American Civil War Essay

The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the events surrounding the end of the
American Civil War. This war was a war of epic proportion. Never before have so
many Americans died in battle. The American Civil War was truly tragic in terms
of human life. This document 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” (Webster 101) 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. 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. 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 find off the land through
which they passed. On their route, the army destroyed anything and everything
they could not use but was presumed usable to the enemy. In view of this
destruction, it is understandable why Sherman quoted “war is hell” (Sherman
200). Finally, on December 20, Sherman’s men reached the city of Savannah.

Then Sherman telegraphed 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 200). Grant had
decided that the only way to win and finish the war would be to attack with
numbers. He knew the Federal forces held more than a modest advantage in terms
of men and supplies. This in mind, Grant directed Sherman to turn around and
start heading back toward Virginia. He immediately started making preparations
to assistance 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. General P.G.T. Beauregard would supply the only hope of Confederate
resistance. He was scraping together and army with every resource he could lay
his hand 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 forces entered
North Carolina, they numbered in the thousands (Barrett 150). But Sherman’s
forces pushed on and finally met up with Schofield in Goldsboro on March 23rd.

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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. 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?” (Miers 155) but both Generals
expected the Rebels (Rebs or Rebels were a name given to Confederate soldiers)
to put up as 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 200). 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.” (Korn 105)
With all of the formalities outlined, the Generals and Admiral knew what needed
to be done. Sherman returned to Goldsboro by steamer; Grant and Porter left by
train back north. Sherman’s course would be to continue north with Schofield’s
men and meet Grant in Richmond. However, this would never happen as Lee would
surrender to Grant before Sherman could ever get there. General Grant returned
back to his troops who were in the process of besieging Petersburg and Richmond.

These battles had been 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 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; 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. 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. Federal forces had not yet secured the
city. 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 placed in charge of the occupation Richmond and
taken his headquarters in Jefferson Davis’ old home. 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” (Garraty 245). 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 mot 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, 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 forces still reached Farmville. However, when the
men just started to eat their bacon and cornmeal Union General Sheridan arrived
and started a fight. Luckily, It was night time, and the confederate force snuck
out under cover of the dark. But not before general Lee received General grants
first request for surrender. 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. Manychose 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” one of the soldiers replied “General, we are
just going over here to get some water” Lee replied “strike for your home
and fireside” (Foote 235). The soldiers obeyed. 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 Courthouse 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. 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 charged during the war,
but never one so magnificently executed as this one.” (Bruce 185) This
Confederate advance only lasted from about 7am to9pm, 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. 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
10,000different places and the monetary and property loss cannot be calculated.

The Union dead numbered 360,222 and 110,000 of them died in battle. Confederate
death toll was estimated at 258,000 including 94,000 who actually died on the
battle field. 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.


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