« AnteriorContinuar »
He immediately charged, as directed by Sheridan; well knowing the inferiority of his force, but determined to detain the enemy, at whatever cost, until supports on our side could arrive. The result justified the daring. Crook was repulsed; but meantime Custer, with his division of horse, struck again, farther on; gaining the road at SAILOR's CREEK–a petty tributary of the Appomattox—where, Crook and Devin coming promptly to his support, he pierced the Rebel line of march, destroying 400 wagons and taking 16 guns, with many prisOrlerS. Ewell's corps, following the train, was thus cut off from Lee. Its advance was now gallantly charged by Col. Stagg's brigade; and thus time was gained for the arrival of the leading division (Seymour's) of the 6th (Wright's) corps, pursuing the Confederate rear; when Ewell recoiled, fighting stoutly, till Wheaton's division also came up, and, a part of our infantry, advancing, were momentarily repelled by a deadly fire. But the odds were too great: Ewell's veterans—inclosed between our cavalry and the 6th corps, and sternly charged by the latter, without a chance of escape—threw down their arms and surrendered. Ewell himself and four other Generals were among the prisoners, of whom over 6,000 were taken this day. Ere this, Ord, reaching out from Jetersville farther west, had struck the head of Lee's marching column near Farmville, as it was preparing to cross the river. Ord’s advance consisted of two regiments of infantry and a squadron of cavalry under
Brig.-Gen. Theodore Read, who at once attacked, defying immense odds, in the hope of arresting the flight of the Rebels, and burning the bridges before them. But this they could not permit, and, rallying in overwhelming strength, they hurled their assailants aside with heavy loss, clearing their way to the bridges; Read being among our killed. His attack, however, had arrested the enemy's march, compelling him to lose precious time. Lee, during the ensuing evening, crossed the Appomattox on bridges at Farmville, and, marching all night, he seemed to have left his pursuers well in the rear. But, while his men were fainting and falling by the way, his animals were dying of hunger. (“Soldiers,’ says a cynic, ‘may live on enthusiasm; but horses must have oats.") IIis remaining handful of cavalry was useless; his few residuary guns were yet too heavy for the gaunt beasts who drew them. Though his van was miles away, his rear was barely across the river before dawn;” and the bridges were only fired, not consumed, when the van of our 24 corps (IIumphreys's)—which had now taken the lead—rushed up and saved that on the wagon-road. The railroad bridge was destroyed. Barlow's division was soon over the river, expecting a fight, as the enemy threatened it; but there was only a rearguard left, and they soon retired; blowing up a bridge-head, and abandoning 18 guns. During the night of the 6th, many of the chief officers of the fleeing army met around a bivouac-fire to discuss their desperate situation. Upon a
full survey, they unanimously con
* April 7.
uded that a capitulation was inevible. Even if they were yet strong ough to beat off and cut through e host of pursuers so sharp upon eir trail, they could only do so by e sacrifice of their remaining guns ld munitions, and in a state of utter efficiency from famine. Already, *akness and fatigue had compelled lf of their followers to throw away e arms which they were no longer le to carry. Lee was not present; st the judgment of the council was nveyed to him through Gen. PenetOn.
Gen. Lee was spared by Gen. Grant e pain of first proposing a surrenr. While directing from Farm|le the pursuit, the latter dispatched the front next morning the follow
g letter: “APRIL 7, 1865. “GENERAL–The result of the last week 1st convince you of the hopelessness of ther resistance on the part of the Army Northern Virginia in this struggle. I l that it is so; and regard it as my duty shift from myself the responsibility of y further effusion of blood by asking of 1 the surrender of that portion of the nfederate States army known as the Army Northern Virginia. “U. S. GRANT, Lt.-General. * Gen. R. E. LEE.”
The letter reached Lee toward ght; ere which, Humphreys, folving on his track, had been halted, r 5 miles north of Farmville, by that was left of Lee's forces, innched in a strong position, cover; both the old and plank roads to nchburg, with batteries commandan open, gentle southward slope of f a mile, over which an assaulting umn could only advance at a heavy t. Humphreys attempted to turn enemy's flank, but found this imcticable with his single corps; en, sending up Barlow in front, and ending his right, he ordered Miles
to attack on this wing; which he did, and was repulsed with a loss of over 600 killed and wounded. BrigGen. Smyth and Maj. Mills were among our killed; Maj.-Gen. Mott, Brig.-Gens. Madill and McDougall, and Col. Starbird, 19th Maine, were severely wounded. When Barlow had got into position, it was too late to assault again that night; and, when darkness had shrouded his movements, Lee silently resumed his retreat, first sending this response to Grant, which reached him at Farm
ville next morning: “APRIL 7, 1865. “GENERAL–I have received your note of this date. Though not entertaining the opinion you express on the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia, I reciprocate your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood, and therefore, before considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer on condition of its surrender. “R. E. LEE, General. “Lt.-General U. S. GRANT.”
To this, Grant immediately re
plied: “APRIL 8, 1865.
“GENERAL–Your note of last evening, in reply to mine of same date, asking the condition on which I will accept the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, is just received. In reply, I would say that, peace being my great desire, there is but one con: dition I would insist upon, namely: that the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified for taking up arms again against the Government of the United States until prop. erly exchanged. I will meet you, or designate officers to meet any officers Yoo may name for the same purpose, at any point agreeable to you, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the so
render of the Army of Northern Virginia
will be received. “U. S. GRANT, Lt.-General
“General R. E. LEE.”
Danville. This was a miscalculation; and exposed Crook, who, with the remaining division, with difficulty forded the Appomattox near Farmville, to repulse from a body of Rebel infantry defending a train which they charged; our Gen. Gregg being here captured. So our brilliant successes of the 6th were followed by none whatever on the 7th. Pursuit was resumed by all hands on the morning of the 8th ; the 2d and 6th corps, under Meade, moving north of the Appomattox, or directly on the trail of the enemy; while Sheridan, undeceived as to Lee's making for Danville, led his cavalry to head him off from Lynchburg, his only remaining refuge. Ord's and Griffin's corps followed the cavalry; but of course did not keep pace with them. Sheridan—Crook having already, by order, récrossed the Appomattox —concentrated his troopers on Prospect station, and pushed on Merritt's and Crook's divisions briskly to Appomattox station, on the Lynchburg railroad, 5 miles south of APPOMATTox C. H., where he had been apprised by scouts that four trains had just arrived from Lynchburg, laden with supplies for Lee's hungry followers. By a march of 28 miles, the dépôt and trains were reached; and, by the skillful dispositions of Gen. Custer, holding our advance, surrounded and captured. Without a moment's hesitation, Custer, supported by Devin, pushed on toward Appomattox C. H., finding himself confronting the van of Lee's army, which he fought till after dark, driving it back on the main body, capturing 25 guns, a hospital train, a large
park of wagons, and many prisoners. Sheridan brought up the rest of his cavalry so fast as possible; planting it directly across the path of the enemy, and preparing to hold on, while securing the captured trains, and sending word to Griffin, Ord, and Grant, that the surrender or destruction of Lee's entire force was now inevitable. In consequence of these advices, Griffin and Ord, with the 5th, the 24th, and one division of the 25th corps, reached, by a forced march, Appomattox station about daylight next morning.” But one hope remained to Lee. Ruefully aware that Sheridan had intercepted his flight, he presumed his way blocked by cavalry alone, and at once ordered a charge of infantry. He had sent, at evening before, the following response to Grant's later overture: “APRIL 8, 1865.
• “GENERAL–I received at a late hour your note of to-day. In mine of yesterday, I did not intend to propose the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, but to ask the terms of your proposition. To be frank, I do not think the emergency has arisen to call for the surrender of this army; but, as the restoration of peace should be the sole object of all, I desired to know whether your proposals would lead to that end. I can not, therefore, meet you with a view to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia; but, as far as your proposal may affect the Confederate States forces under my command, and tend to the restoration of peace, I should be pleased to meet you at 10 A.M. to-morrow, on the old stage-road to Richmond, between the picket-lines of the two
armies, R. E. LEE, General. “Lt.-General U. S. GRANT.”
Grant was with the column pursuing directly under Meade, and received the above about midnight. Before starting next morning to join Sheridan and Griffin, he dispatched the following reply:
* Sunday, April 9.
“APRIL 9, 1865. “GENERAL–Your note of yesterday is received. I have no authority to treat on the subject of peace. The meeting proposed for 10 A.M. to-day could lead to no good. I will state, however, General, that I am equally anxious for peace with yourself, and the whole North entertains the same feeling. The terms upon which peace can be had are well understood. By the South laying down their arms, they will hasten that most desirable event, save thousands of human lives and hundreds of millions of property not yet destroyed. Seriously hoping that all our difficulties may be settled without the loss of another life, I subscribe myself, &c., U. S. GRANT, Lt.-General. “General R. E. LEE.”
Sheridan was with his cavalry near the Court House, when the Army of Virginia made its last charge. By his order, his troopers, who were in line of battle, dismounted, gave ground gradually, while showing a steady front, so as to allow our weary infantry time to form and take position. This effected, the horsemen moved swiftly to the right and mounted, revealing lines of solid infantry in battle array, before whose wall of gleaming bayonets the astonished enemy recoiled in blank despair, as Sheridan and his troopers, passing briskly around the Rebel left, prepared to charge the confused, reeling masses. A white flag was now waved by the enemy before Gen. Custer, who held our cavalry advance, with the information that they had concluded to surrender. Riding over to Appomattox C. H., Sheridan was met by Gen. Gordon, who requested a suspension of hostilities, with the assurance that negotiations were then pending between Gens. Grant and Íee for a capitulation.
Gen. Grant, before reaching Sheridan's headquarters, had received the following additional note:
“APRIL 9, 1865. “GENERAL–I received your note of this
morning on the picket-line, whither I had come to meet you, and ascertain definitely what terms were embraced in your proposal of yesterday with reference to the surrender of this army. I now ask an interview in accordance with the offer contained in your letter of yesterday for that purpose. “R. E. LEE, General. “It,-General U. S. GRANT,”
The two commanders met immediately at the dwelling of Mr. W. McLean, near the Court House. The interview was brief: the business in hand frankly discussed, as became soldiers. Three commissioners on either side were appointed; but the day’s work was done by the chiefs, and its result summed up in these concluding letters:
“APPOMATTox Court House, * “April 9, 1865. “GENERAL–In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th instant, I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate; one copy to be given to an officer to be designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. . The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged; and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery, and Pub: lic property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officers appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to his home, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force, where they may reside. U. S. GRANT, Lt.-General. “General R. E. LEE.”
The parting of Lee with his devoted followers was a sad one. Of the proud army which, dating its victories from Bull Run, had driven McClellan from before Richmond, and withstood his best effort at Antietam, and shattered Burnside's host at Fredericksburg, and worsted Hooker at Chancellorsville, and fought Meade so stoutly, though unsuccessfully, before Gettysburg, and baffled Grant’s bounteous resources ... and desperate efforts in the Wilderness, at Spottsylvania, on the North Anna, at Cold Harbor, and before Petersburg and Richmond, a mere wreck remained. It is said that 27,000 were included in Lee's capitulation; but, of these, not more than 10,000 had been able to carry their arms thus far on their hopeless and almost foodless flight. Barely 19 miles from Lynchburg when surrendered, the physical possibility of forcing their way thither, even at the cost of half their number, no longer remained. And, if they were all safely there, what then . The resources of the Confederacy were utterly exhausted. Of the 150,000 men whose names were borne on its muster-rolls a few weeks ago, at least one-third were already disabled or priSoners, and the residue could neither be clad nor fed—not to dream of their being fitly armed or paid; while the *esources of the loyal States were *arcely touched, their ranks nearly 9. Quite as full as ever, and their supplies of ordnance, small arms, muni* &c., more ample than in any jo April. Of the million or so * on our muster-rolls, probably
not less than half were then in active service, with half so many more able to take the field at short notice. The Rebellion had failed and gone down; but the Rebel Army of Virginia and its commander had not failed. Fighting sternly against the Inevitable— against the irrepressible tendencies, the generous aspirations of the age— they had been proved unable to succeed where success would have been a calamity to their children, to their country, and the human race. And, when the transient agony of defeat had been endured and had passed, they all experienced a sense of relief, as they crowded around their departing chief, who, with streaming eyes, grasped and pressed their outstretched hands, at length finding words to say, “Men, we have fought through the War together. I have done the best that I could for you.” There were few dry eyes among those who witnessed the scene; and our soldiers hastened to divide their rations with their late enemies, now fellow-countrymen, to stay their hunger until provisions from our trains could be drawn for them. Then, while most of our army returned to Burkesville, and thence, a few days later, to Petersburg and Richmond, the work of paroling went on, under the guardianship of Griffin's and Gibbon's infantry, with McKenzie's cavalry; and, so fast as paroled, the Confederates took their way severally to their respective homes: many of them supplied with transportation, as well as food, by the Government they had fought so long and so bravely to subvert and destroy.