The Final Months of the Civil War Essay

This essay has a total of 2383 words and 11 pages.

The Final Months of the Civil War




The Final Months of the Civil War

The Civil War was one of momentous proportion. It was disastrous in terms of human life,
because more Americans died in this war that any other war in history. This paper is
mainly about and around those involved on the battlefield in the final months of the civil
war. It will also refer to the leading men behind the Union and Confederate forces.

The war was coming to an end by January of 1865. At that time, Federal, Union, armies
were spread throughout the Confederacy and the Confederate Army had greatly shrunk in
size. The year before the North had suffered a huge loss of lives, but had more than
enough to lose in comparison to the South. General Ulysses S. Grant became known as the
“Butcher” and many wanted him removed. (Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U. S.
Grant. New York: Charles L. Webster & Co., 1894.) The war continued as Lincoln stood firm
with his General. This paper will cover the events between the winter of 1864-1865 and
the surrender of the Confederate States of America and will show that April 9, 1865 was
indeed the end of a great tragedy.

General William T. Sherman and his army cleared the civilian population of the city of
Atlanta in September of 1864, then took a brief rest. It was from Atlanta that General
Sherman and his army began the famous “march to the sea”. The great march was 400 miles
long and 60 miles wide. No news was heard of Sherman for 32 days. His men lived on
whatever they could get from the area of the country through which they passed, as Sherman
had cut himself off from his base and any supplies. Although, the army destroyed anything
and everything that was in their path, they were not seen as the enemy. In view of this
destruction, it is understandable that Sherman quoted, “War is hell!” (Sherman, William
T., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1972.)
Sherman’s men reached the city of Savannah on December 20, 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,
Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1972.)

Grant’s decision that the only way to win and finish the war was to crunch with numbers.
He knew that the federal forces held more than a modest advantage in terms of men and
supplies. Grant directed Sherman to turn around and head back toward Virginia with this
in mind. He immediately began making preparations to provide assistance to Sherman on the
journey. General John M. Schofield and his men had just defeated the Confederates in
Nashville and were to disengage from the Army of the Cumberland and then proceed toward
North Carolina. His final destination was to be Goldsboro which was roughly half the
distance between Savannah and Richmond. He was to meet Sherman and his troops of 50,000
there with his troop of 20,000.

Sherman began moving north in mid January of 1865. The only hope of Confederate
resistance would be supplied by General P. G. T. Beauregard. He was putting together an
army with every means possible but was only able to assemble about 30,000 men. This would
be no challenge to the combined forces of Schofield and Sherman. Sherman’s plan was to
march through South Carolina while confusing the opponent the entire time. 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.

Sherman’s force arrived in Columbia on February 16. Great controversary arose as the city
was burned to the ground. The Confederates claimed that Sherman’s men had set the fires
“deliberately, systematically, and atrociously”. Sherman claimed that the fires were
already burning when they had arrived. Cotton bales were set on fire by the Confederate
Calvary to prevent the Federal Army from getting to them and the high winds quickly spread
the fire. The controversary was short lived as no proof was ever presented. After
Columbia, Charleston and Augusta had fallen, Sherman continued his move north toward
Goldsboro. His progress was delayed not by the Confederate army but by the runaway
slaves. The slaves joined the Union columns. They numbered in the thousands by the time
they had reached North Carolina. (Barrett, John G., Sherman’s March through the Carolinas.
Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1956.) Sherman’s force pushed on
and finally met up with Schofield in Goldsboro on March 23rd.



Immediately leaving Goldsboro, Sherman was to travel to City Point to meet Grant and
discuss plans of an attack. Upon arriving, not only did he find Grant, but Admiral David
Porter as well. They would all wait to meet with President Lincoln. The three soldiers
met with Lincoln on the morning of March 28th on the river boat “River Queen” to discuss a
strategy against General Lee and General Johnston of the Confederate Army. Lincoln asked
several times, “Can’t this last battle be avoided?” (Angle and Miers. Tragic Years, II.)
However, both Generals expected the Rebels, Confederate Soldiers, to put up at least one
more fight. All were sure of a surrender, it was to be decided how to handle the Rebels
in regard to the upcoming surrender. Lincoln made his intentions very clear: “I am full
of 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. Near the end of the meeting 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.) The Generals and Admirals now knew what had to
be done. Sherman returned to Goldsboro by steamer and Grant and Porter left by train to
go back up north. Sherman’s course would be to continue north with Schofield’s men and
meet Grant in Richmond. This would not happen as Lee would surrender to Grant before
Sherman could ever get there.

General Grant returned to his troops which were in the process of besieging Petersburg
and Richmond. These battles had been going on for months. Before the meeting with
President Lincoln, on March 24, Grant drew up a new plan for a flanking movement against
the Confederates right below Petersburg. This would be the first large scale operation to
take place and would begin five days later. Two days after Grant had made preparations to
move again, Lee had assessed the situation and informed President Davis that Richmond and
Petersburg were doomed. Lee’s only chance wold be to move his troops out of Richmond down
a southwestern path. They were to meet with General Johnston’s forces. Johnston had been
dispatched to Virginia after being ordered not to resist the advance of Sherman’s Army.
Lee chose a meeting point to the west, in the small town of Amelia Court House. He made
a narrow escape. The soldiers could see Richmond burning as they made their way across
the James River and to the west. Grant had finally broken through. Richmond and
Petersburg were finished on the second day of April.

President Lincoln visited the fallen city of Richmond after a brief visit to Petersburg on
April 4th. He arrived by boat with his son, Tad, and was led ashore by no more than
twelve armed sailors. The city had not yet been secured by Federal forces. Lincoln had
barely stepped out of the boat as former slaves began crowding around him singing
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