Thank you Samuel Cooper, Henry Halleck, and Morris Runyan. We have our Official Records!

On April 27, 1865, General Samuel Cooper was stranded in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Cooper was the highest ranking Confederate officer and served as Adjutant General and Inspector General.  Though not a field commander, Cooper was a central figure in the Confederacy throughout the war.  A long serving officer in the pre-war U.S. Army, Cooper called the Army his home. And as events unfolded in April 1865, Cooper was becoming a man without a home. When President Jefferson F. Davis rode out of Charlotte, heading south through South Carolina, Cooper remained behind.  He was not fit to make a long, cross-country journey.  Furthermore, he had far too much baggage in his charge:

 A telegram received from Brigadier-General [Thomas] Jordan by Colonel [John] Riely, of my staff, who had telegraphed, by my direction, to ascertain what had transpired from the military convention, states that it had terminated, resulting in a cessation of war by all embraced, private property respected, and transportation home given.  I was left here within the territorial limits of your command by the President, from physical dis-qualification to follow the Government any longer, and I therefore desire to know if I and the staff officer left with me can be included in the arrangement upon the same terms, as I cannot from my situation belong to any other command.  It is not practicable for me to reach Greensborough immediately.

Later Cooper elaborated on the baggage which kept him in Charlotte:

It was found impracticable to transfer the records of the War Department further than this place, and they remain here under my charge.  The President and Secretary of War impressed me with the necessity of their preservation in our own hands, if possible; if not, then by the enemy, as essential to the history of the struggle.  On account of your superior knowledge of the condition of affairs, I desire to have your advice as to the disposition that shall be made of them.

Johnston replied on April 28, informing, “You are entitled to accept the terms of the convention.  I do not know what to advise about the records.”  Later, Johnston sent word that Cooper should, if possible, travel to Greensborough.  Instead, Cooper arranged to have Colonel Riely make that trip as his representative for formal surrender.

But what of the records? On May 7, Captain Morris C. Runyan led a detachment of the 9th New Jersey into Charlotte.  There, among other stores and items, Runyan found,

… a number of boxes said to contain the records of the rebel War Department and all the archives of the so-called Southern Confederacy; also, boxes said to contain all the colors and battle-flags captured from the National forces since the beginning of the war….

(Runyan later wrote an account of the occupation of Charlotte and capture of the records.  But, I find his official report filed at the time somewhat more precise than the post war account.)

Word of this quickly passed up the chain of command to Major-General John Schofield.  On May 16, Schofield inquired to Army Chief of Staff, Major-General Henry Halleck, as to what disposition should be made in regard to the records.  Halleck responded promptly:

Box up all captured Confederate papers, flags, &c., and send them to C. A. Dana, Assistant Secretary of War, Washington. Preserve every paper, however unimportant it may appear. We have the key to their ciphers. Important links of testimony have thus been discovered here of the Canadian plot.

And please note here, Halleck was just as concerned about the preservation of the Confederate war records as Cooper was.  And we might say that Halleck’s motives were just as Cooper’s.  Above all, Halleck wanted the Confederate words to speak directly to their actions.

The next day, Schofield reported that the records, archives, and flags were being sent to Washington.  He included a detailed invoice for the “eighty-one boxes, weighing ten tons“:

 Invoice of the archives of the late Confederate War Department, as received from General Johnston at Charlotte, N. C., on the 13th day of May, 1865: Five boxes, marked Letters received; 3 boxes, marked Certificates of disability; 13 boxes, marked Adjutant and Inspector General’s Office; 5 boxes, marked Captured flags; 1 box, marked Books and papers, General Lee’s headquarters; 1 box, marked Official reports of battles; 1 box, marked Provost-marshal; 1 box, marked Lieutenant Blackford, C. S. Engineers; 1 box, marked Col. John Withers, C. S. Army; 3 boxes, marked Dept. Office; 7 boxes, contents unknown; 11 boxes, marked War Department, C. S. A.; 21 boxes, marked Regimental rolls; 1 box, marked Signal glasses; 6 boxes, marked Miscellaneous papers.

Thus the Federals took possession of a substantial number of official Confederate documents, if not a complete set.  Similar efforts by Federal commanders elsewhere in the south would bring in official correspondence, reports, and rolls from the scattered Confederate departments.  Of course that net missed many records, falling well short of a complete haul.  Doubtless you know well the story of records destroyed by the fires when Richmond fell.  And other records were destroyed before reaching Federal hands.

But all things considered, what was preserved included a remarkable set of artifacts.  Many of those artifacts were later included in the “Official Records of the War of the Rebellion” in the same binding with Federal accounts of the same time periods.  And those compiled records were published and made accessible to libraries around the country.  Today, those same records are just a browser window away at all times, anywhere you chose to study them.

We might recall many other “Civil Wars” in which historians lament the loss of vital accounts due to records destroyed in the end.  Such is, on whole, not the case with the American Civil War. You see, the history of the Civil War was not simply “written by the victors” as some partisans contend.  Rather it was written by those who could consult the words of the participants… thanks to the efforts by both sides to preserve those words.

So, next time you chase down a footnote and see “OR” followed by volume and serial notations, pause to thank old Samuel Cooper… and Henry Halleck… and Morris Runyan… who had a hand in preserving those.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part III, Serial 100, pages 491, 510-1, 842, 848,

Howard, April 27, 1865: “This Army is very proud of its record. Let, then, every officer and man do his best to keep it unsullied”

After receiving Special Field Orders No. 66 from Major-General William T. Sherman on April 27, 1865, both Major-Generals Oliver O. Howard and Henry Slocum, commanding respectively the Armies of the Tennessee and Georgia, issued a set of derivative orders to their subordinates.

Howard’s was Special Field Orders No. 102 from his headquarters. The first eleven paragraphs of that order offered details about the march route, location of key elements on the march, and procedures for marking the route.  Generally the administrative details which most (except for us “proper” military historians) find boring.  For instance, Lieutenant Amos Stickney was assigned the task to “examine and mark the roads so that the two corps may cross Crabtree Creek without interference.”  Having been assigned similar chores, I have some appreciation and sympathy for the work Stickney had to complete.  So I felt compelled to give the Lieutenant his due on this day, 150 years later.

But the real interesting portion of Howard’s order was in paragraph XII, which began, “The following special instructions are issued for the guidance of corps and other commanders during the march from Raleigh to Richmond, Va.:”

First. All foraging will cease. Corps commanders will obtain what supplies they may need in addition to those carried with them by sending their quartermaster and commissary in advance, who are required to purchase, paying the cash or giving proper vouchers. The supplies will be carefully selected to the divisions and regularly issued.

Second. The provost guards will be selected with the greatest care and sent well ahead, so that every house may be guarded, and every possible precaution will be taken to prevent the misconduct of any straggler or marauder. Punishments for entering or pillaging houses will be severe and immediate. Besides the roll-calls morning and even-big at every regular halt of each day’s march, the rolls will be called and every absentee not properly accounted for will be severely punished.

These first two points derived directly from Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 65.  I could point to numerous orders issued by Howard and his subordinates from Atlanta to Goldsboro that governed and regulated foraging.  These orders stopped the practice.  After April 27, the Army would carry its own food, and eat from its own table, from this point forward.  And were that bounds was violated, there would be punishment.  The Army was no longer moving through enemy territory, but rather that of its own country.

The next point addressed horses:

Third. Before starting on the march all persons not properly mounted will be dismounted, and all surplus animals, vehicles, and all ammunition (artillery and infantry) now in wagons, and all prisoners of war; will be turned over to Maj. Gen. J. M. Schofield or an officer designated by him to receive them.

From Edwards Ferry all the way to Raleigh, Howard always seemed to have too many horses!  At several points along the march through Georgia and the Carolinas, excess mounts were called in.  And in all cases that was simply a check control measure.  Subordinate commands acquired more mounts as needed to support foraging, scouting, and administrative tasks.  With no foraging or scouting necessary, Howard could clear out excess mounts.  This reduced the number of soldiers who might be tempted to stray off the line of march.  It also reduced the number of mouths to feed.  No doubt, some of those animals and vehicles would end up “loaned” to civilians under Sherman’s directives.

Addressing another problem seen throughout the march:

Fourth. Refugees will be discouraged from following the columns, because of the impossibility of carrying supplies for their subsistence.

But how far might one carry “discouraged” into practice?  Furthermore, someone should do a study of correspondence and determine how “contraband” was gradually replaced, subsumed, or otherwise rendered obsolete by other terms such as “refugee.”

As for the rate of march and advance of the units, Howard directed:

Fifth. Corps commanders will not habitually close up their divisions, but allow them to encamp two or three miles separated, and in order to prevent night marching it will be well to commence encamping as early as 3 p.m. daily.

Sixth. The left column, General Blair will be the regulating column as to the distance for each day’s march. It is desirable for the two corps to reach Petersburg simultaneously, or as nearly so as possible. This order will be published to all officers and men at every headquarters, and to all quartermaster’s employés, as well as generally to the command.

These would become a sore point – literally and figuratively – to the rank and file.  As commanders will do, some formations competed to “out march” others in the days to come.  Instead of a very leisurely march, in some early stretches the soldiers made excessive marches.

Outside of these orders, Howard wrote additional instructions to both Major-Generals John Logan and Frank Blair.  To both, Howard stressed, “This Army is very proud of its record. Let, then, every officer and man do his best to keep it unsullied.”

These were the orders that launched the Army of the Tennessee on its last series of marches, and into the history books.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part III, Serial 100, pages 324-6.)

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.)

April 26, 1865: “All acts of war… to cease from this date.”

Terms of a military convention entered into this 26th day of April, 1865, at Bennett’s house, near Durham’s Station, N. C, between General Joseph E. Johnston, commanding the Confederate Army, and Maj. Gen. W. T. Sherman, commanding the United States Army in North Carolina.

1. All acts of war on the part of the troops under General Johnston’s command to cease from this date.

2. All arms and public property to be deposited at Greensborough, and delivered to an ordnance officer of the United States Army.

3. Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate, one copy to be retained by the commander of the troops, and the other to be given to an officer to be designated by General Sherman, each officer and man to give his individual obligation in writing not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly released from this obligation.

4. The side arms of officers and their private horses and baggage to be retained by them.

5. This being done, all the officers and men will be permitted to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by the United States authorities so long as they observe their obligation and the laws in force where they may reside.

W. T. Sherman,  Major-General, Commanding U.S. Forces in North Carolina.

J. E. Johnston,  General, Commanding C. S. Forces in North Carolina.
Raleigh, N. C., April 26, 1865.

U.S. Grant, Lieutenant-General.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part III, Serial 100, page 313.)

Secretary Mallory, April 24, 1865: “But the Confederacy is conquered; its days are numbered”

On April 23, 1865, the Confederate Cabinet, then meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, discussed the proposition from General Joseph E. Johnston to surrender his armies.  The cabinet saw no other option but allowing Johnston to accept the terms (the terms as arranged through April 18, which were, at this moment 150 years ago, being invalidated by Federal authorities. You have to keep in mind the time lines in regard to the moving parts here.).

This was a heady decision.  For the Confederate leadership, as I’ve presented before, Johnston’s command was the last card to play – trumped or not.  The surrender of Johnston’s army would effectively signal an end to any thoughts of continuing a Confederate rebellion.  Period.  Leaders don’t make such decisions without weighing information available to them at the time.  And it is important to separate what “we” know after the fact with full appreciation of the event from what “they” knew at the moment in time.  On April 24, 1865, Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory offered a lengthy letter to President Jefferson Davis to explain the position and suggest what should follow Johnston’s surrender.  Mallory’s letter gives us a view of what the situation looked like from Charlotte.  So allow me to present it here, at that length, for our discussion:

Mr. President: In compliance with your suggestion, I have the honor briefly to present the following views upon the propositions discussed in cabinet council yesterday: These propositions, agreed upon and signed by Generals Joseph E. Johnston and W. T. Sherman, may fairly be regarded as providing for the immediate cessation of hostilities, the disbandment of our armies, and the return of our soldiers to the peaceful walks of life, the restoration of the several States of our Confederacy to the old Union, with the integrity of their State governments preserved, the security of their “people and inhabitants” in their rights of person and property under the Constitution and the laws of the United States, equally with the people of any other State, guaranteed, and a general amnesty for and on account of any participation in the present war. The very grave responsibility devolved upon you by these propositions is at once apparent. To enter at all upon their discussion is to admit that independence, the great object of our struggle, is hopeless. I believe and admit this to be the case, and therefore do I advise you to accept these propositions, so far as you have the power to do so; and my conviction is that nine-tenths of the people of every State of the Confederacy would so advise if opportunity were presented them. They are weary of the war and desire peace. If they could be rallied and brought to the field, a united and determined people might even yet achieve independence; but many circumstances admonish us that we cannot count upon their cordial and united action.

The vast army of deserters and absentees from our military service during the past twelve months, the unwillingness of the people to enter the armies, the impracticability of recruiting them, the present utter demoralization of our troops consequent upon the destruction of the Army of Virginia, the rapid decrease by desertion of General Johnston’s army, which, as it retreats south, if retreat it can, will retain in its ranks but few soldiers beyond the by-paths and cross-roads which lead to their homes, together with the recent successes of the enemy, the fall of Selma, Montgomery, Columbus, and Macon, his forces in the field, and his vast resources, all dictate the admission I have made. I do not believe that by any possibility we could organize, arm, and equip, and bring into the field, this side of the Mississippi, 15,000 men within the next sixty days; and I am convinced that both General Beauregard and General Johnston are utterly hopeless of continuing the contest. A guerrilla warfare might be carried on in certain portions of our country for a time, perhaps for years; but while such a warfare would be more disastrous to our own people than it could possibly be to the enemy, it would exercise little or no influence upon his military operations or upon his hold upon the country. Conducted upon our own soil, our own people would chiefly feel its evils, and would afford it neither countenance nor support. Guerrilla warfare never has been, and never can be, carried on by and between peoples of a common origin, language, and institutions.

Our sea-board and our ports being in the enemy’s hands, we cannot rely upon supplies of arms and other munitions of war from abroad, and our means of producing them at home, already limited, are daily decreasing. The loss of Selma and of Columbus, where much valuable machinery for the construction of ordnance and ordnance stores was collected, must materially circumscribe our ability in this respect.

Our currency is nearly worthless, and will become utterly so with further military disasters, and there is no hope that we can improve it. The arms of the United States have rendered the great object of our struggle hopeless; have conquered a reconstruction of the Union; and it becomes your duty to secure to the people, as far as practicable, life, liberty, and property. The propositions signed by the opposing generals are more favorable to these great objects than could justly have been anticipated. Upon you, with a more thorough knowledge of the condition of our country, the character and sentiments of our people, and of our means and resources than is possessed by others, is devolved the responsibility of promptly accepting or of promptly rejecting them. I advise their acceptance, and that, having notified General Johnston of your having done so, you promptly issue, so soon as you shall learn the acceptance thereof by the authorities of the United States, a proclamation to the people of the Confederate States, setting forth clearly the condition of the country, your inability to resist the enemy’s overwhelming numbers, or to protect the country from his devastating and desolating march; the propositions submitted to you, and the reasons which, in your judgment, render their acceptance by the States and the people wise and expedient. You cannot, under the Constitution, dissolve the Confederacy and remit the States composing it to the Government of the United States. But the Confederacy is conquered; its days are numbered; Virginia is lost to it, and North Carolina must soon follow; and State after State, under the hostile tread of the enemy, must re-enter the old Union. The occasion, the emergency, the dire necessities and misfortunes of the country, the vast interests at stake, were never contemplated by those who framed the Constitution. They are all outside of it; and in the dissolution of the Confederacy and the wreck of all their hopes the States and the people will turn to you, whose antecedents and whose present position and powers constitute you more than any other living man the guardian of their honor and their interests, and will expect you not to stand upon constitutional limitations, but to assume and exercise all powers which to you may seem necessary and proper to shield them from useless war and to save from the wreck of the country all that may [be] practicable of honor, life, and property.

If time were allowed for the observance of constitutional forms I would advise the submission of these propositions to the executives of the several States, to the end that, through the usual legislative and conventional action, the wills of the people of the States, respectively, might be known. But in the present condition of the country such delay as this course would involve would be the deathblow to all hopes founded upon them. The pacification of the country should be as speedy as practicable, to the end that the authorities of the States may enter upon the establishment and maintenance of law and order. Negotiations for this purpose can more appropriately follow upon the overwhelming disaster of General Lee than at a future time. The wreck of our hopes results immediately from it. I omit all reference to the details, which must be provided for by the contending parties to this agreement, for future consideration.

Again, this is the assessment at that moment in time.  Mallory did not see a “to the bitter end” fight as an option.  Instead, the ultimate objective was “pacification of the country” in short order.

But, keep in mind that on the same day Mallory presented this letter to Davis, Sherman served notice that the terms were rejected in Washington.  Hostilities would resume within 48 hours.  Complications… complications….

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part III, Serial 100, pages 832-4.)

April 17, 1865: Where is Jefferson F. Davis?

Jefferson Davis Marker

After spending the night camping in a pine grove northeast of Lexington, North Carolina, the Confederate government rode south on the morning of April 17, 1865.

Numerous markers interpret Jefferson Davis’ flight at the end of the Civil War.  Aside from the state marker above, pertinent to his movements on April 17, there are Civil War Trails markers close to the campsite and in Lexington.

Meanwhile, on the same day Major-General William T. Sherman met with General Joseph E. Johnston at the farm of James and Nancy Bennitt (a.k.a. Bennett Place).

(Photo credit: Bill Coughlin, August 2, 2010, Courtesy HMDB.)

April 15, 1865: Sherman to Louisburg, NC – “I can promise you that events are in progress that will soon give peace”

Sometime, probably mid-day, on April 15, 1865, this message arrived at Major-General William T. Sherman’s headquarters in Raleigh:

Louisburg, N. C., April 15, 1865.
To the Officer in Command of the U.S. Forces at Raleigh, N. C.:

Sir: In accordance with a resolution passed by the Board of Commissioners of the town of Louisburg, N. C., I hereby formally surrender this place to the authorities of the United States, and in behalf of our citizens desire and request that you will be pleased to send us a guard under a proper officer, to be stationed here, so as to preserve order and afford us that protection which under existing circumstances we feel authorized to claim under the Constitution and laws of the United States. Should you be good enough to comply with our wishes in this respect you may be well assured of our united co-operation. Messrs. J. Fuller and Dr. E. Malone are deputed as the bearers of this communication.

Most obediently, yours,
W. H. Pleasants,
Mayor of Louisburg.

Rumors persist that, upon receiving this note, Sherman charged off in search of a map, inquiring “where the heck is Louisburg, and do I want to march on it now?”

Given Sherman’s faculties with map reading and ability to maintain such important operational information at the top of his head, I doubt Sherman would be caught off guard as to Louisburg’s location.  He might have needed a quick “map check” to see if the city fit within his changing operational stance.  Sherman had suspended major movements planned starting on April 14.  Aside from pushing the cavalry division out to Chapel Hill, the Fourteenth Corps marched to Jones Crossroads, southwest of Raleigh.   Louisburg lay to the northeast of Raleigh, on the Tar River. Had Sherman marched towards Petersburg as originally intended, Louisburg would have been an important waypoint (which is why I feel Sherman would have known where the place was when the message arrived on April 15).

At any rate, Sherman composed a response to Mayor Pleasants that afternoon:

Dear Sir: Your communication of this date is received. It is not my present intention to move any part of this army through Louisburg, and I do not think you will be molested in any manner; nor can I send a small detachment, because it would be exposed to danger from Hampton’s cavalry. But I think I can promise you that events are in progress that will soon give peace to all the good people of North Carolina. Mr. William A. Graham, of Hillsborough, has gone to Governor Vance to assure him that he has my full promise of assistance and protection if he will return and maintain good order in the State. I am also now in correspondence with General Johnston, which I hope will result in an universal peace. The gentlemen who bear this letter can explain many things that will, I hope, tend to allay any fears occasioned by the falsehoods circulated by the rebel cavalry.

I am, with respect, your obedient servant,
W. T. Sherman, Major-General, Commanding

Was Pleasants the outside the chain of command – Confederate or Federal – to receive indication of the Johnston-Sherman talks?  Perhaps.  Though certainly there were reporters with Sherman who were working the “scoop” at that time.  But Pleasants would receive his personal briefing from the bearer of Sherman’s response.  And that response held as much uncertainty as promise.  With no Federal troops to secure Louisburg, did the mayor have to fear, as other places in the south had, the lapse of good order?  What is telling, both from Pleasant and Sherman, is the realization that the war was driving to a close.  Parties on both sides were looking to smooth the transition… quickly.

On the same day, President Jefferson F. Davis departed Greensboro on horseback.  He and members of the Confederate government, with a cavalry escort, rode south.  They had to leave the railroad behind, as Major-General George Stoneman’s raiders had cut it in too many places to be of use.  Turning back to the premise of “Johnston’s Confederacy,” it is with that flight that the weight of continuing the war in any capacity fell upon Johnston’s shoulders.  As Davis rode out of Greensboro, he broke contact with Johnston.  The last card held by the Confederacy was thrown on the table.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part III, Serial 100, page 225.)