End Of A Tragedy


End Of A TragedyThe Road To Appomattox Essay, Research Paper

Civil WarEnd of a Tragedy: The Road to Appomattox END OF A TRAGEDY THE ROAD TO APPOMATTOX The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the events surrounding theend of the American Civil War. This war was a war of epic proportion.Never before and not since have so many Americans died in battle. TheAmerican Civil War was truly tragic in terms of human life. In thisdocument, I will speak mainly around those involved on the battlefield inthe closing days of the conflict. Also, reference will be made to theleading men behind the Union and Confederate forces. The war was beginning to end by January of 1865. By then, Federal(Federal was another name given to the Union Army) armies were spreadthroughout the Confederacy and the Confederate Army had shrunk extremely insize. In the year before, the North had lost an enormous amount of lives,but had more than enough to lose in comparison to the South. General Grantbecame known as the “Butcher” (Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, New York: Charles L. Webster & Co.,1894) and many wanted to see himremoved. But Lincoln stood firm with his General, and the war continued.This paper will follow the happenings and events between the winter of1864-65 and the surrender of The Confederate States of America. All ofthis will most certainly illustrate that April 9, 1865 was indeed the endof a tragedy.CUTTING OFF THE SOUTH In September of 1864, General William T. Sherman and his army clearedthe city of Atlanta of its civilian population then rested ever so briefly. It was from there that General Sherman and his army began its famous”marchto the sea”. The march covered a distance of 400 miles and was 60 mileswide on the way. For 32 days no news of him reached the North. He had cuthimself off from his base of supplies, and his men lived on what ever theycould get from the country through which they passed. On their route, thearmy destroyed anything and everything that they could not use but waspresumed usable to the enemy. In view of this destruction, it isunderstandable that Sherman quoted “war is hell” (Sherman, William T.,Memoirs of General William T. Sherman. Westport, Conn.:Greenwood Press,1972). Finally, on December 20, Sherman’s men reached the city of Savannahand from there Sherman telegraphed to President Lincoln: “I beg to presentyou as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns andplenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton” (Sherman,William T., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman. Westport,Conn.:Greenwood Press, 1972). Grant had decided that the only way to win and finish the war would beto crunch with numbers. He knew that the Federal forces held more than amodest advantage in terms of men and supplies. This in mind, GrantdirectedSherman to turn around now and start heading back toward Virginia. Heimmediately started making preparations to provide assistance to Sherman onthe journey. General John M. Schofield and his men were to detach from theArmy of the Cumberland, which had just embarrassingly defeated theConfederates at Nashville, and proceed toward North Carolina. His finaldestination was to be Goldsboro, which was roughly half the distancebetween Savannah and Richmond. This is where he and his 20,000 troopswould meet Sherman and his 50,000 troops. Sherman began the move north in mid-January of 1865. The only hope ofConfederate resistance would be supplied by General P.G.T. Beauregard. Hewas scraping together an army with every resource he could lay his handson, but at best would only be able to muster about 30,000 men. This byobvious mathematics would be no challenge to the combined forces ofSchofield and Sherman, let alone Sherman. Sherman’s plan was to marchthrough South Carolina all the while confusing the enemy. His men wouldmarch in two ranks: One would travel northwest to give the impression of apress against Augusta and the other would march northeast towardCharleston. However the one true objective would be Columbia. Sherman’s force arrived in Columbia on February 16. The city wasburned to the ground and great controversy was to arise. The Confederatesclaimed that Sherman’s men set the fires “deliberately, systematically, andatrociously”. However, Sherman claimed that the fires were burning whenthey arrived. The fires had been set to cotton bales by ConfederateCalvary to prevent the Federal Army from getting them and the high windsquickly spread the fire. The controversy would be short lived as no proofwould ever be presented. So with Columbia, Charleston, and Augusta allfallen, Sherman would continue his drive north toward Goldsboro. On theway, his progress would be stalled not by the Confederate army but byrunaway slaves. The slaves were attaching themselves to the Union columnsand by the time the force entered North Carolina, they numbered in thethousands (Barrett, John G., Sherman’s March through the Carolinas. ChapelHill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1956). But Sherman’s forcepushed on and finally met up with Schofield in Goldsboro on March 23rd. THE END IS PLANNED Sherman immediately left Goldsboro to travel up to City Point and meetGrant to discuss plans of attack. When he arrived there, he found not onlyGrant, but also Admiral David Porter waiting to meet with PresidentLincoln. So on the morning of the March 28th, General Grant, GeneralSherman, and Admiral Porter all met with Lincoln on the river boat “RiverQueen” to discuss a strategy against General Lee and General Johnston ofthe Confederate Army. Several times Lincoln asked “can’t this last battlebe avoided?” (Angle and Miers, Tragic Years, II) but both Generals expectedthe Rebels (Rebs or Rebels were a name given to Confederate soldiers) toput up at least one more fight. It had to be decided how to handle theRebels in regard to the upcoming surrender (all were sure of a surrender).Lincolnmade his intentions very clear: “I am full of the bloodshed. You need todefeat the opposing armies and get the men composing those armies back totheir homes to work on their farms and in their shops.” (Sherman, WilliamT., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman. Westport, Conn.:Greenwood Press,1972) The meeting lasted for a number of hours and near its end, Lincolnmade his orders clear: “Let them once surrender and reach their homes, theywon’t take up arms again. They will at once be guaranteed all their rightsas citizens of a common country. I want no one punished, treat themliberally all around. We want those people to return to their allegianceto the Union and submit to the laws.” (Porter, David D., Campaigning withGrant. New York: The Century Co., 1897) Well with all of the formalitiesoutlined, the Generals and Admiral knew what needed to be done. Shermanreturned to Goldsboro by steamer; Grant and Porter left by train backnorth. Sherman’s course would be to continue north with Schofield’s men

and meet Grant in Richmond. However, this would never happen as Lee wouldsurrender to Grant before Sherman could ever get there. THE PUSH FOR THE ENDGeneral Grant returned back to his troops who were in the process ofbesieging Petersburg and Richmond. These battles had been going on formonths. On March 24, before the meeting with President Lincoln, Grant drewup a new plan for a flanking movement against the Confederates right belowPetersburg. It would be the first large scale operation to take place thisyear and would begin five days later. Two days after Grant madepreparations to move again, Lee had already assessed the situation andinformed President Davis that Richmond and Petersburg were doomed. Lee’sonly chance would be to move his troops out of Richmond and down asouthwestern path toward a meeting with fellow General Johnston’s (Johnstonhad been dispatched to Virginia after being ordered not to resist theadvance of Sherman’s Army) forces. Lee chose a small town to the westnamed Amelia Court House as a meeting point. His escape was narrow; they(the soldiers) could see Richmond burn as they made their way across theJamesRiver and to the west. Grant had finally broke through and Richmond andPetersburg were finished on the second day of April. LINCOLN VISITS FALLEN RICHMOND On April 4th, after visiting Petersburg briefly, President Lincolndecided to visit the fallen city of Richmond. He arrived by boat with hisson, Tad, and was led ashore by no more than 12 armed sailors. The cityhad not yet been secured by Federal forces. Lincoln had no more than takenhis first step when former slaves started forming around him singingpraises. Lincoln proceeded to join with General Godfrey Weitzel who hadbeen place in charge of the occupation of Richmond and taken hisheadquarters in Jefferson Davis’ old residence. When he arrived there, heand Tad took an extensive tour of the house after discovering Weitzel wasout and some of the soldiers remarked that Lincoln seemed to have a boyishexpression as he did so. No one can be sure what Lincoln was thinking ashe sat in Davis’ office. When Weitzel arrived, he asked the President whatto do with the conquered people. Lincoln replied that he no longer gavedirection in military manners but went on to say: “If I were in your place,I’d let ‘em up easy, let ‘em up easy” (Johnson, Robert Underwood, andClarence Clough Buel, eds., Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Vol 4. New York: The Century Co., 1887).THE CHASE BEGINS Lee’s forces were pushing west toward Amelia and the Federals would behot on their tails. Before leaving Richmond, Lee had asked the CommissaryDepartment of the Confederacy to store food in Amelia and the troopsrushed there in anticipation. What they found when they got there howeverwas very disappointing. While there was an abundance of ammunition andordinance, there was not a single morsel of food. Lee could not afford togive up his lead over the advancing Federals so he had to move his nearlystarving troops out immediately in search of food. They continuedwestward, still hoping to join with Johnston eventually, and headed forFarmville, where Lee had been informed, there was an abundance of bacon andcornmeal. Several skirmishes took place along the way as some Federalregiments would catch up and attack, but the Confederate force reachedFarmville. However, the men had no more that started to eat their baconand cornmeal when Union General Sheridan arrived and started a fight.Luckily, it was nearly night, and the Confederate force snuck out undercover of the dark. But not before General Lee received General Grantsfirst request for surrender. NOWHERE TO RUN The Confederates, in their rush to leave Farmville in the night ofApril 7th, did not get the rations they so desperately needed, so they wereforced to forage for food. Many chose to desert and leave for home.General Lee saw two men leaving for home and said “Stop young men, and gettogether you are straggling” and one of the soldiers replied “General, weare just going over here to get some water” and Lee replied “Strike foryour home and fireside” (Freeman, Douglas Southall, R.E. Lee: A Biography,Vol 3. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1935): they did. Rebel forcesreached their objective, Appomattox Court House, around 3pm on April 8th.Lee received word that to the south, at Appomattox Station, supplies hadarrived by train and were waiting there. However, the pursuing Unionforces knew this also and took a faster southern route to the station. By8pm that evening the Federals had taken the supplies and would wait therefor the evening, preparing to attack the Confederates at Appomattox CourtHouse in the morning. Meanwhile, Lee scribbled out a brave response toGrant’s inquiry simply asking for explanation of the terms to be involvedin the surrender. THE FINAL BATTLEAt daybreak the Confederate battle line was formed to the west ofAppomattox. The Union soldiers were in position in front of the line withcannons. When the Federal cannons started to fire, the Confederate signalfor attack was sounded and the troops charged. One soldier later remarked:”It was my fortune to witness several charges during the war, butnever one so magnificently executed as this one.” (McCarthy, Carlton,Detailed Minutiae of Soldier Life in the Army of Northern Virginia1861-1865. Richmond: Carlton McCarthy, 1882) This Confederate advance onlylasted from about 7am to 9am, at which time the Rebels were forced back.The Confederates could no longer hold their lines and Lee sent word toGrant to meet at 1pm to discuss surrender. The two men met at the nowfamous McLean House and a surrender was agreed upon. It was 2pm on April 9,1865. Johnston’s army surrendered to General Sherman on April 26 in NorthCarolina; General Taylor of Mississippi-Alabama and General Smith of thetrans Mississippi-Texas surrendered in May ending the war completely. SUMMARYThe Civil War was a completely tragic event. Just think, a war in whichthousands of Americans died in their home country over nothing more than adifference in opinion. Yes, slavery was the cause of the Civil War: halfof the country thought it was wrong and the other half just couldn’t letthem go. The war was fought overall in probably 10,000 different placesand the monetary and property loss cannot be calculated. The Union deadnumbered 360,222 and only 110,000 of them died in battle. Confederate deadwere estimated at 258,000 including 94,000 who actually died on the fieldof battle. The Civil War was a great waste in terms of human life andpossible accomplishment and should be considered shameful. Before itsfirst centennial, tragedy struck a new country and stained it for eternity. Itwill never be forgotten but adversity builds strength and the United Statesof America is now a much stronger nation. BIBLIOGRAPHY”The Civil War”, Groliers Encyclopedia, 1995Catton, Bruce., A Stillness at Appomattox. New York: Doubleday, 1963Foote, Shelby., The Civil War, Vol. 3. New York: Random, 1974Garraty, John Arthur, The American Nation: A History of the United statesto 1877, Vol. 1, Eighth Edition. NewYork: HarperCollins College Publishers, 1995Miers, Earl Schenck, The Last Campaign. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co.,1972Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox, The Last Battles. Virginia: Time-LifeBooks, 1987

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