The Memoirs of General Philip H. Sheridan, Vol. II., Part 5
P. H. Sheridan

Part 1 out of 2

Produced by David Widger



Part 5

By Philip Henry Sheridan



The night of March 30 Merritt, with Devin's division and Davies's
brigade, was camped on the Five Forks road about two miles in front
of Dinwiddie, near J. Boisseau's. Crook, with Smith and Gregg's
brigades, continued to cover Stony Creek, and Custer was still back
at Rowanty Creek, trying to get the trains up. This force had been
counted while crossing the creek on the 29th, the three divisions
numbering 9,000 enlisted men, Crook having 3,300, and Custer and
Devin 5,700.

During the 30th, the enemy had been concentrating his cavalry, and by
evening General W. H. F. Lee and General Rosser had joined Fitzhugh
Lee near Five Forks. To this force was added, about dark, five
brigades of infantry--three from Pickett's division, and two from
Johnson's--all under command of Pickett. The infantry came by the
White Oak road from the right of General Lee's intrenchments, and
their arrival became positively known to me about dark, the
confirmatory intelligence being brought in then by some of Young's
scouts who had been inside the Confederate lines.

On the 31st, the rain having ceased, directions were given at an
early hour to both Merritt and Crook to make reconnoissances
preparatory to securing Five Forks, and about 9 o'clock Merritt
started for the crossroads, Davies's brigade supporting him. His
march was necessarily slow because of the mud, and the enemy's
pickets resisted with obstinacy also, but the coveted crossroads fell
to Merritt without much trouble, as the bulk of the enemy was just
then bent on other things. At the same hour that Merritt started,
Crook moved Smith's brigade out northwest from Dinwiddie to
Fitzgerald's crossing of Chamberlain's Creek, to cover Merritt's
left, supporting Smith by placing Gregg to his right and rear. The
occupation of this ford was timely, for Pickett, now in command of
both the cavalry and infantry, was already marching to get in
Merritt's rear by crossing Chamberlain's Creek.

To hold on to Fitzgerald's ford Smith had to make a sharp fight, but
Mumford's cavalry attacking Devin, the enemy's infantry succeeded in
getting over Chamberlain's Creek at a point higher up than
Fitzgerald's ford, and assailing Davies, forced him back in a
northeasterly direction toward the Dinwiddie and Five Forks road in
company with Devin. The retreat of Davies permitted Pickett to pass
between Crook and Merritt, which he promptly did, effectually
separating them and cutting off both Davies and Devin from the road
to Dinwiddie, so that to get to that point they had to retreat across
the country to B. Boisseau's and then down the Boydton road.

Gibbs's brigade had been in reserve near the intersection of the Five
Forks and Dabney roads, and directing Merritt to hold on there, I
ordered Gregg's brigade to be mounted and brought to Merritt's aid,
for if Pickett continued in pursuit north of the Five Forks road he
would expose his right and rear, and I determined to attack him, in
such case, from Gibbs's position. Gregg arrived in good season, and
as soon as his men were dismounted on Gibbs's left, Merritt assailed
fiercely, compelling Pickett to halt and face a new foe, thus
interrupting an advance that would finally have carried Pickett into
the rear of Warren's corps.

It was now about 4 o'clock in the afternoon and we were in a critical
situation, but having ordered Merritt to bring Devin and Davies to
Dinwiddie by the Boydton road, staff-officers were sent to hurry
Custer to the same point, for with its several diverging roads the
Court House was of vital importance, and I determined to stay there
at all hazards. At the same time orders were sent to Smith's
brigade, which, by the advance of Pickett past its right flank and
the pressure of W. H. F. Lee on its front, had been compelled to give
up Fitzgerald's crossing, to fall back toward Dinwiddie but to
contest every inch of ground so as to gain time.

When halted by the attack of Gregg and Gibbs, Pickett, desisting from
his pursuit of Devin, as already stated, turned his undivided
attention to this unexpected force, and with his preponderating
infantry pressed it back on the Five Forks road toward Dinwiddle,
though our men, fighting dismounted behind barricades at different
points, displayed such obstinacy as to make Pickett's progress slow,
and thus give me time to look out a line for defending the Court
House. I selected a place about three-fourths of a mile northwest of
the crossroads, and Custer coming up quickly with Capehart's brigade,
took position on the left of the road to Five Forks in some open
ground along the crest of a gentle ridge. Custer got Capehart into
place just in time to lend a hand to Smith, who, severely pressed,
came back on us here from his retreat along Chamberlain's "bed"--the
vernacular for a woody swamp such as that through which Smith
retired. A little later the brigades of Gregg and Gibbs, falling to
the rear slowly and steadily, took up in the woods a line which
covered the Boydton Road some distance to the right of Capehart, the
intervening gap to be filled with Pennington's brigade. By this time
our horse-artillery, which for two days had been stuck in the mud,
was all up, and every gun was posted in this line.

It was now near sunset, and the enemy's cavalry thinking the day was
theirs, made a dash at Smith, but just as the assailants appeared in
the open fields, Capehart's men opened so suddenly on their left
flank as to cause it to recoil in astonishment, which permitted Smith
to connect his brigade with Custer unmolested. We were now in good
shape behind the familiar barricades, and having a continuous line,
excepting only the gap to be filled with Pennington, that covered
Dinwiddie and the Boydton Road. My left rested in the woods about
half a mile west of the Court House, and the barricades extended from
this flank in a semicircle through the open fields in a northeasterly
direction, to a piece-of thick timber on the right, near the Boydton

A little before the sun went down the Confederate infantry was formed
for the attack, and, fortunately for us, Pennington's brigade came up
and filled the space to which it was assigned between Capehart and
Gibbs, just as Pickett moved out across the cleared fields in front
of Custer, in deep lines that plainly told how greatly we were

Accompanied by Generals Merritt and Custer and my staff, I now rode
along the barricades to encourage the men. Our enthusiastic
reception showed that they were determined to stay. The cavalcade
drew the enemy's fire, which emptied several of the saddles--among
others Mr. Theodore Wilson, correspondent of the New York Herald,
being wounded. In reply our horse-artillery opened on the advancing
Confederates, but the men behind the barricades lay still till
Pickett's troops were within short range. Then they opened, Custer's
repeating rifles pouring out such a shower of lead that nothing could
stand up against it. The repulse was very quick, and as the gray
lines retired to the woods from which but a few minutes before they
had so confidently advanced, all danger of their taking Dinwiddie or
marching to the left and rear of our infantry line was over, at least
for the night. The enemy being thus checked, I sent a
staff-officer--Captain Sheridan--to General Grant to report what had
taken place during the afternoon, and to say that I proposed to stay at
Dinwiddie, but if ultimately compelled to abandon the place, I would do
so by retiring on the Vaughn road toward Hatcher's Run, for I then
thought the attack might be renewed next morning. Devin and Davies
joined me about dark, and my troops being now well in hand, I sent a
second staff-officer--Colonel John Kellogg--to explain my situation
more fully, and to assure General Grant that I would hold on at
Dinwiddie till forced to let go.

By following me to Dinwiddie the enemy's infantry had completely
isolated itself, and hence there was now offered the Union troops a
rare opportunity. Lee was outside of his works, just as we desired,
and the general-in-chief realized this the moment he received the
first report of my situation; General Meade appreciated it too from
the information he got from Captain Sheridan, en route to army
headquarters with the first tidings, and sent this telegram to
General Grant:

"March 31, 1865. 9:45 p.m.


"Would it not be well for Warren to go down with his whole corps and
smash up the force in front of Sheridan? Humphreys can hold the line
to the Boydton plank-road, and the refusal along with it. Bartlett's
brigade is now on the road from G. Boisseau's, running north, where
it crosses Gravelly Run, he having gone down the White Oak road.
Warren could go at once that way, and take the force threatening
Sheridan in rear at Dinwiddie, and move on the enemy's rear with the
other two.

"G. G. MEADE, Major-General."

An hour later General Grant replied in these words:

"DABNEY'S MILLS, March 311, 1865. 10:15 P. M.

"Commanding Army of the Potomac.

Let Warren move in the way you propose, and urge him not to stop for
anything. Let Griffin (Griffin had been ordered by Warren to the
Boydton road to protect his rear) go on as he was first directed.

"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General."

These two despatches were the initiatory steps in sending the Fifth
Corps, under Major-General G. K. Warren, to report to me, and when I
received word of its coming and also that Genera Mackenzie's cavalry
from the Army of the James was likewise to be added to my command,
and that discretionary authority was given me to use all my forces
against Pickett, I resolved to destroy him, if it was within the
bounds of possibility, before he could rejoin Lee.

In a despatch, dated 10:05 p.m., telling me of the coming of Warren
and Mackenzie, General Grant also said that the Fifth Corps should
reach me by 12 o'clock that night, but at that hour not only had none
of the corps arrived, but no report from it, so believing that if it
came all the way down to Dinwiddie the next morning, our opportunity
would be gone, I concluded that it would be best to order Warren to
move in on the enemy's rear while the cavalry attacked in front, and,
therefore, at 3 o'clock in the morning of April 1 sent this despatch
to General Warren:

"April 1, 1865--3. A.M.

"Commanding Fifth Army Corps.

"I am holding in front of Dinwiddie Court House, on the road leading
to Five Forks, for three-quarters of a mile with General Custer's
division. The enemy are in his immediate front, lying so as to cover
the road just this side of A. Adams's house, which leads across
Chamberlain's bed, or run. I understand you have a division at J.[G]
Boisseau's; if so, you are in rear of the enemy's line and almost on
his flank. I will hold on here. Possibly they may attack Custer at
daylight; if so, attack instantly and in full force. Attack at
daylight anyhow, and I will make an effort to get the road this side
of Adams's house, and if I do, you can capture the whole of them.
Any force moving down the road I am holding, or on the White Oak
road, will be in the enemy's rear, and in all probability get any
force that may escape you by a flank movement. Do not fear my
leaving here. If the enemy remains, I shall fight at daylight.

"P. H. SHERIDAN, Major-General."

With daylight came a slight fog, but it lifted almost immediately,
and Merritt moved Custer and Devin forward. As these divisions
advanced the enemy's infantry fell back on the Five Forks road, Devin
pressing him along the road, while Custer extended on the left over
toward Chamberlain's Run, Crook being held in watch along Stony
Creek, meanwhile, to be utilized as circumstances might require when
Warren attacked.

The order of General Meade to Warren the night of March 31--a copy
being sent me also--was positive in its directions, but as midnight
came without a sign of or word from the Fifth Corps, notwithstanding
that was the hour fixed for its arrival, I nevertheless assumed that
there were good reasons for its non-appearance, but never once
doubted that measures would be taken to comply with my despatch Of
3 A. M. and therefore hoped that, as Pickett was falling back slowly
toward Five Forks, Griffin's and Crawford's divisions would come in
on the Confederate left and rear by the Crump road near J.[G]
Boisseau's house.

But they did not reach there till after the enemy had got by. As a
matter of fact, when Pickett was passing the all-important point
Warren's men were just breaking from the bivouac in which their chief
had placed them the night before, and the head of Griffin's division
did not get to Boisseau's till after my cavalry, which meanwhile had
been joined by Ayres's division of the Fifth Corps by way of the
Boydton and Dabney roads. By reason of the delay in moving Griffin
and Crawford, the enemy having escaped, I massed the Fifth Corps at
J.[G] Boisseau's so that the men could be rested, and directed it to
remain there; General Warren himself had not then come up. General
Mackenzie, who had reported just after daybreak, was ordered at first
to stay at Dinwiddie Court House, but later was brought along the
Five Forks road to Dr. Smith's, and Crook's division was directed to
continue watching the crossings of Stony Creek and Chamberlain's Run.

That we had accomplished nothing but to oblige our foe to retreat was
to me bitterly disappointing, but still feeling sure that he would
not give up the Five Forks crossroads without a fight, I pressed him
back there with Merritt's cavalry, Custer advancing on the Scott
road, while Devin drove the rearguard along that leading from J.[G]
Boisseau's to Five Forks.

By 2 o'clock in the afternoon Merritt had forced the enemy inside his
intrenchments, which began with a short return about three-quarters
of a mile east of the Forks and ran along the south side of the White
Oak road to a point about a mile west of the Forks. From the left of
the return over toward Hatcher's Run was posted Mumford's cavalry,
dismounted. In the return itself was Wallace's brigade, and next on
its right came Ransom's, then Stewart's, then Terry's, then Corse's.
On the right of Corse was W. H. F. Lee's division of cavalry. Ten
pieces of artillery also were in this line, three on the right of the
works, three near the centre at the crossroads, and four on the left,
in the return. Rosser's cavalry was guarding the Confederate trains
north of Hatcher's Run beyond the crossing of the Ford road.

I felt certain the enemy would fight at Five Forks--he had to--so,
while we were getting up to his intrenchments, I decided on my plan
of battle. This was to attack his whole front with Merritt's two
cavalry divisions, make a feint of turning his right flank, and with
the Fifth Corps assail his left. As the Fifth Corps moved into
action, its right flank was to be covered by Mackenzie's cavalry,
thus entirely cutting off Pickett's troops from communication with
Lee's right flank, which rested near the Butler house at the junction
of the Claiborne and White Oaks roads. In execution of this plan,
Merritt worked his men close in toward the intrenchments, and while
he was thus engaged, I ordered Warren to bring up the Fifth Corps,
sending the order by my engineer officer, Captain Gillespie, who had
reconnoitred the ground in the neighborhood of Gravelly Run Church,
where the infantry was to form for attack.

Gillespie delivered the order about 1 o'clock, and when the corps was
put in motion, General Warren joined me at the front. Before he
came, I had received, through Colonel Babcock, authority from General
Grant to relieve him, but I did not wish to do it, particularly on
the eve of battle; so, saying nothing at all about the message
brought me, I entered at once on the plan for defeating Pickett,
telling Warren how the enemy was posted, explaining with considerable
detail, and concluding by stating that I wished his troops to be
formed on the Gravelly Church road, near its junction with the White
Oak road, with two divisions to the front, aligned obliquely to the
White Oak road, and one in reserve, opposite the centre of these two.

General Warren seemed to understand me clearly, and then left to join
his command, while I turned my attention to the cavalry, instructing
Merritt to begin by making demonstrations as though to turn the
enemy's right, and to assault the front of the works with his
dismounted cavalry as soon as Warren became engaged. Afterward I
rode around to Gravelly Run Church, and found the head of Warren's
column just appearing, while he was sitting under a tree making a
rough sketch of the ground. I was disappointed that more of the
corps was not already up, and as the precious minutes went by without
any apparent effort to hurry the troops on to the field, this
disappointment grew into disgust. At last I expressed to Warren my
fears that the cavalry might expend all their ammunition before the
attack could be made, that the sun would go down before the battle
could be begun, or that troops from Lee's right, which, be it
remembered, was less than three miles away from my right, might, by
striking my rear, or even by threatening it, prevent the attack on

Warren did not seem to me to be at all solicitous; his manner
exhibited decided apathy, and he remarked with indifference that
"Bobby Lee was always getting people into trouble." With unconcern
such as this, it is no wonder that fully three hours' time was
consumed in marching his corps from J.[G] Boisseau's to Gravelly Run
Church, though the distance was but two miles. However, when my
patience was almost worn out, Warren reported his troops ready,
Ayres's division being formed on the west side of the Gravelly Church
road, Crawford's on the east side, and Griffin in reserve behind the
right of Crawford, a little different from my instructions. The
corps had no artillery present, its batteries, on account of the mud,
being still north of Gravelly Run. Meanwhile Merritt had been busy
working his men close up to the intrenchments from the angle of the
return west, along the White Oak road.

About 4 o'clock Warren began the attack. He was to assault the left
flank of the Confederate infantry at a point where I knew Pickett's
intrenchments were refused, almost at right angles with the White Oak
road. I did not know exactly how far toward Hatcher's Run this part
of the works extended, for here the videttes of Mumford's cavalry
were covering, but I did know where the refusal began. This return,
then, was the point I wished to assail, believing that if the assault
was made with spirit, the line could be turned. I therefore intended
that Ayres and Crawford should attack the refused trenches squarely,
and when these two divisions and Merritt's cavalry became hotly
engaged, Griffin's division was to pass around the left of the
Confederate line; and I personally instructed Griffin how I wished
him to go in, telling him also that as he advanced, his right flank
would be taken care of by Mackenzie, who was to be pushed over toward
the Ford road and Hatcher's Run.

The front of the corps was oblique to the White Oak road; and on
getting there, it was to swing round to the left till perpendicular
to the road, keeping closed to the left. Ayres did his part well,
and to the letter, bringing his division square up to the front of
the return near the angle; but Crawford did not wheel to the left, as
was intended. On the contrary, on receiving fire from Mumford's
cavalry, Crawford swerved to the right and moved north from the
return, thus isolating his division from Ayres; and Griffin,
uncertain of the enemy's position, naturally followed Crawford.

The deflection of this division on a line of march which finally
brought it out on the Ford road near C. Young's house, frustrated the
purpose I had in mind when ordering the attack, and caused a gap
between Ayres and Crawford, of which the enemy quickly took
advantage, and succeeded in throwing a part of Ayres's division into
confusion. At this juncture I sent word to General Warren to have
Crawford recalled; for the direction he was following was not only a
mistaken one, but, in case the assault at the return failed, he ran
great risk of capture. Warren could not be found, so I then sent for
Griffin--first by Colonel Newhall, and then by Colonel Sherman--to
come to the aid of Ayres, who was now contending alone with that part
of the enemy's infantry at the return. By this time Griffin had
observed and appreciated Crawford's mistake, however, and when the
staff-officers reached him, was already faced to the left; so,
marching across Crawford's rear, he quickly joined Ayres, who
meanwhile had rallied his troops and carried the return.

When Ayres's division went over the flank of the enemy's works,
Devin's division of cavalry, which had been assaulting the front,
went over in company with it; and hardly halting to reform, the
intermingling infantry and dismounted cavalry swept down inside the
intrenchments, pushing to and beyond Five Forks, capturing thousands
of prisoners. The only stand the enemy tried to make was when he
attempted to form near the Ford road. Griffin pressed him so hard
there, however, that he had to give way in short order, and many of
his men, with three pieces of artillery, fell into the hands of
Crawford while on his circuitous march.

The right of Custer's division gained a foothold on the enemy's works
simultaneously with Devin's, but on the extreme left Custer had a
very severe combat with W. H. F. Lee's cavalry, as well as with
Corse's and Terry's infantry. Attacking Terry and Corse with
Pennington's brigade dismounted, he assailed Lee's cavalry with his
other two brigades mounted, but Lee held on so obstinately that
Custer gained but little ground till our troops, advancing behind the
works, drove Corse and Terry out. Then Lee made no further stand
except at the west side of the Gillian field, where, assisted by
Corse's brigade, he endeavored to cover the retreat, but just before
dark Custer, in concert with some Fifth Corps regiments under Colonel
Richardson, drove ihe last of the enemy westward on the White Oak

Our success was unqualified; we had overthrown Pickett, taken six
guns, thirteen battle-flags, and nearly six thousand prisoners. When
the battle was practically over, I turned to consider my position
with reference to the main Confederate army. My troops, though
victorious, were isolated from the Army of the Potomac, for on the
31st of March the extreme left of that army had been thrown back
nearly to the Boydton plank-road, and hence there was nothing to
prevent the enemy's issuing from his trenches at the intersection of
the White Oak and Claiborne roads and marching directly on my rear.
I surmised that he might do this that night or early next morning.
It was therefore necessary to protect myself in this critical
situation, and General Warren having sorely disappointed me, both in
the moving of his corps and in its management during the battle, I
felt that he was not the man to rely upon under such circumstances,
and deeming that it was to the best interest of the service as well
as but just to myself, I relieved him, ordering him to report to
General Grant.

I then put Griffin in command of the Fifth Corps, and directed him to
withdraw from the pursuit as quickly as he could after following the
enemy a short distance, and form in line of battle near Gravelly Run
Church, at right angles with the White Oak road, with Ayres and
Crawford facing toward the enemy at the junction of the White Oak and
Claiborne roads, leaving Bartlett, now commanding Griffin's division,
near the Ford road. Mackenzie also was left on the Ford road at the
crossing of Hatcher's Run, Merritt going into camp on the Widow
Gillian's plantation. As I had been obliged to keep Crook's division
along Stony Creek throughout the day, it had taken no active part in
the battle.

Years after the war, in 1879, a Court of Inquiry was given General
Warren in relation to his conduct on the day of the battle. He
assumed that the delay in not granting his request for an inquiry,
which was first made at the close of the war, was due to opposition
on my part. In this he was in error; I never opposed the ordering of
the Court, but when it was finally decided to convene it I naturally
asked to be represented by counsel, for the authorization of the
Inquiry was so peculiarly phrased that it made me practically a

"NEW YORK CITY, May 3, 1880

"President Court of Inquiry, Governor's Island.

"Sir: Since my arrival in this city, under a subpoena to appear and
testify before the Court of which you are president, I have been
indirectly and unofficially informed that the Court some time ago
forwarded an invitation to me (which has not been received) to appear
personally or by counsel, in order to aid it in obtaining a knowledge
as to the facts concerning the movements terminating in the battle of
'Five Forks,' with reference to the direct subjects of its inquiry.
Any invitation of this character I should always and do consider it
incumbent on me to accede to, and do everything in my power in
furtherance of the specific purposes for which courts of inquiry are
by law instituted.

"The order convening the Court (a copy of which was not received by
me at my division headquarters until two days after the time
appointed for the Court to assemble) contemplates an inquiry based on
the application of Lieutenant Colonel G. K. Warren, Corps of
Engineers, as to his conduct while major-general commanding the Fifth
Army Corps, under my command, in reference to accusations or
imputations assumed in the order to have been made against him, and I
understand through the daily press that my official report of the
battle of Five Forks has been submitted by him as a basis of inquiry.

"If it is proposed to inquire, either directly or indirectly, as to
any action of mine so far as the commanding general Fifth Army Corps
was concerned, or my motives for such action, I desire to be
specifically informed wherein such action or transaction is alleged
to contain an accusation or imputation to become a subject of
inquiry, so that, knowing what issues are raised, I may intelligently
aid the Court in arriving at the facts.

"It is a long time since the battle of Five Forks was fought, and
during the time that has elapsed the official reports of that battle
have been received and acknowledged by the Government; but now, when
the memory of events has in many instances grown dim, and three of
the principal actors on that field are dead--Generals Griffin,
Custer, and Devin, whose testimony would have been valuable--an
investigation is ordered which might perhaps do injustice unless the
facts pertinent to the issues are fully developed.

"My duties are such that it will not be convenient for me to be
present continuously during the sessions of the Court. In order,
however, that everything may be laid before it in my power pertinent
to such specific issues as are legally raised, I beg leave to
introduce Major Asa Bird Gardner as my counsel.

"Very respectfully,

"P. H. SHERIDAN, Lieut.-General."

Briefly stated, in my report of the battle of Five Forks there were
four imputations concerning General Warren. The first implied that
Warren failed to reach me on the 1st of April, when I had reason to
expect him; the second, that the tactical handling of his corps was
unskillful; the third, that he did not exert himself to get his corps
up to Gravelly Run Church; and the fourth, that when portions of his
line gave way he did not exert himself to restore confidence to his
troops. The Court found against him on the first and second counts,
and for him on the third and fourth. This finding was unsatisfactory
to General Warren, for he hoped to obtain such an unequivocal
recognition of his services as to cast discredit on my motives for
relieving him. These were prompted by the conditions alone--by the
conduct of General Warren as described, and my consequent lack of
confidence in him.

It will be remembered that in my conversation with General Grant on
the 30th, relative to the suspension of operations because of the
mud, I asked him to let me have the Sixth Corps to help me in
breaking in on the enemy's right, but that it could not be sent me;
it will be recalled also that the Fifth Corps was afterward tendered
and declined. From these facts it has been alleged that I was
prejudiced against General Warren, but this is not true. As we had
never been thrown much together I knew but little of him. I had no
personal objection to him, and certainly could have none to his
corps. I was expected to do an extremely dangerous piece of work,
and knowing the Sixth Corps well--my cavalry having campaigned with
it so successfully in the Shenandoah Valley, I naturally preferred
it, and declined the Fifth for no other reason. But the Sixth could
not be given, and the turn of events finally brought me the Fifth
after my cavalry, under the most trying difficulties, had drawn the
enemy from his works, and into such a position as to permit the
realization of General Grant's hope to break up with my force Lee's
right flank. Pickett's isolation offered an opportunity which we
could not afford to neglect, and the destruction of his command would
fill the measure of General Grant's expectations as well as meet my
own desires. The occasion was not an ordinary one, and as I thought
that Warren had not risen to its demand in the battle, I deemed it
injudicious and unsafe under the critical conditions existing to
retain him longer. That I was justified in this is plain to all who
are disposed to be fair-minded, so with the following extract from
General Sherman's review of the proceedings of the Warren Court, and
with which I am convinced the judgment of history will accord, I
leave the subject:

"....It would be an unsafe and dangerous rule to hold the commander
of an army in battle to a technical adherence to any rule of conduct
for managing his command. He is responsible for results, and holds
the lives and reputations of every officer and soldier under his
orders as subordinate to the great end--victory. The most important
events are usually compressed into an hour, a minute, and he cannot
stop to analyze his reasons. He must act on the impulse, the
conviction, of the instant, and should be sustained in his
conclusions, if not manifestly unjust. The power to command men, and
give vehement impulse to their joint action, is something which
cannot be defined by words, but it is plain and manifest in battles,
and whoever commands an army in chief must choose his subordinates by
reason of qualities which can alone be tested in actual conflict.

"No one has questioned the patriotism, integrity, and great
intelligence of General Warren. These are attested by a long record
of most excellent service, but in the clash of arms at and near Five
Forks, March 31 and April 1, 1865, his personal activity fell short
of the standard fixed by General Sheridan, on whom alone rested the
great responsibility for that and succeeding days.

"My conclusion is that General Sheridan was perfectly justified in
his action in this case, and he must be fully and entirely sustained
if the United States expects great victories by her arms in the



When the news of the battle at Five Forks reached General Grant, he
realized that the decisive character of our victory would necessitate
the immediate abandonment of Richmond and Petersburg by the enemy;
and fearing that Lee would escape without further injury, he issued
orders, the propriety of which must be settled by history, to assault
next morning the whole intrenched line. But Lee could not retreat at
once. He had not anticipated dissster at Five Forks, and hence was
unprepared to withdraw on the moment; and the necessity of getting
off his trains and munitions of war, as well as being obliged to
cover the flight of the Confederate Government, compelled him to hold
on to Richmond and Petersburg till the afternoon of the 2d, though
before that Parke, Ord, and Wright had carried his outer
intrenchments at several points, thus materially shortening the line
of investment.

The night of the 1st of April, General Humphreys's corps--the Second
--had extended its left toward the White Oak road, and early next
morning, under instructions from General Grant, Miles's division of
that corps reported to me, and supporting him with Ayres's and
Crawford's divisions of the Fifth Corps, I then directed him to
advance toward Petersburg and attack the enemy's works at the
intersection of the Claiborne and White Oak roads.

Such of the enemy as were still in the works Miles easily forced
across Hatcher's Run, in the direction of Sutherland's depot, but the
Confederates promptly took up a position north of the little stream,
and Miles being anxious to attack, I gave him leave, but just at this
time General Humphreys came up with a request to me from General
Meade to return Miles. On this request I relinquished command of the
division, when, supported by the Fifth Corps it could have broken in
the enemy's right at a vital point; and I have always since regretted
that I did so, for the message Humphreys conveyed was without
authority from General Grant, by whom Miles had been sent to me, but
thinking good feeling a desideratum just then, and wishing to avoid
wrangles, I faced the Fifth Corps about and marched it down to Five
Forks, and out the Ford road to the crossing of Hatcher's Run. After
we had gone, General Grant, intending this quarter of the field to be
under my control, ordered Humphreys with his other two divisions to
move to the right, in toward Petersburg. This left Miles entirely
unsupported, and his gallant attack made soon after was unsuccessful
at first, but about 3 o'clock in the afternoon he carried the point
which covered the retreat from Petersburg and Richmond.

Merritt had been sent westward, meanwhile, in the direction of Ford's
Station, to break the enemy's horse which had been collecting to the
north of Hatcher's Run. Meeting, with but little opposition, Merritt
drove this cavalry force in a northerly direction toward Scott's
Corners, while the Fifth Corps was pushed toward Sutherland's depot,
in the hope of coming in on the rear of the force that was
confronting Miles when I left him. Crawford and Merritt engaged the
enemy lightly just before night, but his main column, retreating
along the river road south of the Appomattox, had got across Namozine
Creek, and the darkness prevented our doing more than to pick up some
stragglers. The next morning the pursuit was resumed, the cavalry
again in advance, the Fifth Corps keeping up with it all the while,
and as we pressed our adversaries hundreds and hundreds of prisoners,
armed and unarmed, fell into our hands, together with many wagons and
five pieces of artillery. At Deep Creek the rearguard turned on us,
and a severe skirmish took place. Merritt, finding the enemy very
strong, was directed to await the arrival of Crook and for the rear
division of the Fifth Corps; but by the time they reached the creek,
darkness had again come to protect the Confederates, and we had to be
content with meagre results at that point.

From the beginning it was apparent that Lee, in his retreat, was
making for Amelia Court House, where his columns north and south of
the Appomattox River could join, and where, no doubt, he expected to
meet supplies, so Crook was ordered to march early on April 4 to
strike the Danville railroad, between Jettersville and Burkeville,
and then move south along the railroad toward Jettersville, Merritt
to move toward Amelia Court House, and the Fifth Corps to
Jettersville itself.

The Fifth Corps got to Jettersville about 5 in the afternoon, and I
immediately intrenched it across the Burkeville road with the
determination to stay there till the main army could come up, for I
hoped we could force Lee to surrender at Amelia Court House, since a
firm hold on Jettersville would cut him off from his line of retreat
toward Burkeville.

Accompanied only by my escort--the First United States Cavalry, about
two hundred strong--I reached Jettersville some little time before
the Fifth Corps, and having nothing else at hand I at once deployed
this handful of men to cover the crossroads till the arrival of the
corps. Just as the troopers were deploying, a man on a mule, heading
for Burkeville, rode into my pickets. He was arrested, of course,
and being searched there was found in his boots this telegram in
duplicate, signed by Lee's Commissary General.

"The army is at Amelia Court House, short of provisions. Send
300,000 rations quickly to Burkeville Junction." One copy was
addressed to the supply department at Danville, and the other to that
at Lynchburg. I surmised that the telegraph lines north of
Burkeville had been broken by Crook after the despatches were
written, which would account for their being transmitted by
messenger. There was thus revealed not only the important fact that
Lee was concentrating at Amelia Court House, but also a trustworthy
basis for estimating his troops, so I sent word to Crook to strike up
the railroad toward me, and to Merritt--who, as I have said, had
followed on the heels of the enemy--to leave Mackenzie there and
himself close in on Jettersville. Staff-officers were also
despatched to hurry up Griffin with the Fifth Corps, and his tired men
redoubled their strides.

My troops too were hard up for rations, for in the pursuit we could
not wait for our trains, so I concluded to secure if possible these
provisions intended for Lee. To this end I directed Young to send
four of his best scouts to Burkeville Junction. There they were to
separate, two taking the railroad toward Lynchburg and two toward
Danville, and as soon as a telegraph station was reached the telegram
was to be transmitted as it had been written and the provisions thus
hurried forward.

Although the Fifth Corps arrived at Jettersville the evening of April
4, as did also Crook's and Merritt's cavalry, yet none of the army of
the Potomac came up till about 3 o'clock the afternoon of the 5th,
the Second Corps, followed by the Sixth, joining us then. General
Meade arrived at Jettersville an hour earlier, but being ill,
requested me to put his troops in position. The Fifth Corps being
already intrenched across the Amelia Court House road facing north, I
placed the Sixth on its right and the Second on its left as they
reached the ground.

As the enemy had been feeling us ever since morning--to learn what he
was up to I directed Crook to send Davies's brigade on a
reconnoissance to Paine's crossroads. Davies soon found out that Lee
was trying to escape by that flank, for at the crossroads he found
the Confederate trains and artillery moving rapidly westward. Having
driven away the escort, Davies succeeded in burning nearly two
hundred wagons, and brought off five pieces of artillery. Among
these wagons were some belonging to General, Lee's and to General
Fitzhugh Lee's headquarters. This work through, Davies withdrew and
rejoined Crook, who, with Smith and Gregg, was established near Flat

It being plain that Lee would attempt to escape as soon as his trains
were out of the way, I was most anxious to attack him when the Second
Corps began to arrive, for I felt certain that unless we did so he
would succeed in passing by our left flank, and would thus again make
our pursuit a stern-chase; but General Meade, whose plan of attack
was to advance his right flank on Amelia Court House, objected to
assailing before all his troops were up.

I then sent despatches to General Grant, explaining what Davies had
done, and telling him that the Second Corps was arriving, and that I
wished he himself was present. I assured him of my confidence in our
capturing Lee if we properly exerted ourselves, and informed him,
finally, that I would put all my cavalry, except Mackenzie, on my
left, and that, with such a disposition of my forces, I could see no
escape for Lee. I also inclosed him this letter, which had just been

"AMELIA C. H., April 5, 1865.


"Our army is ruined, I fear. We are all safe as yet. Shyron left us
sick. John Taylor is well--saw him yesterday. We are in line of
battle this morning. General Robert Lee is in the field near us. My
trust is still in the justice of our cause, and that of God. General
Hill is killed. I saw Murray a few minutes since. Bernard, Terry
said, was taken prisoner, but may yet get out. I send this by a
negro I see passing up the railroad to Mechlenburg. Love to all.

"Your devoted son,

"Wm. B. TAYLOR, Colonel."

General Grant, who on the 5th was accompanying General Ord's column
toward Burkeville Junction, did not receive this intelligence till
nearly nightfall, when within about ten miles of the Junction. He
set out for Jettersville immediately, but did not reach us till near
midnight, too late of course to do anything that night. Taking me
with him, we went over to see Meade, whom he then directed to advance
early in the morning on Amelia Court House. In this interview Grant
also stated that the orders Meade had already issued would permit
Lee's escape, and therefore must be changed, for it was not the aim
only to follow the enemy, but to get ahead of him, remarking during
the conversation that, "he had no doubt Lee was moving right then."
On this same occasion Meade expressed a desire to have in the
proposed attack all the troops of the Army of the Potomac under his
own command, and asked for the return of the Fifth Corps. I made no
objections, and it was ordered to report, to him.

When, on the morning of the 6th, Meade advanced toward Amelia Court
House, he found, as predicted, that Lee was gone. It turned out that
the retreat began the evening of the 5th and continued all night.
Satisfied that this would be the case, I did not permit the cavalry
to participate in Meade's useless advance, but shifted it out toward
the left to the road running from Deatonsville to Rice's station,
Crook leading and Merritt close up. Before long the enemy's trains
were discovered on this road, but Crook could make but little
impression on them, they were so strongly guarded; so, leaving
Stagg's brigade and Miller's battery about three miles southwest of
Deatonsville--where the road forks, with a branch leading north
toward the Appomattox--to harass the retreating column and find a
vulnerable point, I again shifted the rest of the cavalry toward the
left, across-country, but still keeping parallel to the enemy's line
of march.

Just after crossing Sailor's Greek, a favorable opportunity offering,
both Merritt and Crook attacked vigorously, gained the Rice's Station
road, destroyed several hundred wagons, made many prisoners, and
captured sixteen pieces of artillery. This was important, but more
valuable still was the fact that we were astride the enemy's line of
retreat, and had cut off from joining Longstreet, waiting at Rice's
Station, a corps of Confederate infantry under General Ewell,
composed of Anderson's, Kershaw's, and Custis Lee's divisions.
Stagg's brigade and Miller's battery, which, as I have said, had been
left at the forks of the Deatonsville road, had meanwhile broken in
between the rear of Ewell's column and the head of Gordon's, forcing
Gordon to abandon his march for Rice's Station, and to take the
right-hand road at the forks, on which he was pursued by General

The complete isolation of Ewell from Longstreet in his front and
Gordon in his rear led to the battle of Sailor's Creek, one of the
severest conflicts of the war, for the enemy fought with desperation
to escape capture, and we, bent on his destruction, were no less
eager and determined. The capture of Ewell, with six of his generals
and most of his troops, crowned our success, but the fight was so
overshadowed by the stirring events of the surrender three days
later, that the battle has never been accorded the prominence it

The small creek from which the field takes its name flows in a
northwesterly direction across the road leading from Deatonsville to
Rice's Station. By shifting to the left, Merritt gained the Rice's
Station road west of the creek, making havoc of the wagon-trains,
while Crook struck them further on and planted himself square across
the road. This blocked Ewell, who, advancing Anderson to some high
ground west of the creek, posted him behind barricades, with the
intention of making a hard fight there, while the main body should
escape through the woods in a westerly direction to roads that led to
Farmville. This was prevented, however, by Crook forming his
division, two brigades dismounted and one mounted, and at once
assaulting all along Anderson's front and overlapping his right,
while Merritt fiercely attacked to the right of Crook. The enemy
being thus held, enabled the Sixth Corps--which in the meantime I had
sent for--to come upon the ground, and Ewell, still contending with
the cavalry, found himself suddenly beset by this new danger from his
rear. To, meet it, he placed Kershaw to the right and Custis Lee to
the left of the Rice's Station road, facing them north toward and
some little distance from Sailor's Creek, supporting Kershaw with
Commander Tucker's Marine brigade. Ewell's skirmishers held the line
of Sailor's Creek, which runs through a gentle valley, the north
slope of which was cleared ground.

By General Grant's directions the Sixth Corps had been following my
route of march since the discovery, about 9 o'clock in the morning,
that Lee had decamped from Amelia Court House. Grant had promptly
informed me of this in a note, saying, "The Sixth Corps will go in
with a vim any place you may dictate," so when I sent word to Wright
of the enemy's isolation, and asked him to hurry on with all speed,
his gallant corps came as fast as legs could carry them, he sending
to me successively Major McClellan and Colonel Franklin, of his
staff, to report his approach.

I was well advised as to the position of the enemy through
information brought me by an intelligent young soldier, William A.
Richardson, Company "A," Second Ohio, who, in one of the cavalry
charges on Anderson, had cleared the barricades and made his way back
to my front through Ewell's line. Richardson had told me just how
the main body of the enemy was posted, so as Seymour's division
arrived I directed General Wright to put it on the right of the road,
while Wheaton's men, coming up all hot and out of breath, promptly
formed on Seymour's left. Both divisions thus aligned faced
southwest toward Sailor's Creek, and the artillery of the corps being
massed to the left and front of the Hibbon house, without waiting for
Getty's division--for I feared that if we delayed longer the enemy
might effect his escape toward Farmville--the general attack was
begun. Seymour and Wheaton, moving forward together, assailed the
enemy's front and left, and Stagg's brigade, too, which in the mean
time had been placed between Wheaton's left and Devin's right, went
at him along with them, Merritt and Crook resuming the fight from
their positions in front of Anderson. The enemy, seeing little
chance of escape, fought like a tiger at bay, but both Seymour and
Wheaton pressed him vigorously, gaining ground at all points except
just to the right of the road, where Seymour's left was checked.
Here the Confederates burst back on us in a counter-charge, surging
down almost to the creek, but the artillery, supported by Getty, who
in the mean time had come on the ground, opened on them so terribly
that this audacious and furious onset was completely broken, though
the gallant fellows fell back to their original line doggedly, and
not until after they had almost gained the creek. Ewell was now
hemmed in on every side, and all those under his immediate command
were captured. Merritt and Crook had also broken up Anderson by this
time, but he himself, and about two thousand disorganized men escaped
by making their way through the woods toward the Appomattox River
before they could be entirely enveloped. Night had fallen when the
fight was entirely over, but Devin was pushed on in pursuit for about
two miles, part of the Sixth Corps following to clinch a victory
which not only led to the annihilation of one corps of Lee's
retreating army, but obliged Longstreet to move up to Farmville, so
as to take a road north of the Appomattox River toward Lynchburg
instead of continuing toward Danville.

At the close of the battle I sent one of my staff--Colonel Redwood
Price--to General Grant to report what had been done; that we had
taken six generals and from nine to ten thousand prisoners. On his
way Price stopped at the headquarters of General Meade, where he
learned that not the slightest intelligence of the occurrence on my
line had been received, for I not being under Meade's command, he had
paid no attention to my movements. Price gave the story of the
battle, and General Meade, realizing its importance, sent directions
immediately to General Wright to make his report of the engagement to
the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, assuming that Wright was
operating independently of me in the face of Grant's despatch Of
2 o'clock, which said that Wright was following the cavalry and would
"go in with a vim" wherever I dictated. Wright could not do else
than comply with Meade's orders in the case, and I, being then in
ignorance of Meade's reasons for the assumption, could say nothing.
But General Grant plainly intending, and even directing, that the
corps should be under my command, remedied this phase of the matter,
when informed of what had taken place, by requiring Wright to send a
report of the battle through me. What he then did, and what his
intentions and orders were, are further confirmed by a reference to
the episode in his "Memoirs," where he gives his reasons for ordering
the Sixth Corps to abandon the move on Amelia Court House and pass to
the left of the army. On the same page he also says, referring to
the 6th of April: "The Sixth Corps now remained with the cavalry
under Sheridan's direct command until after the surrender." He
unquestionably intended all of this, but his purpose was partly
frustrated by General Meade's action next morning in assuming
direction of the movements of the corps; and before General Grant
became aware of the actual conditions the surrender was at hand.



The first report of the battle of Sailor's Creek that General Grant
received was, as already stated, an oral message carried by Colonel
Price, of my staff. Near midnight I sent a despatch giving the names
of the generals captured. These were Ewell, Kershaw, Barton, Corse,
Dubose, and Custis Lee. In the same despatch I wrote: "If the thing
is pressed, I think that Lee will surrender." When Mr. Lincoln, at
City Point, received this word from General Grant, who was
transmitting every item of news to the President, he telegraphed
Grant the laconic message: "Let the thing be pressed." The morning of
the 7th we moved out at a very early hour, Crook's division marching
toward Farmville in direct pursuit, while Merritt and Mackenzie were
ordered to Prince Edward's Court House to anticipate any effort Lee
might make to escape through that place toward Danville since it had
been discovered that Longstreet had slipped away already from the
front of General Ord's troops at Rice's Station. Crook overtook the
main body of the Confederates at Farmville, and promptly attacked
their trains on the north side of the Appomattox with Gregg's
brigade, which was fiercely turned upon and forced to re-cross the
river with the loss of a number of prisoner's, among them Gregg
himself. When Crook sent word of this fight, it was clear that Lee
had abandoned all effort to escape to the southwest by way of
Danville. Lynchburg was undoubtedly his objective point now; so,
resolving to throw my cavalry again across his path, and hold him
till the infantry could overtake him, I directed everything on
Appomattox depot, recalling Crook the night of the 7th to Prospect
Station, while Merritt camped at Buffalo Creek, and Mackenzie made a
reconnoissance along the Lynchburg railroad.

At break of day, April 8, Merritt and Mackenzie united with Crook at
Prospect Station, and the cavalry all moved then toward Appomattox
depot. Hardly had it started when one of the scouts--Sergeant White
--informed me that there were four trains of cars at the depot loaded
with supplies for Lee's army; these had been sent from Lynchburg, in
compliance with the telegram of Lee's commissary-general, which
message, it will be remembered, was captured and transmitted to
Lynchburg by two of Young's scouts on the 4th. Sergeant White, who
had been on the lookout for the trains ever since sending the
despatch, found them several miles west of Appomattox depot feeling
their way along, in ignorance of Lee's exact position. As he had the
original despatch with him, and took pains to dwell upon the pitiable
condition of Lee's army, he had little difficulty in persuading the
men in charge of the trains to bring them east of Appomattox Station,
but fearing that the true state of affairs would be learned before
long, and the trains be returned to Lynchburg, he was painfully
anxious to have them cut off by breaking the track west of the

The intelligence as to the trains was immediately despatched to
Crook, and I pushed on to join him with Merritt's command. Custer
having the advance, moved rapidly, and on nearing the station
detailed two regiments to make a detour southward to strike the
railroad some distance beyond and break the track. These regiments
set off at a gallop, and in short order broke up the railroad enough
to prevent the escape of the trains, Custer meanwhile taking
possession of the station, but none too soon, for almost at the
moment he did so the advance-guard of Lee's army appeared, bent on
securing the trains. Without halting to look after the cars further,
Custer attacked this advance-guard and had a spirited fight, in which
he drove the Confederates away from the station, captured twenty-five
pieces of artillery, a hospital train, and a large park of wagons,
which, in the hope that they would reach Lynchburg next day, were
being pushed ahead of Lee's main body.

Devin coming up a little before dusk, was put in on the right of
Custer, and one of Crook's brigades was sent to our left and the
other two held in reserve. I then forced the enemy back on the
Appomattox road to the vicinity of the Court House, and that the
Confederates might have no rest, gave orders to continue the
skirmishing throughout the night. Meanwhile the captured trains had
been taken charge of by locomotive engineers, soldiers of the
command, who were delighted evidently to get back at their old
calling. They amused themselves by running the trains to and fro,
creating much confusion, and keeping up such an unearthly screeching
with the whistles that I was on the point of ordering the cars
burned. They finally wearied of their fun, however, and ran the
trains off to the east toward General Ord's column.

The night of the 8th I made my headquarters at a little frame house
just south of the station. I did not sleep at all, nor did anybody
else, the entire command being up all night long; indeed, there had
been little rest in the, cavalry for the past eight days. The
necessity of getting Ord's column up was so obvious now that
staff-officer after staff-officer was sent to him and to General Grant
requesting that the infantry be pushed on, for if it could get to the
front, all knew that the rebellion would be ended on the morrow.
Merritt, Crook, Custer, and Devin were present at frequent intervals
during the night, and everybody was overjoyed at the prospect that
our weary work was about to end so happily. Before sun-up General
Ord arrived, and informed me of the approach of his column, it having
been marching the whole night. As he ranked me, of course I could
give him no orders, so after a hasty consultation as to where his
troops should be placed we separated, I riding to the front to
overlook my line near Appomattox Court House, while he went back to
urge along his weary troops.

The night before General Lee had held a council with his principal
generals, when it was arranged that in the morning General Gordon
should undertake to break through my cavalry, and when I neared my
troops this movement was beginning, a heavy line of infantry bearing
down on us from the direction of the village. In front of Crook and
Mackenzie firing had already begun, so riding to a slight elevation
where a good view of the Confederates could be had, I there came to
the conclusion that it would be unwise to offer more resistance than
that necessary to give Ord time to form, so I directed Merritt to
fall back, and in retiring to shift Devin and Custer to the right so
as to make room for Ord, now in the woods to my rear. Crook, who
with his own and Mackenzie's divisions was on my extreme left
covering some by-roads, was ordered to hold his ground as long as
practicable without sacrificing his men, and, if forced to retire, to
contest with obstinacy the enemy's advance.

As already stated, I could not direct General Ord's course, he being
my senior, but hastily galloping back to where he was, at the edge of
the timber, I explained to him what was taking place at the front.
Merritt's withdrawal inspired the Confederates, who forthwith began
to press Crook, their line of battle advancing with confidence till
it reached the crest whence I had reconnoitred them. From this
ground they could see Ord's men emerging from the woods, and the
hopelessness of a further attack being plain, the gray lines
instinctively halted, and then began to retire toward a ridge
immediately fronting Appomattox Court House, while Ord, joined on his
right by the Fifth Corps, advanced on them over the ground that
Merritt had abandoned.

I now directed my steps toward Merritt, who, having mounted his
troopers, had moved them off to the right, and by the time I reached
his headquarters flag he was ready for work, so a move on the enemy's
left was ordered, and every guidon was bent to the front. As the
cavalry marched along parallel with the Confederate line, and in
toward its left, a heavy fire of artillery opened on us, but this
could not check us at such a time, and we soon reached some high
ground about half a mile from the Court House, and from here I could
see in the low valley beyond the village the bivouac undoubtedly of
Lee's army. The troops did not seem to be disposed in battle order,
but on the other side of the bivouac was a line of battle--a heavy
rear-guard--confronting, presumably, General Meade.

I decided to attack at once, and formations were ordered at a trot
for a charge by Custer's and Devin's divisions down the slope leading
to the camps. Custer was soon ready, but Devin's division being in
rear its formation took longer, since he had to shift further to the
right; Devin's preparations were, therefore, but partially completed
when an aide-decamp galloped up to with the word from Custer, "Lee
has surrendered; do not charge; the white flag is up." The enemy
perceiving that Custer was forming for attack, had sent the flag out
to his front and stopped the charge just in time. I at once sent
word of the truce to General Ord, and hearing nothing more from
Custer himself, I supposed that he had gone down to the Court House
to join a mounted group of Confederates that I could see near there,
so I, too, went toward them, galloping down a narrow ridge, staff and
orderlies following; but we had not got half way to the Court House
when, from a skirt of timber to our right, not more than three
hundred yards distant, a musketry fire was opened on us. This halted
us, when, waving my hat, I called out to the firing party that we
were under a truce, and they were violating it. This did not stop
them, however, so we hastily took shelter in a ravine so situated as
to throw a ridge between us and the danger.

We traveled in safety down this depression to its mouth, and thence
by a gentle ascent approached the Court House. I was in advance,
followed by a sergeant carrying my battleflag. When I got within
about a hundred and fifty yards of the enemy's line, which was
immediately in front of the Court House, some of the Confederates
leveled their pieces at us, and I again halted. Their officers kept
their men from firing, however, but meanwhile a single-handed contest
had begun behind me, for on looking back I heard a Confederate
soldier demanding my battle-flag from the color-bearer, thinking, no
doubt, that we were coming in as prisoners. The sergeant had drawn
his sabre and was about to cut the man down, but at a word from me he
desisted and carried the flag back to my staff, his assailant quickly
realizing that the boot was on the other leg.

These incidents determined me to remain where I was till the return
of a staff-officer whom I had sent over to demand an explanation from
the group of Confederates for which I had been heading. He came back
in a few minutes with apologies for what had occurred, and informed
me that General Gordon and General Wilcox were the superior officers
in the group. As they wished me to join them I rode up with my
staff, but we had hardly met when in front of Merritt firing began.
At the sound I turned to General Gordon, who seemed embarrassed by
the occurrence, and remarked: "General, your men fired on me as I was
coming over here, and undoubtedly they are treating Merritt and
Custer the same way. We might as well let them fight it out." He
replied, "There must be some mistake." I then asked, "Why not send a
staff-officer and have your people cease firing; they are violating
the flag." He answered, "I have no staff-officer to send." Whereupon
I said that I would let him have one of mine, and calling for
Lieutenant Vanderbilt Allen, I directed him to carry General Gordon's
orders to General Geary, commanding a small brigade of South Carolina
cavalry, to discontinue firing. Allen dashed off with the message
and soon delivered it, but was made a prisoner, Geary saying, "I do
not care for white flags: South Carolinians never surrender...." By
this time Merritt's patience being exhausted, he ordered an attack,
and this in short order put an end to General Geary's "last ditch"
absurdity, and extricated Allen from his predicament.

When quiet was restored Gordon remarked: "General Lee asks for a
suspension of hostilities pending the negotiations which he is having
with General Grant." I rejoined: "I have been constantly informed of
the progress of the negotiations, and think it singular that while
such discussions are going on, General Lee should have continued his
march and attempted to break through my lines this morning. I will
entertain no terms except that General Lee shall surrender to General
Grant on his arrival here. If these terms are not accepted we will
renew hostilities." Gordon replied: "General Lee's army is
exhausted. There is no doubt of his surrender to General Grant."

It was then that General Ord joined us, and after shaking hands all
around, I related the situation to him, and Gordon went away agreeing
to meet us again in half an hour. When the time was up he came back
accompanied by General Longstreet, who brought with him a despatch,
the duplicate of one that had been sent General Grant through General
Meade's lines back on the road over which Lee had been retreating.

General Longstreet renewed the assurances that already had been given
by Gordon, and I sent Colonel Newhall with the despatch to find
General Grant and bring him to the front. When Newhall started,
everything on our side of the Appomattox Court House was quiet, for
inevitable surrender was at hand, but Longstreet feared that Meade,
in ignorance of the new conditions on my front might attack the
Confederate rearguard. To prevent this I offered to send Colonel J.
W. Forsyth through the enemy's lines to let Meade know of my
agreement, for he too was suspicious that by a renewed correspondence
Lee was endeavoring to gain time for escape. My offer being
accepted, Forsyth set out accompanied by Colonel Fairfax, of
Longstreet's staff, and had no difficulty in accomplishing his

About five or six miles from Appomattox, on the road toward Prospect
Station near its intersection with the Walker's Church road, my
adjutant-general, Colonel Newhall, met General Grant, he having
started from north of the Appomattox River for my front the morning
of April 9, in consequence of the following despatches which had been
sent him the night before, after we had captured Appomattox Station
and established a line intercepting Lee:

"CAVALRY HEADQUARTERS, April 8, 1865--9:20 P. M.

"Commanding Armies of the U. S.

"General: I marched early this morning from Buffalo Creek and
Prospect Station on Appomattox Station, where my scouts had reported
trains of cars with supplies for Lee's army. A short time before
dark General Custer, who had the advance, made a dash at the station,
capturing four trains of supplies with locomotives. One of the
trains was burned and the others were run back toward Farmville for
security. Custer then pushed on toward Appomattox Court House,
driving the enemy--who kept up a heavy fire of artillery--charging
them repeatedly and capturing, as far as reported, twenty-five pieces
of artillery and a number of prisoners and wagons. The First Cavalry
Division supported him on the right. A reconnoissance sent across
the Appomattox reports the enemy moving on the Cumberland road to
Appomattox Station, where they expect to get supplies. Custer is
still pushing on. If General Gibbon and the Fifth Corps can get up
to-night, we will perhaps finish the job in the morning. I do not
think Lee means to surrender until compelled to do so.

"P. H. SHERIDAN, Major-General."

"HEADQUARTERS CAVALRY, April 8, 1865--9:40 p.m.

"Commanding Armies U. S.

"GENERAL: Since writing the accompanying despatch, General Custer
reports that his command has captured in all thirty-five pieces of
artillery, one thousand prisoners--including one general officer--and
from one hundred and fifty to two hundred wagons.

"P. H. SHERIDAN, Major-General."

In attempting to conduct the lieutenant-general and staff back by a
short route, Newhall lost his bearings for a time, inclining in
toward the enemy's lines too far, but regained the proper direction
without serious loss of time. General Grant arrived about 1 o'clock
in the afternoon, Ord and I, dismounted, meeting him at the edge of
the town, or crossroads, for it was little more. He remaining
mounted, spoke first to me, saying simply,

"How are you, Sheridan?" I assured him with thanks that I was
"first-rate," when, pointing toward the village, he asked, "Is
General Lee up there?" and I replied: "There is his army down in that
valley, and he himself is over in that house (designating McLean's
house) waiting to surrender to you." The General then said, "Come,
let us go over," this last remark being addressed to both Ord and me.
We two then mounted and joined him, while our staff-officers
followed, intermingling with those of the general-in-chief as the
cavalcade took its way to McLean's house near by, and where General
Lee had arrived some time before, in consequence of a message from
General Grant consenting to the interview asked for by Lee through
Meade's front that morning--the consent having been carried by
Colonel Babcock.

When I entered McLean's house General Lee was standing, as was also
his military secretary, Colonel Marshall, his only staff-officer
present. General Lee was dressed in a new uniform and wore a
handsome sword. His tall, commanding form thus set off contrasted
strongly with the short figure of General Grant, clothed as he was in
a soiled suit, without sword or other insignia of his position except
a pair of dingy shoulder-straps. After being presented, Ord and I,
and nearly all of General Grant's staff, withdrew to await the
agreement as to terms, and in a little while Colonel Babcock came to
the door and said, "The surrender had been made; you can come in

When we re-entered General Grant was writing; and General Lee, having
in his hand two despatches, which I that morning requested might be
returned, as I had no copies of them, addressed me with the remark:
"I am sorry. It is probable that my cavalry at that point of the
line did not fully understand the agreement." These despatches had
been sent in the forenoon, after the fighting had been stopped,
notifying General Lee that some of his cavalry in front of Crook was
violating the suspension of hostilities by withdrawing. About
3 o'clock in the afternoon the terms of surrender were written out
and accepted, and General Lee left the house, as he departed
cordially shaking hands with General Grant. A moment later he
mounted his chunky gray horse, and lifting his hat as he passed out
of the yard, rode off toward his army, his arrival there being
announced to us by cheering, which, as it progressed, varying in
loudness, told he was riding through the bivouac of the Army of
Northern Virginia.

The surrender of General Lee practically ended the war of the
rebellion. For four years his army had been the main-stay of the
Confederacy; and the marked ability with which he directed its
operations is evidenced both by his frequent successes and the length
of time he kept up the contest. Indeed, it may be said that till
General Grant was matched against him, he never met an opponent he
did not vanquish, for while it is true that defeat was inflicted on
the Confederates at Antietam and Gettysburg, yet the fruits of these
victories were not gathered, for after each of these battles Lee was
left unmolested till he had a chance to recuperate.

The assignment of General Grant to the command of the Union armies in
the winter of 1863-64 gave presage of success from the start, for his
eminent abilities had already been proved, and besides, he was a
tower of strength to the Government, because he had the confidence of
the people. They knew that henceforth systematic direction would be
given to our armies in every section of the vast territory over which
active operations were being prosecuted, and further, that this
coherence, this harmony of plan, was the one thing needed to end the
war, for in the three preceding years there had been illustrated most
lamentable effects of the absence of system. From the moment he set
our armies in motion simultaneously, in the spring of 1864, it could
be seen that we should be victorious ultimately, for though on
different lines we were checked now and then, yet we were harassing
the Confederacy at so many vital points that plainly it must yield to
our blows. Against Lee's army, the forefront of the Confederacy,
Grant pitted himself; and it may be said that the Confederate
commander was now, for the first time, overmatched, for against all
his devices--the products of a mind fertile in defense--General Grant
brought to bear not only the wealth of expedient which had hitherto
distinguished him, but also an imperturbable tenacity, particularly
in the Wilderness and on the march to the James, without which the
almost insurmountable obstacles of that campaign could not have been
overcome. During it and in the siege of Petersburg he met with many
disappointments--on several occasions the shortcomings of generals,
when at the point of success, leading to wretched failures. But so
far as he was concerned, the only apparent effect of these
discomfitures was to make him all the more determined to discharge
successfully the stupendous trust committed to his care, and to bring
into play the manifold resources of his well ordered military mind.
He guided every subordinate then, and in the last days of the
rebellion, with a fund of common sense and superiority of intellect,
which have left an impress so distinct as to exhibit his great
personality. When his military history is analyzed after the lapse
of years, it will show, even more clearly than now, that during these
as well as in his previous campaigns he was the steadfast Centre
about and on which everything else turned.



The surrender at Appomattox put a stop to all military operations on
the part of General Grant's forces, and the morning of April 10 my
cavalry began its march to Petersburg, the men anticipating that they
would soon be mustered out and returned to their homes. At Nottoway
Court House I heard of the assassination of the President. The first
news came to us the night after the dastardly deed, the telegraph
operator having taken it from the wires while in transmission to
General Meade. The despatch ran that Mr. Lincoln had been, shot at
10 o'clock that morning at Willard's Hotel, but as I could conceive
of nothing to take the President there I set the story down as a
canard, and went to bed without giving it further thought. Next
morning, however, an official telegram confirmed the fact of the
assassination, though eliminating the distorted circumstances that
had been communicated the night before.

When we reached Petersburg my column was halted, and instructions
given me to march the cavalry and the Sixth Corps to Greensboro',
North Carolina, for the purpose of aiding General Sherman (the
surrender of General Johnston having not yet been effected), so I
made the necessary preparations and moved on the 24th of April,
arriving at South Boston, on the Dan River, the 28th, the Sixth Corps
having reached Danville meanwhile. At South Boston I received a
despatch from General Halleck, who immediately after Lee's surrender
had been assigned to command at Richmond, informing me that General
Johnston had been brought to terms. The necessity for going farther
south being thus obviated we retraced our steps to Petersburg, from
which place I proceeded by steamer to Washington, leaving, the
cavalry to be marched thither by easy stages.

The day after my arrival in Washington an important order was sent
me, accompanied by the following letter of instructions, transferring
me to a new field of operations:

"Washington, D. C., May 17, 1865.

"GENERAL: Under the orders relieving you from the command of the
Middle Military Division and assigning you to command west of the
Mississippi, you will proceed without delay to the West to arrange
all preliminaries for your new field of duties.

"Your duty is to restore Texas, and that part of Louisiana held by
the enemy, to the Union in the shortest practicable time, in a way
most effectual for securing permanent peace.

"To do this, you will be given all the troops that can be spared
by Major-General Canby, probably twenty-five thousand men of
all arms; the troops with Major-General J. J. Reynolds, in Arkansas,
say twelve thousand, Reynolds to command; the Fourth
Army Corps, now at Nashville, Tennessee, awaiting orders; and
the Twenty-Fifth Army Corps, now at City Point, Virginia, ready
to embark.

"I do not wish to trammel you with instructions; I will state,
however, that if Smith holds out, without even an ostensible
government to receive orders from or to report to, he and his men are
not entitled to the considerations due to an acknowledged
belligerent. Theirs are the conditions of outlaws, making war
against the only Government having an existence over the territory
where war is now being waged.

"You may notify the rebel commander west of the Mississippi--holding
intercourse with him in person, or through such officers of the rank
of major-general as you may select--that he will be allowed to
surrender all his forces on the same terms as were accorded to Lee
and Johnston. If he accedes, proceed to garrison the Red River as
high up as Shreveport, the seaboard at Galveston, Malagorda Bay,
Corpus Christi, and mouth of the Rio Grande.

"Place a strong force on the Rio Grande, holding it at least to a
point opposite Camargo, and above that if supplies can be procured.

"In case of an active campaign (a hostile one) I think a heavy force
should be put on the Rio Grande as a first preliminary. Troops for
this might be started at once. The Twenty-Fifth Corps is now
available, and to it should be added a force of white troops, say
those now under Major-General Steele.

"To be clear on this last point, I think the Rio Grande should be
strongly held, whether the forces in Texas surrender or not, and that
no time should be lost in getting troops there. If war is to be
made, they will be in the right place; if Kirby Smith surrenders,
they will be on the line which is to be strongly garrisoned.

"Should any force be necessary other than those designated, they can
be had by calling for them on Army Headquarters.


"United States Army."

On receipt of these instructions I called at once on General Grant,
to see if they were to be considered so pressing as to preclude my
remaining in Washington till after the Grand Review, which was fixed
for the 23d and 24th of May, for naturally I had a strong desire to
head my command on that great occasion. But the General told me that
it was absolutely necessary to go at once to force the surrender of
the Confederates under Kirby Smith. He also told me that the States
lately in rebellion would be embraced in two or three military
departments, the commanders of which would control civil affairs
until Congress took action about restoring them to the Union, since
that course would not only be economical and simple, but would give
the Southern people confidence, and encourage them to go to work,
instead of distracting them with politics.

At this same interview he informed me that there was an additional
motive in sending me to the new command, a motive not explained by
the instructions themselves, and went on to say that, as a matter of
fact, he looked upon the invasion of Mexico by Maximilian as a part
of the rebellion itself, because of the encouragement that invasion
had received from the Confederacy, and that our success in putting
down secession would never be complete till the French and Austrian
invaders were compelled to quit the territory of our sister republic.
With regard to this matter, though, he said it would be necessary for
me to act with great circumspection, since the Secretary of State,
Mr. Seward, was much opposed to the use of our troops along the
border in any active way that would be likely to involve us in a war
with European powers.

Under the circumstances, my disappointment at not being permitted to
participate in the review had to be submitted to, and I left
Washington without an opportunity of seeing again in a body the men
who, while under my command, had gone through so many trials and
unremittingly pursued and, assailed the enemy, from the beginning of
the campaign of 1864 till the white flag came into their hands at
Appomattox Court House.

I went first to St. Louis, and there took the steamboat for New
Orleans, and when near the mouth of the Red River received word from
General Canby that Kirby Smith had surrendered under terms similar to
those accorded Lee and Johnston. But the surrender was not carried
out in good faith, particularly by the Texas troops, though this I
did not learn till some little time afterward when I was informed
that they had marched off to the interior of the State in several
organized bodies, carrying with them their camp equipage, arms,
ammunition, and even some artillery, with the ultimate purpose of
going to Mexico. In consequence of this, and also because of the
desire of the Government to make a strong showing of force in Texas,
I decided to traverse the State with two columns of cavalry,
directing one to San Antonio under Merritt, the other to Houston
under Custer. Both commands were to start from the Red River
--Shreveport and Alexandria--being the respective initial points--and
in organizing the columns, to the mounted force already on the Red
River were added several regiments of cavalry from the east bank of
the, Mississippi, and in a singular way one of these fell upon the
trail of my old antagonist, General Early. While crossing the river
somewhere below Vicksburg some of the men noticed a suspicious
looking party being ferried over in a rowboat, behind which two
horses were swimming in tow. Chase was given, and the horses, being
abandoned by the party, fell into the hands of our troopers, who,
however, failed to capture or identify the people in the boat. As
subsequently ascertained, the men were companions of Early, who was
already across the Mississippi, hidden in the woods, on his way with
two or three of these followers to join the Confederates in Texas,
not having heard of Kirby Smith's surrender. A week or two later I
received a letter from Early describing the affair, and the capture
of the horses, for which he claimed pay, on the ground that they were
private property, because he had taken them in battle. The letter
also said that any further pursuit of Early would be useless, as he
"expected to be on the deep blue sea" by the time his communication
reached me. The unfortunate man was fleeing from imaginary dangers,
however, for striking his trail was purely accidental, and no effort
whatever was being made to arrest him personally. Had this been
especially desired it might have been accomplished very readily just
after Lee's surrender, for it was an open secret that Early was then
not far away, pretty badly disabled with rheumatism.

By the time the two columns were ready to set out for San Antonio and
Houston, General Frank Herron,--with one division of the Thirteenth
Corps, occupied Galveston, and another division under General Fred
Steele had gone to Brazos Santiago, to hold Brownsville and the line
of the Rio Grande, the object being to prevent, as far as possible,
the escaping Confederates from joining Maximilian. With this purpose
in view, and not forgetting Grant's conviction that the French
invasion of Mexico was linked with the rebellion, I asked for an
increase of force to send troops into Texas in fact, to concentrate
at available points in the State an army strong enough to move
against the invaders of Mexico if occasion demanded. The Fourth and
Twenty-fifth army corps being ordered to report to me, accordingly, I
sent the Fourth Corps to Victoria and San Antonio, and the bulk of
the Twenty-fifth to Brownsville. Then came the feeding and caring
for all these troops--a difficult matter--for those at Victoria and
San Antonio had to be provisioned overland from Indianola across the
"hog-wallow prairie," while the supplies for the forces at
Brownsville and along the Rio Grande must come by way of Brazos
Santiago, from which point I was obliged to construct, with the labor
of the men, a railroad to Clarksville, a distance of about eighteen

The latter part of June I repaired to Brownsville myself to impress
the Imperialists, as much as possible, with the idea that we intended
hostilities, and took along my chief of scouts--Major Young--and four
of his most trusty men, whom I had had sent from Washington. From
Brownsville I despatched all these men to important points in
northern Mexico, to glean information regarding the movements of the
Imperial forces, and also to gather intelligence about the
ex-Confederates who had crossed the Rio Grande. On information
furnished by these scouts, I caused General Steele to make
demonstrations all along the lower Rio Grande, and at the same time
demanded the return of certain munitions of war that had been turned
over by ex-Confederates to the Imperial General (Mejia) commanding at
Matamoras. These demands, backed up as they were by such a
formidable show of force created much agitation and demoralization
among the Imperial troops, and measures looking to the abandonment of
northern Mexico were forthwith adopted by those in authority--a
policy that would have resulted in the speedy evacuation of the
entire country by Maximilian, had not our Government weakened;
contenting itself with a few pieces of the contraband artillery
varnished over with the Imperial apologies. A golden opportunity was
lost, for we had ample excuse for crossing the boundary, but Mr.
Seward being, as I have already stated, unalterably opposed to any
act likely to involve us in war, insisted on his course of
negotiation with Napoleon.

As the summer wore away, Maximilian, under Mr. Seward's policy,
gained in strength till finally all the accessible sections of Mexico
were in his possession, and the Republic under President Juarez
almost succumbed. Growing impatient at this, in the latter part of
September I decided to try again what virtue there might be in a
hostile demonstration, and selected the upper Rio Grande for the
scene of my attempt. Merritt's cavalry and the Fourth Corps still
being at San Antonio, I went to that place and reviewed these troops,
and having prepared them with some ostentation for a campaign, of
course it was bruited about that we were going to invade Mexico.
Then, escorted by a regiment of horse I proceeded hastily to Fort
Duncan, on the Rio Grande just opposite the Mexican town of Piedras
Negras. Here I opened communication with President Juarez, through
one of his staff, taking care not to do this in the dark, and the
news, spreading like wildfire, the greatest significance was ascribed
to my action, it being reported most positively and with many
specific details that I was only awaiting the arrival of the troops,
then under marching orders at San Antonio, to cross the Rio Grande in
behalf of the Liberal cause.

Ample corroboration of the reports then circulated was found in my
inquiries regarding the quantity of forage we could depend upon
getting in Mexico, our arrangements for its purchase, and my sending
a pontoon train to Brownsville, together with which was cited the
renewed activity of the troops along the lower Rio Grande. These
reports and demonstrations resulted in alarming the Imperialists so
much that they withdrew the French and Austrian soldiers from
Matamoras, and practically abandoned the whole of northern Mexico as
far down as Monterey, with the exception of Matamoras, where General
Mejia continued to hang on with a garrison of renegade Mexicans.

The abandonment of so much territory in northern Mexico encouraged
General Escobedo and other Liberal leaders to such a degree that they
collected a considerable army of their followers at Comargo, Mier,
and other points. At the same time that unknown quantity, Cortinas,
suspended his free-booting for the nonce, and stoutly harassing
Matamoras, succeeded in keeping its Imperial garrison within the
fortifications. Thus countenanced and stimulated, and largely
supplied with arms and ammunition, which we left at convenient places
on our side of the river to fall into their hands, the Liberals,
under General Escobedo--a man of much force of character--were
enabled in northern Mexico to place the affairs of the Republic on a
substantial basis.

But in the midst of what bade fair to cause a final withdrawal of the
foreigners, we were again checked by our Government, as a result of
representations of the French Minister at Washington. In October, he
wrote to Mr. Seward that the United States troops on the Rio Grande
were acting "in exact opposition to the repeated assurances Your
Excellency has given me concerning the desire of the Cabinet at
Washington to preserve the most strict neutrality in the events now
taking place in Mexico," and followed this statement with an emphatic
protest against our course. Without any investigation whatever by
our State Department, this letter of the French Minister was
transmitted to me, accompanied by directions to preserve a strict
neutrality; so, of course, we were again debarred from anything like
active sympathy.

After this, it required the patience of Job to abide the slow and
poky methods of our State Department, and, in truth, it was often
very difficult to restrain officers and men from crossing the Rio
Grande with hostile purpose. Within the knowledge of my troops,
there had gone on formerly the transfer of organized bodies of
ex-Confederates to Mexico, in aid of the Imperialists, and at this
period it was known that there was in preparation an immigration
scheme having in view the colonizing, at Cordova and one or two other
places, of all the discontented elements of the defunct Confederacy
--Generals Price, Magruder, Maury, and other high personages being
promoters of the enterprise, which Maximilian took to readily. He
saw in it the possibilities of a staunch support to his throne, and
therefore not only sanctioned the project, but encouraged it with
large grants of land, inspirited the promoters with titles of
nobility, and, in addition, instituted a system of peonage, expecting
that the silver hook thus baited would be largely swallowed by the
Southern people.

The announcement of the scheme was followed by the appointment of
commissioners in each of the Southern States to send out emigrants;
but before any were deluded into starting, I made to General Grant a
report of what was going on, with the recommendation that measures be
taken, through our State Department, looking to the suppression of
the colony; but, as usual, nothing could be effected through that
channel; so, as an alternative, I published, in April, 1866, by
authority of General Grant, an order prohibiting the embarkation from
ports in Louisiana and Texas, for ports in Mexico, of any person
without a permit from my headquarters. This dampened the ardor of
everybody in the Gulf States who had planned to go to Mexico; and
although the projectors of the Cordova Colonization Scheme--the name
by which it was known--secured a few innocents from other districts,
yet this set-back led ultimately to failure.

Among the Liberal leaders along the Rio Grande during this period
there sprang up many factional differences from various causes, some
personal, others political, and some, I regret to say, from downright
moral obliquity--as, for example, those between Cortinas and Canales
--who, though generally hostile to the Imperialists, were freebooters
enough to take a shy at each other frequently, and now and then even
to join forces against Escobedo, unless we prevented them by coaxing
or threats. A general who could unite these several factions was
therefore greatly needed, and on my return to New Orleans I so
telegraphed General Grant, and he, thinking General Caravajal (then
in Washington seeking aid for the Republic) would answer the purpose,
persuaded him to report to me in New Orleans. Caravajal promptly
appeared, but he did not impress me very favorably. He was old and
cranky, yet, as he seemed anxious to do his best, I sent him over to
Brownsville, with credentials, authorizing him to cross into Mexico,
and followed him myself by the next boat. When I arrived in
Brownsville, matters in Matamoras had already reached a crisis.
General Mejia, feeling keenly the moral support we were giving the
Liberals, and hard pressed by the harassing attacks of Cortinas and
Canales, had abandoned the place, and Caravajal, because of his
credentials from our side, was in command, much to the
dissatisfaction of both those chiefs whose differences it was
intended he should reconcile.

The, day after I got to Brownsville I visited Matamoras, and had a
long interview with Caravajal. The outcome of this meeting was, on
my part, a stronger conviction than ever that he was unsuitable, and
I feared that either Canales or Cortinas would get possession of the
city. Caravajal made too many professions of what he would do--in
short, bragged too much--but as there was no help for the situation,
I made the best of it by trying to smooth down the ruffled feathers
of Canales and Cortinas. In my interview with Caravajal I
recommended Major Young as a confidential man, whom he could rely
upon as a "go-between" for communicating with our people at
Brownsville, and whom he could trust to keep him informed of the
affairs of his own country as well.

A day or two afterward I recrossed the Gulf to New Orleans, and then,
being called from my headquarters to the interior of Texas, a
fortnight passed before I heard anything from Brownsville. In the
meanwhile Major Young had come to New Orleans, and organized there a
band of men to act as a body-guard for Caravajal, the old wretch
having induced him to accept the proposition by representing that it
had my concurrence. I at once condemned the whole business, but
Young, having been furnished with seven thousand dollars to recruit
the men and buy their arms, had already secured both, and was so
deeply involved in the transaction, he said, that he could not
withdraw without dishonor, and with tears in his eyes he besought me
to help him. He told me he had entered upon the adventure in the
firm belief that I would countenance it; that the men and their
equipment were on his hands; that he must make good his word at all
hazards; and that while I need not approve, yet I must go far enough
to consent to the departure of the men, and to loan him the money
necessary to provision his party and hire a schooner to carry them to
Brazos. It was hard in deed to resist the appeals of this man, who
had served me so long and so well, and the result of his pleading was
that I gave him permission to sail, and also loaned him the sum asked
for; but I have never ceased to regret my consent, for misfortune
fell upon the enterprise almost from its inception.

By the time the party got across the Gulf and over to Brownsville,
Caravajal had been deposed by Canales, and the latter would not
accept their services. This left Young with about fifty men to whom
he was accountable, and as he had no money to procure them
subsistence, they were in a bad fix. The only thing left to do was
to tender their services to General Escobedo, and with this in view
the party set out to reach the General's camp, marching up the Rio
Grande on the American side, intending to cross near Ringgold Bar
racks. In advance of them, however, had spread far and wide the
tidings of who they were, what they proposed to do, and where they
were going, and before they could cross into Mexico they were
attacked by a party of ex-Confederates and renegade Mexican
rancheros. Being on American soil, Young forbade his men to return
the fire, and bent all his efforts to getting them over the river;
but in this attempt they were broken up, and became completely
demoralized. A number of the men were drowned while swimming the
river, Young himself was shot and killed, a few were captured, and
those who escaped--about twenty in all--finally joined Escobedo, but
in such a plight as to be of little use. With this distressing
affair came to an end pretty much all open participation of American
sympathizers with the Liberal cause, but the moral support afforded
by the presence of our forces continued, and this was frequently
supplemented with material aid in the shape of munitions of war,
which we liberally supplied, though constrained to do so by the most
secret methods.

The term of office of Juarez as President of the Mexican Republic
expired in December, 1865, but to meet existing exigencies he had
continued himself in office by proclamation, a course rendered
necessary by the fact that no elections could be held on account of
the Imperial occupation of most of the country. The official who, by
the Mexican Constitution, is designated for the succession in such an
emergency, is the President of the Supreme Court, and the person then
eligible under this provision was General Ortega, but in the interest
of the Imperialists he had absented himself from Mexico, hence the
patriotic course of Juarez in continuing himself at the head of
affairs was a necessity of the situation. This action of the
President gave the Imperialists little concern at first, but with the
revival of the Liberal cause they availed themselves of every means
to divide its supporters, and Ortega, who had been lying low in the
United States, now came forward to claim the Presidency. Though
ridiculously late for such a step, his first act was to issue a
manifesto protesting against the assumption of the executive
authority by Juarez. The protest had little effect, however, and his
next proceeding was to come to New Orleans, get into correspondence
with other disaffected Mexicans, and thus perfect his plans. When he
thought his intrigue ripe enough for action, he sailed for Brazos,
intending to cross the Rio Grande and assert his claims with arms.
While he was scheming in New Orleans, however, I had learned what he
was up to, and in advance of his departure had sent instructions to
have him arrested on American soil. Colonel Sedgwick, commanding at
Brownsville, was now temporary master of Matamoras also, by reason of
having stationed some American troops there for the protection of
neutral merchants, so when Ortega appeared at Brazos, Sedgwick
quietly arrested him and held him till the city of Matamoras was
turned over to General Escobedo, the authorized representative of
Juarez; then Escobedo took charge, of Ortega, and with ease prevented
his further machinations.

During the winter and spring of 1866 we continued covertly supplying
arms and ammunition to the Liberals--sending as many as 30,000
muskets from Baton Rouge Arsenal alone--and by mid-summer Juarez,
having organized a pretty good sized army, was in possession of the
whole line of the Rio Grande, and, in fact, of nearly the whole of
Mexico down to San Louis Potosi. Then thick and fast came rumors
pointing to the tottering condition of Maximilian's Empire-first,
that Orizaba and Vera Cruz were being fortified; then, that the
French were to be withdrawn; and later came the intelligence that the
Empress Carlotta had gone home to beg assistance from Napoleon, the
author of all of her husband's troubles. But the situation forced
Napoleon to turn a deaf ear to Carlotta's prayers. The brokenhearted
woman besought him on her knees, but his fear of losing an army made
all pleadings vain. In fact, as I ascertained by the following
cablegram which came into my hands, Napoleon's instructions for the
French evacuation were in Mexico at the very time of this pathetic
scene between him and Carlotta. The despatch was in cipher when I
received it, but was translated by the telegraph operator at my
headquarters, who long before had mastered the key of the French

"PARIS, January 10, 1867. FRENCH CONSUL, New Orleans, La.


"Received your despatch of the 9th December. Do not compel the
Emperor to abdicate, but do not delay the departure of the troops;
bring back all those who will not remain there. Most of the fleet
has left.


This meant the immediate withdrawal of the French. The rest of the
story--which has necessarily been but in outline--is soon told.
Maximilian, though deserted, determined to hold out to the last, and
with the aid of disloyal Mexicans stuck to his cause till the spring.
When taken prisoner at Queretaro, he was tried and executed under
circumstances that are well known. From promptings of humanity
Secretary Seward tried hard to save the Imperial prisoner, but
without success. The Secretary's plea for mercy was sent through me
at New Orleans, and to make speed I hired a steamer to proceed with
it across the Gulf to Tampico. The document was carried by Sergeant
White, one of my scouts, who crossed the country from Tampico, and
delivered it to Escobedo at Queretaro; but Mr. Seward's
representations were without avail--refused probably because little
mercy had been shown certain Liberal leaders unfortunate enough to
fall into Maximilian's hands during the prosperous days of his

At the close of our war there was little hope for the Republic of
Mexico. Indeed, till our troops were concentrated on the Rio Grande
there was none. Our appearance in such force along the border
permitted the Liberal leaders, refugees from their homes, to
establish rendezvous whence they could promulgate their plans in
safety, while the countenance thus given the cause, when hope was
well-nigh gone, incited the Mexican people to renewed resistance.
Beginning again with very scant means, for they had lost about all,
the Liberals saw their cause, under the influence of such significant
and powerful backing, progress and steadily grow so strong that
within two years Imperialism had received its death-blow. I doubt
very much whether such, results could have been achieved without the
presence of an American army on the Rio Grande, which, be it
remembered, was sent there because, in General Grant's words, the
French invasion of Mexico was so closely related to the rebellion as
to be essentially a part of it.



Although in 1865-66 much of my attention was directed to
international matters along the Rio Grande, the civil affairs of
Texas and Louisiana required a certain amount of military supervision
also in the absence of regularly established civil authority. At the
time of Kirby Smith's surrender the National Government had
formulated no plan with regard to these or the other States lately in
rebellion, though a provisional Government had been set up in
Louisiana as early as 1864. In consequence of this lack of system,
Governor Pendleton Murray, of Texas, who was elected under
Confederate rule, continued to discharge the duties of Governor till
President Johnson, on June 17, in harmony with his amnesty
proclamation of May 29, 1865, appointed A. J. Hamilton provisional
Governor. Hamilton was empowered by the President to call a
Constitutional convention, the delegates to which were to be elected,
under certain prescribed qualifications, for the purpose of
organizing the political affairs of the State, the Governor to be
guided by instructions similar to those given the provisional
Governor of North Carolina (W. W. Holden), when appointed in May.

The convening of this body gave rise to much dissatisfaction among
the people of Texas. They had assumed that affairs were to go on as
of old, and that the reintegration of the State was to take place
under the administration of Governor Murray, who, meanwhile, had
taken it upon himself, together with the Legislature, to authorize
the election of delegates to a State Convention, without restriction
as to who should be entitled to vote. Thus encouraged, the element
but lately in armed rebellion was now fully bent on restoring the
State to the Union without any intervention whatever of the Federal
Government; but the advent of Hamilton put an end to such illusions,
since his proclamation promptly disfranchised the element in
question, whose consequent disappointment and chagrin were so great
as to render this factor of the community almost uncontrollable. The
provisional Governor at once rescinded the edict of Governor Murray,
prohibited the assembling of his convention, and shortly after
called, one himself, the delegates to which were to b chosen by
voters who could take the amnesty-oath. The proclamation convening
this assemblage also announced the policy that would be pursued in
governing the State until its affairs were satisfactorily
reorganized, defined in brief the course to be followed by the
Judiciary, and provided for the appointment, by the Governor, of
county officials to succeed those known to be disloyal. As this
action of Hamilton's disfranchised all who could not take the amnesty
oath, and of course deprived them of the offices, it met at once with
pronounced and serious opposition, and he quickly realized that he
had on his hands an arduous task to protect the colored people,
particularly as in the transition state of society just after the
close of the war there prevailed much lawlessness, which vented
itself chiefly on the freedmen. It was greatly feared that political
rights were to be given those so recently in servitude, and as it was
generally believed that such enfranchisement would precipitate a race
war unless the freedmen were overawed and kept in a state of
subjection, acts of intimidation were soon reported from all parts of
the State.

Hamilton, an able, determined, and fearless man, tried hard to curb
this terrorism, but public opinion being strong against him, he could
accomplish little without military aid. As department commander, I
was required, whenever called upon, to assist his government, and as
these requisitions for help became necessarily very frequent, the
result was that shortly after he assumed his duties, detachments of
troops were stationed in nearly every county of the State. By such
disposition of my forces fairly good order was maintained under the
administration of Hamilton, and all went well till the inauguration
of J. W. Throckmorton, who, elected Governor in pursuance of an
authorization granted by the convention which Hamilton had called
together, assumed the duties of the office August 9, 1866.

One of Governor Throckmorton's first acts was to ask the withdrawal
or non-interference of the military. This was not all granted, but
under his ingenious persuasion President Johnson, on the 13th of
August, 1866, directed that the new State officials be entrusted with
the unhampered control of civil affairs, and this was more than
enough to revive the bulldozing methods that had characterized the
beginning of Hamilton's administration. Oppressive legislation in
the shape of certain apprentice and vagrant laws quickly followed,
developing a policy of gross injustice toward the colored people on
the part of the courts, and a reign of lawlessness and disorder
ensued which, throughout the remote districts of the State at least,
continued till Congress, by what are known as the Reconstruction
Acts, took into its own hands the rehabilitation of the seceded

In the State of Louisiana a provisional government, chosen by the
loyal element, had been put in operation, as already mentioned, as
early as 1864. This was effected under encouragement given by
President Lincoln, through the medium of a Constitutional convention,
which met at New Orleans in April, 1864, and adjourned in July. The
constitution then agreed upon was submitted to the people, and in
September, 1864, was ratified by a vote of the few loyal residents of
the State.

The government provided under this constitution being looked upon as
provisional merely, was never recognized by Congress, and in 1865 the
returned Confederates, restored to citizenship by the President's
amnesty proclamation, soon got control of almost all the State. The
Legislature was in their hands, as well as most of the State and
municipal offices; so, when the President, on the 20th of August,
1866, by proclamation, extended his previous instructions regarding
civil affairs in Texas so as to have them apply to all the seceded
States, there at once began in Louisiana a system of discriminative
legislation directed against the freedmen, that led to flagrant
wrongs in the enforcement of labor contracts, and in the remote
parishes to numbers of outrages and murders.

To remedy this deplorable condition of things, it was proposed, by
those who had established the government of 1864, to remodel the
constitution of the State; and they sought to do this by reassembling
the convention, that body before its adjournment having provided for
reconvening under certain conditions, in obedience to the call of its
president. Therefore, early in the summer of 1866, many members of
this convention met in conference at New Orleans, and decided that a
necessity existed for reconvening the delegates, and a proclamation
was issued accordingly by B. K. Howell, President-pro-tempore.

Mayor John T. Monroe and the other officials of New Orleans looked
upon this proposed action as revolutionary, and by the time the
convention assembled (July 30), such bitterness of feeling prevailed
that efforts were made by the mayor and city police to suppress the
meeting. A bloody riot followed, resulting, in the killing and
wounding of about a hundred and sixty persons.

I happened to be absent from the city at the time, returning from
Texas, where I had been called by affairs on the Rio Grande. On my
way up from the mouth of the Mississippi I was met on the night of
July 30 by one of my staff, who reported what had occurred, giving
the details of the massacre--no milder term is fitting--and informing
me that, to prevent further slaughter, General Baird, the senior
military officer present, had assumed control of the municipal
government. On reaching the city I made an investigation, and that
night sent the following report of the affair:

"NEW ORLEANS, LA., Aug. 1, 1866.


"You are doubtless aware of the serious riot which occurred in this
city on the 30th. A political body, styling themselves the
Convention of 1864, met on the 30th, for, as it is alleged, the
purpose of remodeling the present constitution of the State. The
leaders were political agitators and revolutionary men, and the
action of the convention was liable to produce breaches of the public
peace. I had made up my mind to arrest the head men, if the
proceedings of the convention were calculated to disturb the
tranquility of the Department; but I had no cause for action until
they committed the overt act. In the meantime official duty called
me to Texas, and the mayor of the city, during my absence suppressed
the convention by the use of the police force, and in so doing
attacked the members of the convention, and a party of two hundred
negroes, with fire-arms, clubs, and knives, in a manner so
unnecessary and atrocious as to compel me to say that it was murder.
About forty whites and blacks were thus killed, and about one hundred
and sixty wounded. Everything is now quiet, but I deem it best to
maintain a military supremacy in the city for a few days, until the
affair is fully investigated. I believe the sentiment of the general
community is great regret at this unnecessary cruelty, and that the
police could have made any arrest they saw fit without sacrificing

"Major-General Commanding."

On receiving the telegram, General Grant immediately submitted. it
to the President. Much clamor being made at the North for the
publication of the despatch, Mr. Johnson pretended to give it to the
newspapers. It appeared in the issues of August 4, but with this
paragraph omitted, viz.:


Back to Full Books