The following editorial, probably by Editor Sam Fifield, appeared in the April 22, 1865, issue of The Polk County Press.
Murder of President Lincoln.
Before this paper reaches our readers, the dreadful tidings of the death of Abraham Lincoln, by assassination, will have brought unuterable [sic] grief to the loyal millions of our land.
Scanning the history of the nation from its first days until the present time, with the astonishing occurences [sic] of the last five years freshly remembered, we hesitate to say, that no event has more profoundly shirred the depths of the hearts of the American people, than this latest culminating act of a rebellion, which, originating like the primal revolt of Satan, in a wicked and audacious ambition, like that ends, when foiled at last, in an exhibition of diabolical malignity worthy of the hell whence it draws its imspiration. For though the murderer of the President, as is now susposed [sic], is a man—no, a wretch—of the north, of the loyal section of the country, it is none the less palpable that the fell deed was perpetrated, in the name and for the sake of the unholy rebellion which has been maintained now, with varied fortunes for more than four years, until at length virtually conquered, and about to be crushed under the heel of a virtuous and indignant patriotism, it rallies all its power and venom, not for the furtherance of any of its special and avowed objects,—it is impotent for that—but only to show in a mad, blind, reckless impulse, the intensity of its malice, the bitterness of its disappointment, the fury of its rage, the extremity of its despair, at its utter and dire discomfiture, and by some fell sting or blow to leave as poignant a pang as it might, in the great loyal heart of the nation. nd only too successfully has that end been effected.
Abraham Lincoln, the people’s chosen chief, freedom’s annointed [sic] evangelist, the defender of the constitution, the vindicator of outraged law, the foe of traitors and oppressors, the friend of the poor, the lowly and the injured, the chief magistrate who, as has been said, was too merciful to be just, the man who in the exaltation of supreme office, forgot not with yearning love to seek the welfare of his fellow men,—this ruler, philanthropist, hero and friend, beloved at home and abroad by the good, hated by the bad, is dead—a murdered martyred victim of the hell-born hatred which the evil ever bear towards the good. He is dead, and the bitter grief of a nation, prove how truly his murderers divined where was the most sensitive point at which to inflict pain on a loyal freedom loving people.
There is a mournful satisfaction in the thought that the President in the unconsciousness which instantly followed the unforseen [sic] and fatal wound, was never for a moment agonized by a sense of calamity to himself, his country or his family—that the serene mind induced by the assured triumph of the cause in which he had so faithfully labored, and by the glorious results, but recently developed, of the grand and benevolent policy of his administration, was never for a moment disturbed, but that his great soul, released from its mortal tenement, emerged into another world there first to learn of the tremendous event which had wrought the change he then first realized—there were he may comprehend by sight, what we know by faith, that out of this evil, God will bring good; that as the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, so this costly immolation will multiply the number of those who abhor human slavery, and seek its extirpation. For beyond a doubt it was in their character of illustrious and successful champions of the down-troden [sic] ones of our race, that Abraham Lincoln and William H. Seward, were especially obnoxious to the assassins and traitors of the land, north and south.
The life of Secretary Seward, who at about the same hour of the attack on the President, was also murderously assaulted, in his sick bed, is not according to our latest advices despaired of. It will seem wonderful, if the venerated old Statesman now advanced in years, and of infirm health shall survive such a shock. And yet it is not wonderful that even the brutal hand which held the dagger above him should have been unnerved, and almost turned from its savage purpose, and should have descended with faltering force, before the imploring eyes and beseeching deprecatory gestures of that helpless, prostrate old man.
It were scarcely wonderful that even the cold glittering steel, more merciful than the fiend who grasped it, should refuse to penetrate the heart which had throbed [sic] so long and faithfully in pity for human suffering.
As to the assassins, their instigators, their accessories, if any there are, before or after the fact—the northern rebels, whose malign and baleful influence has so infected the moral atmosphere about them, as that such crimes have become possible in our country, tens of thousands of their wreched [sic] lives would be no expiation of the deed which has brought us such mourning and such loss. Let the law be vindicated; but we have no vengeance to wreak on their miserable bodies, or souls. In this connection the scripture aptly quoted in the inaugural message, the last official communication of our lamented President to his people, will be sadly remembered, “Woe unto the world because of offences ! for it must needs be that offences come, but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.”¹
1. From the Bible, book of Matthew, chapter 18, verse 7; King James version.
The following comes from the April 22, 1865, issue of The Prescott Journal—the first issue published since the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. The article was covered on the right-hand side by a piece of paper when it was microfilmed so some of the words are missing, indicated by [__].
Secretary Seward Stabbed.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN is dead !—[vic]tim of a murder “most foul, [strange] and unnatural.”¹ While in the z[enith of] his fame, just entering into the [_] of his labors, the centre of the [_] gaze of all the world,—he has [_] the murderous hand of a devil in[_.]
On the evening of Friday, th[e 14th] inst., he was shot in his private [box in] Ford’s Theatre, in Washington, [and ex]pired on the morning of the ne[xt day]. At the same hour Secretary Sew[ard was] stabbed in his bed [William H. Seward, Sr.], and his s[on] FRED. SEWARD [Frederick W. Seward], Assistant Secretary of State, was dangerously and p[erhaps?] mortally wounded. It is hoped [that the] Secretary will recover. The as[sassin of] the President was J. Wilkes B[ooth, an] actor of dissolute character, and copperhead principles.
These articles came from the April 22, 1865, issue of The Polk County Press.
PARTICULARS OF THE ATTACK ON SECRETARY SEWARD.
When the excitement at the theatre was at the wildest height, reports were circulated that Secretary Seward had also been assassinated, on reaching Secretary Seward’s residence a crowd and a military guard were around its door, and on entering it was ascertained that the reports were based on truth.
Everybody there was so excited that scarcely an intelligent word could be gathered, but the facts are substantially as follows.
About 10 o’clock, a man rang a bell and the call having been answered by a colored servant he said he had come from Dr. Viede, Secretary Seward’s family physician with a prescription for the Secretary, at the same time held in his hand a small folded paper, saying in answer to a refusal that he must see the Secretary as he was entrusted with particular instructions concerning the medicine.
He insisted on going up although respectfully informed that no one could enter the champer [sic: chamber]. He pushed the servant aside and walked heavily towards the Secretary’s room.
He was there met by Fred Seward, of whom he demanded to see the Secretary, making the same representations which he did to the servant.
What further passed in the way of colloquy is not known, but the man struck him on the head with a billy severely injuring the skull and felling him almost senseless.
The assassin then rushed into the chamber and attacked Mr. Seward, the Paymaster U. S. A., Mr. Hausel, a messanger of the State Department and two male nurses, disabling them.
He then rushed upon the Secretary who was lying in the bed in the same room, and inflicted three stabs in the neck. He bled profusely.
The assassin rushed down stairs, mounted a horse at the door and was off before an alarm could be sounded in the same manner as the assassin of the President had done.
NEW YORK, April 18.
The latest dispatches representing Secretary Seward as improving. Booth has not yet been arrested.
The Washington Intelligencer thinks the murder of the President is the result of a conspiracy, which included not only Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward, but the Vice President and all the members of the Cabinet. It gives interesting incidents which lead to this conclusion. The arrest of suspected parties in New York is announced.
Quietness seems to be restored, and matters throughout the country are resuming their wonted firmness and tranquility.
WASHINGTON, April 17, 1865.
GENERAL ORDER NO. 69.
Brig Gen. H. H. Sibley.
By direction of the President of the United States, the War Department will be closed on Wednesday next, the day of the funeral of the late President of the United States. Labor on that day will be suspended at military posts and on all public works under the direction of the War Department ; the flags at all military posts, stations, forts, buildings and vessels, will be kept at half mast during the day, and at 12 o’clock meridian twenty-one minute-guns will be fired from forts, and all military posts and at the military academies.
1. One of several illustrations of the attempt on Secretary Seward’s life that appeared in the April 22, 1865, issue of the National Police Gazette. This digital image is from the website “Mr. Lincoln’s White House” [viewed April 22, 2015].
The following comes from the April 22, 1865, issue of The Polk County Press, the first issue published after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the stabbing of Secretary of State William H. Seward, Sr.
WAR DEPARTMENT, }
Washington, April 15, 1:30 A.M. }
To Major Gen. Dix [John A. Dix] :
This evening about 9:30 P. M., at Ford’s Theatre, the President, while sitting in his private box with Mrs. Lincoln, Mrs. Logers and Major Rathburn [sic],¹ was shot by an assasin [sic], who suddenly entered the box and approached behind the President.
The assassin then leaped upon the stage brandishing a large dagger or knife, and made his escape in the rear of the theater. The pistol balls entered the back of the President’s head, and penetrated nearly through the head.
The wound is mortal. The President has been insensible ever since it was inflicted, and is now about dying.
About the same hour an assassin, not known whether the same or not, entered Mr. Seward’s apartments, and under pretense of having a prescription, was shown to the Secretary’s sick chamber. The assassin immediately rushed to the bed and inflicted two or three stabs in the throat and two in the face.
It is hoped the wounds may not be mortal. My apprehensions are that they will prove fatal. The nurse alarmed Mr. Fred. Seward who was in an adjoining room, and he hastened to the door of his father’s room, where he met an assassin who inflicted upon him one or more dangerous wounds. The recovery of Fred. Seward is doubtful. It is not not probable that the President will live through the night.
Gen. Grant [Ulysses S. Grant] and wife were advertised to be at the theatre this evening but he started to Burlington at 6 o’clock this evening. At a cabinet meeting at which Gen. Grant was present, the subject of the state of the country and prospect of a speedy peace was discussed. The President was very cheerful, and hopeful, and spoke very kindly of Gen. Lee [Robert E. Lee] and others of the Confederacy.
. .Sec. of War.
WAR DEPARTMENT, 10 A. M. }
Washington, April 15, 1865. }
To Major General Dix :
Abraham Lincoln died this morning at 22 minutes past 7 o’clock.
E. M. STANTON,
. .Secretary of War.
WASHINGTON, April 15—11 A. M.
The Star extra says: At 7:20 o’clock the President breathed his last. He closed his eyes as if gently falling asleep.
CHICAGO, April 15.
Dispatches just received from Washington say that Secretary Seward died at 9:30 this morning.
FULL PARTICULARS OF THE ASSASSINATION.
WAR DEPARTMENT, }
WASHINGTON, April 15, 1865. }
Official notice of the death of the late President, Abraham Lincoln, was given by the head of this department this morning to Andrew Johnson, Vice President, upon whom the Constitution devolved the office of President. Mr. Johnson, upon receiving this notice appeared before Chief Justice Chase [Salmon P. Chase] and took the oath of President of the United States and assumed its duties and functions at 12 o’clock.
The President [Andrew Johnson] met of the heads of departments in cabinet meeting at the Treasury building, and among other business the following was transacted :
1st. The arrangements for the funeral of the late President were referred to the several respective departments.
2d. T. W. Hunter, Esq., was appointed acting Secretary of State during the disability of Mr. Seward and his son, Fred. Seward, the Assistant Secretary.
3d. The President formally announced that he desired to retain the present Secretaries of Departments and his Cabinet, they would go on and discharge their respective duties in the same manner as before the deplorable event that had changed the head of the Government. All business in the Departments was suspended during the day. surgeons report that the condition of Mr. Seward remains unchanged. He is doing well. There is no improvement in Mr. Fred. Seward. The murderers have not yet been apprehended.
E. M. STANTON,
. .Secretary of War.
WAR DEPARTMENT, April 15.
To Maj. Gen. Dix:
The President continues insensible and is sinking. Secretary Seward remains without change. Frederick Seward’s skull is fractured in two places, besides a severe cut on the head. The attendant is till alive but hopeless. Major Seward’s wounds are not dangerous.
It is now ascertained with reasonable certainty, that two assassins were engaged in the horrible crime—J. Wilkes Booth being the one that shot the President, and the other a companion of his, whose name is not known, but whose description is so clear that he can hardly escape.
It appears from a letter found in Booth’s trunk that the murder was planned before the 4th of March, but fell through then because the accomplice backed out until Richmond could be heard from. Booth and his accomplice were at the livery stable at six o’clock last evening, and left their horses about ten o’clock, or shortly before that hour.
It would seem that they had been seeking their chance, but for some unknown reason, it was not carried into effect until last night. One of them has evidently made his way to Baltimore; the other had not yet been traced.
E. M. STANTON.
WASHINGTON, April 14
President Lincoln and wife, with other friends, visited Ford’s Theatre, for the purpose of witnessing the performance of “Our American Cousin.”
The theatre was densely crowded, and everybody seemed delighted with the scene before them. During the third act and while there was a temporary pause for one of the actors to enter, a sharp report of a pistol was heard which attracted attention but suggested nothing serious until a man rushed to the front of the President’s box waving a long dagger in his right hand and exclaiming :
“Sic semper tyrannis.”³
He immediately leaped from the box which was the rear tier of the stage beneath, and ran accross [sic] to the opposite side of the stage, making his escape amid the bewilderment of the audience from the theatre and mounting a horse fled.
The screams of Mrs. Lincoln first disclosed the fact to the audience that the President had been shot ; when all present rose to their feet and and [sic] rushed toward the stage immediately, exclaiming “hang him !”
The excitement was of the wildest possible description, and of course there was an abrupt intermission in the theatrical performances.
There was a rush toward the President’s box, when cries were heard : “Stand back and give him air.” “Has anyone stimulants ?”
On a hasty examination it was found that the President had been shot through the head, and back of the temporal bone, and that some of the brains were oozing out.
He was removed to a private house opposite the theatre and the Surgeon General of the army and other surgeons were sent for to attend to his condition.
On examination of the President’s box blood was discovered on the back of the cushioned rocking chair in which the President had been sitting, also on the partition and on the floor.
NEW YORK, April 17.
Maj. Gen. Auger [Christopher C. Augur] has offered a reward of $10,000 for the murderer of the President, and the assassin of the Secretary of State. Booth’s mistress has attempted to commit suicide.
The day before yesterday Booth called upon Mr. Hess, treasurer of Grover’s theatre, and urged him to announce some new and exciting play for Friday evening, and invite the President and other officers, and get up a sensation.
The best data that can be obtained shows that there was not more than five or ten minutes difference between the time of the assault on the President and Mr. Seward, showing that it was not done by the same person.
Various arrests have been made of parties supposed to be implicated.—Some have proven their innocence, but others are held. Evidence sufficient has accumulated to implicate some six different persons is the diabolical plot, all of them from this section and Maryland.
Two pairs of handcuffs, and a gag were found in Booth’s trunk. He hired a horse from a livery stable in the afternoon, took it to the alley, hired a servant to watch the horse while he perpetrated the deed.
WASHINGTON, April 15—11 A. M.
The Star says: “At 7 1-4 [7¼ or 7:15] o’clock the President breathed his last, closing his eyes as if falling asleep, and his countenance assuming an expression of perfect serenity. There were no indication of pain. The Rev. Dr. Gurley, of the New York Presbyterian Church, immediately on its being ascertained that life was extinct knelt at the bedside and offered an impressive prayer, which was responded to by all present.
Dr. Gurley then proceeded to the front parlor where Mrs. Lincoln, Captain Robert Lincoln, Mr. John Hay, the private secretary, and others, were waiting where he again offered a prayer for the consolation of the family.
NEW YORK, April 17.
The N. Y. Time’s Washington special says, Secretary Seward will recover. Frederick Seward is still unconscious, he breathes calmly and has an easy pulse. His head is dreadfully contused.
An invalid soldier nurse, saved Mr. Seward’s life.
WASHINGTON, April 16.
Sec. Seward still lives, and strong hopes are entertained for his recovery.
WASHINGTON, April 15.
An autopsy was held this morning over the body of President Lincoln, by Surgeon General Barnes and Dr. Stone, assisted by other eminent medical men. The coffin is of mahogany, is covered with black cloth, and lined with beads, the latter being covered with white satin. A silver plate upon the coffin over the breast bears the following inscription “Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the Untied States, born July 12th, 1809, died April 15th, 1865.”
The remains have been embalmed. A few locks of hair were removed from the President’s head for the family, previous to the remains being placed in the coffin.
The person who attacked Secretary Seward left behind him a slouched hat and an old rusty navy revolver. The chambers were broken loose from the barrel as if done by striking.
The loads were drawn from the chambers one being but a rough piece of lead. The balls were smaller than the chambers and were wrapped in paper as if to keep them from falling out.
WASHINGTON, April 15—1:30 A. M.
I have just visited the dying couch of Abraham Lincoln. He is now in the agonies of death, and his physicians say he cannot live more than an hour.
He is surrounded by the members of his Cabinet, all of whom are bathed in tears. Senator Sumner is seated on the right of the couch on which he is lying, the tears streaming down his cheeks, and sobbing like a child. All around him are his physicians. Surgeon General Barnes is directing affairs. The President is unconscious, and the only sign of life he exhibits is by the movement of his right hand, which he raises feebly.
Mrs. Lincoln and her two sons are in an adjoining room, into which Secretary Stanton has just gone to inform them that the President’s physicians have pronounced his case hopeless.
As I pass through the passage to the front door I hear shreaks [sic] and cries proceeding from the room is which the grief stricken wife and children are seated.
We obtain from Quartermaster Gen. Meigs [Montgomery C. Meigs] the following account of the assassination: About half past ten o’clock, a man dressed in dark suit and hat, entered the private box in which Mr. Lincoln and his party, consisting of Mrs. Lincoln, Miss Harris, a daughter of Senator Harris, and Captain Rathbone, of Albany, were seated. Immediately upon opening the door he advanced toward Mr. Lincoln, with a six-barreled revolver in his right hand and a bowie knife in his left.
The President, who was intent upon on the play, did not notice the interruption, and the gentleman who was seated beside him rose to inquire the the [sic] reason of his entry. Before he had time to ask the assassin what he wanted, he had fired one charge from his revolver, which took effect in the back the President’s head. The ball passed through and came out at the right temple. Capt. Rathbone, who was in the box with Mr. Lincoln, attempted to arrest the murderer, and on doing so received a shot in his arm. The assassin then leaped from the box on to the stage.
Before he disappeared behind the the [sic] curtain, he turned, with a tragic flourish and tone, waved his handkercheif [sic] and shouted, “Sic Semper Tyrannis.”³ So sudden was the affair that, for some moments after its occurrence, the audience supposed it to be a part of the play, and were only undeceived by the manager announcement from the stage that the President of the United States had been shot. The shock fell upon the audience like a thunderbolt, and loud cries were immediately made to kill or capture the assassin. The murderous emissary of the slave power escaped from the theatre easily and rapidly, and mounted a horse and rode off. The mass of evidence to-night is that J. Wilkes Booth committed the crime. Whoever it is there are reasons for thinking that the same bold and bloody hand attempted the life of Mr. Seward.
WASHINGTON, April 15.
When the fatal shot was fired, Mrs. Lincoln who was beside her husband exclaimed, “Oh! why didn’t they shoot me! why didn’t they shoot me!”
There is evidence that Secretary Stanton was marked for assassination. On the receipt of the intelligence at the War Department of the attack on the President two employees of the department were sent to summon the Secretary. Just as they approached the house a man jumped out from behind a tree box in front of the house and ran away. It is well known to be the custom of the Secretary to go from the Department to his house between 9 and 12 o’clock P. M., and usually unattended.
It is supposed that the assassin intended to shoot him as he entered the house, but failed from the fact that Mr. Stanton remained at home during the evening.
The horse of the man who made the attack on Secretary Seward has been found near Lincoln Hospital, bathed in sweat, and with blood upon the saddle-clothes.
The same special states that Secretary Seward has given a detailed description of the assassin. It was evident that he was a different person from the President’s murderer.
Frederick Seward is in a most critical condition, and surgeons are removing the broken fragments of his skull.
A private dispatch to Mr. Seward’s nephew in this city from a member of the family says, “I have just left Mr. Seward’s house. His wounds are not mortal. He has lost much blood but no arteries are cut. Fred’s skull was fractured badly in two places.”
1. Henry Reed Rathbone (1837-1911) was sitting with his fiancée, Clara Harris (daughter of Senator Ira Harris), next to the President and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, when John Wilkes Booth entered the president’s box at Ford’s Theatre and fatally shot Lincoln. When Rathbone attempted to prevent Booth from fleeing the scene, Booth stabbed and seriously wounded him. Clara Harris and Major Rathbone married and had three children. In 1883, Major Rathbone shot his wife, leaving three young children to be raised by their mother’s sister. Rathbone was committed to an asylum for the insane near Hanover, Germany. He remained in the institution for the rest of his life until his death in 1911. Their son, Henry Riggs Rathbone entered politics and represented Illinois in the 68th Congress.
2. “The Assassination of President Lincoln, at Ford’s Theatre, Washington, D.C., April 14th, 1865,” by Currier & Ives. This digital image is available at the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
3. “Sic semper tyrannis,” or “Thus always to tyrants,” is believed to have been said by Marcus Brutus during the assassination of Julius Caesar. It is also the state motto of Virginia.
4. From the May 6, 1865, issue of Harper’s Weekly. The University of Wisconsin-River Falls’ Chalmer Davee Library has microfilm copies of Harper’s Weekly for 1858-1865 (UWRF online catalog).
The smaller news items, including many local items, from both The Polk County Press and The Prescott Journal of April 15, 1865, show how slowly news gets to the frontier of northwestern Wisconsin.
From The Polk County Press:
DESERTED.—The Taylor’s Falls “Reporter” says that Wm. Cox, who was drafted at that place, has deserted.
DRAFTED.—The draft for Stillwater took place at St. Paul on the 3d inst. Among the first drafted was our friend A. B. EASTON, editor of the “Messenger.”
I hereby certify that Worthy A. Prentice, Wm. H. Kent, Abram L. Gillispie, John H. Baker, Joseph S. Corey, and Andrew Fee have been duly enlisted and mustered into the service of the United States, for the period of one year, and the town of Osceola, county of Polk, and State of Wisconsin.
. .B. F. COOPER,
Capt. and Pro. Mar., 6th Dist., Wis.
SANITARY.—The ladies in this vicinity, we understand, have concluded to send a box of goods to the Sanitary Fair at Chicago. The box will be sent to the Union stall, and ladies of all denominations are invited to contribute whatever they think acceptable. All contributions must be handed in by the 15th of May.—Persons having cornelians and cones to donate, will oblige the Committee by leaving them at the PRESS office.
— Six hundred cords of wood were furnished to soldiers’ families at Terre Haute, Ind., last winter.
— Charleston papers say that the work of recruiting goes on finely among the colored people of that city.
— The Louisville “Journal” states that Gov. Bramlette [Thomas E. Bramlette], of Kentucky, has furnished all his slaves with freedom papers.
— In the churches at Geneva, the Swiss pray every Sunday for the success of the North and the good health of President Lincoln [Abraham Lincoln].
— The price paid by the government for horses been advanced to $165 for cavalry horses, $175 for artillery horses, and $180 for mules.
— General Hartsuff¹ has been brevetted Maj. General, on the recommendation of General Grant [Ulysses S. Grant], for gallant conduct in recapturing Fort Steadman [sic] from the enemy.
— The 6th Corps of the army of the Potomac are going to raise $10,000 for a monument to their beloved Gen. Sedgwick [John Sedgwick]. The privates are to give from fifty to seventy-five cents and the officers from two to ten dollars.
— The Union forces entered Petersburg on Monday morning and before night a Union newspaper was issued set up, edited and printed by Western boys, called “Grant’s Petersburg Progress.” It is about twelve by 20 inches in size and printed on one side only.
The Commercial’s special says : “the colored troops, headed by Gen. Draper of Mass., were the first to enter Richmond. The city was formally surrendered by Mayor Joseph Mayo, who merely pleaded for protection to life and property. All the principal buildings had been fired by the rebel authorities before leaving. Several banks and the Enquirer and Dispatch printing offices were burned. Gen. Weitzel [Godfrey Weitzel] took Jeff. Davis’ house for headquarters. Gen. Shepley was appointed Military Governor. Gov. Pierpont [Francis H. Pierpont] is to transfer the loyal state government of Virginia to Richmond from Alexandria immediately.
A Herald correspondent gives an account of the conflagration of Petersburg. When Gen. Weitzel entered the city, the negroes flocked about him thanking the Lord that the Yankees had come. He found a bridge burning and sent the negroes for a fire engine, which they brought, and he set them at work extinguishing the flames, and finally turned his superintendency over to a white man. Most of the railroad property had been destroyed and large quantities of tobacco burned. Immense amounts of commissary stores were piled in storehouses in the heart of the city, and if fired would have destroyed it. This was not done. Our shells fired into the city had done but very little damage. Here and there a chimney was ruined and a hole punctured in a house but the people continued to live in exposed parts of the city. By 6 o’clock the town was awake, troops pressing in from all quarters, cheering, singing, &c. Citizens showed themselves in such large numbers that it seemed but very few had left. They all appeared hungry, provisions having been hoarded for the army. The business streets looked thrifty and the stores had considerable stocks of goods.
From The Prescott Journal:
GOV. LEWIS.—Gov. Lewis [James T. Lewis] has published a letter in which he positively declines being a candidate for re election.
This would be a nice time for Brick Pomeroy to reprint his campaign cut of the cotton stealing, negro thieving, tyrant and murderous old “widow-maker,” ABRAHAM LINCOLN. It would please the people very much. [M. M. “Brick” Pomeroy]
It is not generally thought proper to write business letters on the Sabbath, but the business correspondence between GRANT and LEE, last Sunday, has been very favorably regarded. [Robert E. Lee]
Our forces took possession of Petersburg in the morning, and before night a Union paper—Grant’s Petersburg Progress, was issued. It was edited by Maj. “BOB” EDEN [Robert C. Eden], and sparkles with witty paragraphs from his facile pen. The “Family Paper” will X. BOB.
— We are under obligations to Lieut. L. D. GUNN, of the 30th, for Louisville papers.
A few days ago, we heard one of our citizens predict that Gen. LEE would yet be a Democratic candidate for the Presidency. We thought he was overdoing the thing, but we ask his pardon. The St. Paul Pioneer of the 11th, the same issue in which it announces the surrender of LEE’S army, advises the President to counsel with Gen. LEE as to the best course to pursue. It probably wants to have LEE taken into LINCOLN”S cabinet as Secretary of War.
Gen. LEE is a man of great abilities and amiable in his private life, but he is a perjured traitor. He has fought fiercely against the Government which had highly honored and trusted him, and the strength which he has given to this damned Rebellion, has been the means of protracting the war—of heaping up taxation—of taking hundreds of thousands of Northern men from their homes—of thousands of deaths in the shock of battle—and of prolonging the dreadful tortures of thousands more amid the untold horrors of the accursed prison-pens of the South. LEE has done this, and the Pioneer, before he has put off his rebel uniform, names him as one of the President’s trusted counselors. Oh, shame, where is thy blush !
1. George Lucas Hartsuff (1830-1874) graduated from West Point in 1852 and was a career military officer serving in the Seminole Wars, where he received a wound that eventually caused his death. During the Civil War he served in many staff positions. He became a brigadier general in April 1862, and served in the III Corps, Army of Virginia, and then in the Army of the Potomac. Hartsuff was severely wounded in the hip at Antietam. He was promoted to major general in November 1863. As mentioned here, was brevetted major general in the regular army in March of 1865, and from March 19 to April 16 of the same year was in command of Bermuda Hundred in the Army of the James. Then he commanded the District of Nottoway in the Department of Virginia from May 22 to August 24. Hartsuff mustered out of Volunteer service on August 24, 1865, and returned to the regular army as a lieutenant colonel. Hartsuff resigned from the regular army on June 29, 1871, because of disability resulting from wounds received in battle.
The Prescott Journal ran a lengthy article on the early battles of the Appomattox Campaign in its April 15, 1865, issue. This is the ssecond half of the article; the first portion was posted yesterday.
|Overview of Appomattox Campaign|
|Wednesday||March 29||Battle of Lewis’s Farm|
|Friday||March 31||Battle of White Oak Road; Battle of Dinwiddie Court House|
|Saturday||April 1||Battle of Five Forks|
|Sunday||April 2||3rd Battle/Fall of Petersburg; Battle of Sutherland’s Station|
|Monday||April 3||Battle of Namozine Church|
|Wednesday||April 5||Battle of Amelia Springs (5-6)|
|Thursday||April 6||Battle of Rice’s Station; Battle of Sailor’s (Sayler’s) Creek|
|Friday||April 7||Battle of High Bridge; Battle of Cumberland Church|
|Saturday||April 8||Battle of Appomattox Station|
|Sunday||April 9||Battle of Appomattox Court House and surrender of Lee|
[Battle of Five Forks]
NEW YORK, April 5.
The Herald’s correspondence has the following account of the operations Sunday :
“At midnight Saturday [April 1], Gen. Wilcox [sic: Orlando B. Willcox] had orders to demonstrate on the right of the line, so as to draw the rebels from the left, preparatory to operations in that quarter. Admiral Porter [David D. Porter] and all the artillery in the works on the right were also set at work. Wilcox’s [sic] skirmish line was advanced. The rebels were aroused, and soon sharp volleys of musketry were heard, indicating that they were at work.
“Amid the noise and smoke, the skirmishers pushed on until reaching the outskirts of Petersburg, where they met a heavy body of rebels and advanced upon them. A brisk engagement followed, but our numbers were so small we were compelled to withdraw. Gen. Wilcox [sic] then gave orders to attack Fort Mahone on the left, and massed a column for that purpose.
“While this was being done similar dispositions were making A [sic] system of common signals had been agreed upon to fix the moment of starting, that all might assault simultaneously. Owing to a mist which the field, hung over the preparations had been concealed from the enemy. At 4 o’clock the signal was given, the men advanced quickly and in perfect order with fixed bayonets. That they went to stay was indicated by being accompanied by a detachment of heavy artillery prepared to turn and work the enemy’s guns.
“Presently musketry was heard, the rebel picket line was reached. Now a hearty cheer, followed by the roar of musketry. The cheering and musketry firing is taken up, and runs along to the left until it is lost in the distance.
“Instantly the artillery on both sides is at work, and 200 hundred big guns belch forth their thunders, but the work is quickly done.
“Harriman, of the Thirty-Seventhth Wisconsin, acting Brigadier General, gives an order to charge. [Samuel Harriman] Up and away, and the noble fellows went over breastworks, rifle pits, chevaux de frieze, the parapet of the fort, into the main works, the deed is accomplished. For one moment the thunderstruck rebels looked, and then took to flight ; but our fellows were too quick for all of them, and captured 250. Nine guns were found in the fort, and quickly trained, and set at work annoying the rebel batteries.
“This, with the simultaneous operations further to the left, cut the rebel line in two, and took from them their commanding positions, and a large amount of valuable artillery.
“Scarcely were we quiet in possession of the fort when the rebels, having reorganized their forces and picked up some reinforcements, came up with determined efforts to retake it. They made a most desperate assault, standing up manfully against a terrific discharges of grape and cannister [sic] and withering vollies [sic] of musketry, but it was to no purpose. Seven times during the day did they attempt to retake this important position, but were each time sent reeling back in disorder, losing heavily each time. It was in one of these assaults that the rebel Gen. A. P. Hill lost his life, seeking in person to lead his men up to the works.
“Meantime the 6th and 24th corps, having broken through the rebel lines in their front were swung around to their rear, and coming down both upon their rear and flank, it was evidenty [sic] that Petersburg was lost to the rebellion. The movements of the 6th corps were so rapid that Gen. Lee [Robert E. Lee] himself narrowly escaped capture. As it was, his headquarters fell into our hands.”
“Throughout the early part of the night operations were confined to skirmishing, but a few minutes after 12 o’clock, the rebels advanced, making a demonstration. It was of short duration, promptly repulsed, then followed a season of stillness with orders for most strict vigilance. The orders were that if the rebels started to go, we were to go after them, and they did go at 3 o’clock.—Our skirmishers in pursuit, occupied the main line and orders were issued for an immediate advance. At four o’clock, we were in Petersburg.”
The Tribune’s correspondent thus recounts the operations on our left.
“At 4:30 Sunday morning [April 2], the 6th corps left its line to attack the enemy’s left center. It moved in echelon, so as to enable the corps to throw forward its left, and flank the works of the enemy one after another. Soon a battery of four guns opened upon the first division, but by a rapid charge of the first brigade it was immediately captured. The batteries of the enemy now opened from every point, but on went our gallant braves. The left soon reached some works in their front and one by one, they fell into our hands.
“At 10:30 A. M. a grand picture of war presented itself, the line of the corps with its left in advance was sweeping on towards two heavy forts. The rebels plied their guns vigorously, and shells burst thickly over our line. On pushed the left division until it struck the Southside railroad, and against the two forts swept the 2d division. Our artillery played upon the forts from commanding positions incessantly until our men were close up to them, then a dash was made upon the works, but it was repulsed. Again it was tried, and this time it met with success, but so resolute were the rebels inside that some of them used the bayonet for a short time.
“As these troops fell into our hands a loud cheer rent the air, and the enemy were seen retiring to their second line, which opened sharply in an effort to stay our advance.
“About this time Sheridan [Philip H. Sheridan] appeared on the field and was received with loud cheers by the 6th corps, who look up to him with great respect.
“At this moment too, our entire line was changing its long front to the right, and slowly before it the broken line of the enemy was falling back upon their rear defences.
“Against the line which fell back a heavy force was now pitted, composed of parts of the 24th, 6th and 25th corps, and nearly all fresh troops. A lull took place when this force was ready to move, and it was plain that a desperate action was to be fought. Dusk stole over the scene, and the attack was deferred until the next day.
“While the above fighting was taking place, the 5th corps and the cavalry under Sheridan thinned the right wing of the rebel army, taking from 4,000 to 5,000 prisoners. The 2d corps, connecting with the right of the 5th, was also victorious, notwithstanding they had perhaps the roughest ground to fight over, and a brave and determined foe in the rebel 3d corps.
“The line of defences in front of the 9th Corps was stronger than those at any other point. It delivered many assaults during the day, and suffered severely. At night it found itself close up to the main line of the defences, but was unable to go further. The 1st Division of the 10th Corps aided the 9th corps greatly.”
[Grant’s Petersburg Progress]
The first number of a newspaper, about 12 by 20 inches, printed on one side only, has been started in Petersburg, called Grant’s Petersburg Progress. The motto is, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Monday’s issue has the following items.
“The following are the names of the compositors, &c., employed in editing, setting type and working off the first Union paper published in Petersburg, Va., since the commencement of the rebellion : Major R. E.[sic] Eden [Robert C. Eden], 37th Wisconsin, Editor ; Capt. Charles McCreary, 8th Michigan Veteran Volunteers, Assistant Editor ; Chaplain D. Heagle, 1st Michigan Sharp Shooters, Editor ; J. W. Griffith, 2d Brigade, First Division Band, Foreman ; 1st Lieut. Farrell, 1st Michigan Sharp Shooters, T. Marlatt and J. Bandy, 2d Brigade, 1st Division Band, Sergt. Oliver Greenfield, 8th Michigan Volunteers, Private W. H. Stuart, 1st Michigan Sharp Shooters, Private B. F. Bostwick, 1st Michigan Sharp Shooters, Private S. Dalrymple, 95th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Compositors.
“Among the distinguished citizens we saw on the street, this morning, were Brig. Gen. Pryor [Roger A. Pryor], Confederate paroled prisoner, and W. T. Jaines, Judge of the Circuit Court in this District.
“On Saturday last flour in Petersburg sold at the moderate price of $1,100 a barrel, and sugar and bacon were equally reasonable, a double saw-buck Confederate blue-back being the cost of a pound of each.
“All the bridges about Petersburg, some five or six in number, were destroyed by the rebels last night, on their departure.
“The 1st Michigan Sharpshooters have the credit of being the first to occupy the city, and of floating their flag from the dome of the Petersburg Court House. Other flags belonging to different regiments were not long behindhand in getting themselves posted on the tops of all buildings of a public character in the city.”
PETERSBURG, April 8.
The army of the Potomac has been in and out of Petersburg this morning, merely making a flying visit. The rebels commenced evacuating last night at 10 o’clock, and by 8 o’clock this morning were across the river, the enemy having burned about $1,000, 000 worth of tobacco, the South-side railroad depot and bridges across the Appomatox [sic].
Our troops charged the inner line of works at daylight, taking a picket line of some 509 men prisoners. The troops on entering the city behaved most admirably, not more than half a dozen stores being entered by them, and these mostly containing tobacco, cegars [sic], liquors, etc. The Provost Guard soon arrived and established order. The mayor of the town met the troops as they entered and handed to the officer commanding the following communication, offering the surrender of the city:
Lt. Gen. Grant Commanding the Armies of the United States, or the Major General Commanding U. S. Forces in front of Petersburg :
GENERAL :—The city of Petersburg having been evacuated by the Confederate troops, we, a committee authorized by the common council, do here-by surrender the city to the United States
forces, with a request for the protection of the persons and property of its inhabitants.
We are, respectfully,
. .Your obedient servants,
. .W. W. TOWNES, Mayor.
Protection was promised on the part of the troops and the citizens have no cause of complaint, for certainly there is no instance on record where an army, after lying so long in front of a place of so much importance and losing so many men in the efforts to capture, entered a city with less disorder and doing less damage to private property than in this case.
The citizens did not show themselves during the fore part of the day, but after discovering that our soldiers were orderly and well behaved, with no disposition to disturb or annoy any one, they began to make their appearance at the doors and windows of their residences, and later in the day even many expressing their joy quietly that the Confederates had gone and hoping that the war would soon be over.
For more than a month past the reel troops have been receiving less rations than ever before, only just enough being brought to last from day to day. Citizens say they have suffered much, but it is well to take such stories with a good deal of allowance.
The rebels managed to get away with all their artillery, excepting one or two old Columbiads and a few heavy mortars which they could transport readily. A large number of men deserted and hid themselves in the town until our troops entered, when they made their appearance and were taken into custody. It is believed they retreated toward Lynchburg or Danville, but they will have to make good time if they elude the pursuit of our army, now flushed with victory and willing to travel at any rate and any length to head them off.
The city presents a very cleanly and respectable appearance. Many houses in the lower part of the city have been badly injured by shot and shell thrown from our batteries last summer, and since that time most of the houses located there have been vacated.
Ever since morning our troops have been passing through the city westward taking the Cox and River road to Sutherland Station. On the Southside R. R., where our headquarters are in camp to-night, at this hour, 5 p. m., the rear guard are passing and wagons and trains are following. The railroad from City Point here is to be put in running order immediately, and although it is not expected a permanent base will be established here, yet it will be held as a depot of supplies to the army so long as it is within reach. All the rolling stock of the railroads was run off toward Richmond, but in this department they must have been very deficient or they would not have burned so much tobacco.
NEW YORK, April 6.
The following items about the rebel flight from Petersburg and Richmond and of our occupation, and the condition of affairs in the two cities, are from various sources:
The Herald‘s special from Petersburg says: “At the commencement of Gen. Grant’s operations on this line, five days ago, the rebels had a force at their command defending Petersburg variously estimated at from 60,000 to 75,000 men. The defence of Petersburg was the defence of Richmond, if one fell the other was certain to fall. Hence every available means was brought to confront Grant. Of this army of veteran troops, not less than 25,000 have fallen into our hands as prisoners. These men have been captured on the field as fruits of severe fighting. 12,500 of them had been delivered at City Point and disposed of up to last evening. The correspondent estimates 15,000 killed and wounded, making the rebel loss 45,000.”
The citizens of Petersburg did not believe, even Sunday evening, that Lee would evacuate the town, being assured that the destruction of property was merely precautionary, and that the plan would be to hold it at every hazard. Some of them were only awakened from their delusion by the sound of Yankee music Monday morning.
The rebels left in four distinct bands, each seeking safety for itself. A portion of them started for the Appomattox, and succeeded in crossing on a pontoon train above Petersburg ; while the rest, being pressed, could not get across, but fled up the river on the southern bank.
The Times‘ army of the Potomac special, 3d, says: “After Longstreet’s forces were driven back by Sheridan and Warren, and the right of Lee’s army was turned, Gen. Humphreys led the 2d corps to the attack, and an assault was made along the entire line to the Appomattox, near Point of Rocks.[James Longstreet, Gouverneur K. Warren, Andrew A. Humphreys]—At each point where the 2d corps made an attack they were successful, breaking the enemy’s lines and capturing everything. The strong works on that portion of the enemy’s line were ineffectual to withstand the shocks struck by the 2d, which nobly sustained its hard-earned reputation. The 25th corps had one division and a part of another engaged. It performed the task set for it, and was successful in capturing two large and well defended forts, a goodly number of prisoners, and sixteen guns. The negroes, of whom the corps is wholly composed, fought with great gallantry, and lost in killed and wounded a proportionate number with other corps.”
[Fall of Richmond]
The Herald‘s correspondent from the late mansion of Jeff. Davis [Jefferson Davis], Richmond, says the evacuation of that city was seriously contemplated several days before it took place, but the final conclusion was not arrived at until Sunday afternoon last, when Lee telegraphed Davis that Grant had rendered the holding of the city, by him, impossible. This telegram was read in the churches, and the departure of the leading rebels commenced at once, and was continued through the night. Jeff. Davis left at 8 A. M., for Danville, and it is understood the government archives were sent to that place and Weldon, N. C.
The rebel leaders all left by the Virginia Central Railroad, which runs north to Saxton’s junction of the Fredericksburg road, and then turns west to Charlottesville and Lynchburg. By this route all of the transportation of the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad was used, and the advantage of two tracks obtained for a distance of sixteen miles to Saxton’s.
Davis took on the train he escaped with, horses and carriages, so as to take to the country in case the train should be interrupted. He expressed himself as being yet determined not to give up, though it was certain he had but little hope left. Extra Billy Smith did not leave till after midnight. He left his wife behind, as also did Gen. Lee. The news of the death of his son, W. H. Lee,² in the battle, had been received. The Legislature was in session as late as nine o’clock, Sunday night, when they started for Columbia by the canal and James River. Breckenridge [sic: John C. Breckinridge] left the city as late as half-past six Monday morning.
The city was fired by Gen. Ewell [Richard S. Ewell], and although Gen. Weitzel [Godfrey Weitzel], on reaching the city, endeavored to subdue the flames, one-third of the city was destroyed. Among the buildings burned were the War Department Post Office, Treasury Department, several churches, two banks, and three newspaper offices. An attempt to fire the Capitol did not succeed. It was put out by the citizens.
All the wharves at Rocketts, the steamboats and iron clads, were either burned or blown up. In fact, in so brief time there must have been a large number engaged in the wholesale destruction. In the eastern and western parts of Richmond there were whole squares which have been burned, and considerable portions of the business places on Main street have also been set on fire. Some were put out and others burned up.
It was not until between 12 and 1 o’clock Sunday night that it was believed at Weitzel’s headquarters, north of the James, that Richmond was being evacuated. The firing towards Petersburg had ceased soon after dark, and the rebel lines in front of Fort Harris were vociferous with shouts and music. We would have thought that they were celebrating some great victory ; but it was simply a game of deception, for, soon after the music ceased, the sky was red over Richmond. Explosion after explosion followed in rapid succession, and there was no doubt that Richmond was evacuated.
Gen. Weitzel waited most impatiently till 5 o’clock in the morning, when he started out Maj. Manning, of the 5th Massachusetts colored cavalry, on a reconnoissance [sic]. He soon returned, and reported that the whole rebel line in Wietzel’s front had been abandoned. Nothing but debris of camp and garrison remained. The advance into Richmond was immediately commenced. The three remaining divisions of the 24th and 25th corps started on the old Osborne turnpike, the Williamsburg stage road, and the Darbytown road the all reached Richmond Monday before 1 o’clock.
Gen. Weitzel, on entering the city, on the Osborne turnpike, which passes over Libby hill, was met by some citizens—no officials, I believe—who surrendered the city to him. The march of the troops up main street was received in various places by demonstrations of welcome. Some of the citizens cheered, ladies waved their handkerchiefs, and in a great many instances American flags were displayed. The colored troops were the subject of great attention to those who ventured on the streets. Every place of business and all residences were closed.
Gen. Weitzel established his headquarters in the State capitol, lately occupied by the Virginia house of delegates, and immediately instituted measures to restore order to the town. Gen. Weitzel issued an order making Gen. Shipley [sic: George F. Shepley] military governor. The latter issued an order calling upon citizens in putting out the fire, and referring them to the president’s proclamation for the disposition of rights and duties.
The Tribune‘s special from Richmond the 3d, gives an account of the occupation of that city by the 2d brigade, 3d division, 24th corps—”Gen. Ripley [James W. Ripley] led the advance upon the town Maj. Gen. Weitzel and staff heading the column with a detachment of cavalry, to meet the mayor, from whom Gen. W. received the keys of the public buildings. The Army of the James then marched into the rebel capital. It met no opposition whatever. Our army was greeted with enthusiastic cheers by the populace. Inspection of the rebel works disclosed the fact of their having left in great haste. Arms of every description were found in profusion clothing of every description, and in some officers’ quarters were found their private correspondence. The enemy had planted torpedoes in front of Fort Gilmore, and so thickly that it was found necessary to march the column through the fort. They had attached to every torpedo a stick with a piece of red webbing tied to it. This precaution they had observed for the safety of their own men.”
The Herald‘s correspondence says : “The works, in front of Richmond consist of three strong lines, wholly enveloping the city. The outer ones are continuous ; the inner one consists of a series of strong redoubts and bastion forts. All these would, had they been properly garrisoned, form an impregnable series of defences. Torpedoes were thickly strewn all over the ground, marked with flags for the safety of the rebels, but which they neglected to remove in their busy night, and thus saved many of the lives of our men when marching into Richmond. The second line was found equally as strong as the first, excepting as to the abattis and torpedoes. The third line is just outside of the edge of town, situated on high ground. These works, like the others, mount heavy guns.”
1. “The Occupation of Petersburg,” and “Ruins of Richmond—Main Street,” from Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War, by Alfred H. Guernsey and Henry M. Alden (Chicago: McDonnell, 1866-68); available in the UWRF Archives (E 468.7 .G87 1866).
2. William Henry Fitzhugh Lee (1837-1891), known as Rooney or Roony or W.H.F. Lee, was the second son of Robert E. Lee.
The Prescott Journal ran a lengthy article on the early battles of the Appomattox Campaign in its April 15, 1865, issue. This is the first half of the article; the second portion will be posted tomorrow.
|Overview of Appomattox Campaign|
|Wednesday||March 29||Battle of Lewis’s Farm|
|Friday||March 31||Battle of White Oak Road¹; Battle of Dinwiddie Court House|
|Saturday||April 1||Battle of Five Forks|
|Sunday||April 2||3rd Battle of/Fall of Petersburg; Battle of Sutherland’s Station|
|Monday||April 3||Battle of Namozine Church|
|Wednesday||April 5||Battle of Amelia Springs (5-6)|
|Thursday||April 6||Battle of Rice’s Station; Battle of Sailor’s (Sayler’s) Creek|
|Friday||April 7||Battle of High Bridge; Battle of Cumberland Church|
|Saturday||April 8||Battle of Appomattox Station|
|Sunday||April 9||Battle of Appomattox Court House and surrender of Lee|
[Battle of White Oak Road]
NEW YORK, April 3.
The Tribune’s specials give the following account of Friday’s fighting:
“At day break a movement was made to secure a position to advance upon the enemy, covering the White Oak road, the object being to possess that road, which intersects the Clairborne road leading to the South Side R. R. At 8 o’clock Ayres’ division [Romeyn B. Ayres], supported by Crawford’s [Samuel W. Crawford] and Gibbon’s [John Gibbon], advanced and immediately met resistance from the rebel skirmishers, who were pushed back within a mile of the White Oak road. At this junction the enemy massed and with their usual yell charged.
“At one o’clock Miles’ division [Nelson Miles] was ordered to strike the enemy on the left flank, while the fifth corps again essayed to get possession of the White Oak road, by advancing simultaneously. The 5th corps moved upon the enemy, who stubbornly held his ground for some time, when rapid volleys from the right and the loud cheer of the successful issue of Miles’ attack on the rebel flank as he rolled up the enemy’s line, now broken, routed and falling back, incontinently followed by Warren’s 5th corps [Gouverneur K. Warren], which was soon in possession of the coveted road.
“The field showed on every hand traces of sanguinary conflict. Huge pines were cut down by shot and the ground over which Miles swept down en echelon on the enemy’s flank was covered with rebel dead.
“While this was going on, heavy skirmishing was taking place on our lines as far as Hatcher’s Run and our troops in that direction were advanced several hundred yards and entrenched, while the sharp shooters were engaged silencing the rebel battery.”
[Battle of Dinwiddie Court House]
Of the cavalry fight on Friday the Times‘ special says:
“At one o’clock P. M. Smith’s brigade of Crook’s division resting on Stony Creek, was west of Dunwiddie C. H., supported by Gregg, Davies and Fitzhugh’s brigades, the latter facing west and covering a place near Stony Creek, where five roads come together, known as the ‘five forks,’ held by the enemy, and which we tried to take the day before but did not for obvious reasons. Stagg’s Michigan brigade was in position on Gravelly Branch, and a portion of Gibbs’ brigade was in reserve. [Charles H. Smith, George R. Crook, J. Irvin Gregg, Henry E. Davies, Jr., Charles L. Fitzhugh, Peter Stagg, and Alfred Gibbs]
“At 6 P.M. the enemy attacked Smith in considerable force, but unsuccessfully. An hour later Maj Robbins [Walter R. Robbins], of Davies Brigade, holding the bridge over Stony Creek, with a battalion of the New Jersey 1st, was attacked and driven slowly back to their brigade. At this juncture the enemy moved three columns across the creek at three points, and at once with superior numbers, was enabled to flank Davies’ brigade, after a stubborn fight with the advancing column in front.
“Other commands at once changed their respective positions to meet the change of affairs. The fight continued until about 5 o’clock, P. M., at which time the enemy had cut off Deveno, with Smith and Fitz Hugh’s [sic] brigades, and forced them back in a northeasrerly [sic] direction to the Boydtown plank road, a little east of north from Dunwiddie, and on which this portion of the command, during the evening moved to that place.
“Gibbs’ brigade for a long time held its position, and made two successful charges, in one of which the 1st United States, Capt. Lord [Richard S. C. Lord], and the 1st Pennsylvania, drive the enemy’s strong line of infantry, and captured about 100 men. During this charge, several hundred of the rebels threw down their arms, and attempted to rush into our lines. Unfortunately, the movement was not generally opened into them. This caused a hesitation, long enough for their officers to cover them with fire from the rear.”
“When Custar [sic: George A. Custer] went to the scene of action, the wildest excitement prevailed. Capehart [Charles E. Capehart] had his brigade on the left, and Pennington [Alexander C. M. Pennington] on the right, and before anything to fight behind could be put up, the enemy came swarming out of the woods, as if confident of demolishing everything before them. Custar [sic] and his men were received with cheers. He instantly set Capehart’s bands to playing ‘Hail Columbia,’ and other patriotic pieces. This revived the spirits of all present, and the music brought forth cheers from thousands of wearied men.
“As the enemy opened upon the line, Gens. Sheridan [Philip H. Sheridan] and Custar [sic] with their staff officers rode along the line with their respective colors displayed. This demonstration elicited renewed enthusiasm along the whole line, and by the time this was over a heavy fire had been opened with artillery accompanied by Lord and Woodford’s guns. The enemy charged several times and were repulsed with great slaughter.”
“Capehart saw one of his regiments, the 1st Virginia, dashing off, not having given the order, he followed, and found Gen. Merritt [Wesley Merritt] and Col. Forsyth [James W. Forsyth] of Sheridan’s staff, and others at the head of the regiment. The enemy fell back hastily before these troops, and did not attempt to again force our line.
“The result of Friday’s fighting, says the Times‘ correspondent, was, we swung the left round three miles north of the Boydtown plank road, leaving between it and the South Side railroad but a single line of breastworks thrown up. We have captured about a 1,000 prisoners, and our own loss is not over 2,000 in aggregate. enemy suffered much more heavily and their forces were becoming demoralized very rapidly in the evening, and he could not be induced to make another charge on the 5th corps’ front, although they had fought desperately early in the day.”
HEAD QUARTERS POTOMAC ARMY, April 1.
The greater portion of this army has not been engaged with the enemy to-day. The time has been occupied in erecting works on the new line, and repairing the roads connecting the different corps. The late rains had rendered it almost impossible to move the wagon trains as fast as the troops advanced. One train took 48 hours to move 5 miles, with the assistance of 10,000 men, but through the untiring industry and perseverance of the officers in charge of the quartermaster and commissary departments, the army has been as well supplied as when in the old quarters.
When the news of Sheridan’s repulse reached here last night, a part of the 5th corps was at once despatched to his aid, and it is expected that to-night or in the morning we shall receive good news from that quarter. It appears that Sheridan was moving on the road leading to a place called the “Five Forks,” about three miles from the South Side railroad, where two cavalry brigades of Picket’s division, which had been moved out in a great hurry, came down on a road running from Sutherland Station. As Sheridan’s cavalry had most of them passed the junction, the movement of the enemy threatened to cut him off. He, however, discovered his danger in time to get his command back, with only a slight loss, at the same time taking 100 prisoners. Both the Lees were spectators, but one of them kept a respectful distance.
On being reinforced this morning by the 5th Corps, the enemy fell back so rapidly that their dead and many of their wounded fell into our hands, as well as those of our won that were unavoidably left behind yesterday afternoon. The attack made on the enemy’s line in front of the 24th Corps was by Foster’s division, and about 200 prisoners were brought in, the 148th New York taking most of them. Some 300 or 400 yards of ground was taken from our picket lines. At 4. M. this morning this position was assaulted and a few of our men captured, but in a very short time it was retaken, with about 60 prisoners and a stand of colors. Our losses up to the present time will not exceed 2,500, while that of the enemy in some parts of the line at least was greater than our own, but of course the total cannot be given.
NEW YORK, April 4.
Of Saturday’s operations, the Tribune‘s correspondence says :
“At 7 A. M. the 5th Corps was again in motion, passing by the left along White Oak road to join Sheridan, executing the difficult movement of marching by flank in the presence of the enemy, withdrawing divisions in the rear of each other and marching them off successively from right to left, the left division (Crawford’s) executing some movements by brigade.
“While this was taking place, the 2d Corps moved toward White Oak road by a more direct route, and established connection with the right of the 5th Corps.
“Meanwhile Sheridan with four divisions, passing around the left of the whole army, went through Dinwiddle C. H., toward the South Side Railroad, with his usual rapidity. The force which drove Crawford and Ayres across Gravelly Run, however, at once turned their attention to him, moving rapidly to the right, and after a desperate conflict he also was forced back within a mile of Dinwiddle C. H., but soon, joined by Warren’s corps, he again took the offensive, and in turn drove the enemy, captured a position know as ‘Five Forks’ together with about 4000 prisoners and several batteries of artillery.
“He was then joined by Miles’ division of the 2d corps and pushed westward for the Southside railroad. This he soon reached and took position upon it. The 5th corps, supporting cavalry also took 15 guns and about 2000 prisoners, enabling Sheridan to drive back the force which on Friday afternoon checked his advance near Dinwiddle Court House.
“On receiving this news, it was determined to give the enemy no time to send troops to the right, and at once a simultaneous attack was ordered along the lines, by the 9th, 6th, 24th and 2d corps. An order was given about 9 0’clock at night, and in less than an hour a furious battle began on the rebel entrenchments in front. Three several charges, resulted in the enemy’s being driven in from their front into their second line of works, with the loss of over 5,000 prisoners, several forts, and about 20 pieces of artillery.
“The 2d corps were engaged all day in their front, and in spite of the terrible fire of musketry poured into their ranks behind their works, succeeded in maintaining their new lines several hundred yards in advance of the line they occupied in the morning.
“The 24th corps occupied the center of our line, its left connecting with the 2d at Hatcher’s Run and its right going tot eh left of the 6th corps. Before daylight Sunday morning the rebels made a furious assault on the position of this line, driving a portion of the 3d brigade from their breast works and capturing about 100. Their success however did not last long, the 20th Pennsylvania by a gallant charge driving them beyond their first battle line.
“A sharp fire was kept up all day by both sides. Owing to the hot fire by our sharp shooters the enemy was unable to work his guns, consequently very few casualties occurred to our side from shells. Our boys however rained incessant fire into their intrenchments.
“There was little fighting in front of the 6th Corps till night, when considerably shelling occurred. Quiet also reigned in front of the 9th Corps.
“So matters stood until 10 o’clock, when the 2d Corps was startled into a sharper attention by a few shots on their front swelling into rattling volleys. The boys joined in the clamor, firing spread rapidly to the front of the 24th Corps and on to the 6th, thence away till it reached the 9th about 11 o’clock, at which time the fighting was at its height.
“Presently cheers broke out on the front of the 2d as the fire slackened. By 2:30 the fire had nearly ceased along the whole line, but at 4 in the morning it suddenly broke out again nearer than ever to the 2d Corps, while sharp artillery practice was heard far to the right, and again the crash of battle spread from end to end of the line.
“At 6 o’clock the battle was raging fiercely, but our colors are advancing all along the line.”
The World‘s correspondence recounts the attack on the Petersburg defences :
“It was to take place on Friday morning at 4 o’clock, but the failure on the left was doubtless the cause of the postponement. The plan of this last phase of the action was ties : Gen. Grant [Ulysses S. Grant] on reception of the news of Sheridan’s victory at ‘Five Forks,’ immediately despatched couriers in conjunction with the telegraph leading to his headquarters, to each of the corps commanders, directing them, without loss of time, to open with both artillery and infantry upon the works of Petersburg.
“Sheridan, it will be remembered, attained his success by half-past seven Saturday night. At nine Grant heard of it, and before ten our columns had passed the picket line and were on their way to the rebel intrenchments—Parke on the right [John G. Parke], Wright in the centre [Horatio G. Wright], and Ord on the left [Edward O.C. Ord]—marched almost at the same instant.
“The 6th, Wright’s, was arrayed in line of battle, and without ceremony they threw themselves en masse into the ditch and up the parapet. The contest was short, terrible and desperate. Hand to hand conflict occurred. The deadly bayonet lunge, the impulsive and fitful clashes of musket, the crossing of awards, the valley now and then, when our men poured an enfilading fire down the inside of the parapet, the yells and groans, the galloping of couriers to and fro from end to end of the lines. In places the ditches were heaped with living and dying combatants, tumbled together promiscuously, but every now and then Northern cheers told how the conflict went on each side of the 6th corps.
“The scene was the same opposite Fort Hell. The rebels had a fort called Fort Heaven, at which they fought like Satan’s legions.”
[Battle of Five Forks]
The World has a graphic account of Sheridan’s battle of “Five Forks,” which was the turning point in the great conflict and which under Sheridan’s generalship will take rank with anything on record. It appears that Grant was not satisfied with the day’s business on Friday and placed Sheridan in supreme command of the whole of Warren’s corps and all the cavalry. Sheridan at once maneuvered with his cavalry, dismounting a portion in front of the rebels and gradually pressed them back into their works under the most terrific fighting of the war. While this was being done, and done slowly by order, Sheridan set about forming the infantry, showing the same genius of infantry tactics that he has in cavalry. It was marvelous to see so paltry a force of cavalry press back and hold in check 16,000 rebel infantry. Still they did it, and in such an manner as to completely hide the movement of our infantry. They were driven back step by step into their works. Then the signal was given and the infantry closed on the works like a huge barn door. The rebels saw their situation but did not appear to appreciate how desperate were their circumstances. They fell back to the left only to see four close lines of battle waiting to drive them across the field. At the right horsemen charged them in their vain attempt to fight out, and in their rear foot and cavalry began to assemble. Slant-fire, cross-fire and direct fire by file and volley, rolled perpetually, cutting down upon them, slashing and trampling them into confusion. They had no commanders to lead them out of the toils onto which they had fallen. A few more vollies, a new charge, a command to “die or surrender,” and 5,000 men are Sheridan’s prisoners. Those escaping were pursed by the fiery Custer, and they were pressed far into the desolate forest.
The Herald’s Washington special says a dispatch dated Spottswood House, Richmond, 8 P. M. Monday, says but little property was destroyed by fire, which was confined mainly to tobacco warehouses. The receallption of the union troops was enthusiastic beyond all expectation, proving that there were large numbers of Unionists in the city. Many Union flags were displayed yesterday on the anniversary of Grant’s taking command of the army in person at Culpepper [sic] C. H., Va.
[Third Battle of Petersburg]
HEADQUARTER POTOMAC ARMY, April 2.
The most important victory the Army of the Potomac has gained in Virginia was won to-day, and the outer-breastworks, which we have been trying in vain for months to overcome, has at last yielded to our victorious arms, and a greater portion of this army are to-night within a mile and a half of the city on the south-west side. The struggle made by the enemy to retain there works has been of the most desperate character, and for the success obtained to-day we are indebted, not only to the strategy exercised by the commanders, but to the overwhelming numbers and bravery of the troops that did the work.
The orders for an attack on the line cast and south of Petersburg, by the 6th and 9th corps, were carried out punctually at daylight, the artillery having been hammering away the greater part of the night along the entire line held by the above corps. Such a furious cannonade has very seldom been heard during the war, not even surpassed by that by which was heard on the occasion of the mine explosion in front of Petersburg.
The 9th corps troops engaged in action were the 2d and 3d divisions and Col. Sam. Harriman’s (37th Wisconsin) brigade of the 1st division. The charge was made in front of forts Hell and Rice, on the Jerusalem road, and were so far successful by 8 o’clock A. M. we were in possession of those fortifications, fort [sic] Mahone being the most elaborate and extensive. The works contained fourteen guns, some of which were at once opened on the enemy by men from our infantry regiments. Just inside and about one hundred yards from Fort Mahone was another work to which the rebels retreated, and from which they threw a most destructive fire upon our men, causing them to retire from the forts, when the rebels made a dash thinking to recover it entirely, but the guns on the right wing as well as in the center had been manned and shotted and to the assailants were driven back.
From this time till late in the afternoon, the struggle continued, the enemy making every effort to recover, while our men were as determined to retain possession.
About noon, the chances seemed that we should lose it, but soon after the Provisional Brigade, under Gen. Callis [sic],³ (formerly of the 7th Wisconsin,) the Engineer Brigade, under Gen. Benham [Henry W. Benham], with Gen. Hamlin’s [sic] Brigade, of the 6th Corps, came on the ground, and by their timely aid saved the gallant men in the fort from capture, and again caused the enemy to retire. The fire which rained on the ground and around the fort was of the most terrible and fearful character, and at dark the position of the contestants was the same as during the day.
Gen. Wilcox, with part of his division, made an attack in front of Fort McGilvery, near the Appomatox [sic], and took part of the line, but was soon after forced to retire to his former position owing to lack of supports. The loss of the 9th corps will reach from 800 to 1,000 in killed, wounded, and prisoners, among whom are General Potter [Robert B. Potter], commanding the 8th division, who is badly wounded in the groin, but not fatally, it is thought. This corps has taken 14 guns, about 200 prisoners and 2 battle flags. The latter were taken by the 211th Pa.
The 6th corps struck the enemy’s line in front near the celebrated lead works, and carried them with very slight loss. They at once pushed for the South Side road, which they reached about 9 o’clock, and in a very short time several miles of it were torn up and destroyed. They then moved on down towards Petersburg, driving the rebels before them across Town run, and into their inner line close to the city. They took a large number of prisoners, about 2000, and some 20 guns.
No attack on the inner line has been made as yet, as the position is a strong one, and will either be defended to the last or evacuated during the night.
The 9th Corps, holding the line north of Hatcher’s Run and south of the Duncan road, connecting with the 6th Corps on the right, and the 2d on the left, advanced at daylight and took the works in their front with slight loss. Over 1,000 prisoners were captured here by Foster’s [Robert S. Foster] and Turner’s [John W. Turner] divisions, under Gen. Gibbons [sic]. They were supported by the Colored Division of the 25th Corps, bu the latter did not get into action.
The 2d corps, who held this run, a mile and a half east of the Boydtown road and over a mile west of it, delayed advancing road until Sheridan, with the 5th corps, go within supporting distance on the extreme left, when the entire line moved forward, carrying the works almost without opposition. The enemy was found to have fallen back from this part of the line, owing tot he 6th corps cutting them off, they having reached the South side road early in the forenoon and were busy tearing it up.
This, of course, cut the rebel army in two, and two divisions thus caught between the 6th and 2d corps at once started across the south side road, toward the Appottomax [sic], hoping to be able to ford it and thus escape capture, but it appears they ran against Sheridan, and putting on a bold appearance made a show to fight. News to this effect reaching headquarters, two divisions of the 2d corps were at once sent to flank, and if possible capture the entire command.
Our losses during the day cannot be given, but is believed 2,000 will cover them. Many valuable officers are among the number, whose names, however, are not obtainable to-night.
Our captures will sum up about 9,000 prisoners and 38 guns, including those taken by Gen. Sheridan yesterday. The loss of the enemy in killed and wounded is not estimated, but in front of the 9th corps they lie on the ground very thick. They were mown down by the hundred at each effort to regain lost ground. Gen. Ransom [Matt W. Ransom] is badly wounded and a prisoner in our hands. He was found at a house on the Boydtown road, from which it was dangerous to move him. Gen. A. P Hill is reported killed by prisoners.
WASHINGTON, April 4.
All Sunday night, before evacuating Richmond, the rebels blew up their forts and rams in the James. There is a good authority for the statement that the rebel prisoners taken by Grant’s army will amount to 20,000. During Sunday night, the rebels fired and blew up buildings in and around Petersbug.
A passenger from City Point who left there early yesterday morning, says that late Sunday night our men commenced laying a railroad track from Pitkin’s Station to Petersburg, a distance of three miles, and also began throwing bridges over the river, the former ones having been destroyed, The work now in progress will establish the complete line ten miles from City Point to Petersburg. Only a few hours are required to establish telegraphic communication with all points.
Very little property was destroyed by the rebels in Petersburg, who, during Sunday night, made a hasty retreat. It was supposed there that Lee was endeavoring to escape by way of the Danville Railroad, and a portion of our army was following in that direction. Correspondence from City Point states that Lee has divided the remnant of his army, and is retreating in two small columns. Our prisoners at noon, yesterday, exceeded 25,000. The rebel destruction of property, on their retreat, utterly beggars description. Stragglers and deseerters are even in excess of what was anticipated.
1. Also known as the Battle of Hatcher’s Run, Gravelly Run, Boydton Plank Road, and White Oak Ridge.
2. “Battle of Five Forks, Va.—Charge of Genl. Sheridan April 1st 1865.” This digital image is from an original 1886 Kurz & Allison print, available at the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. The UWRF University Archives & Area Research Center has in its Special Collections a copy of Battles of the Civil War: The Complete Kurz & Allison Prints, 1861-1865, Birmingham, Ala.: Oxmoor House, 1976 (Oversized E 468.7 .B3 1976), which includes a copy of this print.
3. The Journal is mistaking General Collis for John B. Callis, from Lancaster, Wisconsin. Callis was captain of Company F, 7th Wisconsin Infantry; promoted to major of the 7th (January 1863); promoted lieutenant colonel of the 7th (March 1863); wounded at Gettysburg; resigned December 1863 because of his wound; and appointed lieutenant colonel V.R.C. (February 1865). Callis was never a general.
1865 April 18: Edwin Levings—The death of our beloved President saddens my heart and saddens all loyal hearts North or South
On April 10, 1865, Union General William T. Sherman resumed his Carolinas Campaign and as his troops advanced toward Raleigh, North Carolina. Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston’s Army fell back and halted around Greensboro, where Johnston met with Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Meanwhile, the Union and Confederate commanders received word of Robert E. Lee’s surrender on April 9 to Ulysses S. Grant. This convinced Johnston that further resistance was futile. Sherman’s troops reached and occupied Raleigh on April 13, and four days later, Sherman and Johnston began negotiations for the Confederates to surrender. Their preliminary agreement, which included political issues as well as military, was rejected by President Andrew Johnson. That is why Edwin Levings thought Johnston had surrendered but then later in this letter says “I was a little too fast in stating Johnson [sic] had surrendered.” The two commanders met again on April 26 and agreed to terms. The surrender in North Carolina was the largest of the war with almost 90,000 Confederate troops in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida involved. Johnston’s surrender was the virtual end for the Confederacy, although some smaller forces held out, particularly in the Trans-Mississippi region.
The original letter is in the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO), in the University Archives and Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
Raleigh N. C. April 18th, 1865.
My Dear Parents;
Your letter in answer to ours from Fayetteville was received yesterday. A week has passed since I wrote you, but sooner than expected, the privilege of writing to you is again mine and I hasten to use it.
You watch the Union armies now, no doubt, as you never did before, and while rejoicing over the late great victories in Virginia that destroyed Lee’s army [Robert E. Lee] and seemed to us Richmond, and Petersburg. You wait to hear what news from N. C., hoping for like success there; that there may be more victories to rejoice over, and that soon it can be said there is no longer a rebellion in the U. S. The news is soon told. Johnson’s [sic] army ], like Lee’s is no more. After several day’s consultation with Sherman he surrendered his army; more than that, his whole Dept. which I understand to include all east of the Mississippi. Billy [Sherman] would accept nothing less, so you see how thourough [sic] has been our work. I suppose if Johnson [sic] had refused, a terrible battle would have ensued, when the rebels would have been converted into mince meat, for our boys will not now be trifled with by their parleyings.¹ Johnson [sic] was completely hemmed in, and saw how foolish would be a further resistance. The army is in the best possible joyous mood over the downfall of the Confederacy and looks for a declaration of peace very shortly. When Mobile falls what will there be for fight, except guerrillas and assassins ? A portion of the troops may be discharged. Some will have to remain to occupy posts, quell disturbances, and open up the country to trade and enterprise. There will have to be an army in this country for a time, at least for among so many rough rebel characters as are now let loose, life would be endangered.
But there is one event that saddens my heart and saddens all loyal hearts North or South. It is the death of our beloved President which occurred in Washington City at the hands of an assassin. We rec’d the mournful intelligence night before last in silent indignation, for we saw our foe[,] despairing of success in an honorable warfare[,] resorting to the power of the assassin. We felt the battle spirit, and if then led against the enemy, Heaven only knows how terrible would have been their punishment. The news was official, yet it is hardly believed yet by many that he is dead. It seems we could better lose one of our best generals than the President who has carried us under Providence through the past four years terrible experience; but this calamity we must believe will result in the more complete overthrow of our adversaries, and their cause, Slavery.
8 P. M. It is now evening, and I will finish before bedtime. I have been on guard at Hd. Qrs. to-day. It seems that the Confederacy is utterly gone up—the rebel armies generally being surrendered. I heard a staff officer say that the Trans. Miss. Dept. and troops were included in the recent surrenders. Is it so ? Is it true that this carnage is over. I can not realize the fact. It seems more like a dream. Have we passed through this bloody ordeal of the Nation to the end, and yet safe ? Are the proud armies of Slavery that we have so long fought with such sacrifice destroyed ? Dear Parents I can not yet realize the fact. We may now breathe forth the words—The End; and let us thank God who has gone before like a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night in all this long conflict. We are beginning to talk now of coming home ere many months. If all things work favorably, we could not expect to go home in several months; but I must not multiply words on this subject, for they will not determine that happy hour. We may have to accompany these rebel soldiers to their respective State Capitals where they will lay aside all arms &c. & go home.
Our duties are guarding, foraging, pitching and striking Hd. Qr. tents where required, escorting General when on the march, &c. Homer, I think, is suited—I am certainly. There is no excitement now—won’t my letters be prosaic
now ? If you wish to know more fully about soldiering than I can write wait till I come home.
April 19th — A word more and I will not detain the letter longer. We are expecting to make a long march before many days,—rumor has it to Harpers Ferry. We are getting our horses ready in anticipation by yard feeding. Gen. Sherman tells us he hopes to have us on the homeward trip shortly. I was a little too fast in stating Johnson [sic] had surrendered. Arrangements have been made with him and other high rebel officials to surrender the entire Confederacy, and the proposition is now awaiting endorsement in Washington. No more foraging now. Raliegh [sic] is not a large place, but looks rather pretty. The young ladies of Raliegh [sic] ride about with our soldiers, and all the people receive us gladly, rejoicing that the war is over. I will stop—write soon as possible—direct as usual.
Edwin D. Levings
1. A discussion or conference, especially one between enemies over terms of a truce or other matters. Comes from the French word parlez, which means to speak or talk.