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