Sherman’s March, April 27, 1865: Facilitating the surrender; Planning the march north

With dawn on April 27, 1865, the ink was hardly dry on the “final-final” surrender agreement between Major-General William T. Sherman and General Joseph E. Johnston.  But Sherman was already looking to the next leg of the Great March.  So a flurry of orders went out from Sherman’s headquarters down to the brigade level.  The group of armies was about to move once again – starting the last series of marches of their war.

Before any movement orders were issued, there were a few loose ends to attend in regard to the surrender terms.  Supplementary terms included eight points:

First. The Confederate troops to retain their transportation.

Second. Each brigade or separate body to retain a number of arms equal to one-fifth of its effective total, which, when the troops reach their homes, will be received by the local authorities for public purposes.

Third. Officers and men to be released from their obligation at the same time with those of the Army of Virginia.

Fourth. Artillery horses to be used for field transportation when necessary.

Fifth. The horses and other private property of officers and men to be retained by them.

Sixth. Troops from Arkansas and Texas to be transported by water from Mobile or New Orleans to their homes by the United States.

Seventh. The obligations of private soldiers to be signed by their company officers.

Eighth. Naval officers within the limits of General Johnston’s command to have the benefit of the stipulations of this convention.

Beyond those terms, Sherman would offer assistance to Johnston.  But Sherman charged Major-General John Schofield with the responsibility of implementation in North Carolina with respect to Johnston’s force.  And that charge was spelled out in a pair of orders – Special Field Orders No. 65 and 66.

Orders No. 65 outlined the administrative handling and mechanisms of the surrender.  The order gave Schofield, Major-General Quincy Gillmore, and Major-General James Wilson the responsibility to manage the surrender process within their respective areas of control.  The orders assigned an ordnance officer to manage surrendered weapons for Johnston’s command.  And Sherman directed that paper paroles, similar to those used at Appomattox earlier in the month, be printed for issue to all surrendered Confederates (securing the proper equipment and supplies to print these was somewhat a task in and of itself, but eventually worked out).  To this Sherman added,

… great care must be taken that all the terms and stipulations on our parts be fulfilled with the most scrupulous fidelity, whilst those imposed on our hitherto enemies be received in a spirit becoming a brave and generous army.

In addition Sherman directed some allowances beyond the surrender terms and directed toward reconciliation of the population:

Army commanders may at once loan to the inhabitants such of the captured mules, horses, wagons, and vehicles as can be spared from immediate use, and the commanding generals of armies may issue provisions, animals, or any public supplies that can be spared, to relieve present wants and to encourage the inhabitants to renew their peaceful pursuits and to restore the relations of friendship among our fellow-citizens and countrymen.

And, with respect to foraging:

Foraging will forthwith cease, and when necessity or long marches compel the taking of forage, provisions, or any kind of private property, compensation will be made on the spot, or, when the disbursing officers are not provided with funds, vouchers will be given in proper form, payable at the nearest military depot.

Adding to this, Sherman directed rations be issued to Johnston’s troops – “ten day’s rations for 25,000 men.”  That is, depending on the repair of railroad lines to allow movement to Greensborough.

Orders No. 66 were more specific to movements of the Federal armies:

Hostilities having ceased, the following changes and dispositions of troops in the field will be made with as little delay as practicable:

I. The Tenth and Twenty-third Corps will remain in the Department of North Carolina, and Maj. Gen. J. M. Schofield will transfer back to Major-General Gillmore, commanding Department of the South, the two brigades formerly belonging to the division of Brevet Major General Grover at Savannah. The Third Division, Cavalry Corps, Bvt. Maj. Gen. J. Kilpatrick commanding, is hereby transferred to the Department of North Carolina, and General Kilpatrick will report in person to Major-General Schofield for orders.

II. The cavalry command of Maj. Gen. George Stoneman will return to East Tennessee, and that of Bvt. Maj. Gen. J. H. Wilson will be conducted back to the Tennessee River in the neighborhood of Decatur, Ala.

This order effectively split Sherman’s “army group” as hit had existed for over a month.  The core elements from the day of the march out of Atlanta – the Armies of the Tennessee and Georgia – marched on.  But the Army of the Ohio and Major-General H. Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry would remain in North Carolina.  Of note, the withdrawal of Stoneman’s and Wilson’s commands to points in Tennessee would leave many sections of the south “unoccupied.”  Sherman’s aim, derived from the instructions from the War Department, were not to “occupy” per say, but to facilitate a surrender of military forces… at least as things stood on April 27, 1865.

The last two paragraphs of the order gave the line of march for those corps moving north:

III. Major-General Howard will conduct the Army of the Tennessee to Richmond, Va., following roads substantially by Louisburg, Warrenton, Lawrenceville, and Petersburg, or to the right of that line. Major-General Slocum will conduct the Army of Georgia to Richmond by roads to the left of the one indicated for General Howard, viz, by Oxford, Boydton, and Nottoway Court-House. These armies will turn in at this point the contents of their ordnance trains, and use the wagons for extra forage and provisions. These columns will be conducted slowly and in the best of order, and will aim to be at Richmond ready to resume the march by the middle of May.

IV. The chief quartermaster and commissary of this military division, Generals Easton and Beckwith, after making the proper dispositions of their departments here, will proceed to Richmond and make suitable preparations to receive these columns and to provide for their further journey.

Maybe it would have saved a lot of shoe leather and spared the soldiers some blisters to have moved the force by rail and ship to Washington.  But with shipping capacity on the Atlantic seaboard already taxed just to keep the military in supply, any “boat ride” for the hard marching troops was difficult to arrange.  And why Washington?  Well, they were needed for a victory parade.  And beyond that, there was a growing desire, particularly from Congress, to start demobilizing the forces.  After all, those were “voting constituents” in uniform… and until they were mustered out, the government was paying and feeding them.

The route of the march home was designated on April 27.  Movement would start two days later.  The war was over for these men… all except for the memories and legacy they would carry north and into their post-war lives.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part III, Serial 100, pages 321-325.)

3 thoughts on “Sherman’s March, April 27, 1865: Facilitating the surrender; Planning the march north

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