Campaign Through the Carolinas: An Ohio Cavalryman’s Recollections in the National Tribune

This is the fourth part of the 1892 discussion of the events that led to the surrender of the forces under command of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston by an unidentified captain of the 10th Ohio Cavalry. I particularly like the account of the meeting between Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry and the remnant of Joseph Wheeler’s Cavalry Corps as the gray-clad troopers went to give their paroles and surrender. It’s a poignant and, so far as I know, unique account of this touching scene. It’s the part of this account that I like best. Enjoy.

These papers were shown to Gen. Grant before they were sent, and had his approval. At the same time orders were sent to ail parts of the army to be ready to resume the pursuit of the enemy on the expiration of the 48 hours’ truce.

On the same evening Sherman received an answer from Johnston, asking to meet him again at Bennett’s house at noon the next day. At this date, April 26, Sherman for the third time went up to Durham Station and on to Bennett’s house, where they again met, and Johnston without hesitation or delay agreed to and then and there executed the final terms of settlement which ended the war. Sherman then returned to Raleigh, and Gen. Grant approved and signed the terms.

During the morning Kilpatrick had received instructions to renew the pursuit,promptly at 12 m. the bugle sounded “assembly” through all our corps, soon followed by “boots and saddles,” when the cavalry formed column and moved out with a cheer while our campfires still burned. Before the Second and Third Brigades had reached Durham Station the order was countermanded, and we returned to camp and the Second Brigade to Chapel Hill.

The terms entered into and signed by Johnston and Sherman at this date were as follows:

  1. All acts of war on the part of the troops under Gen. Johnston’s command to cease from this date.
  1. All arms and public property to be deposited at Greensboro, and delivered to an Ordnance officer of the United States army.
  1. Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate; one copy to be retained by the commander of the troops and the other to be given to an officer to be designated by Sherman. Each officer and man to be given his individual obligation, in writing, not to take up arms against the Government of the United Stales until properly released from this obligation.
  1. The side-arms of officers and their private horses and baggage to be retained by them.
  1. This being done, ail officers and men will be permitted to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by the United States authorities so long as they observe their obligation and the laws in force where they may reside.

W.T. Sherman,

Major-General, commanding United States forces in North Carolina.

J.E. Johnston,

General, commanding Confederate States forces in North Carolina.

Approved: U. S. Grant,

Lieutenant-General.

PAROLING THE REBELS.

The duty of receiving the arms of the late Confederate army and of issuing the parols was committed to Gen. J. M. Schofield. These were prepared at Greensboro, near the old battleground of Guilford Courthouse, where, in the war of the Revolution, Gen. Greene had won laurels in an important engagement with Lord Cornwallis.

Shortly afterward Gen. Hardee met Gen. Schofield and conducted him to Johnston’s Headquarters at Greensboro, where the ordnance was turned over and parols made and signed.

Gen. Wade Hampton, still unreconcilable, had refused to bring in his cavalry for surrender, and these were scattering over the country, many making their way home as best they could. Some 4,000 men, both cavalry and infantry, had deserted from their ranks since the beginning of the armistice, fearing it might end in their being held as prisoners of war.

On the third morning after the armistice was signed, Gen. Kilpatrick was sent out with his division to engage Gen. Wheeler’s command, then supposed to be about 25 miles from Greensboro. At night we camped within a few miles of him, expecting to attack him early the next morning. The 10th Ohio Cav., of the Second Brigade, had the advance. We had halted about 5 o’clock in a long strip of woods, preparatory to going into camp; our column was strung along the road for miles back. The right of the column had filed out by company on both sides of the road, while a detail was being made for picket. The men had dismounted, and were unsaddling their horses, when we noticed quite a distance up the road cavalry coming. By the aid of our glasses we discovered that they were Johnnies. “Assembly,” then “boots and saddles,” were quickly sounded, and in a moment we were in the saddle. One company was thrown forward, while the regiment formed across the road. A few men had been sent forward as skirmishers, and as they dashed forward noticed A WHITE FLAG IN THEIR FRONT, and as they drew near gave the usual signal to halt. Word was soon sent back, when we learned that Gen. Wheeler was on his way to Greensboro, there to surrender to Sherman. Gen. Wheeler was at once escorted forward to Gen. Kilpatrick’s Headquarters, which were in our rear, while his command followed. As the head of the column came up the officers exchanged salutes, while we all joined in three hearty cheers, which was returned by the rank and file; but the officers looked downcast and sullen, evidently not enjoying the situation as we did. To us it meant joy and hope; in a word, the war was over, and that meant home.

These two divisions, with scarce half their original number left, during the past three years had met face to face a hundred times on the scout, on picket, on the skirmish-line, on the battlefield, by night and by day, Summer and Winter, from Murfreesboro, Tenn., to Chattanooga, Ringgold, Tunnel Hill, Resaca, Marietta, Atlanta, Lovejoy’s, Station, Jonesboro, thence on the march to the sea, Bear Creek, Macon, Milledgeville, Waynesboro, Savannah, Blackville, Barnwell, Aiken, Averysboro, Bentonville, Wadesboro, New Gilead, Lancaster, Fayetteville, Olive Grove, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, etc.

And still on they come, all old veterans. We could see it in their brown, scarred faces. A wiry-looking set; poorly clad; some wearing caps, others hats; their carbines slung over their backs; part with sabers clanking against the stirrups; their battle flags in rags, with scarcely a vestige left but the staff; with a battery or so and a few wagons in the rear. One would say, “Yank, you have got my horse,” and another, “There is my horse,” while our boys recognized a horse here and there in the column they once rode. We stood it as long as we could, and finally asked them to halt, dismount, and have something to eat and drink; which they finally did, as Wheeler had reached Kilpatrick’s quarters, and the column halted.

Kilpatrick and Wheeler met, not as strangers, for they had exchanged prisoners several times during this campaign and on the march through Georgia. THEY WERE CLASSMATES at West Point when the war commenced.

During the short halt we mingled with officers and men, and exchanged congratulations at the prospects of peace. The soldiers seemed to enjoy a friendly chat over their cup of coffee, exchanging captured horses, and I doubt if we had been friends for years we would have parted with better feeling. As the column passed on, the sun only a few feet above the tops of the trees, we could see their glistening arms as they receded over the dusty road, when, passing to the rear of our division, they bivouacked for the night, and the next morning started for Greensboro.

After receiving their paroles they were furnished with transportation on railways and rations from National stores, while Gen. Johnston distributed to each officer and soldier alike a coin dollar out of a small sum of money be had received from the Confederate Treasury, and with this token for the unpaid service they had given to the Lost Cause the officers and soldiers in gray scattered on different routes and took up their journey homeward.

About Eric J. Wittenberg

Award-winning Civil War historian Eric J. Wittenberg focuses on cavalry operations in the Civil War.
This entry was posted in Armies, Battlefields & Historic Places, Campaigns, Cavalry, Civil War Events, Common Soldier, Leadership--Confederate, Leadership--Federal, Personalities and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Campaign Through the Carolinas: An Ohio Cavalryman’s Recollections in the National Tribune

  1. Rob Wilson says:

    An interesting and moving story. I can see why this, with the meeting of the Northern and Southern troopers, is your favorite segment within the articles. You really won the research lottery uncovering this! Thanks so much for transcribing and sharing it, Eric!

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