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The American Civil War

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The American Civil War

This war was a war of epic proportion. Never before and not since have so many Americans died in battle. The American Civil War was truly tragic in terms of human life. In this document, I will speak mainly around those involved on the battlefield in the closing days of the conflict. Also, reference will be made to the leading men behind the Union and Confederate forces.

The war was beginning to end by January of 1865. By then, Federal (Federal was another name given to the Union Army) armies were spread throughout the Confederacy and the Confederate Army had shrunk extremely in size. In the year before, the North had lost an enormous amount of lives, but had more than enough to lose in comparison to the South. General Grant became known as the "Butcher" (Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, New York: Charles L. Webster & Co., 1894) and many wanted to see him removed. But Lincoln stood firm with his General, and the war continued. This paper will follow the happenings and events between the winter of 1864-65 and the surrender of The Confederate States of America. All of this will most certainly illustrate that April 9, 1865 was indeed the end of a tragedy.

CUTTING OFF THE SOUTH

In September of 1864, General William T. Sherman and his army cleared the city of Atlanta of its civilian population then rested ever so briefly. It was from there that General Sherman and his army began its famous "march to the sea". The march covered a distance of 400 miles and was 60 miles wide on the way. For 32 days no news of him reached the North. He had cut himself off from his base of supplies, and his men lived on what ever they could get from the country through which they passed. On their route, the army destroyed anything and everything that they could not use but was presumed usable to the enemy. In view of this destruction, it is understandable that Sherman quoted "war is hell". Finally, on December 20, Sherman's men reached the city of Savannah and from there Sherman telegraphed to President Lincoln: "I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton" (Sherman, William T., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1972).

Grant had decided that the only way to win and finish the war would be to crunch with numbers. He knew that the Federal forces held more than a modest advantage in terms of men and supplies. This in mind, Grant directed Sherman to turn around now and start heading back toward Virginia. He immediately started making preparations to provide assistance to Sherman on the journey. General John M. Schofield and his men were to detach from the Army of the Cumberland, which had just embarrassingly defeated the Confederates at Nashville, and proceed toward North Carolina. His final destination was to be

Goldsboro, which was roughly half the distance between Savannah and

Richmond. This is where he and his 20,000 troops would meet Sherman and his 50,000 troops.

Sherman began the move north in mid-January of 1865. The only hope of Confederate resistance would be supplied by General P.G.T. Beauregard. He was scraping together an army with every resource he could lay his hands on, but at best would only be able to muster about 30,000 men. This by obvious mathematics would be no challenge to the combined forces of Schofield and Sherman, let alone Sherman. Sherman's plan was to march through South Carolina all the while confusing the enemy. His men would march in two ranks: One would travel northwest to give the impression of a press against Augusta and the other would march northeast toward Charleston. However the one true objective would be Columbia.

Sherman's force arrived in Columbia on February 16. The city was burned to the ground and great controversy was to arise. The Confederates claimed that Sherman's men set the fires "deliberately, systematically, and atrociously". However, Sherman claimed that the fires were burning when they arrived. The fires had been set to cotton bales by Confederate Calvary to prevent the Federal Army from getting them and the high winds quickly spread the fire. The controversy would be short lived as no proof would ever be presented.

So with Columbia, Charleston, and Augusta all fallen, Sherman would continue his drive north toward Goldsboro. On the way, his progress would be stalled not by the Confederate army but by runaway slaves. The slaves were attaching themselves to the Union columns and by the time the force entered North Carolina, they numbered in the thousands (Barrett, John G., Sherman's March through the Carolinas. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1956). But Sherman's force pushed on and finally met up with Schofield in Goldsboro on

March 23rd.

THE END IS PLANNED

Sherman immediately left Goldsboro to travel up to City Point and meet Grant to discuss plans of attack. When he arrived there, he found not only Grant, but also Admiral David Porter waiting to meet with President Lincoln. So on the morning of the March 28th, General Grant, General Sherman, and Admiral Porter all met with Lincoln on the river boat "River Queen" to discuss a strategy against General Lee and General Johnston of the Confederate Army. Several times Lincoln asked "can't this last battle be avoided?" (Angle and Miers, Tragic Years,

II) But both Generals expected the Rebels (Ribs or Rebels were a name given to Confederate soldiers) to put up at least one more fight. It had to be decided how to handle the Rebels in regard to the upcoming surrender (all were sure of a surrender). Lincoln made his intentions very clear: "I am full of the bloodshed. You need to defeat the opposing armies and get the men composing those armies back to their homes to work on their farms and in their shops." (Sherman,

William T., Memoirs of General William T. Sherman. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1972) The meeting lasted for a number of hours and near its end, Lincoln made his orders clear: "Let them once surrender and reach their homes, they won't take up arms again. They will at once be guaranteed all their rights as citizens of a common country. I want no one punished, treat them liberally all around. We want those people to return to their allegiance to the Union and submit to the laws."

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