.. en 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. LINCOLN VISITS FALLEN RICHMOND 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 singing praises. Lincoln proceeded to join with General Godfrey Weitzel who had been place in charge of the occupation of Richmond and taken his headquarters in Jefferson Davis’ old residence. When he arrived there, he and Tad took an extensive tour of the house after discovering Weitzel was out and some of the soldiers remarked that Lincoln seemed to have a boyish expression as he did so. No one can be sure what Lincoln was thinking as he sat in Davis’ office.
When Weitzel arrived, he asked the President what to do with the conquered people. Lincoln replied that he no longer gave direction in military manners but went on to say: “If I were in your place, I’d let ’em up easy, let ’em up easy” (Johnson, Robert Underwood, and Clarence Clough Buel, eds., Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Vol 4. New York: The Century Co., 1887). THE CHASE BEGINS Lee’s forces were pushing west toward Amelia and the Federals would be hot on their tails. Before leaving Richmond, Lee had asked the Commissary Department of the Confederacy to store food in Amelia and the troops rushed there in anticipation.
What they found when they got there however was very disappointing. While there was an abundance of ammunition and ordinance, there was not a single morsel of food. Lee could not afford to give up his lead over the advancing Federals so he had to move his nearly starving troops out immediately in search of food. They continued westward, still hoping to join with Johnston eventually, and headed for Farmville, where Lee had been informed, there was an abundance of bacon and cornmeal. Several skirmishes took place along the way as some Federal regiments would catch up and attack, but the Confederate force reached Farmville. However, the men had no more that started to eat their bacon and cornmeal when Union General Sheridan arrived and started a fight. Luckily, it was nearly night, and the Confederate force snuck out under cover of the dark.
But not before General Lee received General Grants first request for surrender. NOWHERE TO RUN The Confederates, in their rush to leave Farmville in the night of April 7th, did not get the rations they so desperately needed, so they were forced to forage for food. Many chose to desert and leave for home. General Lee saw two men leaving for home and said “Stop young men, and get together you are straggling” and one of the soldiers replied “General, we are just going over here to get some water” and Lee replied “Strike for your home and fireside” (Freeman, Douglas Southall, R.E. Lee: A Biography, Vol 3. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1935): they did.
Rebel forces reached their objective, Appomattox Court House, around 3pm on April 8th. Lee received word that to the south, at Appomattox Station, supplies had arrived by train and were waiting there. However, the pursuing Union forces knew this also and took a faster southern route to the station. By 8pm that evening the Federals had taken the supplies and would wait there for the evening, preparing to attack the Confederates at Appomattox Court House in the morning. Meanwhile, Lee scribbled out a brave response to Grant’s inquiry simply asking for explanation of the terms to be involved in the surrender.
THE FINAL BATTLE At daybreak the Confederate battle line was formed to the west of Appomattox. The Union soldiers were in position in front of the line with cannons. When the Federal cannons started to fire, the Confederate signal for attack was sounded and the troops charged. One soldier later remarked: “It was my fortune to witness several charges during the war, but never one so magnificently executed as this one.” (McCarthy, Carlton, Detailed Minutiae of Soldier Life in the Army of Northern Virginia 1861-1865. Richmond: Carlton McCarthy, 1882) This Confederate advance only lasted from about 7am to 9am, at which time the Rebels were forced back. The Confederates could no longer hold their lines and Lee sent word to Grant to meet at 1pm to discuss surrender.
The two men met at the now famous McLean House and a surrender was agreed upon. It was 2pm on April 9, 1865. Johnston’s army surrendered to General Sherman on April 26 in North Carolina; General Taylor of Mississippi-Alabama and General Smith of the trans Mississippi-Texas surrendered in May ending the war completely. SUMMARY The Civil War was a completely tragic event. Just think, a war in which thousands of Americans died in their home country over nothing more than a difference in opinion.
Yes, slavery was the cause of the Civil War: half of the country thought it was wrong and the other half just couldn’t let them go. The war was fought overall in probably 10,000 different places and the monetary and property loss cannot be calculated. The Union dead numbered 360,222 and only 110,000 of them died in battle. Confederate dead were estimated at 258,000 including 94,000 who actually died on the field of battle. The Civil War was a great waste in terms of human life and possible accomplishment and should be considered shameful.
Before its first centennial, tragedy struck a new country and stained it for eternity. It will never be forgotten but adversity builds strength and the United States of America is now a much stronger nation. — BIBLIOGRAPHY “The Civil War”, Groliers Encyclopedia, 1995 Catton, Bruce., A Stillness at Appomattox. New York: Doubleday, 1963 Foote, Shelby., The Civil War, Vol. 3.
New York: Random, 1974 Garraty, John Arthur, The American Nation: A History of the United states to 1877, Vol. 1, Eighth Edition. New York: HarperCollins College Publishers, 1995 Miers, Earl Schenck, The Last Campaign. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1972 Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox, The Last Battles. Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1987.