Civil war

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civil war

The American Civil War

This war was a war of epic proportion. Never before and not since have so many Americans
died in battle. The American Civil War was truly tragic in terms of human life. In this
document, I will speak mainly around those involved on the battlefield in the closing days
of the conflict. Also, reference will be made to the leading 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 spread throughout the Confederacy and the
Confederate Army had shrunk extremely in size. 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 Grant became 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 him removed. But
Lincoln stood firm with his General, and the war continued. This paper will follow the
happenings and events between the winter of 1864-65 and the surrender of The Confederate
States of America. All of this will most certainly illustrate that April 9, 1865 was
indeed the end of a tragedy.


In September of 1864, General William T. Sherman and his army cleared the 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 "march to the sea". The march covered a distance of
400 miles and was 60 miles wide on the way. For 32 days no news of him reached the North.
He had cut himself off from his base of supplies, and his men lived on what ever they
could get from the country through which they passed. On their route, the army destroyed
anything and everything that they could not use but was presumed usable to the enemy. In
view of this destruction, it is understandable that Sherman quoted "war is hell". Finally,
on December 20, Sherman's men reached the city of Savannah and from there Sherman
telegraphed to President Lincoln: "I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of
Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty 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 be to crunch with
numbers. He knew that the Federal forces held more than a modest advantage in terms of men
and supplies. This in mind, Grant directed Sherman to turn around now and start heading
back toward Virginia. He immediately started making preparations to provide assistance to
Sherman on the journey. General John M. Schofield and his men were to detach from the Army
of the Cumberland, which had just embarrassingly defeated the Confederates at Nashville,
and proceed toward North Carolina. His final destination was to be

Goldsboro, which was roughly half the distance between Savannah and
Richmond. This is where he and his 20,000 troops would meet Sherman and his 50,000 troops.
Sherman began the move north in mid-January of 1865. The only hope of Confederate
resistance would be supplied by General P.G.T. Beauregard. He was scraping together an
army with every resource he could lay his hands on, but at best would only be able to
muster about 30,000 men. This by obvious mathematics would be no challenge to the combined
forces of Schofield and Sherman, let alone Sherman. Sherman's plan was to march through
South Carolina all the while confusing the enemy. His men would march in two ranks: One
would travel northwest to give the impression of a press against Augusta and the other
would march northeast toward Charleston. However the one true objective would be Columbia.

Sherman's force arrived in Columbia on February 16. The city was burned to the ground and
great controversy was to arise. The Confederates claimed that Sherman's men set the fires
"deliberately, systematically, and atrociously". However, Sherman claimed that the fires
were burning when they arrived. The fires had been set to cotton bales by Confederate
Calvary to prevent the Federal Army from getting them and the high winds quickly spread
the fire. The controversy would be short lived as no proof would ever be presented.

So with Columbia, Charleston, and Augusta all fallen, Sherman would continue his drive
north toward Goldsboro. On the way, his progress would be stalled not by the Confederate
army but by runaway slaves. The slaves were attaching themselves to the Union columns and
by the time the force entered North Carolina, they numbered in the thousands (Barrett,
John G., Sherman's March through the Carolinas. Chapel Hill: The University of North
Carolina Press, 1956). But Sherman's force pushed on and finally met up with Schofield in
Goldsboro on

March 23rd.


Sherman immediately left Goldsboro to travel up to City Point and meet Grant to discuss
plans of attack. When he arrived there, he found not only Grant, but also Admiral David
Porter waiting to meet with President Lincoln. So on the morning of the March 28th,
General Grant, General Sherman, and Admiral Porter all met with Lincoln on the river boat
"River Queen" to discuss a strategy against General Lee and General Johnston of the
Confederate Army. Several times Lincoln asked "can't this last battle be avoided?" (Angle
and Miers, Tragic Years,

II) But both Generals expected the Rebels (Ribs or Rebels were a name given to Confederate
soldiers) to put up at least one more fight. It had to be decided how to handle the Rebels
in regard to the upcoming surrender (all were sure of a surrender). Lincoln made his
intentions very clear: "I am full of the bloodshed. You need to defeat the opposing armies
and get the men composing those armies back to their homes to work on their farms and in
their shops." (Sherman,

William T., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1972)
The meeting lasted for a number of hours and near its end, Lincoln made his orders clear:
"Let them once surrender and reach their homes, they won't take up arms again. They will
at once be guaranteed all their rights as citizens of a common country. I want no one
punished, treat them liberally all around. We want those people to return to their
allegiance to the Union and submit to the laws." (Porter, David D., Campaigning with
Grant. New York: The Century Co., 1897) Well with all of the formalities outlined, the
Generals and Admiral knew what needed to be done. Sherman returned to Goldsboro by
steamer; Grant and Porter left by train back north. Sherman's course would be to continue
north with Schofield's men and meet Grant in Richmond. However, this would never happen as
Lee would surrender to Grant before Sherman could ever get there.


General Grant returned back to his troops who were in the process of besieging Petersburg
and Richmond. These battles had been going on for months. On March 24, before the meeting
with President Lincoln, Grant drew up a new plan for a flanking movement against the
Confederates right below Petersburg. It would be the first large scale operation to take
place this year and would begin five days later. Two days after Grant made preparations to
move again, Lee had already assessed the situation and informed President Davis that

Richmond and Petersburg were doomed. Lee's only chance would be to move his troops out of
Richmond and down a southwestern path toward a meeting with fellow General Johnston's
(Johnston had been dispatched to Virginia after being ordered not to resist the advance of
Sherman's Army) forces. Lee chose a small town to the west named Amelia Court House as a
meeting point. His escape was narrow; they (the soldiers) could see Richmond burn as they
made their way across the James River and to the west. Grant had finally broke through and
Richmond and Petersburg were finished on the second day of April.


On April 4th, after visiting Petersburg briefly, President Lincoln decided to visit the
fallen city of Richmond. He arrived by boat with his son, Tad, and was led ashore by no
more than 12 armed sailors. The city had not yet been secured by Federal forces. Lincoln
had no more than taken his first step when former slaves started forming around him
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