Recently, while researching the events at Bennett Place, near Durham, North Carolina, where a series of truly remarkable events led to the surrender of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s army, as well as the remaining Confederate armies in the field, I stumbled across an article that appeared in the May 12, 1892 edition of the National Tribune. For those not familiar with the National Tribune, it was a veterans’ newspaper, dedicated to the Civil War. In the 1930’s, as the last vets were dying off, its name was changed to the much more familiar Stars and Stripes, which became very famous during World War II. The National Tribune is one of my favorite primary sources while doing my historical research—the stories there are typically those of enlisted men and company grade officers, and, as a general statement, can be found nowhere else. The Tribune is difficult to find, as there are only a handful of repositories that have it on microfilm. Most, but not all, of the run of the newspaper is available on websites such as newspapers.com and in the massive collection of digitized newspapers on the website of the Library of Congress.
This particular article, by an anonymous captain of the 10th Ohio Cavalry, is a lengthy but particularly insightful and thoughtful recounting of the last days of the Civil War in North Carolina. I seriously doubt that it’s seen the light of day since it was published in 1892 until I found it recently. It’s so good that I want to share it with you, and I hope that you enjoy it. Since it’s so long, I’m going to break it into five separate pieces. Here’s the first one:
CAMPAIGN THROUGH THE CAROLINAS
With Kilpatrick from Goldsboro to the End of the War.
Joy in Sherman’s Ranks at the Glorious News.
THE GRAND ROUNDUP.
Scenes with Wheeler’s Cavalry when They Surrendered.
BY A 10TH OHIO CAVALRYMAN.
ABOUT this time came the news that the Confederate Government, with Gen. Lee’s army, had hastily abandoned Richmond, fled in great disorder toward Danville, and that Gen. Grant’s whole army was in close pursuit. We inferred that Lee would succeed in uniting with Johnston somewhere in our front, where a great and decisive battle would he fought, for, “When Greek meets Greek then comes the tug of war.”
Thus, while we rejoiced over the good news, our hopes became mingled with fear.
On the 8th Sherman received from Grant the following dispatch, dated April 5:
All indications now are that Lee will attempt to reach Danville with the remnant of his forces. Sheridan, who was up with him last night, reports all that is left with him horse, foot and dragoon at 20,000, much demoralized. We hope to reduce this number one-half. I will push on to Burkesville, and if a stand is made at Danville will, in a very few days, go there. If you can possibly do so push on from where you are, and let us see if we cannot finish the job with Lee and Johnston’s armies. Whether it will be better for you to strike for Greensboro or nearer to Danville, you will be better able to judge when you receive this. Rebel armies now are the only points to strike at.
Gen. Sherman replied immediately that he would move on the 10th, prepared to follow Johnston wherever he might go.
With the addition of Schofield’s and Terry’s Corps Sherman’s army numbered infantry, 60,963; artillery, 2,443; cavalry, 5,537; total, 88,948, with 91 guns.
Promptly on Monday morning, April 10, the army moved direct on Smithfield; the right wing making a circuit by the right, while the left wing, supported by the center, moved on the two roads toward Raleigh, distant 50 miles. Gen. Terry’s and Kilpatrick’s troops moved from their position on the south side of the Neuse River by Cox’s Bridge. The next day, without much opposition, the army reached Smithfield; found it abandoned, Johnston’s army having retreated on Raleigh, burning the bridges after them, to restore which consumed the remainder of the day.
At Smithfield Sherman received a dispatch from Gen. Grant that Lee had surrendered to him his whole army at Appomattox, which Sherman at once announced to his troops by the following order April 12:
The General Commanding announces to the army that he has official notice from Gen. Grant that Gen. Lee surrendered to him his entire army on the 9th instant at Appomattox Courthouse, Va. Glory to God and our country! All honor to our comrades-in-arms, toward whom are matching. A little more labor, a little more toil on our part, and the race is won and our Government stands regenerated after four long years of war.
I well remember the next morning as we were advancing on Raleigh, when this news came, bow the boys threw away their overcoats and blankets and went into the fight, and how they cheered and swung their hats when it was announced along the line that Lee’s army had surrendered. It was about 10 o’clock in the morning, and the 10th Ohio Cav., of the Second Brigade, led the advance, followed by the Third Brigade, while the First brought up the rear. While our skirmish-line was engaged with Wheeler’s forces, as they slowly gave ground, we heard a cheer away back in the rear. Col. Sanderson inquired of me what it meant; and as it still continued, said he did not like the looks of things in the rear, and ordered me to hold the skirmishers while he rode back, as the cheer indicated trouble in that direction. The first impression was that Hampton’s forces had worked around and struck the column in flank. Soon we heard a fresh outbreak nearer; then nearer, when upon looking back we saw Capt. Cockley, one of Kilpatrick’s Aides, riding rapidly up, his horse white with foam. Saluting the Colonel, he said: “Announce to your regiment that Gen. Lee has surrendered.” The Colonel replied, while his sword dropped by his side, “My God, is it possible? Then the war is ended.”
The perfect furor of rejoicing that followed filled our eyes with tears AND OUR HEARTS WITH THANKSGIVING to Almighty God for such glorious news. The grand old Army of the Potomac, after so many years, is thus crowned by Grant’s genius with magnificent laurels.
In the language of our noble General we all shouted, “Glory to God and our glorious country.”
Shortly after the cheer had died away, while we were still pressing Wheeler back, Kilpatrick rode up, giving Atkins instructions to bring up the balance of his brigade and make a charge on the center; not to fire a “gun, but use the saber. The charge was made with that dash and boldness which characterized Kilpatrick’s men, and the enemy’s legions were turned back and scattered in confusion. We captured a large number of prisoners. The advance was closely supported by Jordan’s and Spencer’s Brigades, and during the afternoon Kilpatrick, getting in Hampton’s rear, drove three of Wheeler’s Brigades from their position, scattering them in every direction, taking many more prisoners, among them ex-Senator Graham, Mr. Swain, President of Chapel Hill University, and a Surgeon Warren, of the Confederate army, who had been sent down with a letter from Gov. Vance to Sherman asking protection for the citizens of Raleigh, the Capital of North Carolina. They had run up before our lines across the railroad track with a locomotive and one car with a flag of truce, to which they were not entitled. Still, in the interest of peace, it was respected and they were permitted to return to Raleigh.
A few days before Vance was fearfully belligerent and valiant in his threats to demolish this army, but had fled, and could not be prevailed on to return, because he feared an arrest and imprisonment.
On the 13th Sherman entered Raleigh, where he ordered the several heads of column toward Ashville, in the direction of Salisbury or Charlotte, and by orders indicated that the next movement would be on Ashboro, to turn the position of the enemy at “Company’s Shops,” in rear of Haw River Bridge, and at Greensboro to cut off his only available line of retreat to Salisbury and Charlotte.
Gen. Kilpatrick, who was then on the right front of the right wing, was to keep up a SHOW OF PURSUIT in the direction of Hillsboro and Graham, but to be ready to cross Haw River on Gen. Howard’s pontoon bridge at or near Pittsboro, and from thence to operate toward Greensboro.
The right wing was to move out on the Chapel Hill road in the direction of Chapel Hill University, to act with the center, the main column and trains, via Hackney’s Crossroads, over Haw River, with cavalry on pontoons; the center to move on Holly Springs, New Hill, Haywood, and Moffitt’s Mills; the left wing by the Aven’s Ferry road, Carthage, Caledonia, and Cox’s Mills.