Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant [Volume Two]
Ulysses S. Grant

Part 5 out of 9

visited General Sherman before he had opened communication with
the fleet, with the view of ascertaining what assistance he
could be to him. Foster returned immediately to his own
headquarters at Hilton Head, for the purpose of sending Sherman
siege guns, and also if he should find he had them to spare,
supplies of clothing, hard bread, etc., thinking that these
articles might not be found outside. The mail on the steamer
which I sent down, had been collected by Colonel A. H. Markland
of the Post Office Department, who went in charge of it. On
this same vessel I sent an officer of my staff (Lieutenant Dunn)
with the following letter to General Sherman:

CITY POINT, VA., Dec. 3, 1864.

Commanding Armies near Savannah, Ga.

The little information gleaned from the Southern press,
indicating no great obstacle to your progress, I have directed
your mails (which had been previously collected at Baltimore by
Colonel Markland, Special Agent of the Post Office Department)
to be sent as far as the blockading squadron off Savannah, to be
forwarded to you as soon as heard from on the coast.

Not liking to rejoice before the victory is assured, I abstain
from congratulating you and those under your command, until
bottom has been struck. I have never had a fear, however, for
the result.

Since you left Atlanta, no very great progress has been made
here. The enemy has been closely watched though, and prevented
from detaching against you. I think not one man has gone from
here, except some twelve or fifteen hundred dismounted
cavalry. Bragg has gone from Wilmington. I am trying to take
advantage of his absence to get possession of that place. Owing
to some preparations Admiral Porter and General Butler are making
to blow up Fort Fisher (which, while hoping for the best, I do
not believe a particle in), there is a delay in getting this
expedition off. I hope they will be ready to start by the 7th,
and that Bragg will not have started back by that time.

In this letter I do not intend to give you anything like
directions for future action, but will state a general idea I
have, and will get your views after you have established
yourself on the sea-coast. With your veteran army I hope to get
control of the only two through routes from east to west
possessed by the enemy before the fall of Atlanta. The
condition will be filled by holding Savannah and Augusta, or by
holding any other port to the east of Savannah and
Branchville. If Wilmington falls, a force from there can
co-operate with you.

Thomas has got back into the defences of Nashville, with Hood
close upon him. Decatur has been abandoned, and so have all the
roads except the main one leading to Chattanooga. Part of this
falling back was undoubtedly necessary and all of it may have
been. It did not look so, however, to me. In my opinion,
Thomas far outnumbers Hood in infantry. In cavalry, Hood has
the advantage in morale and numbers. I hope yet that Hood will
be badly crippled if not destroyed. The general news you will
learn from the papers better than I could give it.

After all becomes quiet, and roads become so bad up here that
there is likely to be a week or two when nothing can be done, I
will run down the coast to see you. If you desire it, I will
ask Mrs. Sherman to go with me.

Yours truly,

I quote this letter because it gives the reader a full knowledge
of the events of that period.

Sherman now (the 15th) returned to Savannah to complete its
investment and insure the surrender of the garrison. The
country about Savannah is low and marshy, and the city was well
intrenched from the river above to the river below; and assaults
could not be made except along a comparatively narrow causeway.
For this reason assaults must have resulted in serious
destruction of life to the Union troops, with the chance of
failing altogether. Sherman therefore decided upon a complete
investment of the place. When he believed this investment
completed, he summoned the garrison to surrender. General
Hardee, who was in command, replied in substance that the
condition of affairs was not such as Sherman had described. He
said he was in full communication with his department and was
receiving supplies constantly.

Hardee, however, was cut off entirely from all communication
with the west side of the river, and by the river itself to the
north and south. On the South Carolina side the country was all
rice fields, through which it would have been impossible to bring
supplies so that Hardee had no possible communication with the
outside world except by a dilapidated plank road starting from
the west bank of the river. Sherman, receiving this reply,
proceeded in person to a point on the coast, where General
Foster had troops stationed under General Hatch, for the purpose
of making arrangements with the latter officer to go through by
one of the numerous channels running inland along that part of
the coast of South Carolina, to the plank road which General
Hardee still possessed, and thus to cut him off from the last
means he had of getting supplies, if not of communication.

While arranging for this movement, and before the attempt to
execute the plan had been commenced, Sherman received
information through one of his staff officers that the enemy had
evacuated Savannah the night before. This was the night of the
21st of December. Before evacuating the place Hardee had blown
up the navy yard. Some iron-clads had been destroyed, as well
as other property that might have been valuable to us; but he
left an immense amount of stores untouched, consisting of
cotton, railroad cars, workshops, numerous pieces of artillery,
and several thousand stands of small arms.

A little incident occurred, soon after the fall of Savannah,
which Sherman relates in his Memoirs, and which is worthy of
repetition. Savannah was one of the points where blockade
runners entered. Shortly after the city fell into our
possession, a blockade runner came sailing up serenely, not
doubting but the Confederates were still in possession. It was
not molested, and the captain did not find out his mistake until
he had tied up and gone to the Custom House, where he found a new
occupant of the building, and made a less profitable disposition
of his vessel and cargo than he had expected.

As there was some discussion as to the authorship of Sherman's
march to the sea, by critics of his book when it appeared before
the public, I want to state here that no question upon that
subject was ever raised between General Sherman and myself.
Circumstances made the plan on which Sherman expected to act
impracticable, as as commander of the forces he necessarily had
to devise a new on which would give more promise of success:
consequently he recommended the destruction of the railroad back
to Chattanooga, and that he should be authorized then to move, as
he did, from Atlanta forward. His suggestions were finally
approved, although they did not immediately find favor in
Washington. Even when it came to the time of starting, the
greatest apprehension, as to the propriety of the campaign he
was about commence, filled the mind of the President, induced no
doubt by his advisers. This went so far as to move the
President to ask me to suspend Sherman's march for a day or two
until I could think the matter over. My recollection is, though
I find no record to show it, that out of deference to the
President's wish I did send a dispatch to Sherman asking him to
wait a day or two, or else the connections between us were
already cut so that I could not do so. However this may be, the
question of who devised the plan of march from Atlanta to
Savannah is easily answered: it was clearly Sherman, and to him
also belongs the credit of its brilliant execution. It was
hardly possible that any one else than those on the spot could
have devised a new plan of campaign to supersede one that did
not promise success. (*40)

I was in favor of Sherman's plan from the time it was first
submitted to me. My chief of staff, however, was very bitterly
opposed to it and, as I learned subsequently, finding that he
could not move me, he appealed to the authorities at Washington
to stop it.



As we have seen, Hood succeeded in crossing the Tennessee River
between Muscle Shoals and the lower shoals at the end of
October, 1864. Thomas sent Schofield with the 4th and 23d
corps, together with three brigades of Wilson's cavalry to
Pulaski to watch him. On the 17th of November Hood started and
moved in such a manner as to avoid Schofield, thereby turning
his position. Hood had with him three infantry corps, commanded
respectively by Stephen D. Lee, Stewart and Cheatham. These,
with his cavalry, numbered about forty-five thousand men.
Schofield had, of all arms, about thirty thousand. Thomas's
orders were, therefore, for Schofield to watch the movements of
the enemy, but not to fight a battle if he could avoid it; but
to fall back in case of an advance on Nashville, and to fight
the enemy, as he fell back, so as to retard the enemy's
movements until he could be reinforced by Thomas himself. As
soon as Schofield saw this movement of Hood's, he sent his
trains to the rear, but did not fall back himself until the
21st, and then only to Columbia. At Columbia there was a slight
skirmish but no battle. From this place Schofield then retreated
to Franklin. He had sent his wagons in advance, and Stanley had
gone with them with two divisions to protect them. Cheatham's
corps of Hood's army pursued the wagon train and went into camp
at Spring Hill, for the night of the 29th.

Schofield retreating from Columbia on the 29th, passed Spring
Hill, where Cheatham was bivouacked, during the night without
molestation, though within half a mile of where the Confederates
were encamped. On the morning of the 30th he had arrived at

Hood followed closely and reached Franklin in time to make an
attack the same day. The fight was very desperate and
sanguinary. The Confederate generals led their men in the
repeated charges, and the loss among them was of unusual
proportions. This fighting continued with great severity until
long after the night closed in, when the Confederates drew
off. General Stanley, who commanded two divisions of the Union
troops, and whose troops bore the brunt of the battle, was
wounded in the fight, but maintained his position.

The enemy's loss at Franklin, according to Thomas's report, was
1,750 buried upon the field by our troops, 3,800 in the
hospital, and 702 prisoners besides. Schofield's loss, as
officially reported, was 189 killed, 1,033 wounded, and 1,104
captured and missing.

Thomas made no effort to reinforce Schofield at Franklin, as it
seemed to me at the time he should have done, and fight out the
battle there. He simply ordered Schofield to continue his
retreat to Nashville, which the latter did during that night and
the next day.

Thomas, in the meantime, was making his preparations to receive
Hood. The road to Chattanooga was still well guarded with
strong garrisons at Murfreesboro, Stevenson, Bridgeport and
Chattanooga. Thomas had previously given up Decatur and had
been reinforced by A. J. Smith's two divisions just returned
from Missouri. He also had Steedman's division and R. S.
Granger's, which he had drawn from the front. His
quartermaster's men, about ten thousand in number, had been
organized and armed under the command of the chief
quartermaster, General J. L. Donaldson, and placed in the
fortifications under the general supervision of General Z. B.
Tower, of the United States Engineers.

Hood was allowed to move upon Nashville, and to invest that
place almost without interference. Thomas was strongly
fortified in his position, so that he would have been safe
against the attack of Hood. He had troops enough even to
annihilate him in the open field. To me his delay was
unaccountable--sitting there and permitting himself to be
invested, so that, in the end, to raise the siege he would have
to fight the enemy strongly posted behind fortifications. It is
true the weather was very bad. The rain was falling and freezing
as it fell, so that the ground was covered with a sheet of ice,
that made it very difficult to move. But I was afraid that the
enemy would find means of moving, elude Thomas and manage to get
north of the Cumberland River. If he did this, I apprehended
most serious results from the campaign in the North, and was
afraid we might even have to send troops from the East to head
him off if he got there, General Thomas's movements being always
so deliberate and so slow, though effective in defence.

I consequently urged Thomas in frequent dispatches sent from
City Point(*41) to make the attack at once. The country was
alarmed, the administration was alarmed, and I was alarmed lest
the very thing would take place which I have just described that
is, Hood would get north. It was all without avail further than
to elicit dispatches from Thomas saying that he was getting
ready to move as soon as he could, that he was making
preparations, etc. At last I had to say to General Thomas that
I should be obliged to remove him unless he acted promptly. He
replied that he was very sorry, but he would move as soon as he

General Logan happening to visit City Point about that time, and
knowing him as a prompt, gallant and efficient officer, I gave
him an order to proceed to Nashville to relieve Thomas. I
directed him, however, not to deliver the order or publish it
until he reached there, and if Thomas had moved, then not to
deliver it at all, but communicate with me by telegraph. After
Logan started, in thinking over the situation, I became
restless, and concluded to go myself. I went as far as
Washington City, when a dispatch was received from General
Thomas announcing his readiness at last to move, and designating
the time of his movement. I concluded to wait until that time.
He did move, and was successful from the start. This was on the
15th of December. General Logan was at Louisville at the time
this movement was made, and telegraphed the fact to Washington,
and proceeded no farther himself.

The battle during the 15th was severe, but favorable to the
Union troops, and continued until night closed in upon the
combat. The next day the battle was renewed. After a
successful assault upon Hood's men in their intrenchments the
enemy fled in disorder, routed and broken, leaving their dead,
their artillery and small arms in great numbers on the field,
besides the wounded that were captured. Our cavalry had fought
on foot as infantry, and had not their horses with them; so that
they were not ready to join in the pursuit the moment the enemy
retreated. They sent back, however, for their horses, and
endeavored to get to Franklin ahead of Hood's broken army by the
Granny White Road, but too much time was consumed in getting
started. They had got but a few miles beyond the scene of the
battle when they found the enemy's cavalry dismounted and behind
intrenchments covering the road on which they were advancing.
Here another battle ensued, our men dismounting and fighting on
foot, in which the Confederates were again routed and driven in
great disorder. Our cavalry then went into bivouac, and renewed
the pursuit on the following morning. They were too late. The
enemy already had possession of Franklin, and was beyond them.
It now became a chase in which the Confederates had the lead.

Our troops continued the pursuit to within a few miles of
Columbia, where they found the rebels had destroyed the railroad
bridge as well as all other bridges over Duck River. The heavy
rains of a few days before had swelled the stream into a mad
torrent, impassable except on bridges. Unfortunately, either
through a mistake in the wording of the order or otherwise, the
pontoon bridge which was to have been sent by rail out to
Franklin, to be taken thence with the pursuing column, had gone
toward Chattanooga. There was, consequently, a delay of some
four days in building bridges out of the remains of the old
railroad bridge. Of course Hood got such a start in this time
that farther pursuit was useless, although it was continued for
some distance, but without coming upon him again.



Up to January, 1865, the enemy occupied Fort Fisher, at the
mouth of Cape Fear River and below the City of Wilmington. This
port was of immense importance to the Confederates, because it
formed their principal inlet for blockade runners by means of
which they brought in from abroad such supplies and munitions of
war as they could not produce at home. It was equally important
to us to get possession of it, not only because it was desirable
to cut off their supplies so as to insure a speedy termination of
the war, but also because foreign governments, particularly the
British Government, were constantly threatening that unless ours
could maintain the blockade of that coast they should cease to
recognize any blockade. For these reasons I determined, with
the concurrence of the Navy Department, in December, to send an
expedition against Fort Fisher for the purpose of capturing it.

To show the difficulty experienced in maintaining the blockade,
I will mention a circumstance that took place at Fort Fisher
after its fall. Two English blockade runners came in at
night. Their commanders, not supposing the fort had fallen,
worked their way through all our fleet and got into the river
unobserved. They then signalled the fort, announcing their
arrival. There was a colored man in the fort who had been there
before and who understood these signals. He informed General
Terry what reply he should make to have them come in, and Terry
did as he advised. The vessels came in, their officers entirely
unconscious that they were falling into the hands of the Union
forces. Even after they were brought in to the fort they were
entertained in conversation for some little time before
suspecting that the Union troops were occupying the fort. They
were finally informed that their vessels and cargoes were prizes.

I selected General Weitzel, of the Army of the James, to go with
the expedition, but gave instructions through General Butler. He
commanded the department within whose geographical limits Fort
Fisher was situated, as well as Beaufort and other points on
that coast held by our troops; he was, therefore, entitled to
the right of fitting out the expedition against Fort Fisher.

General Butler conceived the idea that if a steamer loaded
heavily with powder could be run up to near the shore under the
fort and exploded, it would create great havoc and make the
capture an easy matter. Admiral Porter, who was to command the
naval squadron, seemed to fall in with the idea, and it was not
disapproved of in Washington; the navy was therefore given the
task of preparing the steamer for this purpose. I had no
confidence in the success of the scheme, and so expressed
myself; but as no serious harm could come of the experiment, and
the authorities at Washington seemed desirous to have it tried, I
permitted it. The steamer was sent to Beaufort, North Carolina,
and was there loaded with powder and prepared for the part she
was to play in the reduction of Fort Fisher.

General Butler chose to go in command of the expedition himself,
and was all ready to sail by the 9th of December (1864). Very
heavy storms prevailed, however, at that time along that part of
the sea-coast, and prevented him from getting off until the 13th
or 14th. His advance arrived off Fort Fisher on the 15th. The
naval force had been already assembled, or was assembling, but
they were obliged to run into Beaufort for munitions, coal,
etc.; then, too, the powder-boat was not yet fully prepared. The
fleet was ready to proceed on the 18th; but Butler, who had
remained outside from the 15th up to that time, now found
himself out of coal, fresh water, etc., and had to put into
Beaufort to replenish. Another storm overtook him, and several
days more were lost before the army and navy were both ready at
the same time to co-operate.

On the night of the 23d the powder-boat was towed in by a
gunboat as near to the fort as it was safe to run. She was then
propelled by her own machinery to within about five hundred yards
of the shore. There the clockwork, which was to explode her
within a certain length of time, was set and she was
abandoned. Everybody left, and even the vessels put out to sea
to prevent the effect of the explosion upon them. At two
o'clock in the morning the explosion took place--and produced no
more effect on the fort, or anything else on land, than the
bursting of a boiler anywhere on the Atlantic Ocean would have
done. Indeed when the troops in Fort Fisher heard the explosion
they supposed it was the bursting of a boiler in one of the
Yankee gunboats.

Fort Fisher was situated upon a low, flat peninsula north of
Cape Fear River. The soil is sandy. Back a little the
peninsula is very heavily wooded, and covered with fresh-water
swamps. The fort ran across this peninsula, about five hundred
yards in width, and extended along the sea coast about thirteen
hundred yards. The fort had an armament of 21 guns and 3
mortars on the land side, and 24 guns on the sea front. At that
time it was only garrisoned by four companies of infantry, one
light battery and the gunners at the heavy guns less than seven
hundred men with a reserve of less than a thousand men five
miles up the peninsula. General Whiting of the Confederate army
was in command, and General Bragg was in command of the force at
Wilmington. Both commenced calling for reinforcements the
moment they saw our troops landing. The Governor of North
Carolina called for everybody who could stand behind a parapet
and shoot a gun, to join them. In this way they got two or
three hundred additional men into Fort Fisher; and Hoke's
division, five or six thousand strong, was sent down from
Richmond. A few of these troops arrived the very day that
Butler was ready to advance.

On the 24th the fleet formed for an attack in arcs of concentric
circles, their heavy iron-clads going in very close range, being
nearest the shore, and leaving intervals or spaces so that the
outer vessels could fire between them. Porter was thus enabled
to throw one hundred and fifteen shells per minute. The damage
done to the fort by these shells was very slight, only two or
three cannon being disabled in the fort. But the firing
silenced all the guns by making it too hot for the men to
maintain their positions about them and compelling them to seek
shelter in the bomb-proofs.

On the next day part of Butler's troops under General Adelbert
Ames effected a landing out of range of the fort without
difficulty. This was accomplished under the protection of
gunboats sent for the purpose, and under cover of a renewed
attack upon the fort by the fleet. They formed a line across
the peninsula and advanced, part going north and part toward the
fort, covering themselves as they did so. Curtis pushed forward
and came near to Fort Fisher, capturing the small garrison at
what was called the Flag Pond Battery. Weitzel accompanied him
to within a half a mile of the works. Here he saw that the fort
had not been injured, and so reported to Butler, advising against
an assault. Ames, who had gone north in his advance, captured
228 of the reserves. These prisoners reported to Butler that
sixteen hundred of Hoke's division of six thousand from Richmond
had already arrived and the rest would soon be in his rear.

Upon these reports Butler determined to withdraw his troops from
the peninsula and return to the fleet. At that time there had
not been a man on our side injured except by one of the shells
from the fleet. Curtis had got within a few yards of the
works. Some of his men had snatched a flag from the parapet of
the fort, and others had taken a horse from the inside of the
stockade. At night Butler informed Porter of his withdrawal,
giving the reasons above stated, and announced his purpose as
soon as his men could embark to start for Hampton Roads. Porter
represented to him that he had sent to Beaufort for more
ammunition. He could fire much faster than he had been doing,
and would keep the enemy from showing himself until our men were
within twenty yards of the fort, and he begged that Butler would
leave some brave fellows like those who had snatched the flag
from the parapet and taken the horse from the fort.

Butler was unchangeable. He got all his troops aboard, except
Curtis's brigade, and started back. In doing this, Butler made
a fearful mistake. My instructions to him, or to the officer
who went in command of the expedition, were explicit in the
statement that to effect a landing would be of itself a great
victory, and if one should be effected, the foothold must not be
relinquished; on the contrary, a regular siege of the fort must
be commenced and, to guard against interference by reason of
storms, supplies of provisions must be laid in as soon as they
could be got on shore. But General Butler seems to have lost
sight of this part of his instructions, and was back at Fort
Monroe on the 28th.

I telegraphed to the President as follows:

Dec. 28, 1864.--8.30 P.M.

The Wilmington expedition has proven a gross and culpable
failure. Many of the troops are back here. Delays and free
talk of the object of the expedition enabled the enemy to move
troops to Wilmington to defeat it. After the expedition sailed
from Fort Monroe, three days of fine weather were squandered,
during which the enemy was without a force to protect himself.
Who is to blame will, I hope, be known.


Porter sent dispatches to the Navy Department in which he
complained bitterly of having been abandoned by the army just
when the fort was nearly in our possession, and begged that our
troops might be sent back again to cooperate, but with a
different commander. As soon as I heard this I sent a messenger
to Porter with a letter asking him to hold on. I assured him
that I fully sympathized with him in his disappointment, and
that I would send the same troops back with a different
commander, with some reinforcements to offset those which the
enemy had received. I told him it would take some little time
to get transportation for the additional troops; but as soon as
it could be had the men should be on their way to him, and there
would be no delay on my part. I selected A. H. Terry to command.

It was the 6th of January before the transports could be got
ready and the troops aboard. They sailed from Fortress Monroe
on that day. The object and destination of the second
expedition were at the time kept a secret to all except a few in
the Navy Department and in the army to whom it was necessary to
impart the information. General Terry had not the slightest
idea of where he was going or what he was to do. He simply knew
that he was going to sea and that he had his orders with him,
which were to be opened when out at sea.

He was instructed to communicate freely with Porter and have
entire harmony between army and navy, because the work before
them would require the best efforts of both arms of service.
They arrived off Beaufort on the 8th. A heavy storm, however,
prevented a landing at Forth Fisher until the 13th. The navy
prepared itself for attack about as before, and the same time
assisted the army in landing, this time five miles away. Only
iron-clads fired at first; the object being to draw the fire of
the enemy's guns so as to ascertain their positions. This object
being accomplished, they then let in their shots thick and
fast. Very soon the guns were all silenced, and the fort showed
evident signs of being much injured.

Terry deployed his men across the peninsula as had been done
before, and at two o'clock on the following morning was up
within two miles of the fort with a respectable abatis in front
of his line. His artillery was all landed on that day, the
14th. Again Curtis's brigade of Ame's division had the lead. By
noon they had carried an unfinished work less than a half mile
from the fort, and turned it so as to face the other way.

Terry now saw Porter and arranged for an assault on the
following day. The two commanders arranged their signals so
that they could communicate with each other from time to time as
they might have occasion. At day light the fleet commenced its
firing. The time agreed upon for the assault was the middle of
the afternoon, and Ames who commanded the assaulting column
moved at 3.30. Porter landed a force of sailors and marines to
move against the sea-front in co-operation with Ames's
assault. They were under Commander Breese of the navy. These
sailors and marines had worked their way up to within a couple
of hundred yards of the fort before the assault. The signal was
given and the assault was made; but the poor sailors and marines
were repulsed and very badly handled by the enemy, losing 280
killed and wounded out of their number.

Curtis's brigade charged successfully though met by a heavy
fire, some of the men having to wade through the swamp up to
their waists to reach the fort. Many were wounded, of course,
and some killed; but they soon reached the palisades. These
they cut away, and pushed on through. The other troops then
came up, Pennypacker's following Curtis, and Bell, who commanded
the 3d brigade of Ames's division, following Pennypacker. But
the fort was not yet captured though the parapet was gained.

The works were very extensive. The large parapet around the
work would have been but very little protection to those inside
except when they were close up under it. Traverses had,
therefore, been run until really the work was a succession of
small forts enclosed by a large one. The rebels made a
desperate effort to hold the fort, and had to be driven from
these traverses one by one. The fight continued till long after
night. Our troops gained first one traverse and then another,
and by 10 o'clock at night the place was carried. During this
engagement the sailors, who had been repulsed in their assault
on the bastion, rendered the best service they could by
reinforcing Terry's northern line--thus enabling him to send a
detachment to the assistance of Ames. The fleet kept up a
continuous fire upon that part of the fort which was still
occupied by the enemy. By means of signals they could be
informed where to direct their shots.

During the succeeding nights the enemy blew up Fort Caswell on
the opposite side of Cape Fear River, and abandoned two
extensive works on Smith's Island in the river.

Our captures in all amounted to 169 guns, besides small-arms,
with full supplies of ammunition, and 2,083 prisoners. In
addition to these, there were about 700 dead and wounded left
there. We had lost 110 killed and 536 wounded.

In this assault on Fort Fisher, Bell, one of the brigade
commanders, was killed, and two, Curtis and Pennypacker, were
badly wounded.

Secretary Stanton, who was on his way back from Savannah,
arrived off Fort Fisher soon after it fell. When he heard the
good news he promoted all the officers of any considerable rank
for their conspicuous gallantry. Terry had been nominated for
major-general, but had not been confirmed. This confirmed him;
and soon after I recommended him for a brigadier-generalcy in
the regular army, and it was given to him for this victory.



When news of Sherman being in possession of Savannah reached the
North, distinguished statesmen and visitors began to pour in to
see him. Among others who went was the Secretary of War, who
seemed much pleased at the result of his campaign. Mr. Draper,
the collector of customs of New York, who was with Mr. Stanton's
party, was put in charge of the public property that had been
abandoned and captured. Savannah was then turned over to
General Foster's command to hold, so that Sherman might have his
own entire army free to operate as might be decided upon in the
future. I sent the chief engineer of the Army of the Potomac
(General Barnard) with letters to General Sherman. He remained
some time with the general, and when he returned brought back
letters, one of which contained suggestions from Sherman as to
what ought to be done in co-operation with him, when he should
have started upon his march northward.

I must not neglect to state here the fact that I had no idea
originally of having Sherman march from Savannah to Richmond, or
even to North Carolina. The season was bad, the roads impassable
for anything except such an army as he had, and I should not have
thought of ordering such a move. I had, therefore, made
preparations to collect transports to carry Sherman and his army
around to the James River by water, and so informed him. On
receiving this letter he went to work immediately to prepare for
the move, but seeing that it would require a long time to collect
the transports, he suggested the idea then of marching up north
through the Carolinas. I was only too happy to approve this;
for if successful, it promised every advantage. His march
through Georgia had thoroughly destroyed all lines of
transportation in that State, and had completely cut the enemy
off from all sources of supply to the west of it. If North and
South Carolina were rendered helpless so far as capacity for
feeding Lee's army was concerned, the Confederate garrison at
Richmond would be reduced in territory, from which to draw
supplies, to very narrow limits in the State of Virginia; and,
although that section of the country was fertile, it was already
well exhausted of both forage and food. I approved Sherman's
suggestion therefore at once.

The work of preparation was tedious, because supplies, to load
the wagons for the march, had to be brought from a long
distance. Sherman would now have to march through a country
furnishing fewer provisions than that he had previously been
operating in during his march to the sea. Besides, he was
confronting, or marching toward, a force of the enemy vastly
superior to any his troops had encountered on their previous
march; and the territory through which he had to pass had now
become of such vast importance to the very existence of the
Confederate army, that the most desperate efforts were to be
expected in order to save it.

Sherman, therefore, while collecting the necessary supplies to
start with, made arrangements with Admiral Dahlgren, who
commanded that part of the navy on the South Carolina and
Georgia coast, and General Foster, commanding the troops, to
take positions, and hold a few points on the sea coast, which he
(Sherman) designated, in the neighborhood of Charleston.

This provision was made to enable him to fall back upon the sea
coast, in case he should encounter a force sufficient to stop
his onward progress. He also wrote me a letter, making
suggestions as to what he would like to have done in support of
his movement farther north. This letter was brought to City
Point by General Barnard at a time when I happened to be going
to Washington City, where I arrived on the 21st of January. I
cannot tell the provision I had already made to co-operate with
Sherman, in anticipation of his expected movement, better than
by giving my reply to this letter.

Jan. 21, 1865.

Commanding Mill Div. of the Mississippi.

GENERAL:--Your letters brought by General Barnard were received
at City Point, and read with interest. Not having them with me,
however, I cannot say that in this I will be able to satisfy you
on all points of recommendation. As I arrived here at one P.M.,
and must leave at six P.M., having in the meantime spent over
three hours with the Secretary and General Halleck, I must be
brief. Before your last request to have Thomas make a campaign
into the heart of Alabama, I had ordered Schofield to Annapolis,
Md., with his corps. The advance (six thousand) will reach the
seaboard by the 23d, the remainder following as rapidly as
railroad transportation can be procured from Cincinnati. The
corps numbers over twenty-one thousand men. I was induced to do
this because I did not believe Thomas could possibly be got off
before spring. His pursuit of Hood indicated a sluggishness
that satisfied me that he would never do to conduct one of your
campaigns. The command of the advance of the pursuit was left
to subordinates, whilst Thomas followed far behind. When Hood
had crossed the Tennessee, and those in pursuit had reached it,
Thomas had not much more than half crossed the State, from
whence he returned to Nashville to take steamer for Eastport. He
is possessed of excellent judgment, great coolness and honesty,
but he is not good on a pursuit. He also reported his troops
fagged, and that it was necessary to equip up. This report and
a determination to give the enemy no rest determined me to use
his surplus troops elsewhere.

Thomas is still left with a sufficient force surplus to go to
Selma under an energetic leader. He has been telegraphed to, to
know whether he could go, and, if so, which of the several routes
he would select. No reply is yet received. Canby has been
ordered to act offensively from the sea-coast to the interior,
towards Montgomery and Selma. Thomas's forces will move from
the north at an early day, or some of his troops will be sent to
Canby. Without further reinforcements Canby will have a moving
column of twenty thousand men.

Fort Fisher, you are aware, has been captured. We have a force
there of eight thousand effective. At New Bern about half the
number. It is rumored, through deserters, that Wilmington also
has fallen. I am inclined to believe the rumor, because on the
17th we knew the enemy were blowing up their works about Fort
Caswell, and that on the 18th Terry moved on Wilmington.

If Wilmington is captured, Schofield will go there. If not, he
will be sent to New Bern. In either event, all the surplus
forces at the two points will move to the interior toward
Goldsboro' in co-operation with your movements. From either
point, railroad communications can be run out, there being here
abundance of rolling-stock suited to the gauge of those roads.

There have been about sixteen thousand men sent from Lee's army
south. Of these, you will have fourteen thousand against you,
if Wilmington is not held by the enemy, casualties at Fort
Fisher having overtaken about two thousand.

All these troops are subject to your orders as you come in
communication with them. They will be so instructed. From
about Richmond I will watch Lee closely, and if he detaches much
more, or attempts to evacuate, will pitch in. In the meantime,
should you be brought to a halt anywhere, I can send two corps
of thirty thousand effective men to your support, from the
troops about Richmond.

To resume: Canby is ordered to operate to the interior from the
Gulf. A. J. Smith may go from the north, but I think it
doubtful. A force of twenty-eight or thirty thousand will
co-operate with you from New Bern or Wilmington, or both. You
can call for reinforcements.

This will be handed you by Captain Hudson, of my staff, who will
return with any message you may have for me. If there is
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


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