On Board the River Queen at City Point, Virginia
We reached Fortress Monroe this morning 27th, and I landed and telegraphed to my brother, Senator Sherman, at Washington, inviting him to come down and return with me to Goldsboro. We proceeded on up James River to City Point, which we reached in the afternoon. I found General Grant, with his family and staff, occupying a pretty group of huts on the bank of James River, overlooking the harbor, which was full of vessels of all classes, both war and merchant, with wharves and warehouses on an extensive scale. The general received me most heartily, and we talked over matters very fully.
After I had been with him an hour or so, he remarked that the President, Mr. Lincoln, was then on board the steamer River Queen, lying at the wharf, and he proposed that we should call and see him. I walked with General Grant and Admiral Porter down to the wharf, went on board, and found Mr. Lincoln alone, in the after-cabin. He remembered me perfectly, and at once engaged in a most interesting conversation. He was full of curiosity about the many incidents of our great march, which had reached him officially and through the newspapers, and seemed to enjoy very much the more ludicrous parts-about the “bummers,” and their devices to collect food and forage when the outside world supposed us to be starving; but at the same time he expressed a good deal of anxiety lest some accident might happen to the army in North Carolina during my absence. I explained to him that that army was snug and comfortable, in good camps, at Goldsboro’; that it would require some days to collect forage and food for another march; and that General Schofield was fully competent to command it in my absence.
The President expressed fears that Johnston would escape south again by the railroads, and that I would have to chase him anew, over the same ground. I told the president it would to be impracticable. “I have Johnston where he cannot move without breaking up his army, which, once disbanded, can never again be got together; and I have destroyed the Southern railroads, so that they cannot be used again for a long time.” General Grant remarked, “What is to prevent their laying the rails again?” “Why,” I said, “my bummers don’t do things by halves. Every rail, after having been placed over a hot fire, has been twisted as crooked as a ram’s-horn, and they never can be used again.”
I insisted that I could command my own terms, and that Johnston would have to yield to my demands. The President was very decided about the matter, and insisted that the surrender of Johnston’s army must be obtained on any terms.
Mr. Lincoln had the most liberal views toward the rebels. He felt confident that we would be successful, and was willing that the enemy should capitulate on the most favorable terms. He wanted peace on almost any terms, his heart was tenderness throughout, and, as long as the rebels laid down their arms, he did not care how it was done.
Having made a good, long, social visit, we took our leave and returned to General Grant’s quarters, where Mrs. Grant had provided tea. While at the table, Mrs. Grant inquired if we had seen Mrs. Lincoln. “No,” said the general, “I did not ask for her;” and I added that I did not even know that she was on board. Mrs. Grant then exclaimed, “Well, you are a pretty pair!” and added that our neglect was unpardonable; when the general said we would call again the next day, and make amends for the unintended slight.