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William T. Sherman online

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wanted peace on almost any terms, and there is no
knowing what proposals he might have been willing
to listen to. His heart was tenderness throughout,
and, as long as the rebels laid down their arms, he
did not care how it was done. I do not know how
far he was influenced by General Grant, but I pre
sume, from their long conferences, that they must
have understood each other perfectly, and that the
terms given to Lee after his surrender were author
ized by Mr. Lincoln. . . . Indeed, the Presi
dent more than once told me what he supposed the
terms would be : if Lee and Johnston surrendered,
he considered the war ended, and that all the other
rebel forces would lay down their arms at once.

" After hearing General Sherman s account of his
own position, and that of Johnston, at that time,
the President expressed fears that the rebel gen
eral would escape south again by the railroads, and
that General Sherman would have to chase him anew,
over the same ground ; but the general [Sherman]
pronounced this to be impracticable. He remarked,
* I have him where he cannot move without break
ing up his army, which, once disbanded, can never
again be got together ; and I have destroyed the
Southern railroads, so that they cannot be used again
for a long time. General Grant remarked, What


is to prevent their laying the rails again ! > i Why/
said General Sherman, my bummers don t do things
by halves. Every rail, after having been placed
over a hot fire, has been twisted as crooked as a
ram s horn, and they never can be used again.

"The conversation between the President and
General Sherman about the terms of surrender to be
allowed Joseph Johnston, continued. Sherman en
ergetically insisted that he could command his own
terms, and that Johnston would have to yield to his
demands ; but the President was very decided about the
matter, and insisted that the surrender of Johnston s
army must be obtained on any terms. . . . Sher
man, as a subordinate officer, yielded his views to
those of the President, and the terms of capitulation
between himself and Johnston were exactly in ac
cordance with Mr. Lincoln s wishes. He could not
have done anything which would have pleased the Presi
dent better.

"Mr. Lincoln did, in fact, arrange the (so consid
ered) liberal terms offered General Joseph Johnston,
and, whatever may have been General Sherman s
private views, I feel sure that he yielded to the
wishes of the President, in every respect. It was
Mr. Lincoln s policy that was carried out, and, had
he lived long enough, he would have been but too
glad to have acknowledged it. Had Mr. Lincoln
lived, Secretary Stanton would have issued no false
telegraphic dispatches, in the hope of killing off an
other general in the regular army one who by his


success had placed himself in the way of his own

But we are anticipating. Let us chronicle that
General Sherman was back at Goldsboro on the
evening of the 30th of March, and at once began
the reorganization and the revictualing of his army,
so as to continue the march northward. It was then
thought that he might be obliged to give one great
battle to the combined forces of Lee and Johnston.
A few days later the glad news reached Goldsboro
that both Kichmond and Petersburg had fallen
(April 2d and 3d). Lee had retreated, and with
his tired, hungry forces, was hurrying along toward
the Danville Railroad, hoping that he might form a
junction with Johnston, whose army was known to
be at Sniithfield, on Sherman s front. Then there
came a cipher telegram to the latter from Grant,
dated April 5th. "All indications now are," he
said, "that Lee will attempt to reach Danville
with the remnant of his force. ... I will push
on to Burkesville, and, if a stand is made at Dan
ville, will, in a very few days, go there. If you can
possibly do so, push on from where you are, and lei
us see if we cannot finish the job with Lee s and
Johnston s armies."

The 10th of April found Sherman, with his army,
on the move northward ; the next day he was in
Smithfield. But there was no Johnston ; he had re
treated quickly. On the morning of the 13th, Sher
man entered Raleigh. The whole situation had
changed wonderfully within a few hours. After


leaving Smithfield the general received a message
from Grant, at Appomattox, announcing that Lee
had surrendered his whole army. Sherman knew
that the war was now over unless Johnston
should prolong it by resorting to "guerilla" tactics
and he issued a jubilant special field order.
1 i Glory to God and our country, and all honor to
our comrades in arms, toward whom we are march
ing," he said. " A little more labor, a little more
toil on our part, the great race is won, and our gov
ernment stands regenerated, after four long years of

While at Ealeigh, Sherman received a welcome
letter from General Johnston. 1 " The results of the
recent campaign in Virginia," he wrote from
Greensboro, l i have changed the relative military
condition of the belligerents. 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 and to
communicate to Lieutenant- General Grant, com
manding the armies of the United States, the
request that he will take like action in regard to
other armies, the object being to permit the civil
authorities to enter into the needful arrangements to
terminate the existing war."

When General Johnston had heard of Lee s sur
render he admitted, in a conversation with General
Beauregard, that the Southern Confederacy was
1 Dated April 13th.


overthrown. Afterward, iu an interview with
Jefferson Davis and members of his cabinet, held ut
Greensboro, Johnston represented that the sources
of the Confederacy were exhausted, so far as pros
ecuting the contest any farther was concerned, and
urged Mr. Davis to exercise at once " the only
function of government still in his possession 7
that of opening negotiations for peace. The others
present were then desired by the Confederate Presi
dent to express their opinions. i i General Brecken-
ridge, Mr. Mallory, and Mr. Reagan, thought that
the war was decided against us j and that it was
absolutely necessary to make peace. Mr. Benjamin
expressed the contrary opinion. The latter made a
speech for war, much like that of Sempronius in
Addison s Cato. " 1 And the result was that
Jefferson Davis consented, although most unwill
ingly, to Johnston s opening negotiations with Gen
eral Sherman.

Davis was an irreconcilable to the bitter end
of the struggle. Even at this interview, and
later, he cherished a hope that the war was not
over. He says, speaking of this crisis: "I had
reason to believe that the spirit of the army in
North Carolina was unbroken, for, though sur
rounded by circumstances well calculated to depress
and discourage them, I had learned that they
earnestly protested to their officers against the sur
render which rumor informed them was then in
contemplation. If any shall deem it a weak cre-
1 Johnston, il Narrative of Military Operations."


dulity to confide in such reports, something may be
allowed to an intense love for the Confederacy, to a
thorough conviction that its fall would involve
ruin, both material and moral, and to a confidence
in the righteousness of our cause, which, if equally
felt by my compatriots, would make them do and
dare to the last extremity." Davis also labored
under the hallucination that many members of the
Army of Northern Virginia would, if called upon,
gladly return to the fray.

But Johnston knew, as Jefferson Davis did not,
or would not know, that the South was exhausted,
ruined, and could not, even if she would, continue
the war. We cannot help admiring Davis for his
dislike to admit that he was beaten, yet Johns
ton and Lee, who shrank from causing the South any
more useless bloodshed, and who were willing to
bury all their hopes and personal ambitions, are to
day much more heroic and attractive figures than
the unreasoning President of the Confederacy.

When Sherman received Johnston s letter he
immediately replied (April 14th), that he was
ready to confer as to a suspension of hostilities.
He agreed to " abide by the same terms and con
ditions as were made by Generals Grant and Lee at
Appomattox Court House, and, furthermore, to
suspend the movement of any troops from the
direction of Virginia. Three days later, when
Sherman was starting out to meet Johnston at a

1 " The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government," Vol.
II, p. 680.


point midway between the Union advance at Dur
ham and the Confederate rear at Hillsboro, he
received a dispatch in cipher announcing the
assassination of Lincoln at Ford s Theatre, Wash
ington, on the evening of the 14th of April. Dread
ing the effect that the news might have on the army
he kept the gruesome telegram secret until his
return to Ealeigh in the afternoon. He feared that
the soldiers, maddened by the thought of the mur
der, might try to retaliate upon the innocent
inhabitants of the city. When he finally announced
Lincoln s death, he was pleased that the sorrow
over it did not lead to a spirit of revenge for he
felt that one single word of his would have laid the
city in ashes, and " turned its whole population
houseless upon the country, if not worse." Thus
Sherman, with the telegram securely hidden in his
pocket, started out to meet his antagonist. He little
realized how his own negotiations with Johnston
would be marred by the death of the man whom he
had seen, so recently, filled with a sort of pity for
the stricken South, and animated by the highest
hopes of reconciliation. Sherman himself had not j
much of this sentiment, as we know, but he remem- /
bered the words of the late President, and resolved, [
perhaps not with worldly wisdom, to carry out the i
Lincoln policy.

Sherman and Johnston held their first conference
in a farmhouse. One would dearly love to have
seen these two veterans as they confronted each
other, the first a conqueror, but unassuming; the


second the conquered, yet making a manly front to
the end. Colonel Nichols, who accompanied Sher
man to the rendezvous, speaks of meeting Wade
Hampton, who had a beard " unnaturally black"
and describes General Johnston as a man of strik
ing appearance. He was dressed "in a neat, gray
uniform, which harmonized gracefully with a full
beard and mustache of silvery whiteness, partly
concealing a genial and generous mouth, that must
have become habituated to a kindly smile. His
eyes, dark brown in color, varied in expression
now intense and sparkling, and then soft with ten
derness, or twinkling with humor. . . . The
general cast of the features gave an expression of
goodness and manliness, mingling a fine nature with
the decision and energy of the capable soldier." l

Captain George W. Pepper, another eye witness
of this meeting between the two commanders, speaks
of Johnston as " venerable, with intermingled gray,
in close-cropped hair and beard." He lifted his
hat continually to the officers in blue, "who ad
mired his military bearing, with coat closely
buttoned to his chin." But he adds: "For my
part I thought our own chieftain [Sherman] ugly as
he is called, a far better looking man, taller,
younger, and more commanding."

As soon as Sherman and Johnston were alone, the
former showed the Confederate the despatch an
nouncing Lincoln s assassination. "The perspira
tion came out in large drops on his forehead,"
" The Story of the Great March."


records Sherman, "and he did not attempt to con
ceal his distress." He denounced the act as "a
disgrace to the age," and hoped his rival did not
u charge it to the Confederate government." Sher
man answered that he felt sure neither Johnston
nor Lee, nor the officers generally of the Confederate
army could be privy to such an act, but that he
could not say as much for Jefferson Davis and " men
of that stripe." Sherman, of course, had no right
to cast any suspicion upon Davis, but at that time
there was a disposition (not altogether confined to
the North, be it noted) to ascribe all the woes of
the country to the unsuccessful head of the Con

This conference, in which Johnston frankly ad
mitted that any further fighting would be u murder,"
was followed by another interview between the gen
erals, held the next day. Then Johnston assured
Sherman that he had obtained authority over all the
Confederate armies still in the field these included
Taylor s forces in Louisiana and Texas, and certain
other troops in Alabama and Georgia and that
they would "obey his orders to surrender on the
same terms as his own." He argued that the Con
federates, if they made peace, should be given some
definite assurance of their "political rights" after
their surrender. Later General Breckinridge joined
the conference (after the Union general had stipu
lated that he was to be admitted as a Confederate
officer, not as the Confederate secretary of war),
1 " Memoirs of General William T. Sherman," Vol. II, p. 349.


and he likewise touched upon the uneasiness of the
Southern soldiers as to their u political rights," in
case of surrender.

Already, at the first interview, when Sherman
had offered him the same terms as those given
by Grant to General Lee, Johnston had expressed
the hope that something more could be secured.
"I suggested . . . that, instead of a partial
suspension of hostilities," relates Johnston, "we
might, as other generals had done, arrange the
terms of a permanent peace, and among other pre
cedents reminded him of the preliminaries of Leoben,
and the terms in which Napoleon, then victorious,
proposed negotiation to the Archduke Charles ; and
the sentiment he expressed that the civic crown
earned by preserving the life of one citizen confers
truer glory than the highest achievements merely
military." Sherman replied (so Johnston adds),
that he was anxious to end the war and restore the
Union, and spoke of his recent interview with Mr.

At the second conference with Johnston, Breckin-
ridge seems to have dwelt upon this civil phase of
the proposed surrender with an eloquence and plausi
bility that deeply impressed Sherman. Indeed,
the contention of Johnston that the " political
rights" of the Confederates should be observed
seems to fall in with Lincoln s idea that, once the
Union was recognized and slavery abolished, every
thing should be done to conciliate the South, and
induce the people to resume the pursuits of peace.


Thus, with the wishes of Lincoln in his mind, and
intending to be as true to his country as man could
be, Sherman (neither noting the bitterness engen
dered in the North by Lincoln s murder, nor realiz
ing that his new masters, Andrew Johnson and
Edwin M. Stanton, were not persons of 4 sweetness
and light"), quickly drew up a " Memorandum, " or
4 Basis of Agreement, which was designed to end
the war. This "Agreement," which Johnston and
Sherman thereupon signed, read as follows :

* 1 (1) The contending armies now in the field to
maintain the status quo until notice is given by the
commanding general of any one to its opponent, and
reasonable time say, forty-eight hours allowed.

"(2) The Confederate armies now in existence
to be disbanded and conducted to their several state
capitals, there to deposit their arms and public*
property in the state arsenal ; and each officer and
man to execute and file an agreement to cease from
acts of war, and to abide the action of the state and
Federal authority. . . .

"(3) The recognition, by the Executive of the
United States, of the several state governments, on
their officers and legislatures taking the oaths pre
scribed by the Constitution of the United States ;
and, where conflicting state governments have re-

*" There were many theories oil the subject [of reconstruc
tion], which were advocated with great vehemence and passion.
Mr. Lincoln did not adopt any particular theory as to any
one mode by which the national authority could be restored.
. . . He was no mere theorist, but a practical statesman,
looking ever for the wisest means to secure the end." Isaac N.


suited from the war, the legitimacy of all shall be
submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States.

"(4) The re-establishnieut of all the Federal
courts in the several states, with powers as denned
by the Constitution of the United States and of the
states respectively.

i k (5) The people and inhabitants of all the states
to be guaranteed, so far as the Executive can, their
political rights and franchises, as well as their rights
of person and property, as defined by the Constitu
tion of the United States and of the states respect

"(6) The Executive authority of the govern
ment of the United States not to 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 existence at the place
of their residence.

" (7) In general terms, the war to cease ; a gen
eral amnesty, so far as the Executive of the United
States can command, on condition of the disband -
nient of the Confederate armies, the distribution of
the arms, and the resumption of peaceful pursuits
by the officers and men hitherto composing said

"Not being fully empowered by our respective
principals to fulfil these terms, we individually and
officially pledge ourselves to promptly obtain the
necessary authority, and to carry out the above
programme. 7

It must be admitted that the provisions of this


k Agreement" were pretty wide in scope, from a
political and " reconstruction " view-point, and that
they went farther than was wise into civic matters.
Sherman was an astute soldier ; not an astute states
man. Still, the Agreement" was drawn up by
him in all honesty and sincerity, and it was stipu
lated that it must be submitted for approval, so far
as the North was concerned, to the leaders of the
administration in Washington.

But the administration promptly disapproved the
4 Agreement when it was referred to it through
General Grant. Andrew Johnson and Mr. Stanton
were in no mood for conciliation j they were, on the
contrary, in a vindictive frame of mind, and they
believed, honestly enough, that Sherman had ex
ceeded his authority by dealing with the civic con
sequences of surrender. Even General Grant, ever
friendly to Sherman, wrote to him after reading the
terms, that he hardly believed it possible that they
could be approved when he should forward them to

The "Agreement" was rejected on the following
grounds :

First : That it was an exercise of authority not
vested in General Sherman, and on its face showed
that both he and Johnston knew that Sherman had
no authority to enter into any such arrangement.

Second : That it was an acknowledgment of the
u rebel government."

Third : It was understood to re-establish Confed
erate state governments that had been overthrown,


and placed arms in the hands of the Confederates, at
their respective capitals, "which might be used as
soon as the armies of the United States were dis
banded, and to conquer and subdue loyal states."

Fourth : By the restoration of the Confederate
authority in their respective states, the Confederates
would be enabled to re-establish slavery.

Fifth : It might furnish a ground of responsibil
ity, by the Federal government, to pay the Con
federate debt, and " subject loyal citizens of the
rebel states to debts contracted by rebels in the
name of the states.

Sixth : It put in dispute the existence of loyal
state governments, and the new state of West Vir
ginia, which had been recognized by every depart
ment of the United States government.

Seventh : It practically abolished the confisca
tion laws, and "relieved rebels of every degree,
who had slaughtered our people, from all pains and
penalties for their crimes."

Eighth : It gave terms that had been i i deliber
ately, repeatedly, and solemnly rejected by Presi
dent Lincoln," and "better terms than the rebels
had ever asked in their most prosperous condition."

Ninth : It formed no basis of true and lasting
peace, "but relieved the rebels from the pressure
of our victories, and left them in condition to renew
their eiforts to overthrow the United States govern
ment, and subdue the loyal states, whenever their
strength was recruited, and any opportunity should


If we view these objections in an impartial spirit
we are struck with the mixture of common sense
and vindictive nonsense which they exhibit. It
was fair to assume, for instance, that the * Agree
ment" might be stretched, or distorted, at some
future day into a ground of responsibility for Con
federate debts. But it was seeking trouble to sup
pose that it might enable the Southerners to re-es
tablish slavery, and it was savagely suggestive of
Stanton to speak of our late opponents as guilty of

Of course the administration had a perfect right,
and some reason, to disapprove the "Agreement."
But Mr. Stanton had no right to disapprove it, as
he did, in a manner that was brutally offensive
to Sherman, and which indicated that he consid
ered the general who had performed such wonders
in Georgia as little better than a traitor or a criminal.
With the arbitrary, cruel spirit that sometimes dis
tinguished his treatment of friends as well as foes,
the secretary of war at once sent to General Dix,
who gave it to the newspapers, an announcement
setting forth the rejection of the treaty ; showing the
nine reasons of objection, as already stated ; insinuat
ing that Sherman might connive at the escape of
Jefferson Davis, loaded with "plunder," into
Mexico or Europe ; and stating that General Grant
had been sent to North Carolina to direct hostilities
against Johnston. The paper, which was most in
sulting in its tone toward Sherman, also quoted, as a
rebuke to him, the letter which Lincoln had sent


to Grant, more than a month before Lee s sur
render, in Stanton s name. That letter, as we all
remember, instructed Grant not to decide or confer
upon any political questions. " Such questions the
President holds in his own hands, and will submit
them to no military conferences or conventions."

The quotation of this letter to Grant (which had
been written on the 3d of March) seemed a trump
card against Sherman. But the general aptly says,
in his u Memoirs 7 that the publication of the bulle
tin was an outrage, since Stanton had failed to com
municate to him in advance, as was his duty, the
purpose of the administration to limit the negotia
tions to purely military matters ; but, on the con
trary, had authorized him, at Savannah, to control all
matters, civil and military. " By this bulletin he
implied that I had previously been furnished with a
copy of his despatch of March 3d, to General
Grant, which was not so ; and he gave warrant to the
impression, which was sown broadcast, that I might
be bribed by banker s gold to permit Davis to es

Indeed, the administration seemed to have gone
crazy on the subject of Sherman and his unfortunate
" Agreement, " and was quite ready to heap all
manner of insult upon him. Halleck, his old Mend,
even went so far as to issue instructions that all
orders from Sherman were to be disregarded, and a
great many worthy people in the North, who had
heretofore been engaged in singing the general s
praises, now shook their heads and called him un-


complimentary names. Some of these people be
lieved, particularly since the death of Lincoln, that
even hanging was too good for the i l miserable
rebels" a sentiment which Stan ton doubtless
shared with them. It was a bitter moment for
Sherman, and though his unpopularity was but
shortlived, and the cloud of suspicion which hung
over him soon blew away, he could never forget
the brutal treatment that he received at the hands
of the Washington authorities, even if he did for
give the authors of it.

" Some people," writes Grant, " went so far as to
denounce him [Sherman] as a traitor a most pre

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Online LibraryEdward RobinsWilliam T. Sherman → online text (page 18 of 22)