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
PAROLING AND DISBANDING JOHNSTON'S ARMY--CLOSING SCENES OF THE WAR IN NORTH CAROLINA
General Schofield's policy when left in command--Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in force--Davis's line of flight from Charlotte, N.C.--Wade Hampton's course of conduct--Fate of the
Wheeler, and Cooper--Issuing paroles to Johnston and his army--Greensborough in my district--Going there with Schofield--Hardee meets and accompanies us--Comparing memories--We reach Johnston's headquarters--Condition of his army--Our personal interview with him--The numbers of his troops--His opinion of
Sherman's army--Of the
murder of Lincoln--Governor Morehead's home--The men in gray march homeward--Incident of a flag--The Salisbury prison site--Treatment of prisoners of war--Local government in the interim--Union men--Elements of new strife--The negroes--Household service--Wise dealing with the labor question--No money--Death of manufactures--Necessity the mother of invention--Uses of adversity--Peace welcomed--Visit to Greene's battlefield at Guilford-Old-Court-House.
On Thursday, the 27th of April, the same day on which Sherman issued his order announcing the final agreement for the surrender of Johnston's army and the homeward march of most of his own forces, General Schofield issued his own order declaring "the duty of all to cultivate friendly relations with the same zeal which has characterized our conduct of the war, that the blessings of union, peace and material prosperity may be speedily restored to the entire country." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. 330.] He invited all peaceably disposed persons to return to their homes and resume their industrial pursuits. He promised also the loan of captured horses, mules, and wagons to those who had been deprived of their own by the armies, and food for the needy during the period when all must be busy planting if the season were to be made of any avail for agriculture. His order concluded with these words: "It will be left to the judicial department of the government to punish those political leaders who are responsible for secession, rebellion, and civil war with all its horrors. Between the Government of the United States and the people of North Carolina there is peace." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 330.]
In a separate order of the same date, to remove all doubt as to the end of
slavery, he declared that "by virtue of the proclamation of the President of the United States, dated January 1, 1863, all persons in this State heretofore held as slaves are now free, and it is the duty of the army to maintain the freedom of such persons." [Footnote: _Id_., p. 331.] He recommended immediate fair contracts of hiring and the resumption of profitable industry, so that disorganization of labor might be avoided. He told the freedmen that it was not well for them to congregate about towns or military camps, and that they could not be supported in idleness. All classes of people were thus put upon the footing Sherman had intended in his first convention with Johnston, and Schofield's orders issued whilst Sherman was still with us at Raleigh may be received as an authoritative interpretation of the latter's views.
The Confederate troops were mostly concentrated about Greensborough upon the railroad from Richmond through Danville and Charlotte to
Columbia in South Carolina, and the line of railroad we had followed from Goldsborough to Raleigh continued westward to Greensborough. Outposts, Confederate as well as National, remained at stations between the two armies, but no collision had occurred since the truce established on the 19th. [Footnote: _Id_., p. 250.] Mr. Davis had remained at Charlotte in the interval between the two conventions, but when the separate surrender of Johnston's army was determined, he started southward with a vague purpose of joining some of the smaller organized armies released from the armistice by our administration's rejection of the terms of Sherman's first convention. He tells us that he still hoped that he might cross the Mississippi with such forces as could be concentrated, joining Kirby Smith, who commanded there, and in the last resort carrying a body of irreconcilables out of the country into Mexico. [Footnote: Davis, Rise and Fall, vol. ii. pp. 694, 696.] A line of retreat southward had been agreed upon in case Johnston should not surrender, and some accumulations of supplies had been made at Chester, S. C., and other points upon it. General Bragg had been placed in command there, reporting directly to Davis or the Confederate War Department, [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 836.] and some cavalry in West Virginia under General Echols had been ordered to pass by mountain routes to the same region. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 795.] As soon as the truce was ended by the notice of the 24th, Davis started southward by the route indicated, which kept well to the westward of Columbia by way of Abbeville, aiming to cross the
Savannah River above Augusta at the pontoon bridge near the junction of Broad River with the Savannah. [Footnote: _Id._, vol. xlix. pt. i. p. 548.] His party disintegrated before he entered Georgia, and he was nearly alone with his family when he was captured thirty or forty miles southeast of Macon.
General Wade Hampton was one of those who preferred any alternative rather than surrender, and had opposed even the terms of the first convention to which Davis had assented. [Footnote: _Id._, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 813.] He promised that he would bring to Davis's support "many strong arms and brave hearts,--men who will fight to Texas, and who, if forced from that State, will seek refuge in Mexico rather than in the Union." [Footnote: _Id._, p. 814.] On the 25th, when Johnston's surrender was already resolved upon, Breckinridge sought to arrange that Hampton, with his cavalry, might join Davis, [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 837.] but Sherman insisted on the capitulation of the army as a unit, and Hampton was included. The latter had visited Davis during the first armistice and obtained his permission to bring out the cavalry before the surrender, but on his return to his command, on April 26th, he found that the surrender had been made. Setting up the claim that the arrangement made with Davis had detached his troops from Johnston's army, although they were actually serving in it, he notified Johnston that they and he would not regard themselves as embraced in the capitulation, unless Breckinridge, the Secretary of War, should say they were within it. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 841.] He had given orders to Wheeler to move the command toward South Carolina, and Butler's division was moving in the same direction. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 841,847.] Johnston, feeling that his honor as a commander was involved, sent peremptory orders to Hampton to march back to the position near Hillsborough which he had abandoned. He gave
General Wheeler similar orders. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 844, 846. See also Johnston to Sherman, _Id._, p. 336.] Breckinridge gave Hampton the opinion that the troops were bound by the capitulation, though Hampton himself might not be. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 851.] The latter thereupon informed Butler and
General Joseph Wheeler that he could give them no orders, and asked leave of Johnston to withdraw his former letter, substituting one which only claimed personal exemption from the surrender. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 845, 847.] In transmitting this, he sent a long letter of apology, explaining his embarrassment. He asserted that in his consultation with Mr. Davis a plan was agreed upon to enable the latter to leave the country. He must now either leave him to his fate or go with him under the ban of outlawry. He thought his personal duty was to go, but would leave his command to abide the terms of the convention, or if any joined him, he said, "they will be stragglers like myself." [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 846.] Enough "straggled" to make up Davis's escort to about 3000 men, comprising six brigade organizations; but Hampton seems to have thought better of the determination to be an outlaw, and though he did not give his parole with the rest of Johnston's command, he did not join Davis. [Footnote: Davis, Rise and Fall, vol. ii. pp. 689, 690.] His explicit statement of the aim of Davis's flight warrants us in concluding that the dream of further military operations beyond the Mississippi was never a serious purpose. After the disbanding of the escort at the Savannah River, Breckinridge and Benjamin reached the coast of
Florida and escaped to Cuba. Mallory and Attorney-General Davis seem to have reached their own homes; Reagan remained with his chief, and was captured; [Footnote: _Id_., pp. 694, 695.] Bragg and
Wheeler were captured near Athens, in Georgia, using questionable ruses to escape. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlix. pt. i. pp. 550, 551.] General Cooper, the adjutant and inspector-general of the Confederate army, remained at Charlotte, and received the benefit of Johnston's capitulation, while he did all in his power to preserve the Confederate archives, which were there in railway cars. [Footnote: _Id_., vol. xlvii. pt. iii. pp. 842, 848.] This digression to follow the fate of Mr. Davis and the group of civil and military notables who were with him in his southward flight, will help us understand some of the peculiar incidents attending the paroling of Johnston's army at Greensborough. I will now return to events of which I was a witness.
On Sunday, the 30th April, the printed blanks for the paroles were ready, and Brevet Brigadier-General Hartsuff, inspector-general on Schofield's staff, was put in charge of the details of their issue. He went up to Greensborough from Raleigh, accompanied by about a dozen officers detailed from the department and corps staff. It had been intended that he should take with him a guard of a regiment I had selected for the purpose, but at Johnston's request the troops were held back a few days. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. pp. 349, 351, 483.] Schofield had arranged the general scheme of subdividing the State into military districts, of which I was to command the western, whilst
Major-General Terry took the central, and Brigadier-Generals Palmer and Hawley retained the coast districts which they already had. In anticipation of the formal order, [Footnote: _Id._, p. 396.] the detachment to guard the arms and stores which should be received came from my command, and I detailed the One Hundred and Fourth Ohio, a regiment which had won high praise in the review at Raleigh for its splendid form and discipline, and which was an orderly, reliable body of men in battle as on parade. It was ordered to take along also its excellent brass band and drum corps, for I meant to have the duties of a garrison performed in the presence of the Confederates with all the honors.
Sherman had left Raleigh in the evening of Friday (28th), to make a brief tour to Charleston and Savannah, by sea, nominally to inspect that part of his command, but really to pass the time whilst the body of his army was marching to Washington, and to avoid visiting that city in the irritation he felt at his treatment by the Secretary of War. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 337, 338.] Johnston had arranged, on the 1st of May, to send
General Hardee down to Raleigh for personal consultation with Schofield in regard to details of the homeward march of his troops, but the satisfactory arrangement of the supplementary terms made this unnecessary. [Footnote: _Id._, pp. 366, 857.] Schofield determined to go to Greensborough himself, starting early on Tuesday morning (2d), and I was asked to accompany him. [Footnote: _Id._, p. 376.] We left Raleigh by train at seven o'clock, with the One Hundred and Fourth Ohio as a guard, and at Durham were met by a dispatch from General Hartsuff, saying that the whole Confederate army was "dissolving and raising the devil." I telegraphed for another regiment to follow us, and we went on to Hillsborough. There we met
General Hardee, who joined our party, and we went on to Greensborough. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 376.]
As the train left Hillsborough, we passed through a body of Confederate cavalry, and were within the enemy's lines. I confess it was with a curious, half-uneasy sensation that I thus for the first time found myself on the wrong side of the Confederate outposts without having driven them in by a hostile advance. It was not easy to orient one's self at once with the new condition of things, and it would hardly have been a surprise to find that we had been entrapped by a ruse.
This soon wore off, however, and
Hardee made the journey a very agreeable one to us. He had been commandant of cadets at West Point just before the war, and had from the first an "inside" view of the rebellion. His "Tactics," adapted to our army use from the French, had been the authoritative guide of our army drill, and by that means his name had been made very familiar to every officer and man among us. His military career had been among the most distinguished, and he had commanded a corps in front of us during the whole Atlanta campaign. There was therefore no lack of subjects for conversation, and the time ran rapidly away. Hardee was in person and bearing a good type of the brilliant soldier and gentleman. Tall and well formed, his uniform well fitting and almost dandyish, his manner genial and easy, his conversation at once gay and intelligent, it would be hard to find a more attractive companion, or one with whom you would be put more quickly at ease.
Our mission naturally led us into a review of the war, and we asked him what had been his own expectation as to the result, and when he had himself recognized the hopelessness of the contest. "I confess," said he, laughing, "that I was one of the hot Southerners who shared the notion that one man of the South could whip three Yankees; but the first year of the war pretty effectually knocked that nonsense out of us, and, to tell the truth, ever since that time we military men have generally seen that it was only a question how long it would take to wear our army out and destroy it. We have seen that there was no real hope of success, except by some extraordinary accident of fortune, and we have also seen that the politicians would never give up till the army was gone. So we have fought with the knowledge that we were to be sacrificed with the result we see to-day, and none of us could tell who would live to see it. We have continued to do our best, however, and have meant to fight as if we were sure of success."
Amongst many other things, our talk turned upon the Atlanta campaign, and he told some interesting facts in regard to Hood's obstinate holding on at Atlanta when Sherman was executing the movement around the place on the south. It happened that my own division held the pivot point close to the works of the city on the southeast, and Hardee's corps occupied the lines in front of us. He said an old woman had been brought to him who said she had gone to General Cox's headquarters to beg some provisions, and the general had told her she could have none, as the soldiers had not enough for themselves. I had no remembrance of such an incident, and such applications were hardly likely to reach a general officer unless he wished to catechise the person for information's sake; but a laugh was raised at my expense as Hardee in telling the story repeated some profane camp expletives as having added emphasis to the refusal, according to the old woman's account of it. Schofield merrily rallied me on a change of habits of speech when not with my usual associates, and refused to credit my protestation that the story only proved that she had seen some wicked commissary of subsistence. Hardee helped the fun by pretending to think of other proof that the woman was right; but he went on to give the matter real historical interest by telling how he had taken the woman to Hood that he might learn what she said she had seen and heard. On her repeating the expression about our not having rations enough for ourselves, Hood exclaimed, "There, Hardee! It proves that it is just as I told you. Wheeler [his cavalry commander who was on a raid] has broken Sherman's communications; he is short of provisions and is retreating north by the Sandtown road. The troops that have moved from the north of the city have gone that way."
The Sandtown road was a well-known road going northward from the Chattahoochee River at the place named, which was some miles west of the Chattanooga Railroad. It was a plausible explanation of Sherman's movements as far as they then knew them, but had no better foundation than Hood's own hopes and wishes. Yet, Hardee said, Hood stuck to this view till in our swinging movement to the south, we broke his railway communication with Jonesboro. Then came his hasty evacuation of Atlanta, the destruction of his stores, the explosion of his ammunition, and the night march to reassemble his army at Lovejoy's station. He confidently believed that the siege was raised till Sherman's army was astride of his principal line of retreat, and it was only by the most desperate exertion that he escaped from utter ruin.
On reaching Greensborough we were at once escorted to General Johnston's headquarters, the One Hundred and Fourth Ohio being ordered to remain near the station till more complete arrangements were made. Our object had been to have force enough to guard the arms and stores against petty pillage or destruction, but not enough to provoke a collision with the larger organizations of the Confederates. Johnston had declined the hospitality of citizens of Greensborough, partly from a motive of delicacy, as I suspect, fearing he might compromise those who would thus be indicated as his friends, though his usual custom was to live under canvas rather than in a house. His tents were pitched in a grove in the outskirts of the town, and he awaited us there. It seemed to us, as we approached, that the little encampment was not quite so regular and trim as our own custom required. The wall tents did not sit quite so squarely upon the ground, and the camp was not laid out with regularity. The general indirectly apologized for some of these things by saying that we could not expect the discipline in his army to be fully maintained when all knew that it was on the eve of being disbanded. Indeed our presence there with a detachment of our own troops was partly the consequence of the tendency to disintegration and the consequent breaking down of discipline which was rapidly going on, of which the dispatch which met us on the way was a warning. We learned that the officers of the staff had for several nights stood guard over their own horses, efforts to steal them having been successful in one or two instances. The general himself was the only one who had been exempt from guard-duty. The soldiers knew that the war was over and that there was in fact no superior power to enforce military subordination. They were anxious to make their way homeward, and fearful that they might be treated as prisoners of war if they remained. A horse or a mule was too valuable a prize not to be a great temptation; they naturally thought that as there was no longer a
Confederate States government, the men to whom arrears of pay were due had a right to whatever they could seize, and they were not disposed to distinguish between public and private property. The guards set to protect the commissary stores would wink at the pillage of them or assist in it, and the men were inclined to defy any authority exercised in the name of the Confederacy. They remembered the relentless character of the conscription which put them in the ranks, and were kept together chiefly by the assurance that they should all be promptly paroled and helped on their homeward way. The strongest consideration was perhaps the announcement that the parole would be a necessary protection to them against subsequent arrest. It was a curious fact that the moment the blue-coated sentinels began to pace the "beats" around the warehouses, parks of artillery, etc., the submission of these men to the United States authority was most complete. They were scrupulously respectful in their bearing and language, and the groups of them who gathered about with an earnest sort of interest, would obey the slightest direction of the sentry with a cordiality and alacrity which was in singular contrast with the sort of ostentation of defiance they showed toward their own officers.
I have anticipated a little in order to give some idea of the condition of things in Johnston's army, and will return to our interview with the general himself. He welcomed us with dignity, though there was a little reserve in his courtesy that was naturally due to the gravity of the responsibility and the duty imposed upon him. Hardee, as a subordinate, free from this burden, could afford to give way to a natural _bonhommie_, and the difference of situation emphasized the distinctive traits of the men. Johnston was a smaller man than Hardee, his uniform showed less care for appearances, his manner was quieter, but no one would for a moment fail to see that he was the commander. His quiet tones were clear, his gravity was full of conscious power, and the deference shown him by his subordinates was earnest and respectful.
The preliminary details of our task were soon settled. General Schofield had already promised rations to the Confederate troops whilst awaiting the issue of the certificates of parole, and on their way home; to give them railway transportation as far as railroads were running, and to carry out Sherman's offer to let the Confederate horses and mules be distributed as far as they would go, to assist the men on their way, and in putting in a crop for their families' support as soon as possible. When the necessary business was disposed of, the conversation became more general.
General Schofield inquired what was the number of officers and men to be paroled. Johnston replied that he could hardly be definite as he would like to be: his morning report of "effectives" gave only the men answering to their names with arms in their hands in the line of battle. It would not include stragglers or men detached or on special duty. His last return of effectives showed, as he said, about 16,000 men. Wade Hampton, with much of his cavalry, had refused to come in to Greensborough to be paroled with the rest, and were supposed to be either disbanded or to be making their way southward. Johnston thought the place of these might be made up by the classes not enumerated in the return of effectives, and that there might therefore still be about 16,000 in camp who would present themselves to be paroled. He then added that in this campaign their reports and returns had not been kept up promptly, and that he had relied for practical use upon a summary of the morning reports of "effectives." [Footnote: See pp. 424, 425, _ante_.] There could be no question as to his complete frankness and sincerity in this. The inquiry was put to make sure that we had enough printed blanks for the paroles, and it was a matter of mutual interest to get their issue completed with as little delay as possible. The Official Records, moreover, confirm his statement as to the abbreviated returns and the numbers they gave, while making clear their loose inaccuracy. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. ii. p. 1382; pt. i. p. 1059; pt. iii. p. 839.] The most important fallacy in the Confederate return of "effectives" was that by giving only the arms-bearing men answering to the roll-call, it omitted the growing large class of stragglers hanging about the camps many of whom might be in line when an engagement occurred.
The number of officers and men actually paroled by us in the Carolinas turned out to be 39,012, which included men in hospitals, some naval officers and sailors, the quartermaster's and other special duty, detachments, etc. [Footnote: _Id._, pt. i. p. 1066.] Johnston's inspector-general reported on 3d May the number of "final papers" issued to the army proper at 27,749, and the number of men who received their share of the silver distributed on April 28th was 32,174, [Footnote: _Id._, pt. iii. pp. 850, 867.] the difference being in the cavalry, where 5000 men disbanded or went off with Hampton before the paroles were issued. The report of the paroles shows also that the Carolina troops had nearly all vanished during the campaign, the Western troops of Hood's old army making the great bulk of those who stayed with the colors.
Johnston was very warm in his recognition of the soldierly qualities and the wonderful energy and persistence of our army, and the ability of Sherman. Referring to his own plans, he said he had hoped to have time enough to collect a larger force to oppose Sherman, and to give it a more complete and efficient organization. The Confederate government had reckoned upon the almost impassable character of the rivers and swamps to give a respite till spring,--at least they hoped for this. "Indeed," said he, with a smile, "Hardee here" (giving a friendly nod of his head toward his subordinate) "reported the Salkehatchie swamps as absolutely impassable; but when I heard that Sherman had not only started, but was marching through those very swamps at the rate of thirteen miles a day, making corduroy road every foot of the way, I made up my mind there had been no such army since the days of Julius Caesar." Hardee laughingly admitted his mistaken report from Charleston, but justified it by saying that all precedent was against such a march, and that he would still have believed it impossible if he had not seen it done.
All the Confederate officers from Johnston downward were very earnest in impressing upon us their confidence that the army gave up the struggle without bitterness, and that we could rely not only upon their keeping their parole in good faith, but in their anxiety to become again good citizens of the United States in every sense of the word. The
assassination of Mr. Lincoln was spoken of, as both an odious crime and an extremely great misfortune to the South, tending to involve the future in gloomy doubt by reason of the probable effect upon Northern public sentiment and upon the policy of Congress and the new administration. Hardee said that for himself he thought he should go abroad for a time, till the heated and exasperated feeling at the North should subside, and then return to his home and his private affairs. I do not remember that Johnston opened his mind on this point, and think he was gravely reticent, scarcely choosing to share with strangers, in our relation to affairs, the deep anxiety he must have felt. Hardee's means were understood to be more ample than most of the Southern officers possessed, and a course that was feasible for him was not so for most of them. The task of winning a mere livelihood was by no means a promising one for men left without a profession and without property, in a country that seemed to be irretrievably ruined.
When we closed the interview, I am very sure that we of the National side had already formed a very high opinion of the personal character of the distinguished officers we had met, and had begun to feel a sincere sympathy with them in their manifest purpose to meet honorably and manfully the demands of the new situation. I recorded at the time my own feeling that I had rarely met a man who was personally more attractive to me than General Johnston. His mode of viewing things was a high one, his thoughts and his expression of them were refined, his conscientious anxiety to do exactly what was right in the circumstances appeared in every word and act, his ability and his natural gift of leadership showed without effort in his whole bearing and conduct.
An incident which occurred at the time General Johnston left Greensborough is striking proof of the scrupulous exactness he was determined to exercise in carrying out the terms of the surrender. He had gone southward as far as Charlotte to superintend the last movement of his forces as a body and the final disbanding, and before parting with the members of his staff learned that one of them had preserved as a relic a little cavalry guidon of silk in the form of a national flag scarce larger than a handkerchief. The general immediately reclaimed it, and afterward sent it back under the provision of the surrender which agreed that all captured flags in the hands of the Confederates should be restored. He apologized for the staff officer, saying that he knew no wrong had been meant and the little flag had been regarded as a trifling but interesting relic; yet he felt that there should be no limitation on their part in carrying out strictly the terms agreed upon. The manner in which all this was done, quite as much as the thing itself, showed the earnestness and sincerity of his purpose to do everything in his power to enforce the spirit as well as the letter of every promise he had made for himself and his army. He had returned to his home at Danville, Va., before he had been able to send to us this flag with another that had been omitted, and his solicitude in regard to it, even in the midst of anxiety in regard to his family, was shown by a note which accompanied the parcel. It ran as follows:--
"DANVILLE, June 5th, 1865.
GENERAL,--I have requested Major Shackford, Provost Marshal of this post, to forward to you a small box containing the color, standard, and guidon which I mentioned to you in Greensborough.
I beg you to explain to Major-General Schofield that they were not in my possession when we were in Greensborough, nor until I reached Charlotte, and that they were not sent to him from that place because I expected to visit Raleigh and there deliver them to him. This visit was prevented by the condition of my family. You may remember that the same cause, as I explained to you orally, prevented my delivering them to you in person.
Your ob't serv't,
J. E. JOHNSTON.
MAJOR-GENERAL Cox, U. S. Army."
General Schofield and myself passed the night at the house of ex-Governor Morehead, who had urged us to do so. Our host had been one of the leading Whigs of North Carolina in the _ante-bellum_ days, and with his friends and neighbors Gilmer and Graham had opposed secession at the beginning; but with the instinct of politicians, they had striven to lead the current they could not stop when once it had carried them away. The house was a comfortable villa in the Italian style, with a tower overlooking the rolling country for a long distance. The architecture was simple but effective, and the house had evidently been a home of comfort and ease in better times. We were frankly and cordially welcomed, and allowed to see the mixed feelings with which the reassembled family accepted the collapse of the Confederacy. Among the young people was a son of the governor who had been desperately wounded but had recovered. The rebellion had had their devoted support, but they said, "That is all past now," and seemed eagerly desirous to get into accord with the new order of things. The young man told of his army adventures, and compared notes with us as to camp life in the different armies. We were struck with the strong comparison he made in speaking of his wound. A bullet had entered his mouth and passed out at the back of his neck, and he said it felt, for all the world, as if a city lamppost with its cross-bar had been dragged through his head. I have no doubt this gave as good an idea of the sensation as possible, for I have often heard wounded men speak of the feeling of having received a terrible blow from some big and heavy thing, when hit with a musket-ball. The ladies entertained us with half-gay, half-pathetic stories of the way home-life had run on during the long campaigns, and of the ingenuity they were obliged to use to supply the place of tasteful articles of dress or adornment when the blockade had become stringent, and when each little community was thrown almost wholly upon its own resources. The head of the house discoursed more gravely of the situation of the country at large, and tried to forecast the future. Now that the surrender was made, he was anxious that the army should be disbanded and sent home as soon as possible, for the disposition of the Confederate soldiers to pay their arrears by pillage made him fear that his own farm would be stripped bare before they got away. There is no doubt that there was a good deal of cause for such anxiety, especially for leading men whom the private soldiers were disposed to hold largely responsible for all their woes. It was no slight test of character and good breeding, under such anxieties, for the family to pay delicate and courteous attention to the comfort of their guests, and to keep as far as possible in the background everything that might betray their own troubled feelings.
On Wednesday (3d May) General Schofield returned to Raleigh, leaving me in responsible command of the district. [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. pp. 394, 407.] By administering the parole to the troops by companies and regiments, keeping a number of officers at work and using abundant clerical assistance in verifying the copies of rolls, the task had been completed in a couple of days, and General Johnston began to move his men southward.
General Cheatham with the Tennessee troops marched across the Great Smoky Mountains, but the others were ordered to rendezvous at West Point in Georgia, which was a central place for all who lived in the Gulf States, from which they could most readily reach their homes. While they remained together they were fed by us, and we furnished rations sufficient to sustain them on the journey. Our ration, too, was quite a different thing from theirs, and the men seemed more affected by this bestowal of unwonted and abundant supplies than by any other incident in the surrender. They said it seemed hardly possible that men who were but yesterday arrayed in deadly hostility to them, could now be supplying their wants so liberally.
Whilst they stayed they seemed never to tire of watching our men on duty and on the various parades. Our guard-mounting was particularly a show affair. From the moment the music struck up on the parade ground, and the detachments for the guard from the different companies began to file out and march into place, there was always a large concourse of the men in gray making a most interested body of spectators. The smart appearance of the men, the rapid inspection of arms, of haversacks and knapsacks, the march in review, the assignment to posts, the final marching off the field, all seemed to give them great enjoyment. They said they had not paid much attention to the formalities which so greatly relieve the drag and labor of military life even in the field, and they were ready with cordial and appreciative praise of the discipline and finish in drill which they saw.
As the Confederate troops left Greensborough, I concentrated my own corps there, [Footnote: Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. pp. 376, 384, 396, 502.] sending one of the infantry divisions to Salisbury, and Kilpatrick's cavalry division to posts still farther toward the southwest. A visit of inspection which I made to Salisbury gave me the opportunity of examining the site of the recent prison camp there. The treatment of our prisoners by the Confederate authorities is a repellent subject, and I would gladly pass it by and say nothing discordant with the tone of high honor and respectful good-will which marked the conduct of the leading officers of the Confederate forces in the field. We may fairly admit that the resources of the Confederacy had been so taxed that food and clothing were hard to procure, and that their armies in the field were ill-fed and in rags. There is, however, a limit beyond which a government calling itself civilized may not go, and as the public opinion of the world, crystallized into what we call international law, will not permit the wholesale decapitation of prisoners, as might be done by a king of Ashantee or Dahomey, so it forbids the herding of captive men in a mere corral, leaving them utterly without shelter of any sort through the sleet and rain of winter, near the North Carolina mountains. It forbids starving them to death or leaving them to rot with scurvy because they are not supplied with wholesome food and medicines. It is the plain duty of a civilized government to parole and send home military prisoners who cannot be fed or sheltered. If controversies as to exchange existed, such conduct would have been the surest way to shame us out of any position that was wrong, and the public opinion of the world would have been powerful in making it the more profitable way, as it was the only one not utterly barbarous. I speak with a solemn sense of the obligation to avoid every railing accusation when I say that it would have been humane and civilized in the comparison, if the prisoners at Andersonville and Salisbury had been shot down by fusillades or quickly poisoned by wholesale (as Napoleon was accused of doing at Jaffa) instead of subjecting them to death by starvation and exposure which swept them away at a rate no plague ever rivalled or approached. I have seen too much of the Southern people, in arms in the field and in their homes, to believe for one moment that they would knowingly approve the treatment our prisoners received. But their own reputation before the world makes it their duty to fix the responsibility for a great crime upon those whose commands or whose criminal negligence caused horrors which are among the most odious things in the world's history.
I had seen at
Wilmington and Goldsborough the condition of train-loads of these released captives. Their situation has been surgically and medically recorded in the surgeon-general's official reports. There is no room for dispute. They were men reduced to idiocy and to the verge of the grave by the direct effects of hunger and exposure and the diseases necessarily connected with such suffering. They were not of the dregs of humanity, who might be said to fall into animality when the restraints of society and of discipline were removed. They were many of them men who had respected positions and refined surroundings at home. These were the victims who looked vacantly with glazed eyes and could mumble no intelligent response when asked their names, where was their home, what was the name of the mother that bore them.
At Salisbury the pen in which part of the prisoners had been kept was still to be seen. There were, as I remember it, two levels or "benches" in it, and in the little bluff or slope from one to the other were still to be seen the holes the poor prisoners had dug to make a little cave in the earth that would drain itself and give some shelter from the winter weather. I talked to women of the place who with tears upon their faces told of the efforts some of them had made to have the worst of the treatment corrected, or to procure some mitigation of the want and hardship. The evidence seemed conclusive that any marks of common sympathy or Christian pity were repelled by the officials in charge of the prisoners and treated as indications of disloyalty to the Confederate government.
The Confederacy was full of places where the almost limitless forest afforded timber without end, and the labor of the prisoners themselves under the same guards that garrisoned the prison would have comfortably housed and warmed them, and then the scant and wretched rations would not so soon have been the cause of emaciation and disease. The risk of escape would not have been great, and I doubt if as many would have got away as in fact managed to do so in the actual circumstances. The almost certainty of sickness and death nerved many a man to incredible exertions to be free, who would have waited more patiently for an exchange if his condition had been less intolerable or less sure of a fatal result. But even if there had been some more escapes, it would be no argument in favor of the horrible system which was adopted. There is no resemblance between the situation of prisoners in a pen, and that of soldiers in bivouac. The latter build shelters of rails or of brushwood, if they have no shelter-tents, and they are very rarely stinted in firewood. Their active life helps to preserve their vigor. To liken these to men without shelter of any kind and without fire enough to cook by, herded inside a ring-fence in winter weather, is an abuse of words. Enough of the shocking subject!
As soon as headquarters baggage could be brought up I established my own camp in the northern edge of Greensborough, in a grove which was part of the grounds attached to the mansion of Mr. Dick, since that time judge of the United States District Court. The first impression of the people was that all government was now in the hands of the army, and we had no little difficulty in correcting it. The policy of the government was to recognize the ordinary courts and local magistrates, and to support their authority in preserving the peace, punishing crimes, and determining ordinary civil rights. The political organization of the State was left subject to such changes or conditions of reconstruction as might be prescribed by national statute. The army, however, was the present palpable fact. The muskets and the cannon were physical engines of power that everybody could see, and everybody knew that the commandants of department and district could use them if need be. There was, therefore, a national tendency, both in civil magistrates and in the people, to refer all sorts of questions to the military authorities. I tried in good faith to make it understood within my own district that we were averse to meddling with local affairs, and wished the ordinary current of civil administration to run on in its accustomed channels till it should be replaced by that which should have the new authority of a reconstructed state under Acts of Congress. I not only promulgated this through the military channels, but I accepted several invitations to address the people at different points and explain our attitude and purpose during the interregnum, and to give them serious advice as to their conduct in the very trying circumstances in which they were. It need hardly be said that the gist of this advice was to recognize the absolute death of the system of slavery, to deal with the freedmen with perfect sincerity as free laborers who were at liberty to make the best bargain they could for their labor, and to confine for the present their political activity to the duty of keeping alive such local magistracies as would prevent the community from falling into anarchy. There was a wistful solicitude noticeable in people of all classes to know what was to become of them. Their leaders had educated them to believe that the success of the National arms would mean the loss of every liberty and subjection to every form of hateful tyranny. Yet they almost universally showed a spirit of complete resignation to what might come, and a wish to conform obediently to everything enjoined by the officers of the occupying army. It was the rarest thing in the world to meet with anything like sullen resistance or hostile or unfriendly utterances. [Footnote: The same disposition in the people was noticed elsewhere in the South.
Halleck said, in a dispatch of April 22d, "From all I can learn, Richmond is to-day more loyal than Washington or Baltimore." (Official Records, vol. xlvi. pt. iii. p. 888.) Sherman sent similar reports from Savannah. (_Id_., vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 371.)] My own stay in North Carolina did not extend into the period of the provisional governments authorized by Acts of Congress, and I was not personally witness to the varying phases of sentiment among the people at that time.
The political character of North Carolina during the war had been different from that of the Gulf States. We found very few indeed who were known as "original Secessionists." The "old Whigs" had given the tone to public sentiment, and the community as a whole had sincerely desired that the Union might be preserved. Yet a society based upon slavery had such community of interest with the States further south that it was soon dragged into the secession vortex. When once war had begun, the growth of hostility against what was regarded as their public enemy was rapid, and in every State a war party in time of war has a great advantage over the opposition. The charge of "giving aid and comfort to the enemy" is too powerful a weapon against the minority, and the outward appearance was soon that of almost complete unanimity in the desperate struggle to make secession a success. Party leaders were borne along upon the current, and vied with each other in extravagant professions of devotion to the Confederacy.
In such circumstances the men who were at heart opposed to the war thought they were doing all that was wise or prudent in making what they called a constitutional opposition to the Davis government, professing to acquiesce in the Confederate organization, but urging the negotiation of peace on the best attainable terms. In the fever of actual conflict the following of such men was small, although it seemed plain to me that a majority of the people of the State sympathized with them at heart.
The outspoken Union men were, almost as a matter of course, treated as traitors, and lived under a reign of terror. In the mountains, where their numbers were considerable, they were the victims of a relentless guerilla warfare, as the same class was upon the other slope of the Great Smokies in East Tennessee.
Out of these classes came the elements of new struggles for political power. The minority naturally felt that their time had now come, and were not altogether patient with the principles of our democratic Constitution, which require that a majority shall not be disfranchised, and which therefore make it practically impossible that a minority shall rule. At the time I am speaking of, these elements were quiet in the first stunning effect of the collapse of the Confederacy; but we could see the tendencies to antagonisms that were to agitate the State during the next decade.
The negroes were, of course, of none of these parties. Very few of the whites were in favor of emancipation on principle, though all accepted it as the inevitable result of the war. Tacitly or avowedly, they all admitted that the fate of the "system" had been the real issue at stake, and that the surrender meant universal freedom. But the colored people were ignorant, and had cherished strange illusions as to the change which was to come to them. It was a common belief among them that the whites were to be stripped of all property, and the land to be given to them. We had heard curious discussions among them around the camp-fires, in which they had apportioned the real and personal property among themselves. The faith that they were each to have "forty acres and a mule" was of a little later growth. The first noticeable thing among them after the surrender was the almost universal disposition to quit work. It would have been very natural that they should wish for a great holiday, and try to realize their freedom by extending it at their own will, and thus prove to themselves that no man was their master. But in addition to this, they seemed to fear that any continuance of the relation of laborers for their former masters would cover some waiver of their right to freedom. Yet, as they had hopes that the real estate would be given to them by the National government, they were disinclined to leave the old home. The outcome was that for a time they occupied their old quarters and asserted a kind of proprietorship in them, whilst they "struck" from labor.
When it is remembered that the kitchen of Southern houses is a detached building of which the servants have exclusive occupation, it will easily be understood that the situation was anything but comfortable for housekeepers. Oftentimes they could neither hire cooks nor get access to the open kitchen fire and the rude utensils which the colored people appropriated as their own. According to my observation, the Southern white women were very systematic and thorough in the supervision of household work, but were necessarily ignorant of the actual manipulation. They knew what flour and other ingredients to weigh out for a batch of bread, but they had never done the baking. Some of them tried their first experiments over the open fire with "Dutch ovens" and other primitive implements, whilst a group of colored women sat around commenting drolly but most exasperatingly upon the results. As a temporary compromise, we were obliged to "clear the kitchen" by military authority, making it known that that was part of the "house," and that if the mistresses of the mansion had to do their own work, it was not necessary that it should be done before such an "audience." Such a social crisis is always short, but it is very severe. No doubt those who have gone through it look back upon it as one does upon the day after a fire, when the wretchedness of dirt and destruction seems hopeless, but, like other mundane things, soon passes away and is spoken of as all "part of a lifetime."
A delicate and amiable lady, whose fortune at her marriage had been of that ample sort which was measured in Southern parlance as "a hundred negroes," herself told me, with a mixture of tearful pathos and recognition of the comic side of it, of her own first efforts to make a batch of soda biscuit for her husband and children after she got possession of her kitchen. She knew all about the rule, but in new practice the rule didn't work. The ingredients got wrongly mixed; the fire was too hot or not hot enough; some biscuits were burnt to a crisp, some were not cooked, and none were eatable, and her heart was ready to break at the prospect of her family's condition till something could be done to remedy the trouble. In more than one household our officers' messes helped tide over the painful interval by giving camp hospitality and friendly assistance to their new neighbors. We frequently heard housekeepers say that if they only had the snug ranges of Northern kitchens within the house they would have made light of the labor; but their outdoor kitchens and primitive methods, which produced appetizing results in the hands of colored cooks who had been brought up to them, were killing upon those who had been delicately reared.
We saw more of the domestic form of this social anarchy than of farm labor, for the outdoor work could wait, whereas the indoor work could not. The same difficulty was everywhere, however, and the intelligence of the community soon hit upon temporary expedients. Such men as Mr. Gilmer and Judge Dick took the lead in advising the colored people to avoid their apprehended risk of compromising their freedom, by hiring out temporarily to work for others than their old masters. By thus changing about, the consciousness of working under a voluntary contract was stronger, and the uneducated brain was less puzzled to tell whether any change of situation had really come. We did our best to dispel the notion that wealth and idleness were to follow emancipation, and to encourage the freedmen to resume industrious labor as the foundation of real freedom and independence. [Footnote: See General Schofield's Order No. 46; Official Records, vol. xlvii. pt. iii. p. 503.] The peaceful character of the colored people was shown even in what they supposed was a great revolution in their favor. There was no rioting or angry disturbance,--no effort to accomplish anything by force. They abandoned for the time their usual employments, and congregated in their quarters or in groups about the streets, waiting for some great thing to happen. There was, of course, plenty of talk and some excitement, but even this gradually diminished; and as they began to realize that without work there would be no food, they made such bargains as suited them, and the affairs of the plantation and of the house began to move on. The owners of property did not hope for profits; they expressed themselves earnestly as anxious only that such crops might be raised as would save the community, white and black alike, from absolute destitution. I know of prominent examples of well-known men offering the farm hands all that they could raise for that season if they would only go to work and plant something which could still ripen into food. The season was advancing, and a little delay was very dangerous. The last chance for a crop in that year would soon be gone. The influence and advice of sagacious and prudent men was never more useful, for society seemed to be resolved into its original elements when all authority but the military went for nothing. As soldiers, we refrained from meddling in civil affairs, but it was understood that we should preserve the peace and allow no force to be used by others. It was a time when everybody felt the need of being patient and conciliatory, and the natural authority of known character and wisdom asserted itself. Everybody soon went to work to make a living, and the burning problems of political and social importance were postponed.
A serious inconvenience was immediately felt in the lack of a circulating medium. The Confederate currency was at once made worthless by the failure of the rebellion, and there was nothing to take its place. The extent to which its depreciation had gone was amusingly shown by a printed notice and list of prices I found posted in a country tavern, already some months old. In it the price of a dinner was put at ten dollars, and other meals and accommodation in proportion. Still this currency had served for business purposes, and it being gone, the community had to go back for the time to primitive barter.
We had opportunity to notice to what great straits the people had been reduced for two years in the matter of manufactured goods of all kinds. Factories of every sort were scarce in the South when the war began, and resources of every kind were so absorbed in the war that there was no chance for new ones to spring up. Carriages, wagons, and farm implements went to decay, or could only be rudely patched up by the rough mechanics of the plantation. The stringent blockade shut out foreign goods, and the people were generally clothed in homespun. In many houses the floors were bare because the carpets had been cut up to make blankets for the soldiers. Ladies made their own shoes of such materials as they could find. They braided their own hats. They showed a wonderful ingenuity in supplying from native products the place of all the articles of use which had formerly been imported from foreign lands or from the North. Taste asserted itself, perhaps all the more in such discouraging circumstances, and feminine refinement and love of adornment worked marvels out of the slenderest materials. A home-made straw hat ornamented with feathers of barnyard fowls and domestic birds was often as jaunty and as pretty as any Parisian bonnet. Simple dyes were made to give to coarse cotton stuffs a lively contrast or harmony of pure colors as effective as the varied and elaborate fabrics from the European looms. In some respects this self-dependence heightened the personal advantages of those who excelled in ingenuity, in taste, and in skill; for the clothes indicated better the character of the wearer than those which are made on one pattern in the shop of a fashionable mantua-maker.
Adversity has such uses and such compensations that I should hardly reckon the poverty of the Southern States during 1864-65 as a burden greatly felt in private life. All such things are comparative, and where all the people undergo the same privations, the odious comparisons and jealousies between richer and poorer disappear in a measure. A simple life full of great enthusiasms is one a philosopher may find much satisfaction in, and has, many a time, been pictured as an ideal calculated to bring out the best qualities of men and women and therefore to make life more truly enjoyable. I greatly doubt if Southern people, in looking back on the war time, find anything to regret in the simple fare and plain dress of the enforced economy of that period. The real griefs and burdens, if I am not mistaken, came from other sources. Among thoughtful people there must have been from the summer of 1863 serious doubts of the possibility of a successful outcome of their struggle, and a growing and unhappy conviction that the fearful waste of life and treasure would be in vain. They must have had grave misgivings also as to the righteousness of a cause which championed an institution condemned by the whole world and in conflict with the general progress of Christendom. To see their best and bravest consumed in the fire of successive battles, and to be waiting only till the slaughter should make it impossible to keep armies in the field, must have been a grief and a suffering which made all physical deprivations seem small indeed.
I think I cannot be mistaken in the judgment I formed at the time, that to the great body of the Southern people it was a relief that the struggle was really over; that they breathed more freely and felt that a new lease of life came with peace. They had been half conscious for a good while that it must end so, and they were in the mood to be at least resigned, if not readily to profess the pious conviction that "it was all for the best." With the reactions and political exasperations that came later, I have here nothing to do. My purpose has been to reproduce, as far as my memory serves, the scenes and the surroundings of that last military duty of the great war. Why it was that the mellowness of spirit which seemed then so prevalent could not have ripened without interruption or check into a quicker and more complete fraternization, belongs to another field of inquiry. The military chronicler stops where he was mustered out.
A summer ride which a party of us took to the battlefield of "Guilford-Old-Court-House" may be worth noting as an encouragement to believe that our descriptions of the scenes of our own engagements need not become unintelligible even in the distant future. Among the combats of our Revolutionary War, Guilford Court House ranks high in importance; for the check there given to the invading British army under Lord Cornwallis by the Continental forces under General Greene was the turning-point in a campaign. Greensborough is the present county-seat of Guilford County, and the "Old Court House," a few miles distant, has disappeared as a village, a few buildings almost unused being the only mark of the old town. Natural topography, however, does not change its material features easily, and in this case a cleared field or two where the forest had formerly extended seemed to be the only change that had occurred in the past century. With General Greene's official report of the battle in our hands, we could trace with complete accuracy every movement of the advancing enemy and his own dispositions to receive the attack. We could see the reasons for the movements on both sides, and how the undulations of surface and the cover of woods and fences were taken advantage of by either commander. Military principles being the same in all times, we found ourselves criticising the movements as if they had occurred on one of our own recent battlefields. It brought the older and the later war into almost startling nearness, and made us realize, as perhaps nothing else could have done, how the future visitor will trace the movements in which we have had a part; and when we have been dust for centuries, will follow the path of our battalions from hill to hill, from stream to stream, from the border of a wood to the open ground where the bloody conflict was hand to hand, and will comment upon the history we have made. It pointed the lesson that what is accurate in our reports and narratives will be recognized by the intelligent critic, and that the face of the country itself will be an unalterable record which will go far to expose the true reasons of things,--to show what statements are consistent with the physical conditions under which a battle was fought, and what, if any, are warped to hide a repulse or to claim a false success. Nature herself will thus prove the strongest ally of truth.
NOTE.--General Cox was the spontaneous choice of the "Union Party" of Ohio for Governor, and was nominated at its Convention held in Columbus, June 21,1865, while he was still engaged in his military duties in North Carolina. At a ratification meeting, held in the evening after the Convention, Senator Sherman said, speaking of the ticket: "It is headed by a gentleman who is not only a soldier, but a statesman and scholar,--a man of the highest and purest character,--a man who, in all the walks of life, will be a model for us all. I thank you for that nomination,--although I believe the people made it before the Convention met." At a reception in honor of General Sherman given in Columbus, July 13, 1865, the general himself was called on to speak. After mentioning
Grant, whose fame was secure, and
McPherson, his beloved companion in arms, he said: "And here is General Cox, who is your candidate for Governor,--a man who did his whole duty from first to last and did it well and will do it to the end."
General Cox was elected by a handsome majority, served one term, returned to the practice of the law, and in 1869 was appointed Secretary of the Interior, by
General Grant. Retiring to private life at the end of twenty months, he occupied many positions of trust and honor: President of the Toledo and Wabash Railroad, Member of Congress from the Toledo District, President of the Cincinnati University, Dean of the Cincinnati Law School, etc. His reading was extensive; his scholarship profound. In microscopic research he attained world-wide distinction and he received the Gold Medal of Honor at the Antwerp Exposition of 1891, for excellence in micro-photography.
He was thrice honored with the degree of LL.D., the last time by Yale College, in June, 1877. As an indication of the esteem in which he was held by those among whom he went as an armed invader, it should be mentioned that one of the degrees was conferred by the University of North Carolina, in June, 1870.
He was a member of the American Philosophical Society, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Royal Microscopical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Military Historical Society of Massachusetts, the Cobden Club, and a number of others.
His contributions to the magazines, historical, literary, and scientific, were numerous, and his series of critical and biographical reviews in "The Nation," from the beginning of its publication to the summer of 1900, constitutes a most valuable and interesting commentary on public men and affairs and military operations at home and abroad.
His public addresses, many of which were published in pamphlet form, were marked for their literary finish, their wealth of learning and suggestion, their deep philosophical insight, and their lofty patriotism.
He had little leisure for writing books, but has contributed to the literature of the war several articles in "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War"; the volumes on "Atlanta," and "The March to the Sea, Franklin and Nashville," in the Scribner War Series; "The Second Battle of Bull Run," in which he took issue with the findings of the Second Court of Inquiry in the
Fitz-John Porter case; "Franklin," a detailed account of that battle, together with the events leading up to it and the controversies following it; the last half of Force's "Sherman" in the Great Commander Series; and the above "Military Reminiscences." However much men may differ with his conclusions, none who knew him personally ever questioned his candor and sincerity, and his disposition to be absolutely fair in his treatment of others.
W. C. C.