The Result Approaches Ascertainment.
While Sherman and Hood were contesting the ground in Georgia in July and September, E. Kirby Smith and Gen. Dick Taylor were holding the enemy in check in the Trans-Mississippi department; Lieut.-Gen. S. D. Lee, commanding the department of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana, had there vigorously engaged the Federal forces until he was transferred to command with Hood at Atlanta, while a great number of skirmishes and small engagements took place in Tennessee and Kentucky. General Forrest, under orders from Gen. S. D. Lee, had gained a great victory June 10th in the battle of Tishomingo Creek, in Mississippi, thoroughly beating Grierson and Sturgis, capturing 1,600 officers and men, 16 guns, 1,500 small-arms, besides a vast amount of ordnance and quartermaster stores. This brilliant battle was followed by other remarkable exploits of this great cavalry general at Pontotoc and Harrisburg, Miss.; at Memphis, Tenn., and in various other expeditions. During the same period of activity, the Federal Admiral Farragut, with four ironclad monitors and fourteen other vessels, attacked the small Confederate fleet commanded by Admiral Buchanan in Mobile bay, and passing Fort Morgan, disabled several Confederate vessels and drove the remainder up the river. Having gained this advantage he soon captured the forts, with their guns and men, but was unable to wrest Mobile from the defenders in the intrenchments.
The Confederate activity in the States west of Georgia ceased somewhat on account of the great need of Hood for reinforcements during his advance northward into Tennessee, in which his army, although fighting with wonderful courage at Franklin, and afterward at Nashville, became so shattered that its retirement southward again became imperative. The remnants of this splendid army, which had fought so long under Albert Sidney Johnston, Beauregard, Bragg, Joseph E. Johnston and Hood, on returning through Georgia appeared once more in front of Sherman in South Carolina.
Meantime the Confederate line of Lee extended thirty-five miles along the breastworks which engineers, the most skillful of any army, had constructed for the protection of the Confederate capital. Fortressed by these defenses, which were manned their whole length by men far too few to occupy them, the cities of Petersburg and Richmond withstood all the assaults of the great Federal army, through the summer and winter months until the spring of 1865 had come, the details of which protracted siege are given in many volumes of this work and may not be recounted here. It dragged its wearisome course through the summer while Early was pushing Hunter into the mountains of western Virginia, driving Sigel across the Potomac, defeating Wallace at Monocacy, forming line of battle in sight of Washington city, to the amazement of its defenders, mingled with no little amount of the old fear for the safety of the capital. After thus scandalizing the military management of the Federals, Early defeated Crook and Averell at Kernstown, and gained such mastery of the valley as to require the special expedition of a new force of 40,000 infantry, attended by a chosen body of cavalry, to finally defeat him after many engagements extending into the winter.
The operations of Grant against Petersburg and Richmond from July to the opening of the following spring, were comprised in approaches by intrenchments; the explosion of a mine under the Confederate breastworks on the 30th of July; attempted extensions of his lines in August, in which he was partially successful at Globe tavern and defeated at Reams' Station; besides other efforts on both sides of the river James, which did not change the situation to his advantage.
The total result of events to February, 1865, was such that the Confederate government ventured, through a commission composed of Stephens, Hunter and Campbell, to present again to the Federal administration proposals for peace. The Confederate government was justified at this time in seeking for a basis of peace between the sections, but what the precise conditions were on which it would have accepted peace without independence, has not yet clearly appeared. The exact point of appeasement was never reached, but it is certain that President Lincoln, in his interview with the commission, did not write the word "Union" and consent to the addition thereto of whatever the commissioners desired. Mr. Lincoln was too wise to do so foolish an act, and the rumor that he did is not only without evidence, but is against the testimony of the parties to the conference. Nor does it appear conclusively that the ultimatum of President Davis was independence or war. Whatever his exigency required him to declare to the public as the true basis of a treaty, it must be considered that his utterances had often committed him to restoration of the Union under the Constitution. But these questions are put aside as not being within the scope of this outline of army operations, that the situation of the great military contestants may be now observed for the last time.
Sherman left Savannah, which he had occupied after suffering the Confederate forces there to retreat without hindrance into South Carolina. His march was resumed in January through that State northward to Columbia, which he caused to be burned. Charleston, flanked by this movement, was evacuated, and from this point the Confederate forces under Johnston met the Federal advances toward North Carolina.
On the return of the army of Tennessee from its unfortunate expedition, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston had been recalled to command and placed in charge of all forces in South and North Carolina, in order that a concentration might be effected with which Sherman could be checked. The divisions of Stevenson and Cheatham, brought from the army of Tennessee; the division of Hoke, which had been detached for some time from the army of Northern Virginia, and the troops of Hardee, withdrawn from Charleston, constituted the infantry. Wheeler and Hampton commanded the cavalry. The strength of the forces when concentrated was probably 20,000 effective men of all arms. With this command, brought together after Bragg had fought the battle of Kinston, and Hardee the battle of Averasboro, General Johnston confronted Sherman's force of 70,000 at Bentonville in engagements from the 19th to the 21st of March, after which he moved his army to Raleigh.
The march of Sherman from Savannah northward bore directly upon the military situation around Richmond, and his success in placing his strong force far up into North Carolina in such dangerous proximity to Virginia brought the war to its real crisis. It is scarcely necessary to again mention the Confederate and Federal forces scattered throughout the South engaged in contests which bore slightly at this time on the impending crisis in Confederate affairs. We may, therefore, turn to Lee and Grant, so closely confronted at Petersburg that the exchange of friendly chat between the lines was often substituted for the sharp explosion of deadly arms.
Lee, having been appointed general-in-chief of all Confederate armies on the 5th of February, began to make various dispositions looking to the probability which he had contemplated before, that Richmond must be abandoned. Early in February, he placed Johnston, as already stated, in command of the army of Tennessee, or such fragments of it as remained after the campaign of 1864, and reinforced him with all troops he could send into the Carolinas from any quarter. Communications southward were kept protected, and supplies as much as possible were placed where they would be available in case Richmond was lost. It was considered that a junction of the army in Virginia with Johnston's command in Carolina, might result in the quick destruction of Sherman's force, followed by a subsequent return to recover Virginia from Grant. The great Confederate military chieftain seems to have foreseen the inevitable evacuation of Richmond, and although providing with utmost care against the calamity, made the best forecast in his power for the operations of his army after that event.
During the first months of 1865, General Grant continued to increase the efficiencies of his army for the final trial of battle with the army of Northern Virginia. Now and then he made efforts to extend to the left, bringing on several conflicts, and occasionally employed his guns in practice upon the Confederate batteries. The service in the trenches and rifle-pits was dreary indeed to both armies, but especially so to the Confederates, whose rations were scant and clothing well worn. In the extremity of the siege, one bold but unsuccessful attack was made March 25th, by a part of Lee's force, led by Gordon, in which Fort Stedman and a mile of breastworks were gallantly taken from the Federals, only to be lost again. One week later, on the 1st of April, Grant moved against Lee's right, and destroying the divisions of Pickett and Bushrod Johnson by a powerful flank attack during the day, pursued his plans of assault next day with a general movement, which broke the thin Confederate line at many positions and compelled the evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond.
This Confederate disaster, occurring after four years of successful resistance, will be explained by examination into the relative condition of the two armies. The last return of the strength of Lee's army in Virginia, made February 20,000, 1865, accounted for three corps of infantry, Johnson's division, General Early's Valley command, the cavalry divisions of W. H. F. Lee, the troops of Gen. J. A. Walker, at the defenses of the Richmond & Danville railroad; some unattached commands, and all artillery. The aggregate present of this whole force at all places is given at 73,349; the present and absent, 160,411. The inspection reports summed up, on the 28th of February, the aggregate present for duty 45,633, to which adding one brigade of 2,000 on picket, and the effective artillery 5,000, it is ascertained that Lee's whole effective force at this date was about 53,000. It will also be taken into the account that serious Confederate losses occurred from this time to the beginning of Grant's final assault, April 1st, and that a considerable part of the force mentioned in the report was detached and not directly available by Lee at the time of that assault. The estimate of Lee's army at 45,000 of all arms when the battle on Lee's right flank at Five Forks began on April 1st, is not far from a true statement. In this battle at Five Forks the divisions of Pickett and Bushrod Johnson were overwhelmed by Warren, Humphreys and Sheridan, at a loss to the Confederate army in killed, wounded and prisoners of 7,000 men; and in the fighting of April 2d, which resulted in the fall of Petersburg and Richmond, other losses, not less than 5,000 or 6,000, had been sustained. On deducting from 45,000 these casualties of all kinds which occurred on the 1st and 2d of April, it becomes clear that the general estimate, made by many calculations, that Lee began his retreat with not more than 32,000 men of all arms, is a close approximation to the actual number.
On the 1st of March, General Grant's armies, under Meade, Ord and Sheridan, all of which were available in the attack on Lee, contained an effective total of over 162,000, according to the official reports. It has been stated that Grant moved upon Lee April 1st with an actual force of 120,000. His cavalry, commanded by Sheridan, was the best that had been put in the field on the Federal side, and doubled the force under Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee. His infantry, freshly uniformed and equipped, made a superb appearance in their compact and well-supported advance against the gallant foe which had so long and well defended the land they loved. It was not physically possible for the reduced army of Northern Virginia to resist on April 2d the Federal heavy columns which assailed them along the entire front from the Appomattox river to the exposed flank which had been turned on the day before. The ratio of physical force on that day was fully four to one.
Lee withdrew from all the defenses of the Confederate capital, and sought the way for junction with Johnston, but while delayed at Amelia Court House by the necessity of securing rations for his small army, was overtaken and turned from his chosen course. The fighting in retreat resulted in the reduction of his army by the 9th of April to about 10,000 men, with which small force he essayed to cut through toward Lynchburg, and that last recourse becoming futile, this remnant of a great army was surrendered by the noble chieftain whom all nations admire and revere. The terms of the surrender were highly honorable to General Grant, the victorious Federal general, and greatly promoted the rapid cessation of the long, bloody, costly struggle. The armies parted in mutual respect, and notwithstanding there were other forces in the field, the conviction was settled in the public mind that the Confederate movement had been effectually checked. Over twenty small engagements occurred after the battle of Appomattox in various parts of the Confederacy, but none was important. General Johnston surrendered his forces, April 26th, to General Sherman in North Carolina, and Gen. Kirby Smith surrendered the Trans-Mississippi department on the 26th of May. President Lincoln was murdered by an assassin on the 14th of April--an untimely death, deplored, not only South and North, but throughout the civilized world. President Davis, well worthy of the high honors which are paid to his memory, in attempting to reach the West beyond the Mississippi, was captured and imprisoned, but afterward released. Trial on the indictment against him could not result in conviction. The presidency of the United States passed, under the provisions of the Constitution, to Andrew Johnson. The Confederate States government ceased to exist. Serious errors were committed by Washington politicians, in reconstruction policies that fostered feeling which could have been easily allayed by wiser action, and notwithstanding Southern protestations and proof of fidelity to the faithful recognition of the real results of the war, it required the struggle with Spain, after the passing of a generation, to bring to the States of the Confederacy a just recognition of their true attitude toward the Union.
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