HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI IN THE FIELD, RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA, April 28,1865.
Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, General-in-Chief, Washington, D. C.
Since you left me yesterday, I have seen the New York Times of the 24th, containing a budget of military news, authenticated by the signature of the Secretary of War, Hon. E. M. Stanton, which is grouped in such a way as to give the public very erroneous impressions. It embraces a copy of the basis of agreement between myself and General Johnston, of April 18th, with comments, which it will be time enough to discuss two or three years hence, after the Government has experimented a little more in the machinery by which power reaches the scattered people of the vast country known as the “South.”
In the mean time, however, I did think that my rank (if not past services) entitled me at least to trust that the Secretary of War would keep secret what was communicated for the use of none but the cabinet, until further inquiry could be made, instead of giving publicity to it ￼along with documents which I never saw, and drawing therefrom inferences wide of the truth. I never saw or had furnished me a copy of President Lincoln’s dispatch to you of the 3d of March, nor did Mr. Stanton or any human being ever convey to me its substance, or any thing like it. On the contrary, I had seen General Weitzel’s invitation to the Virginia Legislature, made in Mr. Lincoln’s very presence, and failed to discover any other official hint of a plan of reconstruction, or any ideas calculated to allay the fears of the people of the South, after the destruction of their armies and civil authorities would leave them without any government whatever.
We should not drive a people into anarchy, and it is simply impossible for our military power to reach all the masses of their unhappy country.
I confess I did not desire to drive General Johnston’s army into bands of armed men, going about without purpose, and capable only of infinite mischief. But you saw, on your arrival here, that I had my army so disposed that his escape was only possible in a disorganized shape; and as you did not choose to “direct military operations in this quarter,” I inferred that you were satisfied with the military situation; at all events, the instant I learned what was proper enough, the disapproval of the President, I acted in such a manner as to compel the surrender of General Johnston’s whole army on the same terms which you had prescribed to General Lee’s army, when you had it surrounded and in your absolute power.
Mr. Stanton, in stating that my orders to General Stoneman were likely to result in the escape of “Mr. Davis to Mexico or Europe,” is in deep error. General Stoneman was not at “Salisbury,” but had gone back to “Statesville.” Davis was between us, and therefore Stoneman was beyond him. By turning toward me he was approaching Davis, and, had he joined me as ordered, I would have had a mounted force greatly needed for Davis’s capture, and for other purposes. Even now I don’t know that Mr. Stanton wants Davis caught, and as my official papers, deemed sacred, are hastily published to the world, it will be imprudent for me to state what has been done in that regard.
As the editor of the Times has (it may be) logically and fairly drawn from this singular document the conclusion that I am insubordinate, I can only deny the intention.
I have never in my life questioned or disobeyed an order, though many and many a time have I risked my life, health, and reputation, in obeying orders, or even hints to execute plans and purposes, not to my liking. It is not fair to withhold from me the plans and policy of Government (if any there be), and expect me to guess at them; for facts and events appear quite different from different stand-points. For four years I have been in camp dealing with soldiers, and I can assure you that the conclusion at which the cabinet arrived with such singular unanimity differs from mine. I conferred freely with the best officers in this army as to the points involved in this controversy, and, strange to say, they were singularly unanimous in the other conclusion. They will learn with pain and amazement that I am deemed insubordinate, and wanting in commonsense; that I, who for four years have labored day and night, winter and summer, who have brought an army of seventythousand men in magnificent condition across a country hitherto deemed impassable, and placed it just where it was wanted, on the day appointed, have brought discredit on our Government! I do not wish to boast of this, but I do say that it entitled me to the courtesy of being consulted, before publishing to the world a proposition rightfully submitted to higher authority for adjudication, and then accompanied by statements which invited the dogs of the press to be let loose upon me. It is true that non-combatants, men who sleep in comfort and security while we watch on the distant lines, are better able to judge than we poor soldiers, who rarely see a newspaper, hardly hear from our families, or stop long enough to draw our pay. I envy not the task of “reconstruction,” and am delighted that the Secretary of War has relieved me of it.
As you did not undertake to assume the management of the affairs of this army, I infer that, on personal inspection, your mind arrived at a different conclusion from that of the Secretary of War. I will therefore go on to execute your orders to the conclusion, and, when done, will with intense satisfaction leave to the civil authorities the execution of the task of which they seem so jealous. But, as an honest man and soldier, I invite them to go back to Nashville and follow my path, for they will see some things and hear some things that may disturb their philosophy.
With sincere respect,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General Commanding
P. S.–As Mr. Stanton’s most singular paper has been published, I demand that this also be made public, though I am in no manner responsible to the press, but to the law, and my proper superiors.
W. T. S., Major-General.
On the 28th I summoned all the army and corps commanders together at my quarters in the Governor’s mansion at Raleigh, where every thing was explained to them, and all orders for the future were completed. Generals Schofield, Terry, and Kilpatrick, were to remain on duty in the Department of North Carolina, already commanded by General Schofield, and the right and left wings were ordered to march under their respective commanding generals North by easy stages to Richmond, Virginia, there to await my return from the South.
Joe Johnston Reports:
Greensborough, April 28, 1865.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:
I have the honor to inform you that yesterday I was informed that the cavalry at Hillsborough were moving westward. I immediately communicated, through the commanding officer at Salisbury, an order to the officer commanding a division of cavalry on the Yadkin to intercept the cavalry moving from Hillsborough and all stragglers. In answer to this order I received reply that this division of cavalry was also moving westward. I regret the movement of these troops, fearing it may embarrass me in settling matters in Georgia and South Carolina. I succeeded in stopping one brigade and a portion of another, that were moving from Hillsborough, but have no means to stop cavalry that were yesterday beyond Salisbury.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. E. JOHNSTON, General.
HEADQUARTERS, Greensborough, April 28, 1865
Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding U. S. Forces:
Your dispatches to Major-General Stoneman and Wilson, received today, have been forwarded. I have also had the honor to receive your letter of yesterday and your Order 65. The enlarged patriotism manifested in these papers reconciles me to what I had previously regarded as the misfortune of my life-that of having had you to encounter in the field. The enlightened and humane policy you have adopted will certainly be successful. It is fortunate for the people of North Carolina that your views are to be carried out by one so capable of appreciating them. I hope that you are as well represented in the other departments of your command; if so, an early and complete pacification in it may be expected. I very gladly accept your generous offer of food for the troops here, and have directed the trains, which are to bring it up, to go down loaded with Government cotton, which is here. One of the cavalry brigades reported to have moved westward from the Yadkin has returned. Some 3,000 cavalry was collected near Charlotte and on the Catawba, including two brigades from East Tennessee. The commanding officer expressed his readiness to obey the terms of the convention, but has since left Charlotte, and I have not yet learned where his troops are. I hope and believe that there will be occasion for severities to none but members of bands of robbers now existing in many parts of the country. It is said that most of the North Carolinians have returned to their homes from anxiety to begin their former work, and believe that they require no guaranty for personal safety. The disposition you express to heal the wounds made by the past war has been evident to me in all our interviews. You are right in supposing that similar feelings are entertained by the mass of the army. I am sure that all the leading men in it will exert their influence for that object. My copy of the convention has been unaccountably lost. I therefore beg of you the kindness to give me another.
I am, general, &c.,
I must go South to communicate with General Wilson and instruct my command on the terms of peace:
RALEIGH, April 28, 1865.
COMMANDING OFFICER, Wilmington:
I will leave here by regular train tonight and come to Wilmington tomorrow. I will bring with me only three or four officers and as many orderlies. I want to go direct to Charleston in a gun-boat or quartermaster’s boat, according to convenience and economy. I want no ceremony or salutes arranged for my arrival.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
WILMINGTON, N. C., April 28, 1865.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN:
GENERAL: The steamer Russia is ready to take you to Charleston. If you will please notify me at what hour you will be at Wilmington I will meet you at depot with horses to take you to boat.
G. S. DODGE, Chief Quartermaster.
I am moving my Headquarters and armies to Arlington, VA.:
SPECIAL FIELD ORDERS, Numbers 68.
HDQRS. MIL. DIV. OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Raleigh, N. C., April 28, 1865.
The general headquarters of this military division will be removed from New Berne and established at Alexandria, Va. All current business will be addressed accordingly.
Brigadier General J. D. Webster, U. S. Volunteers, is charged with the duty of transferring the headquarters accordingly.
The following officers on duty at field headquarters will proceed to join general headquarters via New Berne, aiming to reach there on or before June 1, 1865. Bvt. Major General William F. Barry and staff; Captain John E. Marshall, assistant adjutant-general; Lieutenant Abe Verplanck, aide-de-camp; Bvt. Colonel O. M. Poe, chief engineer; Bvt. Lieutenant Colonel T. G. Baylor; chief of ordnance; Major H. Hitchcock, assistant ajdutant-general; Bvt. Major George W. Nichols, additional aide-de-camp; Captain Samuel Bachtell, signal officer; Surg. John Moore, medical director.
By order of Major General W. T. Sherman