Skip to content

1865 May 6: Government Disapproves Sherman’s Agreement with Johnston—Point-by-Point Rebuttal

May 8, 2015

This article on the “blunder” by Union General William T. Sherman in negotiating with Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston for his surrender, come from The Prescott Journal of May 6, 1865.

Negotiations in North Carolina.

Agreement between Sherman & Johnston.

A Strange Basis of Peace.

Gov’t Disapproves Sherman’s Action.

The following documents contain what has been made public as to negotiations which recently took place between Gen. Sherman and Gen. Johnston in North Carolina, at which a basis of peace was agreed on which, however, was emphatically disapproved by the government.

The following despatch from Secretary Stanton [Edwin M. Stanton] announces the action of the government in the premises :

WASHINGTON, April 22. }

Yesterday evening a bearer of dispatches arrived from Gen. Sherman.  An agreement for a suspension of hostilities, and a memorandum of what is called a basis for peace, had been entered into on the 18th inst., by Gen. Sherman with the rebel Gen. Johnston.  The rebel Gen. Breckinridge [John C. Breckinridge] was present at the conference.

A Cabinet meeting was held at 8 o’clock in the evening, at which the action of Gen. Sherman was disapproved by the President, by the Secretary of War, by Gen. Grant, and by every member of the Cabinet.

Gen. Sherman was ordered to resume hostilities immediately, and was directed that the instructions given by the late President in the following telegram, which was penned by Mr. Lincoln himself, at the Capitol, on the night of the 3d of March, were approved by President Andrew Johnson, and were reiterated to govern the action of military commanders.  On the night of the 3d of March, while President Lincoln and his cabinet were at the Capitol, a telegram from Gen. Grant was brought to the Secretary of War, informing him that Gen. Lee [Robert E. Lee] had requested an interview or conference to make an arrangement for terms of peace.  The letter of Gen. Lee was published in a letter of Davis’ [Jefferson Davis] to the rebel Congress.  Gen. Grant’s telegram was submitted to Mr. Lincoln, who, after pondering a few minutes, took up his pen and wrote with his own hand the following reply, which he submitted to the Secretary of State and Secretary of War.  It was then dated, addressed and signed by the Secretary of War, and telegraphed to Gen. Grant.

WASHINGTON, March 3, 1865—12 P. M.

“Lieut Gen. Grant:

“The President directs me to say to you that he wishes you to have no conference with Gen. Lee unless it be for the capitulation of Gen. Lee’s army or on some minor and purely military matter.  He instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss or confer upon any political question.  Such questions the President holds in his own hands, and will submit them to no military conferences or conventions.  Meantime you are to press to the utmost your military advantages.

(Signed)          “EDWIN M. STANTON,
.                       .“Secretary of War.”

The orders of Gen. Sherman to Gen. Stoneman [George Stoneman] to withdraw from Salisbury and join him will probably open the way for Davis to escape to Mexico or Europe with his plunder, which is reported to be very large, including not only the plunder of the Richmond banks but previous accumulations.  A dispatch received by this Department from Richmond, says:

“It is stated here by respectable parties that the amount of specie taken South by Jefferson Davis and his partisans is very large, including not only the plunder of the Richmond banks but previous accumulations.  They hope, it is said, to make terms with Gen. Sherman or some other Southern commander, by which they will be permitted, with their effects, including this gold plunder, to go to Mexico or Europe.

Johnston’s negotiations look to this end.

After the Cabinet meeting last night, Gen. Grant started for North Carolina to direct operations against Johnston’s army.

.        .Secretary of War.

A Washington dispatch gives the following as the memorandum or basis of what was agreed upon between the two Generals, and the reasons why their action was disapproved by the United States Government :

Memorandum or basis of agreement, made this 18th day of April, 1865, near Durham’s Station, and in the State of North Carolina, by and between Gen. J. E. Johnston, commanding the Confederate Army, and Maj. Gen. Wm. T. Sherman, commanding the Army of the United States in North Carolina, both present.

First — The contending armies now in the field to maintain their statu quo,¹ until notice is given by the commanding General of either one to its opponent, and reasonable time, say forty-eight hours, allowed.

Second.  The Confederate armies now in existence to be disbanded and conducted to their several State capitals, there to deposit their arms and public property in the State arsenals, and each officer and man to execute and file an agreement to cease from acts of war, and abide action of both State and Federal authority. The number of arms and munitions of war to be reported to the Chief of Ordnance at Washington city, subject to future action of the Congress of the United States, in the meantime to be used solely to maintain peace and order within the borders of the States respectively.

Third.  The recognition by the Executive of the United States of several State Governments, in their officers and Legislatures, taking oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States, and where conflicting State Governments have resulted from the war, the legitimacy of all shall be submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Fourth.—The re-establishment of all Federal courts in the several States, with powers as defined by the Constitution and laws of Congress.

Fifth — The people and inhabitants of all States to be guaranteed, so far as the Executive can their political rights and franchise, as well as their rights of person and property, as defined by the Constitution of the United States and of States respectively.

Sixth — The Executive authority of the United States not to disturb any of the people by reason of the late war, so long as they live in peace and quiet, and abstain from acts of armed hostility, and obey laws in existence at any place of their residence.

Seventh.—In general terms war to cease, a general amnesty, so far as the Executive of the United States can command one, on condition of disbandment of the Confederate armies, the distribution of arms and the resumption of peaceful pursuits by the officers and men hitherto comprising said armies.

Not being fully empowered by our respective principals to fulfill these terms, we individually and officially pledge ourselves to promptly obtain the necessary authority to carry out the above programme.

.                                  .W. T. SHERMAN,
Maj. Gen. Comd’g U. S. Army in North Carolina.

.                                  .J. E. JOHNSTON,
Gen. Comd’g Confederate Army in North Carolina.

This proceeding of Gen. Sherman was unapproved for the following among other reasons :

First.—It was an exercise of authority not vested in Gen. Sherman, and on its face shows that both he and JOHNSTON knew that he, Gen. Sherman, had no authority to enter into any such arrangement.

Second.—It was a practical acknowledgement of the rebel government.

Third.—It undertook to re-establish the rebel state Governments that had been overthrown at the sacrifice of many thousand loyal lives and an immense treasure and placed arms and munitions of war in the hands of the rebels at their respective capitals, which might be used as soon as the armies of the United States were disbanded, and used to conquer and subdue the loyal States.

Fourth — By the restoration of the rebel authority in their respective States, they would be enabled to re establish slavery.

Fifth.—It might furnish a ground of responsibility by the Federal Government to pay the rebel debt, and certainly subjects loyal citizens of the rebel States the to the debt consummated by the rebels in the name of the State.

Sixth — It puts in dispute the existence of loyal State governments, and the State of West Virginia, which had been recognized by every department of the United States Government.

Seventh — It practically abolishes the confiscation laws, and relieves rebels of every degree who had slaughtered our people, from all pains and penalties for their crimes.

Eighth.—It gives terms that had been deliberately, repeatedly, and solemnly rejected by President Lincoln, and better terms than the rebels had ever asked in their most prosperous times.

Ninth —It formed no basis of true and lasting peace, but relieved rebels from the pressure of our victories, and left them in condition to renew their effort to overthrow the United States Government, and subdue the loyal States, whenever their strength was recruited, and an opportunity should offer.

After agreeing on these terms with JOHNSTON Gen. SHERMAN declared an armistice, the announcement of which, it is said, was received very coldly by the troops, and issued the following order :

IN THE FIELD, RALEIGH, N. C., April 19, 1865. }

Special Field Order No. 58.

The General commanding announces to the army a suspension of hostilities and an agreement with Gen. Johnston and high officials, which when formally ratified, will make peace from the Potomac to the Rio Grande.  Until the absolute peace is arranged, a line passing through Tyrel’s Mount, Chapel Hill, University, Durham’s Station and West Point, on the Neuse river will separate the two armies.  Each army commander will group his camp entirely with a view to comfort, health and good police.  All the details of military discipline must still be maintained.  The General hopes and believes that in a very few days it will be his good fortune to conduct you all to your homes.

The fame of this army for courage, industry, and discipline is admitted all over the world.  Then let each officer and man see that it is not stained by any act of vulgarity, rowdyism, and petty crime.

Cavalry will patrol the front of the line.  Gen. Howard [O. O. Howard] will take charge of the district from Raleigh, up to the cavalry, Gen. Slocum [Henry W. Slocum] to the left of Raleigh, and Gen. Schofield [John M. Schofield] in Raleigh, its right and rear.  The quartermasters and commissaries will keep their supplies up to a light load for the wagons, and the railroad superintendent will arrange a depot for the Convenience of each separate army.

.                                    .Maj. Gen. W. T. SHERMAN.
L. M. DAYTON, A. A. G.

1.  “Status quo” is a Latin phrase meaning the existing state of affairs ; “in statu quo” means in the state in which, or in the former state.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: