Civil War Daily Gazette

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

‘Confederate Politics’

‘A Good Deal that was Trampled Under Foot’ – Davis Finally Pays His Men

Robert Martin

May 3, 1865 (Wednesday) The night previous found Jefferson Davis, what was left of his Cabinet, quite a load of gold, and about five brigades of cavalry in Abbeville, South Carolina. They all had set out from the town at midnight. Among their number were two Confederate agents, John Headley and Robert Martin, Texans, who had operated out of Canada for much of the war before utterly failing in their plot to burn down New York City. Since setting out just before the surrender of Joe Johnston, Davis had dreams of continuing the war west of the Mississippi. But with the surrender of Robert Taylor in Alabama, such an idea grew less and less likely. All of the officers will Davis insisted that the war was over and he must somehow escape to Mexico. It was John Breckinridge who discovered the operatives and suggested to them that they might serve as Davis’ guards. “We were both at first disposed to go,” wrote Headley after the war, “simply for the feature of romance that would attach… Read More

Davis Thinks He Can Continue the War

Armistead Burk Mansion, where Davis held his last council of war.

May 2, 1865 (Tuesday) On the morning of this date, Jefferson Davis and his cavalry escort, along with what little was left of the Confederate Cabinet, arrived in Abbeville, South Carolina. Brigade commander, Basil Duke, related his memory of this council of war. At Abbeville, South Carolina, Mr. Davis held a conference with the officers in command of the troops composing his escort, which he himself characterized as a council of war, and which I may be justified, therefore, in so designating. It was, perhaps, the last Confederate council of war held cast of the Mississippi River, certainly the last in which Mr. Davis participated. We had gone into camp in the vicinity of the little town, and, although becoming quite anxious to understand what was going to be done, we were expecting no immediate solution of the problem. We were all convinced that the best we could hope to do was to get Mr. Davis safely out of the country, and then obtain such terms as had been given General Johnston’s army, or, failing… Read More

The Eight Conspirators Named

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May 1, 1865 (Monday) John Wilkes Booth was dead. But Edwin Stanton had been far from satisfied. His strict orders that the assassin should be brought in alive had not been followed, and those he had in custody – a growing list of people, some only vaguely associated with the plot – had grown unwieldy. In the days following the death, anyone who had aided Booth while on the run had been made prisoner. Dr. Samuel Mudd, who set his broken leg, Samuel Cox, who had conspired with Thomas Jones, who had given Booth the boat to escape across the Potomac. Even Richard and William Garrett, the brothers who trapped Booth in the barn, were arrested. But then, with little explanation, Secretary Stanton released almost every, save Dr. Mudd, who had known Booth well before the assassination. Others too, involved in the plot had been captured. And by this date, eight remained. Aside from Dr. Mudd, there was David Herold, who had accompanied Booth across the twelve days of flight. There was also Lewis Powell/Payne,… Read More

‘This Slow Progress Was Harassing’ – Davis Continues

Basil Duke

April 30, 1865 (Sunday) “Soon after I heard that Johnston had surrendered to General Sherman,” wrote Union General James Wilson, commanding the cavalry out Georgia, “I received information that Davis, under escort of a considerable force of cavalry, and with a large amount of treasure in wagons, was marching south from Charlotte, with the intention of going west of the Mississippi River.” From Macon, he dispatched a web of cavalry divisions to stop and capture Jefferson Davis. One was sent to Atlanta to watch the roads to the north. Another was ordered to Athens, and more to Washington. And still others were sent behind the suspected route of the Confederate President with orders to “follow them ot the Gulf or the Mississippi River, if necessary.” So too were troops in Florida given warning lest the Rebels somehow wound their way through his net. Davis was still in South Carolina, nearing the town of Abbeville, not ten miles from the Savannah River and the Georgia line. His wife had already crossed and was moving a day… Read More

Armistice in Alabama – ‘With Joyous Poppings of Champaign Corks’

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April 29, 1865 (Saturday) In February, Union General Edward Canby had been reinforced by much of the Army of the Cumberland. Near Mobile, he was to capture the port city if he thought possible, but to march as he could to Selma or Montgomery, Alabama. And so with 45,000 men, he was off, contested along the way by Rebels under General Richard Taylor. Though they put up a strong defense, Canby’s men were able to besiege both Spanish Fort and Fort Blakey near the city. The sieges lasted little long than a week, but by April 8th, both had fallen and the Federals now held Mobile. Canby also began his march toward Montgomery on the 14th with the goal of getting his forces between Taylor’s and Joe Johnston’s in North Carolina. Richard Taylor’s forces were mostly at Meridian, Mississippi, and Selma had already fallen, with the Taylor and Nathan Bedford Forrest escaping, and ordering that no defense of Montgomery should be made. The town fell on April 12th to Federal Cavalry. Time was slipping away… Read More

‘The Tide of War Will Follow Me’ – Davis Continues His Retreat

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April 28, 1865 (Friday) Jefferson Davis was now on the run, though by the speed of his entourage, it might have been difficult to tell. While he was in Charlotte, North Carolina, he learned that Joe Johnston had surrendered and that John Wilkes Booth had been killed. The small band of cavalry which accompanied him was not thought to be incredibly loyal. He hoped that Wade Hampton could avoid the surrender and join him farther south. Actually, Davis had hoped that Johnston would feint the surrender and instead disperse his entire army to the wind so that they might meet up as one again to fight west of the Mississippi. Johnston had refused, but Hampton took him up on the offer. Still, Davis wrote his wife on the 26th, complaining that there was “increasing hazard of desertion among the troops.” General Hampton had offered to lead them, “And thinks he can force his way across the Mississippi. The route will be too rough and perilous for you and children to go with me.” Though Wade… Read More

Johnston Finally Able to Surrender His Army

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April 26, 1865 (Wednesday) General Sherman had apparently overstepped his bounds, wishing to treat with the entire Confederacy rather than simply Joe Johnston’s army. In his mind, he wanted to wrap the entire war up in one fell swoop and thought that the capitulation of all the remaining Rebel forces, as well as the reestablishment of civil governments of the seceded states, was the way to go about it. In the eyes of Washington, he was wrong. Both General Grant and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton wanted him to deal only with the Confederate army before him, and Grant had arrived with the message to make sure that all went according to plan. On the day previous, Sherman dealt some with the fall out, writing to Stanton an explanation for what he tried to accomplish. “I admit my folly in embracing in a military convention any civil matters,” he wrote, “but, unfortunately, such is the nature of our situation that they seem inextricably united, and I understood from you at Savannah that the financial state… Read More

The Flight and Capture of John Wilkes Booth

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April 25, 1865 (Tuesday) The assassin and his accomplice made the successful landing on Virginia’s banks of the Potomac on the morning of the 23rd. Thomas Jones, the Confederate spy who provided the boat for crossing, has also provided them with a name of a women who would help them – Mrs. Quesenberry. Again on solid ground, the two split up. The assassin’s leg was broken and painful, and so he was hidden while the accomplice strode toward Mrs. Quesenberry’s house. When the accomplice met her and convinced her that Jones had sent them, Quesenberry enlisted help from Thomas Harbin, also a Confederate spy, but one who also knew the assassin. It was Harbin’s idea to wait until nightfall to meet the assassin. It would be safer. But after that, speed was essential. He needed to get into the Deep South as quickly as possible. He needed protection and that he could not find here. But first, the assassin needed medical attention. Now accompanied by William Bryant, another Confederate spy, they traveled eight miles out… Read More

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

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