The American Civil War, day by day - Page 108 - Politics | PoFo

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April 13, Thursday

When the Generals Beauregard and Johnston enter the small upstairs room at John Wood’s house at Greensboro at 10 am the atmosphere is grim. “Most solemnly funereal,” Reagan later calls it; for he and his fellow cabinet members, Benjamin, Mallory, and George Davis—Trenholm, still ailing, was absent—have just concluded a session during which Breckinridge presented his report, and “it was apparent that they had to consider the loss of the cause.” Only the President and the imperturbable Benjamin seem unconvinced that the end is at hand. Davis in fact not only doesn’t believe that Lee’s surrender means the death of Confederate hopes for survival; after welcoming Johnston and Beauregard, he begins at once a further exposition of his views that resistance can and must continue until the northern people and their leaders grow weary enough to negotiate a peace that acknowledges Southern independence. “Our late disasters are terrible,” he admits, “but I do not think we should regard them as fatal. I think we can whip the enemy yet, if our people will turn out.” After a pause, which brings no response, he turns to the senior of the two field commanders. “We should like to hear your views, General Johnston.”

The Virginian had been told he would have his chance, and now he takes it. In a tone described by Mallory as “almost spiteful” he speaks directly to the man he has long considered his bitterest enemy, North or South. “My views are, sir, that our people are tired of the war, feel themselves whipped, and will not fight.” Overrun by greatly superior Union forces, the Confederacy is “without money, or credit, or arms, or ammunition, or means of procuring them,” he says flatly, driving home the words like nails in the lid of a coffin. “My men are daily deserting in large numbers. Since Lee’s defeat they regard the war as at an end.” There is, he declares in conclusion, no choice but surrender. “We may perhaps obtain terms which we ought to accept.”

Davis hears him out with no change of expression, eyes fixed on a small piece of paper which he keeps folding, unfolding, and folding. After the silence that follows Johnston’s declaration of defeat, he asks in a low even tone: “What do you say, General Beauregard?” The Creole too has his moment of satisfaction. “I concur in all General Johnston has said,” he replies quietly. Another silence follows. Then Davis, still holding his eyes down on the paper he keeps folding and refolding, addresses Johnston in the same inflectionless voice as before: “You speak of obtaining terms....” The general says he would like to get in touch with Sherman to arrange a truce during which they can work out the details required for surrender. All those present except Benjamin agree that this is the thing to do, and Davis accepts their judgment, but not without a reservation he considers overriding. “Well, sir, you can adopt this course,” he tells Johnston, “though I am not sanguine as to ultimate results.” At the general’s insistence, he dictates a letter to Sherman for Johnston’s signature. “The results of the recent campaign in Virginia have changed the relative military condition of the belligerents,” it reads. “I am, therefore, induced to address you in this form the inquiry whether, to stop the further effusion of blood and devastation of property, you are willing to make a temporary suspension of active operations ... the object being to permit the civil authorities to enter into the needful arrangements to terminate the existing war.” With letter in hand, Johnston leaves to rejoin his army at Hillsborough, North Carolina.

At Appomattox, Chamberlain will write, “over all the hillsides in the peaceful sunshine, are clouds of men on foot or horse, singly or in groups, making their earnest way as if by the instinct of the ant, each with his own little burden, each for his own little house.” By evening most of them are gone, and the Army of Northern Virginia is no more.

Sherman’s army enters Raleigh, North Carolina, in heavy rain and after skirmishing near Raleigh and at Morrisville, North Carolina. They are heading toward Johnston’s main army and the temporary Confederate capital at Greensborough. Military action elsewhere is simmering down, with skirmishing at Whistly or Eight Mile Creek Bridge and at Wetumpka, Alabama. Federal scouts operate about Lexington, Kentucky. USS Ida falls victim to a torpedo in Mobile Bay, the fifth ship to be lost in five weeks in the area.

Secretary of War Stanton orders the draft halted and curtails purchases of war matériel. The number of officers is reduced and many military restrictions removed as first steps in demobilization. President Lincoln confers with General Grant, Secretary of the Navy Welles, Stanton, and others.
April 14, Friday

Sherman’s forces move ahead in the rain from Raleigh to Durham Station, North Carolina. After obtaining permission from President Davis, General Johnston writes to Sherman asking if he is “willing to make a temporary suspension of active operations,” looking toward peace. Sherman, in Raleigh, replies at once that he is willing to confer with Johnston and will limit his advance, expecting Johnston to keep his men in their present position. He suggests the same terms Grant gave Lee.

There is some fighting near Morrisville and Sander’s Farm, North Carolina. Near Tuskegee, Alabama, Wilson’s cavalry skirmish on the Columbus Road. Another skirmish flares at Mount Pleasant, Tennessee. CSS Shenandoah leaves the Eastern Caroline Islands in the Pacific and heads for the Kurile Islands in the North Pacific. Still another Union vessel is blown up by a torpedo off Mobile.

Davis spends Good Friday preparing to continue his flight southward. Others might treat for peace, not he. Nor will he leave the country. He has, he says when urged to escape to Mexico or the West Indies by getting aboard a ship off the Florida coast, “no idea whatever of leaving Confederate soil as long as there are men in uniform to fight for the cause.” Fortunately, the treasure train had been sent ahead to Charlotte before Stoneman wrecked the railroad above and below Salisbury, but Davis and his party have to take their chances on the muddy roads and byways. Nothing in his manner shows that he has any doubt of getting through, however, any more than he doubts the survival of the nation he heads. Only in private, and only then in a note he writes his wife this same Good Friday, does he show that he has anything less than total confidence in the outcome of a struggle that has continued unabated for four years and is moving even now into a fifth. “Dear Winnie,” he writes to her in Charlotte, employing her pet name before signing with his own, “I will come to you if I can. Everything is dark. You should prepare for the worst by dividing your baggage so as to move in wagons.... I have lingered on the road to little purpose. My love to the children and Maggie. God bless, guide and preserve you, ever prays Your most affectionate Banny.”

There is a ceremony this same holy day in Charleston Harbor, held in accordance with War Department instructions which Stanton himself had issued back in March. “Ordered. That at the hour of noon on the 14th day of April, 1865, Brevet Major General Anderson will raise and plant upon the ruins of Fort Sumter the same United States flag which floated over the battlements of that fort during the rebel assault, and which was lowered and saluted by him and the small force of his command when the works were evacuated on the 14th day of April, 1861.” At first there was only minor interest in the occasion, even when it was given out that Henry Ward Beecher, the popular Brooklyn minister, would be the principal speaker. Presently, however, the fall of Richmond, followed within the week by Lee’s surrender, placed the affair in a new light, one in which it could be seen as commemorating not only the start but also the finish of the war, in the same place on the same date, with precisely four years intervening between the hauling down and running up of the same flag. People began to plan to attend from all directions, especially from Boston and Philadelphia, where abolitionist sentiment runs strong, as well as from the sea islands along the Georgia and Carolina coasts, where uplift programs have been in progress ever since their occupation. Prominent men are among them, and women too, who for decades have been active in the movement. “Only listen to that—in Charleston’s streets!” William Lloyd Garrison marvels, tears of joy brimming his eyes as a regimental band plays “John Brown’s Body” amid the ruins created by the long bombardment, which another visitor notes “had left its marks everywhere, even on gravestones in the cemeteries.” So many have come that the navy is hard put, this mild Good Friday morning, to provide vessels enough to ferry them from the Battery wharves out to the fort. More than four thousand are on hand, including a number of Blacks from nearby plantations, though it is observed that there are scarcely a dozen local Whites in the throng pressed close about the platform where the dignitaries await the stroke of noon.

Except for the bunting draped about the rostrum, the polished brass of army and navy officers, and the colorful silks on some of the women, the scene is bleak enough. Sumter, a Union soldier declared at the time it was retaken, “was simply an irregular curved pile of pulverized masonry, which had with enormous labor been industriously shoveled back into place as fast as we knocked it out of shape, and was held up on the inside by gabions and timber work. So many tons of projectiles had been fired into it that the shot and shell seemed to be mixed through the mass as thick as plums in a pudding.” Somewhere in the pudding mass of the central parade, where the crowd gathers, is the grave of Private Daniel Hough, who died in a flare-back while firing the fifty-gun salute of departure, four years ago today, and thus had been the first to fall in a war that by now has cost well over 600,000 lives. Few if any are thinking of Hough, however, as noon approaches and Robert Anderson arrives with Quincy Gillmore, the department commander. Two months short of sixty, Anderson looks much older; sickness has worn him down and deprived him, except for a brief period of command in his native Kentucky, of any part in the struggle that followed the bloodless two-day bombardment in Charleston Harbor, which has turned out to be the high point in his life. He carries himself with military erectness, but he appears somewhat confused: perhaps because, as a journalist will report, he “could see nothing by which to recognize the Fort Sumter he had left four years ago.”

Still, this is another high point, if not so high as the one before, and as such has its effect both on him and on those who watch from in front of the canopied platform, where a tall new flagstaff has been erected. After a short prayer by the chaplain who had accompanied the eighty-odd-man force into the fort on the night after Christmas, 1860—six days after South Carolina left the Union—and a responsive reading of parts from several Psalms, selected for being appropriate to the occasion—“When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream”—a sergeant who is also a veteran of the bombardment steps forward, draws from a leather pouch the scorched and shot-ripped flag Anderson had kept for use as a winding sheet when the time came, and begins to attach it to the rope that will run it up the pole. “We all held our breath for a second,” a young woman from Philadelphia is to write many years later, “and then we gave a queer cry, between a cheer and a yell; nobody started it and nobody led it; I never heard anything like it before or since, but I can hear it now.” Then, as she watches, “General Anderson stood up, bareheaded, took the halyards in his hands, and began to speak. At first I could not hear him, for his voice came thickly, but in a moment he said clearly, ‘I thank God that I have lived to see this day,’ and after a few more words he began to hoist the flag. It went up slowly and hung limp against the staff, a weather-beaten, frayed, and shell-torn old flag, not fit for much more work, but when it had crept clear of the shelter of the walls a sudden breath of wind caught it, and it shook its folds and flew straight out above us, while every soldier and sailor instinctively saluted.” What happens next is confused in her memory by the emotion of the moment. “I think we stood up; somebody started ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ and we sang the first verse, which is all that most people know. But it did not make much difference, for a great gun was fired close to us from the fort itself, followed, in obedience to the President’s order, ‘by a national salute from every fort and battery that fired upon Fort Sumter.’ The measured, solemn booming came from Fort Moultrie, from the batteries on Sullivan and Folly Islands, and from Fort Wagner.... When the forts were done it was the turn of the fleet, and all our warships, from the largest—which would look tiny today—down to the smallest monitor, fired and fired in regular order until the air was thick and black with smoke and one’s ears ached with the overlapping vibrations.”

All this is prelude, so to speak, to the main event, the address to be delivered by the reverend Mr. Beecher, the fifty-two-year-old younger brother of the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, whom Lincoln is said to have greeted once as “the little lady who started this great war.” Beecher’s specialty is flamboyance, but that flamboyance is absent today—perhaps because this time he reads his entire speech, perhaps because of the rising wind threatening to tear the pages of his written speech from his hands. Beecher winds up his address by offering the President “our solemn congratulations that God has sustained his life and health under the unparalleled burdens and sufferings of four bloody years, and permitted him to behold this auspicious confirmation of that national unity for which he has waited with so much patience and fortitude, and for which he has labored with such disinterested wisdom.”

Robert Anderson, having performed what he will call “perhaps the last act of my life, of duty to my country,” has a somewhat let-down feeling as the ceremony ends and he and the rest get aboard boats to return to Charleston. At the outset he had urged Stanton to keep the program brief and quiet, but it has turned out to be neither. What is more, he faces still another speaking ordeal this night at a formal dinner Gillmore is giving for him and other guests of honor, including the old-line abolitionist Garrison, who had been hanged and burned in effigy on a nearby street corner, thirty-odd years ago, in reaction to the Nat Turner uprising in Virginia. Garrison speaks, as does Beecher again—impromptu this time, and to better effect—and John Nicolay, who has been sent from Washington to deliver the Chief Executive’s regrets that he himself is unable to attend. Others hold forth at considerable length, interrupted from time to time by the crump and crackle of a fireworks display being staged in the harbor by Dahlgren’s fleet, with Battery wharves and rooftops nearly as crowded as they had been for a grimmer show of pyrotechnics, four years ago this week. In the banquet hall of the Charleston Hotel the evening wears on as speaker after speaker, not sharing Anderson’s aversion to exposure, has his say. At last, the various orators having subsided, the Kentuckian’s turn comes round. He rises, glass in hand, and haltingly, with no mention of Union victory or Confederate defeat, of which so much has already been said by the others, proposes a toast to “the man who, when elected President of the United States, was compelled to reach the seat of government without an escort, but a man who now could travel all over our country with millions of hands and hearts to sustain him. I give you the good, the great, the honest man, Abraham Lincoln.”

The man to whom the celebrants raise their glasses down in Charleston this Good Friday evening is seated in a box at Ford’s Theater, attentive to the forced chatter of a third-rate farce which by now is into its second act. Apparently he is enjoying himself, as he generally does at the theater, even though he had come with some reluctance, if not distaste, and more from a sense of obligation than by choice. “It has been advertised that we will be there,” he had said this afternoon, “and I cannot disappoint the people. Otherwise I would not go. I do not want to go.” In part this is because of a last-minute withdrawal by Grant, who earlier had accepted an invitation for him and his wife to come along, and whose presence, as the hero of Appomattox, would have lent the presidential box a glitter that outdid anything under limelight on the stage.

Besides, Lincoln has looked forward to the general’s company as a diversion from the strain of the daily grind, which the advent of peace has not made any less daily or less grinding. Today, for example, he is in his office by 7 am as usual, attending to administrative matters in advance of the flood of supplicants who will descend on him later. After issuing a call for a cabinet meeting at 11, he goes back upstairs for breakfast with Mrs. Lincoln and their two sons. Robert, just up from Virginia, brings with him a photograph of R.E. Lee which he presents to his father at the table, apparently as a joke. Lincoln does not take it so. He polishes his glasses on a napkin, studies the portrait, then says quietly: “It’s a good face. I am glad the war is over.” This last is repeated in varied phrasings through the day. Returning to his office he confers first with Speaker Colfax, who is slated for a cabinet post—probably Stanton’s, who more than anything wants a seat on the Supreme Court as soon as one becomes vacant—and then with Senator John Creswell, who had done much to keep Maryland in the Union during the secession furor. “Creswell, old fellow,” Lincoln hails him, “everything is bright this morning. The war is over. It has been a tough time, but we have lived it out. Or some of us have.” His face darkens, then lightens again. “But it is over. We are going to have good times now, and a united country.” He approves a number of appointments, grants a military discharge, sends a messenger over to Ford’s on 10th Street to reserve the State Box for the evening performance—not forgetting to inform the management that Grant will be a member of his party, which will help to increase the normally scant Good Friday audience—and writes on a card for two Virginians requesting passes south: “No pass is necessary now to authorize anyone to go and return from Petersburg and Richmond. People go and return just as they did before the war.” Presently, as the hour approaches for the cabinet meeting he has called, he walks over to the War Department, hoping for news from Sherman of Johnston’s surrender. There is nothing, but he isn’t discouraged.

Lincoln says later at the meeting that he is convinced some such news is on the way, and soon will be clicking off the wire, because of a dream he had last night. Grant is there by special invitation, having arrived from City Point just yesterday. Welcomed and applauded as he enters the cabinet room, he tells of his pursuit of Lee and the closing scene at Appomattox, but adds that no word has come from Carolina, where a similar campaign is being mounted against Joe Johnston, hopefully with similar results. The President says he is sure they will hear from Sherman soon, for he had had this dream last night. What sort of dream? Welles asks. “It relates to your element, the water,” Lincoln replies, and tells how he had been aboard “some singular, indescribable vessel” which seemed to be “floating, floating away on some vast and indistinct expanse, toward an unknown shore.” The dream was not so strange in itself, he declares, as in the fact that it is recurrent; that “each of its previous occurrences has been followed by some important event or disaster.” He had had it before Sumter and Bull Run, he says, as well as before such victories as Antietam, Stones River, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Wilmington. Grant—who seldom passes up a chance to take a swipe at Rosecrans—remarks that Stones River was no victory; he knows of no great results it brought. In any case, Lincoln tells him, he had had this dream on the eve of that battle, and it had come to him again last night. He takes it as a sign that they will “have great news very soon,” and “I think it must be from Sherman. My thoughts are in that direction.” After a brief discussion of dreams and their nature, the talk returns to Appomattox. Grant’s terms there have assured that no member of the surrendered army, from Lee on down, will ever be prosecuted by the government for treason or any other crime, so long as he observes the conditions of his parole and the laws in force where he resides. Lincoln’s ready approval of this assurance gives Postmaster General William Dennison the impression that he would like to have it extended to the civilian leaders—a number of whom by now are fugitives, in flight for their lives amid the ruins of the rebellion—if only some way can be found to avoid having them hauled into court. “I suppose, Mr. President,” he half-inquires, half-suggests, “that you would not be sorry to have them escape out of the country?” Lincoln thinks it over. “Well, I should not be sorry to have them out of the country,” he replies, “but I should be for following them up pretty close to make sure of their going.” Having said as much he says still more to others around the table. “I think it is providential that this great rebellion is crushed just as Congress has adjourned and there are none of the disturbing elements of that body to hinder and embarrass us. If we are wise and discreet we shall reanimate the states and get their governments in successful operation, with order prevailing and the Union reëstablished before Congress comes together in December.” Returning to the question of what should be done with the rebel leaders, he becomes more animated both in speech and gesture. “I hope there will be no persecution, no bloody work after the war is over. No one need expect me to take any part in hanging or killing these men, even the worst of them. Frighten them out of the country; open the gates; let down the bars.” He puts both hands out, fluttering the fingers as if to frighten sheep out of a lot. “Shoo; scare them off,” he says; “enough lives have been sacrificed.”

It is for this, the consideration of reconstruction matters and incidentals preliminary to them, that the cabinet had been assembled in the first place, midway between its regular Tuesday gatherings. In the absence of Seward—still on his bed of pain, he is represented at the meeting by his son Frederick—Stanton has come armed with a plan, drawn up at the President’s request, for bringing the states that have been “abroad” back into what Lincoln, in his speech three nights ago, had called “their proper practical relation with the Union.” The War Secretary’s notion is that military occupation should precede readmission, and in this connection he proposes that Virginia and North Carolina be combined in a single district to simplify the army’s task. Welles takes exception, on grounds that this last would destroy the individuality of both states and thus be “in conflict with the principles of self-government which I deem essential.” So does Lincoln. After some earnest discussion, back and forth across the green-topped table, he suggests that Stanton revise his plan in this regard and provide copies for the other cabinet members to study between now and their next meeting, four days off. Congress will no doubt have its say when it returns in December, but as for himself he has already reached certain bedrock conclusions. “We can’t undertake to run state governments in all these southern states. Their own people must do that—though I reckon that at first some of them may do it badly.”

By now it is close to 2 pm, and the meeting, nearly three hours long, adjourns. Grant however remains behind to talk with Lincoln: not about army matters, it turns out, but to beg off going to the theater this evening. His wife, he says, is anxious to catch the late-afternoon train for Philadelphia, en route to a visit with their young sons in Burlington, New Jersey. Lincoln starts to press him, but then refrains, perhaps realizing from the general’s embarrassed manner that the real reason is Julia Grant, who is determined not to expose herself to another of Mary Lincoln’s tirades, this time in full view of the audience at Ford’s. Disappointed, Lincoln accepts the excuse—reinforced just then by a note from Mrs. Grant, reminding her husband not to be late for their 6 pm departure—and goes upstairs for lunch, faced with the unpleasant job of informing his wife that the social catch of the season will not be going with them to the theater this evening. If he also tells her, as he will tell others between now and curtain time, that he too no longer wants to go, it makes no difference; Grant or no Grant, she is set on attending what the papers are calling the “last appearance of Miss Laura Keene in her celebrated comedy of Our American Cousin.”

He is back in his office by 3 pm, in time for an appointment with the Vice President, the first since the scandalous scene at his swearing in. They talk for twenty minutes or so, and though neither will leave any record of what is said, witnesses note that Lincoln calls him “Andy,” shaking him vigorously by the hand, and that Johnson seems greatly relieved to find himself greeted cordially after nearly six weeks of pointed neglect. This done, Lincoln attends to some paperwork, including an appeal on behalf of a soldier convicted for desertion. So far in the war he has approved 267 death sentences for military offenses, but not this one. “Well, I think the boy can do us more good above ground than under ground,” he drawls as he fixes his signature to a pardon. Before setting out on a 4:30 carriage ride with his wife—“Just ourselves,” he had said at lunch when she asked if he wanted anyone else along—he walks over to the War Department, in hope that some word has come at last from Sherman. Again there is nothing, which serves to weaken his conviction that the news of “some important event or disaster” will shake the capital before the day is over. Time is running out, and he is disappointed. It is now, on the way back from the telegraph office, that he tells his bodyguard Crook that he doesn’t want to go to the theater this night, and would not go, except for notices in the papers that he will be there. Crook is about to go off shift, and when they reach the White House door Lincoln pauses for a moment and turns to face him. He seems gloomy, depressed. “Goodbye, Crook,” he says, to the guard’s surprise. Always before, it has been “Good night, Crook,” when they part. Now suddenly it is goodbye; “Goodbye, Crook.”

Still, by the time the carriage rolls out of the driveway a few minutes later, on through streets that glitter with bright gold April sunshine, he has recovered his spirits to such an extent that he informs his wife: “I never felt better in my life.” What is more—even though, just one month ago today, he had been confined to his bed with what his doctor described as “exhaustion, complete exhaustion”—he looks as happy as he says he feels. The recent City Point excursion, his first extended vacation of the war, has done him so much good that various cabinet members, after observing him at the midday meeting—in contrast to the one a month ago, when they gathered about his sickbed—will remark on the “expression of visible relief and content upon his face.” One will say that he “never appeared to better advantage,” while another will declare that “the weary look which his face had so long worn ... had disappeared. It was cheerful and happy.” They were glad to see him so. But Mary Lincoln, whose moods are quite as variable as his own, has a different reaction when he tells her he had never felt better in his life. “Don’t you remember feeling just so before our little boy died?” she asks. He pats her hand to comfort her, and speaks of a trip to Europe as soon as his term is up. After that they will return to Springfield, where he will resume the practice of law and perhaps buy a farm along the Sangamon. “We must both be more cheerful in the future,” he tells her. “Between the war and the loss of our darling Willie, we have both been very miserable.”

The good mood holds. Seeing two old friends just leaving as the open barouche turns into the White House driveway an hour later, he stands up and calls for them to wait. They are Richard Oglesby, the new governor of Illinois, and his adjutant general Isham Haynie, a combat brigadier who had left the army to work for him and Lincoln in the recent campaign. Lincoln leads the way inside, where he reads to them from the latest collection of “Letters” by Petroleum V. Nasby, a humorist he admires so much that he once said he would gladly swap his present office for the genius to compose such things. “Linkin rides into Richmond!” he reads from the final letter. “A Illinois rale-splitter, a buffoon, a ape, a goriller, a smutty joker, sets hisself down in President Davis’s cheer and rites dispatchis! … This ends the chapter. The Confederasy hez at last consentratid its last consentrate. It’s ded. It’s gathered up its feet, sed its last words, and deceest.… Farewell, vane world.” The reading goes on so long—four letters, with time out for laughter and thigh-slapping all around—that supper is delayed, as well as his departure for the theater. Even so, with the carriage waiting, he takes time to see Colfax, who calls again to ask if a special session of Congress is likely to interrupt a Rocky Mountain tour he is planning. The President says there will be no special session, and they go on talking until Mrs. Lincoln appears in the office doorway. She wears a low-necked evening dress and is pulling on her gloves, by way of warning her husband that 8 pm has struck. He excuses himself and they start out, only to be interrupted by two more men, a Massachusetts congressman and a former congressman from Illinois, both of whom have political favors to collect. One wants a hearing for a client who has a sizeable cotton claim against the government; Lincoln gives him a card that puts him first on tomorrow’s list of callers. What the other wants no one will know, for he whispers it into the presidential ear. Lincoln had entered and then backed out of the closed carriage, cocking his head to hear the request. “Excuse me now,” he says as he climbs in again beside his wife. “I am going to the theater. Come and see me in the morning.”

Stopping en route at the home of New York Senator Ira Harris to pick up their substitute guests, the senator’s daughter Clara and her fiancé, Major Henry Rathbone, the carriage rolls and clops through intersections whose streetlamps glimmered dimly through the mist. It is close to 8:30, twenty minutes past curtain time, when the coachman draws rein in front of Ford’s, on 10th Street between E and F, and the two couples alight to enter the theater. Inside, about midway of Act I, the performance stops as the President and his party come down the side aisle, and the orchestra strikes up “Hail to the Chief” as they enter the flag-draped box to the right front. A near-capacity crowd of about 1,700 applauds politely, masking its disappointment at Grant’s absence. Clara Harris and Rathbone take seats near the railing; the First Lady sits a little behind them, to their left, and Lincoln slumps into a roomy, upholstered rocker toward the rear. This last represents concern for his comfort and is also the management’s way of expressing thanks for his having been here at least four times before, once to see Maggie Mitchell in Fanchon the Cricket, once to see John Wilkes Booth in The Marble Heart—“Rather tame than otherwise,” John Hay had complained—and twice to see James Hackett play Falstaff in Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Tonight’s play resumes, and Lincoln, as is his habit, at once grows absorbed in the action down below: though not so absorbed that he fails to notice that the major is holding his fiancée’s hand, for he reaches out and takes hold of his wife’s. Pleased by the attention he had shown her on their carriage ride that afternoon, and now by this further expression of affection, Mary Lincoln reverts to her old role of Kentucky belle. “What will Miss Harris think of my hanging onto you so?” she whispers, leaning toward him. Lincoln’s eyes, fixed on the stage, reflect the glow of the footlights. “Why, she will think nothing about it,” he says, and he keeps his grip on her hand.

Act I ends; Act II begins. Down in Charleston the banqueters raise their glasses in response to Anderson’s toast, and here at Ford’s, in an equally festive mood, the audience enjoys Our American Cousin with only occasional sidelong glances at the State Box to see whether Grant has arrived. He might have done so without their knowledge, for though they can see the young couple at the railing and Mrs. Lincoln half in shadow behind them, the President is screened from view by the box curtains and draped flags. Act II ends; Act III begins. Lincoln, having at last released his wife’s hand and settled back in the horsehair rocker, seems to be enjoying what is happening down below. In the second scene, which opens shortly after 10 pm, a three-way running dialogue reveals to Mrs. Mountchessington that Asa Trenchard, for whom she had set her daughter’s cap, is no millionaire after all.

— No heir to the fortune, Mr Trenchard?
— Oh, no.
— What! No fortune!
— Nary a red....

Consternation. Indignation.

— Augusta, to your room.
— Yes, ma. The nasty beast!
— I am aware, Mr Trenchard, that you are not used to the manners of good society, and that alone will excuse the impertinence of which you have been guilty.

Exit Mrs. Mountchessington, trailing daughter. Trenchard alone.

— Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Wal, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, you sockdologizing old mantrap!

Then it comes, a half-muffled explosion, somewhere between a boom and a thump, loud but by no means so loud as it sounds in the theater, then a boil and bulge of bluish smoke in the presidential box, an exhalation as of brimstone from the curtained mouth, and a man coming out through the bank and swirl of it, white-faced and dark-haired in a black sack suit and riding boots, eyes aglitter, brandishing a knife. He mounts the ledge, presents his back to the rows of people seated below, and lets himself down by the handrail for the ten-foot drop to the stage. Falling he turns, and as he does so catches the spur of his right boot in the folds of a flag draped over the lower front of the high box. It rips but offers enough resistance to bring all the weight of his fall on his left leg, which buckles and pitches him forward onto his hands. He rises, thrusts the knife overhead in a broad theatrical gesture, and addresses the outward darkness of the pit. “Sic semper tyrannis,” he says in a voice so low and projected with so little clarity that few recognize the state motto of Virginia or can later agree that he had spoken in Latin. “Revenge for the South!” or “The South is avenged!” some think they hear him cry, while others will say that he simply muttered “Freedom.” In any case he then turns again, hobbles left across the stage past the lone actor standing astonished in its center, and vanishes into the wings.

Barely half a minute has passed since the jolt of the explosion, and now a piercing scream comes through the writhing tendrils of smoke—a full-voiced wail from Mary Lincoln. “Stop that man!” Rathbone shouts, nursing an arm slashed by the intruder, and Clara Harris, wringing her hands, calls down from the railing in a tone made falsely calm by shock: “Water. Water.” The audience begins to emerge from its trance. “What is it? What happened?” “For God’s sake, what is it?” “What has happened?” The answer comes in a bellow of rage from the curtained orifice above the spur-torn flag: “He has shot the President!” Below, men leap from their seats in a first reaction of disbelief and denial, not only of this but also of what they had seen with their own eyes. “No. For God’s sake, no! It can’t be true.” But then, by way of reinforcement for the claim, the cry goes up: “Surgeon! A surgeon! Is there a surgeon in the house?”

The young doctor who comes forward—and at last gains admission to the box, after Rathbone removes a wooden bar the intruder had used to keep the hallway door from being opened while he went about his work—thinks at first that he has been summoned to attend a dead man. Lincoln sits sprawled in the rocker as if asleep, knees relaxed, eyes closed, head dropped forward so that his chin is on his chest. He seems to have no vital signs until a closer examination detects a weak pulse and shallow breathing. Assuming that he had been knifed, as Rathbone had been, the doctor has him taken from the chair and laid on the floor in a search for a stab wound. However, when he puts his hands behind the patient’s head to lift it, he finds the back hair wet with blood from a half-inch hole where a bullet had entered, three inches to the right of the left ear. “The course of the ball was obliquely forward,” a subsequent report will state, “toward the right eye, crossing the brain in an oblique manner and lodging a few inches behind that eye. In the track of the wound were found fragments of bone driven forward by the ball, which was embedded in the anterior lobe of the left hemisphere of the brain.” The doctor—Charles A. Leale, assistant surgeon, US Volunteers, twenty-three years old and highly familiar with gunshot wounds—doesn’t not know all this; yet he knows enough from what he has seen and felt, here in the crowded box for the past five minutes, as well as in casualty wards for the past year, to arrive at a prognosis. Everything is over for Abraham Lincoln but the end. “His wound is mortal,” Leale pronounces. “It is impossible for him to recover.”

Two other surgeons are in the box by now, both senior to Leale in rank and years, but he remains in charge and makes the decision not to risk a removal to the White House, six cobblestone blocks away. “If it is attempted the President will die before we reach there,” he replies to the suggestion. Instead, with the help of four soldier volunteers, the three doctors take up their patient and carry him feet first down the stairs and aisle, out onto 10th Street—packed nearly solid with the curious and grieving, so that an infantry captain has to draw his sword to clear a path for the seven bearers and their awkward burden, bawling excitedly: “Out of the way, you sons of bitches!”—up the front steps, down a narrow hall, and into a small back ground-floor bedroom in one of a row of modest houses across the way. Let by the night by its owner, a Swedish tailor, the room is mean and dingy, barely fifteen by nine feet in length and width, with a threadbare rug, once Turkey red, and oatmeal-colored paper on the walls. The bed itself is too short for the long form placed diagonally on the cornshuck mattress; Lincoln’s booted feet protrude well beyond the footboard, his head propped on extra pillows so that his bearded chin is on his chest, as it had been when Leale first saw him in the horsehair rocker, back at Ford’s. By now the time is close to 11 pm, some forty-five minutes after the leaden ball first broke into his skull, and now begins a painful, drawn-out vigil, a death watch that will continue for another eight hours and beyond.

Three more doctors soon arrive, Surgeon General Joseph Barnes, his chief assistant, and the family physician, who does what he can for Mary Lincoln in her distress. Barnes takes charge, but Leale continues his ministrations, including the removal of the patient’s clothing in a closer search for another wound and the application of mustard plasters in an attempt to improve his respiration and heartbeat. One does as little good as the other; for there is no additional wound and Lincoln’s condition remains about the same, with stertorous breathing, pulse a feeble 44, hands and feet corpse-cold to the wrists and ankles, and both eyes insensitive to light, the left pupil much contracted, the right dilated widely. Gideon Welles comes in at this point and will write tomorrow in his diary of “the giant sufferer” as he sees him from his post beside the bed. “He had been stripped of his clothes. His large arms, which were occasionally exposed, were of a size which one would scarce have expected from his spare appearance. His slow, full respiration lifted the bedclothes with each breath that he took. His features were calm and striking. I had never seen them appear to better advantage than for the first hour, perhaps, that I was there.” Presently, though, their calm appearance changes. The left side of the face begins to twitch, distorting the mouth into a jeer. When this desists, the upper right side of the face begins to darken, streaked with purple as from a blow, and the eye with the ball of lead behind it begins to bulge from its socket. Mary Lincoln screams at the sight and has to be led from the room, while a journalist notes that Charles Sumner, “seated on the right of the President’s couch, near the head, holding the right hand of the President in his own,” is about equally unstrung. “He was sobbing like a woman, with his head bowed down almost on the pillow of the bed on which the President was lying.”

By midnight, close to fifty callers are in the house, all of sufficient prominence to gain entrance past the guards and most of them wedged shoulder to shoulder in the death chamber, at one time or another, for a look at the final agony of the man laid diagonally on the bed in one corner. Andrew Johnson is there—briefly, however, because his presence is painful to Mrs. Lincoln, who whimpers at the sight of her husband’s imminent successor—as are a number of Sumner’s colleagues from the House and Senate, Robert Lincoln and John Hay, Oglesby and Haynie again, a pair of clergymen—one fervent, the other unctuous—and Laura Keene, who claims a star’s prerogative, first in the box at the theater, where she had held the President’s bleeding head in her lap, and now in the narrow brick house across the street, where she helps Clara Harris comfort the distraught widow-to-be in the tailor’s front parlor, what time she isn’t with her in the crowded bedroom toward the rear. All members of the cabinet are on hand but the Secretary of State, and most of the talk that isn’t of Lincoln is of him. He too has been attacked and grievously wounded, along with four members of his household, by a lone assassin who struck at about the same time as the one at Ford’s: unless, indeed, it was the same man in rapid motion from one place to the other, less than half a mile away. Seward has been slashed about the face and throat, and he is thought to be dying, too, except that the iron frame that bound his jaw had served to protect him to some extent from the knife. “I’m mad, I’m mad,” the attacker had said as he ran out into the night to vanish as cleanly as the other—or he—had done when he—or the other—leaped from the box, crossed the stage, entered the wings, and exited into the alley behind Ford’s, where he—whoever, whichever he was—mounted his waiting horse and rode off in the darkness.

In this, as in other accounts concerning other rumored victims—Grant, for one, and Andrew Johnson for another, until word comes that the general is safe in Philadelphia and the Vice President himself shows up unhurt—there is much confusion. Edwin Stanton undertakes on his own the task of sifting and setting the contradictions straight, in effect taking over as head of the headless government. “[He] instantly assumed charge of everything near and remote, civil and military,” a subordinate will observe, “and began issuing orders in that autocratic manner so superbly necessary to the occasion.” Among other precautions, he stops traffic on the Potomac and the railroads, warns the Washington Fire Brigade to be ready for mass arson, summons Grant back to take charge of the capital defenses, and alerts guards along the Canadian border, as well as in all major eastern ports, to be on the lookout for suspicious persons attempting to leave the country. In short, “he continued throughout the night acting as president, secretary of war, secretary of state, commander in chief, comforter, and dictator,” all from a small sitting room adjacent to the front parlor of the tailor’s house on 10th Street, which he turns into an interrogation chamber for grilling witnesses to find out just what had happened in the theater across the street.

From the outset, numbers of people who know him well, including members of his profession, have identified John Wilkes Booth as Lincoln’s attacker, and by now the twenty-six-year-old matinee idol’s one-shot pocket derringer has been found on the floor of the box where he dropped it as he leaped for the railing to escape by way of the stage and the back alley. Identification is certain. Even so, and though a War Department description eventually goes out by wire across the land—“height 5 feet 8 inches, weight 160 pounds, compact build; hair jet black, inclined to curl, medium length, parted behind; eyes black, heavy dark eyebrows; wears a large seal ring on little finger; when talking inclines head forward, looks down”—Stanton is intent on larger game. Apparently convinced that the President could not have been shot by anyone so insignificant as an actor acting on his own, he is out to expose a full-scale Confederate plot, a conspiracy hatched in Richmond “and set on foot by rebels under pretense of avenging the rebel cause.”

So he believes at any rate, and though he gives most of his attention to exploring this assumption—proceeding with such misdirected and disjointed vigor that he later arouses revisionist suspicions that he must have wanted the assassin to escape: as, for instance, by his neglect in closing all city bridges except the one Booth used to cross into Maryland—he still has time for periodic visits to the small back room, filled with the turmoil of Lincoln’s labored breathing, and to attend to such incidental administrative matters as the preparation of a message giving Johnson formal notice that the President has died. His purpose in this, with the hour of death left blank to be filled in later, is to avoid delay when the time comes, but when he reads the rough draft aloud for a stenographer to take down a fair copy he produces a premature effect he had not foreseen. Hearing a strangled cry behind him, he turns and finds Mary Lincoln standing in the parlor doorway, hands clasped before her in entreaty, a stricken expression on her face. “Is he dead? Oh, is he dead?” she moans. Stanton tries to explain that what she had heard was merely in preparation for a foreseen contingency, but she cannot understand him through her sobbing and her grief. So he gives it up and has her led back into the parlor, out of his way; which is just as well, an associate will declare, for “he was full of business, and knew, moreover, that in a few hours at most she must be a widow.”
April 15, Saturday

It is about 1.30 am; Good Friday is off the calendar at last, and Mary Lincoln is into what everyone in the house, doctors and laymen alike, can see will be the first day of her widowhood. At intervals, supported on either side by Clara Harris and Laura Keene, she returns to the crowded bedroom and sits or stands looking down at her husband until grief overcomes her again and the two women half-guide half-carry her back to the front parlor, where she remains until enough strength returns for her to repeat the process. She makes these trips about once an hour, and each is more grueling than the last, not only because of her own cumulative exhaustion, but also because of the deteriorating condition of the sufferer on the bed, which comes as a greater shock to her each time she sees him. Earlier, there had been a certain calm and dignity about him, as if he were in fact aboard “some singular, indescribable vessel ... floating, floating away on some vast and indistinct expanse, toward an unknown shore.” Now this is gone, replaced by the effects of agony. The dream ship has become a rack, and the stertorous uproar of his breathing, interspersed with drawn-out groans, fills the house as it might have filled a torture chamber. “Doctor, save him!” she implores first one and then another of the attending physicians, and once she says in a calmer tone: “Bring Tad. He will speak to Tad, he loves him so.” But all agree that will not do, either for the boy or for his father, who is beyond all knowledgeable contact with anything on earth, even Tad, and indeed has been so ever since Booth’s derringer crashed through the laughter in the theater at 10:15 last night. All the while, his condition worsens, especially his breathing, which not only becomes increasingly spasmodic, but stops entirely from time to time, the narrow chest expanded between the big rail-splitter arms, and then resumes with a sudden gusty roar through the fluttering lips. On one such occasion, with Mrs. Lincoln leaning forward from a chair beside the bed, her cheek on her husband’s cheek, her ear near his still, cyanotic mouth, the furious bray of his exhalation—louder than anything she had heard since the explosion in the box, five hours ago—startles and frightens her so badly that she shrieks and falls to the floor in a faint. Stanton, interrupted in his work by the piercing scream, comes running down the hall from his improvised Acting President’s office up front. When he sees what it was he loses patience entirely. “Take that woman out,” he orders sternly, thrusting both arms over his head in exasperation, “and do not let her in again.”

He is obeyed in this as in all his other orders, and she remains in the front parlor until near the very end. Meantime dawn comes through, paling the yellow flare of gas jets. A cold rain falls on the people still keeping their vigil on the street outside, while inside, in the dingy room made dingier by daylight, Lincoln enters the final stage of what one doctor will call “the saddest and most pathetic deathbed scene I ever witnessed.” Interruptions of his breathing are more frequent now, and longer, and whenever this happens some of the men about the bed take out their watches to note the time of death, then return them to their pockets when the raucous sound resumes. Robert Lincoln—“only a boy for all his shoulder straps,” the guard Crook had said—“bore himself well,” according to one who watches him, “but on two occasions gave way to overpowering grief and sobbed aloud, turning his head and leaning on the shoulder of Senator Sumner.” At 7 am, with the end at hand, he goes to bring his mother into the room for a last visit. She totters in, looks at her husband in confusion, saying nothing, and is led back out again. Stanton is there full-time now, and strangely enough has brought his hat along, standing motionless with his chin on his left hand, his right hand holding the hat and supporting his left elbow, tears running down his face into his beard.

By this time Lincoln’s breathing is fast and shallow, cheeks pulled inward behind the closed blue lips. His chest heaves up in a last deep breath, then subsides and doesn’t rise again. It is 7:22; the nine-hour agony is over, and his face takes on what John Hay describes as “a look of unspeakable peace.” Surgeon General Barnes leans forward, listens carefully for a time to the silent chest, then straightens up, removes two silver half-dollars from his pocket, and places them carefully on the closed eyes. Observing this ritual, Stanton then performs one of his own. He stretches his right arm out deliberately before him, claps his hat for a long moment on his head, and then as deliberately removes it, as if in salute. “Now he belongs to the ages,” he says, or anyhow later sees to it that he is quoted as having said. “Let us pray,” one of the parsons intones, and sinks to his knees on the thin red carpet beside the bed. Soon thereafter Mary Lincoln is brought back into the room. “Oh, why did you not tell me he was dying?” she exclaims when she sees her husband lying there with coins on his eyes. Then it comes home to her, and her grief is too great to be contained. “Oh my God,” she wails as she is led out, weeping bitterly, “I have given my husband to die!” Presently she is taken from the house, and the other mourner witnesses pick their way through the wet streets to their homes and hotels near and far. Bells are tolling all over Washington by the time Lincoln’s body, wrapped in a flag and placed in a closed hearse, is on its way back to the White House, escorted (as he had not been when he left, twelve hours before) by an honor guard of soldiers and preceded by a group of officers walking bareheaded in the rain. He will lie in state, first in the East Room, then afterwards in the Capitol rotunda, preparatory to the long train ride back to Springfield, where he will at last be laid to rest. “Nothing touches the tired spot,” he had said often in the course of the past four years. Now Booth’s derringer had reached it.

At 10 this Saturday morning, less than three hours after Lincoln died in the tailor’s house two blocks away, Andrew Johnson takes the oath of office in the parlor of his suite at the Kirkwood House, just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the mansion that is soon to be his home. After kissing the Bible held out to him by Chase, he turns and makes a short speech, a sort of extemporaneous inaugural, to the dozen senators and cabinet members present, all with faces that show the strain of their all-night vigil. “Gentlemen,” he says, “I have been almost overwhelmed by the announcement of the sad event which has so recently occurred.” Other than this he makes no reference to his predecessor, and as for any policy he will adopt, “that must be left for development as the Administration progresses.... The only assurance I can now give of the future is reference to the past. Toil, and an honest advocacy of the great principles of free government, have been my lot. The duties have been mine; the consequences are God’s.”

If this sounds at once conventional and high-handed, if some among the new President’s hearers resent his singular omission of any reference to the old one—“Johnson seemed willing to share the glory of his achievements with his Creator,” a New Hampshire senator will observe, “but utterly forgot that Mr. Lincoln had any share of credit in the suppression of the rebellion”—there are those beyond reach of his voice just now who are altogether delighted with the change, as they see it, from a soft- to a hard-peace Chief of State. Back from Richmond this same day, most of the members of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War spend the afternoon at a caucus held to consider “the necessity of a new cabinet and a line of policy less conciliatory than that of Mr. Lincoln.” They had been upset by a number of things, including his recent speech from the White House window, and Julian of Indiana will complain that “aside from his known tenderness to the rebels, Lincoln’s last public avowal, only three days before his death, of adherence to the plan of reconstruction he had announced in December 1863, was highly repugnant.” All in all, “while everybody was shocked at his murder,” Julian declares, “the feeling was nearly universal that the accession of Johnson to the Presidency would prove a godsend to the country.” Sure enough, when they request through their chairman a meeting with the new President—himself a member of the committee until he left the Senate, three years ago, to take up his duties as military governor of Tennessee—he promptly agrees to see them tomorrow, not at the White House, which is in a turmoil of preparation for the funeral, but next door at the Treasury Department.

Escorted by a small band of Tennessee cavalry, Davis and his official family leave Greensboro this morning, all on horseback except the ailing Trenholm, accompanied in his ambulance by Adjutant General Samuel Cooper, crowding seventy years of age, and Judah Benjamin, for whom a saddle is an instrument of torture. While they toil southwest over clay roads made slippery by recent heavy rains, Joe Johnston waits in his Hillsboro headquarters, forty miles northwest of Union-occupied Raleigh, for a reply to his request, sent through the lines yesterday—Good Friday; Lincoln had been right, after all, about good news in the offing—for “a temporary suspension of active operations ... to permit the civil authorities to enter into the needful arrangements to terminate the existing war.”

Skirmishing breaks out near Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and at McKenzie’s Creek near Patterson, Missouri. Union scouts operate in Randolph and Pocahontas counties, West Virginia; and Bath and Highland, Virginia, until the 25th.

Fugitives John Wilkes Booth and David Herold, one of Booth’s accomplices, have escaped to the southeast of Washington and stopped at the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd, where Booth’s broken leg is treated.
April 16, Sunday

The North is in deep mourning now, and with it much of the South, if not in mourning at least feeling dismay over the assassination, for it realizes that President Lincoln had seemed to understand its position. He had opposed what appears to be Radical vindictiveness. Federal troops pursue Booth in Maryland. Early in the morning Booth and Herold reach Rich Hill, the home of Samuel Cox, after a harrowing trip through swamps and over meager trails. In Washington Mrs. Lincoln is prostrate with grief and Andrew Johnson is gathering up the reins of the presidency. Radical Republicans are hopeful that the new President will be more amenable to their policies, which include treating the Southern states as conquered territory. It is Easter Sunday, and when the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War meet with President Johnson, Ben Wade, as chairman, gets things off to a rousing start. “Johnson, we have faith in you,” he says. “By the gods, there will be no trouble now in running the government.” Lincoln’s life had ended, so to speak, in a tailor shop; Johnson’s can be said to have begun in one, plying needle and thread while his wife taught him to read. Since then, he has come far—indeed, all the way to the top—with much of his success attributable to his skill as a stump speaker whose specialty is invective. Nor does he disappoint his Jacobin callers now in that regard. One year older and half a foot shorter than his predecessor, he thanks Wade for the warmth of his greeting and launches at once into a statement of his position on the burning issue of the day, repeating, with some expansion and adjustment of the words, what he had said on the steps of the Patent Office, twelve days ago. “I hold that robbery is a crime; rape is a crime; murder is a crime; treason is a crime—and crime must be punished. Treason must be made infamous, and traitors must be impoverished.” The impression here is as strong as the one produced at the Republican rally, two days after the fall of Richmond, and it is also encouraging to learn that the text under his lips when he kissed the Bible held out to him by Chase yesterday, open to the lurid and vengeful Book of Ezekiel, carried a similar burden of blame and retribution: And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, 1 will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord God. Although he makes them no commitment as to changes in the cabinet he has inherited—not even regarding dismissal of the twice-injured Seward, whom they detest—they don’t expect that; not just yet. It is enough, for the present, that he is with them. They knew him of old; he is of them, a long-time colleague, and they count on him to come down stronger on their enemies all the time. They know, as their chairman had said at the outset, there will be no trouble in running the government now. Anyhow they think they know. Zachariah Chandler, for one, is pleased with the prospect brought about by the assassination, and he will say as much in a letter he writes his wife in Michigan, one week after the Easter meeting. “Had Mr. Lincoln’s policy been carried out, we should have had Jeff Davis, Toombs, etc. back in the Senate at the next session of Congress, but now their chances to stretch hemp are better.... So mote it be.”

Reluctant to have General Johnston’s overture to Sherman made, even though he himself, under pressure from his advisers, had written the message the Virginian signed, Davis had said he was not “sanguine” as to the outcome. But the response, received by Johnston today, shows Sherman to be a good deal more receptive to the notion than the departed President had expected. “I am fully empowered,” the Ohioan replies, “to arrange with you any terms for the suspension of further hostilities between the armies commanded by you and those commanded by myself, and will be willing to confer with you to that end.” He proposes surrender on the same terms Grant had given Lee, a week ago today, and speaks in closing of his “desire to save the people of North Carolina the damage they would sustain by the march of this army through the central or western parts of the state.” In point of fact, Sherman is even more pleased than he sounds: not only because, as he later says, “the whole army dreaded the long march to Charlotte” and beyond, “back again over the thousand miles we had just accomplished,” but also because of his own fear that Johnston, overtaken, might “allow his army to disperse into guerrilla bands” and thereby cause the war to be “prolonged indefinitely.” Surrender of course would obviate both of these unwanted eventualities, and Sherman, with Grant’s example before him—“Glory to God and our country,” he had exclaimed in a field order passing the news of Appomattox along to his troops, “and all honor to our comrades in arms, toward whom we are marching! A little more labor, a little more toil on our part, the great race is won, and our Government stands regenerated after four long years of war”—fairly leaps at the invitation thus extended. Accordingly, after assuring Washington that he will “be careful not to complicate any points of civil policy” in the terms he plans to offer, he arranges with Johnston to meet at noon tomorrow, midway between the picket lines of the two armies. That would be somewhere between the Confederate rear at Hillsboro and his own advance at Durham Station, twenty-odd miles up the track from Raleigh.

James Harrison Wilson’s Federal cavalry, well into Georgia now, capture West Point and Columbus. Skirmishing also takes place at Crawford, Girard, and Opelika, Alabama.

The entourage of carriages and horses of the fleeing Confederate government arrives at Lexington, North Carolina, but will have to continue on rapidly in view of the approaching Johnston-Sherman negotiations.
April 17, Monday

This morning, as Sherman is boarding the train that will take him and his staff to the midday meeting with Johnston, a telegrapher comes hurrying down the depot stairs with word that a coded message from the War Department, sent by steamer down the coast, is just coming over the wire from Morehead City. Sherman waits nearly half an hour for it to be completed and decoded, then takes it from the operator, who came running back much excited. It is from Stanton and it has been nearly two days in transit. “President Lincoln was murdered about 10 o’clock last night in his private box at Ford’s Theatre in this city, by an assassin who shot him through the head by a pistol ball.” Seward too had been gravely hurt, and Andrew Johnson was about to take over even as Stanton wrote the final words of the message: “I have no time to add more than to say that I find evidence that an assassin is also on your track, and I beseech you to be more heedful than Mr. Lincoln was of such knowledge.” Sherman thrusts the sheet of flimsy into his pocket and says nothing of it to anyone but the telegrapher, whom he swears to secrecy.

Aboard the train as it chuffs along Sherman sits tight-lipped all the way to Durham, where he and his staff change to horses for the flag-of-truce ride toward Hillsboro. They encounter Johnston and his party about five miles out, also under a flag of truce, and here, midway between their lines of battle, the two generals meet for the first time in person: although, as Sherman puts it afterwards, looking back on the hundred-mile minuet they had danced together in North Georgia from early May through mid-July, “We knew enough of each other to be well acquainted at once.” Riding side by side—forty-five-year-old “Uncle Billy,” tall and angular, and his spruce, spare companion, thirteen years his senior, “dressed in a neat gray uniform,” a blue staffer notes, “which harmonized gracefully with a full beard and mustache of silvery whiteness, partly concealing a genial and generous mouth”—they lead the small blue-gray column to a roadside house owned by a farmer named James Bennett, whose permission they ask for its use, and then go in, leaving their two staffs in the yard. Once they are alone Sherman takes the sheet of flimsy from his pocket and hands it over without comment. As Johnston reads it, “perspiration came out in large drops on his forehead,” his companion observes, and when he has finished he denounces the assassination as “the greatest possible calamity to the South,” adding that he hopes Sherman doesn’t connect the Confederate government with the crime. “I told him,” the red-head will recall, “I could not believe that he or General Lee, or the officers of the Confederate army, could possibly be privy to acts of assassination; but I would not say as much for Jeff Davis ... and men of that stripe.”

Johnston makes no reply to this, and the two proceed at once to the subject arranged beforehand. Both agree that any resumption of the fighting would be “the highest possible crime,” the Virginian—outnumbered four to one by enemy troops in the immediate vicinity, and ten to one or worse by others who can be brought to bear within a week—even going so far as to define the crime as “murder.” All the same, they soon reach an apparent impasse. For while Sherman rejects any proposal designed to lead to negotiations between the civil authorities, Davis had consented to the meeting only if it is to be conducted on that basis; which, incidentally, was why he had not been “sanguine as to ultimate results.” Johnston, however, steps over the barrier by proposing that he and Sherman “make one job of it,” then and there, by settling “the fate of all armies to the Rio Grande.” Taken aback, the Ohioan questions whether his companion’s authority is that broad. Johnston replies that it is, or anyhow can be made so by the Secretary of War, whose orders would be obeyed by Taylor, Forrest, Maury, and all the others with forces still under arms, including Kirby Smith beyond the Mississippi. In fact, he says, he can send a wire requesting Breckinridge to join them overnight. Sherman demurs; he cannot deal with a member of the rebel cabinet, no matter how desirable the outcome. However, when Johnston points out that the Kentuckian is also a major general, and can be received on that basis, Sherman agrees. They will meet tomorrow, same time, same place, soldier to soldier, and work out the details, all of which would of course be dependent on approval by his Washington superiors, civil as well as military.

They part “in extreme cordiality,” Johnston later declares, he to wait near Greensboro for Breckinridge to arrive from Salisbury, which Davis and his party have reached by now, and Sherman to face the problem of how to go about informing his troops of Lincoln’s death. So far, the occupation of the North Carolina capital has been orderly and forbearing; “Discipline was now so good that the men didn’t know themselves,” an Illinois infantryman observes. But their commander, nursing his bombshell of news on the train ride back to Raleigh, is aware that “one single word by me would have laid the city in ashes and turned its whole population homeless upon the country, if not worse.” Accordingly, he orders all units back to their camps before releasing a bulletin in which he is careful to exonerate the Confederate army from complicity in the assassination. It seems to work. At least there is no violent reaction within the guarded bivouacs. However: “The army is crazy for vengeance,” a private writes home, remarking that “if we make another campaign it will be an awful one.” Some even go so far as to hope that Johnston doesn’t surrender; in which case they plan to turn loose with both hands. “God pity this country if he retreats or fights us,” the soldier closes his letter.

From what he had heard today in the roadside farmhouse Sherman believes there is little chance of that; Johnston, he knows, is eager to surrender, and he intends to give him every chance. He will do so in part because of his soldier’s pride in being generous to a disadvantaged foe who has asked for mercy. “The South is broken and ruined and appeals to our pity,” he will tell Rawlins before the month is out. “To ride the people down with persecutions and military exactions would be like slashing away at the crew of a sinking ship.” There is that, and there is also his reaction to the Good Friday assassination, which is quite the opposite of the angered private’s hope that Old Joe doesn’t surrender. Lincoln’s death brings Lincoln himself into sharper focus in Sherman’s memory: particularly as he had come to know him at City Point, three weeks ago. Remembering his concern for avoiding “this last bloody battle,” his eagerness “to get the men composing the Confederate armies back to their homes, at work on their farms and in their shops,” Sherman is resolved “to manifest real respect for his memory by following after his death that policy which, if living, I felt certain he would have approved.” Grant has removed from the contest the most feared and admired of the rebel armies; now Sherman will remove all the rest by taking Johnston up on his soldier-to-soldier proposal that they “make one job of it” and settle “the fate of all armies to the Rio Grande.”

Some in Johnston’s army, waiting around Greensboro for the details of their surrender to be worked out, react initially to word of Lincoln’s assassination in quite a different fashion than Sherman’s men; that is, until Beauregard hears them whooping outside his tent. An aide later testifies that this is the only time he ever sees Old Bory lose his temper all the way. “Shut those men up,” he says angrily. “If they won’t shut up, have them arrested. Those are my orders.”

Meanwhile, Wilson’s Federals wreck what little Confederate war potential is left at Columbus, Georgia, and destroys the ironclad gunboat CSS Muscogee or Jackson. There is action at the Catawba River near Morgantown, North Carolina, and a Union expedition operates until the 30th from Blakely, Alabama, to Georgetown, Georgia, and Union Springs, Alabama. At LaGrange, Georgia, the all-female militia known as the “Nancy Harts” march to meet the advancing Union cavalry led by Colonel Oscar H. LaGrange. Outgunned and outnumbered, the women peacefully surrender, and in return the Union troops spare the town’s population and property.

President Davis and his party are now at Salisbury, North Carolina, en route toward Charlotte. In Maryland John Wilkes Booth and David Herold are hiding in a cluster of trees while attempting to obtain transportation across the Potomac in the area south of Port Tobacco, Maryland.

In the evening the body of President Lincoln is taken from the guest chamber of the White House to the East Room, where it lies in state.
April 18, Tuesday

Sherman arrives for the second meeting at the Bennett farmhouse first and goes in alone, his saddlebags over one arm. They contain writing materials, together with something else he mentions when Johnston enters the room with Breckinridge. “Gentlemen, it occurs to me that perhaps you were not overstocked with liquor, and I procured some medical stores on my way over. Will you join me before we begin work?” Johnston afterwards describes Breckinridge’s expression—till now “rather dull and heavy”—as “beatific” when he hears these words. For some days the Kentuckian has been deprived of his customary ration of bourbon and has had to make do with tobacco, which he is chewing vigorously with a steady sidewise thrust of his jaw beneath the outsized mustache of a Sicilian brigand. When the bottle appears, along with a glass, he tosses his quid into the fireplace, rinses his mouth with water, and “poured out a tremendous drink, which he swallowed with great satisfaction. With an air of content he stroked his mustache and took a fresh chew of tobacco,” while Sherman returns the bottle to his saddlebags. Thus refreshed, the three generals then get down to business, and Johnston observes that the former Vice President “never shone more brilliantly than he did in the discussions which followed. He seemed to have at his tongue’s end every rule and maxim of international and constitutional law.” Indeed, he cites and discourses with such effect that Sherman—“confronted by the authority, but not convinced by the eloquence”—pushes his chair back from the table and registers a complaint. “See here, gentlemen,” he protests. “Who is doing this surrendering anyhow? If this thing goes on, you’ll have me sending a letter of apology to Jeff Davis.”

Certain of Sherman’s superiors will presently accuse him of having done just about that in the “Memorandum, or Basis of Agreement” arrived at in the course of the discussion. Sherman writes it himself, after rejecting a draft of terms prepared this morning in Greensboro by John Reagan—who has also come up from Salisbury but was not admitted to the conference because of his nonmilitary status—as “too general and verbose.” Having said as much, he settles down to composing one of his own, more soldierly and direct, based on Reagan’s and the agreements reached with Johnston yesterday and the silver-tongued Kentuckian today. As he works he grows increasingly absorbed, until at one point, pausing to arrange his thoughts, he stops writing, rises from the table, walks over to his saddlebags, and fumbles absent-mindedly for the bottle. Seeing this, Breckinridge removes his quid in anticipation of another treat. But that, alas, is not to be. Still preoccupied, the Ohioan pours himself a couple of fingers of whiskey, recorks the bottle and returns it to the bag, then stands gazing abstractedly out of a window, sipping the drink while he gets his thoughts in order; which done, he sets the empty glass down, still without so much as a sidelong glance at his companions, and returns to his writing. In a state of near shock, his face taking on what Johnston will call “an injured, sorrowful look,” the Kentuckian solaces himself as best he can with a new chew of tobacco. Finally Sherman completes his draft of the terms and passes it across the table, saying: “That’s the best I can do.”

It is enough, perhaps indeed even more than enough from the rebel point of view. In seven numbered paragraphs, the memorandum provides that the present truce will remain in effect pending approval by superior authorities on both sides; that the troops in all Confederate armies still in existence will be “disbanded and conducted to their several state capitals, there to deposit their arms and public property in the state arsenals”; that federal courts will be reestablished throughout the land; that the US President will recognize existing state governments as soon as their officials take the required oath of loyalty, and will guarantee to all citizens “their political rights and franchises, as well as their rights of person and property, as defined by the Constitution,” pledging in addition that neither he nor his subordinates will “disturb any of the people by reason of the late war, so long as they live in peace and quiet, abstain from acts of armed hostility, and obey the laws in force at the place of their residence.” Such, in brief, are the terms set forth, and though Sherman knows that they go far beyond those given Lee, and knows too that he has violated his promise “not to complicate any points of civil policy,” he feels more than justified by the assurance, received in return, that all the surviving gray armies—not one of which has been brought to bay, let alone hemmed in, as Lee’s had been at Appomattox—will disband en masse, rather than fragment themselves into guerilla bands which might disrupt and bedevil the nation for years to come. In any case, nothing he has promised will be given until, and unless, it is approved by his superiors. Moreover, even if all he has written is rejected—which, on second thought, seems possible, and on third thought seems likely—he still will be the gainer by the provisional arrangements he has made. “In the few days it would take to send the papers to Washington, and receive an answer,” he rather slyly points out, “I could finish the railroad up to Raleigh, and be the better prepared for a long chase.” Once he and Johnston have signed the copies then drawn up, Sherman shoulders his saddlebags and walks out into the gathering dusk, convinced that he has found a simple, forthright, soldierly solution to the multifarious problems of reconstruction by declaring, in effect, that there will be no reconstruction; at any rate none that would involve the politicians. They might not be willing to go along with the instrument which achieves this—the “Memorandum, or Basis of Agreement”—but he believes he knows a solution to that, too. “If you will get the President to simply indorse the copy and commission me to carry out the terms,” he will tell Grant in a letter sent north by courier with the document tomorrow morning, “I will follow them to the conclusion.”

Johnston too seems in good spirits as he walks out of the Bennett house and across the yard with his fellow Confederate, who, on the other hand, has reverted to the “full and heavy” condition that preceded the one drink he had been offered before their host recorked the bottle and stuffed it back into his saddlebag. Hoping to divert him, and perhaps dispel the gloom, the Virginian asks his companion what he thought of Sherman. Breckinridge glowers. “He is a bright man, a man of great force,” he replies. “But, General Johnston”—his voice rises; his face takes on a look of intensity—“General Sherman is a hog. Yes, sir, a hog. Did you see him take that drink by himself?” Johnston suggests that the Ohioan had merely been absent-minded, but Breckinridge has been offended past endurance. He can overlook charges of pillage and arson; not this, which he finds quite beyond the pale. “No Kentucky gentleman would ever have taken away that bottle,” he says hotly. “He knew we needed it, and needed it badly.”

At any rate, the fighting has now ended in North Carolina as well as in Virginia. But there is skirmishing at Pleasant Hill and at the Double Bridges over the Flint River in Georgia as part of Wilson’s Union cavalry invasion. Minor skirmishing breaks out near Germantown, Tennessee, and at Taylorsville, Kentucky.

President Davis and his disconsolate party slowly moves southward to Concord, North Carolina. The body of President Lincoln lies in state in the crepe-decorated East Room of the White House. Politics, the search for the assassins, the ending of the war, reconstruction, all are intermingled in sorrow for the President and planning for the future.
April 19, Wednesday

President Johnson, the Cabinet, Supreme Court justices, Congress, military figures, and the diplomatic corps in full “court dress” file into the East Room of the White House. Robert Lincoln represents the family as Mrs. Lincoln and Tad remain sequestered. At the head of the catafalque stands General Grant alone. After the brief services the funeral carriage, escorted by cavalry, infantry, artillery, marines, their banners draped, and the bands playing sorrowful dirges, carries the body past throngs of people to the rotunda of the Capitol. The bells of Washington toll; the minute guns boom. Now it is the public’s turn, and, until tomorrow evening, they file past the catafalque in steady streams.

President Davis and his entourage arrive at Charlotte, North Carolina, which will be their resting place until the 26th. Here again suitable quarters are hard to find. Learning from Breckinridge today of his war-long adversary’s assassination, Davis immediately turns his thoughts to Andrew Johnson, seeing a portent of much woe in the Tennessean’s elevation to a position to exact the vengeance he has been swearing all along. “Certainly I have no special regard for Mr. Lincoln,” he remarks, “but there are a great many men of whose end I would rather hear than his. I fear it will be disastrous to our people, and I regret it deeply.” That is his first reaction, and he will hold to it down the years. Though, like General Beauregard, he is quick to silence those in his escort who cheer the news, he will never engage in pious homilies over the corpse of his chief foe, but rather stress his preference for him over the “renegade” who has replaced him. “For an enemy so relentless in the war for our subjugation, we could not be expected to mourn,” he writes afterwards; “yet, in view of its political consequences, [Lincoln’s assassination] could not be regarded otherwise than as a great misfortune to the South. He had power over the Northern people, and was without personal malignity toward the people of the South; [whereas] his successor was without power in the North, and [was] the embodiment of malignity toward the Southern people, perhaps the more so because he had betrayed and deserted them in the hour of their need.”

Major General John Pope, commanding the Federal Military Division of the Missouri, writes from St. Louis to Lieutenant General E. Kirby Smith, commanding the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department, suggesting that forces west of the Mississippi surrender on the same terms as those of Lee. Several Federal command changes are made, including Major General Halleck being assigned command of the Military Division of the James, which includes Virginia and parts of North Carolina not occupied by Sherman. Wilson’s cavalry skirmishes near Barnesville, Georgia. Union expeditions move from Memphis to Brownsville, Mississippi, and from Terre Bonne to Pelton’s Plantation and Grand Caillou, Louisiana. Confederal General Wade Hampton writes the President suggesting they withdraw across the Mississippi to continue the fight, an idea which is frequently discussed.
April 20, Thursday

Wade Hampton, who doesn’t consider himself or his troopers bound by the surrender negotiations in progress, writes to Davis today. “The military situation is very gloomy, I admit, but it is by no means desperate, and endurance and determination will produce a change.” His notion is that the struggle should continue wherever there is ground to stand on, in or out of the country, whatever the odds. “Give me a good force of cavalry and I will take them safely across the Mississippi, and if you desire to go in that direction it will give me great pleasure to escort you.... I can bring to your support many strong arms and brave hearts—men who will fight to Texas, and who, if forced from that state, will seek refuge in Mexico rather than in the Union.”

General Lee, now in Richmond, writes Davis, “I believe an army cannot be organized or supported in Virginia,” or for that matter east of the Mississippi. He opposes a partisan war and recommends suspension of hostilities and restoration of peace.

Federal troops of James Harrison Wilson occupy Macon, Georgia. Skirmishing occurs near Spring Hill, Mimms Mills on Tobesofkee Creek, Georgia; and at Rocky Creek Bridge, as well as at Montpelier Springs, Alabama.

The Arkansas legislature ratifies the 13th Amendment.
April 21, Friday

Grant receives Sherman’s “Basis of Agreement” late in the afternoon, and in a single hurried reading sees that it won’t do at all. He gets in touch at once with Stanton to have the President call a meeting of the cabinet this night. This is done, and when he reads them what Sherman has written, the reaction of the assembled dignitaries is even more vehement than Sherman had expected. Lincoln’s body, on display for the past three days in the East Room of the White House and the Capitol rotunda, had been put aboard a crepe-draped train this morning for the burial journey back to Illinois (the train to be stopped often to accommodate immense crowds of mourners); now, hard in the wake of that emotional drain—that sense of loss which swept over them as they watched the train fade down the track, the smell of cinders fading too—comes this documentary evidence that one of the nation’s top generals wants to end the war by reproducing the conditions that began it. Not only is there no mention of the Black in any of the seven numbered paragraphs Grant reads, but the provision for home-bound rebel soldiers to deposit their arms in state arsenals sounds suspiciously like a plan for keeping them ready-stacked for re-rebellion once the men who have carried them for the past four years grow rested enough to try their hand again at tearing the fabric of the Union. Hard to take, too, is the suggested exculpation of all Confederates from all blame, which contrasts strongly with the new President’s post-inaugural statement lumping treason with rape and murder as a crime that “must be punished.” Johnson is particularly angered by this attempt to override his bedrock pronouncement on the issue of guilt. Angriest of all, however, is the Secretary of War, who sees Sherman’s so-called “memorandum” as a bid for the “Copperhead nomination for President” in three years—if, indeed, he is willing to wait that long and isn’t planning a military coup when he marches north. Speed, “prompted by Stanton, who seemed frantic,” according to Welles, “expressed fears that Sherman, at the head of his victorious legions, had designs upon the government” right now.

Grant defends his friend as best he can; defends his motives, that is, even though he agrees that what they have led to “could not possibly be approved.” Nor is he displeased with instructions from his superiors to go in person down to Raleigh and inform his out-of-line subordinate that, his plan having been rejected, he is to “notify General Johnston immediately of the termination of the truce, and resume hostilities against his army at the earliest moment.” Their notion is that he should be there in case the red-head attempts defiance of the order, whereas his own purpose is to be on hand to blunt the sting of the rebuke; which is also why he decides to keep the trip a secret, thereby avoiding speculation and gossip about his mission, as well as embarrassment for the man he is going to see. He leaves at midnight, steaming away from the 6th Street wharf.

At Millwood, Virginia, soon after learning of Lee’s capitulation, John Singleton Mosby formally disbands his Confederate rangers. Presently—remarking, “We are soldiers, not highwaymen”—he makes official application for parole in order to hang up his shingle and resume the life he had led before the war. Soon Virginia’s leading partisan will be practicing law in the region where he and his men have given the blue authorities so much trouble for the past two years.

There is a Union expedition from Donaldsonville to Bayou Goula, Louisiana; and until the 27th a Federal scout operates from Rolla toward Thomasville, Missouri.

President Johnson tells an Indiana delegation that he doesn’t believe the Southern states had ever left the Union, a position contrary to that held by the Radicals.

So tight a grip has been kept on official news of Lincoln’s assassination—particularly southward, where Stanton believes the plot had been hatched and where such information might be of use to the conspirators in their flight from justice—most citizens don’t know of the murder, except as one more piece of gossip among many that are false, until the murderer himself will be dispatched. Down in rural Georgia, for example, a full week after Lincoln’s death, a young woman writes in her diary: “None of our people believe any of the rumors, thinking them as mythical as the surrender of General Lee’s army.” Presently though, when the truth comes out, there are those who react with a bitterness nurtured by four long years of a war that now is lost. Another Georgian, an Augusta housewife, writing to her mother-in-law on the last day of April, will see the northern leader’s violent fall as a “righteous retribution,” a minor comfort in a time of shock. “One sweet drop among so much that is painful is that he at least cannot raise his howl of diabolical triumph over us,” she declares.
April 22, Saturday

Afloat, whether on salt water or fresh, the wind-down of the rebellion seems likely to prove a good deal more erratic and explosive than on land, depending as it does on the attitude and nature of the individual skipper operating on his own, as so many have in the Confederate navy, up lonely rivers or far out to sea. “Don’t give up the ship”—a proud tradition sometimes taken to irrational extremes: as in duels to the death, with eight-inch guns at ranges of eight feet—might apply no less at the finish than at the start. A case in point is Lieutenant Charles W. Read, whose handling of the steam ram William H. Webb in a late-April dash for freedom down the Red and the Mississippi provides a possible forecast of instances to come.

A twenty-four-year-old Mississippian, Read had finished at Annapolis in 1860, one year ahead of his Union counterpart William Cushing, and like him has had a colorful war career. He fought with distinction against Farragut below New Orleans, then again at Vicksburg as a gunnery officer on the Arkansas, and next aboard the Florida in her great days, when Maffitt gave him a captured brig, along with a crew of twenty and one boat howitzer, and set him up as an independent raider. In twenty-one days, cruising the Atlantic coast from Norfolk to New England, he took twenty-one prizes before he himself was taken, off Portland, Maine, in June of 1863, and confined at Fort Warren. Exchanged in October of the following year, he was assigned to duty with the James River squadron below Richmond until March of this year, when Mallory chose him to command the Webb, languishing in far-off Louisiana for the past two years. Reported to be “the fastest thing afloat,” she has seen no substantial action since her sinking of the monster ironclad Indianola, back in the early spring of ’63, and it was Mallory’s belief that she can be put to highly effective use against Yankee merchantmen and blockaders, if Read can only get her out into the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Arriving by the end of March, he found the 206-foot sidewheel steamer tied up eighty miles below Shreveport, “without a single gun on board, little or no crew, no fuel, and no small arms save a few cutlasses.” Undaunted, he took her up to department headquarters and secured from the army a 30-pounder Parrott rifle, which he mounted on her bow, and two 12-pounder smoothbores, one for each broadside, as well as fifty-one soldier volunteers and sixteen officers. Back at Alexandria, while training his new green crew, he put carpenters to work constructing a rough bulwark around the Webb’s forecastle and loaded close to two hundred bales of cotton for use as a shield for her machinery until he reaches Cuba and can exchange them for a longer-burning fuel than the pine knots he now has stacked about her decks. By now, news has come of Lee’s surrender and the government’s flight south. He knows he has to hurry, and today, as he prepares to cast off down the Red River, he learns of Lincoln’s assassination, which might or might not add to the confusion he hopes to encounter during his run past Baton Rouge and New Orleans and the warships on patrol above and below them both. “As I will have to stake everything upon speed and time,” he writes Mallory today, “I will not attack any vessel in the passage unless I perceive a possibility of her arresting my progress. In this event I am prepared with five torpedoes ... one of which I hold shipped on its pole on the bows.” He leaves this evening.

Most of the military action now is insignificant, with only the Northern cavalry of James Harrison Wilson active in Georgia and Alabama. Federal troops under him occupy Talladega, Alabama. Skirmishes take place at Buzzard Roost, Georgia; at Howard’s Gap in the Blue Ridge, North Carolina; near Linn Creek and near the mouth of the Big Gravois, Missouri. A Union scout from Deer Creek to Sage Creek, Dakota Territory, lasts two days.

After a week spent hiding in the woods and swamps of southeast Maryland, suffering all the while from pain in the leg he had broken in his leap from the box at Ford’s, Booth along with David Herold finally get across the Potomac in a fishing skiff, to Gumbo Creek on the Virginia shore. Plans are now to continue southward. Meanwhile, the search has intensified north of the Potomac. The Lincoln funeral train arrives in Philadelphia from Harrisburg.

Hoping to confer with President Davis in Salisbury, Wade Hampton reaches Greensboro today to find that the government has been transferred to Charlotte. “My only object in seeing you,” he declares in a follow-up message, “was to assure you that many of my officers and men agree with me in thinking that nothing can be as disastrous to us as a peace founded on the restoration of the Union. A return to the Union will bring all the horrors of war, coupled with all the degradation that can be inflicted on a conquered people.... If I can serve you or my country by any further fighting you have only to tell me so. My plan is to collect all the men who will stick to their colors, and to get to Texas. I can carry with me quite a number, and I can get there.”

General Halleck assumes command of the Military Division of the James, and Nathaniel P. Banks resumes command of the Department of the Gulf.
April 23, Sunday

Heartened by the stalwart reassurance he has received from the Wade Hampton, whose views—delusions, some would say—are in accordance with his own, Davis takes time out for the first real letter he has had a chance to write his wife since he left Richmond, three weeks ago. In it are mingled the hopes expressed by Hampton and the private doubts that surface when he shifts his attention from his duty to his country, as the symbol of its survival, to his concern for the welfare of his four children and their mother. Threatened by Stoneman’s descent on Salisbury, they left Charlotte ten days ago, six days before he got there, and are now in Abbeville, South Carolina, down near the Georgia line. He speaks first of the difficulty of his position in deciding whether to urge his people to continue their resistance to what he sees as subjugation. “The issue is one which it is very painful for me to meet,” he tells Varina. “On one hand is the long night of oppression which will follow the return of our people to the ‘Union’; on the other, the suffering of the women and children, and carnage among the few brave patriots who would still oppose the invader, and who, unless the people would rise en masse to sustain them, would struggle but to die in vain. I think my judgment is undisturbed by any pride of opinion, [for] I have prayed to our Heavenly Father to give me wisdom and fortitude equal to the demands of the position in which Providence has placed me. I have sacrificed so much for the cause of the Confederacy that I can measure my ability to make any further sacrifice required, and am assured there is but one to which I am not equal—my wife and my children.... For myself,” he adds, “it may be that a devoted band of cavalry will cling to me and that I can force my way across the Mississippi, and if nothing can be done there which it will be proper to do, then I can go to Mexico, and have the world from which to choose a location.” That such a choice would come hard for him is shown by the emotion that sweeps over him when, having faced the prospect of spending the rest of his life in exile, he closes his letter. “Dear Wife, this is not the fate to which I invited [you] when the future was rose-colored to us both; but I know you will bear it even better than myself, and that, of us two, I alone will ever look back reproachfully on my past career.... Farewell, my dear. There may be better things in store for us than are now in view, but my love is all I have to offer, and that has the value of a thing long possessed, and sure not to be lost.”

Lieutenant Charles W. Read onboard the steam ram William H. Webb reaches the mouth of the Red River about 8.30 pm. Displaying the lights of a Federal transport and running slow to reduce the engine noise, he hopes to sneak past the blue flotilla on patrol there, which includes two ironclads and a monitor, into the Mississippi River. For a time it seems the Webb is going to steam by undetected, but then a rocket swooshes up from the deck of one of the blockaders, giving the signal: “Strange vessel in sight, positively an enemy.” Read shouts, “Let her go!” and the engineer opens the throttle all the way. As the ram shoots forward, whistles scream and drums roll beat-to-quarters along the line of warships dead ahead. “Keep for the biggest opening between them,” Read tells the pilot. Out in the moonless night, the monitor Manhattan swings her big guns in their turret and hurls two 11-inch shells at the rebel churning past. Both miss, and the Webb is soon out of range, driving hard as she begins her intended 300-mile run down the Mississippi to the Gulf. Unpursued by anything that has even an outside chance of overtaking him, Read ties up to the east bank and sends a detail ashore to cut the telegraph wires, then sets out again, gliding past Baton Rouge in the darkness, unseen or unrecognized.

General Sherman receives a bundle of newspapers reflecting anger throughout the North at the shock of Lincoln’s murder, and he sends them along to Johnston with the comment: “I fear much the asassination of the President will give such a bias to the popular mind, which, in connection with the desires of the politicians, may thwart our purpose of recognizing ‘existing local governments.’ ”

Wilson’s men fight at Munford’s Station, Alabama, and Stoneman’s Federal cavalry fight an action near Hendersonville, North Carolina. Otherwise there is an affair near Fort Zarah, Kansas, and a scout from Pulaski, Tennessee, to Rogersville, Alabama.
April 24, Monday

Two mornings after leaving Washington, after a short trip down the coast and a train ride inland, Grant arrives at Sherman’s headquarters in the North Carolina capital, much to Sherman’s surprise. When told of the disapproval of his plan for bringing peace “from the Potomac to the Rio Grande,” the Ohioan isn’t as shocked as Grant expects him to be, thanks to the bundle of newspapers he received yesterday. This last, in fact, is what Grant chooses to stress as the principal reason for disapproval of the terms proposed. Making no mention of Johnson’s or Stanton’s fulminations, he produces a copy of the War Department telegram he had received in early March while still in front of Petersburg. “You are not to decide, discuss, or confer upon any political question,” he had been told. “Such questions the President holds in his own hands; and will submit them to no military conference or conventions.” Sherman reads the dispatch through, then remarks that he wished someone had thought to send him a copy at the time. “It would have saved a world of trouble,” he says dryly, and promptly notifies Johnston that Washington has called off their agreement. “I am instructed to limit my operations to your immediate command and not to attempt civil negotiations,” he writes, serving notice that hostilities will resume within forty-eight hours unless the Virginian surrenders before that time, “on the same terms as were given General Lee at Appomattox on April 9, instant, purely and simply.” This is plainly an ultimatum; events have taken the course predicted by Davis today at Charleston even as he approves the already repudiated “Basis of Agreement.” Dismayed, Johnston wires Breckinridge for instructions, but when these turn out to be a suggestion that he fall back toward Georgia with his cavalry, light guns, and such infantry as can be mounted on spare horses, he replies that the plan is “impracticable,” and instead gets in touch with Sherman to arrange a third meeting and work out the details for surrender in accordance with the scaled-down terms.

On the Mississippi, the Webb reaches Donaldsonville by daylight, still carrying the signals of a Union transport. Here too the ram passes unchallenged, though some who see her booming along with the midstream current later testify that she is making a good 25 knots as she goes by. That may well be; for by 1 pm the church spires of low-lying New Orleans come in view. Read hoists the US flag at half mast, brings his boiler pressure up to maximum, and begins his run past the Crescent City. No warning message has gotten through, thanks to the cutting of the wires last night; lookouts here, like those at Donaldsonville in the morning, take the Webb to be a friendly transport, mourning with her lowered colors the death of Abraham Lincoln. They do, that is, until about midway through the run, when a bluejacket who had fought against her, a couple of years ago upriver, recognizes her and gives the alarm, setting off a din of bells and drums and whistles, soon punctuated by the roar of guns. Most of the shots go wild, but three strike the ram before she clears the fleet, one through her chimney, one into a bale of cotton, and one just above the waterline at her bow, damaging the torpedo mechanism so badly that the explosive has to be jettisoned. Stopping to accomplish this, Read takes down the half-staffed Union emblem, runs up to the peak his true Confederate colors, and continues downriver at full speed, bound for the open waters of the Gulf.

Behind him New Orleans is abuzz with rumors that Jeff Davis and John Wilkes Booth are aboard the ram, headed for South America with millions in gold bullion. Read knows nothing of this, of course, but he does know that the two fastest gunboats in the enemy flotilla, Hollyhock and Florida, are churning downstream after him. Confident that he can outrun them, the young Mississippian is alarmed only so far as their pursuit might interfere with his plan for not reaching Forts Jackson and St. Philip, sixty winding miles away, before night comes down to help screen him from the plunging crossfire of guns on both sides of the river. He considers stopping to dispose of them, despite their superior armament, but up ahead just now, twenty-five miles below the city, he sees something that commands all his attention. It is the veteran screw sloop Richmond, mounting twenty-one guns, anchored for engine repairs and now being cleared for action. He studies her briefly, regretting the loss of his spar torpedo, then tells the pilot: “Make straight for the Richmond’s bow, and ram.” “I can’t reach her bow because of a shoal,” the pilot replies, “but I can come in under her broadside.” Read shakes his head at that suggestion. “I’ve been under the Richmond’s broadside before, and don’t wish to try it again,” he says. He assembles all hands on the foredeck and informs them of what he knows he has to do. “It’s no use. The Richmond will drown us all—and if she doesn’t, the forts below will, as they have a range of three miles each way up and down the river, and they know by this time that we are coming.” He turns to the helmsman. “Head for shore,” he tells him.

Fifty yards from the bank the Webb strikes bottom, and while most of the crew begin climbing down ropes thrown over the bow, others go about dousing the deck and cabins with turpentine before they too abandon ship. Read starts fires with a lighted match, then goes over the side, the last to leave the flaming ram. He and his men lie in waiting in the brush until they hear her magazine explode, after which they break into groups and scatter. By daybreak, half of them have been rounded up, including Read, who suffers the indignity of being placed on public display in New Orleans; but not for long. Presently he and the rest will be paroled and allowed to return to their homes. At a cost of one man wounded, and of course the Webb herself, he has given the victors notice of what they might expect in the way of naval daring between now and the time the final curtain falls.

John Wilkes Booth and David Herold cross the Rappahannock at Port Conway, Virginia, some twenty miles below Fredericksburg, in their effort to escape Federal pursuers. Lincoln’s body lies in state in New York City as thousands of mourners file past his bier. In military action, skirmishes erupt near Boggy Depot, Indian Territory, and near Miami, Missouri.
April 25, Tuesday

As long ago as late September, before Hood set out on the northward march that turned his fine-honed army into a skeow—“s-k-e-o-w, bubble, bubble, s-k-e-o-w, bust”—Richard Taylor had told Davis that “the best we could hope for was to protract the struggle until spring.” Now spring has come, and all he has left for the defense of his Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana are some 10,000 troops under Forrest and Maury, recently flung out of Selma and Mobile, plus something under half that number in garrisons scattered about the three-state region west of the Chattahoochee. Clearly enough, the time is at hand “for statesmen, not soldiers, to deal with the future.” Accordingly, when he learns of the week-old “Basis of Agreement” worked out by Sherman, Johnston, and Breckinridge near Durham Station on April 18th, he gets in touch at once with Canby to arrange a similar armistice in the western theater, pending approval by the civil authorities of terms that would, in Sherman’s words, “produce peace from the Potomac to the Rio Grande.” Canby—who knows no more than Taylor does of Washington’s quick rejection of those terms—is altogether willing, and a meeting is scheduled for the last day in April, twelve miles up the railroad from Mobile.

There is a skirmish at Linn Creek, Missouri, and a Union scout from Pine Bluff to Rodger’s Plantation, Arkansas. The Lincoln funeral train begins the journey to Albany, New York.
April 26, Wednesday

Federal cavalry closes in on John Wilkes Booth and David Herold. After receiving various leads the officers arrive at the Richard H. Gerrett farm south of the Rappahannock in Virginia about 2 am. Surrounded by their pursuers, Booth and Herold take refuge in a tobacco shed, and though Herold surrenders when ordered out (and will be carried back to the capital tomorrow to stand trial along with seven other alleged conspirators, including one who made the knife attack on Seward and another who had been slated to dispose of the Vice President but had lacked the nerve to try) Booth himself refuses to emerge, even after the tinder-dry structure is set afire. The troopers can see him in there, a crippled figure with a crutch and a carbine, silhouetted against the flames. Then one fires and he falls, dropped by a bullet that passes through his neck, “perforating both sides of the collar.” He is still breathing when they drag him out of the burning shed and onto the porch of a nearby house, but he is paralyzed below the point where his spinal cord had been struck. Two weeks short of his twenty-seventh birthday, he is so much the worse for wear—and the loss of his mustache, which he shaved off last week—that he scarcely resembles the darkly handsome matinee idol he had been before his ordeal of the past eleven days. “I thought I did for the best,” he manages to say. Just at sunup he asks to have his hands lifted so he could see them, and when this was done he stares at them in despair. “Useless, useless,” he mutters. Then he dies.

Sergeant Boston Corbett, a religious fanatic and an unstable man, is generally credited with shooting Booth. Most historians, although there are notable exceptions, will feel it was Booth in the shed, that he was shot by Corbett, and died on the house porch. But the history of assassinations is hounded by question marks, this one possibly more than others. Booth’s body is taken to the Washington Navy Yard for identification, inquest, and autopsy performed aboard USS Montauk. After burial in the Arsenal Penitentiary, the remains will later be reburied in Baltimore. Admittedly there is too much War Department secrecy, inefficiency rising out of the trauma of the assassination and the end of the war, and conflicting stories from unreliable witnesses. But despite the many questions and sensational rumors, most historians will tend to agree that Booth and the small band he recruited were solely responsible for the assassination of President Lincoln.

Grant, still concerned with avoiding any show of interference, doesn’t attend Sherman’s latest meeting with Johnston—again in the Bennett farmhouse—and the matter is soon disposed of. This same day the terms are approved by Grant, now at Raleigh. All arms and public property are to be deposited by Confederates at Greensborough; troops are to give their parole and pledge not to take up arms until released from this obligation; side arms of officers and their private horses and baggage can be retained; and all officers and men are permitted to return to their homes. In a supplement, field transportation is to be loaned to the troops for getting home and for later use; a small quantity of arms will be retained and then deposited in state capitals; horses and other private property are to be retained. Troops from Texas and Arkansas are to be furnished water transportation, and surrender of naval forces within the limits of Johnston’s command is also included. There is also an issue of ten days’ rations for 25,000 paroled graybacks, offered by Sherman “to facilitate what you and I and all good men desire, the return to their homes of the officers and men composing your army.” Johnston replies that “the enlarged patriotism manifested in these papers reconciles me to what I previously regarded as the misfortune of my life—that of having had you to encounter in the field.” On this high note of mutual esteem they part to meet no more, though Johnston will die some twenty-six years from now from the effects of a severe cold he contracts in New York while standing bareheaded in raw February weather alongside the other pallbearers at Sherman’s funeral. “General, please put on your hat,” a friend will urge the eighty-four-year-old Virginian, “you might get sick.” Johnston refuses. “If I were in his place,” he will say, “and he were standing here in mine, he would not put on his hat.” But that will be a full generation later. Just now all the talk is of surrender, at any rate in the Federal camps; for though a Confederate staffer remarks on “the eagerness of the men to get to their homes” through these past ten days of on-and-off negotiations, another observes that on the day when the actual news comes down, “they scarcely had anything to say.” Such dejection is offset by the elation of the bluecoats in their bivouacs around Raleigh.

Thus the second major army of the Confederate States of America, totaling in all about 30,000 men, surrenders. There remain two primary Southern forces—those of E. Kirby Smith in the Trans-Mississippi, and Richard Taylor in Alabama and Mississippi. But neither can possibly hold out for long now that the main bulwarks of Confederate strength have fallen.

Davis meets for the last time with his full cabinet and decides to end his week-long stay in Charlotte by pressing on at once to the southwest. He had not been surprised at Washington’s rejection of the Sherman-Johnston “Basis of Agreement,” which he himself had approved two days ago, since his opinion of the new northern leader and “his venomous Secretary of War,” as he will say afterwards, doesn’t permit him to expect “that they would be less vindictive after a surrender of the army had been proposed than when it was regarded as a formidable body defiantly holding its position in the field.” What will surprise and anger him, some time later, is the news that Johnston, ignoring the suggestion that he fall back with the mobile elements of his army to draw Sherman after him, has laid down his arms without so much as a warning note to superiors he knows are in flight for their lives. Davis’s indignation will be heightened all the more when he learns that the Virginian, in his last general order, had blamed “recent events in Virginia for breaking every hope of success by war.” Lee had fought until he was virtually surrounded and a breakout attempt had failed; whereas Johnston not only has not tried for the getaway suggested and expected, but has also, by a stroke of the pen, ended all formal resistance in three of the states through which his fugitive superiors will be traveling in their attempt to reach Dick Taylor or Kirby Smith, on this or the far side of the Mississippi River. Hope for escape by that route has been encouraged by the series of dispatches from Wade Hampton.

Now, in reaction to the news that Sherman’s terms had been rejected, Davis and his advisers—fugitives in a profounder sense now that the new enemy President has branded them as criminals not eligible for parole—conclude that the time has come to press on southward, out of the Old North State. This is the last full cabinet meeting, for it is no sooner over than George Davis submits his resignation on grounds that his motherless children require his attention at Wilmington. Concerned as he is about his own homeless family up ahead, Jefferson Davis has sympathy for the North Carolinian’s view as to where his duty lies, and the Confederacy—which has never had any courts anyhow, Supreme or otherwise—no longer has an Attorney General by the time its government pulls out of Charlotte this same afternoon.

Minor operations in the Shenandoah Valley continue until May 5th. A four-day Union scout probes from Little Rock to the Saline River, Arkansas.
April 27, Thursday

En route for Cairo with an outsized cargo of surplus army mules and discharged soldiers who had crowded aboard at Vicksburg and Helena after their release from Deep South prison camps, the sidewheel steamer Sultana, one of the largest on the Mississippi River, blows her boilers near Paddy’s Hen and Chickens, north of Memphis two hours before dawn. Although her authorized capacity is less than 400 passengers, she has about six times that number packed about her decks and in her hold—mostly Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana veterans, men who had fought perhaps the hardest war of all, sweating out its finish in stockades beyond reach of the various columns of invasion. So sudden is the blast and the fire that follows, those who manage to make it over the side have to dive through flames into muddy water running swift and cold as any millstream. A body count will put the official death toll at 1,238, but there is really no way of telling how many troops had been aboard or will be consumed by shrimp and gars before all those hundreds of other blue-clad corpses bob up downstream in the course of the next month. Estimates will run as high as 1,800 dead and presumed dead, with 1,585 as the figure most generally agreed on. That is more than the number killed on both sides at First Bull Run and Wilson’s Creek combined, and even by the lowest count the loss of the Sultana will go into the books as the greatest marine disaster of all time.

Skirmishes still sputter on the fringes of the war, this time near James Creek, Missouri. General Grant leaves Raleigh, North Carolina, after conferring with Sherman.

In South Carolina, the fleeing Confederate government loses another Cabinet member when Secretary of the Treasury G.A. Trenholm, too ill to continue, resigns. Postmaster General Reagan succeeds him.

The train bearing Lincoln’s remains pauses at Rochester and Buffalo, New York.
April 28, Friday

Sherman leaves his officers to handle the disbandment of Johnston’s army and the preparations for taking his troops north. He departs for Savannah to take care of affairs in Georgia. He writes to Grant, “I now apprehend that the rebel armies will disperse, and instead of dealing with six or seven states, we will have to deal with numberless bands of desperadoes, headed by such men as Mosby, Forrest, Red Jackson, and others who know not and care not for danger and its consequences.... Nothing is left for them but death or highway robbery.”

When the fleeing Confederate Cabinet reaches Fort Mill, just over the South Carolina line, Secretary of the Treasury Trenholm resigns, too ill to continue the journey even by ambulance. President Davis thanks the wealthy Charlestonian for his “lofty patriotism and personal sacrifice,” then shifts John Reagan to the Treasury Department, leaving the postal service headless and the cabinet score at two down, four to go. “I cannot feel like a beaten man,” Davis had remarked before setting out, and now on the march his spirits rise. In part this is because of his return to the field, to the open-air soldier life he has always fancied. Four more cavalry brigades—so called, though none is as large as an old-style regiment, and all five combined total only about 3,000 men—had turned up at Charlotte, fugitive and unattached, in time to swell the departing column to respectable if not formidable proportions. Breckinridge took command of the whole, and Davis had for company three military aides, all colonels, John Wood, Preston Johnston — son of his dead hero, Albert Sidney Johnston — and Francis Lubbock, former governor of Texas. Like Judah Benjamin, who had an apparently inexhaustible supply of wit and prime Havanas, these are congenial traveling companions. Moreover, progress through this section of South Carolina, which has been spared the eastward Sherman torch, is like a return to happier times, the crowds turning out to cheer their President and wish him well. This is the homeland of John C. Calhoun, and invitations pour in for one-night stays at mansions along the way. Davis responds accordingly. “He talked very pleasantly of other days,” Mallory will recall, “and forgot for a time the engrossing anxieties of the situation.” He speaks of Scott and Byron, of hunting dogs and horses, in a manner his fellow travelers find “singularly equable and cheerful” throughout the six-day ride to Abbeville, which they will reach on May 2nd.

Small groups of Confederate soldiers surrender throughout the South. Mrs. Davis and her children are at Abbeville, South Carolina. In Cleveland, 50,000 people view the coffin of Lincoln.
April 29, Saturday

President Johnson removes restrictions on trade in former Confederate territory east of the Mississippi within military lines. There is a skirmish in Lyon County, Kentucky. President Davis’ party is at Yorkville, South Carolina, and continuing its flight. The people of Columbus throng to view Lincoln’s body.
April 30, Sunday

Magee’s Farm, twelve miles up the railroad from Mobile, Alabama, is where General Taylor is meeting General Canby to arrange the surrender of his Department. Canby, waiting at the appointed hour beside the tracks, has a full brigade drawn up as a guard of honor, along with a band and a brassy array of staffers, all turned out in their best. The effect, when Taylor at last pulls in, is anticlimactic to say the least. Arriving from Meridian on a handcar—practically the only piece of rolling stock left unwrecked by Wilson’s raiders—he had been “pumped” down the line by two Blacks and is accompanied by a single aide whose uniform is as weathered as his own. Nothing daunted, for all his awareness that “the appearance of the two parties contrasted the fortunes of our respective causes,” he then retires with the Federal commander to a room prepared in a nearby house, where they promptly agree to observe a truce while awaiting ratification by their two governments of the terms given Johnston twelve days ago by Sherman, copies of which had been forwarded to them both. This done, they come out into the yard to share an al fresco luncheon that includes a number of bottles of champagne, the drawing of whose corks provide what the Louisianian will say are “the first agreeable explosive sounds I had heard for years.” Presently, when the musicians strike up “Hail, Columbia,” Canby orders a quick switch to “Dixie,” but Taylor, not to be outdone, suggests that the original tune continue, the time having come when they could “hail Columbia” together, as in the old days.

Union operations near Brashear City, Louisiana, last until May 12th. The Lincoln funeral train arrives in Indianapolis.
May 1865

It is over. And with the end so much has happened, armies surrendering, a President assassinated, another fleeing the conquerors. The shooting has almost ceased and there is a momentary vacuum everywhere. People begin to pick up the pieces, not sure how to put them back together. Two Confederate armies remain, but negotiations are under way for surrender of the primary force left east of the Mississippi and there is confusion, along with a very slight, desperate hope, in the Trans-Mississippi Confederacy of E. Kirby Smith. But most Southern soldiers are going home, bitter, relieved, some of them glad. Many have no homes to go to and begin looking westward, or even abroad. In Washington the Radicals are pressuring President Johnson to pursue a vindictive policy. Indications are that the new President will attempt to carry out, in his own way, the policies of the martyred Lincoln.

May 1, Monday

President Johnson orders the naming of nine army officers to make up the military commission to try the eight accused Lincoln assassination conspirators. It has been ruled by Federal authorities that they are subject to trial before a military commission rather than a civil court. Those accused and held in prison are David E. Herold, who had been with Booth; George A. Atzerodt; Samuel Arnold; Lewis Payne (or Paine); Michael O’Laughlin; Edward Spangler; Mrs. Mary E. Surratt; and Samuel A. Mudd. In Chicago thousands throng to the courthouse to pay last respects to Lincoln, lying in state.

Back in Meridian, Taylor hears from Canby that the Sherman-Johnston agreement has been disavowed; that fighting will resume within forty-eight hours unless he surrenders—as Johnston did, five days ago—on the terms accorded Lee at Appomattox, three weeks back. Taylor has neither the means nor the inclination to continue the struggle on his own; his task as he sees it, now that the Confederacy has crumbled, is “to administer on the ruins as residuary legatee.”

In the limited military action now going on there is a scout until the 9th from Ojo de Anaya, New Mexico Territory, as the Amerind troubles continue. President Davis and his fleeing party arrive at Cokesbury, South Carolina, in what is becoming a more and more desperate flight.
May 2, Tuesday

General Richard Taylor accepts Major General E.R.S. Canby’s scaled-down terms of surrender of his forces in Alabama and Mississippi, based on the Appomattox settlement. Canby wires General Grant of Taylor’s acceptance of the terms.

President Johnson issues a proclamation accusing President Davis and others of inciting the murder of Lincoln and procuring the actual perpetrators. A $100,000 reward (2020 $1,587,800) is offered for the arrest of Davis. This accusation will often be ascribed to the hysteria resulting from the assassination; no reliable historian will ever connect the Confederate President with the deed.

When the fleeing Confederate Cabinet reaches Abbeville, South Carolina, Mrs. Davis and the children aren’t there, having moved on into Georgia three days ago. “Washington will be the first point I shall ‘unload’ at,” she informed her husband in a note brought by a courier who met him on the road. That is less than fifty miles off, the closest they have been to one another in more than a month, and though she plans to “wait a little until we hear something of you,” she urges him not to risk capture by going out of his way to join her, saying: “Let me beseech you not to calculate upon seeing me unless I happen to cross your shortest path toward your bourne, be that what it may.” Stragglers and parolees from Lee’s and Johnston’s armies have passed through in large numbers, she also cautions, and “not one has talked fight. A stand cannot be made in this country; do not be induced to try it. As to the Trans-Mississippi, I doubt if at first things will be straight, but the spirit is there and the daily accretions will be great when the deluded on this side are crushed out between the upper and nether millstone.”

Speed then is the watchword, lest he be gathered up by blue pursuers or victimized by butternut marauders, hungry alike for the millions in treasury bullion he is rumored to have brought with him out of Richmond. At 4 pm this afternoon he summons Breckinridge and the brigade commanders to a large downstairs parlor in the house where his family had stayed while they were here. Through a large window opening westward the five can see a rose garden in full bloom, and one among them will later remark that he had “never seen Mr. Davis look better or show to better advantage. He seemed in excellent spirits and humor, and the union of dignity, graceful affability, and decision, which made his manner usually so striking, was very marked in his reception of us.” After welcoming and putting them at ease, as is his custom at such meetings—even when the participants are familiars, as these are not; at least not yet—he passes at once to his reason for having called them into council. “It is time that we adopt some definite plan upon which the further prosecution of our struggle shall be conducted. I have summoned you for consultation. I feel that I ought to do nothing now without the advice of my military chiefs.” He smiles as he says this last: “rather archly,” according to one hearer, who observes that while “such a term addressed to a handful of brigadiers, commanding altogether barely 3,000 men, by one who so recently had been the master of legions, was a pleasantry; yet he said it in a way that made it a compliment.” What follows, however, shows clearly enough how serious he is. “Even if the troops now with me be all that I can for the present rely on,” he declares, “3,000 brave men are enough for a nucleus around which the whole people will rally when the panic which now afflicts them has passed away.”

A tense silence ensues; none of the five want to be the first to say what each of them knows the other four are thinking. Finally one speaks, and the rest chime in. What the country is undergoing isn’t panic, they inform their chief, but exhaustion. Any attempt to prolong the war, now that the means of supporting it are gone, “would be a cruel injustice to the people of the South,” while for the soldiers the consequences would be even worse; “for if they persisted in a conflict so hopeless they would be treated as brigands and would forfeit all chance of returning to their homes.” Breaking a second silence, Davis asks why then, if all hope is exhausted, they still are in the field. To assist in his escape, they reply, adding that they “would ask our men to follow us until his safety was assured, and would risk them in battle for that purpose, but would not fire another shot in an effort to continue hostilities.” Now a third silence descends, in which the gray leader sits looking as if he has been slapped across the face by a trusted friend. Recovering, he says he will hear no suggestion that has only to do with his own survival, and makes one final plea wherein, as one listener will say, “he appealed eloquently to every sentiment and reminiscence that might be supposed to move a Southern soldier.” When he finishes, the five merely look at him in sorrow. “Then all is indeed lost,” he mutters, and rises to leave the room, deathly pale and unsteady on his feet. He totters, and as he does so Breckinridge steps forward, hale and ruddy, and offers his arm, which Davis, aged suddenly far beyond his nearly fifty-seven years, is glad to take.

Now it is flight, pure and simple—flight for flight’s sake, so to speak—with no further thought of a rally until and unless he reaches the Trans-Mississippi. That is still his goal, and all agree that the lighter he travels the better his chances are of getting there. One encumbrance is the treasury hoard, which has got this far by rail, outracing Stoneman, but can go no farther. Of this, $39,000 (2020 $619,242) had been left in Greensboro for Johnston to distribute among his soldiers (which he did; all ranks drew $1.15 apiece to see them home) and now the balance is dispersed, including $108,000 (2020 $1,714,826) in silver coins paid out to troopers of the five brigades, the cadet guards, and other members of the presidential party; officers and men alike draw $26.25 (2020 $417) each. Transferred to wagons, $230,000 (2020 $3,651,944) in securities is sent on to a bank in Washington, just beyond the Georgia line, for deposit pending its return to Richmond and the banks that own it, while $86,000 (2020 $1,365,509) in gold is concealed in the false bottom of a carriage and started on its way to Charleston, there to be shipped in secrecy to England and drawn on when the government reaches Texas. That leaves $30,000 (2020 $476,340) in silver bullion, packed in trunks and stored in a local warehouse, and $35,000 (2020 $555,731) in gold specie, kept on hand to cover expenses on the journey south and west. Relieved at last of their burden and “detached,” the cadets promptly scatter for their homes.

Before leaving-time, which is midnight this same day, others express their desire to be gone, and one of these is Stephen Mallory. Pleading “the dependent condition of a helpless family,” he submits his resignation as head of the all-but-nonexistent CS Navy. He will leave soon after they cross the Savannah River into Georgia, he says, and join his refugee wife and children in La Grange. That will bring the cabinet tally to three down, three to go.
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