Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April 1, 1865: The Diary of John B. Jones


On this day 150 years ago, Confederate war clerk reported the rumors coming in from the front at Petersburg and Dinwiddie County.
April 1st.—Clear and pleasant. Walked to the department.
We have vague and incoherent accounts from excited couriers of fighting, without result, in Dinwiddie County, near the South Side Railroad.
It is rumored that a battle will probably occur in that vicinity to-day.
I have leave of absence, to improve my health; and propose accompanying my daughter Anne, next week, to Mr. Hobson’s mansion in Goochland County. The Hobsons are opulent, and she will have an excellent asylum there, if the vicissitudes of the war do not spoil her calculations. I shall look for angling streams: and if successful, hope for both sport and better health.
The books at the conscript office show a frightful list of deserters or absentees without leave—60,000—all Virginians. Speculation!
Jno. M. Daniel, editor of the Examiner, is dead.
The following dispatch from Gen. Lee is just (10 a.m.) received:
Headquarters, April 1st, 1865.
His Excellency President Davis.
“Gen. Beauregard has been ordered to make arrangements to defend the railroad in North Carolina against Stoneman. Generals Echols and Martin are directed to co-operate, and obey his orders.  R. E. Lee.
A rumor (perhaps a 1st of April rumor) is current that a treaty has been signed between the Confederate States Government and Maximilian.

April 1, 1865: Jefferson F. Davis to Robert E. Lee


On this day 150 years ago, Jefferson Davis wrote to Robert E. Lee to tell him that recruiting Black troops for the Confederate Army is not going well.
RICHMOND, VA., April 1, 1865.

General R. E. LEE, Commanding Armies, &c.:

SIR: I have been laboring, without much progress, to advance the raising of negro troops. You must judge how far you can consistently detach officers to recruit. I called for the recommendations made by you, and so few names were presented that I infer you do not find it desirable to rely on officers sent to recruit for their own commands; therefore have directed that orders be given to the commanders of Reserves in the several States to employ their officers to recruit negroes. If there be an officer or soldier to whose command the masters would prefer to intrust, and the slaves would prefer to go, he can be appointed when the company or battalion reaches its destination. I have prepared a circular letter to the governors of the States invoking their aid, as well by appeals to the owners as by recommendations to the legislatures, to make the most liberal provisions for those who volunteer to fight for the safety and independence of the State.

I have asked often, but without satisfactory reply, how many of the exchanged prisoners have joined the army. Your force should have been increased from that source 8,000 or 10,000 men. The desire to confer with you would have caused me to go to Petersburg before this date but for the pressure which recent events have put upon me, and the operations in your vicinity prevented me from inviting you to come here.

To-day the Secretary of War presents propositions from the proprietors of the Tredegar Works which impress me very unfavorably. We will endeavor to keep them at work, though it must be on a reduced scale. There is also a difficulty in getting iron, even for shot and shell, but hope this may, for the present, be overcome by taking some from the navy, which, under the altered circumstances, may be spared. Last night we had rumors of a general engagement on your right. Your silence in regard to it leads to the conclusion that it was unwarranted. General Holmes returned immediately to General Johnston. I could only reply in general terms to the message he brought me, and as there was a supposed misunderstanding on your part of the views of General Johnston, I advised him to go on and see you. The reports, especially those of newspaper correspondents, had encouraged me to hope for a better condition and prospect in North Carolina than was presented in the statements which General Holmes was directed to make to me. The arrival of the men left behind on the march from Mississippi will, I hope, improve the tone, as well as increase the military power there. The question is often asked of me "Will we hold Richmond?" to which my only answer is, "If we call; it is purely a question of military power." The distrust is increasing, and embarrasses in many ways.

Respectfully, yours,

JEFF'N DAVIS.

April 1, 1865: The Battle of Five Forks


On this day 150 years ago, Union forces under the command of Philip H. Sheridan crushed the right end of Lee's line at Petersburg at a crossroads called Five Forks. Much of the Confederate infantry, under the command of George Pickett, were captured, and the Confederate cavalry were forced to retreat. Lee's escape route was thus threatened at precisely the same time that his lines at Petersburg were weakened. Philip H. Sheridan recalled the battle in his memoirs after the war:
In a despatch, dated 10:05 p.m., telling me of the coming of Warren and Mackenzie, General Grant also said that the Fifth Corps should reach me by 12 o'clock that night, but at that hour not only had none of the corps arrived, but no report from it, so believing that if it came all the way down to Dinwiddie the next morning, our opportunity would be gone, I concluded that it would be best to order Warren to move in on the enemy's rear while the cavalry attacked in front, and, therefore, at 3 o'clock in the morning of April 1 sent this despatch to General Warren:

"CAVALRY HEADQUARTERS, DINWIDDIE C. H.,
"April 1, 1865—3. A.M.

"MAJOR-GENERAL WARREN, "Commanding Fifth Army Corps.
 
"I am holding in front of Dinwiddie Court House, on the road leading to Five Forks, for three-quarters of a mile with General Custer's division. The enemy are in his immediate front, lying so as to cover the road just this side of A. Adams's house, which leads across Chamberlain's bed, or run. I understand you have a division at J.[G] Boisseau's; if so, you are in rear of the enemy's line and almost on his flank. I will hold on here. Possibly they may attack Custer at daylight; if so, attack instantly and in full force. Attack at daylight anyhow, and I will make an effort to get the road this side of Adams's house, and if I do, you can capture the whole of them. Any force moving down the road I am holding, or on the White Oak road, will be in the enemy's rear, and in all probability get any force that may escape you by a flank movement. Do not fear my leaving here. If the enemy remains, I shall fight at daylight.

"P. H. SHERIDAN, Major-General."
With daylight came a slight fog, but it lifted almost immediately, and Merritt moved Custer and Devin forward. As these divisions advanced the enemy's infantry fell back on the Five Forks road, Devin pressing him along the road, while Custer extended on the left over toward Chamberlain's Run, Crook being held in watch along Stony Creek, meanwhile, to be utilized as circumstances might require when Warren attacked.

The order of General Meade to Warren the night of March 31—a copy being sent me also—was positive in its directions, but as midnight came without a sign of or word from the Fifth Corps, notwithstanding that was the hour fixed for its arrival, I nevertheless assumed that there were good reasons for its non-appearance, but never once doubted that measures would be taken to comply with my despatch Of 3 A. M. and therefore hoped that, as Pickett was falling back slowly toward Five Forks, Griffin's and Crawford's divisions would come in on the Confederate left and rear by the Crump road near J.[G] Boisseau's house.

But they did not reach there till after the enemy had got by. As a matter of fact, when Pickett was passing the all-important point Warren's men were just breaking from the bivouac in which their chief had placed them the night before, and the head of Griffin's division did not get to Boisseau's till after my cavalry, which meanwhile had been joined by Ayres's division of the Fifth Corps by way of the Boydton and Dabney roads. By reason of the delay in moving Griffin and Crawford, the enemy having escaped, I massed the Fifth Corps at J.[G] Boisseau's so that the men could be rested, and directed it to remain there; General Warren himself had not then come up. General Mackenzie, who had reported just after daybreak, was ordered at first to stay at Dinwiddie Court House, but later was brought along the Five Forks road to Dr. Smith's, and Crook's division was directed to continue watching the crossings of Stony Creek and Chamberlain's Run.

That we had accomplished nothing but to oblige our foe to retreat was to me bitterly disappointing, but still feeling sure that he would not give up the Five Forks crossroads without a fight, I pressed him back there with Merritt's cavalry, Custer advancing on the Scott road, while Devin drove the rearguard along that leading from J.[G] Boisseau's to Five Forks.

By 2 o'clock in the afternoon Merritt had forced the enemy inside his intrenchments, which began with a short return about three-quarters of a mile east of the Forks and ran along the south side of the White Oak road to a point about a mile west of the Forks. From the left of the return over toward Hatcher's Run was posted Mumford's cavalry, dismounted. In the return itself was Wallace's brigade, and next on its right came Ransom's, then Stewart's, then Terry's, then Corse's. On the right of Corse was W. H. F. Lee's division of cavalry. Ten pieces of artillery also were in this line, three on the right of the works, three near the centre at the crossroads, and four on the left, in the return. Rosser's cavalry was guarding the Confederate trains north of Hatcher's Run beyond the crossing of the Ford road.

I felt certain the enemy would fight at Five Forks—he had to—so, while we were getting up to his intrenchments, I decided on my plan of battle. This was to attack his whole front with Merritt's two cavalry divisions, make a feint of turning his right flank, and with the Fifth Corps assail his left. As the Fifth Corps moved into action, its right flank was to be covered by Mackenzie's cavalry, thus entirely cutting off Pickett's troops from communication with Lee's right flank, which rested near the Butler house at the junction of the Claiborne and White Oaks roads. In execution of this plan, Merritt worked his men close in toward the intrenchments, and while he was thus engaged, I ordered Warren to bring up the Fifth Corps, sending the order by my engineer officer, Captain Gillespie, who had reconnoitred the ground in the neighborhood of Gravelly Run Church, where the infantry was to form for attack.

Gillespie delivered the order about 1 o'clock, and when the corps was put in motion, General Warren joined me at the front. Before he came, I had received, through Colonel Babcock, authority from General Grant to relieve him, but I did not wish to do it, particularly on the eve of battle; so, saying nothing at all about the message brought me, I entered at once on the plan for defeating Pickett, telling Warren how the enemy was posted, explaining with considerable detail, and concluding by stating that I wished his troops to be formed on the Gravelly Church road, near its junction with the White Oak road, with two divisions to the front, aligned obliquely to the White Oak road, and one in reserve, opposite the centre of these two.

General Warren seemed to understand me clearly, and then left to join his command, while I turned my attention to the cavalry, instructing Merritt to begin by making demonstrations as though to turn the enemy's right, and to assault the front of the works with his dismounted cavalry as soon as Warren became engaged. Afterward I rode around to Gravelly Run Church, and found the head of Warren's column just appearing, while he was sitting under a tree making a rough sketch of the ground. I was disappointed that more of the corps was not already up, and as the precious minutes went by without any apparent effort to hurry the troops on to the field, this disappointment grew into disgust. At last I expressed to Warren my fears that the cavalry might expend all their ammunition before the attack could be made, that the sun would go down before the battle could be begun, or that troops from Lee's right, which, be it remembered, was less than three miles away from my right, might, by striking my rear, or even by threatening it, prevent the attack on Pickett.

Warren did not seem to me to be at all solicitous; his manner exhibited decided apathy, and he remarked with indifference that "Bobby Lee was always getting people into trouble." With unconcern such as this, it is no wonder that fully three hours' time was consumed in marching his corps from J.[G] Boisseau's to Gravelly Run Church, though the distance was but two miles. However, when my patience was almost worn out, Warren reported his troops ready, Ayres's division being formed on the west side of the Gravelly Church road, Crawford's on the east side, and Griffin in reserve behind the right of Crawford, a little different from my instructions. The corps had no artillery present, its batteries, on account of the mud, being still north of Gravelly Run. Meanwhile Merritt had been busy working his men close up to the intrenchments from the angle of the return west, along the White Oak road.

About 4 o'clock Warren began the attack. He was to assault the left flank of the Confederate infantry at a point where I knew Pickett's intrenchments were refused, almost at right angles with the White Oak road. I did not know exactly how far toward Hatcher's Run this part of the works extended, for here the videttes of Mumford's cavalry were covering, but I did know where the refusal began. This return, then, was the point I wished to assail, believing that if the assault was made with spirit, the line could be turned. I therefore intended that Ayres and Crawford should attack the refused trenches squarely, and when these two divisions and Merritt's cavalry became hotly engaged, Griffin's division was to pass around the left of the Confederate line; and I personally instructed Griffin how I wished him to go in, telling him also that as he advanced, his right flank would be taken care of by Mackenzie, who was to be pushed over toward the Ford road and Hatcher's Run.

The front of the corps was oblique to the White Oak road; and on getting there, it was to swing round to the left till perpendicular to the road, keeping closed to the left. Ayres did his part well, and to the letter, bringing his division square up to the front of the return near the angle; but Crawford did not wheel to the left, as was intended. On the contrary, on receiving fire from Mumford's cavalry, Crawford swerved to the right and moved north from the return, thus isolating his division from Ayres; and Griffin, uncertain of the enemy's position, naturally followed Crawford.

The deflection of this division on a line of march which finally brought it out on the Ford road near C. Young's house, frustrated the purpose I had in mind when ordering the attack, and caused a gap between Ayres and Crawford, of which the enemy quickly took advantage, and succeeded in throwing a part of Ayres's division into confusion. At this juncture I sent word to General Warren to have Crawford recalled; for the direction he was following was not only a mistaken one, but, in case the assault at the return failed, he ran great risk of capture. Warren could not be found, so I then sent for Griffin—first by Colonel Newhall, and then by Colonel Sherman—to come to the aid of Ayres, who was now contending alone with that part of the enemy's infantry at the return. By this time Griffin had observed and appreciated Crawford's mistake, however, and when the staff-officers reached him, was already faced to the left; so, marching across Crawford's rear, he quickly joined Ayres, who meanwhile had rallied his troops and carried the return.

When Ayres's division went over the flank of the enemy's works, Devin's division of cavalry, which had been assaulting the front, went over in company with it; and hardly halting to reform, the intermingling infantry and dismounted cavalry swept down inside the intrenchments, pushing to and beyond Five Forks, capturing thousands of prisoners. The only stand the enemy tried to make was when he attempted to form near the Ford road. Griffin pressed him so hard there, however, that he had to give way in short order, and many of his men, with three pieces of artillery, fell into the hands of Crawford while on his circuitous march.

The right of Custer's division gained a foothold on the enemy's works simultaneously with Devin's, but on the extreme left Custer had a very severe combat with W. H. F. Lee's cavalry, as well as with Corse's and Terry's infantry. Attacking Terry and Corse with Pennington's brigade dismounted, he assailed Lee's cavalry with his other two brigades mounted, but Lee held on so obstinately that Custer gained but little ground till our troops, advancing behind the works, drove Corse and Terry out. Then Lee made no further stand except at the west side of the Gillian field, where, assisted by Corse's brigade, he endeavored to cover the retreat, but just before dark Custer, in concert with some Fifth Corps regiments under Colonel Richardson, drove ihe last of the enemy westward on the White Oak road.

Our success was unqualified; we had overthrown Pickett, taken six guns, thirteen battle-flags, and nearly six thousand prisoners. When the battle was practically over, I turned to consider my position with reference to the main Confederate army. My troops, though victorious, were isolated from the Army of the Potomac, for on the 31st of March the extreme left of that army had been thrown back nearly to the Boydton plank-road, and hence there was nothing to prevent the enemy's issuing from his trenches at the intersection of the White Oak and Claiborne roads and marching directly on my rear. I surmised that he might do this that night or early next morning. It was therefore necessary to protect myself in this critical situation, and General Warren having sorely disappointed me, both in the moving of his corps and in its management during the battle, I felt that he was not the man to rely upon under such circumstances, and deeming that it was to the best interest of the service as well as but just to myself, I relieved him, ordering him to report to General Grant.

I then put Griffin in command of the Fifth Corps, and directed him to withdraw from the pursuit as quickly as he could after following the enemy a short distance, and form in line of battle near Gravelly Run Church, at right angles with the White Oak road, with Ayres and Crawford facing toward the enemy at the junction of the White Oak and Claiborne roads, leaving Bartlett, now commanding Griffin's division, near the Ford road. Mackenzie also was left on the Ford road at the crossing of Hatcher's Run, Merritt going into camp on the Widow Gillian's plantation. As I had been obliged to keep Crook's division along Stony Creek throughout the day, it had taken no active part in the battle.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 31, 1865: Abraham Lincoln to Edwin M. Stanton


On this day 150 years ago, Abraham sent the following update to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.
CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, March 31, 1865. 3 P.M.

SECRETARY STANTON:

At 12.30 P.M. to-day General Grant telegraphed me as follows: "There has been much hard fighting this morning. The enemy drove our left from near Dabney's house back well toward the Boydton plank road. We are now about to take the offensive at that point, and I hope will more than recover the lost ground."

Later he telegraphed again as follows:

"Our troops, after being driven back to the Boydton plank road, turned and drove the enemy in turn, and took the White Oak road, which we now have. This gives us the ground occupied by the enemy this morning. I will send you a rebel flag captured by our troops in driving the enemy back. There have been four flags captured to-day."

Judging by the two points from which General Grant telegraphs, I infer that he moved his headquarters about one mile since he sent the first of the two despatches.
A. LINCOLN.

March 31, 1865: The Battle of White Oak Road


On this day 150 years ago, Union troops were trying to force a way around Lee's right flank at Petersburg. Union Major General Philip H. Sheridan recalled the day's events in his memoirs after the war:
The night of March 30 Merritt, with Devin's division and Davies's brigade, was camped on the Five Forks road about two miles in front of Dinwiddie, near J. Boisseau's. Crook, with Smith and Gregg's brigades, continued to cover Stony Creek, and Custer was still back at Rowanty Creek, trying to get the trains up. This force had been counted while crossing the creek on the 29th, the three divisions numbering 9,000 enlisted men, Crook having 3,300, and Custer and Devin 5,700.
During the 30th, the enemy had been concentrating his cavalry, and by evening General W. H. F. Lee and General Rosser had joined Fitzhugh Lee near Five Forks. To this force was added, about dark, five brigades of infantry—three from Pickett's division, and two from Johnson's—all under command of Pickett. The infantry came by the White Oak road from the right of General Lee's intrenchments, and their arrival became positively known to me about dark, the confirmatory intelligence being brought in then by some of Young's scouts who had been inside the Confederate lines.
On the 31st, the rain having ceased, directions were given at an early hour to both Merritt and Crook to make reconnoissances preparatory to securing Five Forks, and about 9 o'clock Merritt started for the crossroads, Davies's brigade supporting him. His march was necessarily slow because of the mud, and the enemy's pickets resisted with obstinacy also, but the coveted crossroads fell to Merritt without much trouble, as the bulk of the enemy was just then bent on other things. At the same hour that Merritt started, Crook moved Smith's brigade out northwest from Dinwiddie to Fitzgerald's crossing of Chamberlain's Creek, to cover Merritt's left, supporting Smith by placing Gregg to his right and rear. The occupation of this ford was timely, for Pickett, now in command of both the cavalry and infantry, was already marching to get in Merritt's rear by crossing Chamberlain's Creek.
To hold on to Fitzgerald's ford Smith had to make a sharp fight, but Mumford's cavalry attacking Devin, the enemy's infantry succeeded in getting over Chamberlain's Creek at a point higher up than Fitzgerald's ford, and assailing Davies, forced him back in a northeasterly direction toward the Dinwiddie and Five Forks road in company with Devin. The retreat of Davies permitted Pickett to pass between Crook and Merritt, which he promptly did, effectually separating them and cutting off both Davies and Devin from the road to Dinwiddie, so that to get to that point they had to retreat across the country to B. Boisseau's and then down the Boydton road.
Gibbs's brigade had been in reserve near the intersection of the Five Forks and Dabney roads, and directing Merritt to hold on there, I ordered Gregg's brigade to be mounted and brought to Merritt's aid, for if Pickett continued in pursuit north of the Five Forks road he would expose his right and rear, and I determined to attack him, in such case, from Gibbs's position. Gregg arrived in good season, and as soon as his men were dismounted on Gibbs's left, Merritt assailed fiercely, compelling Pickett to halt and face a new foe, thus interrupting an advance that would finally have carried Pickett into the rear of Warren's corps.
It was now about 4 o'clock in the afternoon and we were in a critical situation, but having ordered Merritt to bring Devin and Davies to Dinwiddie by the Boydton road, staff-officers were sent to hurry Custer to the same point, for with its several diverging roads the Court House was of vital importance, and I determined to stay there at all hazards. At the same time orders were sent to Smith's brigade, which, by the advance of Pickett past its right flank and the pressure of W. H. F. Lee on its front, had been compelled to give up Fitzgerald's crossing, to fall back toward Dinwiddie but to contest every inch of ground so as to gain time.
When halted by the attack of Gregg and Gibbs, Pickett, desisting from his pursuit of Devin, as already stated, turned his undivided attention to this unexpected force, and with his preponderating infantry pressed it back on the Five Forks road toward Dinwiddle, though our men, fighting dismounted behind barricades at different points, displayed such obstinacy as to make Pickett's progress slow, and thus give me time to look out a line for defending the Court House. I selected a place about three-fourths of a mile northwest of the crossroads, and Custer coming up quickly with Capehart's brigade, took position on the left of the road to Five Forks in some open ground along the crest of a gentle ridge. Custer got Capehart into place just in time to lend a hand to Smith, who, severely pressed, came back on us here from his retreat along Chamberlain's "bed"—the vernacular for a woody swamp such as that through which Smith retired. A little later the brigades of Gregg and Gibbs, falling to the rear slowly and steadily, took up in the woods a line which covered the Boydton Road some distance to the right of Capehart, the intervening gap to be filled with Pennington's brigade. By this time our horse-artillery, which for two days had been stuck in the mud, was all up, and every gun was posted in this line.
It was now near sunset, and the enemy's cavalry thinking the day was theirs, made a dash at Smith, but just as the assailants appeared in the open fields, Capehart's men opened so suddenly on their left flank as to cause it to recoil in astonishment, which permitted Smith to connect his brigade with Custer unmolested. We were now in good shape behind the familiar barricades, and having a continuous line, excepting only the gap to be filled with Pennington, that covered Dinwiddie and the Boydton Road. My left rested in the woods about half a mile west of the Court House, and the barricades extended from this flank in a semicircle through the open fields in a northeasterly direction, to a piece-of thick timber on the right, near the Boydton Road.
A little before the sun went down the Confederate infantry was formed for the attack, and, fortunately for us, Pennington's brigade came up and filled the space to which it was assigned between Capehart and Gibbs, just as Pickett moved out across the cleared fields in front of Custer, in deep lines that plainly told how greatly we were outnumbered.
Accompanied by Generals Merritt and Custer and my staff, I now rode along the barricades to encourage the men. Our enthusiastic reception showed that they were determined to stay. The cavalcade drew the enemy's fire, which emptied several of the saddles—among others Mr. Theodore Wilson, correspondent of the New York Herald, being wounded. In reply our horse-artillery opened on the advancing Confederates, but the men behind the barricades lay still till Pickett's troops were within short range. Then they opened, Custer's repeating rifles pouring out such a shower of lead that nothing could stand up against it. The repulse was very quick, and as the gray lines retired to the woods from which but a few minutes before they had so confidently advanced, all danger of their taking Dinwiddie or marching to the left and rear of our infantry line was over, at least for the night. The enemy being thus checked, I sent a staff-officer—Captain Sheridan—to General Grant to report what had taken place during the afternoon, and to say that I proposed to stay at Dinwiddie, but if ultimately compelled to abandon the place, I would do so by retiring on the Vaughn road toward Hatcher's Run, for I then thought the attack might be renewed next morning. Devin and Davies joined me about dark, and my troops being now well in hand, I sent a second staff-officer—Colonel John Kellogg—to explain my situation more fully, and to assure General Grant that I would hold on at Dinwiddie till forced to let go.
By following me to Dinwiddie the enemy's infantry had completely isolated itself, and hence there was now offered the Union troops a rare opportunity. Lee was outside of his works, just as we desired, and the general-in-chief realized this the moment he received the first report of my situation; General Meade appreciated it too from the information he got from Captain Sheridan, en route to army headquarters with the first tidings, and sent this telegram to General Grant:

"HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
"March 31, 1865. 9:45 p.m.

"LIEUTENANT-GENERAL GRANT:

"Would it not be well for Warren to go down with his whole corps and smash up the force in front of Sheridan? Humphreys can hold the line to the Boydton plank-road, and the refusal along with it. Bartlett's brigade is now on the road from G. Boisseau's, running north, where it crosses Gravelly Run, he having gone down the White Oak road. Warren could go at once that way, and take the force threatening Sheridan in rear at Dinwiddie, and move on the enemy's rear with the other two.

"G. G. MEADE, Major-General."
An hour later General Grant replied in these words:

"HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES,
"DABNEY'S MILLS, March 31, 1865. 10:15 P. M.

"MAJOR-GENERAL MEADE,
"Commanding Army of the Potomac.

Let Warren move in the way you propose, and urge him not to stop for anything. Let Griffin (Griffin had been ordered by Warren to the Boydton road to protect his rear) go on as he was first directed.

"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General."
These two despatches were the initiatory steps in sending the Fifth Corps, under Major-General G. K. Warren, to report to me, and when I received word of its coming and also that Genera Mackenzie's cavalry from the Army of the James was likewise to be added to my command, and that discretionary authority was given me to use all my forces against Pickett, I resolved to destroy him, if it was within the bounds of possibility, before he could rejoin Lee.

Monday, March 30, 2015

March 30, 1865: Abraham Lincoln to Edwin M. Stanton


On this day 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln sent the following update to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.
CITY POINT, VA., March 30, 1865. 7.30 P.M. (Received 8.30 P.M.)

HON. SECRETARY OF WAR:

I begin to feel that I ought to be at home and yet I dislike to leave without seeing nearer to the end of General Grant's present movement. He has now been out since yesterday morning and although he has not been diverted from his programme no considerable effort has yet been produced so far as we know here. Last night at 10.15 P. M. when it was dark as a rainy night without a moon could be, a furious cannonade soon joined in by a heavy musketry fire opened near Petersburg and lasted about two hours. The sound was very distinct here as also were the flashes of the guns up the clouds. It seemed to me a great battle, but the older hands here scarcely noticed it and sure enough this morning it was found that very little had been done.

A. LINCOLN.