J

even less distinction between civilian and military property in South Carolina than they had in Georgia. They left even less standing in Columbia (the state capital) than they had of Atlanta. Seemingly invincible, Sherman's army pushed into North Carolina and brushed aside a force that Joseph E. Johnston had assembled at Bentonville to try to stop them. The trail of devastation left in their wake appalled Confederates. "All is gloom, despondency, and inactivity," wrote a South Carolina physician. "Our army is demoralized and the people panic-stricken. To fight longer seems to be madness."

In his second inaugural address on March 4, 1865, Lincoln again made it clear that the bloodshed would not cease until Confederates soldiers laid down their arms. The best known words from that address urged a binding up of the nation's wounds "with malice toward none" and "charity for all." But more significant in the midst of the still raging conflict, were these words:

American slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God .. He now wills to remove [through] this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came. ... Fondly do we hope - fervently do we pray - that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bondman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgements of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether."

Ulysses S. Grant did not intend the war to last that long. He knew that the Army of Northern Virginia - the only entity that kept the Confederacy alive - was on the verge of disintegration. Scores of soldiers were deserting every day. On April 1, Sheridan's cavalry (which had returned from the Shenandoah Valley) and an infantry corps smashed the right flank of Lee's line at Five Forks and cut off the last railroad into Petersburg. Next day, Grant attacked all along the line and forced Lee to abandon both Petersburg and Richmond. As the Confederate government fled its capital, its army set fire to all the military stores it could not carry. The fires spread and burned more of Richmond than Northern troops had burned of Atlanta or Columbia.

Lee's starving men limped westward, hoping to turn south and join the remnants of Johnston's army in North Carolina. But Sheridan's cavalry raced ahead and cut them off at Appomattox, 90 miles from Petersburg, on April 8. When the weary Confederates tried a breakout attack the next morning, their first probe revealed solid ranks of Union infantry arrayed behind the cavalry. It was the end. "There is

The fall of Richmond, the Confederate capital, on the night of April 2, 18.65. From a print by Currier and Ives

nothing left for me to do," said Lee, "but to go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths." Go he did, to the house of Wilmer McLean, who in 1861 had lived near Manassas where a shell had crashed through his kitchen roof during the first battle of Bull Run. McLean had moved to the remote village of Appomattox to escape the war, only to have its final drama played out m his parlor. There the son of an Ohio tanner dictated surrender terms to a scion of one of Virginia's First Families.

Grant's terms were generous. They paroled the 30,000 captured Confederates and allowed them to go home on condition that they promise never again to take up arms against the United States. These terms served as the model for the surrender of the other Confederate armies over the next few weeks. In effect, Appomattox ended the war. After completing the surrender formalities on April 9, Grant introduced Lee to his staff, which included Colonel Ely Parker, a Seneca Indian. As Lee shook hands with Parker, he stared for a moment at Parker's dark features and said: "I am glad to see one real American here." Parker replied solemnly, "We are all Americans." And indeed, they now were.

Wild celebrations broke out in the North at news of the fall of Richmond, followed soon by news of Appomattox. In Washington, a 900-gun salute proclaimed the capture of the Confederate capital. "From one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other the air seemed to burn with the bright hues of

the flag," wrote a reporter. "Men embraced one another, 'treated' one another, made up old quarrels, renewed old friendships, marched arm-in-arm singing." The North barely recovered from this jubilation when news of Lee's surrender started it all over again. On Wall Street in New York "men embraced each other and hugged each other, kissed each other, retreated into doorways to dry their eyes and came out again to flourish their hats and hurrah," wrote a participant. Such intensity of feeling was "founded on memories of years of failure, all but hopeless, and the consciousness that national victory was at last secured."

In Washington, large groups of people went from house to house of prominent officals, serenading them and calling for speeches. Lincoln was ready for the crowd that came to the White House on April 11. The President spoke from a prepared text on the problem of reconstructing the Union in a manner to bind up the nation's wounds, but at the same time to insure justice for the freed slaves, including the right to vote for those who were qualified. At least one listener did not like this talk. "That means nigger citizenship," snarled John Wilkes Booth to a companion. "Now, by God, I'll put him through. That is the last speech he will ever make." An aspiring young actor overshadowed by the greater thespian fame of his father and older brother Edwin, Booth was a native of Maryland, a Confederate supporter, and a frustrated, unstable egotist who hated Lincoln for what he had done to Booth's beloved South. Three days after his speech on April 11, the careworn Lincoln sought to relax by attending a British comedy at Ford's Theater in Washington. In the middle of the play, Booth broke into the President's box and shot him fatally in the head. As he jumped from Lincoln's box to the stage and escaped out of a back door, Booth shouted Virginia's state motto at the stunned audience: "Sic semper tyrannis!" - "Thus be it ever to tyrants."

Thus the tragedy of the American Civil War, begun by the fanatical secessionist Edmund Ruffin - who pulled the lanyard on the first cannon fired at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 - ended with an assassin's bullet fired by another Southern fanatic on April 14, 1865. At the cost of more than 620,000 lives, the United States was preserved as one nation, indivisible, and slavery was abolished. But the only certainty as the nation looked ahead, was that the future would be radically different from the past.

Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, Í865

Fort Fisher December 8 - January 15 1865

\ Dec 27: Col. Lamb repairs damage to fort correctly suspecting that the Union fleet will return

Jan 12: The Union fleet returns. Before dawn on Jan ESthe ironclads move in close and open fire. Confederate guns return fire revealing their posiuons on the sand wail

\ J Dec 24 1.40 am: USS Louisiana explodes causing negligible damage to the forL

12 noon: Union fleet bombards fort firing almost 115 shells per minute from 627 guns. The fleet fires almost 1 00C shells during the five hour bombardmerj t

Dec 25 2.30 pm: The first Union attack, on the fort is thrown bad The Union commander Brig. Gen. G.G. Weitzel also discovers approaches covered by torpedoes, (mines)

6 pm: Weitzel withdraws and hts troops are troops are taken off by Porter's boats

Jan 15 3 pm: The bombardment ceases

After the first assault on the fort, Benjamin Butler bad complained that the naval gunnery bad been ragged and ineffective. This failure was largely due to the attempts of Porter's gunners to knock down the Confederate flag by aiming high (left). Porter ensured that this fault was rectified in the subsequent assault.

g Jan 13: At sunrise the union fleet moves ^ into positron and bombards the confederate gun positions on strict orders from Porter

Jan 13 8 am: Gen. A. Terrv lands his troops

' and prepares a defensive line facing north to block possible Confederate reinforcements, meanwhile Porter bombards all day and into the night

Jan 14: Lamb receives reinforcements: 700 soldiers and 50 sailors. Jan 15 a further 350 make it before their ship is driven off by Union bombardment

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment