Civil War Daily Gazette

A Day-By-Day Accounting of the Conflict, 150 Years Later

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Sherman Learns of the Rejection; Davis Wants a Body Guard

The cracks now showing in Sherman's plan.

April 24, 1865 (Monday) Though General Sherman was expected Major Henry Hitchcock to arrive on the train from Washington with news of Washington’s approval or disapproval of his terms of surrender for Joe Johnston, what he was not expecting was General Grant. Believing this too important to be left to Sherman alone, Grant decided to accompany the news and guide Sherman if needed. “Of course, I was both surprised and pleased to see the general,” wrote Sherman after the war. He “soon learned that my terms with Johnston had been disapproved.” Grant urged Sherman to attack Johnston following the forty-eight hour truce. War would continue unless Johnston agreed to the same terms given by Grant to Lee. Just after the sun rose, Sherman sent a message from Greensboro to Johnston in Raleigh. “I have replies from Washington to my communications of April 18th. I am instructed to limit my operations to your immediate command, and not to attempt civil negotiations. I therefore demand the surrender of your army on the same terms as were given… Read More

Davis Plans to Retreat into Texas or Mexico

A "touched up" John Breckinridge.

April 23, 1865 (Sunday) “The dispersion of Lee’s army and the surrender of the remnant which remained with him destroyed the hopes I entertained when we parted,” wrote Jefferson Davis to his wife. Jefferson Davis was still in Charlotte, North Carolina. He had scurried away from Richmond mere hours before its fall, and by April 3rd, he was in Danville, Virginia, where he hoped to re-establish the Confederate capital. With Grant’s army threatening to devour Lee’s army, Davis fled south to Greensboro, arriving on the 11th. There, he heard the news of Lee’s surrender, and gave some sort of nod toward Johnston who wished to follow suit. Jefferson Davis had little desire to be captured – sentiment held that he would most certainly hang. And so he dipped farther south, leaving Greensboro without even telling Johnston, to Charlotte, arriving on the 19th. The original idea had been to there re-establish the seat of government and to carry on the war. And there he remained still, though it was not what he had wished. The rest… Read More

And Darkness Favors Us – Booth Escapes into Virginia

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April 22, 1865 (Saturday) John Wilkes Booth, accompanied by his compatriot, David Herold, had been on run for over a week. Having hastily planned to be in Virginia long before now, due to Booth’s broken leg they found themselves still in a thicket of pines on the Samuel Cox property near the Potomac River in Maryland. They had made it but forty miles south of Washington. Though they were on Cox’s land, he did little to help them otherwise. Instead, he had gotten word to Thomas Jones, a former Confederate spy who lived along the river, to help ferry them across. After visiting with Booth and Herold on Easter Sunday, the 16th, Jones returned to his home and tried to figure out a way to coyly make use of one of his two boats. He told the assassin that it would take up to a week for him to be able to get the two fugitives across. Jones then set about with a scheme involving his former slave, Henry Woodland, who was ordered to go… Read More

Sherman’s Terms Rejected by Washington

Tintype of Sherman in Thermoplastic frame.

April 21, 1865 (Friday) It was all going so well for General Sherman. He had convinced Confederate General Joe Johnston to capitulate, and drew up terms for the surrender of the Army of Tennessee. True, many of the objects touched upon in the terms were beyond the reach of the military, but Sherman was certain that Washington would jump at the chance to wrap this whole thing up quick as they pleased. This was, in part, based upon the idea that Lincoln had allowed for the Virginia legislature to meet and to be considered official. This had been true, though Lincoln reconsidered. Word of this had not reached Sherman prior to the meeting with Johnston, and even on the 20th, Sherman sent newspapers to the Confederate stating that “in Virginia the State authorities are acknowledged and invited to resume their lawful functions.” On this date, the 21st, Sherman reiterated that sentiment, telling Johnston that he felt “certain we will have no trouble on the score of recognizing existing State governments.” In the terms, he had… Read More

Lee Recommends that Davis Seeks Peace

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Richmond, Virginia April 20, 1865 Mr. President The apprehensions I expressed during the winter, of the moral [sic] condition of the Army of Northern Virginia, have been realized. The operations which occurred while the troops were in the entrenchments in front of Richmond and Petersburg were not marked by the boldness and decision which formerly characterized them. Except in particular instances, they were feeble; and a want of confidence seemed to possess officers and men. This condition, I think, was produced by the state of feeling in the country, and the communications received by the men from their homes, urging their return and the abandonment of the field. The movement of the enemy on the 30th March to Dinwiddie Court House was consequently not as strongly met as similar ones had been. Advantages were gained by him which discouraged the troops, so that on the morning of the 2d April, when our lines between the Appomattox and Hatcher’s Run were assaulted, the resistance was not effectual: several points were penetrated and large captures made. At… Read More

‘There Were No Truer Mourners’ – Gideon Welles on Lincoln’s Funeral

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April 19, 1865 (Wednesday) From every part of the country comes lamentation. Every house, almost, has some drapery, especially the homes of the poor. Profuse exhibition is displayed on the public buildings and the dwellings of the wealthy, but the little black ribbon or strip of black cloth from the hovel of the poor negro or the impoverished white is more touching. The funeral on Wednesday, the 19th, was imposing, sad, and sorrowful. All felt the solemnity, and sorrowed as if they had lost one of their own household. By voluntary action business was everywhere suspended, and the people crowded the streets. The Cabinet met by arrangement in the room occupied by the President at the Treasury. We left a few minutes before meridian so as to be in the East Room at precisely twelve o’clock, being the last to enter. Others will give the details. I rode with Stanton in the procession to the Capitol. The attendance was immense. The front of the procession reached the Capitol, it was said, before we started, and… Read More

Sherman and Johnston Discuss Terms

The Bennett Place

April 18, 1865 (Tuesday) William Tecumseh Sherman had left City Point in the Richmond area, where he was visiting with General Grant, at the end of the month previous. While Grant pursued Lee’s retreating army, Sherman reorganized and readied his own in Goldsboro, North Carolina to move not against Joe Johnston’s Army of Tennessee at Smithfield, but to make for Virginia. It was now an army consisting of nearly 90,000 men. With this host, he planned to “do the enemy as much harm as possible, while en route to the Roanoke River. The march was to have begun on the 10th of April, but when news of the fall of Richmond and Petersburg was received on the 6th, things were changed. Sherman assumed that Lee could get away and would soon join Johnston. “I at once altered the foregoing orders,” Sherman recalled, “and prepared on the day appointed, viz., April 10th, to move straight on Raleigh, against the army of General Johnston, known to be at Smithfield, and supposed to have about thirty-five thousand men.”… Read More

‘I Come to Arrest You’ – The Assassination Round Ups Begin

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April 17, 1865 (Monday) Edwin Stanton had watched him die. He had seen the body removed, and had called the impromptu Cabinet meeting in the rear room of the Peterson House. By the afternoon of the 15th, Stanton was certain that the actor John Wilkes Booth had murdered the President. He knew there were accomplices, and names like Surratt, Herold, and Atzerodt were on his tongue. He had personally examined the theater box where Lincoln had been sitting, even ordering the actors to perform the third act of Our American Counsin so that he might retrace the steps of the assassin. While the news of the murder was published on the 15th, the following day, through the miracle of telegraph, the rest of the country was brought up to speed. This did nothing to deliver Booth to Stanton, as the newspapers pleaded for justice and revenge. Stanton had few leads. There was a letter addressed to “Sam” found in Booth’s hotel room, and the suspicion that the Confederate government was ultimately to blame – Booth,… Read More

‘Tom, You Must Get Them Across’ – The Escape of John Wilkes Booth

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April 16, 1865 (Easter Sunday) “The moment has come at last when my plans must be changed. The world may censure me for what I am about to do; but I am sure posterity will justify me. -Men who love their country more than gold or life: J.W. Booth, Payne, Atzerodt, and Herold. John Wilkes Booth had written a strange and curious letter to his friend and fellow actor, John Matthews, on the afternoon of the 14th. It was now the morning of the 16th, and Booth, accompanied by a co-conspirator, David Herold, were near Bel Alton, Maryland, nearly forty miles south of Washington, south of where Booth murdered President Lincoln. But it was not south enough. Things had not gone according to plan. In truth, the plan had been shaky all along. Booth had originally intended to kidnap the president, but after the surrender of Lee’s army, any ransom would be hardly enough to keep the south afloat. And so the plot turned quickly to blood and revenge. His mind was settled on the… Read More

And They Were Alone – The Dying of Abraham Lincoln

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April 15, 1865 (Saturday) Robert Lincoln, the 21-year old son of Abraham and Mary, had declined the invitation to accompany them to Ford’s Theater the night previous. He claimed weariness from his recent campaign as General Grant’s staff officer, but mostly wanted to catch up with his old friend John Hay. His little brother, Tad, had been taken to the National Theatre to see a children’s play, and so now with his duties of son and brother at rest, his pleasures as a friend could be rekindled. John and Robert talked of the war and gossiped over comrades until late – until around 10:30, when both heard riders galloping up to the front door of the White House. At first, they made little of it, figuring they were simply a changing of the guard. But then the noises grew louder, and moved into. The foyer was filled with voices, and shortly the door to Robert’s room sprang open, and in a confused panic Robert was told that his father had been shot. Both sprang up… Read More

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