold tenaciously to the central part of the State. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 777.] It was on our march of Tuesday, the 12th, that the news of the surrender reached us, and was greeted with extravagant demonstrations of joy by both officers and men. [Footnote: For a vivid description of the scene, see "Ohio Loyal Legion Papers," vol. ii. p. 234, by A. J. Ricks, then a lieutenant on my staff, since Judge of U. S. District Court, N. Ohio.] Sherman had got the news in a dispatch sent by Grant on the 9th, as soon as the capitulation was complete, and which contained the terms he had offered Lee, with their acceptance. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 140.] Replying at once, Sherman said, "I hardly know how to express my feelings, but you can imagine them. The terms you have given Lee are magnanimous and liberal. Should Johnston follow Lee's example, I shall of course grant the same. He is retreating before me on Raleigh, but I shall be there to-morrow." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 177.] He indicated his hope that Johnston would surrender at Raleigh, but should he not do so, his own plan would be to push to the south and west to prevent the enemy's retreat into the Gulf States. "With a little more cavalry," he said, "I would be sure to capture the whole army." He issued also a Special Field Order, announcing to the army the momentous news. "Glory to God and to our country, and all honor to our comrades in arms toward whom we are marching. A little more labor, a little more toil on our part, the great race is won, and our government stands regenerated after four years of bloody war." [Footnote: _Id._, p. 180.] Such were the words which created a tumult of emotion in the heart of every soldier, when they were read that day, a beautiful spring day, at the head of each command. The order reached me near mid-day at a resting halt of the corps, and with bared heads my staff listened to the reading. We then greeted it with three cheers, I myself acting as fugleman, and the tidings sped down the column on the wings of the wind.
Late in the same day a delegation met Slocum's advance-guard coming from Raleigh in a car upon the railroad with a letter from Governor Vance making overtures to end the war, so far as North Carolina was concerned. The little party was headed by ex-Governor Graham and Mr. Swain, men who had led the opposition to secession till swept away by the popular whirlwind of war feeling, and who now came to acknowledge the victory of the National Government. Mr. Graham had been the candidate for Vice-President in 1852, nominated by the Whig party on the ticket with
General Scott. Sherman received them kindly, and gave a safeguard for Governor Vance and any members of the State government who might await him in Raleigh, though, after a conference with Graham and his party in regard to their present relations to the Confederate government, he wrote to Vance, "I doubt if hostilities can be suspended as between the Army of the Confederate Government and the one I command, but I will aid you all in my power to contribute to the end you aim to reach, the termination of the existing war." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 178.]
The Twenty-third Corps marched eighteen miles on the 12th, and, as General Schofield reported, found that "Slocum's bummers had been all over the country," foraging it bare. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 187.] On the 13th we marched within two miles of Raleigh, making nineteen miles, the Army of Georgia entering the city just ahead of us. Sherman was with the head of Slocum's column, expecting to meet Governor Vance, but such delays had occurred to the train taking his messengers that Vance lost confidence, and had left the city ahead of Hampton's cavalry, the rear-guard of Johnston's army. Hampton was bitterly opposed to all negotiation by Vance, holding it to be treasonable, and had put such obstacles in the way of Graham's party as to make Vance think that they had been arrested and that the mission had failed. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 178, 196.] Graham and Swain, however, were still there, and at once waited upon Sherman, who established his headquarters in the governor's mansion. The news, as it came to us in the marching column, was that Vance had met Sherman in person and surrendered the capital of the State; but the facts turned out to be as I have stated them. [Footnote: _Id._, pt. i. p. 937.]
A trifling incident gave us pleasure as we were approaching our camp near Raleigh, and, with the soldiers' disposition to interpret fortuitous things in earth and air, was greeted as a good omen. A great tree stood at the roadside, and, perched upon a dead limb high above the foliage and overhanging the way, a mocking-bird poured forth the most wonderful melodies ever heard even from that prince of songsters. Excited but not frightened away by the moving host beneath, the bird outdid its kind in its imitations of other birds, and in its calls and notes of endless variety, whistling and singing with a full resonant power that rose above all other sounds. The marching soldiers ceased their talk, listening intently and craning their necks to get a sight of the peerless musician. It was a celebration of the coming peace, unique in beauty and full of sweet suggestions.
On the 14th the greater part of the army moved westward a few miles in front of Raleigh, the Twenty-third Corps closing up to the eastern suburbs of the town. Sherman issued his marching orders for the 15th, beginning, "The next movement will be on Ashborough, to turn the position of the enemy at Company's shops in rear of Haw River Bridge and at Greensborough, and to cut off his only available line of retreat by Salisbury and Charlotte." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. pp. 208, 217.] This march had hardly begun, however, when it was temporarily suspended and was never resumed. Our last hostile march against the Confederate armies had been made. Mr. Badger, the last senator from the State in the National Congress, and other leading men, including Mr. Holden, the leader of the Union element in the State, had joined Mr. Graham's party, and Sherman had been busy with them, negotiating informally to obtain the withdrawal of North Carolina from the Confederacy. The general was willing that the executive and legislature of the State should come to Raleigh for this purpose, but refused to suspend hostilities against Johnston's army except upon direct overtures for surrender on the part of the latter. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 221.] Whilst these conferences were in progress, others had been going on at Greensborough, and as a result General Johnston had sent a letter requesting an armistice. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 206.] Sherman immediately replied in terms which brought about the halt and temporary truce between the two armies and a personal conference three days later. Thus opened the famous negotiations, the story of which will be told in the next chapter.
Whilst the Southern people had shown wonderful fortitude and patience as long as a hope of success remained, they were most anxious to be spared the horrors of war when there was no compensating advantage to be looked for. The dread of our armies had been increased by the exaggerations which the Confederate authorities had used to excite the people to desperate resistance, and the terror now reacted in a general popular demand for surrender. The story of the burning of
Columbia had been given to them as a wanton and deliberate barbarity on Sherman's part, and the delegation which met him could hardly believe their own senses when they heard his earnest expressions of desire to end the war at once and save the people from suffering and the country from devastation.
An experience of my own as we entered Raleigh gave me a startling view of the abject terror which had seized upon helpless families when they found themselves defenceless in our hands. In the night of Wednesday, the 12th, Hampton had made it known that the rear-guard which he commanded must retire before daylight, and the frightened people had at once begun to close their windows and sit in gloomy expectation of what the morning would bring. Early on Thursday Kilpatrick's cavalry clattered through the town, and on the further side some skirmishing occurred and an occasional cannon shot was thought to be the opening of battle. Slocum's infantry marched through after the cavalry advance-guard, and the heavy rattling of cannon and caissons with the shouting of the drivers of the trains seemed a pandemonium to unaccustomed ears. Sherman had issued stringent orders that no mischief should be done and no looting permitted in the city, and all the superior officers were earnest in enforcing the orders, so that I believe no town was ever more quietly occupied by an army in actual war. On Friday morning I was placing my own troops in the suburb and arranging to assume the guard of the city, left to us by the camping of the main body of the army beyond its western limits. An officer of the general staff came to me, saying he had been appealed to in a most piteous way for protection by a lady who with her household of women and children could endure the terror and suspense no longer. Knowing that I was to be in immediate charge of the place, he had given assurances that I would remove all cause for fear, but had still been begged to ask me to come in person and relieve their great distress. I went with him to one of the most comfortable homes of the town. The family had been collected in the parlors since midnight of Wednesday. They had not dared to retire to sleep, but clung about the mother and mistress. The windows were close shut, the rooms lit by candles, and pale, jaded with the long nervous strain, momentarily fearing the breaking in of those they had been taught to look upon as little better than fiends, their hollow eyes showed they were perilously near the limit of human endurance. I earnestly vouched for the good intentions of our generals, and promised the most ample protection. I assured them of sympathy and a purpose to give them the same safety as I should wish for my own wife and children if they were in a like situation. A guard was ordered for the house and the neighborhood. They were urged to open the windows to the cheerful light and to resume their ordinary way of life. The passing of the panic and the revival of confidence was a sort of return from the shadow of death and was most touching to behold. It added a new element of thankfulness that such terrors for the helpless were not to be renewed, since peace was really coming to heal the terrible wounds of war.
There was a moment when we once more feared we might not be able to save the city from vengeance. It was when, on the 17th of April, the news of
Lincoln's assassination reached us. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 221.] Sherman had received the dispatch in cipher just as he was starting for his conference with Johnston at Durham Station, and had enjoined absolute secrecy upon the telegraph operator till his return in the evening. General Stiles, one of my most trusted subordinates, had been made commandant of the post of Raleigh with a garrison of three battalions of infantry, a brigade of reserve artillery, and the convalescents of the Army of the Ohio. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 217.] As soon as Sherman returned from his visit to Johnston, he sent for me and told me the terrible news of
Lincoln's murder. He expressed the great fear he had lest, on its becoming known, it should be the occasion of outbreaks among the soldiers. He charged me to strengthen Stiles's garrison to any extent I might think necessary, to put strong guards at the edge of the city on the roads leading to the several camps, to send all soldiers off duty to their proper commands, and in short, till the first excitement should be over, to allow no one to visit the city or wander about it, and to keep all under strict military surveillance. Schofield and the other army commanders were with him, and all were seriously impressed with the danger of mischief resulting and with the need of thorough precautions. Sherman's general order announcing the assassination was then read, but its distribution and publication to the army was delayed till I should have time to prepare for safeguarding the city. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 238.] Fortunately the announcement of the first convention for the disbanding of all the remaining armies of the Confederacy accompanied the exciting news, and as it was regarded as the return of general peace, the effect on our army was that of deep mourning for the loss of a great leader in the hour of victory rather than an excitement to vengeance in a continuing strife. There was no noteworthy difficulty in preserving order, and, though the inhabitants of Raleigh had a day or two of great uneasiness, the beautiful town did not suffer in the least. Its broad streets, lined with forest trees, and the ample dooryards in the lush beauty of lawns and flowers were no more trespassed upon than the avenues and gardens of Washington, and nobody suffered from violence.