Tuesday, May 26, 2015

May 26, 1865: E. Kirby Smith surrenders the Army of the Trans-Mississippi

Major General Edward R.S. Canby, U.S. Army
When Confederate President Jefferson Davis fled Richmond on April 2, 1865, he had vague notions of rallying remaining Confederate troops west of the Mississippi River and continuing the war from there. Davis had, instead, been captured in Georgia, and far from continuing the fight, Confederate commanders like Lieutenant General E. Kirby Smith were doing all they could to halt the fighting without further bloodshed. Smith had sent a representative of his to negotiate with Edward R.S. Canby, the Union commander of the Military Division of West Mississippi, and on this day 150 years ago, Canby was able to report that Smith was ready to surrender.

New Orleans, May 26, 1865. (Received 3 p. m. 27th.)

Lieutenant-General GRANT,

Commanding U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.:

The arrangements for the surrender of the Confederate forces in the Trans-Mississippi Department have been concluded. They include the men and material of both army and navy, and the Confederate military authorities will use their influence and authority to see that public property in the hands of the agents of the late rebel Government are duly surrendered to the U. S. authorities. I have arranged for the surrender of the troops and property within the limits of the Division of Missouri to the commander of that division, and ask General Pope to designate the commissionaires. I think it advisable, in order to prevent any possible complication on the Mexican frontier, that Steele's command should be sent to the Rio Grande without waiting for the Twenty-fifth Corps, if that should now be sent. If you approved, this will be done and I can at once add 4,000 colored to his command. Cavalry will be needed, but it cannot be sent by sea, but may march from Berwick Bay.


Major-General, Commanding.

Monday, May 25, 2015

May 25, 1865: Walt Whitman to his Mother

On this day 150 years ago, poet Walt Whitman wrote to his mother to relate the news from Washington, DC. Whitman had been given a government clerk's job to help him make ends meet while he nursed in his spare time. Whitman's brother, George Washington Whitman, survived the war and capture by the Confederate Army and had been released and commissioned as an officer.
Indian Bureau, basement of Patent Office. —house 468 M st 2d door west of 12th Washington, 
Thursday, May 25, '65

Dear Mother,
I received your letter of the 22d—I feel uneasy about you all the time, & hope I shall get a letter to-day, & find you have recovered.
Well, the Review is over, & it was very grand—it was too much & too impressive, to be described—but you will see a good deal about it in the papers. If you can imagine a great wide avenue like Flatbush avenue, quite flat, & stretching as far as you can see, with a great white building half as big as fort Greene on a hill at the commencement of the avenue, & then through this avenue marching solid ranks of soldiers, 20 or 25 abreast, just marching steady all day long for two days, without intermission, one regiment after another, real war-worn soldiers, that have been marching & fighting for years—sometimes for an hour nothing but cavalry, just solid ranks, on good horses, with sabres glistening, & carbines hanging by their saddles, & their clothes showing hard service, but they mostly all good-looking hardy young men—then great masses of guns, batteries of cannon, four or six abreast, each drawn by six horses, with the gunners seated on the ammunition wagons—& these perhaps a long while in passing, nothing but batteries—(it seemed as if all the cannon in the world were here)—then great battalions of blacks, with axes & shovels & pick axes, (real southern darkies, black as tar)—then again hour after hour the old infantry regiments, the men all sunburnt—nearly every one with some old tatter all in shreds, (that had been a costly & beautiful flag)—the great drum corps of sixty or eighty drummers massed at the heads of the brigades, playing away—now and then a fine brass band—but oftener nothing but the drums & whistling fifes—but they sounded very lively—(perhaps a band of sixty drums & fifteen or twenty fifes playing "Lannigan's ball")—the different corps banners, the generals with their staffs &c—the Western Army, led by Gen. Sherman, (old Bill, the soldiers all call him)—well, dear mother, that is a brief sketch, give you some idea of the great panorama of the Armies that have been passing through here the last two days.
I saw the President several times, stood close by him, & took a good look at him—& like his expression much—he is very plain & substantial—it seemed wonderful that just that plain middling-sized ordinary man, dressed in black, without the least badge or ornament, should be the master of all these myriads of soldiers, the best that ever trod the earth, with forty or fifty Major-Generals, around him or riding by, with their broad yellow-satin belts around their waists—and of all the artillery & cavalry—to say nothing of all the Forts & Ships, &c, &c.
I saw Gen. Grant too several times—He is the noblest Roman of them all—none of the pictures do justice to him—about sundown I saw him again riding on a large fine horse, with his hat off in answer to the hurrahs—he rode by where I stood, & I saw him well, as he rode by on a slow canter, with nothing but a single orderly after him—He looks like a good man—(& I believe there is much in looks)—I saw Gen. Meade, Gen. Thomas, Secretary Stanton, & lots of other celebrated government officers & generals—but the rank & file was the greatest sight of all.
The 51st was in the line Tuesday with the 9th Corps. I saw George, but did not get a chance to speak to him. He is well. George is now Major George W. Whitman—has been commissioned & mustered in. (Col. Wright & Col. Shephard have done it, I think.) The 51st is over to the Old Convalescent camp, between here and Alexandria, doing provost duty. It (the old camp) is now called Augur General Hospital. If you should write direct,
Major G. W. Whitman  51st New York V. V.  on provost duty at  Augur Gen'l Hospital  near Alexandria, Va.
It is thought that the 51st will not be mustered out for the present—It is thought the Government will retain the re-enlisted veteran regiments, such as the 51st—If that is so, George will remain as he is for the summer, or most of it—The reason I havn't seen him is, I knew they had left provost duty in the Prince st. prison, but didn't know where they had gone till Tuesday—I saw Capt. Caldwell Tuesday, also Col. Wright Tuesday night—they said they all have pleasant quarters over there.
Dear brother Jeff, I was very sorry you wasn't able to come on to see the Review—we had perfect weather & every thing just as it should be—the streets now are full of soldiers scattered around loose, as the armies are in camp near here, getting ready to be mustered out. I am quite well & visit the Hospitals the same. Mother, you didn't write whether you got the package of 5 Drum-Taps—I keep thinking about you every few minutes all day—I wish I was home a couple of days—Jeff, you will take this acc't of the Review, same as if it was written to you.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

May 24, 1865: The Grand Review of the Armies, Day Two

Major General Henry W. Slocum and staff of XX Corps, Army of Georgia.
On this day 150 years ago, the troops under the command of Major General William Tecumseh Sherman passed in review before the President of the United States, the Cabinet, and Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant. Sherman recalled the day in his memoirs:
During the afternoon and night of the 23d, the Fifteenth, Seventeenth, and Twentieth Corps, crossed Long Bridge, bivouacked in the streets about the Capitol, and the Fourteenth Corps closed up to the bridge. The morning of the 24th was extremely beautiful, and the ground was in splendid order for our review. The streets were filled with people to see the pageant, armed with bouquets of flowers for their favorite regiments or heroes, and every thing was propitious. Punctually at 9 A.M. the signal-gun was fired, when in person, attended by General Howard and all my staff, I rode slowly down Pennsylvania Avenue, the crowds of men, women, and children, densely lining the sidewalks, and almost obstructing the way. We were followed close by General Logan and the head of the Fifteenth Corps. When I reached the Treasury-building, and looked back, the sight was simply magnificent. The column was compact, and the glittering muskets looked like a solid mass of steel, moving with the regularity of a pendulum. We passed the Treasury building, in front of which and of the White House was an immense throng of people, for whom extensive stands had been prepared on both sides of the avenue. As I neared the brick-house opposite the lower corner of Lafayette Square, some one asked me to notice Mr. Seward, who, still feeble and bandaged for his wounds, had been removed there that he might behold the troops. I moved in that direction and took off my hat to Mr. Seward, who sat at an upper window. He recognized the salute, returned it, and then we rode on steadily past the President, saluting with our swords. All on his stand arose and acknowledged the salute. Then, turning into the gate of the presidential grounds, we left our horses with orderlies, and went upon the stand, where I found Mrs. Sherman, with her father and son. Passing them, I shook hands with the President, General Grant, and each member of the cabinet. As I approached Mr. Stanton, he offered me his hand, but I declined it publicly, and the fact was universally noticed. I then took my post on the left of the President, and for six hours and a half stood, while the army passed in the order of the Fifteenth, Seventeenth, Twentieth, and Fourteenth Corps. It was, in my judgment, the most magnificent army in existence--sixty-five thousand men, in splendid physique, who had just completed a march of nearly two thousand miles in a hostile country, in good drill, and who realized that they were being closely scrutinized by thousands of their fellow-countrymen and by foreigners. Division after division passed, each commander of an army corps or division coming on the stand during the passage of his command, to be presented to the President, cabinet, and spectators. The steadiness and firmness of the tread, the careful dress on the guides, the uniform intervals between the companies, all eyes directly to the front, and the tattered and bullet-ridden flags, festooned with flowers, all attracted universal notice. Many good people, up to that time, had looked upon our Western army as a sort of mob; but the world then saw, and recognized the fact, that it was an army in the proper sense, well organized, well commanded and disciplined; and there was no wonder that it had swept through the South like a tornado. For six hours and a half that strong tread of the Army of the West resounded along Pennsylvania Avenue; not a soul of that vast crowd of spectators left his place; and, when the rear of the column had passed by, thousands of the spectators still lingered to express their sense of confidence in the strength of a Government which could claim such an army.

Some little scenes enlivened the day, and called for the laughter and cheers of the crowd. Each division was followed by six ambulances, as a representative of its baggage-train. Some of the division commanders had added, by way of variety, goats, milch-cows, and pack-mules, whose loads consisted of game-cocks, poultry, hams, etc., and some of them had the families of freed slaves along, with the women leading their children. Each division was preceded by its corps of black pioneers, armed with picks and spades. These marched abreast in double ranks, keeping perfect dress and step, and added much to the interest of the occasion. On the whole, the grand review was a splendid success, and was a fitting conclusion to the campaign and the war.
Infantry of XX Corps, Army of Georgia, pass in review.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

May 23, 1865: The Grand Review of the Armies, Day One

On this day 150 years ago, the Union Army of the Potomac passed in review before the President of the United States, the Cabinet, and the nation's top military leadership, including Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, but not Philip H. Sheridan, who was tasked with finishing the war in the far west.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

May 21, 1865: Preparations for the Grand Review of the Armies

On this day 150 years ago two great Union armies camped near Washington,DC in preparation for a grand review. Just weeks after the collapse of Confederate resistance, the great mass of the Union Army was on its way home. Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant recalled this period in his memoirs.
Things began to quiet down, and as the certainty that there would be no more armed resistance became clearer, the troops in North Carolina and Virginia were ordered to march immediately to the capital, and go into camp there until mustered out. Suitable garrisons were left at the prominent places throughout the South to insure obedience to the laws that might be enacted for the government of the several States, and to insure security to the lives and property of all classes. I do not know how far this was necessary, but I deemed it necessary, at that time, that such a course should be pursued. I think now that these garrisons were continued after they ceased to be absolutely required; but it is not to be expected that such a rebellion as was fought between the sections from 1861 to 1865 could terminate without leaving many serious apprehensions in the mind of the people as to what should be done.

Sherman marched his troops from Goldsboro, up to Manchester, on the south side of the James River, opposite Richmond, and there put them in camp, while he went back to Savannah to see what the situation was there.

It was during this trip that the last outrage was committed upon him. Halleck had been sent to Richmond to command Virginia, and had issued orders prohibiting even Sherman's own troops from obeying his, Sherman's, orders. Sherman met the papers on his return, containing this order of Halleck, and very justly felt indignant at the outrage. On his arrival at Fortress Monroe returning from Savannah, Sherman received an invitation from Halleck to come to Richmond and be his guest. This he indignantly refused, and informed Halleck, furthermore, that he had seen his order. He also stated that he was coming up to take command of his troops, and as he marched through it would probably be as well for Halleck not to show himself, because he (Sherman) would not be responsible for what some rash person might do through indignation for the treatment he had received. Very soon after that, Sherman received orders from me to proceed to Washington City, and to go into camp on the south side of the city pending the mustering-out of the troops.

There was no incident worth noting in the march northward from Goldsboro, to Richmond, or in that from Richmond to Washington City. The army, however, commanded by Sherman, which had been engaged in all the battles of the West and had marched from the Mississippi through the Southern States to the sea, from there to Goldsboro, and thence to Washington City, had passed over many of the battle-fields of the Army of the Potomac, thus having seen, to a greater extent than any other body of troops, the entire theatre of the four years' war for the preservation of the Union.

The march of Sherman's army from Atlanta to the sea and north to Goldsboro, while it was not accompanied with the danger that was anticipated, yet was magnificent in its results, and equally magnificent in the way it was conducted. It had an important bearing, in various ways, upon the great object we had in view, that of closing the war. All the States east of the Mississippi River up to the State of Georgia, had felt the hardships of the war. Georgia, and South Carolina, and almost all of North Carolina, up to this time, had been exempt from invasion by the Northern armies, except upon their immediate sea coasts. Their newspapers had given such an account of Confederate success, that the people who remained at home had been convinced that the Yankees had been whipped from first to last, and driven from pillar to post, and that now they could hardly be holding out for any other purpose than to find a way out of the war with honor to themselves.

Even during this march of Sherman's the newspapers in his front were proclaiming daily that his army was nothing better than a mob of men who were frightened out of their wits and hastening, panic-stricken, to try to get under the cover of our navy for protection against the Southern people. As the army was seen marching on triumphantly, however, the minds of the people became disabused and they saw the true state of affairs. In turn they became disheartened, and would have been glad to submit without compromise.

Another great advantage resulting from this march, and which was calculated to hasten the end, was the fact that the great storehouse of Georgia was entirely cut off from the Confederate armies. As the troops advanced north from Savannah, the destruction of the railroads in South Carolina and the southern part of North Carolina, further cut off their resources and left the armies still in Virginia and North Carolina dependent for supplies upon a very small area of country, already very much exhausted of food and forage.

In due time the two armies, one from Burkesville Junction and the other from the neighborhood of Raleigh, North Carolina, arrived and went into camp near the Capital, as directed. The troops were hardy, being inured to fatigue, and they appeared in their respective camps as ready and fit for duty as they had ever been in their lives. I doubt whether an equal body of men of any nation, take them man for man, officer for officer, was ever gotten together that would have proved their equal in a great battle.

The armies of Europe are machines; the men are brave and the officers capable; but the majority of the soldiers in most of the nations of Europe are taken from a class of people who are not very intelligent and who have very little interest in the contest in which they are called upon to take part. Our armies were composed of men who were able to read, men who knew what they were fighting for, and could not be induced to serve as soldiers, except in an emergency when the safety of the nation was involved, and so necessarily must have been more than equal to men who fought merely because they were brave and because they were thoroughly drilled and inured to hardships.

There was nothing of particular importance occurred during the time these troops were in camp before starting North.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

May 19, 1865: The C.S.S. Stonewall surrenders

The captured C.S.S. Stonewall off Washington, DC in June 1865.
On this day 150 years ago, the Confederate ironclad C.S.S. Stonewall surrendered in Havana, Cuba after her captain, T.J. Page, learned that the American Civil War had ended. Page handed his ship over to the Spanish Captain General of Cuba for the sum of $16,000, which he used to pay off his crew. The U.S. government subsequently reimbursed the Spanish Captain General of Cuba for the $16,000, and the ship was turned over to the U.S. Navy and brought to Washington, D.C. for a short period. The Stonewall was subsequently sold to Japan and delivered in 1869. She would serve the Imperial Japanese Navy until 1888 as Kōtetsu.