Part 12 out of 16

anything I can do for you in the way of having supplies on
ship-board, at any point on the sea-coast, ready for you, let me
know it.

Yours truly,

I had written on the 18th of January to General Sherman, giving
him the news of the battle of Nashville. He was much pleased at
the result, although, like myself, he had been very much
disappointed at Thomas for permitting Hood to cross the
Tennessee River and nearly the whole State of Tennessee, and
come to Nashville to be attacked there. He, however, as I had
done, sent Thomas a warm congratulatory letter.

On the 10th of January, 1865, the resolutions of thanks to
Sherman and his army passed by Congress were approved.

Sherman, after the capture, at once had the debris cleared up,
commencing the work by removing the piling and torpedoes from
the river, and taking up all obstructions. He had then
intrenched the city, so that it could be held by a small
garrison. By the middle of January all his work was done,
except the accumulation of supplies to commence his movement

He proposed to move in two columns, one from Savannah, going
along by the river of the same name, and the other by roads
farther east, threatening Charleston. He commenced the advance
by moving his right wing to Beaufort, South Carolina, then to
Pocotaligo by water. This column, in moving north, threatened
Charleston, and, indeed, it was not determined at first that
they would have a force visit Charleston. South Carolina had
done so much to prepare the public mind of the South for
secession, and had been so active in precipitating the decision
of the question before the South was fully prepared to meet it,
that there was, at that time, a feeling throughout the North and
also largely entertained by people of the South, that the State
of South Carolina, and Charleston, the hot-bed of secession in
particular, ought to have a heavy hand laid upon them. In fact,
nothing but the decisive results that followed, deterred the
radical portion of the people from condemning the movement,
because Charleston had been left out. To pass into the interior
would, however, be to insure the evacuation of the city, and its
possession by the navy and Foster's troops. It is so situated
between two formidable rivers that a small garrison could have
held it against all odds as long as their supplies would hold
out. Sherman therefore passed it by.

By the first of February all preparations were completed for the
final march, Columbia, South Carolina, being the first objective;
Fayetteville, North Carolina, the second; and Goldsboro, or
neighborhood, the final one, unless something further should be
determined upon. The right wing went from Pocotaligo, and the
left from about Hardeeville on the Savannah River, both columns
taking a pretty direct route for Columbia. The cavalry,
however, were to threaten Charleston on the right, and Augusta
on the left.

On the 15th of January Fort Fisher had fallen, news of which
Sherman had received before starting out on his march. We
already had New Bern and had soon Wilmington, whose fall
followed that of Fort Fisher; as did other points on the sea
coast, where the National troops were now in readiness to
co-operate with Sherman's advance when he had passed

On the 18th of January I ordered Canby, in command at New
Orleans, to move against Mobile, Montgomery and Selma, Alabama,
for the purpose of destroying roads, machine shops, etc. On the
8th of February I ordered Sheridan, who was in the Valley of
Virginia, to push forward as soon as the weather would permit
and strike the canal west of Richmond at or about Lynchburg; and
on the 20th I made the order to go to Lynchburg as soon as the
roads would permit, saying: "As soon as it is possible to
travel, I think you will have no difficulty about reaching
Lynchburg with a cavalry force alone. From there you could
destroy the railroad and canal in every direction, so as to be
of no further use to the rebellion. * * * This additional raid,
with one starting from East Tennessee under Stoneman, numbering
about four or five thousand cavalry; one from Eastport,
Mississippi, ten thousand cavalry; Canby, from Mobile Bay, with
about eighteen thousand mixed troops--these three latter pushing
for Tuscaloosa, Selma and Montgomery; and Sherman with a large
army eating out the vitals of South Carolina--is all that will
be wanted to leave nothing for the rebellion to stand upon. I
would advise you to overcome great obstacles to accomplish
this. Charleston was evacuated on Tuesday last."

On the 27th of February, more than a month after Canby had
received his orders, I again wrote to him, saying that I was
extremely anxious to hear of his being in Alabama. I notified
him, also, that I had sent Grierson to take command of his
cavalry, he being a very efficient officer. I further suggested
that Forrest was probably in Mississippi, and if he was there, he
would find him an officer of great courage and capacity whom it
would be difficult to get by. I still further informed him that
Thomas had been ordered to start a cavalry force into Mississippi
on the 20th of February, or as soon as possible thereafter. This
force did not get off however.

All these movements were designed to be in support of Sherman's
march, the object being to keep the Confederate troops in the
West from leaving there. But neither Canby nor Thomas could be
got off in time. I had some time before depleted Thomas's army
to reinforce Canby, for the reason that Thomas had failed to
start an expedition which he had been ordered to send out, and
to have the troops where they might do something. Canby seemed
to be equally deliberate in all of his movements. I ordered him
to go in person; but he prepared to send a detachment under
another officer. General Granger had got down to New Orleans,
in some way or other, and I wrote Canby that he must not put him
in command of troops. In spite of this he asked the War
Department to assign Granger to the command of a corps.

Almost in despair of having adequate service rendered to the
cause in that quarter, I said to Canby: "I am in receipt of a
dispatch * * * informing me that you have made requisitions for
a construction corps and material to build seventy miles of
railroad. I have directed that none be sent. Thomas's army has
been depleted to send a force to you that they might be where
they could act in winter, and at least detain the force the
enemy had in the West. If there had been any idea of repairing
railroads, it could have been done much better from the North,
where we already had the troops. I expected your movements to
be co-operative with Sherman's last. This has now entirely
failed. I wrote to you long ago, urging you to push promptly
and to live upon the country, and destroy railroads, machine
shops, etc., not to build them. Take Mobile and hold it, and
push your forces to the interior--to Montgomery and to Selma.
Destroy railroads, rolling stock, and everything useful for
carrying on war, and, when you have done this, take such
positions as can be supplied by water. By this means alone you
can occupy positions from which the enemy's roads in the
interior can be kept broken."

Most of these expeditions got off finally, but too late to
render any service in the direction for which they were designed.

The enemy, ready to intercept his advance, consisted of Hardee's
troops and Wheeler's cavalry, perhaps less than fifteen thousand
men in all; but frantic efforts were being made in Richmond, as
I was sure would be the case, to retard Sherman's movements.
Everything possible was being done to raise troops in the
South. Lee dispatched against Sherman the troops which had been
sent to relieve Fort Fisher, which, including those of the other
defences of the harbor and its neighborhood, amounted, after
deducting the two thousand killed, wounded and captured, to
fourteen thousand men. After Thomas's victory at Nashville what
remained, of Hood's army were gathered together and forwarded as
rapidly as possible to the east to co-operate with these forces;
and, finally, General Joseph E. Johnston, one of the ablest
commanders of the South though not in favor with the
administration (or at least with Mr. Davis), was put in command
of all the troops in North and South Carolina.

Schofield arrived at Annapolis in the latter part of January,
but before sending his troops to North Carolina I went with him
down the coast to see the situation of affairs, as I could give
fuller directions after being on the ground than I could very
well have given without. We soon returned, and the troops were
sent by sea to Cape Fear River. Both New Bern and Wilmington
are connected with Raleigh by railroads which unite at
Goldsboro. Schofield was to land troops at Smithville, near the
mouth of the Cape Fear River on the west side, and move up to
secure the Wilmington and Charlotteville Railroad. This column
took their pontoon bridges with them, to enable them to cross
over to the island south of the city of Wilmington. A large
body was sent by the north side to co-operate with them. They
succeeded in taking the city on the 22d of February. I took the
precaution to provide for Sherman's army, in case he should be
forced to turn in toward the sea coast before reaching North
Carolina, by forwarding supplies to every place where he was
liable to have to make such a deflection from his projected
march. I also sent railroad rolling stock, of which we had a
great abundance, now that we were not operating the roads in
Virginia. The gauge of the North Carolina railroads being the
same as the Virginia railroads had been altered too; these cars
and locomotives were ready for use there without any change.

On the 31st of January I countermanded the orders given to
Thomas to move south to Alabama and Georgia. (I had previously
reduced his force by sending a portion of it to Terry.) I
directed in lieu of this movement, that he should send Stoneman
through East Tennessee, and push him well down toward Columbia,
South Carolina, in support of Sherman. Thomas did not get
Stoneman off in time, but, on the contrary, when I had supposed
he was on his march in support of Sherman I heard of his being
in Louisville, Kentucky. I immediately changed the order, and
directed Thomas to send him toward Lynchburg. Finally, however,
on the 12th of March, he did push down through the north-western
end of South Carolina, creating some consternation. I also
ordered Thomas to send the 4th corps (Stanley's) to Bull Gap and
to destroy no more roads east of that. I also directed him to
concentrate supplies at Knoxville, with a view to a probable
movement of his army through that way toward Lynchburg.

Goldsboro is four hundred and twenty-five miles from Savannah.
Sherman's march was without much incident until he entered
Columbia, on the 17th of February. He was detained in his
progress by having to repair and corduroy the roads, and rebuild
the bridges. There was constant skirmishing and fighting between
the cavalry of the two armies, but this did not retard the
advance of the infantry. Four days, also, were lost in making
complete the destruction of the most important railroads south
of Columbia; there was also some delay caused by the high water,
and the destruction of the bridges on the line of the road. A
formidable river had to be crossed near Columbia, and that in
the face of a small garrison under General Wade Hampton. There
was but little delay, however, further than that caused by high
water in the stream. Hampton left as Sherman approached, and
the city was found to be on fire.

There has since been a great deal of acrimony displayed in
discussions of the question as to who set Columbia on fire.
Sherman denies it on the part of his troops, and Hampton denies
it on the part of the Confederates. One thing is certain: as
soon as our troops took possession, they at once proceeded to
extinguish the flames to the best of their ability with the
limited means at hand. In any case, the example set by the
Confederates in burning the village of Chambersburg, Pa., a town
which was not garrisoned, would seem to make a defence of the act
of firing the seat of government of the State most responsible
for the conflict then raging, not imperative.

The Confederate troops having vacated the city, the mayor took
possession, and sallied forth to meet the commander of the
National forces for the purpose of surrendering the town, making
terms for the protection of property, etc. Sherman paid no
attention at all to the overture, but pushed forward and took
the town without making any conditions whatever with its
citizens. He then, however, co-operated with the mayor in
extinguishing the flames and providing for the people who were
rendered destitute by this destruction of their homes. When he
left there he even gave the mayor five hundred head of cattle to
be distributed among the citizens, to tide them over until some
arrangement could be made for their future supplies. He
remained in Columbia until the roads, public buildings,
workshops and everything that could be useful to the enemy were
destroyed. While at Columbia, Sherman learned for the first
time that what remained of Hood's army was confronting him,
under the command of General Beauregard.

Charleston was evacuated on the 18th of February, and Foster
garrisoned the place. Wilmington was captured on the 22d.
Columbia and Cheraw farther north, were regarded as so secure
from invasion that the wealthy people of Charleston and Augusta
had sent much of their valuable property to these two points to
be stored. Among the goods sent there were valuable carpets,
tons of old Madeira, silverware, and furniture. I am afraid
much of these goods fell into the hands of our troops. There
was found at Columbia a large amount of powder, some artillery,
small-arms and fixed ammunition. These, of course were among
the articles destroyed. While here, Sherman also learned of
Johnston's restoration to command. The latter was given, as
already stated, all troops in North and South Carolina. After
the completion of the destruction of public property about
Columbia, Sherman proceeded on his march and reached Cheraw
without any special opposition and without incident to relate.
The railroads, of course, were thoroughly destroyed on the
way. Sherman remained a day or two at Cheraw; and, finally, on
the 6th of March crossed his troops over the Pedee and advanced
straight for Fayetteville. Hardee and Hampton were there, and
barely escaped. Sherman reached Fayetteville on the 11th of
March. He had dispatched scouts from Cheraw with letters to
General Terry, at Wilmington, asking him to send a steamer with
some supplies of bread, clothing and other articles which he
enumerated. The scouts got through successfully, and a boat was
sent with the mail and such articles for which Sherman had asked
as were in store at Wilmington; unfortunately, however, those
stores did not contain clothing.

Four days later, on the 15th, Sherman left Fayetteville for
Goldsboro. The march, now, had to be made with great caution,
for he was approaching Lee's army and nearing the country that
still remained open to the enemy. Besides, he was confronting
all that he had had to confront in his previous march up to that
point, reinforced by the garrisons along the road and by what
remained of Hood's army. Frantic appeals were made to the
people to come in voluntarily and swell the ranks of our foe. I
presume, however, that Johnston did not have in all over 35,000
or 40,000 men. The people had grown tired of the war, and
desertions from the Confederate army were much more numerous
than the voluntary accessions.

There was some fighting at Averysboro on the 16th between
Johnston's troops and Sherman's, with some loss; and at
Bentonville on the 19th and 21st of March, but Johnston withdrew
from the contest before the morning of the 22d. Sherman's loss
in these last engagements in killed, wounded, and missing, was
about sixteen hundred. Sherman's troops at last reached
Goldsboro on the 23d of the month and went into bivouac; and
there his men were destined to have a long rest. Schofield was
there to meet him with the troops which had been sent to

Sherman was no longer in danger. He had Johnston confronting
him; but with an army much inferior to his own, both in numbers
and morale. He had Lee to the north of him with a force largely
superior; but I was holding Lee with a still greater force, and
had he made his escape and gotten down to reinforce Johnston,
Sherman, with the reinforcements he now had from Schofield and
Terry, would have been able to hold the Confederates at bay for
an indefinite period. He was near the sea-shore with his back
to it, and our navy occupied the harbors. He had a railroad to
both Wilmington and New Bern, and his flanks were thoroughly
protected by streams, which intersect that part of the country
and deepen as they approach the sea. Then, too, Sherman knew
that if Lee should escape me I would be on his heels, and he and
Johnson together would be crushed in one blow if they attempted
to make a stand. With the loss of their capital, it is doubtful
whether Lee's army would have amounted to much as an army when it
reached North Carolina. Johnston's army was demoralized by
constant defeat and would hardly have made an offensive
movement, even if they could have been induced to remain on
duty. The men of both Lee's and Johnston's armies were, like
their brethren of the North, as brave as men can be; but no man
is so brave that he may not meet such defeats and disasters as
to discourage him and dampen his ardor for any cause, no matter
how just he deems it.



On the last of January, 1865, peace commissioners from the
so-called Confederate States presented themselves on our lines
around Petersburg, and were immediately conducted to my
headquarters at City Point. They proved to be Alexander H.
Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy, Judge Campbell,
Assistant-Secretary of War, and R. M. T. Hunt, formerly United
States Senator and then a member of the Confederate Senate.

It was about dark when they reached my headquarters, and I at
once conducted them to the steam Mary Martin, a Hudson River
boat which was very comfortably fitted up for the use of
passengers. I at once communicated by telegraph with Washington
and informed the Secretary of War and the President of the
arrival of these commissioners and that their object was to
negotiate terms of peace between he United States and, as they
termed it, the Confederate Government. I was instructed to
retain them at City Point, until the President, or some one whom
he would designate, should come to meet them. They remained
several days as guests on board the boat. I saw them quite
frequently, though I have no recollection of having had any
conversation whatever with them on the subject of their
mission. It was something I had nothing to do with, and I
therefore did not wish to express any views on the subject. For
my own part I never had admitted, and never was ready to admit,
that they were the representatives of a GOVERNMENT. There had
been too great a waste of blood and treasure to concede anything
of the kind. As long as they remained there, however, our
relations were pleasant and I found them all very agreeable
gentlemen. I directed the captain to furnish them with the best
the boat afforded, and to administer to their comfort in every
way possible. No guard was placed over them and no restriction
was put upon their movements; nor was there any pledge asked
that they would not abuse the privileges extended to them. They
were permitted to leave the boat when they felt like it, and did
so, coming up on the bank and visiting me at my headquarters.

I had never met either of these gentlemen before the war, but
knew them well by reputation and through their public services,
and I had been a particular admirer of Mr. Stephens. I had
always supposed that he was a very small man, but when I saw him
in the dusk of the evening I was very much surprised to find so
large a man as he seemed to be. When he got down on to the boat
I found that he was wearing a coarse gray woollen overcoat, a
manufacture that had been introduced into the South during the
rebellion. The cloth was thicker than anything of the kind I
had ever seen, even in Canada. The overcoat extended nearly to
his feet, and was so large that it gave him the appearance of
being an average-sized man. He took this off when he reached
the cabin of the boat, and I was struck with the apparent change
in size, in the coat and out of it.

After a few days, about the 2d of February, I received a
dispatch from Washington, directing me to send the commissioners
to Hampton Roads to meet the President and a member of the
cabinet. Mr. Lincoln met them there and had an interview of
short duration. It was not a great while after they met that
the President visited me at City Point. He spoke of his having
met the commissioners, and said he had told them that there
would be no use in entering into any negotiations unless they
would recognize, first: that the Union as a whole must be
forever preserved, and second: that slavery must be abolished.
If they were willing to concede these two points, then he was
ready to enter into negotiations and was almost willing to hand
them a blank sheet of paper with his signature attached for them
to fill in the terms upon which they were willing to live with us
in the Union and be one people. He always showed a generous and
kindly spirit toward the Southern people, and I never heard him
abuse an enemy. Some of the cruel things said about President
Lincoln, particularly in the North, used to pierce him to the
heart; but never in my presence did he evince a revengeful
disposition and I saw a great deal of him at City Point, for he
seemed glad to get away from the cares and anxieties of the

Right here I might relate an anecdote of Mr. Lincoln. It was on
the occasion of his visit to me just after he had talked with the
peace commissioners at Hampton Roads. After a little
conversation, he asked me if I had seen that overcoat of
Stephens's. I replied that I had. "Well," said he, "did you
see him take it off?" I said yes. "Well," said he, "didn't you
think it was the biggest shuck and the littlest ear that ever you
did see?" Long afterwards I told this story to the Confederate
General J. B. Gordon, at the time a member of the Senate. He
repeated it to Stephens, and, as I heard afterwards, Stephens
laughed immoderately at the simile of Mr. Lincoln.

The rest of the winter, after the departure of the peace
commissioners, passed off quietly and uneventfully, except for
two or three little incidents. On one occasion during this
period, while I was visiting Washington City for the purpose of
conferring with the administration, the enemy's cavalry under
General Wade Hampton, passing our extreme left and then going to
the south, got in east of us. Before their presence was known,
they had driven off a large number of beef cattle that were
grazing in that section. It was a fair capture, and they were
sufficiently needed by the Confederates. It was only
retaliating for what we had done, sometimes for many weeks at a
time, when out of supplies taking what the Confederate army
otherwise would have gotten. As appears in this book, on one
single occasion we captured five thousand head of cattle which
were crossing the Mississippi River near Port Hudson on their
way from Texas to supply the Confederate army in the East.

One of the most anxious periods of my experience during the
rebellion was the last few weeks before Petersburg. I felt that
the situation of the Confederate army was such that they would
try to make an escape at the earliest practicable moment, and I
was afraid, every morning, that I would awake from my sleep to
hear that Lee had gone, and that nothing was left but a picket
line. He had his railroad by the way of Danville south, and I
was afraid that he was running off his men and all stores and
ordnance except such as it would be necessary to carry with him
for his immediate defence. I knew he could move much more
lightly and more rapidly than I, and that, if he got the start,
he would leave me behind so that we would have the same army to
fight again farther south and the war might be prolonged another

I was led to this fear by the fact that I could not see how it
was possible for the Confederates to hold out much longer where
they were. There is no doubt that Richmond would have been
evacuated much sooner than it was, if it had not been that it
was the capital of the so-called Confederacy, and the fact of
evacuating the capital would, of course, have had a very
demoralizing effect upon the Confederate army. When it was
evacuated (as we shall see further on), the Confederacy at once
began to crumble and fade away. Then, too, desertions were
taking place, not only among those who were with General Lee in
the neighborhood of their capital, but throughout the whole
Confederacy. I remember that in a conversation with me on one
occasion long prior to this, General Butler remarked that the
Confederates would find great difficulty in getting more men for
their army; possibly adding, though I am not certain as to this,
"unless they should arm the slave."

The South, as we all knew, were conscripting every able-bodied
man between the ages of eighteen and forty-five; and now they
had passed a law for the further conscription of boys from
fourteen to eighteen, calling them the junior reserves, and men
from forty-five to sixty to be called the senior reserves. The
latter were to hold the necessary points not in immediate
danger, and especially those in the rear. General Butler, in
alluding to this conscription, remarked that they were thus
"robbing both the cradle and the grave," an expression which I
afterwards used in writing a letter to Mr. Washburn.

It was my belief that while the enemy could get no more recruits
they were losing at least a regiment a day, taking it throughout
the entire army, by desertions alone. Then by casualties of
war, sickness, and other natural causes, their losses were much
heavier. It was a mere question of arithmetic to calculate how
long they could hold out while that rate of depletion was going
on. Of course long before their army would be thus reduced to
nothing the army which we had in the field would have been able
to capture theirs. Then too I knew from the great number of
desertions, that the men who had fought so bravely, so gallantly
and so long for the cause which they believed in--and as
earnestly, I take it, as our men believed in the cause for which
they were fighting--had lost hope and become despondent. Many of
them were making application to be sent North where they might
get employment until the war was over, when they could return to
their Southern homes.

For these and other reasons I was naturally very impatient for
the time to come when I could commence the spring campaign,
which I thoroughly believed would close the war.

There were two considerations I had to observe, however, and
which detained me. One was the fact that the winter had been
one of heavy rains, and the roads were impassable for artillery
and teams. It was necessary to wait until they had dried
sufficiently to enable us to move the wagon trains and artillery
necessary to the efficiency of an army operating in the enemy's
country. The other consideration was that General Sheridan with
the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac was operating on the north
side of the James River, having come down from the Shenandoah. It
was necessary that I should have his cavalry with me, and I was
therefore obliged to wait until he could join me south of the
James River.

Let us now take account of what he was doing.

On the 5th of March I had heard from Sheridan. He had met Early
between Staunton and Charlottesville and defeated him, capturing
nearly his entire command. Early and some of his officers
escaped by finding refuge in the neighboring houses or in the

On the 12th I heard from him again. He had turned east, to come
to White House. He could not go to Lynchburg as ordered, because
the rains had been so very heavy and the streams were so very
much swollen. He had a pontoon train with him, but it would not
reach half way across some of the streams, at their then stage of
water, which he would have to get over in going south as first

I had supplies sent around to White House for him, and kept the
depot there open until he arrived. We had intended to abandon
it because the James River had now become our base of supplies.

Sheridan had about ten thousand cavalry with him, divided into
two divisions commanded respectively by Custer and Devin.
General Merritt was acting as chief of cavalry. Sheridan moved
very light, carrying only four days' provisions with him, with a
larger supply of coffee, salt and other small rations, and a very
little else besides ammunition. They stopped at Charlottesville
and commenced tearing up the railroad back toward Lynchburg. He
also sent a division along the James River Canal to destroy
locks, culverts etc. All mills and factories along the lines of
march of his troops were destroyed also.

Sheridan had in this way consumed so much time that his making a
march to White House was now somewhat hazardous. He determined
therefore to fight his way along the railroad and canal till he
was as near to Richmond as it was possible to get, or until
attacked. He did this, destroying the canal as far as
Goochland, and the railroad to a point as near Richmond as he
could get. On the 10th he was at Columbia. Negroes had joined
his column to the number of two thousand or more, and they
assisted considerably in the work of destroying the railroads
and the canal. His cavalry was in as fine a condition as when
he started, because he had been able to find plenty of forage.
He had captured most of Early's horses and picked up a good many
others on the road. When he reached Ashland he was assailed by
the enemy in force. He resisted their assault with part of his
command, moved quickly across the South and North Anna, going
north, and reached White House safely on the 19th.

The time for Sherman to move had to be fixed with reference to
the time he could get away from Goldsboro where he then was.
Supplies had to be got up to him which would last him through a
long march, as there would probably not be much to be obtained
in the country through which he would pass. I had to arrange,
therefore, that he should start from where he was, in the
neighborhood of Goldsboro on the 18th of April, the earliest day
at which he supposed he could be ready.

Sherman was anxious that I should wait where I was until he
could come up, and make a sure thing of it; but I had determined
to move as soon as the roads and weather would admit of my doing
so. I had been tied down somewhat in the matter of fixing any
time at my pleasure for starting, until Sheridan, who was on his
way from the Shenandoah Valley to join me, should arrive, as both
his presence and that of his cavalry were necessary to the
execution of the plans which I had in mind. However, having
arrived at White House on the 19th of March, I was enabled to
make my plans.

Prompted by my anxiety lest Lee should get away some night
before I was aware of it, and having the lead of me, push into
North Carolina to join with Johnston in attempting to crush out
Sherman, I had, as early as the 1st of the month of March, given
instructions to the troops around Petersburg to keep a sharp
lookout to see that such a movement should not escape their
notice, and to be ready strike at once if it was undertaken.

It is now known that early in the month of March Mr. Davis and
General Lee had a consultation about the situation of affairs in
and about and Petersburg, and they both agreed places were no
longer tenable for them, and that they must get away as soon as
possible. They, too, were waiting for dry roads, or a condition
of the roads which would make it possible to move.

General Lee, in aid of his plan of escape, and to secure a wider
opening to enable them to reach the Danville Road with greater
security than he would have in the way the two armies were
situated, determined upon an assault upon the right of our lines
around Petersburg. The night of the 24th of March was fixed upon
for this assault, and General Gordon was assigned to the
execution of the plan. The point between Fort Stedman and
Battery No. 10, where our lines were closest together, was
selected as the point of his attack. The attack was to be made
at night, and the troops were to get possession of the higher
ground in the rear where they supposed we had intrenchments,
then sweep to the right and left, create a panic in the lines of
our army, and force me to contract my lines. Lee hoped this
would detain me a few days longer and give him an opportunity of
escape. The plan was well conceived and the execution of it very
well done indeed, up to the point of carrying a portion of our

Gordon assembled his troops under the cover of night, at the
point at which they were to make their charge, and got
possession of our picket-line, entirely without the knowledge of
the troops inside of our main line of intrenchments; this reduced
the distance he would have to charge over to not much more than
fifty yards. For some time before the deserters had been coming
in with great frequency, often bringing their arms with them, and
this the Confederate general knew. Taking advantage of this
knowledge he sent his pickets, with their arms, creeping through
to ours as if to desert. When they got to our lines they at once
took possession and sent our pickets to the rear as prisoners. In
the main line our men were sleeping serenely, as if in great
security. This plan was to have been executed and much damage
done before daylight; but the troops that were to reinforce
Gordon had to be brought from the north side of the James River
and, by some accident on the railroad on their way over, they
were detained for a considerable time; so that it got to be
nearly daylight before they were ready to make the charge.

The charge, however, was successful and almost without loss, the
enemy passing through our lines between Fort Stedman and Battery
No. 10. Then turning to the right and left they captured the
fort and the battery, with all the arms and troops in them.
Continuing the charge, they also carried batteries Eleven and
Twelve to our left, which they turned toward City Point.

Meade happened to be at City Point that night, and this break in
his line cut him off from all communication with his
headquarters. Parke, however, commanding the 9th corps when
this breach took place, telegraphed the facts to Meade's
headquarters, and learning that the general was away, assumed
command himself and with commendable promptitude made all
preparations to drive the enemy back. General Tidball gathered
a large number of pieces of artillery and planted them in rear
of the captured works so as to sweep the narrow space of ground
between the lines very thoroughly. Hartranft was soon out with
his division, as also was Willcox. Hartranft to the right of
the breach headed the rebels off in that direction and rapidly
drove them back into Fort Stedman. On the other side they were
driven back into the intrenchments which they had captured, and
batteries eleven and twelve were retaken by Willcox early in the

Parke then threw a line around outside of the captured fort and
batteries, and communication was once more established. The
artillery fire was kept up so continuously that it was
impossible for the Confederates to retreat, and equally
impossible for reinforcements to join them. They all,
therefore, fell captives into our hands. This effort of Lee's
cost him about four thousand men, and resulted in their killing,
wounding and capturing about two thousand of ours.

After the recapture of the batteries taken by the Confederates,
our troops made a charge and carried the enemy's intrenched
picket line, which they strengthened and held. This, in turn,
gave us but a short distance to charge over when our attack came
to be made a few days later.

The day that Gordon was making dispositions for this attack
(24th of March) I issued my orders for the movement to commence
on the 29th. Ord, with three divisions of infantry and
Mackenzie's cavalry, was to move in advance on the night of the
27th, from the north side of the James River and take his place
on our extreme left, thirty miles away. He left Weitzel with
the rest of the Army of the James to hold Bermuda Hundred and
the north of the James River. The engineer brigade was to be
left at City Point, and Parke's corps in the lines about
Petersburg. (*42)

Ord was at his place promptly. Humphreys and Warren were then
on our extreme left with the 2d and 5th corps. They were
directed on the arrival of Ord, and on his getting into position
in their places, to cross Hatcher's Run and extend out west
toward Five Forks, the object being to get into a position from
which we could strike the South Side Railroad and ultimately the
Danville Railroad. There was considerable fighting in taking up
these new positions for the 2d and 5th corps, in which the Army
of the James had also to participate somewhat, and the losses
were quite severe.

This was what was known as the Battle of White Oak Road.



Sheridan reached City Point on the 26th day of March. His
horses, of course, were jaded and many of them had lost their
shoes. A few days of rest were necessary to recuperate the
animals and also to have them shod and put in condition for
moving. Immediately on General Sheridan's arrival at City Point
I prepared his instructions for the move which I had decided
upon. The movement was to commence on the 29th of the month.

After reading the instructions I had given him, Sheridan walked
out of my tent, and I followed to have some conversation with
him by himself--not in the presence of anybody else, even of a
member of my staff. In preparing his instructions I
contemplated just what took place; that is to say, capturing
Five Forks, driving the enemy from Petersburg and Richmond and
terminating the contest before separating from the enemy. But
the Nation had already become restless and discouraged at the
prolongation of the war, and many believed that it would never
terminate except by compromise. Knowing that unless my plan
proved an entire success it would be interpreted as a disastrous
defeat, I provided in these instructions that in a certain event
he was to cut loose from the Army of the Potomac and his base of
supplies, and living upon the country proceed south by the way of
the Danville Railroad, or near it, across the Roanoke, get in the
rear of Johnston, who was guarding that road, and cooperate with
Sherman in destroying Johnston; then with these combined forces
to help carry out the instructions which Sherman already had
received, to act in cooperation with the armies around
Petersburg and Richmond.

I saw that after Sheridan had read his instructions he seemed
somewhat disappointed at the idea, possibly, of having to cut
loose again from the Army of the Potomac, and place himself
between the two main armies of the enemy. I said to him:
"General, this portion of your instructions I have put in merely
as a blind;" and gave him the reason for doing so, heretofore
described. I told him that, as a matter of fact, I intended to
close the war right here, with this movement, and that he should
go no farther. His face at once brightened up, and slapping his
hand on his leg he said: "I am glad to hear it, and we can do

Sheridan was not however to make his movement against Five Forks
until he got further instructions from me.

One day, after the movement I am about to describe had
commenced, and when his cavalry was on our extreme left and far
to the rear, south, Sheridan rode up to where my headquarters
were then established, at Dabney's Mills. He met some of my
staff officers outside, and was highly jubilant over the
prospects of success, giving reasons why he believed this would
prove the final and successful effort. Although my
chief-of-staff had urged very strongly that we return to our
position about City Point and in the lines around Petersburg, he
asked Sheridan to come in to see me and say to me what he had
been saying to them. Sheridan felt a little modest about giving
his advice where it had not been asked; so one of my staff came
in and told me that Sheridan had what they considered important
news, and suggested that I send for him. I did so, and was glad
to see the spirit of confidence with which he was imbued. Knowing
as I did from experience, of what great value that feeling of
confidence by a commander was, I determined to make a movement
at once, although on account of the rains which had fallen after
I had started out the roads were still very heavy. Orders were
given accordingly.

Finally the 29th of March came, and fortunately there having
been a few days free from rain, the surface of the ground was
dry, giving indications that the time had come when we could
move. On that date I moved out with all the army available
after leaving sufficient force to hold the line about
Petersburg. It soon set in raining again however, and in a very
short time the roads became practically impassable for teams, and
almost so for cavalry. Sometimes a horse or mule would be
standing apparently on firm ground, when all at once one foot
would sink, and as he commenced scrambling to catch himself all
his feet would sink and he would have to be drawn by hand out of
the quicksands so common in that part of Virginia and other
southern States. It became necessary therefore to build
corduroy roads every foot of the way as we advanced, to move our
artillery upon. The army had become so accustomed to this kind
of work, and were so well prepared for it, that it was done very
rapidly. The next day, March 30th, we had made sufficient
progress to the south-west to warrant me in starting Sheridan
with his cavalry over by Dinwiddie with instructions to then
come up by the road leading north-west to Five Forks, thus
menacing the right of Lee's line.

This movement was made for the purpose of extending our lines to
the west as far as practicable towards the enemy's extreme right,
or Five Forks. The column moving detached from the army still in
the trenches was, excluding the cavalry, very small. The forces
in the trenches were themselves extending to the left flank.
Warren was on the extreme left when the extension began, but
Humphreys was marched around later and thrown into line between
him and Five Forks.

My hope was that Sheridan would be able to carry Five Forks, get
on the enemy's right flank and rear, and force them to weaken
their centre to protect their right so that an assault in the
centre might be successfully made. General Wright's corps had
been designated to make this assault, which I intended to order
as soon as information reached me of Sheridan's success. He was
to move under cover as close to the enemy as he could get.

It is natural to suppose that Lee would understand my design to
be to get up to the South Side and ultimately to the Danville
Railroad, as soon as he had heard of the movement commenced on
the 29th. These roads were so important to his very existence
while he remained in Richmond and Petersburg, and of such vital
importance to him even in case of retreat, that naturally he
would make most strenuous efforts to defend them. He did on the
30th send Pickett with five brigades to reinforce Five Forks. He
also sent around to the right of his army some two or three other
divisions, besides directing that other troops be held in
readiness on the north side of the James River to come over on
call. He came over himself to superintend in person the defence
of his right flank.

Sheridan moved back to Dinwiddie Court-House on the night of the
30th, and then took a road leading north-west to Five Forks. He
had only his cavalry with him. Soon encountering the rebel
cavalry he met with a very stout resistance. He gradually drove
them back however until in the neighborhood of Five Forks. Here
he had to encounter other troops besides those he had been
contending with, and was forced to give way.

In this condition of affairs he notified me of what had taken
place and stated that he was falling back toward Dinwiddie
gradually and slowly, and asked me to send Wright's corps to his
assistance. I replied to him that it was impossible to send
Wright's corps because that corps was already in line close up
to the enemy, where we should want to assault when the proper
time came, and was besides a long distance from him; but the 2d
(Humphreys's) and 5th (Warren's) corps were on our extreme left
and a little to the rear of it in a position to threaten the
left flank of the enemy at Five Forks, and that I would send

Accordingly orders were sent to Warren to move at once that
night (the 31st) to Dinwiddie Court House and put himself in
communication with Sheridan as soon as possible, and report to
him. He was very slow in moving, some of his troops not
starting until after 5 o'clock next morning. When he did move
it was done very deliberately, and on arriving at Gravelly Run
he found the stream swollen from the recent rains so that he
regarded it as not fordable. Sheridan of course knew of his
coming, and being impatient to get the troops up as soon as
possible, sent orders to him to hasten. He was also hastened or
at least ordered to move up rapidly by General Meade. He now
felt that he could not cross that creek without bridges, and his
orders were changed to move so as to strike the pursuing enemy in
flank or get in their rear; but he was so late in getting up that
Sheridan determined to move forward without him. However,
Ayres's division of Warren's corps reached him in time to be in
the fight all day, most of the time separated from the remainder
of the 5th corps and fighting directly under Sheridan.

Warren reported to Sheridan about 11 o'clock on the 1st, but the
whole of his troops were not up so as to be much engaged until
late in the afternoon. Griffin's division in backing to get out
of the way of a severe cross fire of the enemy was found marching
away from the fighting. This did not continue long, however; the
division was brought back and with Ayres's division did most
excellent service during the day. Crawford's division of the
same corps had backed still farther off, and although orders
were sent repeatedly to bring it up, it was late before it
finally got to where it could be of material assistance. Once
there it did very excellent service.

Sheridan succeeded by the middle of the afternoon or a little
later, in advancing up to the point from which to make his
designed assault upon Five Forks itself. He was very impatient
to make the assault and have it all over before night, because
the ground he occupied would be untenable for him in bivouac
during the night. Unless the assault was made and was
successful, he would be obliged to return to Dinwiddie
Court-House, or even further than that for the night.

It was at this junction of affairs that Sheridan wanted to get
Crawford's division in hand, and he also wanted Warren. He sent
staff officer after staff officer in search of Warren, directing
that general to report to him, but they were unable to find
him. At all events Sheridan was unable to get that officer to
him. Finally he went himself. He issued an order relieving
Warren and assigning Griffin to the command of the 5th corps.
The troops were then brought up and the assault successfully

I was so much dissatisfied with Warren's dilatory movements in
the battle of White Oak Road and in his failure to reach
Sheridan in time, that I was very much afraid that at the last
moment he would fail Sheridan. He was a man of fine
intelligence, great earnestness, quick perception, and could
make his dispositions as quickly as any officer, under
difficulties where he was forced to act. But I had before
discovered a defect which was beyond his control, that was very
prejudicial to his usefulness in emergencies like the one just
before us. He could see every danger at a glance before he had
encountered it. He would not only make preparations to meet the
danger which might occur, but he would inform his commanding
officer what others should do while he was executing his move.

I had sent a staff officer to General Sheridan to call his
attention to these defects, and to say that as much as I liked
General Warren, now was not a time when we could let our
personal feelings for any one stand in the way of success; and
if his removal was necessary to success, not to hesitate. It
was upon that authorization that Sheridan removed Warren. I was
very sorry that it had been done, and regretted still more that I
had not long before taken occasion to assign him to another field
of duty.

It was dusk when our troops under Sheridan went over the
parapets of the enemy. The two armies were mingled together
there for a time in such manner that it was almost a question
which one was going to demand the surrender of the other. Soon,
however, the enemy broke and ran in every direction; some six
thousand prisoners, besides artillery and small-arms in large
quantities, falling into our hands. The flying troops were
pursued in different directions, the cavalry and 5th corps under
Sheridan pursuing the larger body which moved north-west.

This pursuit continued until about nine o'clock at night, when
Sheridan halted his troops, and knowing the importance to him of
the part of the enemy's line which had been captured, returned,
sending the 5th corps across Hatcher's Run to just south-west of
Petersburg, and facing them toward it. Merritt, with the
cavalry, stopped and bivouacked west of Five Forks.

This was the condition which affairs were in on the night of the
1st of April. I then issued orders for an assault by Wright and
Parke at four o'clock on the morning of the 2d. I also ordered
the 2d corps, General Humphreys, and General Ord with the Army
of the James, on the left, to hold themselves in readiness to
take any advantage that could be taken from weakening in their

I notified Mr. Lincoln at City Point of the success of the day;
in fact I had reported to him during the day and evening as I
got news, because he was so much interested in the movements
taking place that I wanted to relieve his mind as much as I
could. I notified Weitzel on the north side of the James River,
directing him, also, to keep close up to the enemy, and take
advantage of the withdrawal of troops from there to promptly
enter the city of Richmond.

I was afraid that Lee would regard the possession of Five Forks
as of so much importance that he would make a last desperate
effort to retake it, risking everything upon the cast of a
single die. It was for this reason that I had ordered the
assault to take place at once, as soon as I had received the
news of the capture of Five Forks. The corps commanders,
however, reported that it was so dark that the men could not see
to move, and it would be impossible to make the assault then. But
we kept up a continuous artillery fire upon the enemy around the
whole line including that north of the James River, until it was
light enough to move, which was about a quarter to five in the

At that hour Parke's and Wright's corps moved out as directed,
brushed the abatis from their front as they advanced under a
heavy fire of musketry and artillery, and went without flinching
directly on till they mounted the parapets and threw themselves
inside of the enemy's line. Parke, who was on the right, swept
down to the right and captured a very considerable length of
line in that direction, but at that point the outer was so near
the inner line which closely enveloped the city of Petersburg
that he could make no advance forward and, in fact, had a very
serious task to turn the lines which he had captured to the
defence of his own troops and to hold them; but he succeeded in

Wright swung around to his left and moved to Hatcher's Run,
sweeping everything before him. The enemy had traverses in rear
of his captured line, under cover of which he made something of a
stand, from one to another, as Wright moved on; but the latter
met no serious obstacle. As you proceed to the left the outer
line becomes gradually much farther from the inner one, and
along about Hatcher's Run they must be nearly two miles apart.
Both Parke and Wright captured a considerable amount of
artillery and some prisoners--Wright about three thousand of

In the meantime Ord and Humphreys, in obedience to the
instructions they had received, had succeeded by daylight, or
very early in the morning, in capturing the intrenched
picket-lines in their front; and before Wright got up to that
point, Ord had also succeeded in getting inside of the enemy's
intrenchments. The second corps soon followed; and the outer
works of Petersburg were in the hands of the National troops,
never to be wrenched from them again. When Wright reached
Hatcher's Run, he sent a regiment to destroy the South Side
Railroad just outside of the city.

My headquarters were still at Dabney's saw-mills. As soon as I
received the news of Wright's success, I sent dispatches
announcing the fact to all points around the line, including the
troops at Bermuda Hundred and those on the north side of the
James, and to the President at City Point. Further dispatches
kept coming in, and as they did I sent the additional news to
these points. Finding at length that they were all in, I
mounted my horse to join the troops who were inside the works.
When I arrived there I rode my horse over the parapet just as
Wright's three thousand prisoners were coming out. I was soon
joined inside by General Meade and his staff.

Lee made frantic efforts to recover at least part of the lost
ground. Parke on our right was repeatedly assaulted, but
repulsed every effort. Before noon Longstreet was ordered up
from the north side of the James River thus bringing the bulk of
Lee's army around to the support of his extreme right. As soon
as I learned this I notified Weitzel and directed him to keep up
close to the enemy and to have Hartsuff, commanding the Bermuda
Hundred front, to do the same thing, and if they found any break
to go in; Hartsuff especially should do so, for this would
separate Richmond and Petersburg.

Sheridan, after he had returned to Five Forks, swept down to
Petersburg, coming in on our left. This gave us a continuous
line from the Appomattox River below the city to the same river
above. At eleven o'clock, not having heard from Sheridan, I
reinforced Parke with two brigades from City Point. With this
additional force he completed his captured works for better
defence, and built back from his right, so as to protect his
flank. He also carried in and made an abatis between himself
and the enemy. Lee brought additional troops and artillery
against Parke even after this was done, and made several
assaults with very heavy losses.

The enemy had in addition to their intrenched line close up to
Petersburg, two enclosed works outside of it, Fort Gregg and
Fort Whitworth. We thought it had now become necessary to carry
them by assault. About one o'clock in the day, Fort Gregg was
assaulted by Foster's division of the 24th corps (Gibbon's),
supported by two brigades from Ord's command. The battle was
desperate and the National troops were repulsed several times;
but it was finally carried, and immediately the troops in Fort
Whitworth evacuated the place. The guns of Fort Gregg were
turned upon the retreating enemy, and the commanding officer
with some sixty of the men of Fort Whitworth surrendered.

I had ordered Miles in the morning to report to Sheridan. In
moving to execute this order he came upon the enemy at the
intersection of the White Oak Road and the Claiborne Road. The
enemy fell back to Sutherland Station on the South Side Road and
were followed by Miles. This position, naturally a strong and
defensible one, was also strongly intrenched. Sheridan now came
up and Miles asked permission from him to make the assault, which
Sheridan gave. By this time Humphreys had got through the outer
works in his front, and came up also and assumed command over
Miles, who commanded a division in his corps. I had sent an
order to Humphreys to turn to his right and move towards
Petersburg. This order he now got, and started off, thus
leaving Miles alone. The latter made two assaults, both of
which failed, and he had to fall back a few hundred yards.

Hearing that Miles had been left in this position, I directed
Humphreys to send a division back to his relief. He went

Sheridan before starting to sweep down to Petersburg had sent
Merritt with his cavalry to the west to attack some Confederate
cavalry that had assembled there. Merritt drove them north to
the Appomattox River. Sheridan then took the enemy at
Sutherland Station on the reverse side from where Miles was, and
the two together captured the place, with a large number of
prisoners and some pieces of artillery, and put the remainder,
portions of three Confederate corps, to flight. Sheridan
followed, and drove them until night, when further pursuit was
stopped. Miles bivouacked for the night on the ground which he
with Sheridan had carried so handsomely by assault. I cannot
explain the situation here better than by giving my dispatch to
City Point that evening:

April 2, 1865.--4.40 P.M.

City Point.

We are now up and have a continuous line of troops, and in a few
hours will be intrenched from the Appomattox below Petersburg to
the river above. Heth's and Wilcox's divisions, such part of
them as were not captured, were cut off from town, either
designedly on their part or because they could not help it.
Sheridan with the cavalry and 5th corps is above them. Miles's
division, 2d corps, was sent from the White Oak Road to
Sutherland Station on the South Side Railroad, where he met
them, and at last accounts was engaged with them. Not knowing
whether Sheridan would get up in time, General Humphreys was
sent with another division from here. The whole captures since
the army started out gunning will amount to not less than twelve
thousand men, and probably fifty pieces of artillery. I do not
know the number of men and guns accurately however. * * * I
think the President might come out and pay us a visit tomorrow.


During the night of April 2d our line was intrenched from the
river above to the river below. I ordered a bombardment to be
commenced the next morning at five A.M., to be followed by an
assault at six o'clock; but the enemy evacuated Petersburg early
in the morning.



General Meade and I entered Petersburg on the morning of the 3d
and took a position under cover of a house which protected us
from the enemy's musketry which was flying thick and fast
there. As we would occasionally look around the corner we could
see the streets and the Appomattox bottom, presumably near the
bridge, packed with the Confederate army. I did not have
artillery brought up, because I was sure Lee was trying to make
his escape, and I wanted to push immediately in pursuit. At all
events I had not the heart to turn the artillery upon such a mass
of defeated and fleeing men, and I hoped to capture them soon.

Soon after the enemy had entirely evacuated Petersburg, a man
came in who represented himself to be an engineer of the Army of
Northern Virginia. He said that Lee had for some time been at
work preparing a strong enclosed intrenchment, into which he
would throw himself when forced out of Petersburg, and fight his
final battle there; that he was actually at that time drawing his
troops from Richmond, and falling back into this prepared work.
This statement was made to General Meade and myself when we were
together. I had already given orders for the movement up the
south side of the Appomattox for the purpose of heading off Lee;
but Meade was so much impressed by this man's story that he
thought we ought to cross the Appomattox there at once and move
against Lee in his new position. I knew that Lee was no fool,
as he would have been to have put himself and his army between
two formidable streams like the James and Appomattox rivers, and
between two such armies as those of the Potomac and the James.
Then these streams coming together as they did to the east of
him, it would be only necessary to close up in the west to have
him thoroughly cut off from all supplies or possibility of
reinforcement. It would only have been a question of days, and
not many of them, if he had taken the position assigned to him
by the so-called engineer, when he would have been obliged to
surrender his army. Such is one of the ruses resorted to in war
to deceive your antagonist. My judgment was that Lee would
necessarily have to evacuate Richmond, and that the only course
for him to pursue would be to follow the Danville Road.
Accordingly my object was to secure a point on that road south
of Lee, and I told Meade this. He suggested that if Lee was
going that way we would follow him. My reply was that we did
not want to follow him; we wanted to get ahead of him and cut
him off, and if he would only stay in the position he (Meade)
believed him to be in at that time, I wanted nothing better;
that when we got in possession of the Danville Railroad, at its
crossing of the Appomattox River, if we still found him between
the two rivers, all we had to do was to move eastward and close
him up. That we would then have all the advantage we could
possibly have by moving directly against him from Petersburg,
even if he remained in the position assigned him by the engineer

I had held most of the command aloof from the intrenchments, so
as to start them out on the Danville Road early in the morning,
supposing that Lee would be gone during the night. During the
night I strengthened Sheridan by sending him Humphreys's corps.

Lee, as we now know, had advised the authorities at Richmond,
during the day, of the condition of affairs, and told them it
would be impossible for him to hold out longer than night, if he
could hold out that long. Davis was at church when he received
Lee's dispatch. The congregation was dismissed with the notice
that there would be no evening service. The rebel government
left Richmond about two o'clock in the afternoon of the 2d.

At night Lee ordered his troops to assemble at Amelia Court
House, his object being to get away, join Johnston if possible,
and to try to crush Sherman before I could get there. As soon
as I was sure of this I notified Sheridan and directed him to
move out on the Danville Railroad to the south side of the
Appomattox River as speedily as possible. He replied that he
already had some of his command nine miles out. I then ordered
the rest of the Army of the Potomac under Meade to follow the
same road in the morning. Parke's corps followed by the same
road, and the Army of the James was directed to follow the road
which ran alongside of the South Side Railroad to Burke's
Station, and to repair the railroad and telegraph as they
proceeded. That road was a 5 feet gauge, while our rolling
stock was all of the 4 feet 8 1/2 inches gauge; consequently the
rail on one side of the track had to be taken up throughout the
whole length and relaid so as to conform to the gauge of our
cars and locomotives.

Mr. Lincoln was at City Point at the time, and had been for some
days. I would have let him know what I contemplated doing, only
while I felt a strong conviction that the move was going to be
successful, yet it might not prove so; and then I would have
only added another to the many disappointments he had been
suffering for the past three years. But when we started out he
saw that we were moving for a purpose, and bidding us Godspeed,
remained there to hear the result.

The next morning after the capture of Petersburg, I telegraphed
Mr. Lincoln asking him to ride out there and see me, while I
would await his arrival. I had started all the troops out early
in the morning, so that after the National army left Petersburg
there was not a soul to be seen, not even an animal in the
streets. There was absolutely no one there, except my staff
officers and, possibly, a small escort of cavalry. We had
selected the piazza of a deserted house, and occupied it until
the President arrived.

About the first thing that Mr. Lincoln said to me, after warm
congratulations for the victory, and thanks both to myself and
to the army which had accomplished it, was: "Do you know,
general, that I have had a sort of a sneaking idea for some days
that you intended to do something like this." Our movements
having been successful up to this point, I no longer had any
object in concealing from the President all my movements, and
the objects I had in view. He remained for some days near City
Point, and I communicated with him frequently and fully by

Mr. Lincoln knew that it had been arranged for Sherman to join
me at a fixed time, to co-operate in the destruction of Lee's
army. I told him that I had been very anxious to have the
Eastern armies vanquish their old enemy who had so long resisted
all their repeated and gallant attempts to subdue them or drive
them from their capital. The Western armies had been in the
main successful until they had conquered all the territory from
the Mississippi River to the State of North Carolina, and were
now almost ready to knock at the back door of Richmond, asking
admittance. I said to him that if the Western armies should be
even upon the field, operating against Richmond and Lee, the
credit would be given to them for the capture, by politicians
and non-combatants from the section of country which those
troops hailed from. It might lead to disagreeable bickerings
between members of Congress of the East and those of the West in
some of their debates. Western members might be throwing it up
to the members of the East that in the suppression of the
rebellion they were not able to capture an army, or to
accomplish much in the way of contributing toward that end, but
had to wait until the Western armies had conquered all the
territory south and west of them, and then come on to help them
capture the only army they had been engaged with.

Mr. Lincoln said he saw that now, but had never thought of it
before, because his anxiety was so great that he did not care
where the aid came from so the work was done.

The Army of the Potomac has every reason to be proud of its four
years' record in the suppression of the rebellion. The army it
had to fight was the protection to the capital of a people which
was attempting to found a nation upon the territory of the United
States. Its loss would be the loss of the cause. Every energy,
therefore, was put forth by the Confederacy to protect and
maintain their capital. Everything else would go if it went.
Lee's army had to be strengthened to enable it to maintain its
position, no matter what territory was wrested from the South in
another quarter.

I never expected any such bickering as I have indicated, between
the soldiers of the two sections; and, fortunately, there has
been none between the politicians. Possibly I am the only one
who thought of the liability of such a state of things in

When our conversation was at an end Mr. Lincoln mounted his
horse and started on his return to City Point, while I and my
staff started to join the army, now a good many miles in
advance. Up to this time I had not received the report of the
capture of Richmond.

Soon after I left President Lincoln I received a dispatch from
General Weitzel which notified me that he had taken possession
of Richmond at about 8.15 o'clock in the morning of that day,
the 3d, and that he had found the city on fire in two places.
The city was in the most utter confusion. The authorities had
taken the precaution to empty all the liquor into the gutter,
and to throw out the provisions which the Confederate government
had left, for the people to gather up. The city had been
deserted by the authorities, civil and military, without any
notice whatever that they were about to leave. In fact, up to
the very hour of the evacuation the people had been led to
believe that Lee had gained an important victory somewhere
around Petersburg.

Weitzel's command found evidence of great demoralization in
Lee's army, there being still a great many men and even officers
in the town. The city was on fire. Our troops were directed to
extinguish the flames, which they finally succeeded in doing.
The fire had been started by some one connected with the
retreating army. All authorities deny that it was authorized,
and I presume it was the work of excited men who were leaving
what they regarded as their capital and may have felt that it
was better to destroy it than have it fall into the hands of
their enemy. Be that as it may, the National troops found the
city in flames, and used every effort to extinguish them.

The troops that had formed Lee's right, a great many of them,
were cut off from getting back into Petersburg, and were pursued
by our cavalry so hotly and closely that they threw away
caissons, ammunition, clothing, and almost everything to lighten
their loads, and pushed along up the Appomattox River until
finally they took water and crossed over.

I left Mr. Lincoln and started, as I have already said, to join
the command, which halted at Sutherland Station, about nine
miles out. We had still time to march as much farther, and time
was an object; but the roads were bad and the trains belonging to
the advance corps had blocked up the road so that it was
impossible to get on. Then, again, our cavalry had struck some
of the enemy and were pursuing them; and the orders were that
the roads should be given up to the cavalry whenever they
appeared. This caused further delay.

General Wright, who was in command of one of the corps which
were left back, thought to gain time by letting his men go into
bivouac and trying to get up some rations for them, and clearing
out the road, so that when they did start they would be
uninterrupted. Humphreys, who was far ahead, was also out of
rations. They did not succeed in getting them up through the
night; but the Army of the Potomac, officers and men, were so
elated by the reflection that at last they were following up a
victory to its end, that they preferred marching without rations
to running a possible risk of letting the enemy elude them. So
the march was resumed at three o'clock in the morning.

Merritt's cavalry had struck the enemy at Deep Creek, and driven
them north to the Appomattox, where, I presume, most of them were
forced to cross.

On the morning of the 4th I learned that Lee had ordered rations
up from Danville for his famishing army, and that they were to
meet him at Farmville. This showed that Lee had already
abandoned the idea of following the railroad down to Danville,
but had determined to go farther west, by the way of
Farmville. I notified Sheridan of this and directed him to get
possession of the road before the supplies could reach Lee. He
responded that he had already sent Crook's division to get upon
the road between Burkesville and Jetersville, then to face north
and march along the road upon the latter place; and he thought
Crook must be there now. The bulk of the army moved directly
for Jetersville by two roads.

After I had received the dispatch from Sheridan saying that
Crook was on the Danville Road, I immediately ordered Meade to
make a forced march with the Army of the Potomac, and to send
Parke's corps across from the road they were on to the South
Side Railroad, to fall in the rear of the Army of the James and
to protect the railroad which that army was repairing as it went

Our troops took possession of Jetersville and in the telegraph
office, they found a dispatch from Lee, ordering two hundred
thousand rations from Danville. The dispatch had not been sent,
but Sheridan sent a special messenger with it to Burkesville and
had it forwarded from there. In the meantime, however,
dispatches from other sources had reached Danville, and they
knew there that our army was on the line of the road; so that
they sent no further supplies from that quarter.

At this time Merritt and Mackenzie, with the cavalry, were off
between the road which the Army of the Potomac was marching on
and the Appomattox River, and were attacking the enemy in
flank. They picked up a great many prisoners and forced the
abandonment of some property.

Lee intrenched himself at Amelia Court House, and also his
advance north of Jetersville, and sent his troops out to collect
forage. The country was very poor and afforded but very
little. His foragers scattered a great deal; many of them were
picked up by our men, and many others never returned to the Army
of Northern Virginia.

Griffin's corps was intrenched across the railroad south of
Jetersville, and Sheridan notified me of the situation. I again
ordered Meade up with all dispatch, Sheridan having but the one
corps of infantry with a little cavalry confronting Lee's entire
army. Meade, always prompt in obeying orders, now pushed forward
with great energy, although he was himself sick and hardly able
to be out of bed. Humphreys moved at two, and Wright at three
o'clock in the morning, without rations, as I have said, the
wagons being far in the rear.

I stayed that night at Wilson's Station on the South Side
Railroad. On the morning of the 5th I sent word to Sheridan of
the progress Meade was making, and suggested that he might now
attack Lee. We had now no other objective than the Confederate
armies, and I was anxious to close the thing up at once.

On the 5th I marched again with Ord's command until within about
ten miles of Burkesville, where I stopped to let his army pass. I
then received from Sheridan the following dispatch:

"The whole of Lee's army is at or near Amelia Court House, and
on this side of it. General Davies, whom I sent out to
Painesville on their right flank, has just captured six pieces
of artillery and some wagons. We can capture the Army of
Northern Virginia if force enough can be thrown to this point,
and then advance upon it. My cavalry was at Burkesville
yesterday, and six miles beyond, on the Danville Road, last
night. General Lee is at Amelia Court House in person. They
are out of rations, or nearly so. They were advancing up the
railroad towards Burkesville yesterday, when we intercepted them
at this point."

It now became a life and death struggle with Lee to get south to
his provisions.

Sheridan, thinking the enemy might turn off immediately towards
Farmville, moved Davies's brigade of cavalry out to watch him.
Davies found the movement had already commenced. He attacked
and drove away their cavalry which was escorting wagons to the
west, capturing and burning 180 wagons. He also captured five
pieces of artillery. The Confederate infantry then moved
against him and probably would have handled him very roughly,
but Sheridan had sent two more brigades of cavalry to follow
Davies, and they came to his relief in time. A sharp engagement
took place between these three brigades of cavalry and the
enemy's infantry, but the latter was repulsed.

Meade himself reached Jetersville about two o'clock in the
afternoon, but in advance of all his troops. The head of
Humphreys's corps followed in about an hour afterwards. Sheridan
stationed the troops as they came up, at Meade's request, the
latter still being very sick. He extended two divisions of this
corps off to the west of the road to the left of Griffin's corps,
and one division to the right. The cavalry by this time had also
come up, and they were put still farther off to the left,
Sheridan feeling certain that there lay the route by which the
enemy intended to escape. He wanted to attack, feeling that if
time was given, the enemy would get away; but Meade prevented
this, preferring to wait till his troops were all up.

At this juncture Sheridan sent me a letter which had been handed
to him by a colored man, with a note from himself saying that he
wished I was there myself. The letter was dated Amelia Court
House, April 5th, and signed by Colonel Taylor. It was to his
mother, and showed the demoralization of the Confederate army.
Sheridan's note also gave me the information as here related of
the movements of that day. I received a second message from
Sheridan on the 5th, in which he urged more emphatically the
importance of my presence. This was brought to me by a scout in
gray uniform. It was written on tissue paper, and wrapped up in
tin-foil such as chewing tobacco is folded in. This was a
precaution taken so that if the scout should be captured he
could take this tin-foil out of his pocket and putting it into
his mouth, chew it. It would cause no surprise at all to see a
Confederate soldier chewing tobacco. It was nearly night when
this letter was received. I gave Ord directions to continue his
march to Burkesville and there intrench himself for the night,
and in the morning to move west to cut off all the roads between
there and Farmville.

I then started with a few of my staff and a very small escort of
cavalry, going directly through the woods, to join Meade's
army. The distance was about sixteen miles; but the night being
dark our progress was slow through the woods in the absence of
direct roads. However, we got to the outposts about ten o'clock
in the evening, and after some little parley convinced the
sentinels of our identity and were conducted in to where
Sheridan was bivouacked. We talked over the situation for some
little time, Sheridan explaining to me what he thought Lee was
trying to do, and that Meade's orders, if carried out, moving to
the right flank, would give him the coveted opportunity of
escaping us and putting us in rear of him.

We then together visited Meade, reaching his headquarters about
midnight. I explained to Meade that we did not want to follow
the enemy; we wanted to get ahead of him, and that his orders
would allow the enemy to escape, and besides that, I had no
doubt that Lee was moving right then. Meade changed his orders
at once. They were now given for an advance on Amelia Court
House, at an early hour in the morning, as the army then lay;
that is, the infantry being across the railroad, most of it to
the west of the road, with the cavalry swung out still farther
to the left.



The Appomattox, going westward, takes a long sweep to the
south-west from the neighborhood of the Richmond and Danville
Railroad bridge, and then trends north-westerly. Sailor's
Creek, an insignificant stream, running northward, empties into
the Appomattox between the High Bridge and Jetersville. Near
the High Bridge the stage road from Petersburg to Lynchburg
crosses the Appomattox River, also on a bridge. The railroad
runs on the north side of the river to Farmville, a few miles
west, and from there, recrossing, continues on the south side of
it. The roads coming up from the south-east to Farmville cross
the Appomattox River there on a bridge and run on the north
side, leaving the Lynchburg and Petersburg Railroad well to the

Lee, in pushing out from Amelia Court House, availed himself of
all the roads between the Danville Road and Appomattox River to
move upon, and never permitted the head of his columns to stop
because of any fighting that might be going on in his rear. In
this way he came very near succeeding in getting to his
provision trains and eluding us with at least part of his army.

As expected, Lee's troops had moved during the night before, and
our army in moving upon Amelia Court House soon encountered
them. There was a good deal of fighting before Sailor's Creek
was reached. Our cavalry charged in upon a body of theirs which
was escorting a wagon train in order to get it past our left. A
severe engagement ensued, in which we captured many prisoners,
and many men also were killed and wounded. There was as much
gallantry displayed by some of the Confederates in these little
engagements as was displayed at any time during the war,
notwithstanding the sad defeats of the past week.

The armies finally met on Sailor's Creek, when a heavy
engagement took place, in which infantry, artillery and cavalry
were all brought into action. Our men on the right, as they
were brought in against the enemy, came in on higher ground, and
upon his flank, giving us every advantage to be derived from the
lay of the country. Our firing was also very much more rapid,
because the enemy commenced his retreat westward and in firing
as he retreated had to turn around every time he fired. The
enemy's loss was very heavy, as well in killed and wounded as in
captures. Some six general officers fell into our hands in this
engagement, and seven thousand men were made prisoners. This
engagement was commenced in the middle of the afternoon of the
6th, and the retreat and pursuit were continued until nightfall,
when the armies bivouacked upon the ground where the night had
overtaken them.

When the move towards Amelia Court House had commenced that
morning, I ordered Wright's corps, which was on the extreme
right, to be moved to the left past the whole army, to take the
place of Griffin's, and ordered the latter at the same time to
move by and place itself on the right. The object of this
movement was to get the 6th corps, Wright's, next to the
cavalry, with which they had formerly served so harmoniously and
so efficiently in the valley of Virginia.

The 6th corps now remained with the cavalry and under Sheridan's
direct command until after the surrender.

Ord had been directed to take possession of all the roads
southward between Burkesville and the High Bridge. On the
morning of the 6th he sent Colonel Washburn with two infantry
regiments with instructions to destroy High Bridge and to return
rapidly to Burkesville Station; and he prepared himself to resist
the enemy there. Soon after Washburn had started Ord became a
little alarmed as to his safety and sent Colonel Read, of his
staff, with about eighty cavalrymen, to overtake him and bring
him back. Very shortly after this he heard that the head of
Lee's column had got up to the road between him and where
Washburn now was, and attempted to send reinforcements, but the
reinforcements could not get through. Read, however, had got
through ahead of the enemy. He rode on to Farmville and was on
his way back again when he found his return cut off, and
Washburn confronting apparently the advance of Lee's army. Read
drew his men up into line of battle, his force now consisting of
less than six hundred men, infantry and cavalry, and rode along
their front, making a speech to his men to inspire them with the
same enthusiasm that he himself felt. He then gave the order to
charge. This little band made several charges, of course
unsuccessful ones, but inflicted a loss upon the enemy more than
equal to their own entire number. Colonel Read fell mortally
wounded, and then Washburn; and at the close of the conflict
nearly every officer of the command and most of the rank and
file had been either killed or wounded. The remainder then
surrendered. The Confederates took this to be only the advance
of a larger column which had headed them off, and so stopped to
intrench; so that this gallant band of six hundred had checked
the progress of a strong detachment of the Confederate army.

This stoppage of Lee's column no doubt saved to us the trains
following. Lee himself pushed on and crossed the wagon road
bridge near the High Bridge, and attempted to destroy it. He
did set fire to it, but the flames had made but little headway
when Humphreys came up with his corps and drove away the
rear-guard which had been left to protect it while it was being
burned up. Humphreys forced his way across with some loss, and
followed Lee to the intersection of the road crossing at
Farmville with the one from Petersburg. Here Lee held a
position which was very strong, naturally, besides being
intrenched. Humphreys was alone, confronting him all through
the day, and in a very hazardous position. He put on a bold
face, however, and assaulted with some loss, but was not
assaulted in return.

Our cavalry had gone farther south by the way of Prince Edward's
Court House, along with the 5th corps (Griffin's), Ord falling in
between Griffin and the Appomattox. Crook's division of cavalry
and Wright's corps pushed on west of Farmville. When the
cavalry reached Farmville they found that some of the
Confederates were in ahead of them, and had already got their
trains of provisions back to that point; but our troops were in
time to prevent them from securing anything to eat, although
they succeeded in again running the trains off, so that we did
not get them for some time. These troops retreated to the north
side of the Appomattox to join Lee, and succeeded in destroying
the bridge after them. Considerable fighting ensued there
between Wright's corps and a portion of our cavalry and the
Confederates, but finally the cavalry forded the stream and
drove them away. Wright built a foot-bridge for his men to
march over on and then marched out to the junction of the roads
to relieve Humphreys, arriving there that night. I had stopped
the night before at Burkesville Junction. Our troops were then
pretty much all out of the place, but we had a field hospital
there, and Ord's command was extended from that point towards

Here I met Dr. Smith, a Virginian and an officer of the regular
army, who told me that in a conversation with General Ewell, one
of the prisoners and a relative of his, Ewell had said that when
we had got across the James River he knew their cause was lost,
and it was the duty of their authorities to make the best terms
they could while they still had a right to claim concessions.
The authorities thought differently, however. Now the cause was
lost and they had no right to claim anything. He said further,
that for every man that was killed after this in the war
somebody is responsible, and it would be but very little better
than murder. He was not sure that Lee would consent to
surrender his army without being able to consult with the
President, but he hoped he would.

I rode in to Farmville on the 7th, arriving there early in the
day. Sheridan and Ord were pushing through, away to the
south. Meade was back towards the High Bridge, and Humphreys
confronting Lee as before stated. After having gone into
bivouac at Prince Edward's Court House, Sheridan learned that
seven trains of provisions and forage were at Appomattox, and
determined to start at once and capture them; and a forced march
was necessary in order to get there before Lee's army could
secure them. He wrote me a note telling me this. This fact,
together with the incident related the night before by Dr.
Smith, gave me the idea of opening correspondence with General
Lee on the subject of the surrender of his army. I therefore
wrote to him on this day, as follows:

5 P.M., April 7, 1865.

Commanding C. S. A.

The result of the last week must convince you of the
hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of
Northern Virginia in this struggle. I feel that it is so, and
regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of
any further effusion of blood, by asking of you the surrender of
that portion of the Confederate States army known as the Army of
Northern Virginia.


Lee replied on the evening of the same day as follows:

April 7, 1865.

GENERAL: I have received your note of this day. Though not
entertaining the opinion you express on the hopelessness of
further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia,
I reciprocate your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood, and
therefore before considering your proposition, ask the terms you
will offer on condition of its surrender.

R. E. LEE,

Commanding Armies of the U. S.

This was not satisfactory, but I regarded it as deserving
another letter and wrote him as follows:

April 8, 1865.

Commanding C. S. A.

Your note of last evening in reply to mine of same date, asking
the condition on which I will accept the surrender of the Army
of Northern Virginia is just received. In reply I would say
that, peace being my great desire, there is but one condition I
would insist upon, namely: that the men and officers
surrendered shall be disqualified for taking up arms again
against the Government of the United States until properly
exchanged. I will meet you, or will designate officers to meet
any officers you may name for the same purpose, at any point
agreeable to you, for the purpose of arranging definitely the
terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia
will be received.


Lee's army was rapidly crumbling. Many of his soldiers had
enlisted from that part of the State where they now were, and
were continually dropping out of the ranks and going to their
homes. I know that I occupied a hotel almost destitute of
furniture at Farmville, which had probably been used as a
Confederate hospital. The next morning when I came out I found
a Confederate colonel there, who reported to me and said that he
was the proprietor of that house, and that he was a colonel of a
regiment that had been raised in that neighborhood. He said
that when he came along past home, he found that he was the only
man of the regiment remaining with Lee's army, so he just dropped
out, and now wanted to surrender himself. I told him to stay
there and he would not be molested. That was one regiment which
had been eliminated from Lee's force by this crumbling process.

Although Sheridan had been marching all day, his troops moved
with alacrity and without any straggling. They began to see the
end of what they had been fighting four years for. Nothing
seemed to fatigue them. They were ready to move without rations
and travel without rest until the end. Straggling had entirely
ceased, and every man was now a rival for the front. The
infantry marched about as rapidly as the cavalry could.

Sheridan sent Custer with his division to move south of
Appomattox Station, which is about five miles south-west of the
Court House, to get west of the trains and destroy the roads to
the rear. They got there the night of the 8th, and succeeded
partially; but some of the train men had just discovered the
movement of our troops and succeeded in running off three of the
trains. The other four were held by Custer.

The head of Lee's column came marching up there on the morning
of the 9th, not dreaming, I suppose, that there were any Union
soldiers near. The Confederates were surprised to find our
cavalry had possession of the trains. However, they were
desperate and at once assaulted, hoping to recover them. In the
melee that ensued they succeeded in burning one of the trains,
but not in getting anything from it. Custer then ordered the
other trains run back on the road towards Farmville, and the
fight continued.

So far, only our cavalry and the advance of Lee's army were
engaged. Soon, however, Lee's men were brought up from the
rear, no doubt expecting they had nothing to meet but our
cavalry. But our infantry had pushed forward so rapidly that by
the time the enemy got up they found Griffin's corps and the Army
of the James confronting them. A sharp engagement ensued, but
Lee quickly set up a white flag.



On the 8th I had followed the Army of the Potomac in rear of
Lee. I was suffering very severely with a sick headache, and
stopped at a farmhouse on the road some distance in rear of the
main body of the army. I spent the night in bathing my feet in
hot water and mustard, and putting mustard plasters on my wrists
and the back part of my neck, hoping to be cured by morning.
During the night I received Lee's answer to my letter of the
8th, inviting an interview between the lines on the following
morning. (*43) But it was for a different purpose from that of
surrendering his army, and I answered him as follows:

April 9, 1865.

Commanding C. S. A.

Your note of yesterday is received. As I have no authority to
treat on the subject of peace, the meeting proposed for ten A.M.
to-day could lead to no good. I will state, however, General,
that I am equally anxious for peace with yourself, and the whole
North entertains the same feeling. The terms upon which peace
can be had are well understood. By the South laying down their
arms they will hasten that most desirable event, save thousands
of human lives and hundreds of millions of property not yet
destroyed. Sincerely hoping that all our difficulties may be
settled without the loss of another life, I subscribe myself,


I proceeded at an early hour in the morning, still suffering
with the headache, to get to the head of the column. I was not
more than two or three miles from Appomattox Court House at the
time, but to go direct I would have to pass through Lee's army,
or a portion of it. I had therefore to move south in order to
get upon a road coming up from another direction.

When the white flag was put out by Lee, as already described, I
was in this way moving towards Appomattox Court House, and
consequently could not be communicated with immediately, and be
informed of what Lee had done. Lee, therefore, sent a flag to
the rear to advise Meade and one to the front to Sheridan,
saying that he had sent a message to me for the purpose of
having a meeting to consult about the surrender of his army, and
asked for a suspension of hostilities until I could be
communicated with. As they had heard nothing of this until the
fighting had got to be severe and all going against Lee, both of
these commanders hesitated very considerably about suspending
hostilities at all. They were afraid it was not in good faith,
and we had the Army of Northern Virginia where it could not
escape except by some deception. They, however, finally
consented to a suspension of hostilities for two hours to give
an opportunity of communicating with me in that time, if
possible. It was found that, from the route I had taken, they
would probably not be able to communicate with me and get an
answer back within the time fixed unless the messenger should
pass through the rebel lines.

Lee, therefore, sent an escort with the officer bearing this
message through his lines to me.

April 9, 1865.

GENERAL: I received your note of this morning on the
picket-line whither I had come to meet you and ascertain
definitely what terms were embraced in your proposal of
yesterday with reference to the surrender of this army. I now
request an interview in accordance with the offer contained in
your letter of yesterday for that purpose.

R. E. LEE, General.

Commanding U. S. Armies.

When the officer reached me I was still suffering with the sick
headache, but the instant I saw the contents of the note I was
cured. I wrote the following note in reply and hastened on:

April 9, 1865.

Commanding C. S. Armies.

Your note of this date is but this moment (11.50 A.M.) received,
in consequence of my having passed from the Richmond and
Lynchburg road to the Farmville and Lynchburg road. I am at
this writing about four miles west of Walker's Church and will
push forward to the front for the purpose of meeting you. Notice
sent to me on this road where you wish the interview to take
place will meet me.


I was conducted at once to where Sheridan was located with his
troops drawn up in line of battle facing the Confederate army
near by. They were very much excited, and expressed their view
that this was all a ruse employed to enable the Confederates to
get away. They said they believed that Johnston was marching up
from North Carolina now, and Lee was moving to join him; and they
would whip the rebels where they now were in five minutes if I
would only let them go in. But I had no doubt about the good
faith of Lee, and pretty soon was conducted to where he was. I
found him at the house of a Mr. McLean, at Appomattox Court
House, with Colonel Marshall, one of his staff officers,
awaiting my arrival. The head of his column was occupying a
hill, on a portion of which was an apple orchard, beyond a
little valley which separated it from that on the crest of which
Sheridan's forces were drawn up in line of battle to the south.

Before stating what took place between General Lee and myself, I
will give all there is of the story of the famous apple tree.

Wars produce many stories of fiction, some of which are told
until they are believed to be true. The war of the rebellion
was no exception to this rule, and the story of the apple tree
is one of those fictions based on a slight foundation of fact.
As I have said, there was an apple orchard on the side of the
hill occupied by the Confederate forces. Running diagonally up
the hill was a wagon road, which, at one point, ran very near
one of the trees, so that the wheels of vehicles had, on that
side, cut off the roots of this tree, leaving a little
embankment. General Babcock, of my staff, reported to me that
when he first met General Lee he was sitting upon this
embankment with his feet in the road below and his back resting
against the tree. The story had no other foundation than
that. Like many other stories, it would be very good if it was
only true.

I had known General Lee in the old army, and had served with him
in the Mexican War; but did not suppose, owing to the difference
in our age and rank, that he would remember me, while I would
more naturally remember him distinctly, because he was the chief
of staff of General Scott in the Mexican War.

When I had left camp that morning I had not expected so soon the
result that was then taking place, and consequently was in rough
garb. I was without a sword, as I usually was when on horseback
on the field, and wore a soldier's blouse for a coat, with the
shoulder straps of my rank to indicate to the army who I was.
When I went into the house I found General Lee. We greeted each
other, and after shaking hands took our seats. I had my staff
with me, a good portion of whom were in the room during the
whole of the interview.

What General Lee's feelings were I do not know. As he was a man
of much dignity, with an impassible face, it was impossible to
say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come,
or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it.
Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my
observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant
on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt
like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who
had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a
cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for
which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the
least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the
great mass of those who were opposed to us.

General Lee was dressed in a full uniform which was entirely
new, and was wearing a sword of considerable value, very likely
the sword which had been presented by the State of Virginia; at
all events, it was an entirely different sword from the one that
would ordinarily be worn in the field. In my rough traveling
suit, the uniform of a private with the straps of a
lieutenant-general, I must have contrasted very strangely with a
man so handsomely dressed, six feet high and of faultless form.
But this was not a matter that I thought of until afterwards.

We soon fell into a conversation about old army times. He
remarked that he remembered me very well in the old army; and I
told him that as a matter of course I remembered him perfectly,
but from the difference in our rank and years (there being about
sixteen years' difference in our ages), I had thought it very
likely that I had not attracted his attention sufficiently to be
remembered by him after such a long interval. Our conversation
grew so pleasant that I almost forgot the object of our
meeting. After the conversation had run on in this style for
some time, General Lee called my attention to the object of our
meeting, and said that he had asked for this interview for the
purpose of getting from me the terms I proposed to give his
army. I said that I meant merely that his army should lay down
their arms, not to take them up again during the continuance of
the war unless duly and properly exchanged. He said that he had
so understood my letter.

Then we gradually fell off again into conversation about matters
foreign to the subject which had brought us together. This
continued for some little time, when General Lee again
interrupted the course of the conversation by suggesting that
the terms I proposed to give his army ought to be written out. I
called to General Parker, secretary on my staff, for writing
materials, and commenced writing out the following terms:


Ap 19th, 1865.

Comd'g C. S. A.

GEN: In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of
the 8th inst., I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of
N. Va. on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers
and men to be made in duplicate. One copy to be given to an
officer designated by me, the other to be retained by such
officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give
their individual paroles not to take up arms against the
Government of the United States until properly exchanged, and
each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the
men of their commands. The arms, artillery and public property
to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officer
appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the
side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or
baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to
return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States
authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in
force where they may reside.


Back to Full Books